What Superheroes Can Teach Us About Investment Strategy
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By design, villains and superheroes are meant to stand as polar opposites. The bad guys teach us what not to do and offer cautionary tales about what we stand to lose if we're tempted to follow a similar path. These otherwise brilliant characters most often are felled by their own fatal flaws. The inverse also holds true: We can learn plenty of lessons from superheroes.
It doesn't take too much imagination to apply those tales to other areas of life. What do we hope to give and gain through personal relationships? How does the purpose behind our work or business serve a greater good? Superheroes -- those bright, shining, paragons of might and morality -- provide models for keeping our focus on the bigger picture and controlling our greatest impulses. Those two abilities make for an inspiring hero and also form the basis for a smart investment strategy for those of us who lack other superhuman gifts.
Related: How to Be Your Own Hero
It takes a village.
Children are shaped by many influences. So are young business ideas. It takes a committed team (not unlike a family or community) to pull together, develop a plan, and execute to bring in revenue. After all, no investor is an island. Each must rely on a team of sharp analysts, managers and other personnel. The successful lone wolf is the very rare exception -- you've heard of "The Wolf of Wall Street" -- and not the norm. In real life, successful brokers collaborate with their teams to deliver the best possible outcomes for clients.
The same can be said for many superheroes. Despite their extraordinary abilities, they need a good support system. Think the Avengers or the Justice League. Or consider someone a bit more down-to-earth. Marvel superhero Luke Cage has has seen a recent revival, courtesy of Netflix. The streaming service's original series features a stellar cast, edgy performances and a stunning, jarring relevance in today’s polarized climate. Luke is incredibly strong and bulletproof, but he also is deeply rooted in his community: the vibrant, lively streets of New York City’s storied Harlem neighborhood.
Be it standing up to gangsters or unraveling conspiracies, everything Luke does is for the benefit and betterment of his community. In turn, his neighbors have his back as well. Some critics and viewers have noted that the backdrop's jazzy nightclubs and historic architecture make Harlem as much a character as any of the show’s leads.
In the same way, effective investors seek advice from their networks and teams. They need a strong community behind them if they plan to successfully (and profitably) navigate the ever-changing business landscape. Whether they're backing up one another in tough negotiations or sitting down to evaluate risky mergers, all teams (communities) must be much more than the sum of their parts.
Automation is making headway on Wall Street, taking on even complex, difficult jobs that only humans could perform not long ago. Project-management software iCEO, for example, can reduce month-long undertakings to a matter of days. This puts managers' positions in jeopardy. The future is here -- and it’s increasingly robotic.
While there are many reasons it would be foolish for finance professionals to immediately lay off half their staff, any good investor will leverage technology. Applied effectively to the right areas, automation can make a great buy or sell at the most opportune time. For instance, a tech-savvy commodities investor could consult a program such as Kensho, which quickly can churn out sophisticated analyses that take hundreds of factors into account. Kensho evaluates everything from past oil prices to current geopolitical turmoil and generates a comprehensive study to help investment managers make the best trades.
This, too, is a page from the comics. Most superheroes supplement their natural abilities and intelligence with tech tools to chart the path forward in an unstable, dizzying world.
Bruce Wayne is Batman, true. He’s honed his body and mind to become an unstoppable fighting machine. But it's his state-of-the-art technology that gives him an edge over well-armed opponents during battle. Tony Stark is much the same. Another rich, wealthy playboy, he bests his enemies with razor-sharp wit, cunning and the tech-enhanced Iron Man suit he designed and built with all his prodigious wealth.
If even superheroes need technology to help round out their talents, who are investors to think they can win the day without it?
Know your environment.
Investors must be attuned to any fluctuations or warning signs in their environments. Investors who stay aware will not only be able to take advantage of rapidly developing trends but also stay profitable by avoiding crippling losses.
Consider this: At its height nearly a decade ago, Blackberry was a smartphone powerhouse. Its products represented the best of cutting-edge innovation and set the pace for many others to follow. Its lineup included models from the miniature but powerful Pearl to the unforgettable Bold, making Blackberries a staple of corporate executives, politicians and other prominent movers and shakers.
Today, Blackberry is a distant memory in the popular imagination. The reasons are multifaceted and complex, but in a nutshell, Blackberry was outclassed by competitors. Apple and Samsung won the battle in nearly every way, from operating system to user experience. Rather than properly assessing the changing technological landscape and evolving to match their competitors, Blackberry became complacent.
Superheroes pay attention to their environments, too. The most highly developed sense of situational awareness is attuned to even minor changes that can prove deadly. For all his fast reflexes and web-slinging abilities, Spider-Man still lacks the brute strength and pure brawn of the Hulk or Thor. Instead, Spidey has to be faster and more clever than his opponents -- and a large part of that depends on the situational awareness that makes his Spidey-sense tingle.
Captain America is another prime example. His impressive fighting style relies heavily on clever use of his surroundings. In many of the new movies, he takes advantage of his environment. He ducks under overpasses to take cover from enemy fire and bounces his shield off railings to slam into enemies or even knock hidden Nazi snipers out of trees.
Whether you’re fighting to save the free world, cutting your losses or seeking the best trade possible, understand that you must stay abreast of the environment and corporate battle conditions. Superheroes demonstrate how investors can chart a successful, prosperous course in an unstable business landscape. Take a page from your favorite hero's comic book, and you’ll be able to overcome any sticky situation -- investment or otherwise.