My Top Lessons from 2016

2016 ludvig sunström travels

Current Inspirations:

1) Alexander Hamilton: For his legislative genius, masterful administration, and for his breadth of knowledge.alexander-hamilton

I just finished reading Ron Chernov’s biography about Hamilton and it was great. Hamilton is probably the most important Founding Father. Him or Madison. In either case, he has been overlooked and discredited in history for the past 150 years due to propaganda reasons (Jefferson and his Republican friends are much to blame).

Hamilton’s achievements include: a central bank, a funded debt (via sinking fund), a high credit rating, a tax system, a customs service, a coast guard, and a navy.

All of these were firsts in America.

As is often the case, Hamilton’s greatest strength (his vociferocity) was also his worst weakness. He didn’t know when to keep quiet or ignore idiots, and so, he wasted much time responding to slanderers as well as unnecessarily directing attention at negative rumors about himself. This cost him dearly.

2) Michael Bloomberg: A great role model in terms of business and politics. It is baffling that western politicians are not mimicking many of his policies–like what he did in terms of soda + chemically engineered food.

3) This Castle. My friend Richard sent me this brief for a castle in Florence some time ago. It’s quite affordable for 4-8 knights. It’s important to own a castle because it’s the secret of success. . .

ludvig-sunstrom-secret-of-success

So says Toshio Motoya, Japanese billionaire & founder of APA hotels.

Some Cool Stuff that Happened over 2016:

  • Improved many health metrics: Omega-3/6, testosterone vs estrogen, cortisol, blood pressure, etc… [See tests below]
  • Became better at thinking.
  • Acquired a number of good habits [see below].
  • Created the podcast 25 Minuter med Syding & Sunström, which has gone tremendously well considering that we’re doing it part-time, whereas most of our “competitors” are going at it full-time.
  • Created TUCS and nearly finished BOOH. (More info later)
  • Traveled to a bunch of countries and met many interesting people.
  • I read only 37 books, but 8 of these were extremely good and took a long time to summarize and do follow-up work on. I also stopped reading a bunch of easy one-idea books because (a) they sucked or (b) I already knew the content. I also consumed many book summaries on Blinkist. And listened to many podcasts.
  • Started being semi-active on Twitter.1. I suck at it, but I’m good enough for Wikileaks. . .

ludvig-sunstrom-twitter

Mistakes:

After looking over my monthly overview documents and reflecting for a while, I realized most of my mistakes–at least the once that mattered–during 2016 were mistakes of omission; mainly from sub-optimization and failure to go with the simplest solution (while still fresh in mind).

On Podcasting:

We’re going to do many more interviews with cool and successful people over 2017, as we have more time on our hands.

We had a great start with the podcast and somehow (toward the end of the year) ended up as ranked #1 on iTunes (again) in the business category. I think we secured a niche that was previously untapped in Sweden with our relatively short episodes and concrete ideas/advice. By contrast, most podcasts here are long-winded and gossipy.

We also have a newsletter for the podcast where we summarize the key takeaways and (sometimes) send out bonuses, giveaways, and other funky stuff. It is being received well–our average open rate for it is 58%. If you are Swedish, definitely subscribe to it.

ludvig-sunstrom-25-minuter

Swedish author Peter Bevelin wrote the world’s best book, Seeking Wisdom. He recently wrote another book called “All I Want to Know is Where I’m Going to Die So I’ll Never Go There,” which is a carefully hand-picked collation of Mungerism & Buffetism about self-development, happiness, and investing.

Per H. Börjesson, Founder of Spiltan (and one of Sweden’s most experienced value investors) was on our show and was kind enough to bring us gifts; among other things, Peter’s new book.

peter-bevelin-book-per-hakan-borjesson-gift-25-minuter-podcast

And here is another funny picture of me and Mikael doing a speech about cognitive biases related to investment/economic decisions:

ludvig-sunstrom-investerardagarnaMikael: (Says something clever.)

Me: (Grr! I wanted to say that.)

On Travels

I traveled to a number of countries: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines and Japan being the main ones.

Some key takeaways:

  • I like traveling, but not as much as most people seem to do. Probably because I do weird/new stuff a lot and because my ongoing studies render the contrast of novelty less powerful.
  • Westerners (at least Scandinavians) are significantly less bigoted than Asians.
  • Get in the habit of diversifying risk–in every major area–ASAP in life. Have backups or some type of contingency plan.

Thailand:  

I lived in Bangkok as HQ for about 7 months with Oskar.

I also went to a few different places in Thailand, like Koh Samed.

Bangkok is good for cheap, luxurious living, but extremely superficial and has horrible traffic and pollution from fumes. It’s bothersome–and sometimes dangerous–to go for walks, unless you live near a park.

Thai food is cheap, but tends to be very unhealthy (they put all kinds of chemicals and artificial flavoring in it). You have people there looking like the Michelin Man, and you just can’t tell which gender they are. They need someone like Michael Bloomberg in charge to put an end to it.

Here’s a picture from my Birthday. Opposite is my friend Miha, an experienced expat in Asia, who read SGM and contacted me when I had recently moved to BKK.

A photo posted by LudvigSGM (@ludvigsunstrom) on

And here’s another one, with Oskar and Andreas too.

Vietnam:

Vietnam is an extremely cheap country if you live in Saigon/Ho Chi Min City–where I went twice. It is somewhat similar to Thailand. I had a good experience there, but spent a lot of time working, and did not explore as much as I perhaps could/should have.

Singapore: 

I will probably return there in the future. It’s neat and clean, but rather expensive. Both small and has a great public transportation system. A great country for entrepreneurs.

But I gotta tell you: The young people there have a very poor sense of history. They don’t know what LKY and his team had to sacrifice for their well-being.

Fun fact: Many rich, spoiled, silver-spoon-in-mouth Singaporean guys go to BKK to get hot silicone girls, spending a fortune buying booze in the clubs.

I also met up with Jeremy (who reads SGM). We played Badminton and I suffered a frustrating loss, despite the fact that I tried my hardest, while he was going easy on me.

A photo posted by LudvigSGM (@ludvigsunstrom) on

Philippines:

Me and Oskar went to Palawan/El Nido, upon recommendation of Edmund. 2 It is a beautiful country, but ruled by real nutcases. I’m not going back.

travel7

They charge you a HIDDEN extortion/exit fee–no warning whatsoever, and you can’t pay with card–just before entering your gate at airport; so you MUST go outside the airport, find an ATM and go through the whole procedure. . . AGAIN.

Could you possibly annoy or stress out travelers in a worse way? Could you possibly create a worse last impression? Idiots.

They also have horrible Internet connection (it works at random, and only slowly), which made me miss out on a podcast episode, while endangering my safety and wasting an entire day.

I don’t care what anyone says: Philippines is not a good place to live if you work from the Internet.

Japan:

I spent about a month in Japan and I am definitely going back. You can stay for 90 days at a time (without being a citizen) as long as you have a European passport.

It is an awesome country in many aspects. It is extremely scenic and has the best food in the world. But there are two downsides: It’s expensive and the people are surprisingly bad at English. They also don’t take credit cards.

ludvig-sunstrom-japan

I stayed mainly in Kyoto and Tokyo (which is huge). Also traveled through Osaka and some other places. To get a sense of how large Tokyo is, see this view from atop of SkyTree (450 meters above ground):

scenicskytree3

I stayed at two different APA Hotels. Their founder, Toshio Motoya, has written several pamphlets of essays (about his political views and quirky personal aphorisms–like the importance of owning a castle) which are distributed in all the rooms, instead of a Bible.

toshio-motoya-apa-hotel-essay

He has many interesting ideas on Japanese policy. The most important one is that Japan needs to leverage its awesome cultural heritage more in their national advertising/branding. What they did at the Olympics (with the Mario stunt) is exactly the sort of thing they should be doing, only 10x more!

–Sweden should do the same. 3

During my last days in Japan, while on my first and only tour, I met a high-ranking executive of Coca-Cola. He thought he was doing the Lord’s work. I asked him if he had seen the latest Berkshire Hathaway annual conference. He had. I asked him what he thought about Munger’s reply to the Coke question, but he didn’t understand. He just said, “Warren Buffett drinks a lot of Coke.”

On Habits:

My life has changed so much over the last 2 years that I have needed to change my daily routine and habits quite a bit. Since one’s goals, priorities, and responsibilities change, it doesn’t make sense to maintain the same routine, although homeostasis dictates it.

Here are some generally positive habits I’ve picked up lately:

  • Mobility stretching. I can now easily sit down in deep squat position, and sometimes do it in the gym in between sets. When Mikael Syding told me months ago that he did this, I barely believed it. Now I just do it.
  • Moving more: I have a tendency towards concentration and–while I typically maintain decent posture and flex my muscles intermittently–I still need to remind myself to move around more.
  • Minimum viable dosage: I drink one relatively strong cup of coffee almost each day. And when I drink alcohol, I try to keep it to two units.
  • Caffeine timing: The optimal timing is about 2-4 hours after waking up.

All in all, I feel like I am becoming a little bit more consistent in my output. It helps to have systems in place.

Festina lente.

–Augustus

On Systems:

Consistent compounded gains beat spectacular and splendid one-year performances. Investors beat speculators. And patience beats brilliance.

–And systems beat actions.

I feel like I’ve acquired a solid baseline of systems for most of the fundamental things; like health, finances, and learning, informational organization and analysis/decision-making.

Here are three good ones for health:

  1. Blood pressure,
  2. comprehensive blood test,
  3. and fatty acid analysis.


During one period of the year I had rather bad numbers and felt stressed. Now it has gone back to normal.

Most of my health indicators are good, but here are a few ones that need gradual improvement over 2017.

From Wer Labs 4 (Europe):

wer labs blood test

My testosterone levels are average. Not as high as I would like (19 nmol/L = 550 ng/dl). I would like 700. I also want to reduce my estrogen levels slightly (not included in this test, but I know they can be improved with relative ease).

My thyroid is acting up. It has been weird for 2 tests in a row taken 6 months apart. I will have it checked out soon, learn some best practices, and stick to them.

I need more iron and less salt. Otherwise it might be bad for the kidneys over the long-term.

blood-test

Fatty acid analysis from ArcticMed (Europe):

ludvig-sunstrom-omega-3-test

I did not consume high quality Omega-3 supplements for 2 months (but still swallow capsules while traveling). And I ate out a lot. This slightly messed up my previous excellent results, but nothing major. I will go back to a perfect score now that I am consuming ArcticMed natural fish oil again.

Final Thoughts:

 

  • SGM Newsletter: Around this time last year, I significantly purged my SGM email list. I did the same thing again recently, but not as extreme. [if you did not get an email message about this article, you were removed. You can join the newsletter here.]
  • The Ultimate Commonplace System (TUCS): There will be further updates and some added material. If you bought, you will be emailed. I will also put together some case studies.
  • Breaking out of Homeotasis (BOOH). I would like to thank everyone who has asked me how the work with the book is going. It’s going well, but it has been a big project. I have cut down the page count from ~700 pages to (currently) 300. It should be around 250-310 by the time of publication. When will it be published? I can’t say an exact date, but it’s in the final stages. If you’ve joined the waiting list you will be first to know. And you will also receive some sweet freebies. I will be emailing there a bunch soon about the book (but not the regular SGM list).

Carpe Annum,

Ludvig Sunström

* * *

What are some things you learned over 2016?

What will you improve, eliminate or change over 2017?


  1. I apologize if I have not responded to your email, please try me on Twitter instead.

  2. Most of the country is cheap, I hear, but Palawan is extremely expensive.

  3. One of the things that made me the most angry this year was when I returned to Sweden, and I saw the “wall of shame” they have put up on Arlanda (the main airport outside Stockholm). It’s full of nobodies (like female fashion bloggers). It gives a bad first impression of the country and it shows horrible judgment.

  4. We recently interviewed their founder Rickard Lagerqvist — great guy.

Comments

  1. Also found https://medisera.se/vara-halsokontroller/halsokontroll-stor/ which has 35 analysis instead of 32 (werlab). Have you tried them?

  2. Vincent L Mulvaney says

    Hey Sir Ludvig! What would be your top 3-5 picks for neuroscience books?

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