You learn a lot about life and investing by simply putting one foot in front of the other.
Today is day five of my nephew’s outward-bound excursion called “Survival.” It’s a legendary trip for seventh graders at Old Rochester Junior High School, in southeastern Massachusetts, from the towns of Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Marion.
It’s a wet, sticky morning here in Newport, RI. At this point on the trip my nephew and his classmates will either already have accomplished the required two-days of survival or they will be waking up for day two of it. If it’s day two, hopefully they constructed a suitable shelter last night.
The feeling you have on day two of Survival is a mixed one of uncertainty and relief. You still contemplate that you have a couple of long-days of hiking and food gathering ahead, but you conquered “The Notch” the day before.
From day one, the counselors talk about the Notch as if it were Lonely Mountain from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. And as far as the kids are concerned, Smaug is still alive, lurking near the top, waiting to pick them off one by one.
Stepping off the bus, early in the trip, someone always makes the mistake of saying out loud: “This is hard” or “I’m getting tired.” Ding! Like Pavlov’s dog a counselor shouts: “Wait until you reach the Notch! This is nothing compared to the Notch. It’s the hardest hike you’ll ever do!”
“Great,” you think.
As they continue building up the Notch your mind works overtime, ratcheting up the angst and anticipation you’ve been feeling for the last couple weeks. Because it starts days before even leaving your house. I remember sitting on our living room floor, as a seventh grader, reading about moisture wicking wools, dehydrated meats, canteens, and wondering where in the world we were going.
The wondering continues when you’re in the woods and walking. Thinking about the Notch. Imagining Smaug. But at least you’re moving. You’re putting one foot in front of the other collecting steps, much like an investor collects dividends, compounding them until, after a while, you realize you’ve put some miles behind you like money in the bank.
After a lot of steps, and a lot of hiking, you’re told to stop, put your packs down and take a break. And that’s when they tell you, “Congratulations you did the Notch!”
“What?! We, did? That wasn’t so bad.”
And then, after a brief break, it’s time to put the packs back on, hit the trail again, gather some food, hike some more and set up camp. It’s just another notch on the trip of Survival.
But, now, for some reason your pack feels a little lighter.
And at night, as you sing songs and put on funny skits and have contests, there’s always a last song. As you sing Cats in the Cradle, staring nostalgically into the fire, missing your family, you hold that feeling inside of your heart that you created by simply putting one foot in front of the other—it’s called a lifelong memory and it’s a most precious commodity.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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