I was about three and a half years old when the movie Superman came out in 1978. I can remember how strongly the exhilarating fantasy of being able to fly imprinted on my young mind. By the time Superman II came out in 1980, I had been running around the house for two years with a sheet, towel or long-sleeved shirt wrapped around my neck, flapping behind me, representing my superhero cape.
With Great Determination
At some point, I realized that was all just silly child’s play. The time had come for me to get serious and see if I could fly. With great determination, I set off on my own to find out if I could fly, without anybody else knowing. So one day, I walked outside, gazed up at the rooftop and thought, “I need to be high up enough to get going. Flying will be pretty easy once I’m in the air.”
But before I climbed onto the roof, my better judgment overcame my ambition, and I decided to launch from the ground first. I went to the backyard, where there was a longer runway. I crouched down and pushed my feet into the ground to brace myself for my takeoff. I closed my eyes and took off as fast as my little five-year-old body could go. For a brief second, I was flying.
It was wonderful. Amazing!— until gravity won. My chest slammed onto the ground first, and then my face bounced off the ground. Thankfully, the soil was soft. I toppled over myself, feeling a decent amount of pain, tasting grass and collapsing in the dirt. I lay still for a minute and waited for the pain to subside while trying to figure out what I had done wrong.
Because I was five years old and stubborn — determined — I tried a few more times. I tried to run faster. I tried to make my takeoff run longer, and then shorter. And then I tried to jump and leap on takeoff. Each attempt resulted in another fall and more pain.
Now I was questioning whether it was really possible to fly.
I Was Flying Until I Wasn’t
I had watched mother birds push their baby birds out of the nest in a tree to teach them to fly. I figured that being up high probably was necessary after all. I really did need to climb up on the roof. Next to our house was an old rock wall, made of stacked fieldstones, probably 100 years old. It was about three feet high and two feet wide and had a smooth cement cap on top of it.
One part of the fence was higher than the part next to it. I decided I would run along the top of that fence, as I had had many times as a kid, and jump off of that higher part.
Again, with child-like faith, I took off down that runway and timed my leap perfectly. Of course I had my makeshift cape on, and I could feel it flapping behind me as I launched into flight. My arms were stretched high in the air, and the wind rushed past my ears. But, like on all the previous tries, gravity won. I was flying until I wasn’t.
I Never Wore A Cape Again
Although I wasn’t able to fly, I did learn a valuable lesson: the higher up you are, the more power gravity has. And the more it hurts when you land on the ground.
Tears rolled down my face. I was disappointed and frustrated. At that point, I realized that flying was nothing more than a childlike fantasy, that I would never fly and that there was no Superman.
Something inside me died that day — the stuff of dreams and imagination, the place inside me where wild imagination and fantasies lived. Even though I was not quite six, though, I understood that flying or not flying wasn’t the point. What mattered was the intense feeling of aliveness I felt when I thought I could fly.
In life, we all attempt to accomplish things that are impossible — fools’ errands, as they call them. On the other side of the coin are things in life that are possible, yet we don’t believe we can accomplish them, so we don’t attempt them.
In my 25-year career, I have come across many people who think investing is a fool’s errand. They think that owning equities and investing in the markets is impossible for them. Even if they have seen others invest successfully, they figure it’s just make-believe, like Superman. They see it as a mere fantasy. What’s more real to them is the people they know who have lost money in the markets. They figure it’s not a risk they want to take.
Yes, the reality is that if you make an investment in one company, that company’s value can come crashing down. But if you make an investment in many companies — which is what you are doing when you diversify your portfolio — you find out that over time, ownership of these investments can be very rewarding.
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” —Muhammad Ali
Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment. Holding stocks for the long-term does not insure a profitable outcome. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected, including asset allocation and diversification.