Intentional changes to “self”-software and hardware
Corruption, Karma and “reality”
How stuff works: habits, meditation, people, power
There is a common idea that successful trading involves “trading yourself.” This is at once a multi-faceted, nuanced conjunction, and just plain grammatically wrong non-sense. Like “omniplastic transformer.”
The below is written in the spirit of “trading myself,” (in on a new one, charting my sectors, analyzing my fundamentals).
How trading can (and maybe must) lead to good habits, and other improvements in life beyond trading
I’ve been installing new habits in myself. So I’m in flux. This may cause distortions in performance, possibly seemingly downgrades in the short term. But the idea of course is that short term suffering is an investment that will pay off.
The goal (my goal at least) is not “he who dies with the most money wins.” Yes, I’m trying to make “money,” but as a currency of life, a tool to engage “reality.”
Health trumps money. And health is made of exercise, diet, meditation, relationships, thoughts, activities, goals, dreams. Rather than “trumps,” one might say it’s foundational on a Maslow like hierarchy.
Making money on a foundation of poor health is not desirable, and probably not sustainable.
In my own case, a life with computers, and now trading, has made me way more sedentary than the ideal. So I’m installing changes to that habit code.
And sometimes it’s hard to think and see screens at first when you’re jumping around. But I trust the brain will adjust.
And meditation and prayer are widely known and clinically proven to be beneficial to health. I’ve flirted with meditation ever since undertaking the S5 training, but never really gotten committed.
But now I’m writing my intentions down. Committing as much as possible to a concrete form. Times. Goals. Etc.
The idea of “keystone” habits is, habits that create a “virtuous circle,” have a beneficial domino effect, or feedback loop.
Exercise and meditation are examples of keystone habits. So are organizational disciplines. Like cleaning house, walking the dogs, making and following to do lists, writing trade plans, and analyzing trades in retrospect.
How good habits work
How does the virtuous circle phenomena happen from keystone habits, or conversely, the vicious circle of “bad” habits?
Keystone habits are intentional repetitive activities, which start as an effort and a discipline, done because they are good in and of themselves, and because they serve as a foundation which to build further endeavors.
The way they work is that they make “bad” habits difficult or impossible, because the “bad” ones interfere with the new intentional disciplines. But after a while, the new “disciplines” become “habits.” Good habits displace the “bad” ones. Like flossing and marriage.
Then once the discipline is a habit, it’s an accomplishment, which serves as a platform to make more intentional efforts. Making intentional efforts itself becomes a habit, and each new endeavor displaces more “bad” habits.
How “bad” habits work
Bad habits, conversely, are habits that result from avoiding effort, discipline and intention. These habits feel like they are going towards comfort, rest, pleasure, but make us slowly less capable, less healthy, and so lead towards pain, or the constant effort to avoid pain…adding ever more avoidance habits, which never totally work.
Discipline involves a measure of pain, not seeking of pain, but willingness to go through it, for a purpose. Then, just as exercise starts as a fight against inertia, and may hurt in some ways, as we gain momentum, the pleasure overwhelms the pain….not just pleasure in the moment of exercise, but in other areas of life.
Sometimes (in my case, for instance) we don’t set out to exercise, meditate, and so on (or maybe we did long long ago, in a galaxy….ok). But now, I set out to learn to trade. And eventually, the pain of sucking at it so bad, led me to reconsider everything about myself. I wanted to try anything to alleviate this pain of sucking so bad at trading. (Substitute your endeavor of choice for “trading,” preferably one you suck at but want to get good at.)
So I am trying to install good habits as a foundation. In that way, even if I never stop sucking at trading, I get something more valuable than money. Hopefully I get money too!
Corruption, Karma and “reality”
Some friends of mine recently were discussing in an email thread that they knew “the system” was corrupt, from the top down.
I went to look up the definition of “corruption.”
having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain.
“unscrupulous logging companies assisted by corrupt officials”
synonyms: dishonest, unscrupulous, dishonorable, unprincipled, unethical, amoral, untrustworthy,venal, underhanded, double-dealing, fraudulent, bribable, criminal, illegal, unlawful,nefarious; More
My reaction was:
- Yeah, so? The point being…
- This is really just one way to frame a multi-dimensional story
The way I look at the human world is that it is made up of people, at every level. Just people.
In Buddhism there is an idea that people do “bad” things because they are confused. They are trying to do good things, but they are not doing a very good job at it.
“Bad” is a relative term, of course. Relative doesn’t just mean in relation to size and scale, but even type.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, unless you’re the goose.
I believe that unadulterated cackling evil is extremely rare in people, if not nonexistent.
The vast majority of people do want to make money, and are willing to make some compromises to do it. Almost all of them also have some idea that what they are doing is “good,” for some reason beyond just them personally. Almost all of them also think of themselves as the most important person, or one of the 2 or 3, or a small group of most important people.
And all of them are operating within a context of powers greater than themselves: laws of nature and man (as they understand them), desires and demands of others, above and below them, etc.
That’s how reality works, in a nutshell.
Don’t look at me. I didn’t make it. Or did I?
I think that a lot of people feel angry at the “corruption” of corporations, governments, banks, and anything bigger than themselves, because they feel disenfranchised. They feel unable to compete.
And, make no mistake, “the system” is competitive. Don’t believe me? Ask the gazelle as the lion rips out her throat. Ask the anchovies as they are attacked from above and below.
I don’t know if the anchovies “blame” the seagulls.
But humans are (perhaps) uniquely equipped with a conceptual apparatus. They can “think,” or think they think. Thoughts transpire through our consciousness…and it’s not always easy to tell if they are self-initiated or just that radio station we leave our brain tuned to.
Blaming the system is a good excuse for not making an effort. And, granted, there is no lack of ammunition. The system IS corrupt! People DO lie for their own gain! Can you believe it?
So what? So, what? What do we do about it?
What I do is, first, try to understand it.
How do corporations, banks, politics, and the media work? How does money work? How does psychology work? How does “reality” work?
Not how do I feel about it. Not how I want it to work. How it DOES work! What IS reality?
And, knowing I don’t totally know, at each step of the way, I try to grapple with it, frequently learning I’m wrong, frequently getting a mouth full of dust.
How does reality work? Human reality, at least?
People are each a mix of conscious, intentional habits (good habits), and unconscious (bad) habits.
“Bad” habits are not bad. They are in the nature of nature. They are the result of the natural desire of the organism to feed, fuck, feel good.
Good habits, intentional effort, discipline, and so on, also are driven by desire. And at first that desire may be for the same things (feed, fuck, feel good….Grod feel good now! Or do Grod?)
Anyway, everyone, at every level, is some mix of these types of habits….they do some things on purpose, and other things because….Grod wanna feel good.
The extreme polarities, absolute consciousness, and the opposite, are probably only theoretical, a Zeno’s arrow kind of thing. Unless you are one or the other, or regard someone else as one or the other.
To be purely evil, someone would have to be totally consciousness….and BAD!
And if someone was totally unconscious, how can they be “evil?” They would just be like a really hungry seagull, who has the ability to eat every fucking anchovy in the ocean.
And sure, some people approach one or the other of these extremes more than others. But the tails of the bell curve get thinner the further one looks.
And, unless you’re Dante, what purpose does it serve to categorize and classify the transgressions of every public official and business leader? I mean, for some, it may be an enjoyable pass time, an end it itself. But if that’s the case, why stress out about it? Enjoy the process.
But, remember (if you don’t want to wander off down a rabbit hole) that “people” change. Acts happen. People are associated with them. But the acts are not the people.
Why does “power corrupt?” It’s like a field, like a spirit. When a person is in that position, they tend to fulfill the function of that position.
That is why, for instance, the “seat” of the Dalai Lama, or the Pope, is regarded as a thing in itself. The person just passes through the station.
Each person may behave differently within that station. But there is a certain amount of pomp and circumstance.
Wealth leads to more wealth because it does, not because the wealthy are greedy. Any given person may also be whatever degree of greediness too. But that’s on them.
Power leads to “corruption” because it does. At least the appearance of corruption. It doesn’t have to be actual corruption. But even the most honest of the powerful will be seen as deceitful and selfish by some.
Why? Because the nature of “power” is to have some measure of control over others. Those others naturally have varying interests.
The guy, or girl, in power, has to balance these interests against one and other, take actions, and explain decisions to all interested parties, all while having their own self-interests.
People benefit or suffer in varying degrees to due to the actual actions and decisions of the person in power. And their varying understanding and perception of those decisions and actions, pragmatically, always results in a sense of imbalance, unfairness, by at least some.
It is what it is. Let God sort it out. That’s what karma is for.
Ok, enough with stating the obvious. Back to practical, personal matters.
How Meditation Works
How does meditation work?
Who knows? No one can really say. But I am going to try anyway.
Hey, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do!
Meditation is an interruption in habits. Habits of thought, activity, self.
At first, meditation leads to thought, just as balance leads to imbalance.
But if we can make space around that thought, objectify it, rather than identify with it, it starts to work better. Thoughts flow freely, and we can observe them…not think we are them, not think we are making them. Not think.
Wait. What? What is not think? I think, therefore I am, right? To let go of thought, we have to let go of being. That is the feeling, anyway. We have to trust that if we let go of being, we will still be there, or we will come back. And ultimately, we have to be ok, if that is not the case. We have to let go of ourselves.
It sounds like the easiest thing in the world. But for some reason, it’s not. It can be so hard, we can’t even figure out how to do it.
So we can do exercises. Intentional thoughts. Prayer. Ritualized thought. Mantras. Various tricks to disengage.
Once we get there, beyond thought, beyond the IDEA of being, and thought unfolds around us, effloresces, and we can “see” so many thought processes at once…and it’s so alluring, so beautiful, we want to pursue some of those thoughts.
But we are becoming aware of the space around the thoughts, and where they come from.
In the core, there is pain. It’s a nut in the brain, a cord in the spine. The root of desire. To be free of this pain. Because when it is not there, the absence of pain, is bliss.
And yet, the pain is a driver. It drives thoughts. Actions. It is a crystal. A gem of absolute value.
As we make space around this nut, it sends tendrils out through the soil of bliss, the space that allows for creation.
Simultaneously, this is an idea, and we both have ideas, and are the space in which they happen. We are not our ideas.
And ideas are not the reality. “Pain” is not pain, or it doesn’t have to be. That is just a label.
What is the difference between sleep and meditation? Answer….
There doesn’t have to be a difference. But sleep is an activity. Meditation is not. Or, uh, is it the other way around?
Do we always stay conscious while we meditate? Another rhetorical question: Do we always lose consciousness when we sleep?
Why do some people say that after a good few minutes of meditation, they feel like they had a full night of sleep? Are they just lying?
Speaking of lying, back to the topic of corruption, and power.
To get anywhere in life, to do any endeavor, we have to wield power over our “self.”
And “we” are a corporate entity. The body wants what it wants. And it does not always know what’s good for itself.
The mind too has its lobby. It likes to think about certain things. It likes certain ideas. Sometimes it likes to be spoon-fed, and other times it barfs. Mind, you have to play nice with body.
And then there are “feelings.” No, says, the mind, those are mine! Those are thoughts! No, says the body, those are mine. I am a sublime creature of metabolic processes, electrical light displays playing across my nerves. And feelings are a by-product.
And yet feelings demand to be recognized. We exist! We are not thoughts. We are not farts and sparks!
That’s just my subconscious, says the mind. The mind is just putting words to my processes, says the body.
Who is to decide? You, oh all powerful, corrupt one!
It’s tricky, being in power. You are trying to guide the ship, and all the bits are arguing. The body is made up of countless citizens. The mind and the feelings are also multifarious.
They all have stories, histories. They are the way they are for a reason. They all have wish lists. And they like that status quo, or not, or both.
But “you” have decided, or somehow got the mind and body and feelings to agree, that you want to go into that room, on the other side of that brick wall.
However, you can’t just ram your head in to the brick wall. It wouldn’t work, and also might kill you. So you have to get the corporate entity to team up, find a door, talk your way in, whatever is necessary.
That room, the place you want to be, may not be easy to get in to.
You may have to work at it. Practice, scheme, try things. Eventually systematize the process. Establish intentional habits. Practice those habits.
Keystone habits are not just a matter of force. Finesse is required too.
My lifetime of experience has been a constant push and pull between that force and finesse. Probably true for most folks, I imagine.
I make an effort, try too hard, break something. Have to back off, let it heal. Retreat to rest. The rest, the finesse, becomes a habit. After a while, I notice this. Probably because I have a new idea. Something new I want to try.
So again with the effort, the new activities. And I get somewhere. Each time I get somewhere, learn something, have some experiences and thoughts. But eventually, my head runs in to that brick wall. Ouch. Rest. Heal. Repeat.
So this is how it is. This is how it goes. This in context of others in the same boat.
But the ultimate goal, really, is to get past that wall, into that room, or whatever it is, past that wall. And to not hit my head on it so many times that I die trying, or get too disabled to keep trying.
So, in case it wasn’t clear, this is my metaphor for people in power, corporations, banks, and so on.
We each have power, at minimum over ourselves. And our “self” is a basket of interests, which we have to recognize, utilize, discipline, reward, and arbitrate between. And there is a real risk, almost a certainty, that at times, one or more of the components of that self will accuse “you” of corruption.
I don’t give a fuck what is behind that wall! Only “you” want to get there. If the mind and body and feelings all agree on this, and they’ve each gotten all the counties they govern to agree (or they lie about it), then, by gum, you have to give up the endeavor to get past that wall. (for now….you scheming rascal, you.)
What is behind that wall? Is it a room? Or is this a room, and we’re trying to get out?
What happens in meditation? How does evolution work? Why did history happen? How did biology lead to technology?
These questions, and more, you too can contemplate, just past that wall, in that room of meditation, or outside of this room of non-mediation….
Actually, you can contemplate them right where you are. Contemplation arises from meditation, then happens inside the space of meditation….but is not the thing itself.
Can we really reprogram our DNA with intentional thought, feeling….by marshalling the corporate self to agree to change it? (Or trick them into it, heh heh.)
Can we really affect people and things at a distance, while sitting perfectly still? Through thought, prayer…or through releasing oneself? Through the process of all these things.