Experience – the best Teacher

​Our African safari included a tracker who sat in a chair mounted on the front of the jeep. Over multiple game drives we gained a great appreciation for his remarkable skills. Each drive would begin with his asking what we wanted to see that day, and without fail he would find it for us. Whether a full-mane lion, a pack of wild dogs, or a baby rhino, our tracker was able to find them. Even though the dirt roads were covered in dozens of overlapping tracks, he could pick out, from a moving vehicle, the specific animal we were looking for. One time while searching for lions he motioned for the jeep to stop and then jumped off and came around to my side. He pointed to the dirt and said, “Lions, heading northeast, less than an hour ago, large group with a few cubs.” As I looked down all I saw was bumpy dirt. So, he bent down and drew circles around the tracks so I could pick them out.
I shook my head and asked, “How do you do that?” To which he replied, “A lifetime of practice.” He explained that his dad was a tracker and that he began tracking with him as a young boy. He started with small animals and as his skills improved, moved up to larger game and eventually to the big cats. He told us there is nothing more dangerous than tracking a predator since they may also be tracking you.
Sometimes as a financial advisor I feel like a tracker. I walk among thousands of investment options, searching for a specific solution for a clients’ needs. I pass the tracks of many other investments that could potentially confuse the search or lead me in the wrong direction, but I stay focused. Most investment firms have clever marketing that further confuses the task. Over my years of experience, the search has become easier. Like my tracker friend, what once seemed difficult now comes more naturally as I search for that specific track in the sand.
On several occasions our tracker would leave the safety of the jeep and walk off into the trees, unarmed, in search of a large predator. His years of experience gave him confidence to do what few could do, or would be willing to do so that we, his clients, could follow in the relative safety of our jeep to reap the reward. His years of experience gave me confidence as we sat in the jeep within touching range of huge bull elephants or a pride of lions. Though the animals were sometimes a bit frightening to me, I trusted his skill and judgement.
Investing is sometimes unsettling. The unknown can even be frightening at times. Having a seasoned guide can make all the difference. Our African safaris reminded me that there are some things in the wilds of Africa, and in the jungle of Wall Street, that only age and experience can prepare you for.