Tragedies are a terrible but predictable and commonplace part of living and investing.
You don’t always know when or how tragedy will strike, but you can be certain it will. It’s inevitable.
Of course, tragedy and suffering aren’t primarily intellectual experiences. You FEEL them … and they HURT. It’s intensely emotional.
The Real Estate Guys™ family was hit with tragedy last week for the second time in the last six months when Robert’s father, “The Godfather of Real Estate” Bob Helms passed away.
Thanks to all who expressed condolences and shared memories via email or on social media. It’s a blessing to be reminded how many lives have been touched by Bob’s wisdom, kindness, encouragement, and talent.
For those of us close to Bob, our world stopped. Nothing has mattered but processing the loss and considering a new future without Bob’s presence.
Of course, the rest of the world goes on … as it always does in the midst of a never-ending parade of macro and micro tragedies.
But as the hits just keep coming, it’s ALMOST enough to make you wonder if it’s all worth it.
After all, the “happiness” we all strive for in terms of financial, physical, and relationship prosperity seems so elusive and fragile.
All this has us thinking about the role of pain right now in the world and in the life of every investor reading this. Pain and loss are part and parcel of all areas of the human experience. It’s naive and foolish to think anyone gets a pass.
But pain isn’t something often discussed, and certainly not appreciated, by most people. After all, no one with a broken bone, heart, or portfolio wants to be congratulated and counseled to see the good.
Yet most mature people will tell you the greatest lessons were learned, the strongest relationships forged, the most profound transformations took place through the process of pushing through pain.
It’s analogous to a birthing process. Often the labor of pushing through is intensely painful, yet on the other side awaits one of life’s greatest joys.
So pain and loss are not only normal, they’re required and inescapable. They are part of the process of developing strength, resolve, and wisdom.
So how do we as individuals, investors, entrepreneurs, organizations, and societies deal with the personal and collective pain of inevitable tragedies?
And in case you don’t think this applies to the pragmatic goal of becoming a more powerful investor, consider how pain and the resulting panic can cloud judgment and impair thinking.
“When emotions run high, intelligence runs low.”
– Blair Singer
Good emotional control … even in the midst of tragedy, pain, fear, uncertainty, and doubt … is the hallmark of a powerful investor.
We learned a lot about pain and panic in the financial crisis of 2008. Today, we’re thankful for it. But at the time? Not so much.
In hindsight, if we’d cultivated an attitude of gratitude sooner, we probably would have suffered less, learned quicker, and recovered stronger faster.
After losing Russ’ wife last December and then losing Robert’s father last week … we turned to some profound ancient wisdom to remind ourselves …
“This too shall pass.”
And in case you don’t think a 16th-century playwright understands the complex world you live and invest in, consider this gem …
“What a terrible era in which idiots govern the blind.”
But that’s a different discussion we can have over a virtual beer someday while we’re “Sipping-In-Place”.
So gratitude is an empowering attitude … even in the midst of a tragedy and even if the only thing you can find to focus on is “this too shall pass”.
But as profound and brilliant as William Shakespeare was, we found an even older, arguably wiser author to help keep both our micro-tragedy and the macro-insanity we’re all living through right now in a healthy perspective.
And ironically, it also turned out to provide some practical investment wisdom.
So rather than delve deep into clues in the news this time, we’re using our moment of pain to share some deeper thoughts with you.
Thanks for sticking with us this far.
It’s said King Solomon was the richest man who ever lived. Many suspect he’s the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.
We’re not sure about all that, but this ancient muse (later adopted for a popular song in the ‘60s) offers useful wisdom about life, pain, and investing …
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 New King James Bible
Entire books and sermons are dedicated to this passage. We’re certainly not qualified to expound on words many consider divinely inspired.
So we’re not here to say what “truth” is or what you should or shouldn’t do or believe.
But during the inevitable trying times we’ll all face in our individual lives, loves, careers, and portfolios … including the current COVID-19 crisis we’re all currently in together … keep these words handy and remember …
It’s just a season. This too shall pass.
For The Godfather, he came to the place where it was his time to die. We all have one, though we tend not to think about or plan for it. No one likes it.
As we’re writing this, Russ’ 13th grandchild is due any moment. For her, it’s a time to be born.
For aware and prepared investors, 2010 was an excellent time to “plant” real estate investments. Today might be considered a good time to harvest equity.
During most of their life, many baby boomers planted into financial safety nets like social security .. and are expecting to harvest in the coming years.
But it’s possible their hoped for time to dance could turn out instead to be a time to mourn. We hope not, but the system is weak.
Some think many of the important social contracts born in the last 150 years are entering their time to die … to be broken down and cast away.
Many on all sides of the issues are finding it’s no longer time to be silent, but to speak.
It’s conceivable the fundamental rights we depend on to move freely, earn and deploy capital, own and operate properties and businesses … are all subject to upheaval.
And with polls showing a growing number of Americans believing civil war is inevitable, it seems it might be a time for the worst kind of war is approaching.
These are no doubt tumultuous times.
All this to say, we think it’s arguably more important now than ever for investors to reflect on ancient wisdom …
… and consider the sage author’s conclusion that “there’s nothing new under the sun.”
Yes, it’s a dangerous, world and we should all be diligent in staying aware and being proactive …
… but these seasons and cycles have been ebbing and flowing for thousands of years. There’s nothing new under the sun.
Sometimes, the hardest hits help remind you about how small you really are and what really matters in the grand scheme of things.
It’s tempting to allow tragedy to make us bitter, cynical, angry, and withdrawn.
But wise men over the centuries remind us there are predictable seasons in the lives of men and societies, and whether the current time is good or bad, “this too shall pass.”
We think what’s important is to remember who you are, why you invest, and what really matters along the way.
As our great friend, Tom Hopkins often reminds us, “Love people and use money, not vice-versa.”