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…but I know how to get there

As I sit here and look out of our living room window, the wind is blowing and shaking off what seems to be the last of the fall leaves. It is that all-familiar feeling that makes us know that winter is coming. While there is a lot to be thankful for, it is easy to lose sight of those and focus our attention on all the things that seem to be happening around us. Like the leaves on our lawn, it sometimes looks and feels like there is only chaos. 

Those of you who have known me for a while probably know that I like to do something special on what I would consider ‘milestone birthdays’ with my kids. This year, both in October, we have two of these birthdays – Alika turned ten and Corban is turning sixteen.  I instinctively know that this is a good tradition and is meaningful for me and the kids and I have enjoyed doing it over the years.  As October started to approach, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe this year I don’t do what I typically do or what I planned. Let’s face it, it has been a relentless year with lots going on. 

“I don’t know where I am going, but I know how to get there!” is my favorite line from The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life written by Boyd Varty. I instantly connected with the story, the landscape, and the messages. I am not sure if it is just because I played rugby against the author and the fact that the story unfolds in a game reserve I have walked in growing up, or it is because the messages brought out through the story are so applicable in today’s life. Boyd tells his story of growing up tracking lions – something that he has now come back to from the U.S.A after spending years away from the family game reserve. The story, which is beautifully told, is about track awareness.    

Track awareness is the ability to read the field of life with discernment and yet also know your inner landscape. Everything in the natural world knows how to be itself. Trees know how to greet the spring with buds, and bees are drawn naturally to flowers. Leopards from birth know they are keepers of solitude, while lions are made for the pride. Inside each of us is a wild self that knows deeply what it is meant to do. Inside each of us is a natural innate knowledge of why we are here. Tracking is a function of directing attention, bringing our awareness back to this subtle inner trail of the wild self, and learning to see its path while not getting lost by the distractions of the wild. 

It was with this in mind that I decided that part of my track is to continue to do what is meaningful with the kids even when – no, especially when – it is uncomfortable, and I can think of a thousand other things that demand my attention. So, on Alika’s birthday, I took her out of school and spent the day at the spa with her. We got facials, manicures, pedicures, and haircuts – she has a lot more hair than me so hers took what I would call “a good amount of time”. After the spa, we had dinner together at a restaurant of her choosing and did some shopping. It was a day for a princess – and dad loved it too.  I can’t believe I almost robbed myself, and her, of this opportunity. The lesson for me is to remember to follow my instinct – the things that are meaningful in life take effort and step us out of our comfort zones – and to stick with the plans I make during less busy times.

Next is Corban’s birthday, the big sixteen – an age when they are allowed to be legally in control of a ton of moving steel, also known as a car.  I have long been fascinated with some cultures’ right-of-passage rituals that celebrate the transition from one stage in life to the next. I believe that all good beginnings begin with a good ending. This is something that is missing, in my opinion, in our North American culture. As Corban steps more and more into manhood I want to celebrate this transition with him and use this as another opportunity to speak into his life. As such, we are embarking on a journey. At 6:00 am on Sunday, October 23 we start our thirty-hour journey to South Africa for a two-week adventure of hiking, tracking wildlife, safaris, caving and rock climbing. Each activity was carefully chosen to impart lessons while also making the experience unique, fun, and memorable. I am excited to share this journey with Corban and hope it will be something he can look back on throughout his life. 

Oh, that means I will be out of the office of course until November 8 with no access to work email or my phone. Luckily, we have a great team that is here to assist you while I am away. 

May I challenge you to look for opportunities around you to do something meaningful for yourself, and if you can, for someone else too? The opportunities are all around us. I am not sure about you, but the COVID lockdowns have made me way too comfortable with being a homebody. For me, it is time to change some of that again – for my own mental health. How about you? 

It will be remiss of me if I don’t at least mention the markets. Yes, it has been a relentlessly volatile year and the feeling is that it could last a bit longer. Luckily, I have learned a long time ago not to make investment decisions based on my feelings.  That said, I know how tough it is sometimes to have the one thing that rewards us as investors – patience. I have heard it said that during the great recession of 2008 Ben S. Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve at the time, was quoted saying “I don’t know how it will all work out, all I know is that it will”. It is a good mantra to have as an investor.

Looking more closely at the markets; inflation, interest rates and energy continued to be the main themes in Q3 2022. However, while inflation remains elevated, there are positive factors at play that may help, including decreasing oil prices and improving supply chains. In the markets, earnings saw a tumultuous trajectory with an early rally at the start of the quarter, and a loss to close it out, but both equity and fixed-income returns ultimately remained flat over the three months.

One of the charts that I just love – because it tells a clear and compelling story – is the Freightos Baltic Index (FBX): Global Container Freight Index. In short, this index tracks the major shipping routes and the cost of shipping a container. Before the pandemic, the price to ship a container was around $1,500. The price peaked in September of 2011 at $11,109 – that is a huge increase of just one of the input costs in bringing a product to market. Since then, however, the price has been trending down. In February 2022 it was down to approximately $9,779 and is sitting at $3,429 at the time of writing. This is just one example of how the disruptions caused by the response to the pandemic are working their way through the economy while giving us hope for lower inflation in the future. While it will take some time to get back to “normal” there is good reason to be optimistic over the coming years.

As I watch the last of the fall leaves get blown away, I am reminded that change is inevitable. It can be easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and lose sight of what truly matters, but we can learn to navigate through it by being aware of our inner landscape and following our instincts. By taking the time to do something meaningful for ourselves and others, we can find joy and fulfillment even in the midst of difficult times. As I embark on a journey with my son to celebrate his transition into adulthood, I encourage you to seek out your own opportunities for growth and adventure. And as we continue to navigate the volatile markets and uncertainties of the pandemic, let us hold onto the mantra of patience and hope for a brighter future.

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