Live to trade another day

Often when I’m day trading stocks and I profit for the day, I want to keep going. I want to use the positive momentum. But what I’ve learned is that often in those instances I start trading with emotion and I end up losing partially the gains I made earlier in the day.

Even with day-trading stocks, it’s important to understand that life isn’t a sprint… it’s a marathon. And you want to be consistent and show up every morning. Take it one step at a time; live to trade another day.

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Book for 2019: The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness

I was inspired by my high school teacher to share the books I’ve been reading and plan to read for 2019 here on my blog. Last year I finished 50 books, and although I did discuss a few of them, I think it would be good for me to reflect on each book I finish.

Meditation is weird because people often think that it is difficult (as I did too), which is a paradox. Meditation is perhaps the only time during the day that I actively try to DO NOTHING and allow my mind to be free.

This book, written by the Founder of Headspace, was a great introduction to the world of meditation and mindfulness and is also one of Bill Gates’ top 5 books of 2018.

As I’ve been using the Headspace app for the past 3 months (almost daily), I did already know many of the teachings that were written in this book. So, for those that don’t currently meditate, and would like to dive into the world of mindfulness and Headspace, I would totally recommend you pick up this book to learn more and hopefully drive you to continue on this path.

I would have to say that meditation and mindfulness practice has been the best habit I’ve picked up recently, and I will no doubt continue to consider this one of the best habits of my lifestyle that I hope may continue for many years. It’s amazing how 10-minutes a day can change your life.

Get it here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2MbiCLl

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Balance

Does balance exist?  

We all know someone who is getting perfect grades, competing in a team sport, volunteering for the local animal shelter, plays the violin, and writes a food blog. 

But a part of me thinks that this type of person has to be sacrificing something, right? 

You’ve probably seen the 4 pillars of life before: physical health, social health, mental/creative health, and emotional/spiritual health. 

Physical health includes exercise, diet, and sleep. What measures do you do to take care of your physical body?

Social health is how well you manage your relationships and ability to have meaningful social interactions.

Mental/Creative health considers how you satiate your “creative” side. Maybe you write poetry, play an instrument, or perform theater; either way, we all need some type of outlet.

Emotional/Spiritual Health is, in a general sense, how you take care of your “soul.” Are you emotionally stable? Are you in tune with your mind and body? Religions often see this as a type of spiritual health.

I’d have to imagine that all 4 of these pillars are equally important in their own right. I can also see how there may be debates for each pillar as being more important than the rest, depending on the type of lifestyle you live. Perhaps a professional athlete at their prime would rank physical health over anything else, while professional theater performers might willingly (or unwillingly) have to sacrifice social relationships and physical health to achieve mastery in their profession.

My question is: is there a way to perfect balance all 4?

Is there really some way for all of us to get 8 hours of sleep while exercising 3-4x a week, have healthy relationships with their family and friends (and potential significant other), write poetry and play an instrument, emotionally stable and emotionally intelligent and meditates + practice mindfulness?

I can confidently say that I have maybe 2 pillars down, maybe 2.5.

For me, at least, this idea of balance is something I want to achieve. It seems like an ideal lifestyle for me, because I see the merit in dedicating effort to fulfilling each pillar. I see that each pillar can contribute to my overall lifestyle and happiness.

But the real question not just for me but the world in general is: do you seek this type of balance?

Or is a “balanced” life really a myth? The myth of balance is that the most successful people in their field are those who sacrificed balance to instead focus on specialization; they are the best in their field because they sacrificed the opportunity to be good at other things in life.

To be successful, do we have to sacrifice one or even several of these integral life pillars?

Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are often put in the same boat but in reality they are separate.

Meditation is the practice of mindfulness; however, you can live every day without meditation but still be mindful about your life.

Mindfulness is a state of peace one achieves by being able to live in harmony with the mind, body, and soul.

Do you ever walk a few blocks to go home and then end up arriving at your doorstep without any recollection of the last 10 minutes? Your body was walking, while your mind is elsewhere.

Daydreamers… procrastinators… and unenthusiastic people (or unenthusiastic situations) often lead to a lack of mindfulness

But it’s important to be more conscious of what you are doing.

A connection between the thought and the action is important because it allows us to be in the “zone”

Athletes know this. You can’t perform at your best if you don’t have this mindfulness–if you mind is wandering off while you’re trying to run down the court. It’s why Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan both practiced meditation extensively.

The top performers in life, the most successful people I follow, all practice meditation to achieve better mindfulness. A few names include: Bill Gates, Tim Ferriss, and Ray Dalio

I’ve been meditating nearly every day for the past 3 months and I can already see the small subtle benefits. It’s no wonder that people who have been practicing meditation and mindfulness for years are able to succeed in life in every sense of that word.

Treatments

This blog post uses information and experiments extracted from the latest book I’ve been listening to on Audible: “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data”

In economics, in sciences, in social sciences, in politics, we care about what works. But how effective are certain treatments? 

Placebos can be quite powerful. Sometimes they are just as effective as the actual treatment. We don’t want that to happen.

In statistics, we try to discern between cause-and-effect treatments with a counterfactual. A counterfactual is what would have happened without the treatment. In science experiments, we create a counterfactual with a control group and placebos. But even then, many times it is difficult to compile a control in certain inhumane or unethical experiments. 

And in life, in our own decisions, how are we meant to create counterfactuals?

Is your life better or worse having decided to attend university?

Well. The only “right” answer a statistician could offer you is “we don’t know”

Because in your case of life decisions, we really don’t know how your life would be different had you not attended university.

Maybe had you not decided to attend university on decision day, you somehow decided to buy a lottery ticket and miraculously won $100 million dollars. But maybe because you won $100 million dollars and you didn’t have a university education and graduated with a finance degree like you had planned to, so you didn’t have a good understanding of financial management and somehow ended up broke within a few years, as many lottery winners do. Or maybe because you attended university, you met your soulmate in your intro to statistics class. You get the point.

In statistics, we want to be objective and use as few assumptions as we can. Even when we have really good data, we are still only fairly confident that certain cause-and-effect scenarios are true. (We call this confidence intervals).

So let’s go back to the question of a university as a treatment. How effective is a university?

Well, it’s quite hard to determine because we don’t really have good data. We have data that proves that the most selective universities (Ivy league schools) have alumni with a much higher mean salary. But let me just tell you that that statistic is absolutely useless. How do we know that the selective university, as a treatment, caused the higher salary? It’s very likely that the type of student who not only be admitted to a selective university but also can survive 4-years that top academic institution is the type of person to be more “successful” later in life. (There are many different metrics of measuring success, all which are incredibly arbitrary, but for the sake of this example, we’ll simply use salary.) So we can’t know unless we have some sort of control group, or counterfactual. But that’s quite hard because that would mean we would need to assign random students to random institutions and then track their progress longitudinally. This is an example unethical method of creating a control group I mentioned earlier. I doubt that selective universities would accept random student admissions and I’m not quite sure that students would want to be randomly sent to an institution either.

Thankfully there was a natural way of creating a control group discovered by Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale to determine the effectiveness of selective universities: students who were accepted to top institutions, but chose to attend a less selective university. This data was good because 1) the participants (students) were more or less random, 2) the students were “good” enough to be admitted to top colleges, so at the point of separation, they were “equal” to the students who DID attend the top colleges they were admitted to, and 3) there was enough data of students to actually perform analysis over long periods. Here is the report: https://www.nber.org/papers/w7322

And what did this report tell us?

Well, in terms of whether or not a top university “treatment” affected mean salary, it didn’t (Except for low-income students, who did have a noticeable increase in earnings over time). 

This is reassuring to people high-school students who are in the midst of their stressful college applications.

Although earnings isn’t the best metric, and even this analysis isn’t apples-to-apples, it is a interesting statistical report.

The university does not make the student. Hard-working students will thrive regardless of attending Harvard or their local community college.

Good luck to everyone in finals exam season.

Finding beauty in the mundane

In essence, if you breakdown what meditation is, it is simply doing nothing. Yet, I continue to meditate. I’ve been meditating at least 10 minutes for the past two months, some days going up to 30 minutes. And I’m just doing nothing.

And what about the other mundane perfunctory tasks we must complete?

Like doing laundry. Or walking. Commuting. Washing the dishes.

There is a certain art to being able to find beauty in the mundane. I personally enjoy walking. It’s therapeutic for me, especially if the scenery is nice. And even if not, it’s often very relaxing for me to just walk, either with or without a purpose, with or without destination. 

Some people have made a habit to enjoy washing the dishes. Or doing laundry–mundane tasks that need to be done but in actuality don’t really fulfill a deeper purpose in life. It’s just something that needs to be done.

But if it needs to be done, can we somehow find a way to make these tasks more enjoyable? Can we find beauty in them?

If we want to scrutinize these “chores”, these tasks that in themselves don’t really fulfill a purpose so much as the result (ie. we wash dishes to have clean plates, do laundry to have clean clothes), then we have to also scrutinize meditation.

Meditation is literally doing nothing. You aren’t fulfilling any purpose or completing any tasks, per se, during or after meditation. But why has meditation been so good to me? Why do people who meditate and practice mindfulness often lead happier lives?

It’s because people who meditate consistently and thoroughly are also the type of people to find the beauty in the mundane. They are mindful of their existence.

I am here.

I am walking.

I am folding my laundry.

I can breathe.

This is my life and I exist. I am enough.

That’s what meditation has taught me.

And if you struggle with this idea of “doing” things that are entirely mundane to you and feel as if there is no purpose or lack direction, then I present to you a great analogy that my friend brought up in our Human Person class.

Imagine if you were stuck in the Sahara Desert. You can’t see anything in the distance, 360 degrees. What do you do? You have the option to just sit there, OR you can decide to just walk. Walk without direction or purpose, but in hopes of finding refuge, in hopes of finding hope. You’d probably decide to walk.

Sometimes life won’t always give you direction. Sometimes the mundane sucks, but sometimes we can make the mundane beautiful. We can give it purpose. Sometimes, we just need to walk, even if we don’t know where we are going.

Procrastination and Perfectionism

When I look at my procrastination self, I can’t help but parallel it with my perfectionism.

Why do I procrastinate so much?

Well, probably because I don’t want to do accounting. But those are mundane rudimentary tasks.

Why do I procrastinate on creative things? Like writing longer essays, or start drafting ideas for a future book, or learning more magic, or reading books, or starting a podcast or YouTube channel?

I procrastinate on these things because I fear my inability to be perfect. I’m afraid to perform new magic tricks for the first time because I know there will be many flaws: I’ve never done this illusion in public! But how did I ever perfect the routines I currently do? I haven’t perfected them, but I sure as hell am way more confident to perform them than I would with new tricks.

I’m afraid to start a podcast because I know the first episode will be terrible. And I want it to be perfect. So instead of starting the podcast, I just think about starting it. I imagine how all the parts will come together to make sure the first episode is perfect.

And I can’t write long form blog posts. These shorter ones give me room to have error and quickly fix. If I write too long of a post, then there are too many potential opportunities for error and imperfection.

Here is my downfall: nothing will ever be perfect.

If I have a perfectionism mindset when approaching creative tasks like magic, writing, poetry, and content creating, then my procrastination self will control me. I’ll be stuck in a rut forever.

Perfection does not exist in creative fields.

It does in accounting. Because you can’t be creative in accounting. Oh ya, let’s just be creative and add a couple zeros here to my bank account statement. So yes, in objective fields, there are “perfect” ways of completing tasks.

But if I continue to procrastinate on the things that truly matter to me, and continue to only beg for perfection, then I’ll never be able to create quality art.

I’ve written 405 daily blog posts. That’s insane. I can maybe recall only a handful of really good posts off memory. Most of my posts are mediocre at best. Nowhere near perfection. But at least I haven’t procrastinated on my writing these posts. At least I’ll have gotten the bad content out of my system, leaving me more room for the good stuff. 

If you want to achieve perfection, then prepare to procrastinate indefinitely.