Why Stoicism Is the Best Mental Operating System for Individuals in High Finance

IntroductionThe fabric and culture of today’s modern age and even more so in western society has provided a perfect environment for the re-emergence of an ancient Greek Philosophy, the philosophy of stoicism. Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It was heavily influenced by certain teachings of Socrates. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, born nearly two millennia ago is perhaps the best-known Stoic leader in history and also holds claims to one of the most famous and unintentional works of stoic literature, ‘the meditations’, his personal journal. In this article I will discuss different stoic exercises and explain how these can be applied to the minds and actions of successful actors within financial markets and institutions.Your new mental operating systemTrain Your Perception to Avoid Good and BadOnce you understand that there is no such thing as obstacles, only opportunities then you have truly mastered your perception.
During the 2007 financial crisis people truly thought a financial apocalypse was inbound however if you have ever seen the hit movie ‘The Big Short’ then you get a perfect example of people who saw disaster coming but instead turned this into an opportunity; by betting against the housing market.
As the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius puts it – “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way”. Ensure you see obstacles as opportunities and understand good and bad are only part of perception; something that is ultimately under your control.Everything is EphemeralRemember your possessions and achievements are only lasting for a markedly brief time in the grand scheme of things. In the grand scheme of things, you are small, everything is. See yourself as part of the bigger system and do what is right here and now.
For professionals working within high finance it is easy to become consumed by the ego and focus on only enriching ones-self, thereby creating a moral hazard. However, if you see yourself as just a cog in an aggregate financial system which is in turn a part of a macroeconomy; then you see the role you play is ultimately, small. In order to benefit the system as a whole you must work with it not against it.Take a Birdseye ViewThis takes a powerful imagination but by doing this exercise you are able to train your mind’s eye to see your life in third person, you can then reflect on your actions and behaviour and also that of others. You can reflect on how others may have felt and what they did after interacting with you.
You also see yourself from a higher perspective which relates to the point I made about how small we are.
And finally, you can compare yourself to someone in a far worse situation, the reason for this is that there is always someone in a worse situation than you. Compare yourself to these people in times of discomfort and struggle and you may find some comfort in the fact that in a relative sense, things aren’t so bad for you.
If you work or reside within a skyscraper or high-rise building, take a real view from above. Combined with this exercise it should help to greatly expand your awareness. Conversely, if not you could always use Google earth live but hopefully in the future we will have services like virgin galactic at an affordable price, so people can get the truly pure experience that astronauts get.
For individuals working at Bloomberg or stock exchanges this exercise could be used for example, if a tsunami hits the coast of a certain region. Use the view from above to assess who and what is affected and follow the trail right back to the stock market and make decisions accordingly.”Is This Within My Control”Learn to differentiate between what’s directly under your control, what you have influence over and what is not under your control. Differentiate what you can change and what you can’t.
Do not waste time trying (and failing) to move immovable objects. Use your precious time productively on things that you do have control over.
Return to this question frequently or when a dilemma emerges, make a note of things that are in your control and things that are not. This way not only will you feel better, but you position yourself with a distinct advantage over people who fail to realise when a battle is unwinnable.
For example, if your employees are snowed in and cannot make it into work, do not be mad as you have no control over the weather.
You also have no control over huge market trends. A very good example of a huge failure to realise what was and what wasn’t under one’s control was the bank of England, who failed to realise they couldn’t beat the market on black Wednesday (Sept.16, 1992); when the pound was pegged to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Speculators broke the bank and they were forced to pull from the ERM.Contemplation of The Ideal Man (Or Woman)Humans were not born to be lazy. Ancient man was out hunting lions, fighting battles, saving women from barbarian tribes, the list goes on. But many modern men have been sucked into mediocrity by abundance, reduced to claiming benefits, binging video games and eating too much pizza.
No one can lead a fulfilling life living like this. Man must achieve his full potential. A man with a fulfilling life does the modern equivalent of ancient man. Focus on continuously improving and learning. Fight for success and dominate. Go out and get what you want.
Contemplating the archetypal ideal man is a catalyst for change towards becoming an ideal human being. This may be a never-ending quest however you should still think of the qualities that make up the ideal person and apply these to your life.
Good archetypal figures within finance to contemplate are figureheads like Warren Buffet and JP Morgan. You can also find good examples of archetypes by analysing movies like the Wolf of Wall Street or TV series such as Billions.Self-RetreatIn today’s ever connected world; wealthy and successful people have complete abundance of options of where their next holiday retreat will be. However, what most people fail to realise is that there is also infinite abundance within the mind’s eye, and self-reflection is a brilliant tool to understanding, and exploring your inner world, which is ultimately you on the deepest level. Peace of mind and freedom comes from within, regularly travel inside your mind for 5 to 10 minutes a day.The Stripping Method.Scenarios and situations have many different layers. Picture them like an onion where each layer represents a characteristic of the situation but not the core issue itself. Practice stripping away the unimportant layers to find the core issue.
This can be applied to economic analysis for example, the price of a share may rise or fall due to a company reporting higher or lower profit than predicted. This may be because they reduced their advertising spending or because they lowered the quality of their production materials, or outsourced labour. But ultimately the reason for a change in the price of a share regardless of any other speculation is supply and demand factors within the market for shares.Practice MisfortuneIt is easy to get comfortable in today’s world, but comfort can keep you in bondage if you are afraid that something or someone might take it away. Practice what you fear and make yourself familiar with the worst-case scenario. This will help you become grateful and prevent a relentless pursuit of material things, including money.JournalJournaling is possibly the most important part of stoicism and morning and evening meditation is an essential part of it. Benjamin Franklin set a great example of this and is daily schedule is available online, this would include setting goals in the morning and then reflection in the evening. In the evening write down what you did good, what you did bad, and what you could do to improve.
Managers can take a lot from this but in a financial context, day traders can also take a lot from this. For example, for someone who trades the news, they can note down all the reports that day that will move the markets, and at the end of that day note down what they did good and bad, and what they need to do differently next time.
Philosophy is something that should be written down day by day and how you exercise yourself and mind. Writing down everything you’ve done in a day allows for self-examination and is a form of mindfulness and reflection.Negative VisualizationThis stoic exercise prepares you for the setbacks in life. By visualising what could go wrong and what could be taken from us, we are better prepared for when negative events happen.
Todays finance industry is in the business of risk. So this exercise can be applied greatly in evaluating or making risk models, by understanding what can go wrong and helping to prevent a failure of imagination. Doing this exercise can also help you to realise what may need insuring, hedging or backing up (in the case of data).Amor Fati: Love Everything That HappensAmor Fati, Latin for Love fate is possibly the best mindset you can have in life. Throughout the centuries great leaders have followed this motto, which I believe to be a factor in their life’s successes. It is the best mindset for any situation you face.
Treat each moment, no matter how challenging, as something to be embraced and not avoided. To not only be OK with it, but love it and be better for it. Then you will have truly achieved greatness for yourself.
Financial setbacks will happen, but you must be better for it, and learn from it.Cultivating PhilanthropyPhilanthropy is defined as the desire to promote the welfare of others.
People in high finance may often be under the illusion that in order to become a philanthropist, you need money. But in fact, this is not true. Anyone can become a philanthropist. It just requires the right attitude towards other people.
The best exercise to practice is an exercise whereby you bring everyone a sphere closer to yourself. For example, your family becomes a part of yourself, your friends to family, and strangers to friends.
To apply this to individuals in finance, if you consider the financial system as a whole as a part of yourself, then you are working in the best interests of the system and therefore all the stakeholders effected by it. Using this ethical understanding you are culminating a sense of philanthropy.Training Your Physical Self-ControlThis is basically level 2 of negative visualisation. By practicing purposefully enduring physical hardship and going without things you crave/enjoy; you are preparing yourself for when you must actually endure a struggle. Whether it be losing something or enduring physical hardship. This also trains us to desire things not under our control.
For example, for people working in finance, try to treat everything as a loan. Instead of saying ‘I have lost it’ say ‘I have given it back’. Learn not to grasp too tightly to ephemeral things.
Start small by practicing going for a run in the rain and slowly build it up. Also try reading a poker psychology book. If you smoke, you could take it an extra step and try quitting.ConclusionIndividuals whether they be hedge fund managers, investment bankers or traders on the London stock exchange will all benefit from the use of stoic exercises, regardless of if they do decide, or decide not to educate themselves on the general philosophy of stoicism in the future.
The reason for this is because stoicism has emerged as an ideal way of life and mind for the real, modern world. Ultimately what Stoicism is, is a series of reminders, tips and aids for living a prosperously.
Be a better, happier person. Be stronger in the face of adversity. Turns obstacles into opportunities. Keep your ego manageable and in perspective. And finally take whatever help you can get but understand it must also come from within.Stoic on financiers.References:Wikipedia, last edited on 22 July 2018. Stoicism [Online] < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
The daily stoic, 2018. What Is Stoicism? A Definition & 9 Stoic Exercises To Get You Started [Online] < https://dailystoic.com/what-is-stoicism-a-definition-3-stoic-exercises-to-get-you-started/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
By Emanuele Faja, 22 February 2016. 10 Insanely Useful Stoic Exercises [Online] < http://observer.com/2016/02/ten-insanely-useful-stoic-exercises/ > [Accessed 22 July 2018]
Marcus Aurelius. Unknown, likely before 850BC, The Meditations. London: Penguin Classics
Epictetus, 1537, The Discourses of Epictetus. London: Penguin Classics

Why You Should Think About Starting an Online Business

The internet has created many entrepreneurs across the globe.Some people not having any experience, tech savvy, or any money have created online businesses that prosper.There are lots of benefits of starting your own online business.If you’re someone who’s on the fence about starting your own business I think you should take some time to reflect on how it could change your life and the benefits are starting one.My reason for starting an online business was not wanting to have to work for someone else.I wanted to have freedom, flexibility with my time, and an opportunity to make money 24 hours a day.If you’re someone who doesn’t like having to punch the clock this post is for you.Today I wanted to discuss why you should start your own online business and the benefits it can offer.Starting Your Online BusinessStarting an online business isn’t as difficult as one might think.You can get your business started with less than about $100.You’ll need web hosting, a domain name, and an autoresponder.Now just because you have these three things does not mean you’ll be well on your way to quitting your job, but it does mean that you have taken the necessary steps to creating an online business that can potentially allow you to quit your job somewhere down the line.If you never get started then you’ll never have the opportunity to get yourself from where you are to where you want to go.Benefits of an Online Business1) Low CostsAs noted earlier to get started with your own online business, the costs are low compared to other ventures.There are some business opportunities on the web that don’t even require you to have a website.So people make a living online just building an email list and marketing various affiliate products or even their own.It’s not like an offline business where you have rent, employees, inventory, and have to drive to every day.With an online business you have the opportunity to work in the bed, the living room, your favorite coffee shop, etc.Anywhere!You can run your business from the power of your laptop and be profitable doing it with the right plan and work ethic.2) You Control Your IncomeOne of the biggest reasons I wanted to start an online business was to be able to control my income.With most jobs there is a cap on what you can make.If it’s salary, you work at the mercy of your boss only to see the same pay every pay period.It it’s by the hour, you only have a limited amount of hours you can work in a day.With an online business it can work for you 24 hours a day 365 days a year.Who wouldn’t want that?What you earn is solely based on YOU and your EFFORTS of creating the kind of business you want for yourself.3. People Spend Money on the InternetIt’s been reported that consumers will spend about $327 Billion online in 2016.That’s a huge amount of money and if you can tap into a small percentage of that you can make a decent living for yourself.It’s all about finding your place on the web and carving out your own little niche.Internet spending is estimated to account for 40% of all retail sales by 2020 and 84% of the world’s internet users now shop online.People enjoy spending money from the comfort of their own home.These are just a few of many benefits when it comes to a business online.If you are looking to start your own online business do your research and figure out your niche.There is money to be made on the internet, but it’s going to take some work.If you are looking for a new way to make a living, freedom, more time to spend with family, or to quit your job then starting your own business could be the way to go.It’s created new lives for countless others and you could be the next.See you at the top.Best Wishes!

What Are The Greatest Changes In Shopping In Your Lifetime

What are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime? So asked my 9 year old grandson.

As I thought of the question the local Green Grocer came to mind. Because that is what the greatest change in shopping in my lifetime is.

That was the first place to start with the question of what are the greatest changes in shopping in your lifetime.

Our local green grocer was the most important change in shopping in my lifetime. Beside him was our butcher, a hairdresser and a chemist.

Looking back, we were well catered for as we had quite a few in our suburb. And yes, the greatest changes in shopping in my lifetime were with the small family owned businesses.

Entertainment While Shopping Has Changed
Buying butter was an entertainment in itself.
My sister and I often had to go to a favourite family grocer close by. We were always polite as we asked for a pound or two of butter and other small items.

Out came a big block of wet butter wrapped in grease-proof paper. Brought from the back of the shop, placed on a huge counter top and included two grooved pates.

That was a big change in our shopping in my lifetime… you don’t come across butter bashing nowadays.

Our old friendly Mr. Mahon with the moustache, would cut a square of butter. Lift it to another piece of greaseproof paper with his pates. On it went to the weighing scales, a bit sliced off or added here and there.

Our old grocer would then bash it with gusto, turning it over and over. Upside down and sideways it went, so that it had grooves from the pates, splashes going everywhere, including our faces.

My sister and I thought this was great fun and it always cracked us up. We loved it, as we loved Mahon’s, on the corner, our very favourite grocery shop.

Grocery Shopping
Further afield, we often had to go to another of my mother’s favourite, not so local, green grocer’s. Mr. McKessie, ( spelt phonetically) would take our list, gather the groceries and put them all in a big cardboard box.

And because we were good customers he always delivered them to our house free of charge. But he wasn’t nearly as much fun as old Mr. Mahon. Even so, he was a nice man.

All Things Fresh
So there were very many common services such as home deliveries like:

• Farm eggs

• Fresh vegetables

• Cow’s milk

• Freshly baked bread

• Coal for our open fires

Delivery Services
A man used to come to our house a couple of times a week with farm fresh eggs.

Another used to come every day with fresh vegetables, although my father loved growing his own.

Our milk, topped with beautiful cream, was delivered to our doorstep every single morning.

Unbelievably, come think of it now, our bread came to us in a huge van driven by our “bread-man” named Jerry who became a family friend.

My parents always invited Jerry and his wife to their parties, and there were many during the summer months. Kids and adults all thoroughly enjoyed these times. Alcohol was never included, my parents were teetotallers. Lemonade was a treat, with home made sandwiches and cakes.

The coal-man was another who delivered bags of coal for our open fires. I can still see his sooty face under his tweed cap but I can’t remember his name. We knew them all by name but most of them escape me now.

Mr. Higgins, a service man from the Hoover Company always came to our house to replace our old vacuum cleaner with an updated model.

Our insurance company even sent a man to collect the weekly premium.

People then only paid for their shopping with cash. This in itself has been a huge change in shopping in my lifetime.

In some department stores there was a system whereby the money from the cash registers was transported in a small cylinder on a moving wire track to the central office.

Some Of The Bigger Changes
Some of the bigger changes in shopping were the opening of supermarkets.

• Supermarkets replaced many individual smaller grocery shops. Cash and bank cheques have given way to credit and key cards.

• Internet shopping… the latest trend, but in many minds, doing more harm, to book shops.

• Not many written shopping lists, because mobile phones have taken over.

On a more optimistic note, I hear that book shops are popular again after a decline.

Personal Service Has Most Definitely Changed
So, no one really has to leave home, to purchase almost anything, technology makes it so easy to do online.
And we have a much bigger range of products now, to choose from, and credit cards have given us the greatest ease of payment.

We have longer shopping hours, and weekend shopping. But we have lost the personal service that we oldies had taken for granted and also appreciated.

Because of their frenetic lifestyles, I have heard people say they find shopping very stressful, that is grocery shopping. I’m sure it is when you have to dash home and cook dinner after a days work. I often think there has to be a better, less stressful way.

My mother had the best of both worlds, in the services she had at her disposal. With a full time job looking after 9 people, 7 children plus her and my dad, she was very lucky. Lucky too that she did not have 2 jobs.