There’s an ancient idea that we need to live in balance with both awareness and innocence.

A life of awareness can be credited to the serpent: experienced, in touch with all its surroundings, sensitive, and on guard.

Innocence, on the other hand, is better approached from its Latin roots meaning “not wounded.”  Or, like a child or a dove.  Nothing to do with morally/criminally right or wrong like we often distort.

Both, alone, aren’t much help. 

The serpent can become, and is historically painted, as kind of a wise-guy, cynical, and misleading.

A dove can be observed as a slow and dopey bird.  While not self-righteous, it can also be so innocent to the point of illusion.  Easy to prey upon.

We need both and I wonder what that looks like as we manage our financial lives.

I suppose too much serpent lends itself to a cynical or an overly confident investor. 

One that gives way to the narrative(s) driving that decade and forgets that time unfolds slowly.  We forget that perceived bad can often make room for perceived good. “What’s the world coming to?”, we might say.  Surely, Google, the news, or my golf buddy knows. 

Or, maybe revealed with arrogance and we start to take too much credit for what we’ve accomplished.  We become sort of untouchable and it all becomes “mine”.

Too much dove is likely the investor that’s oblivious – lacks the financial education and historical perspective that true wealth takes time and patience.  Steps 1-5 are a slog and most don’t get past those steps.  Steps 5-10 require patience as the market pulls the rug out from underneath and “hurry up and do nothing” is often the necessary reaction.

No question, depending on some mixed bag of life circumstances and age, we weave in and out of being both a dove and serpent.  And, like with anything, the ability to hold both simultaneously is not just the challenge at hand, but where the truth rests, too.

There’s a reason people millennia ago chose two very different animals to drive this point home.  The wise-guy and the dope.  Imagine trapping a serpent and a dove in a cage.  Sounds like a weird YouTube video that my son would find.  Holding them at the same time seems impossible, but that is the path.

Successful investing is a narrow gate that takes both innocence and a healthy dose of paranoia.  It’s a path where both the serpent and dove coexist: aware yet not wounded. 

The experience of frustration and fear, all while knowing that it’s not personal.  Aware, but not offended.

Thanks for reading.


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