Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Art of the Good Life #31 : Your Mental Fortress

The best ideas can be traced to the time of the Ancients.

This chapter is all about Stoicism which has become somewhat trendy of late. It might be Tim Ferriss who started the trend in The Four Hour Workweek ? But modern Stoicism can be traced back to philosophers like Boethius, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca.

It is not easy for an idea to withstand the test of time.

The four recommendations of Stoicism, according to Boethius are :

a) Accept the existence of Fate.
b) Everything you have is impermanent. This includes your health, wealth, relationships and happiness.
c) When everything is lost, console yourself that the positives outweigh the negatives.
d) Your thoughts are the only things that cannot be taken from you. Therefore, your mind is your ultimate fortress.

Stoicism is relevant wherever there is evil in our society today. Jews living in Nazi Germany probably needed the consolations of this branch of philosophy. Ditto for Syrians under dictatorial rule, legal practice trainees with foreign degrees that are not from the Oxbridge universities, and Singapore schoolchildren who score less than 200 for PSLE.

Does Stoicism apply in investing ?

I would argue yes.

No mathematical model can insulate you from fate. A backtested strategy can fall apart overnight when faced with government regulations. For example, I was particularly unlucky in debt crowdfunding as two out of four of my campaigns failed. The one campaign that led to litigation, which lasted over a year, was supposed to only have a default rate of 8%.

Will Stoicism lead to stubbornness ? I don't know but I would venture to guess that Stoic investors may be better at HODLing. Perhaps the lull in cryptocurrency can be endured.

Coincidentally, I was in Dr Wealth HQ today to get feedback on my workshop preview slides and they have a copy of Stoic philosopher Seneca's works lay on the table. I told them that the modern equivalent of Stoic philosophy can be found in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy where the bulk of the good work continues helping folks who have serious mental issues.


  1. Hi chris

    legal practice trainees with foreign degrees that are not from the Oxbridge universities

    Is that self depreciation I see?

    You got a point. Behaviorial traits may encourage different types of investing strategies across different people, may it be short term trading, quantitative strategies, buy and hold, leveraged trades etc. What you say indeed make a lot of sense!

  2. I'm a local graduate, but given my age I am probably worth much less than even a foreign grad.