‘The field must be sowed’

When I first launched the Nightcrawler, I made two rules for myself: One, I’d resist the temptation to write about current events. And two, I’d generally keep my own opinions out of this newsletter. 

Well — today I’m going to break both of those rules. 

This week, I want to share a piece written by one of my closest friends, Jeremy Borovitz. The essay is about hope and resilience in the face of terror. It’s worth reading. 

Jeremy now lives in Berlin with his wife and two young daughters. But he lived in Ukraine for several years, first in a small village for the Peace Corps after college—and then in Kyiv for several more years. I’ve known Jeremy since he and I were about 3 years old. I actually traveled to Ukraine to visit him in the village in October 2011, where he was kind enough to introduce me to all of his new friends—and the many varieties of Ukrainian vodka.

In the essay, Jeremy writes that on Tuesday night, he called an old friend—a physics and math teacher—who lives in the rural outskirts of Kyiv. “I asked him how he was doing,” Jeremy writes, “expecting to hear a mix of my own trepidation and nervousness and uncertainty. Instead, he said he was doing great. The winter thaw was dropping away, and he might even be able to plant potatoes in the next few weeks. War lingers on the horizon, but the field must be sowed.”

There was something profound to me about that statement—war lingers on the horizon, but the field must be sowed—that I couldn’t stop thinking about all week. “Some might call this naiveté or denial,” Jeremy concludes. “I call it hope. And hope is the ultimate act of resilience.”

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that idea. It also applies far beyond the terror unfolding across Ukraine today. Hope is the ultimate act of resilience. All progress in life—across business, culture, technology, science, politics, art—is the result of individuals who are fundamentally optimistic, resilient, and hopeful for a better future. Optimism is often perceived as denialism or even naïveté—especially in the world of investing and finance—where conformity and conservatism is considered strength. I reject that idea.

My own investment ethos—far beyond the practical matters of financial valuation, fundamental research, probabilities, etc.—is centered on the simple idea that progress wins in the long-term. The best individuals to bet on in this business are those who are fundamentally resilient. They confront the world with infectious optimism. This, by the way, is a required trait any leader must possess to confront the inevitable challenges and setbacks that materialize along the way. 

Markets, people, governments—all will behave irrationally in the short-term. Progress and growth do not unfold in a straight line. We are witnessing that today. But over the long-term, I choose to believe truth and progress win. In the bleakest of times, it’s hard to see this—and yet, it’s these dark times when it’s most important to double-down on this view.  

During periods of immense change, there will be those among us who choose to embrace old-world views. They resist progress. They seek safety in realities shaped decades ago. I see this mindset across culture, politics, business, and investing. These people will fail. In my mind, there is simply no other way to live, to invest, or to think about our future. We must venture forward—the fields must be sowed. 

To readers across Europe — stay safe, stay hopeful. 

“I think a lot about defying history. I am currently a rabbi living in Berlin, a concept that would have been anathema to most of my grandparents… It feels like the whole world is currently mired in some sort of COVID PTSD, traumatized by the isolation, by the loved ones we lost, by carefully crafted and curated worlds that were turned upside down… One of my friends in Ukraine shared with me some advice from his father regarding the current moment: The biggest regret of his own relatives in World War II was that they split up the family in the face of upheaval. No matter what, they will stay together. As long as they are together, hope remains.”

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