When we take noble silence, we attempt to totally quiet our minds, and do so by not interfacing with the world. I set a goal of absolutely no human interaction, including eye contact. I do not speak, even to myself. I do not listen to music, read, nor use any form of technology. It is an opportunity to get to know myself while differentiating between the noise we make and the beautiful sounds that abound in us and in nature. Usually, it takes five or six hours into the silence to notice any difference. Eventually, my brain stops looking for outside stimulus and finds a quiet we rarely experience.
I try to take my noble silences in a foreign location so I can be fully removed from myself. Most recently, I atypically took silence at home, adjacent to many familiar things, and it allowed me to notice something striking: our anxiety makes noise.
We motor through our everyday lives and make so much noise. During daytime, that noise follows us away from our homes to our places of activity. And again, I am not only talking about being loud – there is considerable noise that is made by stress and worry and mostly all the things we do to keep from feeling a lack of control that is our reality. Even the absence of humility can be noticed in our noise, and it was conspicuous how quiet my neighborhood becomes when others took their racket with them as company for their day. At nighttime, that noise follows us back home. It is our shadow of sorts and my silence at home exposed the noise others make – like a thunderstorm approaching, I could hear your anxiety when it left for “work” in the morning and again when it arrived back home in the late afternoon. It was extraordinary.
It is no different with financial markets – and markets provide empirical evidence. It is what I love about finance: Markets are a microcosm of human behavior and enable data-based findings in the typically intangible world of metacognition and mindfulness. The vast majority of financial transactions are noise – activity caused by stress and worry and a need to feel in control. And that noise erodes performance, in real dollars; it is remarkable how noise hurts portfolios, and how it impacts our lives as well.
Taking noble silence is for everyone. Doing so will reveal how much noise your mind makes and enable you to quiet down some. If we quiet our minds enough, we can find both better ways to invest and improved ways to live. You just need to be silent long enough to hear it.