Charlie Munger (98 years old) and Warren Buffett (92 years old) fascinate me.
They're two of the smartest, wisest, most clear-thinking men on the planet, and they're thriving even well into their 90's.
They're doing it with HORRIBLE diet practices and almost no fitness.
They're doing things that are supposed to hurt their long-term brain health, yet mentally, they're doing great.
Until you think about stress.
And this is what blows my mind about these two men.
Because of their ability to think clearly, you don't see them stress.
Down turn in the market?
They're not concerned because their investing principles don't change with fluctuations in the market.
They know that they can't predict what the market does, so they focus on the value of the companies that they're invested in long term.
Talk to most people who trade stocks and they're stressed as stressed can be in good or bad times.
But these two remain even keel.
When you look at the long-term negative impacts of chronic stress, their health late in life begins to make sense.
Even with their horrible diets that include MacDonald's daily along with a hefty amount of Coca Cola.
Chronic vs Acute Stress
Acute stress is the fight or flight response that helps you get the hell away from a tiger or bear in nature, or fight for your life. It's a helpful response to immediate stressors.
We don't have many of these situations in our modern cities and lives. Instead, we have a form of stress that we could really do without, it's called chronic stress, and it's what we think about when we hear the term, "I'm stressed".
Chronic stress is fuelled by worry, fear, and imagination.
It's worrying about possible negative outcomes, about what others think about you. It's 'being stressed' at work, constantly trying to hit a new deadline or reach new sales numbers or provide for your family.
The two kinds of stress are very different, and they have very different impacts on your long-term health.
According to ample amounts of research, chronic stress leads to:
This is where we can see the greatest impact of Buffett and Munger's longevity, the impact of a lack of stress on their memory, ability to recall information, and think clearly even as they age.
Researchers out of Ohio State University (study) found a relationship between chronic stress and short-term memory. The study focused on the hippocampus, the body’s center of emotional response and memory.
Other research shows people have a difficult time creating short-term memories and turning those into long-term memories. Turning short-term memories into long-term ones is how we learn.
By continually being stressed (which is at its base, a choice, or a way of thinking that you can opt out of) you negate your ability to learn.
We're alive to learn. The more we learn the more we can create the life we want. You can even learn to remove chronic stress from your life (we'll cover that in a bit).
Betatrophin is a protein that blocks an enzyme, adipose triglyceride lipase, that breaks down body fat. According to researchs at the University of Florida Health, chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin in the body.
It's through this mechanism (study) that chronic stress can increase weight gain.
But there's more to it than an increase in betatrophin.
Chronic stress increases cortisol in the body. Cortisol, if elevated too long, breaks down proteins and muscle and converts it to energy rather than using fat as a fuel source.
Not to mention that people, when stressed, often over-eat or choose calorically dense foods to quell their cravings or to just create a little bump in dopamine for a momentary release from their stresses.
Just another reason to work on dealing with chronic stress and even using it.
Spread of cancer
We don't know the full impact of chronic stress on health, nor on cancer. Thus far there's no link between stress and the creation of cancer cells, but according to some research, stress may wake up dormant cancer cells.
In other research chronic stress both increases the number of lymphatic vessels draining from a tumor and increases the flow in existing vessels.
You can possibly take drugs to mitigate or block the effects of chronic stress on cancer cells, but it's just another example of why you should focus on reducing chronic stress with the tactics we'll cover in a bit.
Changes in personality
Researchers found that workers who felt excessive stress in the workplace reported higher levels of neuroticism. They became more worried and irritable, and less extroverted.
We Could Go On...
But you get it. Chronic stress is bad for your brain and your body, and your overall quality of life.
So, let's get to the good part...
How do guys like Munger and Buffett manage their stress levels?
How do they think clearly?
What principles do they follow that help them perform so well late into their 90's?
How to Handle Stress Effectively
Let's focus on what we can and can't control.
Being chronically stress is, at it's heart, a way of thinking. We can choose how we react to circumstances and events, but we cannot choose the events.
The following principles will help you handle and even remove chronic stress, and the negative effects of chronic stress along with it.
Munger talks about this a lot. Figuring out how to lose so you can avoid losing, and maybe even win.
Or, figure out how to get the outcome you don't want so you can figure out how to get the outcome you do want.
How does this help you avoid stress?
It helps you remove silly mistakes that get between you and the life you want, ie, the life where your current problems are replaced by a different set of problems that are of your choosing.
Don't Fool Yourself
We're always looking for ways to affirm what we already think. Even if what we think is detrimental to our well-being and wealth.
Be careful about what information you're seeking. If you're stressed, you're likely going to seek out information to back these fears up.
But are they real, rational, and likely?
When you find yourself in a state of stress, write down how you're thinking, how you're processing information, and the conclusions you're coming to.
Do these lines of thinking benefit you, or are they simply reaffirming negative outcomes that you're worrying about?
Other helpful ways to handle stress effectively...
It's the Stoic principle of 'loving fate'.
Nietzsche said of amor fait:
“My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not in the future, not in the past, not for all eternity. Not only to endure what is necessary, still less to conceal it — all idealism is falseness in the face of necessity — , but to love it...”
This isn't a 'resign my life to fate' and do nothing and just let whatever happens happen outlook, but rather a 'do my best and love whatever comes of it' way of looking at things.
We can't always control outcomes, nor circumstances, and we certainly can't plan for the Black Swans of life like death or catastrophe. We can, however, understand that they are out of our control, that they occur in life, they're a constant, so we may as well love them along with all of the good in life.
Control vs Can't
Stress is essentially focusing on that which is out of your control, which is why it brings on stress. You can't control outcomes, so have a goal and then release it, focusing purely on the work.
Sit down and dig into your life, what's stressing you out, what you worry about, and figure out what in that problem is under your control (like effort, discipline, hard work) and what is out of your control (outcomes, timelines, circumstances).
If you only focus on that which is in your control, it becomes hard to stress and worry.
You can focus on the future, or use the future, in a positive way or a negative way (next).
When you have a problem that you're stressing about, look at it from 5 years down the line, and then 10, then 40, then after you're long dead. Does it really matter? Is it really worth the stress you're feeling or, as with everything else (you included), can you just accept it and release the tension it's causing you?
Avoid living in the future.
That is, constantly thinking about how things may or may not turn out, even dreaming about how things could be.
Release future living and focus on the present. Worry doesn't exist in the present, only in the future.
You can see challenges as a warrior or as a worrier.
I warrior sees a great enemy, digs his heels in, and figures out the best way to fight, and to win. He faces his death, his fears like a man.
A worrier spends his time in the future, concocting imaginary outcomes based on how the present looks. They're typically negative future outcomes that get his worried and discouraged about the present.
You can see challenges in whatever way you want. Seeing them like a warrior will have you thinking clearly and without stress. Seeing them as a worrier will have the opposite effect.
How Nutrition Can Help You Fight Off Stress
Adaptogens are a category of plants and mushrooms that help your body respond to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
They help alter your response to stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol, among other things.
They're actually potent in doing this.
Ashwagandha, for example, in this study, found that "eight weeks supplementation of aqueous Ashwagandha root extract was associated with a significant reduction of stress levels in individuals and improved the overall quality of life."
Ashwagandha appears to be the adaptogen most effective at reducing the impacts of stress.
However, there are 'low' and 'high' grade forms of ashwagandha. KSM-66 being the most potent and effective.
And, like all supplements, a full dose of the ingredient is needed for it to be effective. So, if you see 'proprietary blend', or blend of any kind on the label of a supplement, you know they're not including the full dose.
We, fortunately, do.
You can get a full 600mg dose of organic KSM-66 ashwagandha in Man Greens here.
You can also get a full dose of Panax Ginseng in Man Mojo here (also an effective adaptogen).
Or a full dose of cordiceps in Man Shrooms here (also an effective adaptogen at reducing stress).
The low carb or no carb diet fad has an issue. When you remove carbs from your diet, your cortisol levels rise.
Cortisol is the body's hormonal response to stress. You do not want elevated stress hormones.
This is why you should have a diet that contains 30-35% of its calories from carbs like potatoes, white rice, fruits, veggies, and other root veggies.
Check out the Man Diet to learn more about how to eat optimally to reduce stress and boost testosterone.
Thriving in Stressful Situations is a Superpower
Stress, worry, fears about yet and maybe never existent future events can claim lives. It can relegate people to lives of mediocrity, crippled by fear and unable to thrive.
Those who can figure out how to rise to the occasion in stressful situations are immediately in a minuscule percentage of society's elite performers.
You don't have to let stress ruin your mental health or your physical health.
You can control it, use it, and even thrive within it.
Hopefully this article helped in some way.