Never fight nature (the markets or yourself)

Summary: Don’t fight the markets or your nature

Length: short

wu wei

The only right way is your way

Yesterday, during one of my long dog walks, I met a 78 year old doctor who apparently was still happily working, and later a 70 year old lady “365 days vacation a year!”

Both looked surprisingly young, healthy and vibrant, despite their diametrically different life choices.

The doctor had definitely thought it through, regarding happiness, brain health, the death of retirement etc., while still able to appreciate my kind of retirement from paid work. He was sharp, curious and looked much younger than his years.

He even quickly and naturally googled me on his phone (78 yo, remember?!), as well as invited me to his daughter’s exhibition (which he showed me on Facebook). The daughter, by the way, is one of Sweden’s most accomplished business leaders but she gave it up to become a (lion) photographer. She turned out to be married to a young self-made billionaire with whom I have some friends in common.

The dog yard is a really small world.

The 70-year old (celebrated the day before) actually tried to fix me up with a young friend of hers (quite a few years younger than I am) living in the same neighborhood as I do.

Happy, inquiring, friendly,… retired. The opposite of the doctor but still the same.

Maybe they knew early on who they were or wanted to be. Maybe it was a life long struggle. No matter, now in their 70s, and almost 80s, they are as comfortable in their own skin as I hope everybody could be, regardless of age and walk of life. At 44 I am, but I think I got here ay too late.

Pavlovianly outgoing

I’m not a naturally social person. Quite the opposite actually.

Introverted, awkward.

And yet, I enjoy these chance encounters during my dog walks. The dogs sniff each other, and we humans talk about this and that for a few minutes. Often I come away having learned something new.

The thing is I know I’m introverted. Thus, when I feel reluctant to pausing the science podcast I’m listening to, in order to chat with a stranger, I do it anyway.


Breaking out of my Aspergerish homeostasis a little every so often makes it easier and easier – now I’d even say I am more social and extroverted than introverted. I’ve nudged myself there.

I think it’s because, despite my natural resistance, I’ve often felt revived and stimulated after butting heads with reality and real live human beings. Hence, my body learned that after the investment of chatting came a reward and after many of these occurrences, I pavlovianly* started feeling the reward right away.

Now I look forward to talking to new people, much the same way I look forward to Mondays with Game Of Thrones coupled with my mobility exercises during the intro.

*now it’s a word

A river runs through it

Both in life and in investing, I like the idea of recognizing where the water is flowing anyway, and following the stream effectively to where you want to go by making very small adjustments as early as possible.

Identify the right stream, your stream, not the Joneses’; and not the last blind investor fool’s on the financial markets either.

The sooner you accept your uniqueness the sooner you can start tweaking it and (almost) effortlessly harness its power to get where you were going anyway in the end, just sooner and happier.

There are many ways to catch a fish,

but the best one is the one that works for you

Do you have a calm and patient disposition, perhaps less social than most? Introverted? Embrace that; use it for long term research or value investing. Your results will speak for you.

The usual fundamentals (sales, profits) don’t work any longer? Find new fundamentals (central bankers)

A disciplined and patient approach

demands actual discipline and patience

Are you energetic, outgoing, fast on the trigger? Plug in to the markets, to social media, to parties and trade like the wind!

And as a trader, get a feel for where the markets are flowing this minute, day or week and ride the waves, letting both profits run and cutting losses short with the same equanimity.

Adjust your positions and your trading style to fit the markets as opposed to fighting them. Are good news treated as bad (for the moment), trade accordingly. Has the tide changed, change with it. Perhaps use Lorenz’ strange attractors to predict when correlations are going in and out of their sweet spots ;)

The art of doing nothing

Don’t comply, don’t compromise, don’t just try to fit in, don’t waste energy trying to satisfy others.

Don’t aim for big changes. Instead, build from the bottom up on your needs and wants, gradually but consistently challenging your natural homeostasis in order to become the best you, but still undeniably you.

The approach is called Wu Wei; the art of doing nothing.

Habits work much the same way, their creation as well as their results. Start with a small change, ridiculously easy, to the point of feeling meaningless. After a while it becomes a natural part of you.

E.g., reduce the morning bacon almost imperceptibly and increase the amount of eggs just as little. Sooner or later you are only having eggs and no bacon at all, and couldn’t care less. But try to take away the bacon cold turkey and you’ll dream of bacon for a long, long time, not enjoying your morning meals at all.

Yes, bacon is really, really bad for you. Google it. Cancer, hell, obesity, witchcraft, space marine journeys cut off from the base…

Not even one

I often talk about the Aim Low/Zero Threshold/Just One (more) approach to life, to tasks, to weight lifting etc. Wu Wei follows the same underlying principle, albeit perhaps taken to the even more extreme “Not even one”.

It’s still not trivial though.

Constantly checking your smart phone for updates, watching TV for days on end or snacking on crisps or candy because you feel the urge, and it’s the path of least resistance, is not a good interpretation of Wu Wei.

Stopping yourself at least one second from automatically checking your phone, to let yourself actively decide to check it, is. Then make it two seconds. Easy, ridiculously easy. Effortlessly. Wu wei.

Not only is it easy, the constant tweaking can produce huge change over time. And the habit itself, of (small) changes, facilitates development and growth in other areas. Before you know it, small changes in anything will be a zero effort decision, and you will grow and have grown more than you’d ever have guessed.

Summary – don’t fight nature (the market)

Retirement can mean many different things.

Participating on the financial markets too.

Find the way that suits you, that’s the most effortless. However make sure you consistently and metacognitively tweak your habits to smoothly transition toward the best you, rather than a main stream drone.

On the financial markets, remember the market is never wrong; it’s all you. Follow it instead of fighting it.

PS: Please help spread the word of positivism and pragmatic self-development by telling a friend or your entire social network about this article, my site and my free e-book, assuming you have already subscribed, downloaded and read it.

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20 thoughts on “Never fight nature (the markets or yourself)”

  1. Hey Mikael,

    Love the recent focus on “just one more” and similar philosophies. Having followed your writing for awhile now ive made massive improvements. The most difficult part comes from the mental addiction(habit forming) and changing them.

    The culture of distraction is the reason most of us don’t make smaller imperceptible changes. While I’m not “happy” living on welfare and taking care of my children I am happy that I have time for making these changes.

    Maybe I’m just lazy or I really do see value in it but id love to see minimum income implemented in Canada. We would all improve(if putting in the effort) without having to run around from place to place without awareness of our surroundings.

      1. Believe me I wish I wasn’t drawing benefits. And I don’t plan to remain in them but they’re in place as a temporary solution for people who are struggling.

        Without childcare there is no method for me to seek employment. But once I enter college I will have paid internships starting at $16 an hour at which point I can get off benefits.

        1. or…. you can apply for a job at Tim Hortons and get off welfare. Have you considered that?

          Minimum income would need to be subsided from people who are working (like me), to support people who are not working and enjoy all the benefits of the free time (like you).

          It would discourage people from working, and would lead to an economic crash.

          Have you considered what kind of role model you are to your children?

          1. Good points. But I don’t have cbildcare for my children, which means I cannot work with no one to watch my kids.

            I’m also not proficient enough in French to find employment, which is something I am working on for employability.

            Luckily I might have a connection at a local restaurant where I can whore myself out washing dishes. I have only been drawing benefits for a month while I figure everything out post-divorce.

    1. I think a citizen wage will be implemented globally in the run up to the Singularity. We’ll get there one innovation at a time; driven by capitalism and greed until it’s not needed anymore

      1. The obvious problem is — who keeps the lights on, the water running and food in the stores while everyone is “self actualizing” at the beach?

        Human nature being what it is, socialism always has a crash landing. A civilized society takes care of the TRULY disabled. But every able boded adult has to be productive or it falls apart after a while.

        Here in America, I see healthy well dressed young people asking for handouts a short walk from businesses who would hire them. It’s actually a bizarre form of entrepreneurship. They have made the calculation that they make more money collecting welfare and begging spare change than they would working. As the leadership of government and private industry become more and more corrupt, each generation sees less and less reason to have community spirit. So here comes that down fall.

  2. Great article. A book I really enjoyed is Do Nothing & Do Everything by Qiguang Zhao introduced me to Wu Wei. I appreciate your exercise/stretch articles lately too, I’m trying to last as long as possible not walking like an old man!

  3. Observe

    The only Buddhist guidence necessary to summarize “be who u r”

    So who am I? The observer or the one observing the observer or..,

    Läste förresten din bok på väg hem från jobbet idag, flashbacks av långa perioder av “osync” med marknaden.., kände så väl igen känslan. Reflekterade även över att de bra stunderna gick du igenom snabbt och hänvisade mest till genom awards, samtidigt som du så här i efterhand ser det som ni gjorde fel i de stunderna.., – tänker, är det trader mentalitet att dissekera och se allt det som kunde gjorts bättre samtidigt som framgången är normaltillståndet, eller är det en mänsklig eller kulturell/svensk egenhet? Har funderat lite på det o tror att det är kulturellt, mänskligt och tradermentalitet, hur set du på det?

    1. Ha ha

      Jag har ingen aning. Jag vet mycket mer om mig själv än jag vet om andra. Med det sagt är det nog ändå helt enkelt ett mänskligt drag. Samma sak som förklarar varför dåliga nyheter säljer bättre än goda.

  4. Good advice but for bacon. If you like it, eat it. Be you! Don’t let people tell you what’s good for you. I eat bacon, I drink and I smoke. Life is good and short.

    1. True that. The most important thing is that life is good for you, not how long it is.

      However if you’re neutral to bacon (as I am), then it doesn’t make any sense at all eating it, since it’s so much worse for you than, e.g., salmon

  5. Hey Mikael,
    Thanks for the article! I Experiment with this approach to life quite some time. The Problem I Face is sometimes the shame asociated with it. I mean, mean we Are bombardet with messeages like “Hustle Hard” ” Set Goals an die reaching them” ect. Going with the flow, wu wei feels right but is so opposite of what everybody is saying. So sometimes its hard to have faith in the procces. How do you deal with that?
    Which books can you recommend on this mindset? Taleb talks about this and the dao de ging of course, but anything else? … Maybe you could write a book ;)
    Best wishes

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      My next book might be what you’re looking for.

      Regarding the shame… I have no real solution there. Most people have the herd instinct hard wired. Unfortunately.

      I don’t.


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