Up until six weeks ago, the longest I had ever held my breath was probably about a minute.
I would breathe oxygen into my lungs – and then hold my breath for as long as I could until I became red like a tomato.
I believe it’s how we all learn to hold our breath as little kids. Any longer than a minute and I would get a burning desire to exhale.
This morning, however, I held my breath for 3 minutes and 45 seconds – without any oxygen in my lungs at all.
I inhaled, exhaled, and just sat on the floor.
Now, I’m not saying this to try and impress you, but to illustrate that for most of my life, I would have thought doing this was impossible.
But in less than four minutes, I shattered a deeply held belief I had about the body’s ability to withstand a lack of oxygen.
Why is this relevant to you, as an entrepreneur and investor?
Because one of the most important qualities of an investor is the ability to be open to – and act on - new information… even if it contradicts what we already believe about the world.
You see, for the past 6 weeks, to help me get past the tomato face, I’ve been practicing a method I’m sure a lot of you have heard about – the Wim Hof Method.
The method is simple – it consists of a series of breathing exercises that are akin to hyperventilating on purpose to oxygenate your blood, and (gradual) cold exposure.
It was created by a man called Wim Hof – a Dutchman who overcame the emotional stress of losing his wife to suicide by exposing himself to extreme temperatures and breathing.
In the process, however, he found out he was able to control his own immune system using just his breath and his concentration in a way that allowed him to walk away completely unfazed by a voluntary injection of E.Coli at a hospital in the Netherlands.
Wim (and 12 of his students) got none of the normal symptoms of E.Coli – like fever, headache, shivers, etc., but also none of the inflammation. They hardly reacted at all.
In other words, Wim and his students were able to boost their immune system and suppress disease with nothing but their mind and their breath.
And just like that – out of nowhere - Wim Hof radically changed what we believe about our ability to control our own immune system.
Since then, Wim Hof has proven scientifically that we can influence much more than just our immune system. As a result, university textbooks around the world are being re-written.
And here's the best part: although naturally skeptical, science is open to the change.
Research labs around the world are reaching out to study him.
What we once thought impossible is now possible – and anybody can do it, with just a little bit of training. That’s now a fact.
Now, I’m not telling you you’ll be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or Mt. Everest in only a pair of shorts, or coolly sitting in an ice bath for nearly 2 hours (all of which he did) with a few weeks of training.
But I am telling you to be like science: if a new explanation comes along that disagrees with what you already believe, but it works and can be tested, be open to considering it.
Look, we all know the saying – ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.
But the ability to stay flexible in our mind is one of the keys to success in life – and in investing.
Last week, Wiet and I spoke (virtually) to a group of entrepreneurs about investing and building businesses.
One of the key messages I spoke about was to not buy too much into our own narrative – and being open to seeing things from a different angle.
So many people struggle to acknowledge that they might be wrong, or that reality may be different from what they believe.
But in investing, blind spots – things you don’t know you don’t know, or simply choose to ignore because it clashes with your pre-existing beliefs - can literally lead you to financial ruin.
Look, there are people who’ve built their careers out of predicting financial crashes that never happen.
These people get called on to TV shows or podcasts every time the stock market sneezes – because now their grand theory might finally be proven right.
We call these broken clocks – because just like a broken clock that’s always fixed to the same time, if these people keep saying that a recession will happen – at some point, they will be right.
Of course, they’ll never admit that the crash might have happened because of a completely different reason than the one they kept promoting.
It would be too costly and emotionally difficult to admit that they built their entire careers on an idea that just isn’t valid, or credible anymore.
But that’s like believing the earth is still flat because your company manufactures flat globes.
So, my advice to you is this: don’t be a broken clock.
You can eliminate the odds of your blind spots leading to irrecoverable losses just by being open-minded and listening to people who disagree with you.
What if they are right, and you’re wrong?
One of the most important personality traits you can bring to investing is humility, acknowledgment, and the preparation for the fact that you might be wrong.
If facts change, you must change.
Be like science. And embrace humility as your first step to becoming unshakeable.