I ended up on a work trip to Japan last month. It was a trip I was reluctant to make initially. On hindsight, it turned out to be my best trip out this year. Not for anything else, but only for this.
I went for a walk in the park and Japanese families and friends were out picnicking and enjoying the beautiful weather. They sat in the shade of the trees and had entire sushi platters laid out. The flowers drifted down and covered the sushi like a dusting of snow.
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Spring was in the air and there was a buzz in the city. It was an experience I would remember for a long time to come.
According to my Japanese colleague, Cherry flowers blossom for two weeks a year. The best viewing window last only for a week though. While forecasts are available, they tend to be unreliable because the actual dates are affected by rainfall, temperature and the wind conditions. This year especially, the season came early.
I was extremely fortunate to have caught the flowers at full bloom. Had I been a couple of days late, I would have missed the entire show of nature. It was one of those things that I got lucky on.
I got hooked on snowboarding many years ago. To snowboard, one needs snow. The more the merrier. While most snow resorts around the world see reliable forecasts year in year out, it is impossible to predict exactly what the weather will be like for that one particular week when we are planning our holiday a year in advance.
In recent years we have resorted to making plans only the week before we were due to travel. We looked at the forecast and we head out for the area with the biggest snow dump. That worked pretty alright for a while.
There was once though, we thought we were on our way to an epic season with record snowfalls in Hokkaido. When we got there, we ended up being caught in blizzard conditions with howling winds and reduced visibility. The upper lifts were closed and whatever runs that were open made for pathetic boarding in those conditions. Like they say – God laughs when man makes plans.
Again, it is luck at play.
A few years ago, we traveled with friends to Hawaii. The Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has been erupting since 1983 and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Before the trip we read about getting up close and personal with the lava flow.
If we are lucky and the lava is flowing, we could actually hike out to its path and witness its destruction up close and personal. Should the lava continue flowing into the ocean, there are also boat tours that bring us out for that unique vantage point.
Turns out that during the few days we were there, no eruption was forthcoming and we did not get to see any fresh lava.
We failed to get lucky and witnessing fresh lava flow in Hawaii remains unchecked on my bucket list.
Feed Show and Light Show
I also want to share two more items on my bucket list.
In the months of May to July, entire schools of sardines migrate northwards along the east coast of South Africa. The sheer numbers of fish draw predators from sharks to other game fish to birds who go into a feeding frenzy.
The Sardine Run, as it has come to be known, is a sight to behold and to be able to dive the Run would be a dream come true.
It is also an experience that is hard to come by. Unlike the Sakura which blooms every year, climatic conditions have caused with irregular runs in the recent years. 2003 and 2006 saw no runs taking place. Tourists who travelled and descended upon the coastal towns have been left sorely disappointed.
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is another long time fascination. Charged particles emitted from a solar flare collide with molecules in our atmosphere to create that magical greenish tinge in the skies. Unfortunately, the lights can only be seen in high latitude countries. Best places one can hope for a viewing include the Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Northern Canada.
Entire sites have been dedicated to predicting when and how to best snag a viewing of the Northern Lights. While their occurrence is rather regular in the winter months, local weather conditions such as cloud cover and even the moon phase has an effect the viewing of the phenomenon. Friends have spent ten days up north only to experience a feeble light show because of less than optimum conditions.
Once again, luck is the crucial factor in snagging tickets to the Sardine Run and a front row seat to the Aurora Borealis.
Do we or do we not have Control?
To experience all these is no easy task. Unlike making plans to watch the World Cup or experience Mardi Gras, which we know for sure is definitely happening at this place and time, all of the above sights are random. They require the cooperation of Mother Nature. It is something we have no control over. They require a big dose of luck.
As an investor, I am fascinated by the subject of luck. I want to experience the greatest bull run in history. I also want to be prepared for the biggest market collapse and come out unscathed from it. I want to buy the best stocks that will give me astronomical returns. I also want to stay away from counters that may seem really exciting but in reality are nothing but duds.
To achieve all these, I need to rely on a healthy dose of luck. Because these are outcomes that is beyond my control. Or are they?
The Luck Factor
Psychologist Richard Wiseman is the author of The Luck Factor: Changing Your Life, Changing Your Luck; The Four Essential Principles. His research centers on the subject of luck and he is fascinated with what makes some people more lucky than others.
He got large numbers of people to rate themselves on how lucky they are, and subsequently personality profiled them. Wiseman discovered that there is a significant relationship between lucky people and three of the Big Five personality traits. Lucky people tend to score higher on Extroversion, Openess and fare lowly on Neuroticism.
Lucky people maximise chance opportunities, he claims. The only way to do it is by going out there and actually meeting people and doing things (Extroversion), by being welcoming to new experiences (Openess) and finally by adopting a relaxed attitude to life (Low Neuroticism).
To put it another way, lucky people are prepared, they are always learning and they do not panic when things do not go the way they planned. If we understand these principles and put them into practice, there is no reason why we cannot make our own luck.
Be it traveling or investing, I believe that the principles are very much the same. Prime yourself properly for the opportunities that lie ahead and good luck will come your way.
If you do not know which stocks to buy now when the market is peaceful, you will not be able to make good decisions either when the market is rising and buoyant or when the market is all gloom and collapsing.
Prepare well now and the rewards are yours. Good luck and May a Thousand Sakuras Bloom on your investing journey!
image: cba, toovia, elasmodiver, sharkdiving.com, 56thparallel