What Not To Do When You See A Bear

With 2018 taking a toll in the markets, I thought I would share with you this piece that I wrote a few years ago. It aligns with our theme for 2019…. staying the course.

Each year my family and I head west for our annual camping trip.  Fernie was one of our destinations a few summers back.  We kayaked the Elk River and enjoyed the great hiking trails.  By August the berries were ready for us and could be found everywhere. One early morning my husband and I set out on a hike choosing the path that followed the raspberry bushes.  With our heads down picking berries, enjoying the solitude of the morning, we came face to face with a brown bear.

Let me pause here and give you some background.  I have lived in Northern Saskatchewan for two years and I have enjoyed many outdoor experiences.  Our canoe trips have taken us through the boreal forest, full of wildlife and bears.  I have prepared myself and my family for what to do if we encounter a bear on any of our adventures.

So, with that said, the bear and I had a stare off.  I then did opposite of everything I know.  I ran!  My husband tells me that I pulled a George Costanza.  I went right past him with a shrill shriek coming from my throat.  (You might ask, what is a George Castanza?  He was a character from the 90’s television sitcom, Seinfeld.  He was often driven by impulse and pure emotion that ended up creating chaos or trouble.  The episode that I know my husband is referring to was the one where George flees a burning kitchen, knocking over several children at a birthday, so he could escape first.)

Now, I did not knock my husband over while I escaped, but I did pass him in a very brisk jog.  He had to yell my name and tell me to STOP running. Luckily, the bear did not chase us and he scampered in the opposite direction.  After much teasing by my family and retelling of my George Costanza reaction, I realized that my response to take flight was a normal impulse.However, our first instinct is not always the `right’ one.  I see the similarity in my behaviour to that of the emotion we let take hold of us when making financial decisions.  I knew what I was supposed to do, but George Costanza took over and all rational thought went out the window.

I know that our own behaviour is one of the most important variables in our long-term results.  We would not be human if we did not have the flight response to fear, but the key is to listen to the voice of rational thinking.  I won’t tell you to throw your backpack away from you, back away slowly or play dead, but I will tell you to stay the path and I will point out all of the rational thoughts that lead us to our decision making.  I have noticed that our clients have not followed my George Costanza move by running during a time of emotion or crisis.  You have found success by staying the course.

“Wealth isn’t primarily determined by investment performance, but by investor behaviour.” – Nick Murray, Simple Wealth.

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