Hard made easy – channeling your inner Sprezzaturian

This article is a 25 minute primer of what this site is about. And a call for you to subscribe to my newsletter for more stories, inspiration and advice.

It’s more than that though. Even if you’ve read dozens of my articles, I’m sure you’ll find a few gems in this one too.

If you prefer Swedish, lyssna på mitt svenska program (podcast) “25 minuter” istället.

Premiär måndag 2 november 2015

25 minuter show runner

 

Why should you listen to a retired money man?

In short: because I’ve been awarded the title The European Hedge Fund Manager Of The Decade, because I can bench press 140kg, because I haven’t had a cold in 9 years, because I have been royally laureled for my math and physics competence, because I retired financially independent at 41.

Because I did all this, despite being the odd one out, the bullied one, the one with no contacts or role models, the computer obsessed Aspberger child from Jukkasjärvi.

Because there is a method to my madness, that you can emulate for increased job and life satisfaction.


 

What would Batman Do?

Do you want to improve?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

Settle in for bite sized, albeit deep, advice and memes, to get you through the day, the years, and help you prosper and find meaning in life. My main goal is to show you how you can be happy and accomplished without being a total dick.

This particular article will give you an introduction to the entire site, so come back and explore the individual articles later, old and new.

Bookmark me for later, when you are in the mood for more tips, tricks, habits and mindsets that can keep you ahead of the pack and avoid being automated into joblessness and oblivion. I’ll even try to make you smile every now and then.

Would Batman give up, give in, have that snack, quit?”

 

batman age anxiety right

Then why should you?!

 

Keep investing

At this site, mikaelsyding.com, you’ll find a wide range of articles about personal development, education, skills, career, futurism, happiness, health, philosophy, decision systems, weight lifting, nutrition, sleep, meditation and finance (some hard core, some more philosophical).

personal development

education

skills

career

futurism

happiness

health

philosophy

decision systems

weight lifting

nutrition

sleep

meditation

finance

If it all seems too chaotic, check out my structured archives and delve into your specific area of interest from there.

My main motto is to “Always Be Investing”. That means to be a constant learner, to always aim for a small step upward, forward, and enjoy the journey (which can turn out to be quite surprising, and you should let it be), rather than only find satisfaction in a certain, successful, outcome.

Don’t try to become rich. Don’t put the horse before the cart and waste your life doing something you hate, in order to buy stuff and possibly quit when you’re 40, 50, 60… Instead try to become better, while enjoying the process.

 

Always Be Investing

 

Hard Made Easy

Sprezzatura is the art of nonchalance, the practice of making difficult things seem like a piece of cake. Think James Bond – when, where and how did he acquire all those skills he seems born with (wine, politics, women, technology, gems, physics, chemistry, geography, martial arts)?

Life should be a fun, albeit challenging, ride; like a computer game, where you complete one level after the other.

Sometimes you have to make more of an effort to get through, sometimes it’s almost as if you see the Matrix and can control the game, just flowing through level after level. Life is like that too – if you keep an open mind, learn instead of hate, try new things without fear and let them go just as easily, to make room for new endeavors.

Do you want to join the rank of Sprezzaturians?

Of course you do. Sign up for my newsletter right away. You’ll get my eBook for free too. Try reading just one page, maybe two. Come on, just one, then forward it to your mother/friend or go ahead and share it with all your social media contacts :). It’s quite retarded.

 

Sprezzatura – Hard Made Easy

 

ibiza pool jump

Please note how the guy to the left is carefully holding his espresso

 

Smorgasbord

Alright, here is a quick taste of what I can give you:

  • Aim low
    • whatever you do, break it down until the first step is ridiculously easy. Don’t aim for the moon or the tree tops. Aim for getting out of bed. Then, perhaps aim to walk up to the tree and touch the trunk, the first branch. Make that first thing so small you can’t not do it. Then do it.
  • Just one more
    • it’s often one more snack or cookie that gets done, but I’m talking about steps, about progress, about making it as easy as possible to exert yourself beyond what you thought possible. Aim for just one step, just the one. But right when that step is finished and you get to quit, make it a habit to think (and do), just one more, just one; that’s not too hard.
  • Live laterally
    • try new things, scary things, experiment with, e.g., 1% of your time. It will make life seems fuller and longer in retrospect, while swift, joyous and flowing in the now. Guaranteed mid-life crisis free. Oh, you’ll be smarter, learn faster and live longer too. Lateral living is the opposite of the debunked 10 000 hour-focus-on-one-thing-your-entire-life BS.
  • Sleep
    • with your feet outside the covers, outside the bed, never using the same pillow two nights in a row, red-adjusting your mobile screens or banning them altogether an hour before bed time, low-threshold meditating in bed for 10 seconds (beginner) to 10 minutes (master level)
  • Meditation – 10 seconds a day, or a week
    • how to for beginners: when going to bed, lie still on your back and go through your body parts mentally “one toe at a time, there it is, then the arch of the foot, the heel, the calves, the shins…”. Just do it for 10 seconds, or 20, whatever you like. With time you’ll like it more – but also fall asleep faster.
    • There are other easily accessible meditation techniques that don’t involve yoga, strange mantras, incense etc.
      • 1) just breathe – in through your nose, out through the mouth, focus on the act of breathing. Never mind stray thoughts; they’re okay, but go back to thinking about the breathing
      • 2) breathe with your abdomen (stomach), using your diaphragm
      • 3) do synchronized breathing with others
      • 4) power-breathing: a Johnny Drama pre-audition primal scream, or a more controlled kapalabhati breathing ahead of any kind of performance 
  • Managed life topology
    • don’t just focus on acquiring lateral skills, clever combinations of practical knowledge and experiences. In addition, hunt high and low, be cold, be hot, be comfortable, and get hurt, love and lose, get drunk or high and revel in your own misery the day after. Don’t go full retard Hangover but don’t hold all the punches either.
  • Challenge everything
    • trust nobody, do the math yourself, be independent. Every man is an island, his own nation.
  • Find yourself, know thyself
    • if you don’t know who you are, if you can’t cut through the noise of media, friends, neighbors and competitors and truly know your own inner feelings and drives, how can you be happy, be yourself, choose the right path? Don’t keep up with the Joneses, don’t keep up with anyone. Just follow your feelings and develop yourself to the next level, and the next, and the next.
  • Stupid stories
    • every now and then, I’ll tell you about that time:
      • I came four hours late (and hungover) to my first board meeting as the CEO of the European Hedge Fund Of The Decade
      • I publically advised Investor to sell its Ericsson and Astra shares at the top of the market in 1999
      • I recommended Buy the Virtual Reality company Prosolvia all the way down into its bankruptcy
      • When I kept yelling “Ola!” to SHB’s CEO “Per Boman” at an investor dinner in London. So what, three letters, typical Swedish name…
      • What really happened at the fund and in my head when the towers fell in New York on 9/11, 2001. When the Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster hit and we timed our trades magically, netting me personally almost 2m USD in dividends from just a week’s trading.
      • That job interview when I was asked about a fiction role model and answered “Ford Prefect in the fifth part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy, when he jumps out the window of a high rise to keep the element of surprise on his side“. I didn’t get the job.
      • I ran out of gas in South Africa’s countryside – I’ve never been as tense in my life
      • I actually went on an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise for ten days without even having a ticket
      • I utterly destroyed two guys that attacked me – and other street fights
      • How I’ve had 8 concussions, actually forgetting my entire family for a day or two when I was 18. Wait, no, I was 17, but I had forgotten that too at the time due to blunt force trauma to the head.
      • Or “Knife Night” 1989, in a druggie shack made of drift wood in Amsterdam. Sarphaatistraat last number…
      • When I was sure I was being kidnapped and sold during a vacation in Napa Vaelly
      • When I was sure I was being kidnapped and sold in Thailand.. What? Wait a minute. Again?!
  • Finance: There will be some boring, but useful, finance talk too: how to forecast index movements, how to value a single stock, what’s wrong with the economy, how to build an investment portfolio, how much leverage (loans) you should use, where house prices are going etc.
    • A note of caution: I am naturally independent, a natural contrarian, maybe too much so for my own (and consequently your own) good
    • This memo by Howard Marks from last Thursday (October 24, 2015) is also representative of my thoughts on investments and risk; Nobody buys that stock anymore, everybody knows it’s a good investment (already)
  • Silly pictures
    • oh, I’ve got troves; there seems to be no end to how stupid I can look, not to mention the things I say or do sometimes (like that time in the line to the Star Wars premiere on Kungsgatan, Stockholm in 2005…)

 

That time in Visby, Gotland, at a political summit when I got caught on camera with a rhubarb umbrella:

A few years later I got caught by the cops too in Visby, and another year. Oh, 5-0 was involved yet another time. And another. And then there was that kerfuffle with fireworks in the shower and being thrown out of the hotel in the middle of the night…

 

  • Taking a loss
    • Losses are in the past. Period.
  • Technical analysis
    • Lines in a chart are not real
  • Smart and easy mobility tips – 2 minutes a week to keep you young
  • Happiness
    • I often point to the importance of fun, of flow, of happiness, of experiencing and enjoying life. Of being aware. Of really seeing, really feeling, really touching, taking the active choice. It can seem a bit new age at the surface, but I promise you, I am scientific to the core. However, I often leave the referencing to others. Like Eric Barker e.g.
    • And here are a few things I’ve said about happiness in the past: Wall of wisdom, and TED Happiness research
  • Expensive things
    • Yes, I bought Zlatan’s Ferrari convertible from him, and then a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo convertible, and a Hublot Big Bang Rose Gold
      • Then I learned they were just things – that needed maintenance, that could get stolen or vandalized. Try it, but be open to realizing it really isn’t as fun as you might think.

 

Organized Chaos For Success and Happiness

Summit of Aconcagua, 6959 m / 22 831 ft

In my underwear at the summit of Aconcagua, the highest peak outside Himalaya. There I am, keeping the element of surprise on my side, should any other struggling mountain climbers, Andinistas, make it to the top during the two full hours I camped there.

 

360 spin on Gotland Ring 2006 (I’m driving)

 

It’s all empirical

I’ve lived all my advice.

I’m 44 years old (in January 2016) and I’ve done a lot of good and bad things – from appearing on TV shows like Singled Out and Man O Man to being royally laureled by the Swedish King, in front of a massive crowd as the best math and physics student; acing the chemistry olympics organic chemistry test and not least winning the European Hedge Fund Of The Decade award (and the story that followed that night and morning…, which isn’t included in the eBook).

Some, if not most, of my lessons are backed up by science too, but I’m often sloppy with references, since I believe the ideas are more important than the authors. Anyway, I know I only internalize knowledge from reliable sources. It’s just too bad you can’t know that.

In addition, I think it’s more important that I did it all myself – including tearing both my ACLs without even seeing a doctor afterward. I’m a ninja, what can I say. No, really, I am a ninja. I’ve practiced Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing as well, and pumped some iron (benching 310 lbs = 140kg).

Bench press 140.3 kg (309 lbs)

 

When it rains it pours

In essence, you just hit the mother lode, so make sure to stick around. Start with subscribing to my newsletter, and if you know Swedish, listen to my podcast “25 minuter”.

There is so much more useful, practical and plainly presented, already written here, and orders of magnitude more planned for the future. One eBook is done and ready – it’s ugly and retarded, but fun and useful. Kind of like myself.

Another book is in the works, Retard’s Playbook: i deals with Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Public Address, Private Address, Having Fun, Zen (not least the Yogi Berra kind), Workout Methods, Why The In Between Is Most Interesting, The Power Of Tautologies, Books, How To Become An Investor, The Importance Of Walking And Brain Plasticity, Omega-3, Beliefs, Principles and on and on…

Yep, you’ll find it all here. From broccoli to BDNF and brain plasticity.

Did I mention I went from three colds a year to none in 9 years? That’s 27 saved weeks of fever, sniffling and general misery. I managed to increase my workout tolerance and my Personal Best Lifts too. Find out how right here.

 

Health in a bottle: Omega-3 fish oil with oleocanthal-rich olive oil from Arctic Med

 

As if the blog and the eBooks weren’t enough, I keep appearing in radio and TV shows, not to mention my own show: “25 minuter”, which is in… Swedish! Premiär 2 november, 2015.

My show, too, strictly follows a no bullshit rule, and focus on practical, actionable advice, albeit with some fun every now and then.

 

 

Is rich, strong, healthy, smart, laid back, successful and efficient, yet deep, something you might be interested in?

Then, be all you can be, by taking one baby step at a time, laughing at how silly and easy it is, celebrating every little victory, knowing the journey is the destination.

Take the fork in the road, end up in the direction you’re heading. Don’t play chess with pigeons…

Sprezzaturian oct 25 2015 IMG_20151025_152013

Oct 25, 2015

Say after me: “Tsuyoku Naritai!”, and I’ll help you navigate around the worst and most unnecessary pitfalls and point you in the direction of personal development, of investing in yourself, for yourself.

 

Tsuyoku Naritai

 

Now, how about that e-mail address? You can unsubscribe at any time, and you’ll still keep your copy of “The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager”.

The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager eBook

When technology steals your job (Part II)

15-second summary

Fuck you money is good for escaping a soul sucking job. But don’t reverse the logic by launching a meaningless career with the intent of eventually becoming financially independent.

If you still think you want that money, no matter what, make sure to choose a technology proof path.

Here is me celebrating escaping the work vortex (picture by Ludvig at SGM)

roof top Sprezzatura

I’m finally free of obligations, and thankfully as curious as ever

 

Designing a future proof career

How does a career in the robotic (AI) porn industry sound to you? It should be (in)decently future-proof (requires human touch, creativity, and rides current trends in technology, not to mention perhaps the strongest human drive of all). It could be lucrative too (albeit, quite competitive).

What do you say? Do you see a box of promotional lubricants in your future? Read on for 45 minutes’ dissection of your future job market.

You’ll find Part I to this article here (it’s just a 3-minute read and mostly a list of interesting science pod casts).

Wits and hard work is not enough

My main point is this: there is no career alternative that you can easily identify, and get rich from predictably, simply by being smart and hard working.

Hence, you should choose an area where you’ll be happy/fulfilled, catering to your own most important demands.

Quite possibly, you’ll become wealthy too, after long enough… or, more likely, stop caring about money on the way. At least I hope so – even if there are a lot of Ebenezers out there constantly proving me wrong.

My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss investment banking and management consulting as future industries for you, instead immersing yourself in exploration of some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) in order to solve the big five problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

My personal choice would be one of, or a combination of, some of the following areas: medicine, psychology, anti-virus (IRL or VR), AI, robotics, automation, clean energy, water purification/desalination and parentless protein (plant, lab grown meat, insects).

cricket flour

yummy

 

However, if you’re dead set on whoring out (for a while), I have something for you too. A hint: it’s not finance; that’s a dead end.

Choose carefully if staying in the same industry is a priority

Flipping burgers? You’re out. Automated grinders, grillers, stackers will outdo you on every account from speed and quality to price

Cashier? You’re out.

Paralegal? You’re out. Watson will outread and outsummary you in a second. A lawyer of any kind however is a different story; think taxes and divorces.

Household services? You’re out. Not quite yet, but new materials, new robots, new methods and procedures will steadily erode the cleaning lady niche.

Teacher? Yes, for the very few of you that can thrive online. No for most.

Economics/finance?

Bank teller? Out. Back office? Out. Broker? Out. Portfolio Manager? Out (ETFs and HFTs are taking your job). Quant? There is still some road left. Marketing/Sales? You’re in! That kind of human touch and creativity is very hard to automate (but be sure to use every data mining robot available or you’ll be run over. Remember that any decent chess player, with the help of a chess program, will reliably beat the world champion)

Massage therapist? Congratulations, you get to massage the obnoxious 1% that can afford you.

Psychotherapist? Congratulations, there will be a lot of work for you. Anxiety levels are rising (not least due to the perceived threat of technology) and the need for a human touch will be there for a long time yet.

Are you an engineer? Make sure you stay on top of your game or you’ll end up just supervising computers doing your job. Okay, engineers, you’re in!

Programmer? Somebody will have to make the “robots” run. It could be you – either as a household tinkerer to save money or do barter, or professionally to make money. In!

Alright, you get my point: There are not many places to hide and it will only get worse. An area that might seem secure today can easily be threatened a decade from now. I mean, who knows how automated massage, acupuncture and sales might develop.

So, what should you do?

Secure a livelihood or live

There are a few ways to approach the issue of work for a young person these days.

  • Focus on maximizing your career opportunities, your potential for wealth, status and post-career opportunities and security. Perhaps you can do what you want later but you risk killing off your soul (obviously not the path I would recommend)
  • Focus on having fun and enjoying life in the short to mid term, and worry about middle age and retirement later. Maybe you’ll never “grow up”. Maybe fun will always be enough. NB: “fun” doesn’t mean travel and binge drinking, it means pursuing serious work that is intriguing and stimulating long term.
  • Or is there some kind of magical middle of the road alternative that is both fun and fulfilling as well as enriching? There might be, as I tangentially wrote about here.

 

I hope Tim and the others at the super cool site Wait But Why see this picture as flattery and not theft

 

 

Maximizing your work life longevity

From a pure livelihood perspective, be prepared to keep learning, keep finding ways to ride the technology wave – using hw/sw tools to stay above water, rather than be made obsolete by them – and not least: be prepared to have many different careers.

You want to keep your brain and mind youthful and fresh (best achieved by constantly trying new things and learning and practicing new and diverse skills. You might find some inspiration in the pod casts I recommended the other day).

You want to be unique and useful (through unusual combinations of experiences and skills – which makes me think of the world’s perhaps foremost AI expert, Margaret Boden. She has a background as a medical doctor and psychology student who turned to philosophy and eventually to AI).

Your needs or others’?

Humans are pretty simple in general (not you of course, but the rest). We evolved as pattern recognizers (to move, understand and predict movement, find food, fight adversaries etc.) and social animals (protection, child-rearing).

Once the basic needs of nutrition and shelter are out of the way, humans want to procreate, socialize, explore/identify patterns (understand our environment), relax and sleep.

Success or happiness?

When planning your future you want to strike just the right balance between your needs/wants (and capacity) and other people’s needs/wants (the demand side). The former determines your happiness. The latter your success.

I’m sure you have your basic survival needs reasonably covered (food, water, energy, shelter/sleep) and would ideally want to focus on sex, socializing and discovery. If you are Beta you might be thinking of money and status too, but in my opinion those are more or less unnecessary steps toward the true goals.

However, half of the world’s population is still struggling with the basics (making meeting those needs a great business idea), while the other half has some potential to go after the secondary goals like yourself. And then there is the rounding error one per cent like myself:

Humans are pattern recognizers

A side note: My fellow one per centers might not have any reason for financial worries. They however still struggle to find meaning in their lives and would be well advised to think deeply about human nature to find a path that is truly fulfilling.

I would suggest Understanding and Sharing, which is just a sound byte way of saying that humans evolved to want/need to recognize patterns, to understand the world and universe, to explore and make scientific discoveries and not least to share our knowledge and experiences with others. Those who didn’t went extinct. The ones who are still around can’t be fulfilled without it.

Back to your best career path.

Fulfill your needs while fulfilling others’

Go after what is most needed both now and as far down the line as you can imagine. The more you focus on the wants of others’ the more future-proof and wealthy you’ll become.

Basic needs: Water, Food, Shelter, Pharmaceuticals and Energy (really the key to everything and has always been. We have ridden the energy source waves of wood, coal, oil and uranium to make/transport food, clean water, buildings/heating/cooling, pharmaceuticals etc).

Higher needs: Sex, Socializing/Sharing, Relaxation (entertainment), Discovery (preferably scientific)

Rich and poor

Photo by Tuca Vieira

Do it while satisfying as much as possible of your own (mostly secondary, higher) needs and building a platform to serve your needs longer-term.

Alternatively, only worry about yourself, your needs; work in something fulfilling and you don’t have to worry about getting that illusive fuck you money.

You might not realize it yet, but “scientific discovery is the greatest pleasure there is”

-Said a brain scientist on a recent pod cast. I agree.

Travel, exploration, discovery, socializing/help

You want to travel to interesting places? How about working with the Red Cross?

No, you won’t get financially rich but you will experience a lot of things, and possibly be able to do some interesting research along the way. A small caveat: you might want to be a medical doctor, a nurse, an engineer, a statistician or so to get anywhere. I don’t know if you can simply start as a self-educated bum even in that kind of organization.

Gaming, entertainment, relaxation, socializing, technology

You like gaming and virtual worlds? Go for programming and designing them or sales and marketing. Demand seems almost infinite. Further, it rhymes well with our evolutionary needs for relaxation and socializing, as well as technological trends. Learn how to code, or design, or promote, or create believable stories/characters.

Discovery

You like science and discovery? Find a path into the world of biotechnology, AI, robotics or nanotechnology. You just might find yourself helping solve the global issues of food, water, energy and health, while satisfying your own needs for pattern recognition.

man vs machine

Just rich, please. And quickly!

Fuck that! You just want to be rich – or at least get some decent job security for the long run. You don’t want my hippie mindfulness strategies for happiness. You want the mohnay!

So, how do you go about whoring out? How can you go for short term profits, before moving on to your real ambitions (after you have taken care of your finances and never have to answer to a boss again)?

I hate to break it to you but there is no easy and surefire (or legal) way of getting your hands on real fuck you money in short order. For that you need luck, contacts, skills and maybe a higher education diploma from a top college too (even if I think skills such as programming are becoming more important than formal education). And even if some paths are more consistently lucrative than other, they typically take decades, not years.

Job security

Okay, forget about rich or fast, you just want job security:

Porn could work, but to get your hands on serious money, I imagine you would have to get (your hands) really dirty on the way. Competition must be hard considering how much cheap and free stuff there is online.

AI-robotics-porn will become big someday. And I’m serious about this. Whoever cracks this market open will be rolling in dough, and my money is on there being a lot of adjacent IRL opportunities too (voices, faces etc).

The finance industry is crowded, shrinking and built on central banking stimulus quicksand.

If you study engineering, math, statistics and then whore out as a quant at the right HFT firm you just might make it.

Nota bene: I can very well imagine working as a quant can be challenging, fun and fulfilling if you like it. Here however, I’m talking about the situation where you only do it for the money.

However, considering the disservice HFTs are doing to society, how easy it would be to regulate the industry to death (transaction taxes) and the likely coming market collapse, do you want to take the chance? I wouldn’t.

Some finance outfits will continue to consistently make a lot of money in finance. It’s just very hard to know which ones and how to get in on it (and high enough in the hierarchy). Perhaps it will be fundamentally driven hedge funds – that would be new. Unfortunately they are struggling now, so no new hires for a while.

“Business” (making deals) will still create value, be in demand and can be fun and meaningful. Start small, slowly build up your deal making empire, while acquiring more and more skills on the way. This is the Always Be Investing Way. This line of “work” could be just anything. Observe your environment and buy and sell products and services to make life easier for others. 

By the way, one researcher on a science pod recently said that it’s deal making that separates humans from animals and forced us to develop a nuanced language. On the other hand, another researcher said that the first religion was centered around the newly invented cheese (which helped neolithics, who were all lactose intolerant, from starving to death during a drought), and that writing was invented to keep track of all the cheese.

Technology, engineering, programming, math, statistics etc. all enable, as well as ride the wave of accelerating progress. It’s creative and requires non-automated humans. Here you will stay ahead of the automation curve for the foreseeable future. This is where you want to be.

Law: You might try becoming a tax or divorce lawyer. The legal system seems to be the only industry I can think of that will keep growing and that is complicated enough to make a decent living from. Unfortunately you must have a long formal education and on the job training before you start making money.

Law just might be the ultimate whoring out alternative: boring as well as parasitical, and possibly paying very well  after a few invested decades. Oh, did I say that New Scientist already thinks that lawyers might be becoming obsolete?

The anatomy of a change resistant job

It must be non-repetitive, creative and require a human touch in some way. It should create value, satisfy the demand of others, improve the productivity of others, and use technology rather than easily being replaced by it.

The following areas from the top of my mind appear robust, attractive, fun and meaningful to me:

  • Robotics
  • AI
  • marketing
  • psychology
  • anything creative (games, music, movies, virtual worlds)
  • food (vertical farms, insects, algae)
  • energy (fusion, solar, wave)
  • water (desalination, purifying)
  • the environment (carbon capture, cap & trade-schemes, toilets)

The last few weeks I have actually been seriously toying with the idea of starting an insect farm to produce insect food (on paper it’s the holy grail of food: omega-3 rich, protein rich, non-animal food, made from things most of us wish didn’t have to exist at all. In addition, insects eat anything [or just sugar, which is extremely cheap] and breed like crickets).

It might be fun too, but since I would mainly do it for the protein for myself, I could just as well order it from companies like Aspire instead.

You will always know the details better than I do

The job market has become more complicated than 25 years ago but the more it changes the more it stays the same.

I don’t claim to know exactly what career opportunities there are for you. I’m sure you have a better grasp about the specifics relevant for you for the remainder of this decade. However, I think I can give you some food for thought and perspective on how to approach the decision problem to avoid the worst mistakes.

When I was 15 and had just finished 9th grade (1987, the year of the black Monday on the stock market), there were only 3 real alternatives for secondary school: Natural sciences, Economy and Engineering. There were some other weird alternatives, but none that anybody took seriously.

When I graduated from my Natural Sciences program (18 years old in 1990, not long after the Berlin wall came down, and 5 years before the IPO of Netscape and the advent of the world wide web), the choices for college weren’t any more complicated: Engineering, Economy, Law and Medicine (and some other esoteric non-starter alternatives).

There was no on-line education, no realistic way to acquire skills outside of the system. Things have changed a lot since then. Now the choices are endless, and so are the pitfalls.

So, you know the details better. I can’t tell you which alternative is better. Programming? Porn? Finance? Engineering. Medicine? Law? I don’t know. The problem at hand is too complex and too difficult, in particular for an outsider (without skin in the game, it’s impossible to motivate myself to peer through every conceivable education and career path).

All I want to do is provide you with some tools to help you think systematically about making a robust education and career choice. If possible.

Ask yourself the right questions

1. What do you want? Money or happiness. Duh! You want happiness (and that you get by fulfilling your higher needs), it’s just that you might still think you have to go through money to get there. Okay, I get it: You want Money.

2. What do others want (that’s how you get the money; by fulfilling higher and lower needs of others)? What do you need to provide that? Formal education, skills, money, contacts?

3. What opportunities will technology ruin for you over time? What opportunities will be enhanced by technology?

4. Make a list of what it is you really want. And if it starts by money, be explicit with what it is you are going to buy with the money (cars, sex, drugs?). It might just focus your mind toward your real wants.

5. Make a list of areas you think could be future proof (not easily automated by robots or IBM’s Watson) and where you stand a chance to get in. They should pass the test of satisfying real and eternal human demands (or possibly cater to wanna-be Ebenezers, looking for fame and fortune).

6. Make a list of what you are prepared to do in terms of education, training and work (you whore you!) to get the kind of money you want/need, before quitting and doing what you really want. Compare that to the alternative of starting with what you want right away instead of taking the detour over money.

7. My guess (and hope) is that you’ll dismiss Goldman Sachs and McKinsey as future employers, and go for some of the big four technologies (nanotech, AI, biotech, automation/robotics) to solve the big five basic problems (Food, Water, Energy, Pollution, Health).

An impossible equation requires a sidestep

The choices are overwhelming, and the landscape is changing ever faster. You are facing a decision cube (at least 3-D) of what you want, what others want, and your capacity & willingness to whore out.

career choice

So, how can you choose the right path to wealth? One that makes you rich enough before losing yourself. I think you can’t. So choose happiness instead. Altucher might call it “choose yourself”. For some that will mean money as well, for other “just” happiness and a meaningful and well spent life.

Take it from me, wealth, fame and status are mirages. It seems fun to get drunk on a yacht, but it’s just as fun anywhere else. Driving a sports car in 200 mph is fun (and probably unnecessarily dangerous) but so is riding a roller coaster. Even better is the “simple” pleasure of discovering something new.

I suggest you aim for feeding your inner pattern recognizer through science and exploration, instead of wasting your years on the intermediary goal of becoming wealthy. Also, please note the difference between doing something fun and meaningful vs. just goofing around or trying to follow your”passion”. The latter is also quite misdirected.

You still need a livelihood, I get that. What I’m saying is that that could be just about anything you find interesting and rewarding intellectually long term. Worry about satisfaction and skills first, pay later. However, if you cast a wide enough net (living laterally) quite likely you’ll find that something productive and useful is what speaks to your pattern recognizing self.

Keep investing in the things that matter

Just remember that there will be no welfare state in the future, unless technology evolves so quickly and spreads so widely (more or less The Singularity scenario) that not just the automation oligarchs get to participate in the abundance.

Therefore you should cultivate a mindset of  adaptation, a diverse set of skills and a wide net of friends. While building layers on top of layers (“investing” is accumulative) over the years, I think you’ll find yourself change resistant, highly satisfied and “happy” and, with time, quite possibly financially wealthy as well:

layer upon layer career investing

Always Be Investing (in yourself)

 

Your call

So, time for soul searching. Do you want happiness or do you want success?

If you decide on the latter, think hard about human nature and which areas might be more long term stable than others.

businessman

How to waste your time on important things

What is important, really?

What is important

Is this important – being limber, being strong? (me, with a foot behind my head, a few years ago). For me? For somebody else?

 

Executive summary

At least once a year, measure where you spend your time, and ask yourself what the objective of your actions is, and if that can be achieved more efficiently.

The hard way: Question and Eliminate routines

The harder way: Design your life from scratch

Q E D

When do you live?

As you go about your day, you typically watch some news on TV, read the same news in a paper, watch the weather report a couple of times, check your Facebook flow (a few birthdays this week, some BuzzFeed shares, a political discussion and somebody has a cold).

You stuff something in your mouth, head to the office, talk to colleagues about ISIS’s spread in the middle east, about the weather, last night’s game, and how much you long for the next season of Game Of Thrones.

You eat, you check your surroundings, contemplate threats to humanity, you go to the gym, you sleep…

But when do you actually take care of life, of the important things? Do you even think about what the are?

 

Even good habits die hard

It’s all too easy to get stuck in a life of habits and routines without considering what really is important.

E.g., why on earth did I learn to do this?!!

whats important

SpreZZaturian at Corfu, Greece, a few years ago

Why do you study, why do you keep your job, why do you work out, why do you read books by Carnegie and Altucher? They might seem like good and productive habits, but they really aren’t unless they are important to you.

 

Almost everything you do is inconsequential and unimportant

It’s time to take your head out of your ass and start focusing on what actually matters to you.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m all for kicking back, taking it easy and enjoying life. I certainly know all about letting hours fly by. Hell, I quit the finance business to more or less just “waste” time.

However, I want you to spend your time on things that really mean something (to you), instead of suboptimizing and “walking up the closest hill”. What I’m talking about is mindfulness, about paying attention to yourself, of who you are, what you actually want, and then cutting out the superfluous garbage.

Waste time, by all means. Relax. Enjoy. Just make sure you actually do that, i.e., relax and enjoy, instead of taking selfies and just projecting a wonderful life.

Why do you watch the news and read the morning paper? Do you need the news (at work for example), do they affect your life (i.e., will you change your course of action productively today, based on the news you hear and read?) or is it simply relaxing (my guess is you could find better ways to relax if you tried)?

Why do you watch your portfolio of stocks, funds etc. almost every week? Are you going to sell them? Are you seriously close to buying more? No? Then don’t look. Set an alarm at the level(s) where you might want to make a new decision, but stop “just looking”.

Why do you go to the gym (to get big, strong, limber, healthy, impressive, win competitions, improve in specific sports, have fun, meet people, be able to eat more)? Investigate your true reason, then ask yourself if your approach really is the best.

Why do you keep your job? (can’t get another one, status, afford luxuries, loyalty, company/friends). Is it doing you any good? Are you happy? Satisfied? Do you need that extra cash compared to your more fulfilling alternatives?

Why do you study? (you’re supposed to, parents, status, actual skills, job prospects)

Why do you live where you live? (the view, close to the office [but why do you even work there], close to the gym [wait, but why…], spacious, status)

Why do you go out for drinks and dancing? Does it work for you?

Why do you own a car? Which model? Why? Does it fulfill that objective?

 

Know yourself

I don’t know you or your situation. I hardly know myself. What I do know is that everybody suboptimizes and rationalizes their situation to come to grips with cognitive dissonance (internal conflicts between values and actions).

 

Take stock

The least you can do is every now and then take stock of your daily life and question everything. Time your days and weeks (measure time spent on various activities) and think about why you actually do what you do.

 

Do you want to spend hours

each day routinely doing things

that objectively lead exactly nowhere?

 

Eating breakfast is not productive if you are obese and in a hurry. Also, fasting is good for you (unless you’re going for a record in dead lifts that morning)

Reading the paper is not productive if you don’t use the news

Keeping your job is not productive if you don’t really need the money, if it bores you, if you have other dreams

Studying at an institution is not productive if you could acquire the skills more efficiently somewhere else

Owning sports cars were neither fun, nor attractive or productive for me – rather mainly a hassle after a while (battery, garage, damages)

Working out to get bigger and stronger, as I currently do 3-4 times a week, … why do I do it? It’s kind of healthy, but there are healthier things I could do. I want to look good, but why exactly? As I said, we all get stuck in routines.

Planning for the next 25 years (and the next 25 million years, since you actually might live that long). Is that important? Do you do it?

 

This is what you must do

With everything you do, ask these questions:

  • What is the (short term) purpose of the action? Is the purpose fulfilled in the most efficient way possible?
  • Does it actually make you happy in the moment or are you really trolling for somebody else’s approval (on social media)
  • Does it bring you closer to your (long term) ambitions and targets?
  • Do you have to, need to, must…? If so, try to get around the problem and redesign your life. You only have to eat and sleep, that’s all.

You also could try designing your life from scratch, but my guess is that it’s too hard and overwhelming:

  • Know yourself (the most important thing there is, before knowing everything else)
  • Take the most direct route to fulfilling your purpose (difficult to know how before knowing you and the universe, or before trying everything and then cutting out the waste)

Waste in practice? Subscribe and browse my book

I’ve made all the mistakes above, as detailed in my book, but I’m getting better at getting better.

25 years ago I was on the right track, doing things I liked, for me, using my brain, following interesting leads, experimenting. Then I got sidetracked for 25 years, studying economics and finance, working at “Wall Street” (in Sweden) and eventually 15 years at a hedge fund as an analyst, portfolio manager, partner and managing director. It was frustrating – and fun – but it earned me my title and a bag of money.

Most importantly, however, I learned a little bit about what matters (to me), and it isn’t fancy parties, expensive lunches and dinners, sports cars or luxurious hotels. It isn’t news and it isn’t meeting celebrities.

NB: That might not be your lessons.

If you are interested in how I reluctantly reached the upper echelons of finance only to quit, and what I learned about managing money in the stock market, subscribe to my newsletter and browse my book The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager.