144. 2023 — The year of becoming comfortable with boredom

Rama Nimmagadda
5 min readDec 29, 2023
Photo taken at Arches National Park, USA in 2017

“Everything happens kind of the way it’s supposed to happen, and we just watch it unfold. And you can’t control it. Looking back, you can’t say, ‘I should’ve… ‘ You didn’t, and had you, the outcome would have been different.” — Rick Rubin

Another year end post by yet another middle-aged person trying to spew out wisdom…. It felt this way exactly a year back when I reflected on 2022 and feels exactly the same way right now too. For whatever its worth, here is how my year fared.

I segmented this blog into three sections: “Gratitude”, “Progress” and “Regress”.

Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” ― Eckhart Tolle

I wrote a number of blogs on making better decisions, building great careers and more recently started writing on building financial intuition. In addition to subscribing to my newsletter, few readers had also reached out to me privately for guidance. I’m thankful to you, the readers of this newsletter; a strong sense of duty towards you ensured that I did not miss a single week this year.

I read a number of books this year which I covered in this blog (here). This is a privilege that I cherish so dearly. It has been my experience that the amount of learning and growth that comes from deep reading is way more than any formal education — perhaps because when I did my academic education, my goal was just to complete the program(s) ASAP but now, my reading is driven by a strong intrinsic curiosity to understand and a desire to apply.

Progress

“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” — Marie Curie

Test of Conviction

“Of what worth are convictions that bring not suffering?” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This year tested my conviction, fittingly, on matters that I generally write about. In many of my blogs, I reflected in real time on how I was contending with my conviction. By no means am I any close to seeing any material fruits of my current experiment but for now, my situation certainly has bounced back a little from what, at one time, seemed like a bottomless pit.

My stock portfolio fell by 27% during 2022 which was bad enough but in the first few months of 2023, it fell by another 17%. This made a total fall of 40% from the beginning of 2022. After that, a few green shoots emerged leading to a gain of about 36% from this lowest point, ending at total yearly gain of 13%. I’m still down about 18% overall. These wild swings are actually par for the course, and I knew that. But knowing something and experiencing that thing can be hugely divergent. When I was looking for the light at the far end of the tunnel, it felt like the tunnel was only getting darker. Right now, I’m in a much better place though. I expect these kinds of swings to continue and hence am constantly trying to better my ability to deal with them. Being even-tempered in the face of adversity and joy, is an earnest pursuit of mine. In order to build confidence, I ended up reading biographies and autobiographies of people who did well in capital markets. To make sense of the complex dynamics of stock market, I meandered into the study of complexity science via some delving into the study of systems thinking. Systems thinking was enlightening but complexity theory is completely mind boggling. Now I have a basic understanding of critical points, scaling laws, non-linearity, path dependence, self-similarity etc. A lot more to explore and a lot more to learn.

Comfort with boredom

“There’s a dividing line between success & failure: The ability to sit with boredom.” — Robert Greene

My main growth in 2023 was in developing comfort with boredom. A couple of years ago, I got quite taken in by this quote from Balise Pascal — “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone”. I do struggle if I have absolutely nothing to do. Earlier when I was in a full-time job, I was not aware of this. I always thought I would savour free time. But after quitting my corporate career, it suddenly dawned on me that free time can be enjoyed only when it is in short supply. Now my success is dependent on my capital investments coming through over the next several years, not on my expending “efforts” day to day. Success heavily depends on restraint and patience. So, I realized the urgent (pun intended) need to become patient. I did a number of things to improve my general patience level. My laptop is not a fast one. Its use served as a daily exercise in developing patience. Also, serendipitously, intermittent fasting (15–16 hour fasting window per day and a 22–24 hour fasting window once every month) also turned to be excellent tool in strengthening mindset of restraint.

I spent a lot less time socially this year. This forced me to get more comfortable spending time with myself. Also, I walked by myself, a decent bit. This increased my comfort with boredom.

Regress

I hardly ran this year. 2023 started with MCL tissue damage on the right knee and then on the left knee. I’m still not out of the woods yet. I made several false (re)starts during the year only for the damage to flare up and progressively worsen. For a while, I stopped Yoga and strength training as well but thankfully, I am back at them now. Not being able to run was almost depressing.

Bottomline

“You live life looking forward, you understand life looking backward.” — Soren Kierkegaard

If the dominant theme for 2022 was the ingraining of “Fragility->Robustness->Antifragility” continuum, this year’s theme turned out to be that of “Complexity Theory”. A practical implication of “complexity thinking” is that it liberated me from the impossible task of forcing a desired future. Instead, my primary concern now is determining meaningful actions in the present, which allows me to account for a very wide range of future possibilities. This transition in thinking has been exciting and expansive.

I do not have any particular goals or plans for 2024 except to continue faithfully following my curiosity.

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A bit on my background

I help people make better decisions.

I coach people on “Making Better Decisions”, “Financial Intuition” and “Building Great Careers”. I’m open to run sessions on these topics in institutions — this will help me create larger impact.

I’m also an Investment Advisor (RIA) registered with the Securities and the Exchange Board of India (SEBI). As an RIA, I analyze and prepare financial plans to help people achieve their financial goals.

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