By Deon Gouws
Last Saturday, as I said goodbye to my wife and daughter before leaving for a walk with our dog Alfie, I warned them that we were going to be away for longer than usual: I had a 92 minute podcast to listen to.
The title was The Ultimate Breakdown of the Federal Reserve. This is not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps, but a most important topic, given the strange times we find ourselves in.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and there was a bit more of a buzz in the local park than the previous few weeks: the slight relaxation of lockdown restrictions meant that people were sunbathing again and settling down for picnics without fear of being chased away by the police. Perhaps there is light at the end of this coronavirus tunnel after all.
Alfie and I traversed the streets of our neighbourhood for a full hour and a half before podcast host Anthony Pompliano posed the final question to his guest Cullen Roche: ‘What is the most important book you’ve ever read?’
Without overthinking it, Roche responded that it was Man’s Search for Meaning by celebrated Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. The book, which was written at the end of World War II, is a meditation on what the gruesome experience of Auschwitz taught Frankl about the primary purpose of life and the quest for meaning that sustained those who survived.
Arguably the most quoted line from the book (which essentially also serves as a summary of the whole publication) is the following:
‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’
Let none of us try to equate the frustrations of lockdown with the horrors of wars (or worse, concentration camps). But I do believe that, whatever our circumstances, there is value in contemplating this famous quote from Viktor Frankl. One can always draw strength from it when you think times are tough – whether it’s managing the symptoms of a disease, dealing with the frustrations of a lockdown, or considering the economic damage due to a pandemic.
In addition to trying to heed Frankl’s timeless advice, the best thing for my own mental health over these last few months has been to get outside, take Alfie for a walk, and see the weather change from chilly winter evenings to the beautiful spring days we’re currently enjoying in the UK. Listening to brilliant podcasts and learning from some of the brightest minds in the business has been an added bonus.
So, this is my advice to one and all: stop what you’re doing and take your dog for a walk. Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Listen to a podcast if you must (it doesn’t need to be about the Fed).
And if you don’t have a dog, get one. Your mental health will be better for it.
Deon Gouws is CIO at Credo Wealth, London.