Risk and Reward
From Milano, the drive to Breuil-Cervinia, the picturesque Alpine village at the foothills of the Matterhorn, is majestic, and my wife and I knew that it would be worth the 3-hr ordeal. Our plan was to wake up early and head out by 6:30 AM, so that we could park the rental at 10:00 AM and start hiking towards the peak.
An hour into our walk, my wife and I reached a beautiful waterfall, bathed in its cold basin, and took a U-turn back down.
Our plan was to enjoy the perfect conditions of early September and spend quality time together and we achieved that. On the way back, we stopped at a roadside restaurant, where I ended up having one of the best meals of my life.
Italians love food and respect it.
The Alps, whose harsh terrain carves the border between Italy and Switzerland, are a major tourist attraction in both summer and winter. I’ve trekked them, skied their slopes and piloted small planes to view their dramatic forms from above.
For me and for many others, they’re a source of unparalleled beauty, but for others, these same topographic features, formed millions of years ago, present a source of nutrition relied upon for survival.
In the Cingino Dam, built from rocks that deposit essential minerals and salts, primarily calcium, ibex goats climb its near-vertical cliff, just to sip and lick the salt deposited in the rock.
The Cingino Dam is a gravity dam. The ibex goats will risk everything – their lives and their offspring’s lives – and climb its 49-meter high wall, because calcium is all-important for them.
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They seek it, though the risks include plunging to their assured deaths, because they can’t live without it.
The ibex goats are saying goodbye to what is safe, because they have no choice. Without calcium, their bodies can’t function.
Not every fall from the vertical wall is fatal. At times, the goats just slip, fall a little bit or are afraid of taking additional steps and pause.
The ibex know, though, that every time they climb the Cingino, they are saying goodbye to safety, but the trade-off is that they’re presented with the opportunity to nourish their bodies and live.
Risk and reward; fear and greed – the markets are not a safe environment for those who are governed by fear alone. No, those will never invest and they can never grow rich. They’ll spend life by the wayside and be dealt the leftovers.
On the other side of the spectrum are the fearless and careless, those who attempt to reach the calcium that is hardest to get and they’ll be destroyed by the risks they take.
Somewhere on the spectrum between ultimate-risk-takers and full-blown-risk-averters lies the artist who invests in his future, by fully soaking in the risks and focusing on the rewards.
Can ibex goats lick that vital salt, without making the dangerous journey and potentially getting injured? They cannot, and so we cannot avoid the market’s ups and downs, but we can be sure the calcium will be there and it will be consumed, either by ourselves or by someone else.
For the first time in nearly a year, we suffered a blow in the past month; prices for equities have sharply declined, but the opportunity is still there, if you can weather the storm.
When you decide to buy equities, you must be willing to say goodbye to safety and roam the landscape of risk-adjustment. The rewards are dependent on your capital at work, your goals, luck and time. Most of all, they depend on your skills at understanding the domain of businesses.
You are not being duped by elites, nor are you a sucker of higher forces, but the game is not fair and you must accept that.
This, right now, when markets are red and seem never to tire of declines, is where we say goodbye to the sensation of scarcity and of losing everything, and we remind ourselves that the calcium (the gains) is still dripping down that rock and that we must figure out a way to get it.
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