"Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life." - Burton Hills
We often mistake the concepts of peace and happiness just as we do with the concept that money brings or can bring happiness.
Let's start with the concept of happiness. Happiness is not something that is felt all the time; it's a state of mind, just as is unhappiness. Those that are perpetually happy are usually on some strong medicine, legal or illegal. If we were perpetually happy we would achieve nothing and would look like Zombies with smiles. We need the other stages in our lives, frustration, anger, failure, despair, pain, etc. These stages usually bring about change. Think about the many times you failed when you started on a certain project and then look back and remember the happiness/joy you experienced once you finally completed it. Happiness/Joy is the reward one experiences once they have been able to descend into these states and overcome them. Remember our Grandparents they seemed to know this well. They would say something to the effect, everything is good for you but in moderation; that goes for happiness to.
The quest for wealth is just like happiness the more you chase it the less likely you are to find it. Perhaps if you stop chasing it so hard and stand still it might actually have chance of catching up to you.
What we are truly seeking without really knowing it is peace. Once you are at peace, you can take all the nonsense life periodically dishes out at you and look and deal with it in a calm manner. Lets say out of the blue in the same week, you car breaks down, your dishwasher packs up, your cheque bounces, your kids get sick and your best friend suddenly has a terrible fight with you. A person who is not at peace would break down and say "oh my God" my life is a disaster, this cannot be happening to me. They would think their luck had suddenly changed, that some force in the universe was out to get them and the list of nonsense goes on.
An individual at peace might look at things in this manner.
Well my car gave me no problems for over 3 years so something was bound to happen it was just a matter of time. The dishwasher was old anyway so now I finally have to go and buy a new one; so no more procrastinating. The kids getting sick, oh yes there was nasty virus going around and so it's pretty normal that they would catch it to. Your best friend fighting with you could simply be that he/she was so stressed out that they exploded at you for the dumbest reason. If you take the time to ask them what's bothering them or politely ask them if you did something to provoke them, the results might stun you. Nothing in this world brings about faster results then when someone who is wronged goes to the person who wronged them and asks if they did something to provoke them. Remember paradox theory you usually get the opposite of what you are desperately seeking or chasing. Those desperately chasing happiness are rewarded with anxiety and stress, those chasing money are usually end up with empty pockets, those seeking to be praised are usually cursed and the list goes on. You could simply call up your friend Joe and say "Hey Joe I just wanted to know if I did something to upset you, if I did I am very sorry as I value our friendship tremendously". Just sit back and watch how Joe will do everything in his power to take responsibility and then go out of his way to be extra nice to you. Kind words and being thoughtful are extremely rare these days and if you display these traits, your reward is usually great. This alone could be enough to make you feel great and forget about your other problems because you were able to bring some light into your friend's life. Sometimes problems are nothing but opportunities in disguise that helps us improve ourselves.
The cheque bouncing, a close examination might reveal that one of the following things may have occurred. Maybe you did not balance your account properly and a person at peace would accept this as their fault and let it go at that. Secondly it could be that you deposited your pay cheque in late or that your brother who you lent money to, paid you with a cheque that bounced. In this case problem solved you would simply speak to him nicely and tell him he was responsible for the late fees. There could be several other reasons, but a close examination will always reveal that either you had a big role to play in it or to a lesser extent an outside factor was responsible. Either way if you played a role in it, being that you are person at peace with yourself you would take the blame for your actions. If it was an outside factor, adjustments could be made where all late fees, etc were taken care of. At the very worst you find you are not to blame and no form of compensation was a forthcoming i.e. late fee etc. You could simply sit down and come to the following conclusion. My life has been so peaceful up to now and this little trouble that I have run into just serves to remind me how lucky I am to be at peace with myself.
A person, who is at peace, does not assign blame to others for the misdeeds or wrong doings in their lives. As I have stated before a close examination of the situation will reveal that many of things that took place were due to some error on your part. The ones that seemed to have taken place due to external circumstances could be viewed as reminder that if you acted like a normal stressed out person how much you really stood to lose. Being at peace with oneself is priceless; nothing in this world is worth giving it up for.
Let's tie everything up now. So far we have dealt with the concepts of happiness and peace but have not tied them up to investing. We have one more step and then we will be ready to tie it all up. You cannot be happy or at peace if you are stressed out. So one has to remove stress from ones life, learn to relax and not let stupid things get in your way. So far we have dealt with the following:
Remove stress from ones life or learn to deal with stress in a positive way, then you can attempt to experience the state of happiness (but you don't want to be locked in this state). Once you have tasted happiness and continue to keep your stress levels down you can finally work on being at peace with yourself.
Now let's bring in the investment concept.
We try to make more money so that we can supposedly buy the things in life that we now don't have so that we can then supposedly taste what happiness is. We assume that we are not happy because for the most we don't lead the lives of the rich and famous. So we look for faster ways to make money, one of them is the stock market. We here a few successful stories or believe all the garbage stories of falsely advertised success under slogans such as "if you had invested X amount of dollars you could have made so many thousand percentage points of profit". Then like eager beavers we jump into the markets thinking we have found the holy grail and that we will be millionaires really soon, only to find out that we are lot poorer than we started. Burnt and humiliated we try to recoup all the money we lost by jumping from one service to another. We never stop along the way and to try to educate ourselves a bit or look possibly to a service that can help educate us. Instead we keep looking for those services that promise the sky but deliver only the earth (earth as in dust, mud, etc). Eventually we become disheartened with the whole investing experience and decide to take some time out. Not once during this timeout period do we spend time trying educating ourselves on the concepts of investing; we just block the financial sector out for a while and try to go back to our old lives. Suddenly we notice things start to improve and that people all around us are making money in the markets (This is really more of a perception than reality, but a weak mind sees only wants it wants to see). Now angry with ourselves for being so dumb and stupid we jump in with both feet from the frying pan into the fire get burned alive like pigs on stake; we came to the party just when we should have been leaving.
We keep going through these stages again and again and the stress levels keep mounting and mounting. Now how could you possibly every hope to be happy or at peace if you stress levels have gone up several hundred percentage points over the course of your investment life. It's amazing how much stress investing produces and how so very few services try to deal with this concept. The only way to deal with stress is to cut the very things that produce them. In the investment arena there are several such forces that produce them, real time quotes, real time news, spending time on those crazy stock bulletin boards and taking everything you read there seriously (if just go there to gauge sentiment then its fine). Trying to do what others do, the herd mentality and finally trying to squeeze the maximum gains out of all your investments (risking dollars for cents) usually produces nothing but pain and loss. Never underestimate the powers of a desperate man, and always overestimate the powers of a desperate nation.
Examples of how one can use these concepts in real life investing
- GOLD: all you had to do was buy when the long term down trend ended, back in 2000 period and hold till the long term up trend broke. If you missed getting in early, every time the long term up trend was tested you could have opened up new positions and just sat back and relaxed.
- Same principle could have been applied to the Dow; early 2003 the long term down trend line was broken to the upside and a new up trend established.
- OIL: same principle.
In a follow up article, which will be published within the next two weeks, we will graphically illustrate the above examples and more in action.
"An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather." - Washington Irving 1783-1859, American Author
Happiness, Peace and Investing: A few morsels from the desert in the early hours of the morning
Janice Dorn M.D., Ph.D.
Wow, Sol! You have opened up a Pandora's box of riches for those who take the time to look within. And looking within is really what this is all about, as you will see as you read on!
Happiness is one of the highest purposes of life. Most people want to be happy. They seek out self-help books, personal power gurus, diets, money making schemes, power, influence, fame and a multitude of external influences in an attempt to find the secret of happiness.
Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote voluminously on the search for happiness. He believed that happiness was an end unto itself and that all other activates were in the service of attaining happiness. He could not define or quantitate happiness.
Two thousand years later, TIME magazine devoted it's January 17, 2005 issue to The Science Of Happiness. We have made some progress in this time, but it is primitive at best. Everyone wants to be happy, but we really have almost no clue about the neuropsychiatry, neuroanatomy or neurophysiology of happiness. We cannot define or quantitate happiness...yet.
So, as we search for personal happiness, scientists will continue to try to map the brain, to study Buddhist monks in meditation and to research the neurochemistry of pleasure. Stay tuned....in another two thousand years we are going to have a few more answers.
What can we do about this? Nothing and everything. Like so many other feelings, happiness is not all that difficult to attain. Let's say it's simple, but not very easy, I don't have the answers, but a few morsels for you to nibble on:
(1) Everything (thought, feeling, action, perception) exists only because of the existence of its opposite. Without diametric contrast, we have no identity. Darkness exists because of light, sadness because of happiness. The darker the night, the more brilliant the light.
What do we do? Savor the opposites. If you are sad, unhappy, depressed, despondent, then allow yourself to be in that state. Be present with it, let it wash over you, come to be at peace with it. Why? Because it will pass, and when it does, the opposite will be a sweet and wonderful respite of contrast. Those who have known the deepest and most tragic sorrow are those who walk truly in gratitude for the relief of happiness which follows.
(2) The only way to achieve peace is to be in total integrity with yourself AND to accept that integrity. If you persist on lying to yourself about who you are, what you are, what you feel and think and believe, you will lie to others. This perpetuates a self-propagating meme of deception and sets up a vicious cycle of shame/fear/ anxiety/ depression/shame.
Stop it now! Take off your mask, and tell yourself the truth about who you really are. You will find strength of character that you never knew existed. Don't be afraid to tell others the truth of yourself. If they accept you, you have kindred souls. If they do not, then move on and move away. Next!
Bask in the realization that you are a flawed and neurotic human being. You make mistakes, and each time you learn and try harder to be and do better. With each new effort, you gain self esteem and happiness. Baby steps.
(3) Take personal responsibility and eschew blame. It is your fault. Period. You cannot control the thoughts, feelings or actions of others, so why put forth that energy. You are totally powerful over yourself, and, if you exercise that power, you are going to find a freedom and happiness that you never knew before.
(4) Practice and practice and practice random acts of kindness. Kindness is the greatest gift we give to each other. It is so much easier to forgive and be at peace with yourself than to hold on to anger and cruel seething resentment.
(5) Avoid the huddled masses yearning to breathe free for they will surely suffocate you. Avoid the behavior of crowds. Read "The Crowd" by Le Bon and "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Confusión de Confusiones" by Fridson and De La Vega
Commit to memory this Native American story about the chicken eagle. Consider having it etched permanently on your brain:
Do you sometimes get the feeling that you could be more than what you are right now? That somehow, you know you were made for bigger and better things? Well, chances are, you're probably right... and don't you let anyone convince you otherwise.
A man once found an eagle's egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eagle hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life, the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken.
He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked. "That's the eagle, the king of the birds," said his neighbor. "He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth -- we're chickens."
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was. What a terrible waste... to have lived a life not doing the things you were always capable of doing, and not soaring to the heights that you were able to reach. And all because the people around you were constantly putting you down, and feeding you with negative, uninspiring comments. So rise above these comments! Life is what you make it, so don't be afraid to spread your wings and fly.