At the turn of the 20th century a delicious white flaky fish known as Cod was gaining popularity. The fish was found in the North Atlantic and word quickly spread to the west coast.
The question was, how could you get the cod fish across the country and still keep it fresh?
At first they tried to freeze the fish and ship it by railcar, but when the fish arrived and prepared it was mushy and lacked flavor.
Then someone had the great idea of turning a railcar into a large aquarium and shipping the cod fish alive across the country. The fish would certainly stay fresh. But unfortunately, this was not the case. Even though it was transported alive, the cod was still mushy and tasteless.
Finally someone studied the cod fish and discovered its natural predator was the catfish. They put a few catfish in each tank and shipped cod fish across the country. During the journey the catfish would chase the cod fish. When the cod fish arrived on the west coast and prepared it tasted fresh. In order for the cod fish to be fresh it had to be in an environment of catfish.
“Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don’t just stand there, make it happen.”– Lee Iacocca
Don’t go through life just standing there. Fresh means being uncomfortable. Fresh means you are being chased. We all want to go through life anxiety free, comfortable, and letting life take us where it wants. But God, destiny, whatever you want to call it puts catfish in our lives for a reason. Because you run the fastest when someone is chasing you. You pray the hardest when something is after you. You go further, harder, faster when you are being chased.
What is chasing you?
In late 2008 during the financial crisis I decided it was time to cut the safety net of income and become a full-time private investor. This was a risky move, but it was something I had thought about every day since 2001. I waited for a bear market to test myself and the portfolio. A strategy that is tested is a strategy that can be trusted.
I was 27 and single. I had the ability to travel light and travel far. I could live on a dime if I had to. I was never going to work for anyone. That fear is what chased me. It is amazing how disciplined you can become when your livelihood depends on it.
I believe that when you go after your dream you burn the bridge behind you. You don’t burn relationships. You burn your plan B’s. Don’t underestimate what focused and relentless intensity can do to knock down any obstacle in your life. There is no plan B. You pay the price until your dream happens.
A few months later in early 2009, at the height of the crisis, a friend invited me to attend a cocktail party in NYC with a few prominent investors and fund managers. I remember I was able to book a room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC for $200/night. By comparison it was probably $800/night a year earlier. This was obviously a sign no one was spending money around the country.
I went to the cocktail party and I was one of twenty guests. It was mostly fund managers, analysts, etc. I think it was the last 20 people that still had jobs on Wall Street. What I remember from that night was getting into an argument with a fund manager. I told him I was a full-time private investor and he just looked at me like I was beneath him. He literally told me, “So I guess you weren’t good enough to keep a job.” I shot back quick, “You know what you call a fund manager? Someone that couldn’t support themselves on their own capital.” I left the party and enjoyed a $20 vodka tonic at the Waldorf. Drink prices didn’t change from a year earlier.
Sometimes the biggest motivator is someone that disrespects you. I thought about that guy for years. Every day I would wake up at 5am motivated to crush it. Anger chased me.
In late 2009 I met my wife. I like to tell her that this was “the peak of my net worth” in which I smile and she furrows her brow. She understood me and I think she was drawn to the fact I didn’t have a normal background. At parties she knew when to interject and change the subject when people asked what I did. It was too confusing and tiring explaining what I did for a living. I would say I was unemployed and they would quickly look at my wife with pity.
When you support your family by managing your own capital it’s a different mental game. If you take a big loss managing other people’s money it hurts your bonus. If you take a big loss when you’re a private investor you hurt your family.
Fear continues to chase me. A few times per week I wake up at 4am worried that someone might know more than me about a businesses I own. This might sound unhealthy but it isn’t. If you aren’t waking up in the middle of the night every once in a while thinking about what you own or what you could own you don’t have enough at stake.
My wife lost her mother in 2012 to ovarian cancer. In 2013, one year later almost to the day I lost my mom in a freak car accident. It was a collision course of emotions that ultimately ended up focusing us on starting a family. In 2015, we had a daughter, and in 2018 we had our son. It also marked my 10 year anniversary as a full-time private investor.
There is something about losing people you love and also having young kids that speeds up time. You start thinking about how your kids will view you once they are old enough to understand you. Will they see courage and compassion? Will they like what they see? If not, I still have time to change. Time starts to chase you.
As you get older you start to think about the skills you have developed and how they could be used for something bigger than yourself. You start to see young people that remind you of you and want to support them and invest in them in time or resources. You realize you aren’t going to be remembered for what you did for yourself but for what you do for others. Your legacy starts to chase you.
We are all being chased by something. That thing is put there for a reason. You weren’t put on this Earth to be average. You were meant to crush it in business and in your personal life. To be successful you need to wake up every day like something is chasing you. As you get older you are chased by different things. Winners have a duality of thinking and action. They have a short-term sense of urgency for action that is guided by their long-term goals. Action is always uncomfortable. Growth rarely happens from a place of comfort.
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