Here is some stuff I am reading and thinking about this weekend…
Book I’m Reading – The Daily Stoic
For anyone that is not familiar, Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that focuses on living life with virtue, tolerance and self-control. It also deals with one of our biggest worries: our own mortality. It sets out to remind us of how unpredictable the world can be. How brief our moment of life is. How to be steadfast, and strong, and in control of yourself. And finally, that the source of our dissatisfaction lies in our impulsive dependency on our reflexive senses rather than logic.
The Daily Stoic is one of my favourite books about Stoicism and includes 366 meditations for each day of the year on wisdom, perseverance and as the author Ryan Holiday calls it, ‘The Art of Living’. The best part about the book is that, instead of long winding chapters, it provides a less-than-2-minute read for each day of the year that helps you to reassess your perspectives, see your thoughts and actions in new light and find new ideas about living a better, almost worriless, life.
Consider this passage from 9th September that goes well with the predominant emotion most of us are feeling today –
NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF
“But there is no reason to live and no limit to our miseries if we let our fears predominate.” — Seneca, Moral Letters, 13.12b
In the early days of what would become known as the Great Depression, a new president named Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in and gave his first inaugural address. As the last president to hold office before the Twentieth Amendment was ratified, FDR wasn’t able to take office until March — meaning that the country had been without strong leadership for months. Panic was in the air, banks were failing, and people were scared.
You’ve probably heard the “nothing to fear but fear itself” sound bite that FDR gave in that famous speech, but the full line is worth reading because it applies to many difficult things we face in life:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
The Stoics knew that fear was to be feared because of the miseries it creates. The things we fear pale in comparison to the damage we do to ourselves and others when we unthinkingly scramble to avoid them. An economic depression is bad; a panic is worse. A tough situation isn’t helped by terror—it only makes things harder. And that’s why we must resist it and reject it if we wish to turn this situation around.
Reading just one passage from The Daily Stoic is part of my routine for a day lived well. It makes me aware of any struggles that I might face in the day ahead and reminds me that I don’t need to react to any of them emotionally, but objectively. What will be, will be. And that is perfectly fine.
Illustration – Becoming An Investing Buddha
When it comes to investing, making money in stocks when everyone is making money in stocks isn’t a big deal. Rather, it’s the ability to handle good and bad times with equanimity, combined with courage and decisiveness, that really matters in the long run. Of course, most of us simply aren’t wired to be equanimous at most of the times, and it’s terribly difficult to rid ourselves of the emotions of ecstasy (when things are looking up) and misery (when things are looking down). And that’s why ensuring that we avoid all of those ways that can cause us wealth destruction – trading, timing, high fee, inadequate diversification, and leverage – is paramount. Everything, including our triumphs and disasters, anyways shall pass. But the equanimity with which we allow them to pass will keep us sane always.
Anyways, considering the carnage that has happened in the markets over the past few weeks, and in your mind as you look painfully at your wealth destruction, I made this illustration that contains the iron rules of becoming an investing Buddha, or the one who invests in such a manner that allows him to be at peace even amidst the turmoil all around.
This illustration was inspired by this slide from Prof. Sanjay Bakshi that he shared at a conference recently, plus my thoughts on the subject of bringing in sanity to your investment process and yourself amidst the turmoil all around –
As Lord Krishna taught Arjuna, as we wade through the ocean of life, it throws up all kinds of waves that are beyond our control. If we keep struggling to eliminate negative situations, we will be unable to avoid unhappiness. But if we live a life of sanity and learn to accept everything that comes our way, with equanimity and without sacrificing our best efforts, that will be true Nirvāṇa.
Thought I’m Meditating On
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
~ Haruki Murakami
A Question for You
Is there something in your life that you really want to do, or a certain passion or dream you have, but aren’t doing because you’re scared? What is it and what are you scared of? What are you doing to overcome this scare?
Stay safe, stay sane, and be grateful for this life,
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