Whether you believe in God or Darwin, something has gifted human beings with a “flight or fight” response. This decision making ability which appears to happen in the grey matter of the brain can help guide us to safety long before the white matter in our brains has a chance to evaluate inputs and decide accordingly. When our cavemen brethren experienced this phenomenon, they may have been deciding between fighting a saber tooth tiger or fleeing to safety. Their “gut instinct” helped them in their response.
Thankfully we don’t have to decide between flight or fight of saber tooth tigers, but we do have opportunity to listen to our gut. The gut instinct draws upon subconscious experiences to provide answers to questions we may not even be asking.
For instance, I had barely been paying attention to the looming Brexit vote last week. I understood the facts, and I knew the vote was happening. I briefly thought about how it may impact me. At the time, the “remain” vote was leading 52% vs 48% so I felt relatively comfortable that everything was going to remain status quo. However, my gut told me to take a closer look. My gut told me to consider moving to cash. My gut told me to look at VIX options. My gut told me that the polling numbers were too close to simply do nothing and hope for the best.
The problem with evolution is that our white matter got larger and overtook the grey matter diminishing the value of gut instinct. I rationalized myself out of making any changes to my portfolio. I decided that if the pundits weren’t worried, why should I? I purposefully shut down my financial survival instinct much to the dismay of my portfolio.
I know that things will smooth out and I should recover my losses one day but I am mad at myself for ignoring my gut instinct. I think it exists for a reason and I will make better efforts in the future to listen to it and act upon it.
We may not be facing too many saber tooth tigers these days, but we still need to listen to our gut for survival and success.
Yard work and letting go.
My son turned 13 years old last fall.
When he asked to help clean the yard of fallen leaves I handed him a rake and encouraged him to get to work. I don’t think it was what he had in mind as I continued to use the gas powered leaf blower all around him. He quickly lost interest in helping and I too gave up after a couple of hours.
The remaining leaves lay dormant and decomposing through winter until I finally hired an older neighborhood kid to finish the job.
As the weather broke for the spring I spread fertilizer and even some grass seed to keep the lawn looking as green as possible until the first summer drought when I secretly celebrate the brownish lawn that requires little maintenance.
The fertilizer and seed took hold in conjunction with April showers and my lawn was ready for the first mowing of the year. My son again expressed interest in yardwork as he eyed the gas powered mower in the corner of the garage. I was fearful of toe amputations yet realized that the boy in front of me was growing into a young man. I relented and pulled out the mower from the garage.
He is strong enough to push, but not yet able to pull start the mower by himself. The adolescence of his abilities make it easier for me to walk beside him ensuring safety and relatively straight lines.
The most important advice I gave him was that if you sense any danger with the lawnmower tipping over or getting clogged simply let go of the handle and the engine will stop. Such simple advice can save man and machine. Even as the words left my mouth the symbolism was immediately apparent.
I let go of my fear that he was not old enough to safely operate machinery.
I let go of the thought of him as a young boy incapable of bigger and better things.
I let go of having a perfectly manicured lawn with straight mower lines.