A very important tool, if you want to be awesome

Everyday we are faced with decisions. And life. And, your portfolio is too.

With each life decision our brain will tag almost endless moments, almost like a tweet or blog post, with a judgment or a value: Good, bad. Right or wrong. Beautiful, ugly… you get the point. Sahweet, or shitty.

If you’re like my 6-year-old, whenever wronged you will call someone an idiot or stupid. Sometimes he’ll be more gentle and simply call you a “wronger”. And by labeling what we don’t understand, our brain can file the moment conveniently away in some nook of our mind, preparing to assimilate the next wave of information life brings our way.

If you’re a goldbug that same sentiment has gone from hero to zero. And yet, nothing but your perception of that same element has changed. Amazon? You were clueless for years to own it. Not so much anymore.

For a long time, even a lifetime, this simple cause & effect process can work for us. But other times it doesn’t — because sometimes, often times, things are more complicated than our brain can understand in the moment.

Over the last year, I’ve found more peace than I’ve had in a lifetime striving for Equanimity. In my life and my portfolio. The situations we all live with are like that of the wise Chinese farmer whose horse ran off.

When his neighbor came to console him the farmer said “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

When his horse returned the next day with a herd of horses following her, the foolish neighbor came to congratulate him on his good fortune.

“Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the farmer.

Then, when the farmer’s son broke his leg trying to ride one of the new horses, the foolish neighbor came to console him again.

“Who knows what’s good or bad?” said the wise farmer.

When the army passed through, conscripting men for war, they passed over the farmer’s son because of his broken leg.

When the foolish man came to congratulate the farmer that his son would be spared, again the wise farmer said “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

Adapted from a talk by Gil Fronsdal, May 2004:

The English word “equanimity” translates two separate Pali words used by the Buddha. Each represents a different aspect of equanimity.

The most common Pali word translated as “equanimity” is upekkha, meaning “to look over.” It refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation, the ability to see without being caught by what we see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.

Upekkha can also refer to the ease that comes from seeing a bigger picture. Colloquially, in India the word was sometimes used to mean “to see with patience.” We might understand this as “seeing with understanding.” For example, when we know not to take offensive words personally, we are less likely to react to what was said. Instead, we remain at ease or equanimous. This form of equanimity is sometimes compared to grandmotherly love. The grandmother clearly loves her grandchildren but, thanks to her experience with her own children, is less likely to be caught up in the drama of her grandchildren’s lives.

The second word often translated as equanimity is tatramajjhattata (say that 10 times fast), a compound made of simple Pali words. Tatra, meaning “there,” sometimes refers to “all these things.” Majjha means “middle,” and tata means “to stand or to pose.” Put together, the word becomes “to stand in the middle of all this.” As a form of equanimity, “being in the middle” refers to balance, to remaining centered in the middle of whatever is happening. This balance comes from inner strength or stability. The strong presence of inner calm, well-being, confidence, vitality, or integrity can keep us upright, like a ballast keeps a ship upright in strong winds. As inner strength develops, equanimity follows.

So, yesterday the market was down 200 points. Today it’s up 130.

Is that good, bad?

At some point if you are going to be successful in life, love, or even investing you’ll need to develop more tools… and that won’t be a better chart, or indicator; it will be equanimity.