We’ve all heard of the effect of compound interest (calculating interest on interest). Equally effective is mental compound interest. Some advice from investor Charlie Munger, whose book I read as part of a course I took at Berkshire Hathaway University:
“He (Munger) came up with the idea of adding a mental compound interest. So he decided to sell the best hour of the day to improve his own mind, and with the remaining time he could buy the world. He also said it might sound selfish, but it worked. He also highlighted that if you are very reliable and can stay that way, it will be very difficult to fail to do anything you want.”
I’ve been calling this idea the Munger Technique (the idea of adding a mental compound interest) ever since I learned about it. But when I said this to my students, team, or friends, the majority assumed that Munger was talking about a morning ritual.
This was an incorrect assumption. Because Munger said he sold himself the best hour of the day and used that hour to improve his mind.
When do you develop your mind?
Let’s think about this for a minute. Again, this has nothing to do with morning routines. For the past few years, a number of people in the self-help field have been paying close attention to their morning routine. Personally, I’m not a morning person and I don’t have a strict routine.
Sure, I avoid checking my email, watching the news, or consuming unnecessary content, but I don’t have a set routine before I start work in the morning. But I know that some people also like this kind of ritual.
– Wake up at 7 am
– for water
– Keep a diary
And it should be right now, of course. Which I’m not going to do. I’m starting work right away. As long as I can put all the distractions of the world aside, I think this is a good start for me. But when I read this advice from Munger, I asked myself these two questions:
– When do I develop my mind?
– How do I develop my mind?
For me, developing my mind means improving my core skills: writing, persuading, making decisions. I read books, take notes, and try to connect everything I’ve learned with one another. When I try to improve my mind, I just want to learn. Making comes later. This is how I do it.
But when should I work to improve my mind? Until now I’ve come to believe that I should do this in the morning. After all, this is our best time, right? But this is not always true.
What is the best hour of your day?
One of my core beliefs is that life is cyclical. I learned this by reading about successful investors like Howard Marks.
Frequently, economists stress that stocks rise and fall too much on a daily basis. But if you look at the stock market on a ten, twenty or thirty year basis, you can see that there is a steady uptrend.
Something similar is happening today. One day you may feel good, another day tired. Just like the stock market. That’s why I’m not a fan of morning rituals. It’s unrealistic to expect you to feel the same way every day of your life, of course.
I understand the morning routines argument. The idea is that this ritual will make your day better. But in my experience, that’s not the case.
Sometimes you wake up with less energy. Sometimes you have an emergency. If you have children, your mornings are dedicated to them. In these situations, no matter how much you meditate, you will still be tired or have to deal with this emergency.
I can tell you many reasons why morning routines don’t work. But the Munger Technique always works. If you want me to explain why.
Adopt a “Water Mindset”
By adopting an investor’s mindset and recognizing that our days can be up and down, how can we still be credible in the long run?
We can do this by embracing what I call the “Water Mentality”. I named it after the philosophy of Bruce Lee, who believed that we should be like water. Water always takes the shape of the container it is in.
The Munger Technique will also help you become like water. Sell yourself the best hour of the day. And that’s your best hour, it could be morning one day and after dinner the next. But it should be your best hour (not just early morning as some bloggers say).
This technique has drastically changed the way I learn. I don’t get angry anymore if I don’t learn in the morning, I just realize that this isn’t my best hour. When it comes to cultivating your mind, you want to be relaxed, more fluid, like water. You basically want to feel good, energetic and rested.
And yes, as Munger said, it sounds selfish, but it works. Rest assured it will make you more reliable in the long run. When you cultivate your mind a little bit each day, it results like the mental compound interest effect. It would be very difficult to fail with such a technique in life, wouldn’t it?
You know what I’ve noticed in the last few months using this technique? My best hour is usually after dinner. Especially if I exercised that day and was productive at work. I’ll have dinner, maybe get some rest, have a cup of tea, and go downstairs.
Before, I often watched some videos on YouTube or surfed the web. Often times, you don’t even know what the best time of day is. You must be conscious and continue to adapt your habits to always align with your energy. Look, maybe my best hour is the first hour after I wake up in the day. Who knows? But as long as you take the shape of the water, you will be able to adapt.
I say give this Munger Technique a try. Starting tomorrow, buy yourself the best hour of the day to train your mind. If you do this every day, your mental development will progress much faster with the knowledge you gain, like the compound interest effect.