I Picked Olives in Italy and it Strengthened My Optimism in Financial Markets

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When I launched my brand, I told the story of a trip to Italy that inspired the Olive Tree theme. I visited Italy again recently and among the stops was a small town in Abruzzo where I helped with the olive harvest at the home of a friend. What an experience!

It’s quite fascinating how it is done. Something akin to a rake is at the end of a long pole. The tines of
the tool move rapidly, powered by an air hose. You “comb” the branches of the tree and the olives fall onto a tarp that is placed on the ground.

Seeing this gave me a sudden surge of optimism. It’s been a difficult year for investors. Market watchers can point to any number of reasons to be anxious about the global economy and therefore, the performance of our investments. I keep telling clients that this sort of thing happens in cycles; that markets adjust to the concern of the day (these days it’s inflation and higher interest rates) but that things get back on track and years where we’ve experienced poor performance were usually followed by a year or two of exceptionally strong performance.

But why did olive picking reinforce my optimism that things will get better? Because I realized that harvesting olives is something people have been doing for a couple thousand years and we are still finding ways to improve the process; to innovate and increase productivity. And this is with a task that is pretty straightforward. Imagine the opportunity with artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, healthcare etc.

Olive harvests, like the economy, have some very good years, some very bad years (like this year) and all sorts of outcomes in between. There are always challenges to deal with such as a weather event. And, there are possible long-term trends that can disrupt and set new expectations. Climate change, pests that have migrated from outside the area, changes in consumer demands and competition from other geographies – these are all things that an olive grower must deal with just like other businesses who must deal with globalization, cheap labour in other parts of the world, competition from low-cost online sellers etc.

The world and the economy are constantly evolving, but so are businesses. Every problem presents an opportunity. And while change can be uncomfortable and leave some people and businesses behind, the majority make the appropriate adjustments and move forward.

Since I became an advisor in 2004, the world has seen a number of historic events that have had an impact on markets. But the world has also seen the explosion of new technologies, productivity and innovation. If we can find better ways to pick olives after 2000 years, we can also get past supply chain problems caused by a pandemic. If we can work through a global financial crisis in 2008, we can deal with inflation in 2022.

Stay calm. Stay invested. Make adjustments if necessary. The harvest will come again.

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