I'll see myself out, thank you
By April 2, 2022– Published on
I was recently a guest on Kitco News. I may not be invited back. I was pressed continuously on a variety of worst case scenarios and asked “what if…?
I understood the game. The host wanted me to wave the hyperbolic flag of panic. Inevitably, there must be some “end of days” scenario that I would warn the audience about...
But regardless of the crisis presented to me, I kept responding with the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. “What if the US Dollar starts crashing..?” I would go to work. “What if inflation hits 30%..?” I would go to work. “What if the equities market collapses..?”. My answer was always the same.
I would go to work.
Could any of those outcomes actually occur? Definitely. Can I influence that outcome? Definitely not.
So, should I wave the hyperbolic flag of panic… or just go back to work?
And I get it - I am in the media business too - panic and sensational statements get views, and views make money. So I understand. But in the real world, panic is a zero sum game.
What Did He Tell Me?
I interviewed Frank Giustra a few years ago. In the mid 1990’s, Frank was hot off the success of building Yorkton Securities from a minor boutique firm into an international financial institution. He left the finance world temporarily and founded Lionsgate Entertainment. Lionsgate has done over $10 Billion at the box office over the last few years.
During our conversation, I didn’t focus on the end result, I pressed Frank on the time that he was holed up in a hotel room, waiting on a phone call that would determine his future. At the time, his inexperience had led to a shortsighted decision, and he had backed himself into a corner. He was about to lose control of his company.
He was in a deep, deep crisis. The doubt, the fear… and the skull crushing anxiety. For the whole story you can watch my interview with Frank, but needless to say, he responded to the event by rolling up his sleeves and getting to work.
In 2018, I interviewed Hamed Shahbazi, right after he sold Tio Networks to Paypal for $300 million.
The masochist in me was far less interested in the exit, as I was in the darkest days of the journey - of which there were many.
Each time we uncovered a stretch of crisis I pressed him for how he managed his mind during the dark moments - every time I got the same answer - he’d shrug his shoulders and respond, “I’d go to work”.
After the sale of Tio, Hamed went on to found Well Health Technologies and within three years achieved a $1 billion market cap.
That’s Curtains, Baby
I recall very recently, feeling on top of the world, the feeling that everything I touched moved the way I needed it to, that I was living my destiny and nothing could slow me down. All of my business metrics were moving in the right direction, my daily agenda seemed to be filling up with more of what I loved to do and less of what I didn't. I felt balanced, fit, and focused. Unstoppable.
But then, I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered…
I remembered that I will fail. And that nobody likes me.
I remembered that I am in over my head, and that I don't know what I am doing. I remembered that this ride can’t last and that crisis will return. I remembered that I will likely lose my house, fail as my family’s provider, let my kids down and be forced to give up this whole ruse of a life that I am living.
Winter of the mind. It’s a tricky beast.
I remember the sun, but it seems to have set, inexplicably. The tailwind has become a headwind and my confidence has turned to doubt.
What happened? I took a loss on a project I was working on. I wanted a deal to work out a certain way and it didn’t. I tried to fix it and I couldn't. So I took the loss. And I took it home and I obsessed over it. I tattooed it on my face so I could stare at it every morning and start my day thinking about it. I kept it in my pocket so I could play with it throughout the day, no matter where I was.
I made the mistake once, but I have relieved it a hundred times.
This is uniquely a human quality. Other animals may pay once for a mistake - but not us. We have a powerful memory and take ourselves back to court time and time again for the same crime.
It may have been a year ago, but every time we remember the original offence, we put ourselves back on trial. Judged. Guilty. Punished. Again and again.
Winter of the mind. It’s a tricky beast.
I don’t know how to change the weather. But I do know how to get to work.
When life is good, we expect it to stay good forever. When we stumble, it’s hard to imagine standing tall again. Recency bias: Our yesterday will become our tomorrow.
But the seasons change, dark turns to light and winter turns to summer. Every time.
None of us have the answers.. Or maybe we do.
Sunshine or rain, we can get back to work.