Bump on the field (The Financial Athlete #75)

“Be the first to cross the finish line,” my 5-year-old brain told the rest of my body. This was my first competitive event in my life, a mere 25-yard dash against other little, new people. And it was the first time I felt those so-called “butterflies” congregate in my stomach. Admission is free for the “butterfly” spectators who never fail to show up in the stomachs of participants during competitive sports.

Indeed, this race was somewhat serious. A grown-up on each end held a blue ribbon to mark the finish line. Meanwhile, on the starting line another grown-up said in an official voice, “On your mark. Get set. Go!” And go I did, as fast as my scrawny legs could move. With less than 10 yards to go, my head turned left and right. I smiled to find myself way ahead of the pack of human cubs! Would this be the first in a long series of athletic victories? Suddenly…THUMP. I tripped over a bump and fell flat on my face. One by one the other participants passed me by. Shortly after the race my older brother took my hand to lift me up and said some encouraging words. Then a grown-up pinned a 1st Place, 2nd Place, and 3rd Place ribbon on the shirts of those who placed accordingly. There was no ribbon to pin on my shirt. I didn’t need one. I had grass stains on my shirt to remind of finishing last.

Surely, this race has been long-forgotten by those who had winners’ ribbons pinned on their shirts. Why did this repressed memory of mine resurface? I had speculated on a small company. I loved the idea of the product. I loved the management. I loved the rapid market acceptance. The speculative investors became jubilant, expecting to make a 10 bagger (10 times the original investment), I among them. Then … “THUMP!” The economy sours. The company fails to raise sufficient capital in the midst of a severe credit crisis. Raising cash would have been a “sure thing” in a normal economic environment.

Nothing keeps greed in check better than awareness of unknown “bumps”. Always be prepared for those bumps hidden in the grass or darkness. Have the emotional fortitude to rise up after you have fallen on your face.

“I don’t care how long you’ve been around, you’ll never see it all.” – Bob Lemon

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