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Före detta hedgefondförvaltare, partner och VD på Futuris som utsågs till Årtiondets hedgefond i Europa för perioden 2000-2009
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3 dagar

Forget the sunscreen song and focus on sleeping

Topic: the importance of sleep, not a bug but a feature

Length: short (3 minutes?)

Style: a friendly neighborhood spider reminder

Conclusion: Sleep forms the basis of the sleep-nutrition-physical health pyramid of power that's a prerequisite for long term satisfaction and meaning of life, a.k.a. the Curiosity-Pattern recognition-Creativity-Perspective-Prediction-Procreation word cloud of True Purpose.

Bonus: my old article on how to cure Restless Legs Syndrome, a.k.a. Willis-Ekbom's Disease (link to article)


What's more important?

Food?

Freedom?

Health?

Love?

 

-Nope

 

It's sleep


I recently wrote (link) about the meaning of life being perspective -- a good enough perspective to learn, to appreciate, to experience and gain even more perspective, in order to predict, plan and procreate for an ever more comprehensive perspective, and so on.

I followed up (link) with a practical tip on how to gain that perspective through alternating exertion and recuperation.

Today, I'm taking the final step down Maslow's hierarchy of needs -- all the way down to sleeping.


If I could offer you only one tip for the future,

sunscreen sleep would be it


Do you sleep too little?

-The answer is probably yes, and you already know why:

  • You look at screens all day, from within minutes of waking up to within minutes of going to bed.
  • You sit all day. Indoors.
  • You eat processed food.
  • You drink more coffee and alcohol than you should, not to mention too late in the day (or night)

How would you know if you sleep too little?

That's pretty easy:

  • Do you need an alarm to wake up?
  • Do you need coffee to wake up?

If so, you sleep too little.


What are some of the immediate dangers?

(see my previous articles below for more details)

Well, the worst side-effect of sleep deprivation is that it tends to lead you into behavior that will make you sleep even less. For example, it might make you drink more coffee and alcohol not to mention trying other kinds of medication. Most people also work out less and eat more junk when sleep-deprived, which both adversely affects the length and quality of sleep.

You'll do just fine without, e.g., food for several weeks, but you'll most likely go crazy or even die from sleep deprivation long before starving to death. That's however not what I'm getting at. It's more subtle and goes straight from the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy to the very top.

If you sleep enough, you'll be more energetic, more creative, more ready and able to learn new things, better prepared to appreciate and assimilate new perspectives and so on. Enough sleep is the basis for every part of the Meaning Of Life word cloud:

Sure, the odd all-nighter here and there can actually add to your perspective, but going weeks on end with less than 6 hours a night isn't good for anybody. And what's it for anyway if you can't appreciate the fruits of your labor due to being exhausted?

Aim for 8 hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle and make small changes in either direction until you find your optimum. Once you have no trouble falling asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed, and wake up well rested without an alarm you're right on the money. Remember to hold off on the coffee for 1-2 hours after rising in the morning. Keep that schedule on weekends and vacations too if you can, and you'll notice how your capacity for appreciation and innovation expands noticeably.


Conclusion: sleeping isn't just for staying alive, it's for living life

Sometimes it might seem as if we're supposed to just barely take care of our physiological needs with 6 hours of sleep, polluted air, bleach-tasting tap water, junk food in the back of a car between job meetings, and so on, and still hope to reach peaks of self-actualization and transcendence. Good luck with that! What happens is everybody races to get "rich" while feeling like crap and just hoping it'll be over soon.

NB: as little as one night of poor sleep lowers your immune defense system significantly. In addition sleep deficiency causes a stress response and inflammation that is thought to have a pathway to depression.

The key is to pay very good attention to the basics. Bliss is a side effect.

Sleep well and almost everything else lines up automatically, including better food and more energy for staying healthy. The triangle of power SLEEP-FOOD-BODY then acts as a force multiplier for your ability to LEARN, to be CREATIVE, to ADAPT, to stay CURIOUS, all of which are necessary, and probably enough as well, to become both HAPPY and SUCCESSFUL.

Again, sleep is not a bug, it's a feature. It's not something to take lightly and be done with as quickly as possibly. Instead, plan for sleep, enjoy it, take care of it as if it were a puppy or your baby.


Remember where you read this article (www.mikaelsyding.com), and tag a friend who sleeps too little.


Two of my previous articles on sleep

http://mikaelsyding.com/sleep/

http://mikaelsyding.com/the-4-hour-sleep-schedule-for-highly-effective-a...

Taggar (blogg): 
8 november

Mentally and physically challenged for the future

Topic: How to lead a good life

Conclusion: Do some work, not too much, then rest


I think my entire life philosophy can be boiled down to this one soundbyte:

Extertion And Recuperation

What I mean is that what's needed to get anywhere, as well as maximize enjoyment, is to challenge oneself and then rest. You need to regularly go just outside your comfort zone mentally and physically, stay there for some time, and then get rest.

That's how we evolved, that's probably why we spend one third of our life sleeping, that's what been proven to work for bodybuilders and intellectuals alike. You should try it.

I recently wrote a more complicated post on the meaning of life here. It dealt with more abstract notions of perspective and productivity. Those are of course very important, but if I don't get as many words, then I'd put it all down to first making sure you are tired from some sort of strenuous activity and then getting your well-earned, high quality rest.

  • Fast, then eat
  • Lift weights or run, then rest
  • Learn something new, a physical skill or a difficult and complex theoretical subject. Then sleep on it (I'll write more about sleep in a coming post)
  • Read a book, solve a mathematics problem, then meditate (or sleep)

It really doesn't have to be more complicated than that. The exact form of challenge and rest can and should vary. What's more important is the principle in itself:

Strain yourself at least a little, but not for unnecessarily long, and remember to recuperate


Don't do this at home

What you shouldn't do is working yourself to the ground, never setting aside time for re-building the resources you use up during certain frantic periods. What you shouldn't do either is never doing something new and challenging. The latter would definitely put you in the loser camp of lost causes.


Practical tip - record your Exertion and Recuperation

Keep a notepad, whiteboard or something to that effect and make sure you get two marks every day: One for the day's challenge and one for the day's quality rest (once going the extra mile or minute becomes a true habit you can stop recording)

Remember where you found this article, and don't hesitate to share it and to subscribe to my free newsletter (and get my book for free, which I will soon stop giving away)

Taggar (blogg): 
6 november

What is the meaning of life: long term satisfaction guaranteed

Topic: a comprehensive answer to the meaning of life

Length: 2200 words

Idea:  you can conjure up arbitrary amounts of subjective meaning

Discussion and Conclusion: There is no objective meaning; you live and die for no reason, there is no plan, path or fate, no witness or juror. Once you die your elementary particles and energy scatter, and the patterns that made up your subjective experiences and memories disappear forever. Before long, nobody remembers you existed at all. The same goes for Earth and every life form on it, just on a grander time scale.

On the other hand you can experience and enjoy as much meaning as you like. If you find meaning there is meaning, even though it only exists in your head.

What to do: If you expect to find an absolute meaning you're likely to end up empty handed and disappointed. However, if you realize there is no real and objective meaning, but that you can conjure up arbitrary amounts of subjective meaning, the sky is the limit. And here's the kicker; I think evolution can guide you in what direction you're most likely to uncover and enjoy meaning (or in other words: long term satisfaction).

Long term satisfaction is meaning, but it takes some insight and planning to trick the human organism not to fall prey  to homeostasis on the one hand, or hedonistic adaptation on the other.


Survival of the most effectively hedonistic

Every day I find myself smiling and simply enjoying life. I often ask myself how come life is so damn wonderful all the time. I understand the anthropic principle, and I get that those who didn't appreciate life fell off the evolutionary bandwagon and left us hedonistic lot in charge, but still... We could have evolved to hate the weather, the smells of life, other animals and each other, or couldn't we?

I have enough money to do more or less whatever I can think of

What's enough? I have an 8-figure (but not 9 -- maybe in a few years depending on mainly one of my investments) net worth in US dollars, meaning I can sleep, eat and travel in style for as many years as my body can take it (I'm 45 now).

So, what do I actually do?

I spend most of my time throwing tennis balls for my rescue dog, pumping iron at the gym, reading (reading list here) and writing, not to mention the time I put into my podcast venture and my investments. If I'm doing something physical I listen to podcasts, and if I'm doing something intellectual I listen to music. I typically digest some 20-30 hours of podcasts per week (here's a list of what I listen to).

I don't travel much, I don't go out to party, I don't have a car, a boat or a watch, nor do I have an interest in fashion, in suits and shoes. I simply stay healthy - and challenged - in body and mind; that's more or less it.


Why do I do what I do?

Every now and then I think about it, about my life, about the choices I make, or rather don't make, every day. The other day, e.g., I had five minutes to spend before leaving for a meeting. I silenced my phone and started meditating on the word "perspective" that I wrote a post about a week ago (this one: Perspective is gold). This is what came out of those five minutes.


You are all alone

Life has no meaning unless you give it meaning. There is no cosmic plan for you, no God watching or intervening, no endgame, in short there is no meaning in an absolute sense.

However, you can create your own meaning and make your life mean something to you, and thus make it meningful (albeit only for yourself). It actually is true that we are all alone; brains in cranium vats, fed electrical impulses by a sack of meat let loose in a quantum mechanical world that neither it, nor you can sense as is, or make sense of for that matter.


The loop of meaningfulness

I get meaning from having fun and from being productive. Let's leave productivity out of the loop for a little while.

The hedonistic (fun) part boils down to good feelings in the present, or pleasurable (in a very broad sense; perhaps 'intense' had been a better description) feelings about memories of various kinds.

Both purely hedonistic experiences in the now, based on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, not to mention oxytocin, and more refined flow states during learning or creating at top capacity belong to the category of "fun now". Food, sex, sports, meditation, reading, playing, partying

Delightful memories include things like Pride (feeling good about accomplishing or enduring something), Relief (appreciation over not having a certain burden anymore) and Reliving (a pure copy of the original direct experience). Memories include Learning new things and skills, not least putting things in perspective.

That perspective is key to a higher appreciation of all other things. Perspective is one of the most important factors in lending meaning (albeit subjective) to life. Experiences enhance your perspective, which in turn enhances your capacity to both invent more things to experience, as well as appreciate those experiences

Perspective -- Innovation -- Appreciation -- Experience -- (circling back to Perspective)

Coming back to productivity, innovation, experience, learning and perspective all improve your productivity (i.e., ability to create more of value with less resources in terms of mainly time -- your only truly scarce resource). The more productive you are, the faster you can increase your freedom to choose between having fun and being productive (not saying they can't be the same thing)

Perspective -- Productivity -- Freedom -- Fun -- (circling back to Perspective)

In a way the aim is to strengthen the productivity loop until it's not needed at all, until all basic and higher material needs are taken care of  with zero effort; and 100% of your time can be spent on meaningful fun. But here's the rub. Unless the fun part entails novelty, challenges, learning and growing, it ceases to be enjoyable.

Human pattern recognition ("intelligence") and the desire for perspective and productivity evolved for survival (finding prey, avoiding predators, finding mates, identifying friends and enemies, analyzing situations and predicting outcomes). Unless those drives are fed with novelty and learning, i.e., finding new patterns, it's difficult to reach a state of sustainable satisfaction.

Ultimately we are meat sacks, governed by selfish genes, our owns and myriad others, that evolved over billions of years. All they "want" is to survive in as many copies as possible. That translates into drives of productivity and procreation, enabled by pattern recognition and prediction and greased by fun factors flooding our brains when moving in the evolutionary correct direction.

SURVIVAL DRIVERS

Pattern recognition -- Perspective -- Prediction -- Procreation

 


Without consciousness there is no consciousness, nobody who cares. But once there is a spark of consciousness it seems to feed on itself and increase in strength and value over time. Perspective works the same way. Without it there is no drive to get it. But just a little taste of perspective kicks off a strong feedback loop of ever increasing appetite for and the ability to gain ever more perspective. This is where meaning comes in. Without a perspective of the self there is no consciousness, no reflection, no metacognition, no plan, no real past or future; and no meaning.

But when we do have enough perspective on ourselves, on others and on reality; consciousness emerges and we can form meaningful relationships that place us in a context of increasing scope. It starts with the self and our top five Dunbars and can gradually, with time, technology and awareness, expand to include the entire universe. It is this reciprocal context forming that creates meaning. My meaning arises from taking you into account, just because you in turn take me into account.


Summary: Food, safety and sex => perspective, productivity and fun => meaning

Here's what it all comes down to. Our genes drive us toward good feelings and fun, which can be had from, e.g., survival enhancers for the self (candy, french fries, sleep, safety...) in order to increase the likelihood of copying (procreation). Drugs and games can hijack our reward circuitry and trick the body into thinking it's surviving or copying even when it really isn't.

At the bottom of it, mindless genes are merely trying to replicate like so much runaway nanotech grey goo (google it); and our meat sacks and consciousnesses are just along for the ride. Pattern recognition, or "perspective" if you will, turned out to be a very useful tool to avoid dangers, find food and mates. Hence there are genes coding for rewards for gaining perspective, being productive and procreating. In addition, to make sure we survived in a changing and dangerous environment we evolved hedonistic adaption, meaning we constantly crave novelty and new perspective, rather than being content with the status quo.

In other words, even when we can have fun all the time, we actually can't. Our selfish genes tell us it's "bad" if we don't experience and learn new things or hang out with other living things; and that translates to feelings of meaninglessness. Our organism demands oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin to feel it's going in the right direction (the direction of copying as many genes as possible) and the conscious self strives for novelty, bonding and perspective since those tend to maximize the desired hormones and neurotransmitters.

The feeling of meaning emerges from an ever expanding perspective and sense of context (at whatever scale you see relevant), whether it's directly related to physical survival or not. The lowest order of survival consists of mindless genes. They know nothing, feel nothing, their "wanting" to multiply is bound by simple physical laws making one molecule more likely than another. At the next level comes following reward chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine. Yet higher up the the complexity scale, the metaphysical drive for novelty, pattern recognition and context in that pattern (which all boil down to productivity and survival at the lower levels) make us feel we are going places, that there is a path with a beginning and an end. That path is the meaning. The Path Of Meaning only exists if we do "meaningful" things, defined as doing new things, experiencing more, having deeper relationships and so on, i.e. doing things that the body can expect lead to a sustainable or increasing level of visceral rewards in terms of brain chemistry.


take one word that

resonates with your way of life

and

bounce it around in your head for five minutes

to create your specific word cloud of meaning


What should you in practice do with this insight?

Record how you feel during and directly after an activity (present fun). Pay attention to how you feel about looking back at an activity after a week, a month, a year (memory fun). If it felt good and worthwhile, instilled satisfaction and pride rather than shame, as well as furthered your goals and your power to do more to the same effect (productivity), it was meaningful. Long term satisfaction is meaning. In fact it's all the meaning there is.

Meditate on it, i.e., set aside some time to think about your activities and your feelings about them. Why not do what I did that sparked this article; take one word that resonates with your way of life and bounce it around in your head for five minutes and see what else it can break loose. What's your version of my Perspective - Productivity - Experience - Procreation word cloud?

Fuck and play: Take care of your physical health, preferably through sex and physically challenging sports involving other people. The organism likes moderate challenges, physical contact and simulated procreation. You'll like it too, once you break out of that "ordinary life" homeostasis of working for the man, buying stuff and thinking you'll just do this for now, and 'later' you'll reap the rewards of life.

Read and try: Learn new things, including both physical and mental abilities and knowledge. This feeds the innate drive for novelty and pattern recognition. Not least it's the first step to enhanced perspective and increased awareness, which are prerequisites for meaning.

Socialize: Go deeper. Get to know your friends and partner at a deeper level. Meet new people. Knowing they know you works as a factor multiplier for your sense of context and perspective.


A last word on meaning: True enjoyment and meaning, from physical activity and challenging cognitive activities, leave less cravings for empty hedonism such as gluttony and sloth. Just as perspective begets perspective, meaning begets meaning and consciousness begets consciousness; physical and cognitive health beget physical and cognitive health, thanks to satisfaction saturation a.k.a. meaning.

Regarding the closely related notion of "success"; in my opinion success consists of the power and time to do what I find meaningful (i.e., what is long term enjoyable). Money is one means to that end, interesting, deep and close relationships another, meditation a third. Stuff, fame and status usually are hindrances on the path to success.


Remember where you found this article: mikaelsyding.com


 

Taggar (blogg): 
8 oktober

Perspective is gold

Length: 10 minutes

Topic: deep time, the cycles and pendulums of history, the importance of perspective to gauge your actual state, and guide your long-term action and investments

The catch: You need perspective to appreciate perspective.

Bonus: if you're Swedish, listen to episodes 102 and 103 of my podcast "25 minuter" that both deal with the book The Fourth Turning, its implications and how you can prepare


Breaking news: the US has left the gold standard

-that's why there is an epic bull market in 2017

On August 15, 1971, president Nixon decided it was about time the U.S. abandoned the gold standard. That was a dick move. Unfortunately I didn't recognize that, even when I got it stamped on my forehead in school.

I started business school in August 1990, almost to the date 19 years after Nixon's most criminal act. Those 19 years dealt me a severe blow, since when I studied the breaking up of the gold standard in college, I erreneously thought of 1971 as ancient history.

In other words, in 1990 more than my entire life separated me from the fall of 1971. That myopia made me disregard gold matters as irrelevant. Now, with more perspective, it's almost as if 1971 and 1990 took place more or less at the same time. Another interesting observation is that the ink of the Bretton Woods agreement had barely dried when it was nullified just 13 years after its full implementation in 1958.

When I was younger I tended to think of historical things, of laws, of institutions as eternal, and historical people as different from modern people. Eventually I realized they were just like us, and their decisions and institutions just as ad hoc, flimsy, desperate and ephemeral as the retarded measures we now in real time witness the central bankers take today.


The below picture shows the life span of a long-lived person born around the time of The Great War, aka World War I. The second line is my own life span (if I only live to a hundred, rather than forever). The minuscule time, admittedly not quite to scale, between the gold coup and my starting business school is marked with a 'micro' sign. Notice how close to today even the World Wars seem, when compared to a life or two.

The question marks mean that nobody actively remembers the history or future outside a long life span.


Ahhh, the golden 1990's -- how modern they were

I think I instinctively considered the gold standard a barbarous relic, relying on an expensive metal and a post-war agreement (Bretton Woods) -- one thing more ancient than the other

In my view, the whole business of "gold standard, no gold standard" had taken place in a whole different era than the 1980's in which I had spent the entirety of my young adult years -- or, for that matter, the truly modern and promising 1990s that had finally kicked off the countdown to the new millennium.

Book tip: Ready Player One, if you want to relive the 80's and don't mind some teen science fiction action.


News flash: the USD has dropped by 97% since Nixon's coup

Today it's been 27 years since I started studying finance and first learned about the breaking of the dollar-gold bond at 35 USD per ounce. Since then the dollar has lost 97% of its value, as gold is now changing hands at some 1300 USD per ounce.

I no longer think of my college years as that far away, and I actually feel the early 1970's are pretty close too. They're not history anymore, but rather part of my own first hand economics life experience.

My perspective took time, yours doesn't have to

I've gained quite a bit of perspective managing a hedge fund through the roller coaster years of 2000-2015, not to mention being an IT and internet analyst during the dotcom bubble of 1994-2000. As an added extra I got to experience first hand how the Swedish central bank raised its policy rate from 25% to 75% and finally 500% in September 1992, in a futile attempt to defend the Swedish Krona. I'm sure they felt just as invincible and smart as the Bernankes, Kurodas, Draghis and Yellens of today.

If I only had had that perspective in 1990, I would have paid more attention. I would have understood the relevance of both the beginnings and the end of the Bretton Woods agreement. I had the opportunity to learn crucial lessons about money, but botched it due to a lack of perspective. Because of that, most of my time as an investment professional I had a muddled view of the credit cycle, of interest rates, of the mechanics and incentives of central bankers, of how money is made, how it sloshes around in search of the best place to grow, how money, debt and interest rates control everything in nominal terms, but nothing in real terms (except temporarily).

Experience and perspective is the hidden assumption behind my 12 pillars of investment wisdom (the TAOS framework). You just can't be expected to master or understand them unless you have enough perspective.


The 12 pillars of TAOS:

StrategyPatienceResilienceEnduranceZealZenAgility
TemperatenessUnbiasednessResolutenessAdequateness, and Self-analysis.


Perspective

Here's the catch-22 with perspective: You don't appreciate its value if you don't have it..., so why would you bother getting it in the first place?

Once you catch on to the concept and its usefulness you just can't get enough of it, but how do you make that first spark fly without wasting decades on actual experience? Unfortunately, I don't have a definitive answer on how to ignite an appetite for perspective. However, getting it is a little more straight forward.

Read

Read economic history. Read biographies. Talk to older people. Hang out with groups outside your typical sand box of clones. Visit other countries, and study long term charts of macroeconomic data. "Long term" means many decades, if not hundreds of years, not just 5-10 years. See if you can pick out any useful recurring patterns, cyclicality if you will, in growth, productivity, inflation, interest rates, gini coefficients and the price of gold, oil and other commodities.

Specifically I would like to recommend the following books:

  • 4th Turning
  • Signals
  • Lords Of Finance
  • Tomorrow's Gold
  • Bull!
  • The Great Crash
  • Reminiscences Of A Stock Operator

The Fourth Turning and other views of history as a cycle or pendulum

The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe tells a story of "cyclical time" rather than linear time. It tells a story of recurring patterns of calm, prosperity, turmoil, crises and rebirth. It tells a story of how generations shape society and society shapes generations.

The main tenet of the theory is that big events, like the second world war, e.g., affect young people in a certain way, adults in another, middle-aged people in a third and older leaders in a fourth and final way. The young people grow up as a certain generational archetype due to their common experiences during the crisis. They then shape society as well as the next generation in a certain way, thus creating the second generational archetype. This process continues for a third and a fourth archetype.

When the four archetypes are thus arranged in a certain way, and the former crisis has been forgotten, the society is predisposed for decisive action when triggered by a major event. One thing leads to another in that environment and a new crisis takes hold, breaking down old dysfunctional institutions to make way for new.

Just as there are four generational archetypes, there are four societal moods,or "turnings". When gen1 are children, gen2 are adults, gen3 middle-aged and gen4 are elders, history is ripe for a fourth turning, a period of crisis. Each generation spans some  20-25 years, as do each turning. Once the generations move one step out of the crisis constellation, the fourth turning's climactic end yields to first the first turning, then the second and finally the third. Then it starts all over again.

I don't expect society as a whole to learn, but a few select individuals can take advantage of the rhythmical variations.


There are many other, more or less similar, depictions of recurring patterns in deep time, a pattern that is often overlooked due to taking place at time scales just outside the normal attention of a long lived single human. What history forgets, history repeats.

If you make sure to remember the patterns of history, something completely different than memorizing dates, presidents, kings and wars in school, you could gain an enormous advantage, not least as a long term investor.


Flatland

There is a movie called "Flatland". No, don't see it, it's awful! It does convey an important lesson on perspective though:

Flatland takes place in a two-dimensional world. The main character has a dream about visiting 1D-land and how he finds their lack of perspective unfathomable. He in his turn is visited by a sphere from 3D-land, a divine entity that can move perpendicularly to his entire 2D world, magically appearing and disappearing, as well as moving from room to room without opening any doors. 2D guy has a very hard time wrapping his head around the concept of a 3D perspective but once he sees it he's mesmerized.

Now, imagine being visited by a 4-dimensional creature that can appear and disappear in space, that can move from room to room with closed doors by entering into a fourth dimension outside our three, repositioning itself and entering another room seemingly from nowhere.

That's the kind of perspective knowing your deep history can give you. That's the kind of powers being able to pinpoint where we are in cyclical time can get you.


Summary - you may not know it but you need and want perspective

Did you know nation states are a quite recent innovation? Are you aware that state pension systems are designed in a way that a snow ball in hell stands a better chance at survival than they do -- in particular with low interest rates? Equities are significantly more expensive today than at any other point in history, despite lower growth potential - why do you think that is? The Fourth Turning probably started in 2008. Typically, institutions such as the UN, the EU, the USD and many more would crumble as we get closer to the 4T climax around 2025-2030.

Do you think you know enough about how to handle a future of automation, job death, no pensions, a failed dollar, more authoritarian government etc? Do you have sustainable plans for your career and for your investments?

If not, it's high time you gained some perspective of deep time, the changes that may or may not come, and what skill sets and preparations could lend you the upper hand.

Good luck!


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Taggar (blogg): 
22 september

Why you must get to the bottom of qubits, North Korea and global warming

Topic: Don't leave the big issues such as global warming, nuclear war and quantum computing to the experts

Advice: learn qubit programming to understand the perils, as well as make yourself an invaluable resource in the coming crypto wars


Do you think Kim Jong Un will let one loose or won't he?

Will the water level rise fast enough to affect you?

How should you plan for the advent of quantum computers?

It's all too easy to just resign from even trying to address big issues like the ones above; "That's for the experts"

However, the mindset you should apply is that every expert started out as a helpless newborn. Often they were still as clueless as you when they were teenagers. Then at some point they refused to be daunted and simply started looking into things.

"nuclear EMP"


Elon Musk, e.g., picked up a book on rocket science and soon realized it's just a matter of metal, ceramics, rubber and some basic mechanics and physics. Now he's planning to colonize another planet.

Richard Feynman thought he was too slow to ever make a real contribution to physics. He actually just happened to invent a new symbolic language for quantum mechanics as he found the conventional mathematics too complicated.

I'm not saying you should aim for the US presidency, a Nobel prize, creating the new Amazon, Google or Tesla. What I am saying is that whenever you are interested in or fascinated by a subject, you should make a real effort to understand it.

"Feynman diagram"


Take global warming for example.

Is it us humans, or is it he solar cycle or some other variables that are causing it. Is global arming even a thing? Most are content with noting that 97% of all scientists subscribe to the "fossil fuel burning causes global warming which will make extreme weather much more frequent, as well as cause the water level to rise" theory, and that's that. But why not spend an hour a day for a month going through the evidence as if you were writing an essay for school, i.e., see for yourself instead of parroting others.

You might not reach a conclusive answer but you'd know where the uncertainties lie. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be that person who contributes real value to the issue.

What about geopolitics? If North Korea detonates a nuclear bomb in the worst possible place, they can fry uncountable computer systems and cripple the world's financial system in ways we can hardly imagine. So will he or won't he? Should you prepare for it? How? Perhaps you don't want to live in a certain city for the long term, perhaps you need some emergency physical silver and gold, perhaps you should keep a generator and fuel at a bug out location...

I'm not saying you should, I'm saying you should do the math yourself. Make a mind map over the important countries, authorities, organizations and leaders. Consider things like currencies and trading patterns, energy dependence, debt, gold, similar historical developments and other factors you find relevant. Search for articles and books on the matter and spend some real time thinking hard about stuff that matters to you.

Sounds hard? What's 20 hours, or 100, of exciting detective work and puzzle solving compared to endless social media news flows or TV?


The most acute threat of all -- quantum computing

Right now I've just recently realized that quantum computers could render all internet encryption obsolete.

Every single piece of information that's online would be wide open. That includes all your messages, documents, photos, videos, bank and trading accounts and so on. Your Memopal or Dropbox backups would be theirs. Your bank account too.

But where are we really in terms of quantum computing and qubit programming? How likely is it we'll get large scale quantum computers? If so, when? Who will get them and what will they be used for (except benevolent research and simulation of weather, fusion reactors, protein folding etc.)

Well I'm certainly going to find out, just as did with cryptocurrencies (I read the whitepaper, Princeton's textbook, talked to local experts, bought some Bitcoins for myself, made transactions and so on).

If quantum computers hold water, it could be the next big thing.

Sure, the blockchain might become linked to everything, fusion reactors could become really hot in a few decades, nanotechnology is no small thing and could change everything from the bottom up, gene mapping and editing promise much longer and healthier lives, robotics and AI could automate away all human troubles while creating some new and possibly disastrous ones...

However, quantum computing might be closer in time, might be the enabler for all the other technologies and not least might wreak much more havoc with your personal finances and security in the short term.

On the upside, similarly to my advice to start a blockchain consultancy firm, if you start learning about quantum computers now, and get in early on the completely new coding techniques, you could become an as invaluable as scarce resource for any company or authority looking to make use of this new paradigm in computing.

I do admit that this Wikipedia article on qubits looks a bit daunting at first. And this one on quantum computing is even more dense, but give yourself a few hours to read it ten times and decode it bit by bit, I'm sure things will become clearer. Here is a link to an article about IBM's quantum computer that anybody can access and program online. Finally, here is IBM's online forum (IBM QX) for quantum computing.

And this article from 2016 deals with creating and maintaining qubits inside diamonds (here is an easier read based on the article in Nature).


Summary -- Quantum Computing could mean your absolute ruin... or success

These are my three cents today:

  1. Don't be part of the worthless echo chamber. If you're going to discuss global warming, don't just be a believer or denier, be an understander
  2. Be practical, research things that might matter to you and where you could make a difference -- either for the field or for yourself by taking appropriate measures
  3. Quantum computing could be the key to the most important technological innovations in human history. A qubit programmer could be the most valuable resource in the world for some time. You owe it to yourself to understand when and how quantum computing might become an enabler for you -- or a threat.

P.S. Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter (meaning you don't have to access my site or keep track of when I publish new posts)

Taggar (blogg): 
22 augusti

If you insist on being goal-oriented you risk just reaching your goals

Topic: Focus on goals, and that's all you'll get (if your goal is to become a billionaire, you risk becoming one -- and nothing more)

Conclusion: Avoid goals. self-esteem, happiness, experiences and knowing yourself are paramount to second hander "success"


Child psychology for adults with the wrong priorities

The famous Danish child psychologist, Jesper Juul, has advocated witnessing your children's upbringing, as well as being a true role model, rather than trying to shape and raise them with praise and bans.

Juul builds on observations of children's willingness to mimic and assist; being helpful. Children try to do the same things you do, and they try to assist you in whatever you're doing -- regardless of what you're trying to teach them. Children are very competent in this regard, i.e., in doing what you do, rather than what you say.

Juul also discusses self esteem vs. confidence. Self-esteem comes from being seen, loved and cared for, which produces a sense of intrinsic human value. Confidence on the other hand is associated with actual ability, such as being good at running, building things or doing math.

According to Juul, or at least what I remember from his book "Your Competent Child", you should refrain from overly praising your child, telling them they are "good at drawing", "good at running" etc., or for that matter issue orders like "get down from there!", "you are not allowed to..." and so on. Instead, by saying things like "that's look fun!", or "do you like to paint?", a parent encourages children to do things for themselves, to find their own center.

In addition, expressing love unconditionally builds long term self-esteem and a sense of inner worth, whereas praise tends to lead to "only" confidence, which can be ruined by a single poor execution. Nothing can ruin a solid self-esteem, while if your worth is based on ability, any little accident or setback can ruin you.

If you cheer on and praise competence and ability, you risk creating a feedback loop of: achievement = > praise => confidence => good feeling => search for more praise => achievement ... => => tangible success

It might sound good being a catalyst for your children's success, but what's missing is self-esteem, being happy in oneself without the need for other people's appreciation. When you're constantly trying to prove yourself in the eyes of others, it's difficult to find yourself and attain true happiness. You risk creating materialistic and successful but ultimately unhappy second handers.

In short, if you instill target-seeking in your children (or pursue targets yourself), they risk merely reaching those goals, and missing life altogether.

 

"If you do not change direction,

you might end up where you're heading"

-- Lao Tzu

 

(read that quote, and fifteen more of my favorite, important and useful quotes here)


Conclusion

You want to become rich? What if that's all you do? (realizing at the age of 87 that you have no friends, are unhappy, lack memorable experiences, have health problems and so on). Imagine you could trade places with Warren Buffett right now. You'd get 100bn dollars, give or take, and you'd be transferred to his 87-year old body. I trust you would say no (as I wrote about here regarding Time and Money)

You want fame? What if that's all you get? (no real friends, no riches, harassed by stalkers, never left alone)

You want to go to Mars? What if that's all you get to do; all alone on a space ship, than all alone on an empty planet?

You want to be the world's strongest man? You want to be the biggest bodybuilder? The fastest 100m dash sprinter?

All of those things may very well lead to interesting experiences, but if the specific goal is all you attain, your life will most likely be a meaningless one. Even worse so if you miss your one goal as well.

A final word: Be very careful in choosing your goals; update and amend them often according to who you have become in the meantime. Prioritize mid-term goals (months to years) over long-term ones (decades to life-time), and mark and celebrate your short and mid term accomplishments.

Don't ever feel the need to adhere to a plan or goal that your younger self set up, if present you wouldn't go back and set it up. Present you is all there is (but you might want to do some investing on behalf of your future you, just not too far off into the future)


Do you want to constantly learn new things, experience new things, get to know new people, hang out with friends and so on, then you can start right away and enjoy the entire journey.

It may be too late for you, but please avoid passing on your misguided goal orientation to your children by constant praise or threats and bans, rather than participatory witnessing as a role model.


My next post will be about the difference in longevity between men and women, and what that implies for your lifestyle if you want to live a long and meaningful life. Bookmark this page and subscribe to my newsletter to stay tuned.

Taggar (blogg): 
17 augusti

The least tempting stock market charts ever

Topic: a negative view of the Swedish stock market chart

Conclusion: not quite a bargain is it? -50% would be more than reasonable.


Does this series of charts look tempting to you?

(The Swedish OMX stock market index)

First, in the very short term, there seems to be a psychological barrier around 1650. After 3 attempts buyers are giving up. The break out in April looks more and more like a false, last hurrah.


Observing the index from a slightly longer distance, the similarities with the last peak are striking. Even more alarming is that we didn't manage to get above the levels of 18 months ago. If stocks are this weak when US indices are hitting all time highs every day, there's something rotten in the state of Sweden.


Seen from the beginning of the cyclical bull market, the double top of 2015-2017 looks even more ominous. Maybe there's room for a third top before normality ensues, maybe we'll go right through 1250. No matter, I think 1250 is where we're going to start with. We'll cross the bridge of "bounce back to the 1600s, or crash trough to triple-digit territory" when we get there.


In a 2-decade perspective, the current formation looks surprisingly tiny, like a "no volatility, great moderation tremble", rather than a true wash out and re-set of the greatest monetary scandal in history.

My guess is that the latter is what we have before us.

The question is "just" how many more rounds central banks have left before they're empty. In any case, looking for bargains here when stocks haven't even visibly corrected in the chart just doesn't make any sense to me. It's as if Under Armour first raised prices by 200% and then put up signs with "SALE -5% OFF". Tempting?

What to do about it? Get out of stocks unless you have insight in some very specific individual companies. Go cash, or buy something that's currently unloved such as gold, gold mines, uranium or soft commodities.

Read more about the case for a -50% leg on the US stock market here LINK

NB: My next post will NOT be about financials or the stock market.

Stay tuned by bookmarking this page and subscribing to my free weekly newsletter

Taggar (blogg): 
16 augusti

The coming stock market crash of 2017-2018

Topic: The case for a 50% downside for stocks in the coming 12 months, and then some

Style: Funny, 'cause it's true (kind of)

Nota bene: this post should be read in conjunction with my previous post on the bull case for stocks


1 The trend has gone too far

I mean, what are the odds of this trend continuing (see chart) without a major hickup?

Trees don't grow to the sky. Sooner or later, the human psyche will pull the index back to its long term trend (asymptotic to population growth + productivity growth)

Remember that stocks went nowhere between 1996 and 2009, and 2000 and 2012 or was it 2013? That's a long time going nowhere and it seems to be about time for a re-run of a crash and no returns fro a dozen year or so.

2 Stocks are expensive

Historical peaks in the S&P 500 ratio have only briefly broken above the 20 level. Today we're at 24.57. And that's with significant accounting tricks, massive stimulus, zero interest rates and a generally upbeat mood and risk tolerance at highs. Whenever stimulus wanes, reality comes back to bite creative accountants in the derriere, interest rates stop falling or start rising P/E-ratios are bound to explore earlier depths. And that's even before taking into account a less optimistic sentiment, as well as increasing actual need for funds.

By the way, here is an alternative valuation measure. It's based on Price/Sales (from Hussman Weekly the previous week) which is an automatically cyclically adjusted valuation measure (more or less) Notice how the valuation measure has increased 4-fold since 2009. That alone carries an inherent risk of a ca. 75% fall in share prices, if sentiment were to fall to 2009 levels.

A permanently higher plateau?

3 Profits are going... where exactly?

Not that fundamentals are that important, except over very long time periods, but the profits have stalled lately. That's despite historically hysterical monetary stimulus and budget deficits (essentially fiscal stimulus one way or the other). It's hard to conceive of a new and bigger wave of stimulus on top of the already failing ones. There is no new China, no new India, no hoping for Africa to pull profits higher when the low hanging fruit in the U.S. and Europe have been plucked.

In addition, after 9 years of expansion a profit recession is way overdue. The profits for S&P companies quite often decrease by 30-50%, and the swings have become bigger since 1980, not smaller.

With both lower earnings multiples and stalling or falling earnings in the cards, a 50% decrease in S&P 500 is actually a quite modest expectation. Time for a black Friday soon?

Labor costs recently hit a low (inverted scale) and profit margins a mirroring high. With the magic of debt (that postpones the need for a real living wage) faltering it's about time wages reflected living costs, and margins came back to earth. Guess what'll happen to profits... Hint: it's not positive.

4 Interest rates are about to rise

This chart speaks for itself, I hope. With interest rates this low, the only way is up. Retirees and pension funds can't live off of a 2.2% return. Nominal!

Look at the chart, can you honestly say you think rates are going even lower? Anyway, rates don't really matter, at least not fundamentally. If rates are staying low or going lower, then history teaches us that it's because growth is low. In terms of equity valuations, lower interest rates and lower growth will cancel each other out. No, matter, unless we go completely digital, interest rates are not going negative (for long). A situation where suppliers want to be paid late, where you're paid to mortgage your house and so on, simply is to perverse for an economy to take.

5. Dividend yields are low, and if they are about to rise, it's only because stock prices are about to come crashing down

The dividend yield is lower than the interest rate, but rates are fixed and nominal, whereas dividends are risky and contingent of profits and not least cash flow. Dividends can be reduced or cancelled altogether.


Many more and bigger fundamental reasons to worry

There are of course numerous more reasons to expect lower profits, multiples and share prices, such as profit margins mean reverting (or inverting!), increasing churn rate among the top companies in a digital world etc. No need to mention the boomer cohort retiring, thus both reducing their equity portfolios, and cutting back on consumption (due to uncertainty about longevity and investment returns; feeding into lower sales and profits on top of any other adversity or recession trigger). I also don't want to spoil any bull party with mentions of the debt ceiling and a congress that actually wants to see the president fail.

Finally, there is that minor detail of all too much debt in all sectors of the economy (government, corporate, student, auto, mortgage, credit cards) having already pulled sentiment and consumption forward, and henceforth putting a lid on future growth.

Oh, I almost forgot The Fourth Turning which with impeccable timing is soon upon us with its convenient total solution to small matters such as a failing European Union, currency wars, nuclear bickering with North Korea, unsustainable pension promises and the obese healthcare sector. Maybe a digital World War III, followed by a gold backed cryptocurrency fiat re-set accord could interest you?


And the bad news?

Technicals don't look good either. Dr Hussman has frequently noted that high valuations alone rarely slow down equities. However, when the appetite for risk eventually recedes, it's visible in "market internals".

He theorizes that when risk is in universal demand it makes asset classes, industries, sectors and companies converge. The mirror image of such bull behavior is widening dispersion in a number of respects as a harbinger of more widespread flight to safety. The FANG phenomenon is hardly new, and narrowing markets are but one example of an early risk off signal for equity markets.

FYI: As of August 14, Dr Hussman no longer calls the rising risk aversion subtle.

Ain't nuthin' but a FANG!

As a final word: never forget that all securities have to be held until retired. That means that no matter how far a stock price has fallen there is still 100% owners, and thus potential sellers of the stock left. If falling equities means record high NYSE margin debt will trigger forced selling those potential sellers risk becoming increasingly urgent. And then there is the case of Ponzi schemes which have an uncanny knack of being exposed and exacerbating the negativity right when they do the most harm.

Do you still preach dancing while the music is playing, albeit close to the exits (or remaining chairs)? I mean, central banks have no way to go but ever more retard. The same goes for banks and corporations. They'll push for just one more quarter of play pretend. Maybe they can pull themselves up by their own hair a final time before the ultimate solution. Some even claim it was the earlier downturns that were anomalies and due to very specific one-time issues.


Well I'm peepin' and I'm creepin' and I'm creep-in

But I damn near got caught 'cause my beeper kept beepin'

Now it's time for me to make my impression felt

So sit back, relax and strap on your seatbelt


I wouldn't bet on it; there's no reason to. You can always decide to simply pass on this round and see what happens. Or, you just have to ask yourself if you feel lucky.

Well, do ya? (Please read this post in conjunction with my previous ironic post on the bull case for stocks)


Are you afraid yet? You should be.

The fire is lit, and there are very few exits -- small and obscure ones.

You should be

Gold is one of those exits. Bitcoin might be another. Soft commodities could also be worth a look.


Do you want more? Do you want to stay updated? Subscribe, read my book, check in again, tell a friend.

BONUS: Check out Ludvig's write-up in English of our interview with billionaire and hedge fund founder Martin Sandquist here.

 

 

Taggar (blogg): 
7 augusti

Stocks about to rally! Is diversification a four letter word?

Topic: The case for a 25% upside for stocks in the coming 6 months

Style: ironic, humorous, short


1 The trend is your friend

I mean, what are the odds of this trend suddenly reversing? Some say it's just getting started. Remember that stocks went nowhere between 1996 and 2009, and 2000 and 2012 or was it 2013? That's a long time going nowhere so it's about time we had a rally, no?

2 Stocks are cheap

We're not even at a recent bottom in PE ratio, let alone an ocular average PE for the recent history. With zero interest rates, massive stimulus, not to mention the internet and general automation boosting productivity PE-ratios should be well above average, right?

3 Profits are going up

Not that fundamentals are that important, except over very long time periods, but the trend for profits is up. In addition profits have hit a temporary plateau while they wait for the most recent monetary stimulus to translate into higher profits. With both higer earnings multiples and higher earnings in the cards, a 25% immediate increase in S&P 500 is actually a quite modest expectation

4 Interest rates are low

This chart speaks for itself I hope. With interest rates this low, there is no alternative to stocks. Retirees can't live off of a 2.2% return. Nominal! True inflation eats up all of that if not more, not least since housing costs are rising. And... look at the chart, can you honestly say you don't think rates are going lower?

5. Dividend yields are real, and they are at a low point in history and thus likely to rise

OK, admittedly the DIV yld is lower than the interest rate, but rates are fix and nominal whereas dividends increase with the economy (if not faster owing to the superior selection of stocks in the top index). By the way, with rising profits, either dividend yields will increase or stocks will rise. And then there is the potential of multiple expansion as well! Please note that DIV yields are abnormally low. Hence, they are likely to rise.


There are of course numerous more reasons to expect higher profits and share prices, such as increasing automation (robots are way cheaper than humans), solar energy (once expensive oil is out of the way, profit margins can expand), profit margins are at historical highs, digital companies like Alphabet, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon etc are not burdened by production costs, 18tn USD of newly minted money globally over the last few years, the 5tn Chinese One Belt One Road initiative, a permanent shift higher in valuation multiples as we now realize stocks are the superior investment alternative... The list goes on and on.

No matter, in the next post we'll go through a few highly speculative and hypothetical challenges to the upside case. We'll talk demographics, pensions, debt, currencies, consumption, inflation, and maybe even throw in some debt ceiling and foreign tax repatriation arguments for good measure.


Could there actually be an alternative to being all in on the stock market? Isn't diversification a four letter word? Stay tuned to find out. Subscribe, read my book, check in again, tell a friend.

 

 

Taggar (blogg): 
3 augusti

The next 1000% trade is in gold mines

This post about gold refers to my post about uranium from the day before yesterday. The only real difference is that it's about gold.

Conclusion: I think it's about time to trade some of those expensive stocks for gold. Just as for URA there is a 5x potential in GLD here, and more so in GDX (miners).


The current technical case for gold

Talking about triple bottoms (see the URA trade), check out the senior goldminers ETF:

GDX

The chart is right at a pivotal point where the gold miners could break out upward, from the trend of lower highs toward a pretty solid constant bottom.


In a longer term perspective, the current formation looks like it's just the final confirmation pattern of a larger bottoming process:

GDX

The low point in early 2016 looks like an anomaly, a final "puke", where a lot of gold bulls simply gave up.

I should know, I did myself sell a minor part of my listed gold holdings there (to start making room for private gold exposure). Luckily, I saved the absolute bulk of my divestments for the peak in July 2016. That didn't mean giving up on gold altogether though, not even temporarily. I simply sold my listed GLD there, and bought shares in a private Canadian precious metals royalty streaming company instead. Read more about my investments here.

Since the Canadian company is moving a bit slowly for my taste with its contract signings, I've re-entered the listed gold market again as well, this time with exposure to GDX (gold miners):

Fair disclosure: My exposure to GDX is only about 1% of my net worth, while my investment in Canada is around 5%.


Looking at the underlying commodity through the GLD ETF, it seems more and more likely to me that the gold price correction (halving, approximately) that began 6 years ago is coming to an end, albeit slowly and hesitantly. Or is it just wishful thinking?

GLD

The fundamentals of gold, and the lure of 5x... or 10x

Gold doesn't really have a value per se (read more here). Nonetheless there are fundamentals pointing more and more acutely toward a surge going forward. Not least, China is hoarding the metal as a bargaining chip in a likely fiat reset or other currency accord.

Admittedly, these things take time, potentially decades, but the game is already afoot and I doubt gold can become much cheaper in USD. In contrast it can become much much more expensive.

I would be a little surprised to see the price of gold fall by more than 20% to new decade lows, and not that surprised to see it increase to 5x its current price in dollars. At the same time, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see stock markets halve over the coming 2-5 years, whereas I find it increasingly difficult to see where a 20% upside would come from, apart from a brief inverted puke.

Nota bene that while GLD just about halved between 2011 and 2016, the GDX fell by more than 80% to less than 1/5th of its peak price. If GLD only reclaims its previous peak of 185.84 (+54% from today's 120.77) it's probably realistic to expect GDX to advance by almost 200% from today's 22.79 to its previous peak of 66.92. Actually, I would expect more, thanks to miners having streamlined their operations during the long bear market for gold. Now, imagine what the miners might do if gold rose by 400% (i.e., 5x) instead of a measly 50%.

More recently the GDX increased by 2.6x (+160%) from trough to peak in 2016, while GLD increased by 1.3x (+30%).

You do the math.

(please note though, that there are huge differences between buying physical gold, a gold ETF and a gold mine ETF)

No matter, I'm getting out of the GDX trade as soon as I hear my Canadian venture is fully invested.


Summary

Gold has halved while stocks have tripled.

Gold doesn't have a valuation, but stocks are more expensive than ever (on, e.g., a median stock P/S multiple or Market Cap to GVA), and gold could be the go to place in a monetary reset. This is by no means a 100% safe trade, but it's way better today than it was back in 2009-2011.

The upside potential for gold is enormous, while technicals suggest the downside is quite limited. Conversely, the opposite holds true for stocks.


Continue reading about my views of macro, finance and investments here by the headline “INVESTMENTS”, e.g., this post about my holdings. Don’t miss my future musings on life, finance, health and happiness by subscribing to my free weekly newsletter — you’ll get my book on investing for free as well (we’ll see how long I’ll keep that up now that I’ve given away way over 10k pdf copies.

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