The simple act of daily meditation is the key to investment success. Every once in a while I write about topics that seemingly have nothing to do with investing, but for those that are able to connect the dots, they will actually find great value in these seemingly unrelated topics to wealth building and preservation strategies.
Recently, I wrote about a behavioral phenomenon called the “It Won’t Happen to Me” syndrome that prevents many of us from separating perceived reality from actual reality, and I discussed how acceptance of false precepts about investing and self-preservation can lead us to make wildly irresponsible decisions that are dangerous to our self-preservation, including decisions to do nothing when one should act. One of the easiest things we can do on a daily basis that won’t cost us a penny, yet can help us achieve a tremendous level of clarity that allows us to separate the false paradigms and precepts that we have often already embraced from the staggeringly different reality that often exists, is the simple practice of meditation.
There are many different forms of mediation, including Zazen, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Kundalini Yoga, Vipassana meditation, and Transcendental Meditation (TM), just to name a few. I recommend TM or MBSR because it has been scientifically proven, in peer reviewed studies published in accredited medical journals, that one does not even need to believe in the beneficial effects of TM and MBSR to reap the beneficial rewards of practicing these forms of meditation. Though I’ve read a few articles and books about TM over the course of my lifetime, I personally believe that there are sufficient resources online to at least start practicing now. The important part of the equation is to start today, and to stop procrastinating.
If you feel you need an instructor down the road, then you can seek out a local instructor down the road, but it certainly is not necessary, in my opinion, to spend thousands of dollars to receive a personal mantra from a maharishi, as is sometimes recommended, or to even spend hundreds of dollars taking an intensive course, whether online or in person, to receive the benefits of a daily meditative practice and to discover that meditation is they key to investment success.
When I was younger and intensely training in martial arts as well as sparring regularly, my sensei would begin every class with a brief 5-minute period of Zazen meditation in which he would ask all of us to release all the work stresses that may have accumulated in our body from work conflicts experienced earlier in the day, to empty our mind to allow it to be receptive to learning whatever techniques we were focusing on that day, and to calm our mind to increase our focus during our training and sparring sessions. No matter how stressful any work matters I had dealt with earlier in the day had been, I always felt much better even after such a brief period of meditation. In fact, my Sensei encouraged all of us to meditate daily, so also supplemented this brief 5-minute period of meditation with a longer 15 to 20 minute daily session before I went to sleep each day.
However, back then, because I was unaware of the scientific research regarding meditation, I never connected the dots even though I had some remarkable experiences that I now attribute to my daily meditative practice. I can clearly recall one sparring session with a Muay Thai boxer during which everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, whereby I could sense every kick and every knee a fraction of a second before my sparring partner delivered them. However, each time, I easily moved out of the way or blocked his strikes. I literally felt as if my sparring fighter could not hit me. Another time, when engaged in a training session, I informed my Sensei before class that I had a fever, so I asked him to forgive me that day if I was a little slow in reacting to my training partners. In fact, just the opposite happened, and I was so sharp that day with my techniques that my Sensei sarcastically commented, “You should be sick every day!”
Later that evening, when I was trying to fathom the reason for my exceptional training session, I deduced that my better-than-normal display of skill that day was attributable to the fact that my sickness stopped me from thinking and put my muscle memory entirely in charge. In other words, my primordial instincts took over, allowing my “flow”, my “chi”, or whatever you want to call it, to be particularly strong that day. I felt a certain stillness that day when training that seemed to heighten all my senses, including my intuition, whereby I could predict my opponent’s strikes before he even threw them, very similar to my sparring session with the Muay Thai boxer. It’s odd that many people view people that practice daily meditation as “soft”, as I discovered that not only did daily meditation make me a much better fighter, but it also served to calm any fears and anxiety I had prior to, and during, my sparring sessions.
In fact athletes often call this state of mind as “being in the zone”. I’m sure fans of basketball can recall the 1997 NBA finals game between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz, when Michael Jordan had the flu and was so sick that he couldn’t even stay upright on the bench. Despite his weakened physical condition, Jordan still dropped 38 points on the Jazz, in a virtuoso performance in which every point he scored was critical in an eventual 2-point win for the Bulls. Again, with Jordan that day, I think his physical disadvantage that day forced him to rely more on the mental aspects of the game, and this allowed him to more easily enter the “zone.”
And this zone, or flow state, is something that meditation replicates. Consequently, the reason I state that meditation is they key to investment success is due to the clarity of thinking and decision making that is born out of a state of tranquility and flow. Many people mistakenly assume that great ideas come from relentless work habits and an indomitable work discipline, but just the opposite is true. When someone is so tired from relentless work, there is no energy from which creativity and great ideas can be born. Great ideas are born during those moments when the mind is still and the clarity exists to formulate new and creative ideas. If the concept that ideas are born out of nothingness and spaces of calmness and clarity seems foreign to you, then allow me to use an analogy of physical fitness. There is a concept in professional sports called overtraining. This is when someone, whether a sprinter, a UFC fighter, a football player, or a soccer player, trains so relentlessly for such a long period of time that he does not allow his muscles to adequately heal and recover from his training sessions. When an athlete overtrains, this inevitably leads to sub-optimal performance during a fight or a game.
If you are a workaholic, and the days blend into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, and you never giver your mind adequate time to rest, chances are that you are going to have a mental breakdown. Furthermore, chances are that even though you give your mind time to rest during sleep, because you never refresh your mind with a period of calm and clarity during the day, that you may even suffer from frequent periods of insomnia. Can you imagine exercising every day for all hours you are awake, except meals, without every stopping? Most everyone would agree that this type of extreme unrelenting physical exertion is dangerous as it will lead to an eventual breakdown of the body and collapse. However, most people fail to take care of their mind in the same way they would their physical body. If you don’t give your mind ample opportunity to reset every day with a sustained period of calm, then eventually you are going to damage your mind.
Fortunately, just two 20-minute daily meditation sessions a day can cure this damage and even reverse the damage that has already been done. In fact, if you are one of those people that toss and turn all night and can’t shut off your mind, then you are an ideal candidate to start a daily meditation practice. According to Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a post-doctoral fellow at the NYU School of Medicine, meditation calms the mind to such a degree that its restorative effects can be greater than even deep stages of sleep. Robbins states that daily mediation offers some of the same benefits, cognitively and physically, from a recovery and a regeneration standpoint as stage-IV deep sleep. In fact, Robbins herself stated that she never was able to reach restful stages of sleep at night until she started meditating.
There are many peer-reviewed scientific studies that validate the following findings, but UCLA and Harvard studies are just two of many conducted studies that have proven the following. A daily meditation practice increases the grey matter volume in the brain, increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that governs learning and memory, and decreases the volume of the brain in the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for producing fear, anxiety and stress. Many moons ago, when I was preparing to enter business school, I recall only having 2 weeks to study for the GREs (the graduate business school entrance exam) during a holiday break as I was already enrolled in another graduate program. Though many might believe 2 weeks to be an inadequate period of time to study for any scholastic exam, whether the GREs or any other graduate level program, my daily meditation sessions provided me with great focus and memory retention for those two weeks and I felt more than adequately prepared by the time the exam day arrived.
I credit my meditation sessions for my ability to respectively score in the 96th, 93rd and 95th percentiles in my verbal, quantitative and analytical sections of the GRE exam, of everyone that took that exam in the entire United States, with only two weeks of preparation. And this is the power of meditation. I have seen it work in my own life with great success in my martial arts training, my scholastic endeavors and my current business of maalamalama. I only wish I had understood the benefits more fully back when I was mentoring at-risk youth in Philly and when I was mentoring gang members in Los Angeles. Had I more fully understood the benefits of meditation back then, I would have started every one of my mentoring sessions with them with a period of meditation, as I truly believe that meditation would have allowed me to break through to many more of them.
If all the above data does not provide enough compelling evidence to convince you that meditation will provide much more heightened levels of clarity that lead to better and more profitable investment decisions, and thus compel you to start meditating, then perhaps this last reason will do so. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for her discovery of protective caps on chromosomes called telomeres, studied the effects of meditation on the length of telomeres. Blackburn reported that there was scientifically significant increases in the length of telomeres among those that meditated on a regular basis versus those that never meditated. Why is this important? Scientific studies have reported that people with longer telomeres have also demonstrated better cognitive ability, improved overall health, higher levels of satisfaction with life, and have had longer lives, than those with shorter telomeres.
At the very least, if everyone were to meditate twice a day for just 20 minutes per session, even if you have no desire to become a better investor, the other extraordinary benefits of meditation are sufficient reason to do so. However, if you wish to benefit from the notion that meditation is they key to investment success, you can use it for this purpose as well. As a result of more people practicing meditation, the world would transform into a kinder, more compassionate world with less angry people, and that is a development that none of us should ever oppose.
About the author: JS Kim is the Founder and Managing Director of maalamalama, a fiercely independent wealth management consulting, research and education firm that focuses on building unique strategies centered around gold and silver assets to build a better tomorrow for everyone. We are excited to announce that we will be launching our SmartKnowledge Wealth Academy very soon.
Fun fact of the day: According to Victor Hugo Criado Berbert, production manager of the 2016 Rio Olympic medals, the gold medals, though they each weighed 500 grams, only contained about 5.84 grams of gold. However, the “gold” medals each contained 494.16g of silver, making them by weight, by value, and by price, a gold-plated silver medal in reality. At today’s respective prices for a 1-troy ounce American Gold and Silver Eagle coin, the gold and silver contained in each gold medal would be priced at $266.07 of gold and $364.63 of silver for a total price of $630.70, assuming that the gold and silver used in the fabrication of the medals are 99.99% fine, which I haven’t been able to confirm. That’s a lot of training for a “gold” medal that doesn’t even contain 1/5 of a single troy ounce of gold and that, by every possible measurement metric, should truly be called a silver metal. That’s also a lot of deception to cheat the winners out of a metal, that according to Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, is just a barbarous relic.