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Eating Worms in Mexico and the Case for Optimism

By: Devan Robinson

“Who has ever benefited during the past 238 years by betting against America?” – Warren Buffet

For this post, we are going to take a more personal tone rather than the normal boring financial stuff that I love to discuss.  It is politics season once again, or as I like to call it our “bi-yearly negativity cycle.”  It is the time of year when political candidates do their best to tell us how bad everything is, so that everyone can argue over it and get motivated to vote.  My wife loves to joke that I am too optimistic for my own good, but I want to take some time and explain why that is.

I have had a lot of luck early in my career, and I feel really fortunate to have had some absolutely phenomenal experiences that I am grateful for.  Before I was in the wealth-management business, I worked for a manufacturing company and one of my roles was as their International Business Development Manager.  In non-corporate language, I flew around and made deals for the company.  The job was an absolute blast. I learned a lot and made great friends that I still keep in touch with today. 

My main territory for sales was Latin America, and I was lucky enough to make several trips to Mexico, our country’s third-largest trading partner.  My home-away-from-home during that time was Mexico City, Mexico’s capital.  Most of my clients know that I am passionate about where we are heading as a global economy, and that I love the international markets.  They may not know that a lot of that passion was formed during my time in the international role. 

Dining on Worms in Mexico

The picture below is of a younger version of me at a dinner with customers in Mexico City, a pretty routine night.  If you look closely, you will see a traditional Mexican dish in the stone bowl- gusano de maguey, which is essentially fried worms and ant larvae.  For a kid from Dayton, eating worms in Mexico was certainly a unique experience (and they were good!). It was somewhere around this time I came to realize how much the world is changing around us, and how great the future is going to be.  Don’t get me wrong, international business is nothing new, but it was to me.  I was 24 years old, waking up early so that I could talk to my brokers in Europe and getting updates from Asia at night.  For my parents, this would have been a really rare job to come across in their 20’s.  But from now on this type of business is going to become the new normal, the world is becoming flat.

Negativity is Easy

The truth is, being negative is easy.  This is a media principle.  The quickest way to media publicity is through negativity.  If you turn on the news right now, or hop on Yahoo! Finance, I can bet there is something negative.  There are extremely well-educated people on the news every day arguing that the best is behind us.  When you manage money professionally, you are forced to examine the world and the economy as it is, not how we think it is or want it to be.  And honestly, I like what I see.

It may not always feel like it, but we are entering quite possibly the greatest years in human history.  Fewer people are dying young, and more are living longer.  100 years ago there was no planning for retirement- your retirement plan was death! War is becoming rarer and less deadly.  Rates of violent crime are in a free-fall.  There is less racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination worldwide.  According to the United Nations, poverty was reduced more in the past fifty years than in the previous five hundred years.  A child with a smartphone has better and faster access to information than Bill Clinton had as President of the United States.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they seek to unlock the possibility inside each individual and are one organization making amazing strides in today’s world. Bill & Melinda Gates reflected on their foundation’s work in 2013 and had a few interesting comments:

  • We became smarter and faster at fighting polio.
  • Child mortality went down, again.
  • The poverty rate went down, again.

And that was just an average year, it is exciting to see what their goals are for 2015. Organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are proof that we are working diligently as humans to guarantee a better world for future generations- and we are succeeding.

Our Changing World

The chart above shows just how much population and technological growth has exploded in recent human history, it can be hard to wrap your head around it.  In my opinion, the world 25 years from now will likely be much better than we can possibly imagine.  Nay-sayers throughout human history have been proven wrong time and time again by the innovators, optimists, and entrepreneurs. Nearly half a million people around the world enter the middle-class for the first time in their family’s history per-day.  I have no doubt that many of them have the same ambitions we do, and it is going to be wonderful to see how our world can develop with their help.

I think that it is always good to take a deep breath and look around for a moment.  If you still want to be negative, that’s fine by me.  But keep in mind that you are probably on the wrong side of the bet.  The nay-sayers who put their money where their mouth is aren’t building wealth in the long-run, and the nay-sayers that don’t put their money on the table don’t deserve our attention.  Why am I ranting on this topic?  I am a capitalist, through and through.  And I know where I want myself and my clients’ capital invested. Did you see the quote from Warren Buffett I added at the beginning of this post? He’s been right quite a few times throughout his career, and is not a man I tend to bet against.

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