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1 juli 2016

How to organize and prioritize your life when bogged down

Summary: How to prioritize and not suboptimize (2100 words)

A summer mindset to identify what makes you specifically tick, through metacognitive techniques and the 5 whys, rather than just trying to keep up with the Joneses

Hint: nr 1 prio is always your health

Bonus: FAQ answers on procrastination, suboptimization, 80/20, must have apps, my vices, life organization... And a little Brexit


I'm enjoying life to the fullest, travelling, partying, learning, socializing..., but I am struggling slightly with my commitments in terms of blogging and podcasting.

Both endeavors are rewarding no doubt, but I do find myself squeezing them in between my real life events of walking the dog, working out, watching Game Of Thrones, reading and listening to podcasts.

Perhaps it's even a good thing my iPod just broke. Consequently I can't comfortably listen to podcasts since two days back. It gave up right after leaving Ataturk airport in Istanbul shortly before the terrorist attack.

Anyway, life is about choosing among different priorities. "Deciding is the most precious human activity" (Napoleon). Actually, living is deciding, and without any decisions at all, there is no life.


Lately, I've been getting a few questions regarding priorities, from people listening to my podcast "25 minuter" (in Swedish unfortunately, except for episode 35 that was an interview with Edmund Lowman conducted in English - listen here on Soundcloud or find us on iTunes).

I thought I'd use this blog space to briefly address those questions, before heading off for another extended weekend of travelling and partying (in Visby - a medieval Swedish city, that becomes the center of attention during two specific weeks a year).


How to identify your main priority

That's a tough one. Here are a few ways of doing it:

The 5 whys: Ask yourself why you're doing something, or why you would try something. Whatever answer you come up with, ask yourself why that would be a reason. And then why the underlying answer would be worthwhile. Keep going until you hit rock bottom of your actual prime mover reason for any chosen or potential activity.

College, why? Job, why? Rich, why? Buy stuff, why? Impress guys, impress/attract girls, why? Start a family, why? Okay, could you start a family without taking the roundabout way of studying, making it, impressing people and so on?

Metacognitive positive feedback loop: Set your pattern recognition to identifying when and why you are happy. Do more of whatever provides deep, true and long lasting happiness and feeling of self actualization. I do that all day long; from the small things like watching the sky to deeper learning experiences.

Whenever I'm feeling particularly content, happy or peaceful, my metacognitive self chimes in and says "remember this, remember what happened here and try to do more of it in the future".

Super mindset: Being metacognitive in all aspects of life is the best thing you can do for yourself. It enables feedback loops that reinforce themselves. You can use it on happiness, productivity, attraction etc. As soon as you turn your attention to something it becomes almost impossible not to get better at it.

Lateral living: Constantly try new stuff, perhaps using dice to decide your next project or direction. Spend 20 hours, 100 hours, 3 months, or whatever seems appropriate, and immerse yourself in one activity at a time. Sooner or later you'll find something you won't, hell, can't let go of (for money or happiness reasons). Then apply deep work and deliberate practice in that area and become the best you can. That's your priority.

Conventional: trying to prioritize between health, earnings/career, quality time with the kids, recuperation/rest. My 2 cents on this: Start with your health. That should always be your priority. You grab that oxygen mask immediately when the air pressure falls. Then you help people around you.

  1. Health: Just start walking and/or working out. 100 meters, 200, 1km, 2km. Introduce walking meetings inside or outside. Use that standing desk of yours. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour... more or less the entire day.
  2. Food: Eat something healthy and rich in protein/fibers before eating whatever you usually eat. Keep protein powder, eggs, beans, cabbage, carrots etc at home and around your desk. Eat some of that before breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most likely you'll eat less of your usual stuff. Do not starve yourself. Do not go hungry and apathetic, the remedy is to eat right, not little. Your microbiome will make sure you find a healthy weight without being too hungry, if you just stop feeding it garbage and/or starving it.
  3. Don't burn out. Do not push it at work if you are close to burning out. First make sure you start moving around, then eating better, and hopefully sleeping better (cold, dark, no screens 30 minutes before and after sleeping). After that your job and your kids are your priority.
  4. Career - I can't help you there. You do what you can, but in my opinion do not push yourself in order to make more money. Try cutting unnecessary costs instead: car, cable, eating/drinking out. How to work less while making more I can't tell you, but the best place to start is doing something that doesn't feel like work, not to mention something that is scalable and over time gets you to where you want to be. However, if it's boring or feels like prostitution it's not worth it. Do not trade your limited time for money.
  5. Quality time with your kids. This one is free at least. You adamantly do not need a penny to spend quality time with your kids. It only takes time, energy and imagination. On the other hand, I don't have kids so what do I know. I do know however that spending quality time with friends is more or less free. So is spending time with my dog, my siblings, partners and so on.

Among the myriad other questions I get on how to run a hedge fund, what currency bets to take, top book picks, top apps, investment psychology, what to do together instead of drinking alcohol etc., I've chosen the following five for this post:

Too perfect

Ambitious people often get hung up on details and spend way too much time trying to be perfect.

Unfortunately that can lead to suboptimization and missing out on other activities. My 80/20 on this is to set a time limit for how long you are allowed to spend on something. Right now, e.g., I'm just hammering away on this post between gym and a dog walk in order to force myself to not spend hours upon hours on it

Sure, I want to produce quality articles, but I also want to take care of my dog and spend time on other activities. Giving myself just one single hour to write an article is a very good way to make sure it a) gets taken care o and b) doesn't encroach too much on living


However, you first need to set your priorities straight, i.e., ask yourself what you really want and in what order.

Spend x hours first thing in the morning on Priority 1. Then, if you have any energy and ambition left spend a limited and pre-set time on priority 2, and then possible lower order priorities.

Imagine how you view what others are doing... Are you constantly gauging and judging their perfection? No? They probably aren't paying that much attention to you either.

Do you strive for perfection for you and you only. Well, kudos yo you. That's the way to go, you are not supposed to be a second hander living for others,... but in moderation. Set a limit, then move on. 80/20.

Organizing your life

Form habits. End of story.

Okay, not quite...

Form new habits every now and then, and scrap old habits.

The following are a few good tips on how to organize your life:

  1. Make a to-do list (and/or a not to do list) for the next day toward the end of the day
  2. Sleeping and taking care of your body (physically, mentally and nutrition-wise) are your main priorities. See comments above regarding sleep and nutrition. And if you're Swedish, listen to "25 minuter" episode 36 on sleep and episode 37 on strength training.
  3. Use a commonplace to organize your knowledge and ongoing learning
  4. Personally, I work out every second day, I keep healthy food around the house, I walk the dog 3x1 hours a day, I write on my book, blog and record my podcast a few hours each a week. Whatever is left I use for reading, watching a few select TV series and hang out with friends. A caveat: I do not work, so I'm not your best role model.

On how to avoid postponing stuff

Just start. Usually the mere thought of doing something is worse than actually doing it. It doesn't matter if it concerns shopping for groceries, going to the gym, vacuuming and so on. Trick yourself by saying: I'll just vacuum one single room; then I can take another room another day. Or, I'l just head to the gym and walk slowly on the treadmill for 5 minutes, it's better than lying in the sofa hungover.

Got a ton of clients to call? Call just one (that's what you'll tell yourself anyway)

Something needs fixing around the house? Get up, walk over to the problem. Touch it. What's the least amount of work you could do on it? Tighten a screw? Buy a screw? Do that. My guess is that just starting will create its own momentum. By the way, when moving around let your gaze sweep over the house and "just pick up that pillow", "just change that towel", "just water that flower while passing it", "just empty the dishwasher".

Need to break up with your girlfriend or tell your boss you're quitting. Do it without preparation. Just say it right away and consider it the start of a kind of negotiation. There is no good way of saying it anyway. They are grown up people, they knew the risks. If they overreact, that's on them.

Temptation bundling - whatever you like postponing, such as your weekly mobility exercises, bundle it with something you really enjoy. I like to stretch my psoases in the couch during the GOT intro. Sometime I do a retake of the intro since it's too short. Sometimes a bundling makes you long for and enjoy doing whatever used to feel like a boring chore.

And check out this amaaaazing post about procrastination by Tim at WaitButWhy. You can thank me afterwards in the comment section.

 

Life balance

Just set limits. Manage your time as if you only have a limited amount. Perhaps treat your days as if they only have 22 hours, and thus always keep 2 hours completely off limits.

Only schedule your priority 1 stuff on certain days, e.g. Saturdays. No work related stuff, no boring in-laws, no compromises - Saturdays are only for you: reading, golfing, meditating, movies, computer games, writing on your novel, listening to really loud music.

Do not accept anything the least bit "not-you" on Saturdays (or whatever day you choose). People around you may get surprised, angry, ridicule you and so on, but in time the practice might spread. Hopefully. The absolute best is if you and your close friends or spouse perform your prio 1 activities together, given they are compatible.

Say no to boring meetings, to coffee with acquaintances you don't really care for. Think hard about why you're working so hard... Is it for you (right) or for somebody else (wrong if it entails impressing people, conspicuous consumption etc.). Work from home if you like it. If you don't like your work, your balance is already fucked.

I use RescueTime to nudge me into working a little bit more on my creative endeavors (blog, pod, book), since I otherwise tend to goof off, playing with my dog or generally waste time.

My must have apps: Evernote, Whatsapp, RescueTime, (Twitter - it's my news channel)

Worst vices and bad habits:

  • When I party I like to drink a lot
  • Trolling online
  • Watching TV-series (however, right now I'm not watching any, after the season finales of GOT, Veep and Silicon Valley)

Ooops, my 65 minutes are up. Gotta go.


Summary? Summary, schmummary!

Prioritize your health. Always

As for the rest, listen to yourself instead of commercials and neighbors

And, for Mohammed's sake: start a commonplace book. Use Evernote


Remember to share and subscribe if you liked this post and think it might be an eye opener for a friend, a boss or why not your entire social network.


Brexit? What Brexit? Markets are back up again. I covered some 7% at the end of Monday and then sold half of it short again today. Good trades, but the other 97% are back to square 1.

Taggar (blogg): 
27 juni 2016

Reality check after the UK's EU referendum

Summary: I'm reducing my shorts and gold holdings slightly, when the Swedish market opens tomorrow, for the first time since the Brexit


"The UK will remain in the EU and the slow and steady march toward doom can resume"

Oooops! That's what I wrote, just a few days ago, before heading to Istanbul for some Swedish midsummer celebrations.

So, I was wrong. Now what?

Right now I’m undecided between the negative Catalyst view and the positive Stimulus view (i.e., that the Brexit will trigger immense stimulus efforts and catapult stocks higher)


FYI: I'm 115% short stock indices, 25% long gold (and silver), and 15% gross long single stocks (some deep value, some hope(less) stocks. Considering the gains I'll probably make when the Swedish stock market opens tomorrow, Monday (it was closed on Friday due to midsummer so we have yet to see the effects of Brexit here), I will cover some of my shorts tomorrow. I think I will sell some gold as well.

My main reason for taking some short term profit on gold and index shorts is to make room for selling again, if there is a bounce on talk of Bregret, and or hints of massive stimulus efforts to counter the effects of an exit.

*********************

What's more important than the Brexit, is that stocks are ridiculously expensive in relation to corporate revenues and the general economy (GDP). Sooner or later that situation will be corrected - and most likely more than corrected since extreme overshooting tends to be followed by a similarly exaggerated move on the downside.

Still. last week's referendum result might very well trigger a new euro crisis, where not least Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy once again question why they should stay in the union and honor their euro debts.

No matter, stocks are expensive and that will be corrected. After an unusually long and strong move upward, stocks are very sensitive to a change in risk tolerance. Just about anything could cause the long overdue correction, and there are many "anythings" hiding in plain sight: debts, valuations, interest rates, jobs, currencies, malinvestment, ponzi schemes, etc.

Hence, I'm convinced we are headed lower. Sigificantly lower. And rather sooner than later.

However, talks of Bregret and/or stimulus efforts could easily cause a temporary bounce of several per cent after the initial downturn. And the inverse of that is likely for gold.

In February I reduced my short positions by around 20% (in units, meaning the remaining exposure was about the same as before). Tomorrow (Monday June 27) I might do 10-20% as well as sell a similar share of my gold holdings.

Thus, I'm not becoming "bullish", and I haven't given up my scenario of a severe downturn in 2016-2017. However, I always want to make some room in my portfolio and take profits when I can and not when I have to. If the market keeps falling, I'll keep covering my shorts but at a slow pace of one per cent a week or so. And when it bounces I will add to my shorts on strong days. In time and if the market falls over time I will slowly work myself toward a net neutral portfolio and then start going long, almost as slowly.

 

What does the Brexit really mean?

What will happen now? I don't really know, but I expect nothing much will happen fundamentally.

New trade agreements are many years away, large scale layoffs that weren't already planned anyway too. Actually, the most immediate and tangible result could be stronger exports thanks to a weaker GBP.

 

Conclusions and summary

I still can't decide between Catalyst or Stimulus, but I think the inevitable downturn and a slow turnaround in sentiment had already begun. Fear of contagion and complete chaos is a relevant possibility, and if the S&P 500 index once again falls below its 200d MAV most of the last remains of optimism and risk appetite will disappear.

Consequently, no amount of stimulus, bar Zimbabwe style money printing, would have more than a brief and passing positive effect on stocks and bonds.

Gold should do well in both scenarios though.

All in all, I think a Brexit is a vote for freedom and a vote against the technocrats in Brussels. I think the UK citizens made a good choice, albeit in large parts for all the wrong reasons (including xenophobia).

For me all it does is change my short term trading pattern slightly due to my anticipation of increased volatility in the aftermath.

Big picture, I'm sticking to 80-90% of my shorts and gold holdings, meaning I will still be around 100% short stock indices and long 20% gold (both in terms of portfolio NAV). Hence, I'm not really turning into a bull (yet).

My four pillars of investing remain: Short stock indices, Long gold, Long cheap or promising/enticing small caps, slowly accumulate dogs, strong balance sheets, high dividend yields.

Hopefully this was my last article on Brexit, so if you are interested in my other favorite themes of personal development, health, wealth and happiness, please subscribe and share this article with your friends.

Taggar (blogg): 
20 juni 2016

Brexit - the good, the bad, the ugly

Summary: a Brexit might finally trigger a re-set of global financial markets. Unfortunately massive stimulus will follow that will make everything even worse than today. And a lot of innocent people will lose their livelihood.

deflation inflation sprezza


 

The good thing with a Brexit is that it might catalyze a long overdue re-set, just like the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy (almost) did.

The avalanche is ready and more or less inevitable. We're just waiting for the right snowflake to set it off. And, the longer it takes the worse it's gonna get.

Lehman had the chance to do it with not too much damage, if the Fed just had backed off after its initial efforts, and let more banks and insurance companies fail. Then we wouldn't have piled debt upon debt, encouraged massive moral hazard and caused enormous malinvestments due to artificially low interest rates.

A Brexit might set off the avalanche. At least a man can hope for that. If it doesn't, it will happen later -which is worse (except for the authorities, that get one more day in the light, one more day to hoard assets). Just as with earthquakes and avalanches the instability is already there, the damage will happen, and the longer the build-up the worse the cataclysm will be.

What's bad with a Brexit is that the deranged (or possibly plain ignorant) twits in charge probably without a doubt would try their hands at the most ridiculous stimulus efforts ever witnessed by humankind. And that's even before the commencement of a true re-set in the wake of a Brexit. Then, I'm sure Yellen and Draghi would make Kuroda's attempts, at monetizing the entire Japanese government debt as well as its stock market, look timid.

kuroda

The ugly? A lot of innocent and poorly prepared people will lose their jobs. It's just that even more people will be hurt the longer it takes before the re-set is allowed to happen.

The probable? The UK will remain in the EU and the slow and steady march toward doom can resume, with Draghi laughing madly all the way to the bank.

Wait, he's already there...

Mario-Draghi-laughing

Taggar (blogg): 
20 juni 2016

Various macro and market thoughts ahead of midsummer and Brexit

Length: 922 words (short)

(utkast)


It's Monday!

If you read this about the same time I publish it, it's Monday!

Isn't it great to start a new week, happy, well slept (dry fluffy pillows, cold feet etc.), ready to greet another prosperous five days of great personal and financial investments?


Summary: What's going on at the US Fed, how good or bad is a Brexit for stock markets, what's Japan's Kuroda up to and where does China fit into all this?

My three pillars in all this is: short stocks, buy gold, be ready for single stock bargains in the ensuing calamity


By the way, did you know that tickling is about learning where the "kill points" are? Cats, dogs and humans play and tickle each other to safely learn exactly where the body is most vulnerable - where you can get to the heart, arteries or important inner organs without going through bone or other protection.

Right now the U.S. Fed is tickling at the interest rate area to see what happens, while the UK is trying out the EUs potential kill points with a referendum on Brexit or N(o)exit. Meanwhile Japan's Kuroda seems intent on ruining his country forever. Despite its own version of insanity (shadow banking, bad debts, empty investment projects), China actually is the one major world power that seem to even think about the end-game (and is piling up gold and making oil trade arrangements etc to prepare for a post-dollar, post-crash economy).


Central bankers always crack me up

-Remember when central bankers weren't all that important? That was fun.

-Remember the last few times they were important? Not fun at all:

In the 1920's the infamous Havenstein wreaked complete havoc on the German economy and brought about the hyperinflation that wiped out the entire German middle class. In the 1920's and 1930s the U.S. Fed did all they could to set up, prolong and exacerbate the depression. In the 1970's Volcker had to take the federal funds rate to 20% in order to kill off the inflation caused by too slack policies by earlier Fed chairmen.

During the last twenty years, central bankers have grown increasingly important, starting with Greenspan's "irrational exuberance" in 1996 and getting worse, more or less every year, as Greenspan, Bernanke and Yellen have presided over ever more retarded money printing policies - only trumped by Japan's Kuroda.

Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the UK and Europe's ECB have done their best to follow suit, and even lead the way in some particularly deranged experiments with, e.g., negative interest rates.


So, the Fed is pretending to raise interest rates, which it hopes will "wag the dog" and create an optimism that makes the economy lift itself up by the hair. The only effect even just one quarter of a percentage point rate rise have had though is to accelerate the overdue economic downturn. The strong dollar is hampering exports, and the slightest probability of higher interest rates have hurt investment sentiment.

Another quarter point hike would signal a rising policy rate trend, no matter how dovish* Yellen talks on the subsequent press conference. That would cause a massive reversal of carry trades, draining emerging markets of hot dollars, causing their markets and currencies to fall and the USD and possibly U.S. stocks to rise (albeit temporarily).

-I would keep all of my short positions on a second policy hike.

*remember when there was such a thing as a hawkish central banker? Most people in the markets today have only ever known "dovish" or  "very dovish" CBs


I think the likelihood of a Brexit is quite low. However, I think people should be wary of what they wish for.

A Brexit would be followed by massive stimulus programs (temporarily good for stock markets), whereas a Nexit just means a lot of discontent people and a return to the status quo of a steady European economic decline.

I would buy on a Brexit dip and sell more on a Nexit surge.

Real economy effects of a Brexit? Who knows, but most countries manage pretty well on their own. I'm sure the UK will be better off in the end without being hamstrung by a sclerotic EU (that will break up sooner or later anyway)


What about Kamikaze Kuroda?

Japan: Oh, the first decade of QE didn't work. Let's triple it! Oh, that didn't work either... must have been too little, let's do more, let's buy stocks as well.

Pundits: Japan never de facto tried QE (since they did so little). Hence, you can't say it didn't work. They have just now really tried it for the first time so let's see how it goes.

Fact: 250% government debt to GDP, zero to negative growth, 6-7% budget deficit despite close to zero interest rate on its massive debts.

Japan: I know! I've got an idea: Let's throw some more money at the problem and increase the deficit and the debts!

To understand the scale of the issue, no country has worked itself back from a debt/GDP of over 100% (very few from over 80%) and Japan already has around 250% and a large primary budget deficit and no growth.

Sure, they do have a lot of interesting robotics related companies, not to mention cheap P/Book<1 companies in various sectors, but the JPY is headed for a crash beyond comprehension sooner or later. No central banker has been as irresponsible as Kuroda ever without causing hyperinflation, a currency crash and default. Will he be the first, despite having the worst starting point? And a crash prone world economy environment to boot...

If you can hedge the JPY reasonably cheaply you might want to take a look at, e.g., some Japanese robotics companies. I, however, will wait this one out and look for opportunities after the fact. There never is any reason to rush into investments. There never is a reason to try to get rich in a hurry.

-Patience is what I practice.


China

China, oh China where art thou?

China is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. A conundrum, for short. It's hard to know what they think and what their long term plans are. Being communists they actually can plan for the long term, although history has shown the probably will make significant mistakes sooner or later (and probably already have - just as with Madoff it takes a catalyst to reveal the extent of the disaster).

China made its (final) move in 2008-2009 when it stimulated its economy heavily. They can't afford to do it again.

The last few years China's total debts have risen faster than anywhere else in the history of man. Everytime the debt/GDP ratio have increased as fast as in China a crash has followed. When that happens China can't pursue a similar stimulus program.

Just as with the other kill points in the global economy, if China falters it will catalyze a global re-set rather than be mitigated by strength elsewhere. The same goes for Europe and the U.S.

In earlier crashes there have always been some region or other that have been able to carry the burden if one region ran into trouble, but this time every major economy is linked, synchronized and equally laden with debt upon debt -hidden and exacerbated by derivative structures that are as complicated as they are devastatingly huge.

China has wasted money on investments without positive returns. The investments have made the economy look like it's growing strongly and will grow into its "infrastructure". However, next years growth have had to be manufactured in the same phony way. Over the years more and more resources have been wasted on pretend growth, while building up huge balances of bad debt.

Some of the infrastructure investments will prove useful but possibly 30-50% will prove bad or too early (which is just as bad since there will be no money for maintenance and the assets will be left to wither into oblivion)

Anyway, sure China is headed for a hard landing, but hey, so is everybody else. It's just a question of when. The central bankers and authorities know they're running an unsustainable system, the're just extending and pretending to jostle for a good position at the negotiation table after the faeces have entered the air conditioner.

China and not least the US are hoarding gold, while simultaneously manipulating the gold price lower for a seat at the post-shit-hit-fan table. Gold is one of very few things that can function as a credible anchor in a global monetary re-set.

Yes, I'm buying gold. Last week, e.g., I bought a 500k USD stake in a gold royalty start-up company. I think it's the best way for me to secure physical gold without having to store it, and a good way of avoiding the problems with ETF 'paper gold'

Oh, I almost forgot. China just might kick off with a competitive devaluation once it's done buying gold. That would make things really interesting. Or as Hugh Hendry said recently: "a Chinese devaluation would be game over and I'm jumping out the window".


All real wealth will of course remain after the coming financial crisis. I'm not predicting Armageddon, just a financial crisis that's a little worse than usual.

All trucks, all land, all ships, all buildings and factories etc. will still be standing. It's just a question of who will own what in the end. Prepare for wildly fluctuating asset prices: real estate, currencies, interest rates (bond prices), gold, commodities, stocks. Prepare for high regulatory uncertainty, for plunging profits in many (most) instances, but surging in other.

The movements will be swift and unpredictable as trillions of dollars try to front-run and outsmart each other in jumping from asset class to asset class, until a new order has been reached. In that chaos I will cling to gold and shorts on the stock market, while aiming to buy single stocks at bargain prices, given that they have sound long-term business models and strong balance sheets and cash flow business models.

When?

China probably would like a couple of years more to purchase enough gold, and all other authorities will do whatever it takes to postpone the re-set for as long as possible. Some might even think a crash is avoidable, despite having pushed every conceivable economic variable further from their historical means than ever - not least debts, profit margins, deficits, valuations, interest rates (you know things that matter for investors), while pulling forward growth from the future and possible setting the stage for high inflation and low or negative growth. Hello the 1970s again!

May we live in interesting times with interesting central bankers


Summary

US rate hike - a catalyst for crashing EM and a stronger dollar - possibly stronger US stocks (temporarily). I would sell.

Brexit - be careful what you wish for. If the UK remains we're just back to a slow steady decline and I would sell more on such a surge

Japan - It's already game over there. They just don't know it yet. There might be some cheap or otherwise interesting single stocks there, but you'd better hedge the currency.

China - they might just as well deliberately trigger the inevitable crash if it doesn't happen by itself. They are playing for long term hegemony and are not short term rational".

I'm buying gold - not just because of China, but because we are heading for very interesting times indeed.

Nowsubscribe to my free newsletter, download and read my free e-book and share this article as widely as you can to help others from making mistakes the coming few days, months and years.

Taggar (blogg): 
8 juni 2016

Quick fix for back pain, hernias, restless legs and more

Summary: a few easy and quick fixes for your back, to prevent injuries, appearing old, as well as make you healthier and more attractive at the same time.

-Arching your back, and rotating your hips.

Length: 1187 words; pretty short (just as your psoases)


 

Sitters are people too

-LOL, as if


Let me guess; you're a "sitter".

-meaning you sit down in a chair or couch/sofa for several hours a day, sometimes even stretching single sitting-sessions to over an hour (sic).

If you are one of those lowly, ignorant and generally useless excuses for a human being, here's a quick fix for you:

(I'm sure you're looking for quick fixes; I mean, being a sitter and all, it's pretty obvious you like short-cuts)

  1. Cobra-ups
  2. Hip-3D

"Fix for what?", you ask.

"Whaddyamean 'fix for sitting'? Sitting is normal, and not just for 'hours' but for double-digit hours per day"

  1. The fixes prevent injuries like disc bulges, hernias and stiff necks - even restless legs
  2. You'll become a better bench presser through more practice arching
  3. Your posture will naturally straighten from your current slouch
  4. With better posture comes improved hormone levels and immune system

Let's describe these slippery suckers now. First up: the cobras.


Cobra-ups

During a particularly slouchy period of my life, I developed a disc bulge in my vertebrae. To get rid of it I was prescribed sets of 15 cobra-ups every waking hour, later every second hour, and yet later twice a day.

It took me about 8-9 months to get rid of the pains, sudden powerlosses and tingling in my back, glutes and hamstrings, not to mention restless legs syndrome (link to my article on how to get rid of RLS=WED).

I wish I had sat straighter, sat less or at least done a short set of cobras a couple of times a day, to prevent that disc from bulging in the first place.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah, get to the point already. How do you do the snake-y thingies?

A cobra-up is basically a push-up from the floor without raising the hip from the ground. You simply push off from the ground and arch your back as evenly distributed over the vertebrae's all discs as possible. Then lower yourself back to lying flat on your stomach. Spend a few seconds on your way up as well as down, but there is no need to stay in either position.

Like this:

Cobra-up
Cobra-up

Hip-3D

If you've ever had a hernia or a stiff neck, I'm sure you're already familiar with this technique. It's recommended for loosening cramping muscles after throwing your back out.

However, it's even better as a preventive tool, in effect "teaching" the body beforehand what range of motion is okay without risk of injury (and consequent painful cramping that can last for weeks). I perform the movements pretty quickly standing up before squatting or deadlifting at the gym.

All you have to do is wiggle your hip in three dimensions:

  1. move your hips closer to your ribs on first the left side, then the right, then the left, then the right... Try to increase the range of motion for every repetition. Do 10 on each side. This one can be tricky for men that never dance.
  2. alternate arching and rounding the back, strive for a stretching feeling in the lower back when rounding. Go slowly and deliberately, spend several seconds on the rounding, e.g. Do ten reps of arch+round
  3. turn your hip to the left and to the right without moving your upper body. This can be done pretty quickly. 10 reps to each side.

Sounds weird and difficult? You couldn't be more wrong (Chandler Bing), but here's a video to explain it all (in Swedish, but that doesn't matter): 


 

More stuff

Neck-3D: Just as with the hips and lower back, you can prevent (or remedy) a stiff neck by doing the 3D exercise for the neck as well. Wiggle the head side to side, rotate it left to right, and up and down. There!

You can do them to loosen up a stiff neck, or as a prevention technique when sitting still too much in an air conditioned office (or before exercising - in particular after a day of sitting).

Foam roller: As a complement to the cobras you can lie down on your back on a foam roller. Just make sure to focus on arching and bending the thoracic spine, and not overarching the lumbar region.

foam roller


 

Old stuff - squatting and couching

Cobras and Hipsters are the new lessons for sitters in this article. They are easy enough, can be performed anywhere and in just about any outfit.

Finding a foam roller takes a little more dedication - a level I don't expect of a sitter. The neck thing, however, I'm sure even you can fit into your hectic day of 5 coffee breaks, 5 toilet breaks and reading the sport news online. 

If you, against all odds, are interested in (almost) fully compensating for your sins (sitting), you want to add the two big ones to your daily routine. Actually "weekly" is enough if done properly, but daily is better.

  1. squat
  2. couch-stretch

Squatting is exactly what it sounds like. Sit down as low as you can go with your back straight (no rounding of the lumbar) and your feet flat on the floor. Vary your stance from broad to narrow. Try to stay in the bottom position for two minutes.

mobility squat The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager

The couch-stretch is tougher. The good thing is that you can do it in front of the TV, in the couch. Spend, e.g., the 2-minute Game Of Thrones intro in the following position

couch psoas
The original couch version

 

If you're not a TV or couch person, you can always stretch your psoases as a pro:

psoas couch stretch
The real deal psoas stretch

 

Full retard way:

couch stretch b
Severely hungover psoas stretch on stone surface

Never mind Mr S to the left, who's apparently shitting himself


 

Summary: cobras and hipsters

If you sit down several hours a day, you should try to compensate at least a little bit. One way is to add cobra-ups and some hip wiggle-jiggle in three dimensions to your daily habits. It will make you look better, be healthier and prevent injury. You'll also familiarize yourself with a great remedy should you or someone close to you get injured anyway.

If you're looking for something slightly more advanced; add neck-wiggling, foam rolling, squatting and couch stretching as well. However, if you're that ambitious, my guess is you don't sit that much to begin with.


 

Share this post with somebody you care about. Sign up for my newsletter if you want more health, wealth, happiness and productivity tips. And don't miss my free e-book about my time as a celebrated portfolio manager (including plenty of investment tips).

If you want more advanced mobility tips for more than just sitting and back issues, check out this post on an earlier blog I had.

P.S. Remember that short psoases are the reason old people walk, shuffle and stumble like old people

Taggar (blogg): 
30 maj 2016

A few good reasons for higher stock market valuations

...and many more for lower valuations!

Surprised? No, I didn't think so.

(this article has only 1275 words, so you'll have to scroll down to the end for the executive summary)


Let's put it this way, no matter what I promise you, never let me hitch a ride on your back over the water (The scorpion and the frog)

J'ACCUSE

Okay, let's get serious. I'm not a perma bear. Actually, back in the 1990s, I was accused of being a naive perma bull regarding tech stocks. And back in 2004-2007 I was a die-hard bull on Swedish banks. I'm a realist, not an optimist or pessimist. Then again, everybody says that about themselves.


 

Higher valuations warranted

Well, why not? There is no law saying valuations should be this or that. If valuations are where they are now, they can always move upward yet some. Sure, it's uncharted territory but so is all of the future anyway.

With rates approaching zero or even going negative, discount rates are approaching zero too, so valuations could in theory go to infinity. The least you could expect is that valuations go a little higher to start with. Forget about the risk of inflation or rates going higher anytime soon; nobody could afford such a development, least of all governments and central banks.

Increased debt equals (necessary) buying power. Lower rates carry a second order boon, in terms of higher willingness to borrow, as well as increased need to borrow to pay for more expensive assets.

Money printing means more money for the same amount of assets. Ergo: higher prices for all assets. And if growth stays low, and consumer prices continue to deflate, there will be even more money over for stocks and other assets.

Tech progress is accelerating, which promises much higher productivity and growth rates. More and more industries are becoming digital and thus subject to Moore's law. We have only seen the beginning of that process. Higher future growth potential warrants higher valuation multiples today.

Increasing margins. In addition, digital industries means almost zero production cost and thus higher margins. We've already seen proof of that in terms of record high corporate profit margins, as well as a market response in terms of record high Price/Sales-type valuation metrics (see Hussman's median non fin m.cap to GVA e.g.)

To summarize the case for higher valuations: It's a new era, a new era of higher growth, higher margins, lower rates, more base money, more credit, and not least a new era in terms of simply a continuation of the already clear trend toward higher valuations (the "why not" argument)


 

Arguments against higher valuations...

Increased competitive pressure: The churn of companies among the Fortune 500, e.g., have increased steadily in parallel with the last 50 years of technological progress. The reason is that increased digitalization, open source culture and the proliferation of infrastructure companies (like Amazon Web Services) has lowered the barriers to entry in almost all industries to close to zero.

Increased risk of brand disasters: The share of companies suddenly losing 20% or more of their brand value has increased in much the same way as the churn of top tier companies.

The sharing economy: It's a good thing for the environment to share resources, and it's very good for the trail blazers such as Uber and AirBnB, but the competing companies lose more than Uber gains. So go ahead and give Uber and AirBnB a high valuation but you have to subtract so much more from other transportation and hospitality companies.

Automation: Oh, yeah, it's great with robo-hamburger flippers, driverless cars, trucks, planes etc., with travel and banking/insurance chat bots and so on. Just remember that for every person losing their job to a machine, there is less purchasing power around. In time, competition will drive down margins again to whatever the toughest competitor is willing to swallow, so higher margins from automation are very temporary. Well, unless, we've seen the end of capitalism itself.

Uncertainty: Due to general monetary madness and political scrambling, the regulatory uncertainty is the highest in many decades. That leads to hoarding and lower investment which in turn causes lower growth. Lower potential growth of course means lower warranted valuation of near term sales and profits.

Currency and trade wars in the wake of slowing growth, higher debt burdens and increasingly imbalanced economies that have made beggar-thy-neighbor policies more or less the only alternative exacerbates the problems with regulatory uncertainty and low growth.

Exhausted resources: Unless you accept the pollyannaish notion of technology-driven productivity, perhaps it's the other way round. It could be that the low hanging fruits of globalization, of urbanization, of emerging markets of on-line education, of population growth etc. have already been harvested. In that scenario, growth will continue to fall.

Pollution: Oh, I almost forgot the environment. There will always be islands of opportunity, not least for environmental plays (clean energy, pollution clean-up, carbon capture etc.). However, companies are increasingly burdened by demands on clean production, of emission compensation, of fair wages... It's a good thing of course, just not for sales, profits, growth and valuations. At least not for the investment horizons I consider (years and a few decades).

Cycles. An last but not least, during all of investment history, margins, valuations, growth, rates and crises have exhibited more or less clear cycles of highs and lows. Right now, most gauges are at screaming extremes, and like coiled springs they are ready to both return to their means and show some inversion too while they're at it (in order to preserve historical averages). That does not bode well for the buy and hold with leverage crowd.

Summary of the case for lower valuations: Time Tested Truths. If you accept the "old man's view" of the world, we'll continue to see cycles of high and low valuations, just as we'll see highs and lows in rates, in growth, in greed, in margins, in debt. As a final nail in the proverbial coffin, we've already rehearsed what's coming twice in the last 15 years.

As an optimist I think we're headed downward (soon)

As a final word, please note that you're a pessimist if you think we're doomed to think the current high valuations (and thus low future returns) are permanent. And you're an optimist, if you think some kind of natural pullback is imminent, leading to lower valuations and thus higher return prospects going forward:

Is 15% annual return over 10 years something you might be interested in?

 

Summary - New era or Old truths?

Are higher or lower valuations warranted? What will be the next step?

Money printing, negative interest rates, automation and productivity, new era growth, margins and thus new era valuations?

Or...

Will the world and the psychology of the people in it stay mostly the same, with cycles cycling back again from the current perverse levels?

-Make no mistake, authorities will fall over themselves in trying to prevent a re-set. The problem is that they've already done that and they are most likely soon about to be exposed for the frauds they are.

It's all a confidence game, and right now confidence too is at an extreme high where even highly intelligent people consider the possibility that Yellen, Kuroda etc. can actually pull it off....

"What were they thinking" is the future's most likely judgement of us all


PSST, liked the article? Why not do me a solid and share it with somebody? And take a look at my free e-book and newsletter too. I think you'll enjoy them.

Taggar (blogg): 
29 maj 2016

Taking stock of May

Length: 1700 words (pretty short)

Executive summary: remember to take stock of the month, quarter or year passed. Have you progressed as hoped? If not, take corrective action. I myself have been wasting some time but gained some IRL experiences that are good for my Asperger's. I will make a few changes though, such as just saying "no".

Bonus: If you're Swedish and don't yet listen to Framgångspodden, I urge you to start (and keep an eye open for my episode in mid June 2016)

On goals:

priority 1 goals
My friend is representing Sweden in the World Championship final (women's 57kg) tomorrow Saturday May 28, 2016

***************************************

Message: I recommend you pause every now and then, and take stock of your progress.

I've advocated not to focus too much attention on long term goals, since they can overwhelm you and make you apathetic and passive. However it's a good thing to regularly think about where all the small daily steps you're taking will lead you if extrapolated (in absurdum) and ever so slightly alter your course if needed.

*********************************

What I do, think I do, and what I want to do

My main activities, in approximate order, are:

  • my dog
  • learning/improving
  • lifting weights
  • blogging
  • podcasting
  • writing (my next book)
  • Low (no) threshold mindfulness
  • Venture capital business - Angel Initiative
  • Social media

Let's take a look at how I've been doing

Ronja German Shepherd Doberman

The dog is a constant, we walk, I listen to podcasts. A constant, but a wonderful constant. Sometimes we just lay next to each other letting music engulf us and time disappear. Within Temptation has some great tunes for that.

Maybe, just maybe, however, the balance between listening to podcasts during our dog walks and talking to interesting fellow dog owners have shifted a little more toward the latter than planned. On the other hand IRL is where life is, and real time interaction with real people is hard to beat when it comes to inspiration. And there are some really interesting people walking their dogs in Humlegården.

Anyway, I've managed to keep my podcast playlist at bay (I subscribe to over 25 science and PD podcasts, so my routines have to be maintained in some fashion or other, lest the queue of listening material spiral out of control quickly and permanently).

What's worse is that I've been reading much less in May than I'd like to. That goes for both articles and books. I'm struggling to get through the Princeton Bitcoin book, for example, but have simply been getting to bed too late or been too tired (or drunk) to read more than a few pages at a time.

I've mismanaged my synergistic processes slightly this month. Writing this article on pure inspiration, instead of condensing it to a 140 character tweet is perhaps the only truly synergistic activity all month (taking stock of my month, writing an overdue article, perhaps re-using the material for the podcast thus saving time while also driving traffic here... and there). However, maybe I'm being too hard on myself, since most of what I do is completely entangled and mutually enforcing. 

Tokyo

IMG-20160514-WA0015 DSC_1243 DSC_1059 Toky

In May 2016 I've been good at saying "yes" but bad at saying"no". After a spontaneous 5 day tour to Tokyo (see above), the result was feeling slightly swamped backed home, by having too many projects and meetings taking time from my life-progress activities.

IMG-20160514-WA0017
Yes Man

On the other hand, even if I haven't written anything on my coming e-book during May, I've met a lot of interesting people, as well as experienced more than my fair share of decadence. The latter is a two-edged blade, I admit, but to me it's part of the learning complex I embrace.

yes man Monday
Yes Man Monday

Financially, I've made a few really good deals in May, while at the same time significantly limiting the time spent in front of the markets (I took the Tokyo week completely off, and only spent about 15 minutes in total during the week after Tokyo). Despite that my net worth is only slightly up in May. Oh,well, it's actually supposed to decrease over time, right? The ultimate goal is to pass away without a cent to my name.

Yes man Tuesday
Yes man Tuesday

My article writing has been a bit more sloppy than I'd like, and than I actually aim for. I'm not proud of that, but, still, the reason hasn't been slacking - quite the opposite. Hence, even if it wasn't a conscious choice, how can I be other than happy about my real life taking precedence over my on-line presence?

Talking about goals, my friend Patricia (girlfriend 2005-2015, now just a very close friend and co-owner of our dog) is fighting in the World Championship final in thaiboxing (women's 57kg) tomorrow, Saturday May 28, after impressive victories in the 8ths, quarters and semis. She finally feels pretty good about training more than 2 times a day lately (on top of a full time employment as paralegal at a law firm).

My podcast "25 minuter" is coming along pretty nicely (summaries and links here). Recently we've added a couple of interviews that I think has made the program more interesting than just me and Ludvig going on and on about taking deep breaths or mimicking Napoleon :). However, I can't honestly say I've poured my soul into the podcast the last few weeks.

25 min mini

No matter, just as with Spitznagel's Dao of capital, I see a slight failure as a motivator (perhaps necessary) for doing better the next time. Consequently I count on bringing som ereally good ideas and energy to the mike on Wednesday.

400 lbs deadlift. Well, almost. I took 180.3 kg which is 397 lbs a few weeks ago. I'm pretty happy with that (new PB), but it still doesn't quite rhyme with my rep bests of 140kg x20 on Christmas or 165kg x6 around the same time, or 160x5x3 the other day. The good thing is I probably have a lot of untapped potential in that lift.

All in all, I'm happy about my progress in the gym, not least in light of all the alcohol that has flowed through the system this spring ;). Apart from being injury free and using better and better (more safe and less cheat-y) technique, I'm proud of sticking to my every second day schedule, no matter what (including that day when the after party ended at 9:30 am and I was at the gym 9:48 am, or that time a friend called me over at 4:30 am, and after a few hours at that party I went directly to the gym for some heavy squats).

IMG_20160515_025915

Mobility-wise I've integrated certain exercises in my everyday life, such as walking with my forearms against my back (Morpheus) to mobilize my shoulders, and squatting deliberately when playing with Ronja (my dog). However, I've relaxed my psoas-stretching routines a bit more than I meant to. I probably haven't even reached my 5 minute a week minimum quota recently. I will make sure to temptation bundle the psoas couch stretch with the Game Of Thrones intro every week from now on.

The trick with temptation bundling is to combine an indulgence with a simultaneous less comfortable necessity, such as stretching. In time you'll start to long for that moment and activity.

As an added observation, more than once a week lately I've felt the urge to sit down when putting on socks, instead of balancing on one leg as usual. Bad Sprezza! Baaaad! I'm nevertheless happy to say, I've not given in even once.

And neither should you. Why on earth even bother going to work, gym or getting up at all if you can't even put on your socks standing up?


 

I touch leaves, and bark, and grass. I don't see dead people though.

I look at cracks, at sky. I observe people's movements. I breathe. I pay attention to smells and sounds and my own body parts (not the crack though; I can't see it - and frankly don't want to either).

That's my brand of no-threshold mindfulness and I urge you to try it. Spend just a few seconds here and there, truly experiencing the world in the now with full focus and childlike curiosity and wonder. That's it, then walk quickly and purposefully to your next interesting activity (don't rush or feel rushed though; you should never rush).

 

Angel Initiative

A week ago I and my business partner Jonas officially launched our company Angel Initiative. The response was much better than anticipated. About 5x the amount of companies we expected turned up. Right now we're sifting through 15+ venture proposals that will be funneled to our list of investors. It's fun and a good way to challenge my old sclerotic brain, but consumes way more time and effort than expected.

I have also spent too much time on social media (and normal media, e.g., a journalist investigating financial bloggers' impact on stocks they own themselves, and an interview in Framgångspodden [will be published in a few weeks, i.e., mid-June 2016]). One tweet all too easily turns into a conversation, which turns into more tweets, and sooner or later luring out the haters and ever more tweeting.

On the other hand I've almost stopped checking my Instagram completely, as well as kept the updates there to a minimum. The last one was a few days ago, though, when I had to boost my ego after several weeks of decadence :)

roof terrace Sprezza after Tokyo

 

Summary

Define your primary activities and goals

Engage in your priority 1 activity as early as possible in the day

Pause and take stock of your progress regularly, e.g., once a year (or month, if you prefer)

My results: mostly in line, albeit wasting some quality (writing and reading) time on unnecessary activities such as social media, saying "yes" and being hungover. On the other hand, I've experienced Tokyo, made friends, weaned myself off Instagram, and become more mindful.

Decide on corrective actions going forward

-I for example will say "no" more, temptation bundle psoas stretching with Game Of Thrones, and dive right into reading and writing instead of "just" checking Twitter first. In addition, I'll try to produce more quality work for my podcast "25 minuter". 

What will you do? Except finally decide to share one of my articles (this one?) with your networks, as well as get around to subscribing to my free newsletter and downloading and reading my e-book?

 

 

Taggar (blogg): 
17 maj 2016

All the things that are wrong with school

Length: 3000 words (pretty long)

Purpose: making you aware of best practices (and worst = school) for studying

Style: a recount of my actual (and random) study methods in high school, with a distilled summary of recommended study 'tools' toward the end


How do you expect pupils to remember the lesson if you just knock them senseless with homework, instead of first and foremost provide techniques for learning?


Executive summary: The first thing formal school should teach you is how to learn, but that never happens.

This article lists a few study techniques that I wish I knew about as a teenager, and are still highly useful for acquiring new skills within investing, sports or whatever you can think of...

...including: Motion/BDNF, Deep Work, Grit/Consistency, Sound Wall, Hyperthermic therapy, Spaced repetition, Word definitions, Novelty, Overreaching, Curiosity/Application, Gamification, Failing (deliberate practice)


 

Google it!

I was the worst kind of pupil in middle school; troubled, the youngest and smallest in class, bullied, fighting, divorced parents, a recently drowned big brother, good at math and English contemptuous of everything else.

When grades were introduced in 7th grade, I changed pretty radically ("soooo, you're going to judge me, are you? Let's do all the things that you wanna do" -Slinky Scene) and immediately moved to #1 in my school, but I was nevertheless no more than the cleanest dirty shirt.

 

"Do you know how exceptional this is?"

"Yes..." (I didn't, but thought I would look stupid if I said 'no')

In the summer between 9th grade and high school, I happened to take an IQ test that kind of surprised both the supervisor and myself. That gave me some extra confidence going forward; from then on I 'knew'* I should and could be able to learn anything better than other people.

However, more importantly, during the 10 minutes I waited to get started, I browsed a simple book about study techniques.  

I took away one single lesson that I have stuck to since then: If you loose track of what you're reading go back and look for a word or a sentence you actually didn't fully understand. Look up every word you can't define and make sure you can before moving forward.

That's how you start building a truly solid knowledge base. I think that single idea is what changed me from a very good pupil in 9th grade to a superior one in high school.

"You can't build a skyscraper on sand"

-a high school teacher of mine to a friend

Not only does the word habit help you in keeping focused, making sure your knowledge is well founded and make you learn more words per se. It aids in and accustoms you to identifying what you don't understand and enables you to ask the right questions. (so you can Google it)

*Today I know better than to subscribe any value to an IQ test, but back then it helped raise my level of self-confidence.

 

How to focus in less than optimal environments

In high school (10th-12th grade), I early on realized the benefits of focusing for longer stretches of time (as opposed to distracted and chopped up studying and reading). I also soon realized that listening to familiar music helped drown out any distractions, without breaking my focus by providing new ones.

I discovered the Sound Wall Technique when I started noticing that certain favorite songs "disappeared", and had to be restarted, unless I actively paid attention. The songs became more or less invisible. That actually began as a problem of sorts, when I actively wanted to enjoy them. I soon understood, however, there was a valuable potential in the kind of immersion that playing 'invisible songs' on high volume provided.

The music I listened to btw was almost exclusively Sisters Of Mercy.

SOM

I had a cassette player with slots for two 90-minute cassettes, that could be set for endless repeat of all of the 180 minutes available. And I did, both when studying and otherwise. Gothic messages like the following were hammered into my subconscious a million times (3 years x 1000 hours/year x 3600 seconds/hour =>10 million seconds of goth)

 

Pain looks great on other people; that's what they're for

Because the world is cruel, and promises are broken

 

-No wonder I'm a little 'dark'

Luckily, I later learned to like Britney Spears just as much. I still prefer SOM to Britney when going deep though.


Deep Work and Grit

Of course, I had no idea I was practising Deep Work behind my Sound Wall.

I didn't even have a concept of good or bad study techniques. Just as everybody else I got my homework handed to me and was told to learn it until then next time, but not how to learn it, except answering the questions in the reading material and keep repeating until it stuck...

It's just that I was actually a bit pressed for time. I only had about 2 hours a day to study, and I had to make that count for more than what everybody else did. Hence, I had to be effective.

 

-Yes. Pressed for time.

Yes, in high school.

This is why; I was a ninja:

ninja emoji

 

All through high school, I had ninjutsu (ninja) practice for two hours per session several times a week, and I often ran there and back (almost 10 kilometers, or 6 miles). I also spent a few hours a day in the school gym to beef up from my ridiculous 54kg on a 183 cm frame (119 lbs /6'0"). In addition I liked playing tennis as often as I could, playing computer games & coding every day, as well as tinkering with electronics.

Finally, as I still do to this day, I liked keeping my evening schedule open for fun with friends, or just sneaking around the neighborhood in ninja gear (that I don't do anymore, though).

To make my days work with that schedule, I set aside exactly 2 hours every single day, from Monday to Sunday, of intensely focused studying. Sometimes a little more on the weekends (4h rather than 2h, if an important scheduled test or suspected unscheduled test was coming up next week).

Over the months and years that consistency (grit, if you will) accumulated to much more than most of my class mates. Intuitively I understood Anders Ericsson's ideas about the value of practicing more than others. Unfortunately nobody told me it should be deliberate and smart practice, outside my comfort zone (even if some of that too came naturally).

sprezzaturian ninja

As an added bonus from keeping busy, I just didn't have the time to procrastinate, and I knew I wanted my evenings as free as possible, so I always made sure to finish my 2 hours of Deep Work as soon as I got home from school or the gym. In thus very early on found out the joy and benefits of regularly finishing projects well before any deadline.

It seems I had stumbled upon the idea of consistently adding a set amount per day of time spent on whatever was important (exactly how the Prio One rule works, and how authors typically stay productive).

I knew most of my fellow students postponed doing their homework to the last moment in the day. Or, worse, didn't even study every day but waited until there was a scheduled test. By going for 2 hours every single day, I kept pulling ahead of the pack.

Spaced repetition

Scheduled tests were one thing; by putting in 10s of hours shortly ahead of those, certain gifted students performed well on known tests (neurotic students even pretended to come down with a cold, to take a few days off, to study for the major scheduled tests).

However, my school had plenty of unscheduled tests, that were allowed (wtf?) to include whatever we had studied during the last four weeks. Since I wanted to ace every test, I kept repeating the last four weeks on a trailing basis (every day), while also reading one week ahead all the time (see next paragraph).

I read ahead (starting in 7th grade, i.e., 2-3 years before high school), since I figured it wouldn't entail any extra work, while making me prepared in the classroom (prepared for sneaky questions by the teachers to keep students on their toes; and prepared for paying extra attention to whatever I might have struggled with during preparation), not to mention the extra repetition it meant.

The constant repetition, before and after the actual allotted teacher time, meant that whatever I learned eventually stuck forever ("what fire together [often enough] wire together", as brain scientists say).

What if teachers taught good study techniques early on, would that be something you could be interested in?

Wouldn't it have been great, if teachers told students from the beginning that a certain schedule of repetition is more effective than other, when it comes to rote learning (foreign words, grammar rules, historical events etc)? Instead of having the students figure out the most effective ways of studying by trial and error?

In French and English, I "invented" the equivalent of flash cards, where I programmed my Spectrum to show words in English or French to translate into Swedish or vice versa, in a random order and random direction. The idea was to avoid going over the same list in the same direction over and over again (which otherwise risks conditioning one word to the word before, instead of having multiple contextual associations in the brain).

Thus, by chance, and by the luck of having a computer and knowing some simple coding, I introduced novelty, surprise, spaced repetition, redundant storage/contextual association, grit and curiosity (the struggle with staying a week ahead and having to understand the material beforehand, without the guidance of a teacher) - all of which have subsequently been shown to be some of the best practices for learning there is.

 

Brain research and motion

Don't forget my physical regimen either; the constant running, biking (4km to school), ninja training, tennis, bodybuilding. If there is one place to start with a kid that's struggling in school, it's usually with getting him or her physically active.

Modern brain research (tip: listen to all 127 hour-long episodes of Dr Ginger Campbell's Brain Science Podcasts) shows brains evolved thinking in order to analyze motion. Daily physical activity increases the BDNF "learning hormone" that increases brain plasticity, both during and after the activity. In addition, a more fit body, including one that oxygenates efficiently, can focus for longer periods of time.


By pure chance, I can in retrospect check almost all scientifically proven boxes of study techniques. Almost...

Brain food

Oh, if only I had enjoyed fish more back in the day, not to mention eaten less corn flakes, ketchup and drunk less coca cola. Perhaps compensating for the nutritional offside, I only tried alcohol once in high school before graduation (and it was in the last semester as a senior, when I turned 18).

 

Collaboration

Further, I probably should have found other people like me to study with.

lone wolf

The lone wolf approach was good for improving, but a few fellow four-eyes would probably have added an extra dimension (as it did for the group of illiterate 3rd world kids that learned genetics by themselves).

There was only one subject in which I took advantage of the group effect, philosophy, and there I achieved a perfect score on exactly everything.

These days, thanks to the internet, you can collaborate on anything with like-minded people, from open source programming with Linux to Samir Madani's OOTT oil analysis Twitter project.


Heat

I remember one final trick I applied; taking saunas regularly:

My family liked hot saunas, so I took a lot of those, including rolling in the snow in between (saunas are good for so many things I won't bother to go through them; however there is a link in last week's post you should read, if you're interested in some serious self improvement).

I took saunas for pleasure, for pain (competing against myself or others), for when I had a fever (perhaps not fully advisable, but felt very good when shaking from cold).

Nordic_Marine_Living
No wonder I co-founded this floating sauna company

My hyperthermic stroke of genius was to add "studying in the sauna" to the list of uses: I brought my math, physics or chemistry books into the sauna, and forced myself to complete one more question, one more chapter, one more test (when going over tests from earlier years ahead of a larger examination) before being allowed out of the torturously hot sauna.

In a way my sauna math sessions amounted to going outside my comfort zone (as recommended by Anders Ericsson), albeit probably not in the most effective manner conceivable for math and physics... To be honest, I tended to focus more on being extremely comfortable with whatever we were supposed to know, as opposed to actually overreaching into areas I didn't know.

Some ten years later, in 1998, I learned straight from the horse's mouth, that the world's foremost cross-country skier, for several years during the period 1984-1991, had simultaneously applied a similar tactic of seeking out the worst possible environment for training.

Just as Gunde Svan revelled in seeing rain, wind or other kinds of bad cross-country skiing weather on the morning of a competition, I knew I would always stay cool and focused with plenty of time to spare for checks, re-checks, triangulations (alternative solutions) and verifications. I was used to solving three full tests in a hot sauna in less time than I would get for just one test in an air conditioned and tempered room.


full immersion
Immersion

Moreover, I actually applied my knowledge, which is considered the final nail in the coffin for ignorance or poor memory:

I liked and needed to use formulas when coding, e.g., for natural jumping or breaking movements in a game. I liked reading books in English, and all my necessary computer literature was in English. Even if I didn't care much for French, I made sure to read a few books in French to secure highest grade there too (a very natural conclusion after seeing how easy English became already after just reading "It" by Stephen King).

A similar approach is called immersion, e.g., going abroad to study a foreign language. Some schools currently experiment with local immersion emulation techniques.

So, that's my specific high school experience of studying, but let's summarize the general points and principles.


What's wrong with school is that:

  • it doesn't teach you how to learn (based on plasticity research), it only tells you what you should learn and then crudely tests and scores you on certain flat and dead facts that are easy to gauge
  • it doesn't explicitly tell you to look up words you can't define
  • it kills creativity, curiosity and questioning, by teaching only 'the one truth' in a machine like manner
  • it turns natural grit into hate of certain subjects, since temporary failure is treated as being 'wrong, period'.
  • it focuses on rote learning, instead of research methods and searching, experimenting
  • the focus on forcing the same pace on everybody, kills enthusiasm in some, while ruining the potential in others as the latter have to move forward before building an adequately solid base
  • there is no sense of solving real and relevant problems, only abstract or ridiculous mathematical "problems"
  • it doesn't inspire you to create, to seek out and solve problems, to help, to be an entrepreneur, to enjoy the process of being curious and to apply all your faculties in making the world better (just your vicinity or earth in its entirety), forwarding the fields of the big 5 technologies to solve the Big 5 challenges. Instead the focus is on making robots out of the students, to fit as workers in shrinking companies in a society that will look very differently once they are done with school
  • Among the worst of all, school makes you believe certain truths are set in stone, thus discouraging you from questioning. That is one of the reasons behind our economies being run by Keynesian madmen, since other theories have been discredited in favor of Keynes' misinformed and misunderstood (mere) hypotheses.

Other tricks for learning would be gamification, as well as learning as a child. Children learn to walk, to speak etc. by an extreme application of broad perspective, trial and error, and fun. They simply play themselves to master a set of very difficult tasks. Grown-ups could just about replicate that, if we just dared failing more.

Older children gladly spend 100s or 1000s of hours to master computer games (while yet other groups of 3rd world children can learn biochemistry and genetics, in a foreign language, with no particular guidance, and just a computer [which was something they had never seen before] connected to the internet).


What school and parents should do is apply all the things I've mentioned in this article, including learning based on:

  • Motion/BDNF
  • Deep Work
  • Grit/Consistency
  • Sound Wall
  • Hyperthermic therapy
  • Spaced repetition
  • Defining words
  • Novelty
  • Overreaching (deliberate practice and temporary failure)
  • Curiosity/Application
  • Gamification
  • Not procrastinating (just do it right away)

Share these important lessons on how to learn

Apply: The reason I wrote this article is to encourage you to apply the above principles in your own life when acquiring interesting skills, or necessary knowledge for your line of work, investing, sport or other endeavors.

Dare: Not least I want you to see that the reason you're sometimes discouraged to learn new things, is less because it's hard, and more likely because school taught you that learning is boring and failing is bad.

Encourage: I also want to encourage you to forward this knowledge to younger people, perhaps your own children, and to authorities like teachers (who probably know this), and more importantly to the teachers' bosses and relevant politicians.

Taggar (blogg): 
10 maj 2016

Small gods and little things

Length: 1325 words

Executive summary: a bunch of small easy everyday tips and tricks for increased health and happiness


I've been interviewing people for my podcast lately. Three out of three, so far, claim they wouldn't change anything if their net worth increased five fold.

With me it makes four.

What's wrong with us? With me?


The little things that matter

I live for the little things, not for pieces of metal and plastics that I can buy for money.

I keep adding those little things to my daily habits. I hardly think about them, but I have a hunch they are the reason I'm beaming with joy all the time.

I'll try my best to recount as many of them as I can, and I trust you won't misunderstand and conclude it's a daily struggle to fit it all in.

It's not.

It's effortless. And that's how I think it should be.


First I fast. Then I break fast and have "breakfast", around a time most people would call the meal "lunch".

Fasting is not difficult or a burden to me. It's very easy not to eat once you're used to it. For me the struggle is prioritizing between muscle growth vs. 'all the beneficial effects from fasting'. The latter includes fighting cancer, inflammation, Alzheimer's and many other things.

Luckily...

Having a spoon of fish oil and a capsule of vitamin-D every day help with those things too.

When I get up, I emphatically don't have coffee first thing. That would just be plain unnecessary since the body naturally kicks into high gear after waking. I'd rather make use of that effect than start pumping CNS drugs into my system when I don't need it. In addition ingesting caffeine during the first 60-90 minutes builds up an unnecessary tolerance to the drug. Google it!

 

Prioritize

Instead, you should focus on your priority goal during those 90 minutes. That one thing that will bring your life forward in the mid to long term. Only once you're done with your prio one target you should think about crossing other things off your list. Do not start the day doing easy tasks, it's just a waste of time and risk making you feel good about yourself and worthy of some kind of reward. Easy tasks equal procrastination; just say no. 

Best of all would be getting your daily dose of deep work at the same time; cut off from all notifications, e-mail, phone calls etc. If you're new at this, at least practice refraining from checking that text, e-mail or social media notification when you get it. Wait at least five minutes or until you realized you forgot about it.

Just one thing: you should do 90 minutes of deep work if you can, but at the same time you shouldn't sit for more than an hour at a time. Ideally not stand still either, so a standing desk it not really a solution (albeit better, as is sitting on a Pilates ball instead of in a chair).

Try walking around for a few minutes once an hour, perhaps get down in a squat a couple of times as well, but save your real mobility work for later, lest you might disrupt your flow and focus during the deep work session.

About that sitting... You should do that as little as possible, period. Schedule walking meetings instead of sitting (you'll find you're more creative too, when walking and talking - since analyzing motion is how our thinking started) 

 

Grateful notes

Once you're done, a nice tip is to read or think about something you're proud of, or that makes you happy and feel grateful for.

Make it a habit to collect such happiness items in your commonplace book (scrap book for your particular wisdom - start one if you don't have one yet) and write them down somewhere you can easily see them every day. 

 

Temptation bundling

Minimize watching TV (news, series, game shows etc.), especially if it entails sitting in a chair or sofa. At least bundle your TV sins with mobility work for a few minutes a week: hit the corners of the hips, shoulders and back, and add a little something for the hamstrings and glutes too.

The scientific notion is "temptation bundling" for when you couple a sinful act simultaneously with something healthy. Sooner or later, a Pavlov-like conditioning might manifest itself and make you look forward to the mobility work, since it means you get to watch Game Of Thrones :D

Say no to that meeting, lunch, after work or whatever it is that you don't really feel like doing. Practice saying no, and get the benefit of keeping your schedule open. That's how I could travel to Tokyo today at just a few days'notice.


Carola - Tokyo


Pay attention!

Every now and then, be mindful: take a deep breath, look intensely at something old or with curiosity at something new, or try seeing new things in something mundane, like a crack in the wall in the bathroom.

Be mindful of the sense of your choice; touch something, smell something, taste something, pick apart the components of a sound or a song. Do it while out walking with a friend, instead of sitting (the new smoking, which I hope you've heard and understood by now).

Sometimes, all you have to do is raise your gaze a little, and look at other things than you usually do. Take a really deep breath, hold it a few seconds and let it out slowly, to the point where you have no air left at all and pause your breath for a few seconds before inhaling normally again.

Try power posing or posture practising while walking. Imagine you're Batman, Superman, or Don Corleone... owning everything around you. Oh, yes, it's very good for you.

Break out of your rut, your homeostasis: Try to be scared or laugh or learn something new as often as possible - everyday should be the ambition, but, hey, you don't have to hit that target right away. Just start somewhere and laugh one more time, or scream of fear, or feel the brain tickle of an Eureka moment, than you usually would have. Set aside a few per cent of your total available time in a week for experimenting, doing new things and old things differently. Like Google used to.

 

Hiit it

Exert yourself a few times a week (every day if you can, but once is more than zero; start there): do HIIT (intense intervals for a few minutes or more), lift weights (or yourself), take hot saunas (good for just about everything you can imagine)

When the day draws to a close, turn off your screens, or at least red shift them with Flux or similar apps. Make a To Do list of the things you didn't finish, to get them off your mind. You can get to them tomorrow after you're done with your Prio One.

Then enter your quiet, cold and dark bedroom. Get your dry and fluffy pillows from wherever you keep the pair from the night before last night and read and/or meditate yourself to sleep (just breathe, e.g., or think about your body parts, one by one).

Aim for waking up without using an alarm (but set an emergency alarm if you just can't afford to miss a certain appointment early in the day)

 

Summary

In one word (eh...), it's about being focused and mindful - doing one thing at a time; the most important one first, done with the most intensity and focus.

Adding a little more nuance, take care of your body and mind, don't sell out to the man. Avoid trading time for money, if you can.

Touch life, smell it, taste it. Experience life, savor it, be curious and mindful, surprised, like a child. Don't rush through it, toward some futile end goal. Life is the senses being stimulated by the world. Focus on the sensations they provide, rather than on trying to best your neighbors and friends. What kind of a friend does that by the way?

Be uncomfortable.


If that wasn't enough, you really should read this post about three of my core tips from my coming book: Always be prototyping. Or this quite recent one about my actual habits, rather than the optimal schedule.

Please remember to share this article with your social networks. Well, if you liked it and want me to write more.

Taggar (blogg): 
5 maj 2016

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, you're 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.

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