Retard’s foreplay – sticky icky life advice

Foreplay

Executive summary: It’s all about living life and not being a dick

  • Don’t try to impress – live for you, not others
  • Life is a spectrum – not discrete points and precise solutions
  • Always be prototyping – you’re never ‘done’

Reading time: 20 minutes

However, I hope you’ll spend much more than that on it in total. There is more depth to it than might be obvious at first glance.

Crab Corfu Pelekas Purple Red Retard

-foreplay or near dick experience (Greece 1991)


Why would you listen to my advice?

I come from a lower middle class family, with no contacts and no role models, born in a small town north of the polar circle, but eventually found myself in the upper echelons of European finance.

Then I quit, and transcended beyond conventional success.

I’ve experienced 8 concussions, 2 ACL ruptures, spent 2 hours on the summit of Aconcagua (6961 m / 22837 ft), received a physics award straight from the hands of the Swedish King, I was an honorary member of the Swedish Chemistry Association, I’ve received the award for the to date only European hedge fund of the decade, I’ve hitchhiked from Västerås to Marbella (the entire stretch of Europe) and back at the age of 17 (in 1989), been in numerous street fights, and I retired at the age of 41 with an 8-digit USD net worth (from negative between 19 and 24, and zero before that).

In short, I did it.

-Did what?

Lived. Hard and well; with grit, scars, material success, and eventually true progress and a deep sustainable and independent self-esteem and happiness.

I don’t pretend to know everything, or that my my experiences are translatable 1-to-1 to your situation. However, I think it would be worth the while just sneaking a peak at my solutions for development and personal success for inspiration.

Or are you worried about the Joneses across the street? Got a new car, did they? Perhaps diplomas, Whore City and the rat race is more for you then. As you were. 

 

Life after life?

Being fully retarded for over a year now, I’ve had time to think about purpose and pleasure in life after retirement. So, what do you do when you are financially independent and without obligations?

Short answer: Learning and sharing

Longer answer: Man is a pattern recognizer. We use it for collecting food and avoiding danger. We are wired for curiosity and finding pleasure in decoding patterns.

Man is also a social animal. We need others (though I seem to need people less than most).

Once I realized expensive things didn’t interest me, I explored myself in depth. It’s the result of that process that I want to share with you, hoping it will save you time and frustration, and make you a happier and truly more successful person – however you choose to define the latter.

In practice: I’m reading, listening, discussing, synthesizing information (pattern recognition), and then blogging and podding (social sharing) about my conclusions. Those activities lend structure as well as meaning to my otherwise fully retarded life.

 

Retard’s Playbook

In 2016, my big project is writing a book; a book for the lost generation, a life guide for people living in the aftermath of the cold war, for the post-Berlin Wall generation, for the iPhone and Snapchat generation.

Retard’s Playbook is a shortcut to wisdom for the app generation.

Retard’s Foreplay (today’s post) is a preview.

LIFE blodiga smalben

Without scars you didn’t live

 

Game changer

As far as I’m concerned, Retard’s Playbook will be the first thing I do. I expect it to be a game changer for anybody reading it, as well as for me writing it.

Below you’ll find just three of my favorite life heuristics, as well as a taste of my experiences that underlie them.

If this post doesn’t resonate with you, my book won’t either. Good to know.

Here are your short cuts to success and happiness:

 

Don’t be impressed or daunted

-Stop trying to impress. That’s living a second handed life for others, instead of knowing and being yourself.

When I was 7, I bicycled down a slide blindfolded to impress a group of older guys. For the price of one concussion, some blood and a scar in my forehead, I got nothing but a few mean laughs. Another time, I slipped when running and jumping from meter-sized rock to rock, suffered another concussion, blood loss and head scar, but this time purely for my own pleasure, and some heartfelt laughter together with friends. There’s a world of difference.

When I was in my teens and twenties I thought famous people were impressive, and I wanted to be famous too, for no particular reason. I just wanted to emulate their lifestyle, without a thought to what it would take to get there and what it really meant. I mindlessly bought the media hype regarding conventional success.

In addition I thought the top was unreachable. I was daunted and had no wish to even try. It took stumbling onto the scene of high-level money management to learn that overnight success often takes a lifetime of effort.

Remember this: A movie star, a hedge fund billionaire and a Fortune 500 business tycoon are all objectively impressive, but they are still only human. And they got to where they are by putting one foot in front of the other; investing, building one order of size on top of the other. It’s a question of priorities and grit more than anything else.

So, stop being impressed or afraid, and make your choice. Do you want it or don’t you? I’ve realized I don’t want it, and I’m definitely not interested in impressing anybody.

By the way, do you think Elon Musk is trying to impress anybody? He’s too occupied living his life.

A wolf has no business impressing sheep

When I was 21, I threw myself off a 9 meter cliff (30ft) in Spain, more or less realizing right before that the water was less than 3ft deep. However, I couldn’t back down… solely for the shame of it. My pride could have killed or paralyzed me there and then. And, yet, I still hadn’t quite learned my lesson.

Ten years later, I probably stayed in the hedge fund business -more for money, status and pride than anything else. The same thing happened with sports cars, as I worked myself through a BMW, a Porsche convertible, a Ferrari 360 convertible (yes, the one I bought from Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovich) and finally a bright (Midas) yellow Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder (convertible)

Eventually I understood what was going on, and studied myself to find out what really made me tick when I wasn’t playing to the approval of others or chasing an ad agency’s idea of the perfect life. For me the answer was learning and teaching/sharing, for you probably something else.

Don’t make my mistakes. Or, by all means, do, but pay attention to your actual feelings regarding the outcome, and perhaps you’ll be able to change ways faster than I did.

 

Life is a spectrum, not a point

-life is a super positioned state of both black and white and all the grey in between, simultaneously. Just as in quantum mechanics, the truth is revealed by taking action, by the act of observing the outcome of an experiment.

how long is a piece of string?

There is never a final truth, a platonic ex ante truth. The answer to all questions vary from occasion to occasion and is decided ex post.

And, yet, A is A; i.e., it is what it is and nothing else – once it is decided. This seeming paradox illustrates the quantum nature of life. Everything and nothing is fixed – at the same time

How long should you stay in school, at a job you don’t like (Whore Village), with a partner you’re not passionate about? How much money do you need to retire? Do blondes have more fun? Are drugs bad for you? Is love all you need, or is it ‘laughter’? When and how much and how to rest, when to sow, when to reap?

First, you must realize there is no spoon; there is no definitive answer to any important question

Then you can start exploring the ever changing options in between yes and no. Often, in my opinion, the answer is “try”. Dare experimenting, unless trying involves a significant risk of unacceptable loss.

What is ‘unacceptable’? Well, I have this piece of string somewhere…

Quitting your job or relationship is not dangerous, does not involve unacceptable losses. On the contrary, staying put, dwelling in homeostasis all but guarantees wasting your life.

 

From one cityboy to another

Several years ago, I asked the author of Cityboy, Geraint Anderson, for advice on when to quit my job as a hedge fund manager. He told me to hang in there until staying two more years was more or less inconceivable, and then quit right away. So, I kept pushing a 30-month deadline ahead of me, until I in January 2014 just up and left*

*In practice I stayed on for another year, but only as the managing director with no investment responsibilities or partnership dividends. As a perverse turn of fate, the fund was unexpectedly decided to be closed down, starting in September 2014. 

What if I hadn’t quit? Had the fund been closed down with me in it? Then I wouldn’t have been the (voluntarily) Retarded Hedge Fund Manager, but the Dismissed Doofus instead. Not quite the same legacy, or ring to it for that matter.

American Psycho

So, take the proverbial fork in the road, i.e., explore both extremes when deciding. Say yes, take action**; say no, keep your integrity. However, don’t be gullible just because you are a yes:er.

Never fall for the “come on, dare say yes” lure. That is just not daring to say no, which is really, really bad. Superpositioned quantum spectrum of yes and no – it’s a bitch.

** As a general principle in itself, you should always take the active choice whenever there is a close call. The mind has a tendency to obsess over future possibilities and decisions, but also to adapt quickly to any outcome of a decision. Thus, regret is strongest for passivity, no matter the outcome.

Yes, you should

Another way to think about it is that you are responsible for the effort, but the outcome is out of your hands. The latter is also very important in its own right, not least regarding investment success. No matter how sound your reasoning and process, bad luck and black swans can ruin the result completely.

And, just for fun… that time I got lost in the darkness, when descending from the summit of Aconcagua (6 961 m / 22 837 ft). I decided to stay the night, alone, at 6000 m / 20k ft and sleep on the bare ground with nothing but my jacket to protect me. After a while, I realized, I was about to be slowly covered in snow not to mention freeze my face off. When I sat up, one leg went outside some unknown edge, and when I threw a rock in front of me, I never heard it bounce.

Now, that is taking unacceptable risk on the Mountain of Death.

As a final word, when I’m asked for career, relationship or education advice; “Should I do this or that…?“, my answer is typically, though somewhat camouflaged, “Yes, you should“.

 

Go west

Well, that, and a more general “Go west young man, and learn programming“. With programming I mean in the widest and most generous possible sense of the word: as a coordinator, hacker, designer, Photoshop, robot control, AI, h/w tinkering, Human-Computer interfaces, organic algorithms, stock trading; or just Java/python etc., not only for practical use but as a brain exercise.

My own programming experience consists of a high level of self-taught BASICS (incidentally on a Spectrum)and much lower level of hexadecimal and machine code at a young age, followed by varying efforts in Pascal, GPSS (master level), SQL, Excel macros etc, and much later and much more lazily and impatiently, Javascript, XML and a little Python.

I managed to make money from database programming, Excel macros and computer games programmed in BASIC (when I was 10-12 yo). I suspect it also helped me keep my first job as a broker’s assistant. Most importantly though, programming made me disciplined, patient, thorough, structured, logical, good at problem solving, gave me a solid language base, made me good at algebra, confident with symbolic representations and abstract reasoning.

Today, I’m too impatient, lazy and unmotivated to make a real effort in programming. At the same time, I’m a little afraid of being sucked in again, spending my days on optimizing algorithms for no good reason, except the beauty of it.

Again, both 1 and 0 and all the things in between. Superpositioned.

 

Always be prototyping

I’ll keep this one short.

You are never done.

There.

However… (I wasn’t done after all, it seems)

At a certain point I started taking my Spectrum computer apart more and more to explore its innards and perform experiments. For example, once I realized how the keyboard worked, I constructed my own joystick (hand control) from a golf ball, a hockey puck, an aluminium pipe, tin foil, lots of tin foil, glue and tape.

It was quite difficult to get every tiny detail right with just my hands and ordinary tools, and it kept glitching. Once everything worked, I was tempted to just pour a liter of glue or candle wax on top of the entire thing to be sure it stayed that way.

Luckily, my teenage brain was smart enough to realize what central planners don’t – things will always change, no matter how much you try to fix them. Actually, fixing prices in an economy or halting a stock exchange is sure to move real prices faster than ever before.

Instead of an irreversible and ultimately disastrous permanent glue fix (a tip: don’t sniff glue, which I’m sure Bernanke, Yellen, Draghi and Kuroda do all the time), I kept prototyping, learning, improving, back-tracking and treating my disemboweled computer as a living entity. Did I mention (my) life was a Spectrum? Sinclair ZX 48K to be precise.

Ingves negative interest rates are FUN Mario-Draghi-laughing kuroda Janet Yellen

Certainty is impossible (about the future, the economy, the stock exchange, the integrity of electrical connections underneath a glue fix). Hence, stay humble and keep prototyping.

Thus, don’t go for that ultimate fix, the perfect education or perfect job before starting your life. Take a few steps at a time, see how it feels, adjust and keep moving. That is, unless you positively know you want to waste your life becoming impressive and rich to really show off that you matter*

Unfortunately, chances are all you’ll succeed in doing is fixing yourself as a person of status and importance, underneath a thick layer of glue, making breathing and living all but impossible.

*sadly, ‘matter’ to everybody but yourself…

 

Enjoy the journey, celebrate each boss

I like to liken life to a computer game, where the incremental progress, including beating intermediary “bosses” to get to the next level, is more important and enjoyable than actually finishing off the ultimate “boss”.

If the only thing that matters is winning an olympic gold medal, becoming a Fortune 500 CEO or “the richest” most will fail. Even coming in second would be a failure with that mindset, whereas it would entail hundreds, if not thousands, of sweet victories with my life philosophy.

 

Final words

I had selected 27 snippets* from my book for this post, but I’ll just have to limit it to three I see now. Prototyping. Always.

*including, e.g., Your own speed, Independent not contrarian, Awareness, Strengthen your strengths, Convexity, IRL, Don’t “work hard play hard”, Invest, Walk, Know, Amygdala learning and decision making, Break, One prio, 5 whys, Don’t hate, Input & Inspiration not Motivation & Copy, and as always: “just one more”

 

The article you just read (or if you skipped to here) provides a glimpse behind the curtains of my current book project. Retard’s Playbook is my condensed psychological and philosophical practical insights into effectiveness, success and most of all happiness.

It could save you years, or decades even, of unnecessary regret and anxiety, not to mention a ton of money – both earned and spent :-)

What should you do right now?

  • Share this article and my website with a friend or your social network. Please. Thank you.
  • Subscribe to my newsletter. You won’t regret it (and the unsubscribe link is included in every e-mail)
  • Read my first eBook: The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager for inspiration on how to re-craft your life from a conventional one to bespoke.

Practice today’s three guidelines:

  • For you. Ask yourself: “Is this for me, or for somebody else, before buying, donning or doing something”, “Do I need to tell anybody about it for it to be worthwhile?”
  • Turn off the autopilot. Second guess at least one of your own automatic decisions this week. Maybe there is more than one answer. Be patient with others, think through their position before retorting harshly.
  • Redefine a project (diet, e.g.) you have going, into an enjoyable sustainable investment process without end, instead of a potentially unpleasant discrete project where a successful result is the only satisfactory outcome.
 sticky icky life advice legalize it everything
 
* The headline of this article warrants some explanation: sticky advice (I hope it’ll stay with you), icky (life is a superpositioned mess; embrace that fact), sticky icky (marijuana – always a click bait, plus signals I’m a libertarian: “legalize it”, where it=everything)

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20 Comments

  1. This will be an interesting book (and some good podcast episodes)! I look forward to reading it when it comes out. Especially these parts will be interesting I expect:
    * Independent not contrarian,
    * Amygdala learning and decision making
    * Input & Inspiration not Motivation & Copy

    Good quirky quote takeaway:
    “Thus, regret is strongest for passivity, no matter the outcome.”

    That goes into my daily lessons (which is like 10x the size it usually is today, for some reason).

  2. Kicking off 2016 with a great article, nice. Now, I am looking forward to your book.

    Too many good quotes and snippets to mention, but I will say that some of those, one might understand them, but they are a tough pill to swallow.

    Similar to what you said in your first section, a mentor/friend of mine said: “You can’t know with certainty the outcome of your decisions or what’s the best decision. There will always be some kind of risk. That’s life, deal with it.”.

    That was mind-blowing for me. Understanding it is one thing, but accepting it is a whole another story.

    Hoping for a part 2 before you write your book :)

    Have a great week Mikael

    • Hi. Thanks for chiming in. I appreciate it.

      Yes, tell me about it; Knowing, understanding and accepting… whole different things.

      There will be a part 2 before the book, not least because the book will be so late… :)

    • Irrelevant at this point.

      I don’t have kids, and I don’t have a girlfriend.

      I don’t feel any drive to get kids, but that could change, I guess.

  3. I liked your last book, looking forward to the new one!

    I do want to start on programming but the amount of options do of hold me back. I’ve the same thing with learning languages. I end up wanting to learn a couple of different ones at the same time and then can’t properly focus on one. Do you have any trouble with that?

    • The popular programming languages are similar enough that if you start with one and realize you want to switch to another the fundamental thought patterns and skills you have learned will carry over.

      “regret is strongest for passivity, no matter the outcome.”

      So start learning ANY of the popular programming languages:
      http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/the-2015-top-ten-programming-languages

      If you still have a hard time choosing… pick the one on top of the list.

    • Start with HTML and make a basic website. Some accountant / personal trainer will pay you to do one.

      When you learn how HTML works (you don’t need to be “master” at it), move onto PHP to make your HTML dynamic. To do this, get shared hosting for $5/month, create a database and make a “to-do list” website or something. Use Zend or CakePHP. Both are nasty.

      Once you have played with PHP/MYSQL, move onto Ruby on Rails. RoR is where the gold is. Twitter, AirBnB etc were built with RoR. You can become a millionaire infinite times over with RoR (if you know how to cultivate an audience).

      Once you’ve used RoR, you’ll start to look at Object Orientated Programming etc, which is where you start to look at the lower level languages like C++. You quickly realize it’s all the same, just different levels of intricacy.

      With programming, remember one simple fact…

      — What “language” is Windows written in?

      Don’t know? That’s because it doesn’t matter. What matters is the experience; functionality. Once you realize this, you’ll have no problem adapting your skillset to what you’re actually trying to make (maybe you want to make stock analysis or something).

    • Check out Richard’s great answer and the anonymous link to TOP TEN in 2015.

      Regarding focus. No, I really never experienced that problem, but mainly due to the fact I wasn’t thinking in terms of a career but only my own enjoyment or needs.

  4. Indeed, looking forward to your book Sir Mikael!

    Interested to see the perspective of someone on “the other side”.

    If I may add, the ultimate “advice” of these personal development things is to be proud to “be yourself”. Cliché; if you’re not prepared to expound your ideals, beliefs, value…….. who else will? And what the fuck is there to be scared of? That people won’t like you? The default is they don’t like you anyway. You’re too “wealthy”, too “good looking”, too [insert adj].

    And the ultimate fear. Homelessness. Vagrancy. Although I have no experience of this, one thing is true — being homeless does not mean you have to be a vagrant. It’s the same deal, what you do actually want to do? Beg on the street or do something useful?

    The base issue between haves/have-nots – those who “have” just got the balls to go after what THEY want. Didn’t have to make any stupid risks (some did… because it’s what THEY wanted); they just kept focused on a “thing” they wanted to do. Things change.

    The scary part is actually doing the thing you’ve been picturing in your head / reading about. You tend to think it’s a major lifestyle switch…. really, it’s just a continuation of what you’ve been doing before. After initial trepidation, you quickly acclimatize & excel.

    Here’s to your book.

    • “Know yourself, accept it, be proud of it”

      That’s what it’s all about; I couldn’t agree more.

      People seem to be afraid of homelessness and vagrancy, but what the’re really afraid of is having to live in a flat instead of a villa or “on the wrong side of the tracks”, having to eat (and drink) in instead of out etc. No sensible person with average wits becomes homeless just like that. There will always be a way to make a living if you’re sober and willing to use your hands. So, nothing to fear except not accepting who you are.

  5. Great post!

    Slightly off topic but regarding the last picture; Have you heard about the only swedish public company Heliospectra thats tries to ride the legalization wave and if so what are your thoughts?

  6. Mikael,

    I am from Nicaragua and have enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom.

    Greetings,

    Alber

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