Everything happens for a reason in finance

Topic: There is no God

Summary: You are responsible for everything; you are your own god

Inspiration: Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Actually nothing does. Things just are. You, e.g., just are.

Conclusion:  in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.


Things affect other things, governed by mindless laws

Yes, things are connected, but not governed, not controlled or pre-ordained. I mean, if they were, by whom would that be, and more importantly why? What would be that force’s motivation and ultimate goal?

RANT BEGINS ON GOD’S LACK OF ACTIVITY

Who that is mighty enough to be worthy of the “God” title (presumably creator and governor of all matter and energy in all time and space, and everything outside the time and space we humans think we understand) would go through the trouble of spending time in the infinitesimally limited light cone that includes the fate of humans on little insignificant Earth on the outskirts of just one unremarkable galaxy out of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of galaxies in just the universe we humans can observe?

OK, if said being could circumvent the lightspeed limit, bend time and so on, maybe governing Earth might make sense. But then think about everything else to govern. Can a single “mind” do that, given the laws of the universe as we understand them? Sure, if nothing we have mapped out with the scientific method holds any water whatsoever… If we assume anything goes, then anything goes. But then again, what’s the matter of pure unscientific speculation about something we can’t measure, have never seen a single shred of evidence of, that apparently couldn’t care less about our existence, that for billions of years and billions of lightyears has been content with letting a few simple constants control everything without a single identifiable instance of interference?

RANT ENDS

OK, so nothing happens for a reason. However, you can take any situation and make the best of it, make it “yours” — as if it were meant for you.

For example, you didn’t miss the bus in order to meet that old friend. But you did miss the buss, and as a consequence you did meet that friend you otherwise wouldn’t have. It had a lot of other less tangible consequences too (all without governance or externally imposed purpose), but you get to choose which unexpected and “new” events to focus on — good or bad:

If you always focus on good outcomes and opportunities from chance; to you it’s as if everything has a purpose. In reality as we know it, however, and the one that God has never interfered with in any outside-the-system-way (laws of nature), you are the one deciding to experience purpose (and thus it’s you who create the purpose).

If you’re well prepared, skill-wise and psychologically, you can make use of unexpected and random events. But if you just think things are laid out for you with a plan in mind, you risk not making the most of them.


God – what’s the utility?

What is God? Here is one way to think about it that has been suggested to me:

Everything; as if humans were the neurons of a galactic-sized brain — we are God and God is us; just like our brain is us and we are our brains. Everything is everything, and that is God. In other words we are God, we are the decentralized hubs of the all-encompassing being that is God: We created all this from nothing, and our objective is to understand ourselves and become whole again.

Oh, baloney!

Sure, there was a big bang, everything came into being from nothing. All matter and energy stem from a single dimensionless point, where notions like space, time and matter aren’t even applicable. 14 billion years later humans appeared on Earth, and according to Einstein most of the Universe can’t reach or affect us and we can’t affect it. Even if everything has the same origin, almost nothing is causally connected anymore.

[Insert ad hoc reasoning about quantum entanglement, wormholes in space-time, the simulation hypothesis, and AI-sophons (3-body problem) here; to try to save the idea of a single, all powerful, God, that can and does take action with a purpose directed at humans who occupy one single planet of hundreds of billions in a galaxy that is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies — and that’s just in our visible universe. And then stop to see if you’re really adhering to the God you started out believing in (God is a data nerd? God is the Universe? God listens to our prayers through wormholes and entangled quantum particles?)]


Back to the one God – no equals, no parts

Let’s get back to some sort of external, system-outside God with a mind of its own, and the power to change the laws of nature.

What could such an idea be used for? Where is there room for such a super entity? In what form, energy or dimension can it exist; since our current day instruments can’t detect God?

Well, there is a huge amount of dark matter in the universe. Could that be considered “God”? It still sure doesn’t seem to do anything — not for billions of years, let alone the mere tens or hundreds of years humans would care about.

What criteria should we require for something to be considered the “God”?

  • That God started it all? That he started just this universe? Or does the God title require starting all the other universes too?
  • That God can and does work outside the laws of nature as we have mapped them?
  • Would it be enough if there were lightcone local, super powerful AIs or aliens, that don’t care to show themselves, since we are so far beneath them — either because we are boring, or they don’t want to scare us, confuse us, or disturb our evolutionary trajectory. My guess is they just wouldn’t care at all. Such beings would be busy trying to understand and control the fate of the universe.

It seems to me, the lightspeed speed limit, lightcones and all that, would make it very hard for any kind of within-laws entity to be interestingly and meaningfully powerful. Oh, and then there’s that thing again; that it at least hasn’t exercised such powers in any identifiable way for all of time.

If God is local, it’s not powerful enough to be the God, he’s just a community sheriff. If on the other hand God is all encompassing, he has no way of knowing or governing (not to mention reason to) — it would take tens of billions of years just to hear some prayers and at least as much additional time to do something about them.


What’s the meaning of all this?

I just want you to use the same type of reasoning, as I did above, in all aspects of life: relationships, work, investing, love. Is your view logically consistent? If you assume A, what does that say about B; are A and B compatible?

Try to see the whole picture; try to understand what can be known and what can’t; what matters and what doesn’t; and perhaps most important of all; what you can influence and what you can’t. If you ignore everything you can’t change and focus on the things you can, your daily life will become much more enjoyable.

When you see platitudes and clichés like “Everything happens for a reason” or “You only get challenges you can handle“, as if there were somebody orchestrating your life; call bullshit! Things just happen. And you just happened to be there.

The challenges you “get”, i.e., that happen to you, they can kill you too. They can damage you for life — irreparably. They aren’t tailor made in order to make you grow as a person.

However, that doesn’t mean you don’t owe it to yourself to rise up as best you can to all events; or to grab opportunities that come your way by chance. Just know that no supernatural being threw them at you with a purpose in mind, or fine tuned them perfectly to something they knew for sure you could handle.

In life that is. In investing it can be a bit different.


Conclusions: Investing implictions of the No God Hypothesis

Come to think of it, in particularly in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.

You shouldn’t give yourself tougher challenges (when it comes to investments) than you can handle. In that respect, you actually never do get challenges you can’t handle (unless you are stupid enough to wade neck-deep into cow dung by your own volition).

No, wait for the right opportunity. Size correctly. Never go all in. Do the math and take all the responsibility yourself for your actions. Adapt and improve your strategy over time, using your hits and misses wisely. Try to understand and strike preemptively at your human biases. Create systems of habits and checklists to check your emotions, and prevent easy mistakes. And most of all, stop both blaming and praising supernatural beings for what is ultimately your own doing.


God is dead! Long live God!

Please note I don’t have anything against being spiritual, mindful, and searching for context or meaning.

Believing in some kind of personal or consequential God is ill-informed and illogical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be comforting to some.

God doesn’t hear your prayers, but you do.

In that respect you are your own God; by putting words to your thoughts, by making room for silent contemplation, for appreciation, for making plans, for preparing for future action; if done thoughtfully you are setting yourself up for reaching your goals. Football players praying to God to make them score and win against another team full of players doing the same are of course not really asking God to indulge their crass wishes. They are praying to themselves, reinforcing the idea that their training will be enough, visualizing the shot and goal. After the score they raise the index finger as if emphasizing “I am the one God, my prayer to myself was heard“.


You do the math

Just to be clear, the one single message of this post is that I am God you have to take full responsibility for your own actions, for your success, for your happiness, for your investment risk management.

In short: You. Do. The. Math (do the math, devise/revise your strategy, wait, implement it unemotionally, repeat)

You won’t achieve ‘impossible’ things without structured goal setting

Topic: how to get what you want

Discussion: very few people actually do have real thought-through goals

Conclusion: brainstorm many, many goals, identify your top ten, write one page per top goal on why you want that


You absolutely must write down your goals

-to find out which they are

 

If you want to reach your goals, try this:

  1. Identify your goals
  2. Write down why you want to reach them
  3. (then figure out how, by breaking down the why:s to small, tangible how:s)

I recently listened to an episode (#131) of one of my favorite podcasts, Framgångspodden, in which the guest, Mikael Arndt, talked about goals, why they are important, how you can find out which are the most important ones to you and how to maximize the likelihood of reaching them. He also underlined the importance of updating your goals about once a year to avoid wasting time on outdated ones your younger, ignorant self thought were cool.

Here I wrote about the dangers of setting and keeping goals.


Mikael Arndt turned out to be quite the philosopher, not the used cars salesman archetype I was half-expecting. Among other things he stressed the value of regularly going over your goals and your why:s, e.g. like this:

  1. Write down your goals. Take a physical pen and paper and write down 100 things (or 50, or 200; “many”) you want, want to do, want to achieve — no matter if they are implausible, unlikely or down right impossible. This is not the time for why or how, just what. If you find this hard, take your time, one goal after the other. You’ll get faster with practice. Remember the Red Queen who could believe six impossible things before breakfast.
  2. Categorize your goals as A, B or C. A: top-1 priorities that provide the meaning of life, the reason for getting up in the morning (somewhere to sleep, children, time and money to travel?), B: Nice to have goals (a sports car? fancy clothes), C: less important, could probably do without altogether, such as “an ice cream”, “a web page”. You still mustn’t bother with why or how to reach your goals.
  3. Write a why page for each top priority “A” goal on why you want that. If you can’t write a page on why, maybe you don’t really want it (if you ask me, sometimes a shorter why is better, but you get the point). The more you write the easier it gets to weed out goals that are due herd behavior, group think, and societal peer pressure than your own true-to-self innate goals.
    1. Maybe you want a sports car. Why? I want to drive fast, I want others to know I’ve made it, I like looking at it.
    2. Why do you want to drive fast, why do you want others to know, why do you like looking at it?
    3. I get a nice sensation in my stomach from acceleration and dangerous speeds, cooler and more interesting people will want to hang out with me, looking at it makes me think of what I’ve achieved and what other things I may succeed in doing.
    4. And on and on.
    5. Some goals will become less and less poignant with each explanation, others increasingly enticing.

Most people don’t do anything near this. Mikael said 97% don’t, but the 3% that do are several orders of magnitude more likely to reach their goals. Why not become one of the 3%? It doesn’t really cost anything more than a few hours of using and training your imagination.

Once you have your list of goals it’s time to break them do into tangible steps to get there. But the most important work is already done. Once you’ve got your target, purpose and why’s you have laid the foundation for inspiration, motivation, perseverance and grit — and that’s what get things done in the long run, not somebody else’s idea of success, orders or to-do lists.

Check out Framgångspodden if you understand Swedish, or if you hadn’t already go back and read my post about why not to set big, long-term goals that you stick to through thick and thin without questioning.

And why not check out today’s interview with me in Börsvärlden?

P.S. If you don’t scrutinize, specify, adapt and update your goals you often tend to target what everybody else is, which exposes you to the Red Queen Effect of running just to stand still.