behavioral patterns

Probabilities Versus Possibilities

photo shows a goldfish with a shark fin strapped to it swimming with the fin above water

Our energy is a finite resource. Sure, we consume food and we sleep to replenish our bodies, but they too don’t last forever. The basic formula for kinetic energy requires velocity—movement. But we don’t always direct our movement in the most skillful ways.

For instance, we humans are great at focusing on low-probability events. After all, these are the events that catch headlines: “if it bleeds, it leads” the saying goes. (I mean, how do you think the world ended up with Shark Week?)

We wrote recently about bear attacks, among all things, and now we’re thinking more deeply about these ideas. What if instead of placing so much energy into unlikely (albeit scary) events, we limit our focus a little: what if we focused more instead on what’s probable?

In the markets, we hope to see at least the typical patterns of probability. Some ups and downs every year, a general trajectory of more up than down across almost any stretch of five or more years. No guarantees. But these are the general probabilities of the long-term proposition.

We don’t lock into losses by treating drops like the end of the world. Of course fatal shark attacks do happen, they are real, but we don’t stay out of the pool because one time somebody got eaten out in the open sea. That just wouldn’t make a ton of sense, huh?

The possibilities are endless, and they could consume us until our last breath. Let’s direct more energy toward what’s probable.

Clients, want to discuss what’s probable and suitable for your situation? Reach out anytime.


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What Comes Next? Three Paths

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Psychologist Shawn Achor wrote about crisis and adversity, recurring features in both the markets and life. Stuff happens, as they say.

Achor says there are three alternate mental paths in the aftermath of crisis.
The first one leads nowhere. We simply expect the crisis conditions to continue. The second one leads downward to more trouble, a continuation of the trend. We humans do tend to believe current conditions or trends will continue.

Finding the third path is difficult when times are tough. Many people do not see it because they do not believe it exists. The third path leads from the challenging conditions to greater strength, capabilities, opportunities and success. Think of it as falling forward.

Studies show those who conceive of failure as an opportunity for growth are more likely to find the third path, and experience that growth. Others have talked about the same concept with words like resilience and grit, or more vividly, post-traumatic growth.

We see this pattern in the investment markets. Although historically the stock market has recovered sooner or later from every downturn, some investors do not recover. Those who can only see the first two paths have a hard time staying invested. If they sell out at low points, believing the crisis conditions will continue or worsen, what might have been a temporary loss becomes permanent.

By the time they see the third path, the market may have already recovered. Their diminished pool of capital can only get reinvested at higher prices, perhaps to repeat the cycle of crisis and loss.

Fortunately, here at 228 Main you clients tend to have productive attitudes toward investing. You can see the third path, which is a big advantage. If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.