The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

When I read books I often take notes and write in the margins. This helps me remember the big ideas and connect them with other new ideas I may read in the future. Periodically I consult back on a book I have read by rereading the notes and skimming certain passages. I recently did that for The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: How Risk Taking Transforms Us, Body and Mind by John Coates. Here are some of my highlights from when I read it the first time that I thought were particularly noteworthy:

  • Financial risk taking is as much a biological activity, with as many medical consequences, as facing down a grizzly bear.
  • Normally stress is a nasty experience, but not at low levels. At low levels it thrills. A nonthreatening stressor or challenge, like a sporting match, a fast drive, or an exciting market, releases cortisol, and in combination with dopamine, one of the most addictive drugs known to the human brain, it delivers a narcotic hit, a rush, a flow that convinces traders there is no other job in the world.
  • Intuition is the recognition of patterns.
  • Effort, risk, stress, fear, even pain in moderate doses, are, or should be, our natural state. But just as important, just as vital to our health, the key to continued growth, is what sports physiologists refer to as the recovery period.
  • Testosterone may be the molecule of irrational exuberance.
  • Humans are built to move, so move we should. The more research emerges on physical exercise, the more we find that its benefits extend far beyond our muscles and cardiovascular systems. Exercise expands the productive capacity of our amine-producing cells, helping to inoculate us against anxiety, stress, depression and learned helplessness. It also floods our brains with what are called growth factors, and these keep existing neurons young and new neurons growing—some scientists call these growth factors “brain fertilizer”—so our brains are strengthened against stress and aging. A well-designed regime of physical exercise can be a boot camp for the brain.

One of the reasons I was interested in reading this book had to do with the author’s background. John Coates is a former trader for Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, and is currently a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. He understands both the scientific and financial side of what he is writing. As a result, I would consider him well-qualified to write about this subject. Our mind and body are inextricably linked: physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Overall, The Hour Between Dog and Wolf provides a very interesting look into risk taking and its effect on one’s body and mind.