What do you want?

It’s a simple question; a simple concept:

What is it that you want?


Length: 1368 words


Did I want to burn my face in the sun today? (did I want to spend two hours having lunch and drinking wine at a downtown terrace with a sea view?)

Do I want to write this article? I mean, it does take some time, that I could spend meeting people, playing with my dog, reading a book, stretching or catching up on Game Of Thrones (I wonder…, could it be that the cold season is approaching; and what about the pale wanderers up north?).

Do you want to get rich? Do you, really? Why? What are you going to do with the money, i.e., what do you actually want?

Do you want status? Do you want to get laid? Think about it.

Do you want nice things? Clothes, cars, watches, houses, boats, yachts? Why? To achieve a certain stature? Why? To be admired? By whom? To what end?

Why? To get laid? Or to get an even better paying job with even higher status? Why?

when

nobody’s

watching

Ask yourself what you truly want at the end of the day. What do you do, want or enjoy when nobody’s watching?


 

I asked myself these questions long ago.

Eventually I sold my cars, quit my job and started blogging and podcasting as a result of my mulling these issues. I had realized I was a pattern recognizer and that my deepest desire was to learn (occasionally I want to eat, fuck and sleep of course, but evolution had it that to do those things I first had to recognize the patterns of food and females, e.g.)

Sure, I do strive for higher ratings, more listeners etc., but only to spread the message in, e.g., this article and my books. I don’t want status or fame per se, I use it to spread a message. But why do I want to spread that message?

That’s a much harder question, but here’s my attempt at answering:

It’s a drive I have. It’s the mirror image of wanting to learn as much as possible – I guess I assume you and everybody else share the same drive. Rather than waiting for your pull, I push both the method and the message onto you.


 

Yeah…, I like being appreciated, it feels good to be seen per se (not just for the potential it lends), and a groupie or two wouldn’t hurt (come on! what? noone? 10 000 readers and not a single girl interested? Alrighty then, maybe I’m already seeing somebody). However, most of all I just want to make others stop chasing other people’s dreams, and start realizing their own.

 

It applies to everything:

Why spend 5 years on ‘higher’ education, just because the last generation did. Why spend 40 years in employment, to impress people with your titles, or to buy things that put you ahead of the pack? Do you really want to be ahead or to impress, instead of doing real things with real people?

I get it that there are certain realities of life to consider. You need to eat and you don’t want to be cold or dirty or look bad to potential partners. You might want to get kids and care for them too… So, sure, you need some kind of an income and a place to stay.

But do you want to dress up like a monkey in a suit and tie everyday? (Bobby Axelrod never wears that kind of attire). Why do you want a flashy car you don’t really need? Do you really want to spend those extra hours, weeks, months, years at the job to finance a lifestyle that is just theater for others?

Do you want to throw money from the bridge of your yacht shouting “money is fun coupons” (at the price of studying for others, working for others, worrying, sleeping too little, aging prematurely)? Maybe you do, I’m not judging. I’m just asking questions.

I understand if you want to throw big parties, jet comfortably around the world (but where and why?), get the best seats at concerts (I don’t like live music), catch the attention of the most interesting people and so on.

However, are you going about it in the most effective manner, or are you taking a very big and unnecessary detour (perhaps endlessly chasing the Joneses)?

It’s very easy to get distracted, to just do what everybody else is doing. We are herd animals after all. It’s all too easy to just keep doing what you’re doing as well; breaking out of homeostasis doesn’t come naturally.

It’s irritatingly easy to just climb the nearest hill, to enjoy whatever is right in front of you, without regard for the bigger picture.

Did I want to burn my face today? No. Did I understand I would, and that my eyes would be sore in the evening? Well, I guessed as much, but the wine was good and the alcohol felt nice…

Do I want to check my investment portfolio every day? No, not really. A year ago I hardly checked it every week, but lately I’ve spent at least five minutes every day, and often more than an hour just looking and maybe making a trade or two. I actually don’t want to do that, or need for that matter.

Today, I did what I want: I did not open the trading app and never checked my portfolio or the financial markets. I went to the gym as I always do every other day. I want that. And I met a friend for lunch and we had a bottle of wine each in the sun. I really enjoyed that, laughed a lot, learned a few things, perhaps provided a few insights as well. However, I should have moved into the shade after the first hour. I wanted to (in hindsight); I just never thought about it hard enough.

 

So, what do you want?

I guess getting up in the morning to go to school, prepare your exams, or put on a suit and too warm shoes and be in time for the morning meeting aren’t things you really want – you just do it for the money. And how do you spend or save that money? The way you want?

Here’s my tip to you. Think through how you would design your life if you could start from scratch. How would you live (where, what kind of house/apartment, what climate, what view), what would you do (given your financial constraints), what would you eat? Who would you meet?

Once you have that ideal situation detailed, start thinking about how you can approach it from your current vantage point.

What do you want and need to learn? Is there any point in being employed or could you create value without a boss? Are you maximizing your potential during college by keeping up to date on real stuff outside school? Could you learn even more and faster without school? Are you trying out business ideas while in school or are you just focused on rote learning what and only what they tell you, like an automaton?

 

Back to square one:

  1. Start from scratch, break from the herd, from homeostasis
  2. Be mindful of when you feel good, when you’re happy, fulfilled, energetic
  3. Search deep within, and ask what you want for you; the endgame so to speak, your primary objectives that you do for their own sake, not as intermediaries
  4. Design the ideal situation with the point above in mind
  5. Think about how to approach the point above, step by step; small, easy steps

Feel free to share this article with anybody you think are in danger of joining the Joneses. Please.

And if you’re new here, you just have to read my first e-book: “The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager” (it’s free of course). Well, that is, if you are at all interested in how a guy from Jukkasjärvi went from nothing to receiving the award for “The European Hedge Fund Of The Decade” while managing not to turn into a big dick; and then unceremoniously retired before turning 42.

Get it by signing up for my free and spam free newsletter here.

Aim low 2 get high

What you’re getting into:

10 minutes of actionable advice for improved health, strength, posture, intelligence, stamina, focus, finances etc. – in short a blueprint for effortless life enhancement.

Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

Using the left (weak) arm

 

Don’t set your ambitions too high

Around 15 years ago, just as I began my hedge fund career, my little brother (today, not yet 30 years old, a national strongman finalist, an 800lbs deadlifter, and soon [well…] a Quantum physics PhD) experienced a sort of panic attack when browsing his math book in the beginning of the semester.

The realization that he didn’t know it all and couldn’t learn it all right away made him feel he could never learn it.

At the same time I had no goals or ambition whatsoever, apart from putting in less work than before. And we all know where that got me, one step at a time.

If you are new here and don’t know what I’m talking about, subscribe to my newsletter immediately and read my free eBook about how I became The European Hedge Fund Manager Of The Decade.

Hence, if you aim for the moon, the risk is it’ll stay just a dream. You won’t even hit the tree tops. Best guess is you’ll simply stay in bed, overwhelmed by your own ambitions.

Instead aim low, ridiculously low. But with a twist, with a process in mind, and a growth mindset.

Apparently you can reach the moon without more than a shy glance at it now and then, instead focusing your energy on enhancing those stone tools of yours – aiming ‘ridiculously’ low.

Feel free to have moonshot visions in the back of your mind. But aim for nothing more than getting out of bed, perhaps take a quick look out the window and check for trees, maybe even walk up to it… and perhaps grab the lowest branch and just feel it…

You know where that story ends.

moonshot aim low

Don’t be Tim Ferriss

On the one hand Tim is just like us. On the other he is an unattainable demi-god. Don’t model your goals on guys like Peter Thiel, Tim Ferriss, Steve Jobs and Jack Welch. Sure, everybody can emulate them, but very few actually will.

That kind of ambition is more likely than anything else to set you up for failure, discouragement and unhappiness.

If you try to learn parkour, French, big wave surfing, MMA etc. at master level in a week, you’ll most likely end up physically hurt or broken down psychologically. But just trying those things, aiming to get a little better every day, and you’ll exercise brain and body, and maybe finding a rewarding new hobby for life.

 

Aim low too, like I do

About a year ago, I wrote my first few blog posts on a precursor website called Always Be Bruce Wayne. On August 11, 2014, I presented one of my mottos “Aim Low”, which focused mainly on health and fitness, but also mentioned many other areas of life, such as  finance, work, gym, studying and reading.

This post is part two: Aim Low 2, Beginner’s Guide, a.k.a. “Just One More”

There will be a more thorough part three in the future, that delves deeper into various areas and expands the number and complexity of easy self improvement advice: Aim Low, Master Class

In fact, that 1-2-3 structure in itself demonstrates the principle of aiming low:

I had a very vague vision from the beginning about writing thoroughly on the topic but chose to ignore it. Instead, I said to myself: “Write just one short article advocating the three easiest and most rewarding mobility exercises”. I aimed low, then wrote just one more (the current one; Aim Low 2), and after that realized I should do just one more (again), some time in the future.

Trying not to get too wordy here, Let’s jump right into the advice:

 

The principle of aiming low

Whatever you do, make it easy to start. If you don’t start you won’t get anywhere. Start with the simplest step possible, then take another one. In a while, the momentum becomes self-sustaining, and getting going doesn’t take any effort at all. Then you have a habit of doing as well as of improving.

I’ve seen suggestions of imprinting habits by repeating them 21 days in a row. That’s probably close enough, but I would still focus on day 1, and then day 2…

 

Indulgence cum discipline

In short, this is the Aim Low, Just One More “formula”:

  • Do it now – whatever it is, do not put it off, not even for a minute. Now. Since you are aiming really low anyway you can start at a second’s notice
  • Just start – going running? Put your shoes on. Aim for a walk around the block. Perhaps another block. Perhaps just a few jogging steps. perhaps run just one block.
  • Just one (arbitrary [small] unit of your choice, in the case of the Aim Low blog post series a unit is a blog post, but it could just as well have been a single paragraph, or just a sentence or a headline) – aim for performing just one unit; one push up, one block, one kilometer/mile, one sentence, one page, one article.
  • Just one more – right when you finish your “just one” unit, make the thought “Ahhh, done. No more” your cue for “Just one more” or maybe just the half or quarter, since you took the trouble to start. It’s the sunk cost fallacy turned into a strength. Further, the “one more” process nulls the anchor effect (since you don’t have an absolute benchmark, just a process of adding one more arbitrary unit).
  • Celebrate every ‘one’. Computer games are built around levels, smaller and bigger levels. Sometimes there are more difficult “bosses” to beat after decimating his easier minions. The bosses are both proof of your skill and help honing it before going to the next level. Life in general and projects in particular are no fun if they are too long and there are no intermediate “bosses”. Celebrate completing a “one”; vanquishing an intermediate game “boss”.
  • Enjoy the process, focus on it, make sure it’s a good process that you like and can be proud of. Good or bad luck can lead to any outcome, independent of the quality of the process, but a good process will always be a good process. And a tautology is always true (straight out of Retard’s Playbook). If the endgame is all that matters, if you shoot exclusively for the moon, then failure is both likely and will be complete. If the process, the investing, the growing.
  • End up where you are heading. The real trick though is to steer in the right long term direction, or you might end up where you are heading. However, only glance at the ultimate goal to not get overwhelmed. Every one should be a reward that makes you want to go for (just) one more.

On moonshots: Don’t (aim to) become so good they can’t ignore you. For one, it’s near impossible for most. Second, you don’t need them anyway if you become that good. A pragmatic strategy must build on leveraging others without having to be nr 1. Be different and good enough, rather than the best. Most important of all, live for you, not for them – in all aspects of life.

 

 

Beginner’s Guide For Aiming Low

  • Hygiene: Wash less. Trust your bacteria. Don’t kill them with solvents, leaving room for new strains. I haven’t used anything but water on my face for 9 months. Apart from the obvious health benefits it saves time too.
  • Sleep: Sleep with your feet sticking out from the bed (cold feet signal time to sleep), lower temperature in the bed room. Meditate for just one minute (or add one more), instead of checking your phone, computer or TV 30 minutes before bedtime. Sleep as dark as possible (aluminum curtains/blinds), neutral spine (harder bed, head aligned with body, i.e. not turned to the side relative the body)
  • Workouts: Variation. Vary the number of sets and rep ranges between workouts and weeks. No extra effort or time required, just vary those two parameters if nothing else.
  • Cardio: Small increments, low threshold. Start by putting your shoes on. That’s enough, but my guess is you’ll want to at least walk around the block once laced up anyway. Always tell yourself, this is the last unit (that fools your brain to release the body’s reserve powers). Then do one more. However, I personally don’t do cardio.
  • Mobility: Hips & Shoulders. Squat, Couch stretch and Morpheus if nothing else. Do it between sets in the gym, when watching TV or waiting for the bus. Zero time consumption. Almost zero effort. Adds years of quality life. And don’t sit in chairs all the time. Stand at work. Sit on the floor at home. For the master class, this one needs some serious elaboration (in the meantime you can check out this old post I wrote a year ago).
  • Brain training: I throw tennis balls for my dog using my left arm during our walks, thoroughly thinking through how to copy the movement of my right arm. No extra effort, no time consumed. Try balancing on one leg with your eyes closed.
  • Variation: use a different store for grocery shopping, take a different path to work
  • Skills: start things, do them wholeheartedly for a while, then quit if boring. Go to Khan Academy. Watch some videos when idle. Start doing some math or programming. Download DuoLingo and try French or Portuguese. Do the exercises whenever you usually would check Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Make “social media” your cue for “but first, just one minute of skill improvement”
  • Writing: just start, just get to the computer and write one sentence, one headline, then another, then one more, then start filling out the blanks in between. First just write simple words, then whole sentences, then refine them into paragraphs, then make sure they are in a readable order.
  • Meditation: the easiest meditation in the world is lying on your back, with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing, identifying and feeling every part of the breathing apparatus. In through the nose, out through the mouth. If a thought shows up. Acknowledge it is there and then focus on the breathing again. Nose. Mouth. Nose. Mouth. Move up the meditation ladder, by going through every part of the body starting with just one toe. Can you feel it, can you imagine where it is? Make micro movements, moving a finger just a millimeter or two and notice if your left feels different from your right. Try that instead of being online the last 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • Mindfulness: Just look/listen/smell/touch anything really thoroughly. What is the texture, what components does that smell have, how does that bird or insect move through the air, what instruments are there in that song
  • Inspiration, knowledge: read a book/article (Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman) or listen to a podcast (TED Radio Hour) by somebody obviously smart or accomplished. Think, really think about the message and its implications. Does it affect you? Should it? How can you apply the same concepts? 
  • Motivation: Don’t be a little bitch. Real people don’t need motivation
  • Happiness: Focus on processes rather than goals. Celebrate periodically. Life should be like a challenging computer game. It can be a little tough sometimes, you fall and pick yourself up, but every now and then you win over an intermediary boss or get to the next level. Celebrate those wins instead of only thinking about some ultimate endgame. Ask yourself “What’s wrong with right now?” and forget about some moonshot dreams. 
  • Productivity: Use a commonplace like Evernote. Write down ideas and ToDos in a structured manner right when they occur. That frees up capacity to move on without risk of losing the idea
  • Studying: Don’t rush it. Understanding takes time. One step at a time. First one, then one more. Construct each level of understanding carefully or you won’t have anything stable to build on later
  • Teaching: Same as studying. No rush. Make it easy by taking very small steps but requiring full understanding
  • Food: Drink omega3 oil and eat beans and leafy greens every day. Everything will improve (incl. less inflammation, speedier recovery from exercise, illness and injury). Also, try fasting every now and then. Personally, I fast for 16 hours every day, and typically work out during the 16th hour. It saves time, prevents inflammation and cancer, and makes use of the body’s positive response to convexity. For the master class, the food advice section will need to be at least as long as the master class mobility advice.
  • Alcohol:

alcohol

  • Sex, pick-ups, relationships: I have no shortcuts, no hacks, no tricks for these, but you could try boosting your testosterone by “power posing” a few minutes when walking the dog, or waiting in line, for the lift or other idle moments
  • Finance: Patience. That’s all. No greed, no fear, no know-it-all advice, just Study, Wait, Pounce
  • Health: Don’t sit. Don’t stand completely still. Apply Convexity in all aspects of life, i.e. explore moderate extremes; the “corners” of life
  • Convexity: Eat/Fast, Contrast Showers, Ice Bath/Sauna, Focus/Relax. Even Drunk/Hangover/Dehydrated/Recovery. The body and brain respond really well to moderate extremes, or “convexity”.

bonus 1: If you aim low, you expect little, and have both a higher likelihood of achieving your goals and attaining happiness

bonus 2: if you aim low, with a focus on growth rather than an endgame, you are more likely to start, and to continue, and maybe actually progress to the very top, while enjoying every step of the way and avoiding feeling empty when finally ‘there’.

Just one more aim low

Just one more…

Summary

Just do one.

Then one more.

To really sum it up: Squat, Beans, Omega3, Bacteria, Cold Feet, Variation, Processes vs. Goals, Meditation/Mindfulness, Use Your Left, Read “Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman” and install Evernote.

P.S. I just found out that Self Improvement Guru James Clear wrote something similar today in Habit Creep

Know Thyself instead of chasing somebody else’s dream (car)

Know thyself

If I could give you just one piece of advice, that would be it. Get to know yourself.

-And be more mindful when reading (non-fiction) books.

That is the key to success, happiness and all things good in life.  If you don’t know who you are, there is no way you’d reach your goals – simply because you don’t really need what they are and instead go after somebody else’s objectives.

know thyself SpreZZaturian McLaren P1

If you know who you are and steer your life accordingly you won’t suddenly wake up afflicted by some random strain of age anxiety.

So, how do you know who you are and what you want (as well as what to do about it)?

By running ‘experiments’ and paying attention; in short by being mindful of your own reactions to various stimuli (and your environment).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Iron Man

Experimenting means trying many different things in real life, but it also means reading, watching, listening, discussing and thinking. It means finding role models; mentors even.

Most of all you need to ignore the siren calls of the herd, the temptation to climb the closest hill and the marketing noise of modern society.

E.g., you neither want nor need a ridiculously large mansion, Iron Man’s cliffhanger villa (above), Rafael Nadal’s watch (below), or the baddest and raddest super car by McLaren (the P1 pictured above). That’s the “Jones” in you talking, that Beta character yearning to be Alpha.

know thyself SpreZZaturian

 

Do you have a megadream?

I can’t say I was never just as programmed regarding what success is supposed to be. Thankfully, I stopped short of buying this church in central Stockholm (picture below), making it into a one bedroom studio with a 30×30 ft bed in the middle.

It used to be my “mega dream” though, inspired by Scrooge McDuck who started his sleeping career in a drawer and eventually upgraded to the world’s largest bed – as the world’s loneliest duck.

know thyself SpreZZaturian Gustaf Vasa church

Before learning my lesson, I bought an expensive Swiss watch (Hublot Big Bang Rose Gold), a few cars (BMW, Porsche, Ferrari 360 Spider, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder) and a downtown penthouse that is borderline too big for me and my girlfriend (2350 sq ft). Luckily, she vacuums.

I even test drove a 55 ft Itama yacht (pic.) before getting the message. Right there and then with my hand on the throttle and steering wheel, it was painfully obvious that the yacht was way more boring than my 7ft water scooter (Seadoo RXP).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Itama 55

-not so fun

 

Know Thyself SpreZZaturian Seadoo RXP waterscooter

-fun! (yep, that’s me… breaking the law, breaking the law)

So, it took me some ten years of luxury and conspicuous consumption, before I realized it wasn’t things I wanted. In fact, those things stole more energy than they gave me – in particular the cars (and actually the scooter too). I eventually realized that I was brainwashed into impressing others, even if it felt as if I really wanted those things.

 

Real remorse

I think Buyer’s Remorse isn’t that much about the anticipation being better than the actual purchase. I think it’s simply a case of paying for the wrong things, i.e., the remorse is a real and true signal of a poor decision. Now, that is something to take with you the next time you’re visiting a car retailer.

You definitely don’t want to bathe in money (ew!), and yet you can easily find money bathing pics on Instagram.

know thyself SpreZZaturian happy times money bathing

-happy guy?

Oh, and I’m too so guilty of throwing cash around in pictures – and as embarrassed as I am about it (on my Instagram account), it’s still even more important to stress what a ludicrously second hand behavior it is. Living for others is a surefire way of making the least out of life.

There is nothing wrong in being or becoming rich, or in optimizing whatever it is you do. What’s wrong is if money, fame and status are your primary objectives, without a thought to why you want it or how you’re going to use it as a means to fulfilling your true desires.

 

When am I happy?

When reading a particularly good book. When listening to music. When understanding science. When playing with my dog or my friends. Gym-related happiness: (breaking plateaus, in the sauna, showering, eating and resting afterward), when expressing free will, when writing down a worthwhile thought, when experiencing moderate danger, when falling, when laughing, when completing projects: taking out trash, hanging a painting, writing a book, installing a router.

I enjoy heights, views, beauty, the sky, the vastness of space, exerting myself…

In short I’m happy when I use my brain for discerning patterns, and when I’m using my body to its fullest. Simple as that.

I don’t expect you to appreciate the same things as I do, and I fully understand if you want to at least try the money game of wealth, things, fame and status before focusing on satisfying yourself. However, I hope you take my experiences into account, and keep seriously questioning whether you are doing things for you or for somebody else. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself faster than I did.

 

Summary

  • Study yourself in as diverse situations as possible
  • Pay attention to your primary reactions
  • Avoid vicariousness; pleasing others can be a means to an end but not a goal in itself
  • As a practical example: When coveting something, try to imagine what it would be like actually having the item in your possession. Pinpoint what joy or use it is supposed to give you.
  • And as a bonus, since I recommended reading as a way of analyzing yourself: To get the most out of reading, ask yourself during reading “What am I learning? Am I making progress toward my goals? How does this fit into or alter my body of knowledge”

I never said it was easy:

 know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 1know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 2

By the way, the above strip was my first encounter with the “know thyself” meme, in the early 1980’s. It flew right over my head though.