Every other Friday, I provide an update on my exercise goals. In between, I’m writing about mental fitness.
I didn’t post anything on Monday. I had something ready to go, but then I read it over a couple times and realized that what I had written wasn’t so great. I was disappointed because the words I had come up with took some effort. I thought it would be a great post and then it wasn’t. I tried to revise, but it just wasn’t working. My words were boring and bland. Whatever creativity that I normally have was on empty.
It took me a while to figure out what was wrong, but eventually it came:
I was out of mental space.
What the hell does that mean? Stay with me.
I was talking to Mr. Penny Planter (Mr. PP from here on out [insert juvenile snickering here]) at the Berkshire Hathaway meeting when the conversation turned to investing. I told Mr. PP (more snickering) that I had done really well as a stock picker*. I said something like this:
I don’t think beating the markets in the short term** is that difficult. Just read the news and pay attention to trends. Figure out which companies are at the forefront and buy them. The introduction of the iPhone is a perfect example of this. Any geek knew that Apple was going to sell a gazillion of the devices and it would take the competition a while to catch up.
Mr. PP responded with something like this:
It’s still a lot of work though, isn’t it? You have to keep up with the news. I don’t want this type of stuff consuming my mental space. I’m sticking with index funds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mental space ever since.
No Mental Space == Unhappiness
I wanted to finish two projects before the girls got out of school on 5/24:
- planter boxes for the front yard
- a Lori Wall Bed
The planter boxes are almost done, but I still have to install a piece of wood around the top and a watering system. I have about 6 hours of work left:
I’m almost done painting the bed, but still need to put it together. It will probably take me about 2 hours to assemble:
These two projects have been consuming me. When I’m not spending summer break with the girls, I have a tool in my hand. Because it’s been so hot, I’ve started work around 6am when the temperature is reasonable. I throw in the tools at about 1pm and head to the public pool with the girls. By the time dinner is done, I’m exhausted. On Monday, I put in almost 30,000 steps just from working on the planter boxes. Many of those steps were behind a wheelbarrow loaded with dirt:
To write well, I need time to be bored. I need to go for long walks, run or just sit there. I haven’t had time for any of this. No mental space.
Lack of mental space means lack of creativity. I have also found that my happiness suffers because I don’t have time to:
- absorb my surroundings
Instead, my mind becomes cluttered and I become agitated. Not good.
Is Mental Space Dead?
Is anyone bored anymore? When I’m at a stop light, I notice fellow drivers looking at their phone. When I’m at the playground with the kids, other parents are looking at their phones. When I’m in line somewhere, others are looking down. At their phone. Not all boredom is good, but much of it is.
After these projects are done, I’m going to work on being bored for a bit.
*I can’t tell you I’m a good short-term stock picker without showing you results. The proof is in the $$$. Here is a portfolio I created two years ago:
**You may be asking me this now:
Wait, I thought you were an index investor? Why are you buying stocks and if you’re so good at it, why don’t you focus on them instead of index funds?
I buy individual stocks in very small quantities, mainly as a source of personal amusement. My competition with Mr. DGI is an example. Almost all money that goes into the markets goes to index funds.
If you’re willing to put the time in, beating markets in the short term (< 10 years) isn’t difficult. However, I find it very difficult knowing when to get out. My area of expertise is tech which gets disrupted faster than anything else. It’s not easy to predict when empires fall. With index funds, you don’t have to worry about any of this. As Mr. PP said, index funds mean more mental space.
Mr. PP, ha! That still cracks me up…
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