26 March 2006

Peaceful Vibe

...Many times, I don’t feel like I have the inner-peace to be calm, and I felt like getting sucked into the vortex of the materialistic world..., while knowing that I should not have attachment to things and outcomes. It (feels) great when I achieve the inner-peace not (affected) by noise around me, but there are times, I (feel) like I was having 1 step forward and 2 steps back… Any advice and comments on arousal control, and achieving inner peace?


If you asked the five folks in the world that (I think) know me the best about my general state of inner peace then you'd probably see them chuckle at the concept of my zen-like qualities. So bear that in mind when you read onwards.

Here's what works for me.

Accepting -- accept that you'll have times when you get caught up in chasing the socio-economic fantasy that is fed to all of us through various influence. Even more important than that is to simply accept yourself. Nearly all of the noise in our heads is created by someone trying to convince us that we have to become something different than what we are. That's the story of retail -- selling cosmetics, selling clothes, selling food -- aspiring to cars, houses, vacations, status. At a very deep level, the persuaders are trying to convince us that we would be better "if only". When we get ourselves to the point where we are happy "with or without" then you have gained the upper hand on the persuader and can make an informed decision.

Expectations -- Personally, I would never expect to achieve "nirvana" because there is simply too much noise around. Here I like to use the popular metaphor of a body of water. Many people find that their minds are like confused seas -- choppy with whitecaps. By making certain changes in our lives (and thinking patterns) we might arrive at a point where the water starts to smooth out a bit. However, as the waters calm, we start to become aware of the smaller ripples that were completely buried by the massive noise previously.

Influences
Thich Naht Hanh has a nice way of putting this, it goes something like... "we have the seeds of both good and evil within us, be very careful about the seeds that you choose to water".

When you look at popular culture, entertainment media, violent media, pornography and the influences below through that prism, often we are able to see how the choices in our life are directly impacting our life situation (and satisfaction).

Media -- In order to enhance my personal satisfaction, I've made a decision to greatly reduce my contact with nearly all forms of media. Most specifically -- TV, newspapers, popular magazines, internet magazines. It is very difficult to pull that off, especially at say, 4:38am in Hong Kong when I am typing on blogger.com (my mouse trigger finger is twitchy). However, the benefits have been so immediate and large that I have a very good positive feedback loop in place.

Friends -- You should assume that you will become the people with whom you associate. Even if you don't "become" them, most everyone will treat you as if you have; making it even tougher not to "become". For this reason, choose the pals the personify the life you want to lead and the person that you want to be. M motivates me to be the man that I want to be. You can't get a better life partner than that.

People that are inconsistent with your personal vision have to go. Sounds a bit harsh, I know. However, the influences that our companions, mentors, friends and associates bring to our lives is massive.

Work -- I find work to be a tricky one for many. This is due to a mistaken belief in a lack of choice, or perhaps, a lack of personal responsibility. There is a movie called Holywood Shuffle that is about an actor trying to break into the movies. It is a comedy but contains quite a bit of truth. In the end the actor decides to forget about it and joins the post office. The personal sacrifices to achieve his "dream" weren't consistent with his self-image.

Books -- I really like good books. Reading and internally experiencing good advice is an amazing defend against undesired influences. On the flipside, it is the main reason why I write. It is a form of personal defense (most often against my own ideas).

Actions -- I have found that written commitments really help my ability to get myself to action. Further, making sure that my words are 100% consistent with my written commitments reduces inner conflict. I never talk myself down.

Training -- some think that I mistake exhaustion for tranquility. For me, daily exercise has a very positive impact on the attitude towards the craziness that surrounds us in cities. Before a key meeting, I will make sure that I complete at least 45 minutes of training. I find that my ability: (a) to see the true motivation in others; and (b) to make clear decisions in my best interests -- are greatly enhanced after exercise. I don't recommend anything too hard though. You don't want to be exhausted when trying to make important decisions!

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I like your tips about NAV and burn rate. I am wondering if you can provide some high-level examples or hypothetical scenarios with some numbers, like you case studies in “Going Long”. Even though, I am a bean-counter by trade, my personal finance and investment (need work), therefore, I (feel)like I am not where I should be financially. And I could
be making some mistakes figuring things out and (end) up living like a college student again.

Interesting that you mention college because it touches on two aspects that I believe are essential for understanding what drives our perception on personal NAV.

When I was in college... I spent a lot of time with folks that were at a similar level of "wealth" as me and life was simple. While some people had more than others, by and large we all had the same standard of living and lived uncomplicated lives. We each knew our position and were (largely) equal between each other.

If you want to improve your perceived standard of living then associate with people that have a slightly lower one than you.

This an interesting paradox for me and contrasts with my advice to "be your goals" in many areas. Using an athletic example, if you are constantly training with people that are better than you then often they will lift your overall standards. However, you might find that your perceived level of performance is lower than if you were the strongest athlete in your training group. It is for this reason that smart coaches have their athletes compete in a range of events (letting them be strong at some and letting them be humbled at others). Not everyone has the maturity and self-image to sustain frequent humbling (especially when they have the wrong set of influences).

Back to college -- when I joined Schroder Ventures after university I was making about $1,750 per month (pre tax). As a B. Comm with first class joint honours in Economics and Finance, that wasn't a whole lot of cash. However, I felt very well off. Why?

The quickest way to increase disposable income is to reduce personal expenditure.

Coming out of university, my personal expenditure was at such a low level that any reasonable salary was going to leave me feeling very well off. I had excellent control over my expenditure.

Fast forward sixteen years. When I think about my peers that have been successful at saving capital and investing wisely -- successful at creating personal financial flexibility. Their #1 thing was to ensure that personal expenditure always lags personal income.

As my peer group moves into their 40s, most of us have a very similar standard of living. However, my friends that decided to increase personal expenditure in line with (or in advance of) personal income -- those guys do not have the same financial flexibility. In fact, many of them have little financial flexibily and feel trapped into their careers because of the level of debt service they have chosen to place into their lives.

It takes a long time for the financial benefit of a pattern of fiscal maturity to mature. If you've blown it in the past then learn from it. By making changes today, and sticking with them, you can place yourself in a more stable position later in life. Even if you are in your 50s you can make decisions today that will greatly assist you in your 60s and 70s.

As for specifics? Finance is like nutrition. Simple, not easy. I prefer to share concepts rather than specifics. It's not the type of food that I eat that enables me to be maintain elite body composition any more than it is the investments that I make that result in financial freedom.

It is the patterns that I create and sustain which result in my life situation.

Choose wisely.

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