This post is as much for you as for me. In fact, I probably need it a little more than you do these days.
The original goal of this blog was to explore the connection between money and the mind. It’s been awhile since I’ve taken a good stab at that. Time to try again.
How much money have you wasted trying to go back? Back to a physical place. Back to a feeling. Back to a state of mind?
A lot, I know.
As a human, you try to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. Doing so floods your dopamine receptors and scratches an ever-present itch in the back of your mind. It’s natural. These minor adjustments occur all day every day until you find the bowl of porridge that’s just right. But is this what you really want? Or are you not paying close enough attention?
There is another way. Noticing that most experiences are neither good nor bad can have a profound impact. Most often, after a bit of scrutiny, you can find it is entirely your reaction to an experience that colors it as good or bad, not the experience itself.
You liked trading stocks in 2021. Everything went up and to the right. The more you traded, the more you made. Now it’s the exact opposite. But all those habits are still there. That dopamine wore tracks in your mind that you can’t ignore. Checking stock tickers throughout the day. Waiting for Bitcoin to moon again. The more you trade, the more you lose.
The temperature in your home on a hot summer day rises each hour. Soon it becomes uncomfortable and you want it to go back to how it felt in the morning. You lower the thermostat and feel instant relief as the AC unit outside begins humming. Inconsequential today, but insidiously, your electric bill will reflect this decision in 30 days. As will the planet in 30 years.
When you were young, you would stay up late every night playing World of Warcraft with your friends. The novelty of exploring a living world and killing dragons with 24 guildmates was hard to beat. But sooner or later the guild disbanded and your friends would log in less and less frequently as real life responsibilities took over. You would spend the next decade buying game after game trying to replicate the magic of those golden years, not realizing that your rose-colored glasses won’t allow you to see the amount of free time you had as a student might also have been playing a role in that perfect era.
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You love your car. It’s five years old and completely paid off. It has no dents, no mechanical issues, and heated seats. Sooner or later, you know what will happen. It will begin to rust. It will get a big scratch. You’ll find yourself glancing in the direction of the dealership more and more as you pass it on the way to work. (Although these days it’s likely to be an empty lot with a Ford sign out front.) You stop in one day and test drive a new car. It will be more fuel efficient, have more safety features and it will smell new, too. And that’s the minute you’ll forget this post.
You and your spouse have been married for six years. The magic seems all but gone. You begin to find yourself day dreaming about a new partner. One who conveniently has none of the faults you find in your current partner and who even more conveniently doesn’t care one bit about all your faults either. You file for divorce, paying attorney fees, realtor fees from selling the house, and racking up drink tabs as you start frequenting the bar with your one divorced friend. Sooner or later, serial monogamy catches up with you and you’re getting married for the second time… third time…
There is no going back but you can spend a lot of time and money trying.
Almost everything in existence is impermanent. Fighting against this reality is a recipe for disaster. Accepting things as they are is a far more sustainable way to live.
Accepting that some market environments just aren’t fun to trade in.
Accepting a house above or below the ideal temperature.
Accepting the faults of your spouse as much as your own.
Accepting entropy in all its glory.
All things are deteriorating. Your new car. Your new couch. Your new wife. You.
There is no going back to a previous version of yourself or a previous version of the world.
But you don’t need something new. You need to recalibrate your expectations. Expectations rise and rarely ever reverse. If you don’t temper them, they have a tendency to rise faster than your paycheck, too.
Trying to control the uncontrollable forces of change and time is like trying to hold onto a dream after you’ve just woken up. You might succeed for a moment, but in the end it’s futile. There’s no reason to be the master of your universe. You can probably be happier as a pedestrian.
This mentality is totally compatible with living your values to the fullest. There is nothing about accepting things as they are that also requires you to reject the material world.
You can still use your thermostat, play video games and buy new cars. Just try to do it mindfully. Try to make sure it’s necessary and not just a luxury making you softer and softer by the day like the butter on the counter in your kitchen.
Accept the lost days and dollars and move forward making the most of now without trying to control it all.
Because, paradoxically, in restraint you will find freedom. Financially and mentally. Be simple and easy about things and your life will be simple and easy.
You don’t know if he was the first to say this, but you recently heard Joseph Goldstein sum it up perfectly:
In seeing impermanence, when it doesn’t cling, the mind becomes disenchanted. Then dispassionate. Then lets go. That’s where freedom is.
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I could have used the Warren Buffet reminder about the first rule: don’t lose money. Needless to say, I have some regrets from the speculative mania haha. Expensive lessons, part of the deal. By only trading on the fringes of my portfolio, it’s no real harm, even though there’s real money involved (and losing money is always painful). Onward and upward!
That’s a good mentality to have about it. And by taking expensive hits, I imagine most of us will continue to invest the bulk of our portfolio sin line with our values and original goals, having now seen the wreckage of speculation. I know I will 😛