Were you completely prepared for this? Was your family, your business, or your investment portfolio? I know I wasn’t completely prepared. How could I have been? The current crisis is a reminder to us all that much in life is beyond our control.
Many years ago I signed up for a triathlon in Austin. A big event, with 2,500 participants, many of whom were professionals in the sport. I trained to the best of my ability in between family and business commitments. Shelly and all four of our kids traveled with me to Austin for the race as moral support.
That morning, I woke up well before the sun, dressed, grabbed my gear, and headed out on foot for the event. It was a short walk from our hotel on Cesar Chavez to the transition area on the other side of Lady Bird Johnson Lake. It was eerily quiet in predawn downtown Austin. As I walked across the Congress Avenue bridge, the low hum of generators pierced the silence. I looked up, and lit up along the bank were thousands of bikes hung in long lines on transition racks, mine being one of them. It was an awesome sight.
As I gazed across the lake, a strong emotional response took hold of me. It was as if my heart had fallen into my stomach only to then explode and consume my entire body. Excitement and fear all rolled into a giant adrenaline sandwich. I had competed in triathlons before so I knew what lay ahead, but I wasn’t completely sure I was ready.
It was an incredible feeling. I felt alive, fully aware, and completely at the mercy of what the race held for me that day. The track turned out to be every bit as challenging as I had hoped and feared. It started out with a sharp kick in the face from a fellow swimmer. The water was as warm as a bath tub, so my core body temperature started high and only soared higher during the bike leg in the 100 degree weather. It was a hilly, fast, three loop bike track with one particularly nasty sharp turn at the bottom of a hill where I witnessed and barely avoided several spectacular crashes. The run portion of the race is just a dull blur of a memory, but I’m pretty sure I finished because the medal is sitting in a dusty box somewhere in my garage.
Does that sound like fun or what?
You know, the same feeling I experienced so many years ago found its way into my soul again about a month ago. As I watched the stock market capitulate at the end of the trading day on March 20th, it was as if I was standing on the Congress Avenue bridge again. As an advisor and asset manager this is the kind of thing I prepare for, but just like triathlons, every bear market is different. You can never be fully prepared for what lies ahead.
But that’s life, isn’t it? We’re all experiencing a reality right now that we didn’t expect or anticipate. Fear can overcome us if we let it, but think back to the greatest moments in our lives. Graduations, new careers, marriages, and our children being born were all chocked-full of uncertainty. In many ways the same kind of uncertainty we are experiencing now. Were we fully ready and prepared for those great moments? No! I would argue part of what makes great moments so special is the fear we overcome to create a new and exciting future for ourselves.
From that standpoint, this current crisis is no different. One thing I recently came to realize is that we are probably a long way from the finish line. Many of the precautions we have taken will need to continue until we are sure the threat of the COVID-19 virus is completely behind us. This means we need to settle in for a long race and do what needs to be done.
Someday, all of this will be the dusty memory of a great accomplishment, just like my recollections of the 2012 CapTex Triathlon. But for now, we have to run our race, be present in the moment, endure, and compete. In many ways, this kind of adversity is the very best life has to offer.