Articles

A Fresh Perspective

July 30, 2020 | Bogumil Baranowski
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I have a vivid memory from early in my career: sitting in an investment meeting in a Manhattan high-rise while two portfolio managers got into a heated exchange about an investment idea. One of them was doing his best to poke holes in the investment case, which is perfectly standard practice. Finally, he concluded his counter-argument saying: “Why wouldn’t the doorman just get it for you?”

That remark really stuck in my head. I can’t remember what “it” was that the doorman would theoretically fetch. What I do remember is the portfolio manager’s conviction that everyone had a doorman, and thus didn’t need this product or service. In that moment, it really hit me how often investment decisions are based on an individual perspective that is by no means average or common. I have certainly made that mistake myself before.

Since witnessing that exchange between the two investment professionals, I’ve heard many curious rebukes to investment ideas, such as “My sister doesn’t like it,” “My cat won’t eat that,” or “My in-laws wouldn’t watch it.” Nevertheless, over the years, I still bought many stocks offering products and services that I personally did not use or need. I found a way to relate to their target customer, and see how much value those offerings could bring to the right audience. That skill helped me expand my investment universe beyond my immediate circle of competence – beyond my favorite smartphones, toothpaste, or shoes!

The recent leap from a comfortable city life to a life in the woods has given me a fresh perspective. Our life in a remote cabin is the extreme opposite of our previous fast-paced city life. That may be why it’s been such a fascinating, eye-opening experience. Many products and services don’t even reach us, while others have become handier than ever – flashlights, bug spray, among others. Some worried friends asked me recently, “It’s just a temporary experiment, right?” Experiment or not, weeks have turned into months, and my point of view has been hugely refreshed.

Where we are now, I can’t count on the subway, the train, or the bus, and I can’t even hope that any Uber driver will ever find us. Online purchases and food deliveries are no longer a click away. In fact, shopping has changed completely. Every grocery run is a drive away now — as it is for a big part of America! We have swapped our neighborhood grocery store for visits to some of the local farmer’s markets, which is greatly enjoyable. We’ve grown to appreciate cooking at home. We don’t have a doorman any more… or immediate next-door neighbors for that matter.

We might feel far from civilization at times, but we are as connected as ever. For his own remote work needs, the owner equipped this place with an exceptionally strong internet connection, which has allowed us to work without interruptions. I must say that our cabin Wi-Fi is better than our overwhelmed city apartment network.

I have also had the new experience of driving our own garbage to the recycling facility, and sorting our bottles, cans, and paper on my own. It gave me a new appreciation for the need to recycle, and brought me closer to a product’s journey from the shelf to the landfill. Having scuba dived all over the world and having witnessed floating islands of plastic garbage in some far-flung pristine tropical locations, I know well that the plastic bottle’s life unfortunately doesn’t end at the recycling chute in a high rise in Manhattan.

Our new remote location has reawakened our appreciation for nature and the many benefits of spending time outdoors. Before this spring, Central Park or the Hudson River Waterfront were our frequent destinations for biking, walking, or hiking. Now, we get lost making our way through steep, overgrown, and hardly visited trails, some of which date back to the late 1700s.

Our life might have taken a different course this year than expected: trips cancelled, high-rise apartment swapped for a cabin in the woods, neighborhood grocery store traded for farmer’s markets. However, it has given me a fresh perspective, and true success in investing lies in seeing everything from a new, different angle and appreciating opportunities that others might miss. My grandma often reminds me of a Polish saying that doesn’t rhyme in English, but says – your point of view depends on where you sit, and from where you look. I know now how right she is!

 

Wishing you a lovely summer!

Happy Investing!

Bogumil Baranowski

Published:  7/30/2020

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The information provided in this article represents the opinions of Sicart Associates, LLC (“Sicart”) and is expressed as of the date hereof and is subject to change. Sicart assumes no obligation to update or otherwise revise our opinions or this article. The observations and views expressed herein may be changed by Sicart at any time without notice.

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