15 Lessons Learned from Mikael Syding

Mikael Syding as seen on TV

We had just finished a 2-hour workout and got out of the gym.

—Now I was going to pick Mikael’s brain: was he going to head a new billion-dollar hedge fund, take one of the CEO positions he had been offered, or maybe become a full-time angel investor? It was not an easy decision to make. . .

.  . . Our conversation drifted to value investing (mostly me asking questions and him answering), AI & robotics, the future job market, the Singularity, life-extension, and interplanetary civilization.

(These are some of Mikael’s favorite topics.)

When we got to his apartment, I asked Mikael to expand on his views regarding the financial system, and how it connects with the rest of the economy. This is a recurring topic between the two of us.

After a while, Mikael realized I had trouble keeping up with what he was saying. So he drew up one of his self-invented mental models for explaining how interest rates, central banks, investment firms, and public spending create (or destroy) societal wealth.

—It was a unique model, but it was still easy to understand.

I was amazed by Mikael’s ability to take these abstractions and break them down to concrete terms—in a way that even a child could understand (not that I am on the same level of intelligence as a child).

The model reminded me slightly of Ray Dalio’s “Economic Machine”—only it was much simpler and faster to illustrate.[footnote] (5 minutes vs 60 minutes) [/footnote]

Mikael said he had considered including it in his upcoming book, “The Retard’s Playbook”.

What did I think?

—I said it would be a good idea, and suggested that it could also make for a good TED talk.

How I got to know Mikael Syding (and why I’m writing this long article)

I got to know Mikael Syding through a shared acquaintance.

The first time I met with Mikael in person was when I came over to his place. Since I was expecting him to be quite busy, I had prepared a short list of things I wanted to accomplish during the supposed hour or so that I figured we’d spend together.

But it turned out that I was WRONG , and. . .

. . . he wasn’t busy at all that day!

—So we ended up getting drunk on several bottles of champagne [footnote] Mikael always keeps a stock of at least a few in his fridge. [/footnote], on the roof of his penthouse apartment.

That was 1,5 years ago, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot from him since then.

In the rest of this (long, 6000 word) article you’ll find 15 of the most useful tips I’ve learned from Mikael Syding, divided across these 3 categories:

  1. Finance, Career and Success.
  2. Fitness & Health.
  3. Self-Development.

Mikael Syding15 lessons

Summary of the 15 Lessons I’ve learned from Mikael Syding:

  1. Dare to be a contrarian (and disregard group-think).
  2. Check your emotions; be rational and abide by core values.
  3. Be patient, pounce on opportunity, and buy/sell 12,5 % of your position.
  4. Don’t believe your own hype; beware of survivorship bias, randomness, circumstance, and luck
  5. Embrace uncertainty; doubt is preferable to error.
  6. The importance of work ethic and sacrifice.
  7. Think long-term: Prevent problems before they happen and acquire positive, preventive habits
  8. Do mobility stretches to prevent poor posture and deformed hips.
  9. The trick Mikael taught me that increased my bench press by 31.5 %.
  10. Protect your teeth—in the gym too.
  11. Mikael’s motto: “Always be investing!”
  12. Know Thyself.
  13. Over-deliver results and honor commitments.
  14. Break out of homeostasis in different areas of life to improve adaptability and preserve youthfulness.

Mikael Syding on Finance, Career & Success:

Hedge Fund Manager of the Decade award.

Mikael Syding winning the European Hedge Fund Manager of the Decade award (like in Highlander, there can only be one).

I believe that a significant part of Mikael’s (financial) success can be ascribed to him doing his own thinking. This, in turn, can be broken down into three aspects: 1) Being an independent thinker; 2) Being a creative contrarian, and 3) Having intellectual rigor. [footnote] If you don’t know what I mean by this, don’t worry. You will by the time you have read the first 3-4 lessons. [/footnote]

These three things are beneficially boosted by:

  1. Mikael having Mild Asperger Syndrome (which often leads to diminished social acuity but improved introspection and autonomy of mind).
  2. Mikael having grown up reading a ton of Sci-Fi and fantasy (which might have helped with creative thinking and imagination).
  3. Mikael having practiced his mental discipline from an early age (E.G, always being one week ahead of homework schedule in school).

In finance these are strengths that allow for original thinking, independent judgment, and accurate—(non-irrational)—valuation of assets.

Now then, on to the first lesson. . .

1) Dare to be a contrarian (and disregard group-think)

Mikael made most of his money not by following the advice of pundits, but by betting against the herd.

When others were either uninformed or afraid of IT companies, Mikael (who was only in his late twenties at the time) recommended purchasing many of their stocks.

This was before the Dot-com bubble, and Mikael was one of the first Swedish analysts to notice how undervalued many of these Internet technology companies were.

Because he was consistently right in his valuations of these companies—and helped investors make a lot of money—he was publicly acknowledged:

I'm holding a financial magazine from 1997 with Mikael on the cover. The funny part is that Mikael got the first page, and not Adolf Lundin (in the bottom right corner), one of Sweden's richest men.

In 1997, Mikael Syding rose to public acclaim for being one of the first analysts to consistently find profitable IT companies.
(Funny side-note: Mikael got the front page cover, and not Adolf Lundin–as seen in the bottom right corner–who is one of Sweden’s richest men).

Then the “Dot-com era” came along. [footnote]

. . . and set in motion a trend of extremely overvalued (and typically also inaccurately valued) new Internet companies.

These were not the same companies Mikael had been recommending earlier—those companies had been solid businesses.

Some of these new Dot-com companies were created to be sold off ASAP, without even having established who their customer was, or where future profits would come from.



Suddenly, most people had become head over heels in love with IT stocks for no good reason. The same people who had avoided Internet companies like the plague just a few years earlier, now flocked to them because they were “the popular thing”.

Mikael was able to remain even-keeled during a time when everyone else was high on greed, hope, and storytelling. Being one of the first to truly understand Internet companies, he realized that the valuations for many of these new, media-hyped companies were completely irrational. [footnote] (The valuations were often based on loose metrics like “eyeballs” or future cash flow from products not yet created.) [/footnote]

Lots of people got carried away by the market euphoria—believing they could make a quick buck. This time it was different, they said.

But (surprise, surprise) it wasn’t different, it was just. . .

. . . another bubble!

Mikael was early to diagnose the bubble, went short, and made money.

While everyone else was going with the crowd and yelling: “INTERNET IS THE FUTURE!” like a bunch of cheering soccer hooligans, Mikael thought: “Just because you’re many, and you’re shouting loudly, doesn’t mean you’re right.”

—Amidst all this chaos, Mikael maintained his autonomy of mind, did his own thinking, and didn’t join a crowd.

It took a contrarian to do this.

Mikael Syding is John Galt

Contrarian indeed. Who goes out to a club with this T-shirt?

2) Check your emotions; be rational and abide by core values

This ties in directly with lesson #1, and it’s probably the reason why Mikael was able to quit the ‘money-making game’ while he was still on top, in his prime, as opposed to—for example—Felix Dennis, who acquired billions out of homeostatic drive. . .

. . . and died regretting it!

While many of his peers got caught up in the rat-race, Mikael was able to keep his internal compass dialed correctly. This allowed him to work hard—as if on a mission—but to still retain sight of the end goal at all times.

This is definitely worth emulating. . . but how?

Mikael has spent a lot of time reflecting on his core values (freedom, autonomy, strength, mindfulness, and scientific interest). He has also avoided biases from taking root in his mind and clouding his thinking.

—You should do the same.

(More on these things in lesson #4.)

3) Be patient, pounce on opportunity, and buy/sell 12,5 % of your position

1) Patience:

Easy come, easy go. Money-minds know this.

Mikael ascribes a significant portion of his success in investing to being a naturally calm and patient person.

A value investor at heart, Mikael tries to find great companies to invest in:

  • He analyzes the company using financial models. [footnote] Some which only he knows. . . but here is a supervaluable article where he explains some of his tricks.[/footnote]
  • He arrives at a valuation (what the company’s stock is worth).
  • He minimizes risk by finding a margin of safety he feels comfortable with (this depends on the industry, among other things).
  • He then considers macroeconomic factors before deciding.

If a company passes through Mikael’s rigorous financial gauntlet, he will buy it. But this is rare—especially in the current market (as many companies are overvalued).

In most cases, Mikael waits patiently—he can wait for YEARS before he decides to finally. . .

2) Pounce on the opportunity:

When the company or asset eventually meets Mikael’s criteria, he will start to accumulate a position.

3) Buy/sell 12,5 % of your position:

When Mikael accumulates a position, he has already—since long—decided how large the position will be (and how much of his portfolio will be made up of it). He then typically buys 12,5 % of the position at a time.

The reason for this[footnote] as opposed to buying the whole position at once.[/footnote] is because:

  • It allows him to get a more “even” price.
  • It helps mitigate some of the risk related to timing.[footnote] E.g from sudden and unexpected fluctuations. [/footnote]
  • It allows him to “keep his powder dry.”[footnote] (and buy more during irrational fluctuations, when others are selling for the wrong reasons)[/footnote]

When it becomes time to cash in, Mikael typically uses the same strategy—in reverse—and sells 12,5% of the total position at a time. This gives him the same advantages as I just described above.[footnote] I recently told Mikael that John D. Rockefeller–a fellow contrarian–used the exact same strategy. He didn’t know this.

—It’s interesting that they both independently came up with the same idea.[/footnote]

Working at his long-awaited "The Retard's Playbook".

Mikael Syding working at his long-awaited “The Retard’s Playbook”.

4) Don’t believe your own hype; beware of survivorship bias, randomness, circumstance, and luck

The other day Mikael told me that:

. . . someone who uses a certain strategy and becomes successful with it, easily gets psychologically locked into that strategy. He starts believing that the strategy is essential to his success. He could be right about this. But even if he is, it still does not take external factors into account, like historical context, the changing dynamics of the environment, and. . .

Taken out of context, this probably sounds like one of those mysterious Yoda-like statements. But here’s how it translates into real life:

Success can make you mentally lazy!

  1. Success can create a psychological effect powerful enough to block accurate thinking.
  2. Because you’re successful, your brain wants to keep doing the same thing and it gets ‘arrogant’.
  3. This reduces the chance that you will think of alternate ideas, solutions, and strategies.

This makes it harder for you to adapt to change, and stay successful.[footnote] “What do I need to change for? I’m the best, damnit!”

It’s like in one of those fight movies (like Rocky) where the champ gets entitled and lazy. He thinks he’ll stay champ forever. Then some young, HUNGRY guy—(who wants to be champ more than anything else)—comes and beats the crap out of him.

Here’s another very important implication of this phenomenon. . .

Just because some strategy initially made you successful, does NOT mean that it will take you to the NEXT  level of success!

. . . If you want to climb to the top of the ladder, you have to continually reinvent yourself, think bigger, and come up with something that cannibalizes your existing paradigm. [footnote] True for self-development, business, finance, and more…  [/footnote]

This is tricky enough to do on its own, and it sure doesn’t get any easier when you have to combat a lazy, hostile psychology.

Mikael has seen many highly successful people—especially money managers and top executives—make dreadful mistakes because of this psychological shortcoming. . .

. . . which caused them to lose mental flexibility, fail to keep up with the times, and not adapt quickly enough.

(Click here for a long example of how this ties in with trading): [footnote]

Some people—especially young people—get into investing or trading during a bull market. They outperform the big funds and laugh at 5% annual returns. They laugh at the old veterans, who had worse results than they did (this year).

Then they get overconfident and start thinking that it’s easy to beat the market. They make bigger bets while doing less brain work and independent analysis, and then. . .


How do I know? It’s because I came very close to being one of those people. I got into finance when I was 16 years old, and made money speculating in stocks for 3 years straight.

I thought I was so smart.

—But I did nothing special. I just read the financial reports and balance sheets (and I was barely financially literate). I would take a bunch of stocks in the same industry, look at their charts going back 3-5 years, and compare their basic numbers.

Then I picked a company and bet on it, and typically, I won!

. . . Little did I know I was in a raging bull market.

I ascribed my “financial brilliance” to the profits I made and blamed bad luck for my losses. I knew next to nothing about economic/financial history, interest rates, the business cycle, or anything else.

Then I turned 20, and—realizing how little I knew—sold off most of my stocks. Many of those stocks declined in value rapidly just months after I had sold. Believing in a market crash, I boldly put most of my money into leveraged gold ETFs, which I then sold when the price of gold was around $1900.

I got lucky again.

After that I have stayed out of the market (for the most part), and reflected on my actions. And you know what I’ve concluded?

—That the smartest thing I did was to GET OUT of the market.

Sometimes the smartest thing is to get out of the game while you’re still on top. Since meeting Mikael and learning from him, this has been reinforced in me strongly; it’s hard to beat the market consistently. An inexperienced teenager using rudimentary analysis is not supposed to be able to do it.

Was it that my brain’s pattern recognition somehow could predict stock valuations, or was I just lucky?

—This takes us to lesson #5. . .


To learn about randomness Mikael recommends reading Nassim Taleb’s books, and for more info on risk Mikael recommends reading Howard Marks’s essay “Risk Revisited” and the book “The Most Important Thing.

Note 2:

I have read all three of the above and also recommend them.


5) Embrace uncertainty; doubt is preferable to error

Mikael says that the best people (at just about anything) are uncertain.

—This is because the more you know, the more you realize how little is truly knowable with full certainty.

I agree with this, but I think that many people do not understand this—and it produces an interesting ‘counter-phenomenon’. . .

Most people, who labor under the delusion that “being smart = being certain“, don’t understand why they can’t seem get a straight answer from the expert:

Average person: “Will company X’s stock go up or down?”

Expert: “I don’t have a crystal ball. There are many factors that. . .”

Average person: “But I thought you were an expert!?”

Expert: “I suppose I am, but. . .”

Average person: “Just tell me—yes or no?”

Expert: “. . . ”

Most people just want easy answers. They don’t want to have to do their own thinking, and navigate through the dichotomies to find the proper nuance. But there are no easy answers. As the saying goes:

Often in error, never in doubt.

The best people prefer doubt and uncertainty to error. [footnote] However, it is important not to mistake uncertainty with indecisiveness. As you can read in Mikael’s (free) book, he has made ball-breaking, billion-dollar decisions under extreme uncertainty. [/footnote]

6) The importance of work ethic and sacrifice


The first time I met Mikael (in person) we drank champagne on the roof of his penthouse to celebrate his “retirement”.

One of Napoleon’s favorite sayings was that:

as a rule it is circumstances that make men.

Mikael believes this—and often dismisses his success as fluke and randomness. I don’t entirely agree, because his work ethic is beyond reproach.

During his 20s and much of his 30s, Mikael typically worked 16-hour days. He started at the bottom, delivering cheeseburgers for the higher-ups and doing dog work for the analysts. Within months he had earned his stripes and gotten promoted.

By proving himself in small matters, he was then given a chance at the bigger things. (In those days you really had to pay your dues.)

I asked Mikael how he managed—because it’s pretty damn hard to pull 16-hour days—and you know what he told me? He said that:

I was often so exhausted that I had to take naps in the weirdest places. One thing I would do a lot was to grip my briefcase tightly, and then collapse on a park bench or something like that, in the middle of the day. People would come up and ask me if I were OK. Some thought I was dead and shook me awake. One guy even tried to resuscitate me!

(Maybe something to consider the next time you’re thinking of complaining about having to work too hard?)

Mikael Syding on Fitness & Health: 

Mikael’s stated goal is to live past singularity (and possibly forever).

For this reason, Mikael is devout in his physical and mental practices. He never skips a workout, he meditates and practices mindfulness, he does rigorous mobility workouts (inspired by Kelly Starrett), and he reads every day as a way to learn new things and keep his brain engaged.

7) Think long-term: Prevent problems before they happen and acquire positive, preventive habits

Mikael is one of the fittest 40-year olds you’ll ever meet (who is not a professional athlete). This is especially impressive from someone coming from the top brass of the finance industry; an industry notorious for its long hours of sedentary work.

Mikael has a knack for prevention mindset.

—He understands that (for success) in all areas of life it’s about thinking ahead of all the potential dangers, problems, and risks that might occur, and then preventing them from even getting started—while you’re young.

This is crucial for health, because, once a problem or an ailment has already begun, it is typically much harder to stop. And in some cases it cannot be gotten rid of.

Lessons #8 and #9 follow this mindset. . .

8) Start doing mobility stretching from a young age to prevent chronically poor posture (and other health issues)

Mikael told me about two billionaires that he knows—both of them have pot bellies and horrible posture. They cannot walk properly anymore, and have to take tiny steps, like babies learning to walk. Can you guess why?

—It’s because they sat behind their desks too much, for too long, without doing any regular physical exercise or thinking about the food they ate (which was typically consumed sitting by their desks).

If those billionaires had started doing mobility stretching —and had made it a habit while they were still young—they would be able to enjoy their wealth (and their health) a lot more.

When it comes to mobility stretching, Mikael emphasizes that you want to start doing the exercises BEFORE[footnote] (as in BEFORE   your posture has become degraded and your body gotten weak!) [/footnote] you need to!

—Again, this ties in with prevention mindset.

For a quick run-through of the main mobility stretches Mikael has been using for the past two years, watch this brief 2-minute demonstration. [footnote] (it looks a little funny, but if you want to live forever you should consider starting. . . immediately.) [/footnote]

Notice the straight posture of his back.

Notice the difference in posture; my back is bent forward while Mikael’s is straight. It will take a few of months of practice before I can do all the mobility stretches with proper form.

Note: My posture has improved a lot since that picture.

10) The trick Mikael taught me that increased my bench press by 31.5 % (in 3 months)

The first time I went to the gym with Mikael was chest day.

Mikael can bench press 140 kg (308 lbs), so therefore I was interested to see just what he did differently from me.

—It turned out he had a much better technique than I did!

Naturally, I copied it!

I thought I had reached a plateau, but after learning Mikael’s technique, I BLASTED through that plateau on my second workout.

In 3 months I took my 1 rep max from 95 kg to 125 kg (and I weigh 71 kg).

I used to lie on my back flat-out like a fish, and only use my arms and chest. This is fine for medium lifts, but it’s not optimal for heavier lifts. Especially since my left arm is slightly longer than my right arm.

—With this new technique, the range of motion is slightly smaller, and it reduces the risk of injury for my left arm.

Notice how I arch my body—like a spring—to gain power and stability, all the way down from my feet:



Note: I’m not lifting 125 kg in this video. I think it’s 110 kg.

11) Protect your teeth—in the gym too

These things can be bought in packs of 100 for cheap in most stores.

These plastic cable ties can be used as teeth guards. You can buy them in packs of 100 for cheap in most stores.

According to dentists—(and Mikael)—your teeth are NOT supposed to chafe against each other, except when chewing food.

When we were cavemen, we used to live only until about age 20-40 (and at that age our teeth are in decent shape regardless of what we do—with the exception of a cavity or two).

But when we get older, our teeth can deteriorate rapidly. Because of this, Mikael wants to minimize the risk of attracting serious dental problems.

To avoid contact between his teeth whilst lifting heavy weights in the gym, Mikael uses one of these plastic cable ties (see image above) as a teeth guard. . .

(Again, it’s all about prevention.)


Mikael Syding on Self-Development:

Mikael’s motto is to:

Always be investing!

—So he treats himself like a company. Even during the years he invested into building a successful career and making money, he never skimped on other important areas of his life—like health and learning.


Health is #1. Mikael says that:

if you’re going to spend money on yourself, start by eating healthy food—even if it’s more expensive.

Here are some of the foods he eats:

  • Foods: Lots of fish, beans, leafy vegetables[footnote] (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc) [/footnote], blueberries, and healthy spices—like turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.
  • Supplements: Premium Omega-3 in liquid form, Extra Virgin Olive Oil[footnote] see image below. [/footnote] (with especially high polyphenol value), and Vitamin D.
  • Coffee: He does not drink it every day, and when he does, he does it a few hours after waking up (cortisol levels are already elevated the first few hours upon waking up), usually prior to working out.




Mikael’s biggest hobby is to learn new things, and he is well on his way to being a renaissance man. When he reads books he prefers actionable and scientific content, but he’s also read a good deal of Sci-Fi and the occasional novel (but never suspense, romance or detective stories).

Books on top shelf include: Bull!, Tomorrow's Gold, The Black Swan, The Singularity is Near, The Endgame. (Note: You'll find Mikael's book recommendations at the end of this article).

Books on the top shelf: Bull!, Tomorrow’s Gold, The Black Swan, The Singularity is Near, The Endgame. (Note: You’ll find Mikael’s book recommendations at the end of this article).

12) Mikael’s motto: “Always be investing!”

This is an all-encompassing mindset that governs everything Mikael does.

Two important—general—aspects of how Mikael makes decisions include thinking in terms of ROI (return on investment) and considering opportunity costs.

1) Thinking in terms of ROI:

diminishing returnsBefore you do things you want to think about its ROI; whether that is money, productivity, time you can free up, or life quality/happiness. Almost every action follows a diminishing returns to scale, meaning that it’s only useful up until a certain point. . .

—Then its ROI goes down! [footnote] which means you should start to consider opportunity costs, and look at other things to focus on. [/footnote]

2) Considering opportunity costs:

In investing and decision-making, you must think not only about the results you’ll get with your intended action, but also about the results other actions might generate.

For example, people who are “dumsnĂĄla” (Swedish for “dumb-cheap”) are only looking at cutting costs in making their decisions. As a result, they fail to take other factors into account.

If you are “dumsnĂĄl” you will happily spend an entire day riding your car to a flea market just so that you can purchase a a $500 sofa for $400.

—Sure, you’ll make a bargain on the price, but the real question is this:

Is your entire day only worth $100? [footnote] And what about the gas cost from driving your car to the flea market? And what if the sofa gets sold before you get there. And so on. . . You have to take these—and more things—into your calculations. [/footnote]

To become good at decision-making you have to consider multiple factors and alternative choices.

13) Know Thyself (and others)

One of the main reasons people make big mistakes—and don’t get what they want in life—is because they don’t know who they are.

I take it you have heard the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog? [footnote] —The frog helps the scorpion get across the river, only to be stung in the back and die from the sting. With his last breath, the frog asks,”Why did you do that?” to which the scorpion replies casually, “Because it’s in my nature to sting; I cannot help it.”[/footnote]

If you do not know your nature, you will be doomed to failure and mediocrity; if you do not know the nature of other people, you’ll live in a state of perpetual disappointment (when they don’t act as you want them to—and perhaps sting you in the back).

For Mikael, the purpose of self-development is to know thyself.

This means that you understand your true nature—who you are, at the core. This requires that you engage in introspection and practice your meta-cognitive abilities, but it also takes life experience.

To know thyself might mean:

  • To understand your genetic predispositions. [footnote] (Example: if you come from a family of obese people, keep away from unhealthy foods.) [/footnote] 
  • To understand what your natural talents and—often corresponding—weaknesses are. [footnote] (Example: get into business with someone whose natural talents make up for your weaknesses.) [/footnote] 
  • To understand what character and personality traits you have. [footnote] (Example: and then place yourself in an environment where this can be advantageous.)[/footnote] 

To know thyself might mean that you do NOT:

  • View yourself as you wish you were (as opposed to what you are).
  • Underestimate or overestimate yourself (without good reason).
  • Take on commitments you are unlikely to honor.

This takes us to lesson #14. . .

14) Over-delivering results and honoring commitments

Mikael told me that:

I am very careful about what type of commitments I take on. If I can predict within a 5-year period that—for whatever reason—I might be unreliable for the task in question, or that it seems likely I’ll be unable to honor my commitment, I will decline the offer.

—Because Mikael knows himself, he is very good at staying away from stuff where things can go wrong.

When it comes to agreements or business commitments, he is careful about setting the expectations right from the start, honoring what has been agreed to, and then making sure he over-delivers on results.

These are high standards to abide by, but this is why Mikael’s friends and associates implicitly trust him. . .

. . . Because they know that his word is bond.

15) Break out of homeostasis in different areas of life to improve adaptability and preserve youthfulness

The Roman soldier Archilocus said that:

We don’t rise to our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

Since Mikael believes this, he always makes his “training” more challenging than the actual thing he’s training for.

When Mikael was in school he studied for his math tests inside a sauna heated to 100 degrees Celsius. This self-imposed difficulty made the real test easy in comparison, and he never had a single error on any math test.

Mikael Syding breaking out of homeostasis

Mikael practicing his pain tolerance and cold resistance.

There is a strong human tendency to “get into a rut”.

At first, this feels comfortable—(because we love predictability and ritualistic actions, as they save us energy and ‘free us’ from thinking)—but soon it becomes boring, unfulfilling, and downright unhealthy; for both the brain and the body!

—The best people break out of this “rut” often.

This “rut” is homeostasis —the body’s biological mechanism for saving energy, fleeing from pain, and avoiding change. [footnote] (since change typically involves both energy expenditure and pain).[/footnote]

Homeostasis applies to just about everything we do. For simplicity’s sake, we can divide it into 3 categories:

  • Physical—avoiding pain, cold or hot temperatures.[footnote] When Mikael studied for his math tests in the sauna, he was breaking out of homeostasis.[/footnote] 
  • Mental—not wanting to think or experience uncertainty.[footnote] The reason most people are unable to be contrarians; they lack mental pain tolerance and cannot handle ambiguity. [/footnote] 
  • Psychological—getting addicted to emotional feedback loops.

A good (psychological) example of breaking out of homeostasis was when Mikael retired himself from his job as hedge fund manager.

Most other people would have kept working, and not been able to break away from the combinatory psychological hold of:

  1. Status/Authority
  2. Competition/Social proof
  3. Money/Greed/Hoarding
  4. Commitment tendency/Sunk cost

A quick explanation is in place:

When you have these (and more) psychological effects, it scrambles the human brain and 99% of people become VERY irrational. They get stuck in a super addictive emotional feedback loop and typically. . .

. . . never come out of it!

This psychological process keeps people chasing after stuff long after they need it (why most people cannot get out of the “rat-race”.)

—But Mikael did.

Here are some other ways that he breaks out of homeostasis:

  • He takes cold showers from time to time.
  • He sits in the sauna at high temperatures.
  • He does intermittent fasting (16/8 version mostly).
  • He walks barefoot (and with shorts during winter).
  • He always does “just one more”[footnote] I call this to “go 5 more minutes”—in the situations (like when doing work or in the gym) where you just want to quit.[/footnote] when working out or running.
  • He moves a lot in general (gym and long walks).
  • He practices mindfulness, analytic thinking, and writing.
  • He routinely experiments with new things and tries new activities (currently writing “The Retard’s Playbook”).



These are some of the main things I’ve learned from Mikael Syding since first getting to know him.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that you were able to take away some useful stuff from it!


* * *

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  1. Like someone else said this could almost be an EBook. It took a long time to read as with some of your other articles but always deliver good ideas and education so thanks for that.

    Now for a completely unrelated question.
    What is your opinion on the recent terrorist deeds?

  2. Superb! I just have one question. When should you take the fish oil supplement (time of day)?

    • I have no specific view on that. And I don’t think it matters really.

      However, this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry regarding DNA repair indicates that the body is most active in DNA repair in the morning (DNA repair enzymes/proteins are connected with circadian rhythm regulators), so perhaps first think in the morning is a good idea?

      I, however, take mine with my dinner.

  3. Mikael and Ludvig,

    1. What are the most important exercises and elements of diet for longevity (aside from those already mentioned)?

    2. Is it possible to meet the optimal weight targets for age 40 on these exercises whilst being somewhat conservative? That is to say, if a 25 year old person wants to avoid injury at all cost but is willing to play the slow game, do you think they can hit 180kg deadlift when they are 40 for instance?

    3. If you had taken up robotics but realised it didn’t give you enough flexibility as to how you want to do your research, what projects you are given funding for etc., would you still take it up?

    On the other hand, right now you have the power to do EXACTLY what you want, because you don’t need the money.

    4. Can you provide some detail regarding your meditation practices?

    Thank you

    • 1. My view on longevity here: http://mikaelsyding.com/fasting-and-increased-longevity/

      2. I think so. If you start that early and have a 15 year horizon and methodically do the right exercises at safe weights (80% of 1RM) you definitely should hit a 180 deadlift with zero risk of injury. However, who really cares about the endgame? Just keep increasing slowly and safely, enjoying the journey and see where it gets you.

      3. If not enough flexibility, than not enough flexibility, so: no.

      However, I don’t think you should be so hung up on getting funding. Tinker. Do small stuff, proof of concept. Either it’s fund and useful, or it’s not. Sure, you have to get some money to survive, but that can be achieved sitting at a subway or grocery counter (thinking about robotics)

      4. Details on meditation here (Keep It Simple): http://mikaelsyding.com/relaxing-a-one-breath-guide-to-recharging/

  4. I think Mikael’s motto should be everyone’s motto! And I like the way you explained that point. Very succinct and easy to understand, yet this one point could really be a game-changer for the way we live our lives.

    Thanks for sharing Mikael’s wisdom with us, Ludvig. I’m going to check out his Omega-3 article as I am gradually getting more into health.

    • Thank you Jeremy

      Investing is about thinking just a little longer term than the immediate urge to do something. That’s really all there is to it. Ask: Will this action bring me closer to [insert personal goal, happiness, future self]? Or should I put it off and first do [X].

  5. Hi Ludvig & Mike.

    I won’t waste time telling you how awesome this article was. (Just did it). Straight into the point:

    1.Mobility streching: How often? Every day? After gym? Before? Before & After?

    2.Any site selling that omega 3 supplement that’s in English?

    I take this one:http://www.vitacost.com/natures-answer-liquid-omega-3-fish-oil-natural-orange-16-fl-oz

    What do you think compared to the one you suggested?

    3.Arching your back doesn’t make it possible to hurt your lower back?

    4. Could you explain that about coffee and cortisol?

    • 1. 10 minutes a week is enough. No particular need to time it with your workout routine. Spread it out over the week exactly how you like it. All in one go or one-two minutes a day
      2. Amazon UK sells Arctic Med fish oil
      3. Arching your back in bench press is the safe position. It should be a controlled arch though, evenly spread over its length.

      4. when you wake up after a normal night’s sleep. The body produces cortisol to wake you up and get you ready.

      The first hour or two after waking up you are the most alert. No need for coffee (unless you slept poorly or have a bad habit of drinking coffee in the morning or are a coffee junkie that drinks 5 cups a day).

      IF you drink coffee right after waking, it has less effect and can cause higher caffeine adaptation which will make you a coffee junkie (or maintain it).

      Instead, do work, clean the house, get to the office, do everything that’s urgent, things on your list you made before going to bed etc.

      Then 1-2 hours after waking, you might feel a dip in energy and creativity, so get your coffee. Enjoy it, savor it. Then get back to work, go to the gym or whatever your schedule is.

      Read more here: http://neurosciencedc.blogspot.se/2013/10/the-best-time-for-your-coffee.html

      I only drink coffee every second day, after my hour long morning walk with the dog, right before going to the gym. It’s my pre-workout drink. I don’t drink coffee on non-gym days.

      It’s not directly for health reasons, but I value my sleep and don’t want caffeine in my system messing it up. I sleep 8 hours every day, from midnight to 8 a.m. all days of the week (except for the occasional party)

    • By the way, I really like the fish oil you are drinking. The best I’ve seen outside Arctic Med’s.

      I take 12ml a day of AMED’s oil and the nutritional values are about the same as yours. I weigh 200 lbs. I would very carefully suggest (without recommending anything, I’m not a doctor) you take at least 2 table spoons [2×5=10ml] a day if you weigh around 170 lbs.

      • Thanks for your prompt reply Mikael!

        I have a question regarding the time after waking up. In my case, I still feel a little dizzy the first 30-60″ minutes after waking up. Then I can work at peak performance until I eat ( I fast in the morning).

        Is that normal? Because you said that you should be alert in the first 1-2 hours.

        Maybe it’s due to my sleep schedule. I sleep about 6 hours every day to get more things done throughout the day.

        The only time periods I feel tired or sleepy are after eating(2-3 big meals per day)…Any recommendations for that?

        I am on a bulk – 3300 calories per day. Spreading that too smaller meals is exhausting and time consuming.

    • 6 hours sounds too little for most humans. That probably takes a constant caffeine intake to pull off, or a very annoying alarm clock, or longer sleep on weekends (not a good solution).

      Sleepiness after food is probably just the body signalling you have a sleep deficit that might as well be taken care of right after eating. Or, which would be worse, a sign your blood sugar is too variable and hence your insulin as well. You’re not eating too much fast carbs are you? ;)

      I guess not since you’re fasting and working out, bulking. My guess it’s the sleep schedule. If you can do something about sleeping an hour more, I would recommend it. Most recent, well-designed sleep studies show between 7-8 hours is required for the average person. If you have tough days mentally and working out on top of that you need even more.

      Just a few guesses from my point of view

      • I drink only 1 cup black coffee every morning. Nothing more. The alarm clock is really annoying though. Haha.

        .Not eating too much fast carbs. I just have to sleep more like you said. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Pete the beat says

    Even though the financial stuff goes above my head, this post is full of gems (if you can’t take something valuable away from this you must either be retarded or very successful already). Thanks for sharing.

    I am sure I will return to this one to reread it more times.

  7. Anonymous Anton says

    This may be a strange question but it is something I am currently wondering about and it’s this..

    To do 140 kg bench press or even +100 , is it necessary or important or beneficial to drink protein shakes and supplement with creatine?

    I mean even if you eat like a normal person and get 1-2x bodyweight of protein per day on average.

    I have only started going to the gym lately and there is so much (mis?)information. I suspect much is of a commercial nature.

    • Anonymous Anton says

      Especially if you are older than 35 which I am

      • Hi

        I would say there is no need for any supplements.

        However you need to eat enough food to gain weight. It is extremely hard for most to build muscle without gaining weight. Even if you’re overweight to start with.

        The most important thing for gaining strength in the bench press is doing a lot of high quality bench pressing in the 80% of your 1RM.

        Nota Bene: high quality reps! Good, safe technique, stable position for shoulders, body and arms. Do something like 3×3, 4×4, 5×5, 6×4, 8×4, 10×3 at appropriate weights 3 times a week and you’ll see your bench improving. Most of your work should be around the 80% x6x4 area, but some days go for heavier 3×3 or lighter and speedier 10×3 or 5×8 (always sets x reps)

  8. I’d be interested if there a similar fish oil brand or quality on Amazon? I currently live in the US.

  9. Mikael,

    You’ve often said that you are a lazy person (in a good way) but yet you maintain such a disciplined work ethic and do things others aren’t willing to do (saunas while studying, work like hell, etc).

    How do you build willpower and when are you lazy vs hardworking?

    Also, you mentioned to me that you’d go into robotics if you could do it all over again, but how would you spend your time in college? Taking the most rigorous academic courseload /building friendships/ exposing oneself to new things all compete for one’s time and I’m wondering what you would prioritize as most valuable.

    Thanks for the fantastic content as always, to you and Ludvig!

    – Albert

    • Thanks for the great comment Albert. Gonna feature it.

    • I am lazy and constantly looking for shortcuts. However when something interests me all else falls to the side. Hence, I am lazy concerning things that are not urgent or something I’m not passionate about. And I can work around the clock if it is or is perceived as urgent or something I’m passionate about.

      I’ve heard that willpower is best built not building it too much, since that drains your willpower. You should only every now and then stop yourself from doing things and vv. E.g., when you feel like a cup of coffee or fiddling with your phone, put it off for just 5 minutes. That’s training enough.

      I think my stamina, discipline, willpower if you will stems from my early years of programming. Between the age of 10-12, I sat alone struggling with instructions, English, algebra etc. and I JUST WANTED TO FIND THE BUGS AND MAKE THE PROGRAMS WORK. It felt urgent, personal. Hence, I just didn’t quit. I think that wired my brain for 1) patience 2) creative solutions 3) working long hours.

      I would program robots. period. 1) find out which language is most common for controlling robots (e-mail people in companies making robots or people competing in robotic challenges) 2) get stuff to program (perhaps for free doing virtual robotics over the internet, or buy parts and start putting more and more complex things together.

      Hardly anybody is good at robotics, so you could get ahead by just starting. Immerse yourself in the area. Try to make something crawl, do stairs, get up after falling, see. Forget friends, except the ones interested in programming, soldering, making robots. Forget academics, except courses in all things robotics related (online or on campus). That’s what I would do. Contact a local factory and see if you can talk to their industrial robots responsible

  10. Great read – thx for sharing!
    And good luck with you guys ‘s podcast. I would listen if I knew your language.

  11. What a broad article! It seems like you two think a little bit similarly in terms of self-development / success. I have not read Mikael’s website but I will read his book recommendations now.

    Now I have a question for Mikael. What does it take to run a hedge fund? And if things go bad, wouldn’t it be very tough to regain your reputation and career?

    • First and foremost it takes patience. Patience to search for and wait for the right opportunities. Patience to stick to your ideas when it feels like everybody else have a different idea…

      To actually get there is a whole different story. Either you start a fund yourself and slowly make it grow. 10k becomes 100k becomes 1m and then 10m. After that it’s time to raise external money, given you have documented your track record… Hard work and luck. And then a lot of patience.

    • If things went south for me I think I cold get back in the game pretty easily, despite announcing to the world how boring and meaningless I think it is :)

      More importantly, I wouldn’t want to get back in. No matter what.

      I know I could always make a living doing something and that something would not be running a hedgefund.

      Once you let go of the typical notions of status and riches, the whole concept of wasting your time on markets and money management becomes moot.

      • Thank you so much for the detailed answers.

        What you say about patience probably holds true for almost every craft or career. People who are impatient and take shortcuts don’t seem to become masters. But maybe that’s not because they are impatient per se maybe it it because they just don’t have the interest to start off with and are impatient because of that… that’s what I just came up with now on the fly!

        “If things went south for me I think I cold get back in the game pretty easily,”

        I guess that is the value of having a good track record?

        “Once you let go of the typical notions of status and riches”

        Hehe I wish..! :/


  12. This article is like reading from a wizard’s tome.

    I have 2 (short!) questions for Mikael.

    Which book should I read if I want to know more of the future and Singularity? To prepare myself better.

    I think I know some of my strength. But I don’t know my weakness. This is bad because it is just 50 % of the equation. Do you have some tips so that I can “know myself” better? Maybe practice.

    • *The* best book is hard to say. i think Kurzweil’s “The Singularity Is Near” is important. At the same time “Engines of Creation” (and “Radical Abundance”) has other lessons mainly regarding nanotechnology. And then there is “Abundance” (and “Bold”) which is more down to earth and focused on the not so distant future as well as on how to make money.

      I actually haven’t read “Bold” but I’m nevertheless tempted to say it’s the best and most practical read. The other are more utopian and sci-fi-y

    • How to know yourself… That’s also the topic for several past articles. Somehow that meme sneaks into every second post somehow. It is THE essential thing in life.

      But how to get there… not quite as easy.

      Anyway, whenever (perhaps not all the time, but once a week at least) you feel something strongly: pain, hurt, confusion, love, joy, hesitation, want… whatever it is write it down in a journal: what did you feel, what caused it, was it rational/meaningful, hoe did the feeling pass.

      Also try meditating for dummies (10 seconds is enough). I’ve giot a post on that coming up today. In short, just relax and do NOTHING for 10-100 seconds every now and then (once a week e.g.). Maybe think about what you lack, what you miss, what you want, instead of taking the typical career (cars, watches, house, partner, travels) for granted.

      • I feel this is the big problem for our modern age. That we don’t know ourself and chase things we think will tell us who we are and give us an identity. It sounds cheesy but many such things that sound cheesy are often true and I think this is one.

        I read your breathing article now and realized it is something I’ve done without thinking about it when I feel stressed. I think it helps.

        Speaking of the meme to know yourself. There is a famous old boon called The Art of War by the Chinaman Sun Tzu. He was the leader of an army and he wrote that you must first know yourself to know your enemy.

        I appreciate the help Mr Syding!

  13. This was like a crash course to finance, fitness and self-development. Epic stuff guys!

  14. Nice article. This could be an ebook!

    My question for Mikael is this: have you got an article about that unique economic model you have created that Ludvig mentions in the beginning?

    By the way I have read your site since Ludvig first mentioned you many months ago. You have a really unique style, it’s hard to put a finger on.

    • Thanks man

      “erratic and ecstatic” somebody called my writing style

      My model is not put in writing. I doodled it for Ludvig on the fly and then threw the note away. It’s not secret or anything but I haven’t published it.

      • Lol that’s pretty catchy. Erratic & ecstatic.

        Too bad about the model. You should totally publish it sometime but I understand you maybe not want to do it for free. Anyway it got my interest.

      • I would also be interested in this model, especially if it can be expressed quantitatively.

  15. Hey Ludvig (and Mikael), sweet new edition. I think this one and the article about evolutionary mismatches are the best content you have put our so far.

    I like it when it’s really long and immersive and it kind of gets me to reflect or challenges my thinking.

    I do have one, very general, question to Mikael:

    How long would you say/guess that it takes to become good enough at financial stuff (investing or speculating) to make decent money off of it?

    Please understand I’m not looking for an exact answer, since I know this depends on many different factors (like how much time you spend every day and aptitude, etc). I’m just interested to hear your overall thoughts on this.

    Thank you.

  16. Ludvig and Mikael, you’re both awesome. Really enjoyed this post.

    I have a question for Mikael, since he’s answering in the first 24 hours hopefully:

    How do you reconcile your passions with the work necessary for basic existence? On my self-development journey, I got into learning about business, specifically sales, and I have the knowledge necessary to build a successful business in sales, only if I focus 100% and carry out the work. However I’m not sure if I should do this, because maybe doing something I’m truly passionate about will make me much more fulfilled, probably less financially successful, but fulfilled (the worst thing is I’m not sure of whether a passion I’d pursue would turn out to be a passion or would start boring me and keep me unfulfilled), or if I should just chase the money right now (I’m 17, in highschool), and build a business with a really good income so I don’t have to worry about money anymore, grind it out and then deal with the rest. If I didn’t have to worry about this I’d immediately start writing books, producing music non-stop (one of my great passions), having a blog or an online movement heavily focused on helping people (just like SGM which inspires me a lot), etc. However it takes a long time to get a solid income doing this, whereas with sales I could get results fairly fast so that I don’t have to worry about money after highschool, whether I go to college or not. Also I hear from some entrepreneurs that passion has to be deserved, that you don’t have to be driven from the core to build a business in the beginning, and that it comes with time. I’m just not sure and I’m pretty confused. What would you do in my position, Mikael?

    Pretty long question, I’d really love to get an answer though. Wish you two all the best guys, you’re doing the highest form of work a human being can do, helping and empowering others. Wish you all the best.

    • Thank you.

    • Both I and Ludvig have written several long articles on the subject. It’s complicated and individual. I would say you will never have to live on the street (as long as you don’t use leverage and speculate on things you can’t control). Any hard working semi-intelligent person in the west will make a decent living. And passion and happiness is paramount.

      I’d start whatever business you’re passionate about. I’m sure you’ll make it work.

      However, if you feel uncertain, go to “whore village” for a few years and make money in sales. That way you’ll know for sure you don’t want to do that for many years, AND you will save up some money to make your start-up more robust.

    • Again, Amir, if you truly know writing books and blogging is your thing you should get to it right away.

      However, if you think just 2-3 years in sales would make your book projects come about faster (since you first focus on money and then focus 100% on writing) the latter is probably a better way. If´in fact you are not ENTIRELY sure writing is your thing I would even go as far as recommending sales for a couple of years, before going all artist.

      You’re just seventeen; 2-3 years is nothing.

      Btw, I once wrote a post on the theme: “If can choose not to follow your passion, it wasn’t passion to begin with” meaning:

      -a true passion can’t not be followed.

      If you can choose sales for a few years you probably should. It’s easier to quit working and start writing than the other way around. But, as soon as you start hating sales and yourself – QUIT!

  17. Mikael what is your overall position on IF? And would you recommend me as a 38 year old guy (also in finance) to start? I am a little chubby now and would hope this could help me lose some pounds without much effort over the next year.

    • I personally find it very easy (too easy actually) to lose fat weight with IF. i however don’t want to lose weight but still want to do IF for internal health reasons (cancr e.g.). I definitely recommend you try it, but don’t think it’s a panacea for chubbyness. Some lose no weight at all on IF.

      • That’s reassuring to hear and I will now start doing it. I understand it has an adaptation process for a few weeks but I’m prepared.

  18. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ludvig. You mentioned that Syding would take his time to answer questions within the first 24 hours. Not sure if it goes for any question, but here goes. Maybe he could guide me with some wise words and/or point me in the right direction. Btw, ordered 900ml fish oil and will stop with the capsules to see if I can notice any difference.

    I’m an INTP personality (http://www.16personalities.com/intp-personality) with an IQ just above 98% percentile with somewhat (yes, somewhat) of an compulsive gambling disorder. 10-15% of my incomes come from passive revenue streams online, which will probably increase drastically for the next year, when I will be a stay at home dad.

    I haven’t really tried it at all yet but I’m considering taking on some daytrading for the upcoming year. The reason I haven’t tried it at all is probably, and unfortunately, that I want everything I do to be perfect, so many times I don’t try or start at all. But the upcoming year I definately will try it out. Maybe I’m disillusioned but it seems like easy money. It probably isn’t. Considering the personality traits I mentioned above, what would you make of my chances of “making it”? What traits do you think is important? What’s your advice on the subject?

    Many thanks.

  19. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll

  20. Wow, that’s A LOT of useful stuff in one article! So much of this seems useful (yet oddly obvious at the same time, once you actually think about it), I’m gonna have to save this and come back to it again and again.

    I especially find the concept of breaking homeostatis interesting, as I’ve recently started experimenting with this myself. Nothing is more boring and depressing in life than long-term stagnation!

    Thanks for sharing this!

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