Stuck in the Sidelines

By Matthew Piling

I’ve never been a huge risk taker. I’ve watched from the sidelines as others have failed and succeeded in investments and businesses. I’ve seen some things crash and burn, and I’ve seen other things far exceed anyone’s wildest expectations. At times, I’ve seen things that made me want to get involved, but have always talked myself out of it, convincing myself that our way of doing things was safer and more prudent. It has been a path of no pain and no gain. 

Deep down, I knew that I was meant for growth and gain, and that my safety came at the cost of progression. I also knew that the life I was living (working 80+ hours each week at 2 full time jobs, sleeping very little, and still trying to be everything to everyone ) really wasn’t risk free—it just avoided the risks that I deemed scary and replaced them with other risks that seemed less ‘dangerous’ to me. But my health, my sanity, my family life, and my progression in things that really mattered to me were all not only at risk, they were degenerating. Uncalculated risks that we had passively accepted were becoming realities simply because we feared the possibility of failing. 

After connecting some of the dots and realizing that the way we had been doing things really wasn’t protecting us, I decided to be bold. Having studied several different investment options, I determined that one was the right path and I jumped in the deep end. It turns out the deep end was much deeper than I thought. 

Feeling the need to “catch us up”, I tied up more in this opportunity than I should have. Technically, the investment and all of the things that I had considered before getting involved worked the way that they were supposed to. On the surface, everything looked fine. The problem was that there were factors in play that I hadn’t considered—factors that even experienced investors were surprised by. Authorities got involved, put everything on hold so that they could ‘protect’ all of us innocent investors from the potential of a loss, and have taken months and months to come to a decision. While I hadn’t lost any of my initial investment, I couldn’t access it and no returns were being generated (still the case for the foreseeable future). And, the possibility of losing everything that I invested still exists.

At first glance, this just reaffirmed every fear that I had held for years. My initial gut reaction was to judge and punish myself for my stupidity and retreat back into the safety of not taking risks. How could I put my family and our future in such a situation?!? And, after the way that things turned out, how could I possibly ever consider other investment opportunities? I had failed. I was a bad investor and didn’t belong at that table. 

However, as the dust has settled, I have realized 3 important things: 1) Even though things didn’t go the way that I had hoped, our lives didn’t fall apart. The world didn’t end because of one mistake. 2) Failure is how we learn. While this was a bigger lesson than I think I was ready for, there are several new things that I now know to look for in future opportunities. 3) Every situation is exactly what we make of it. Initially, I let myself believe that a ‘failed’ investment meant that I was a failure and that there was a large helping of shame and remorse that would be mine to carry for the rest of my days. But, even though I still have no idea if I’ll ever get my money back, I grew because of this situation. It will be a long time before I feel comfortable taking a risk anywhere near as large as this one was. But, because the failure didn’t kill us, I find that I am now more willing to take on small risks and invest in myself. As I stack up small wins for myself, I gain experience. There will still be failures along the way and I am now okay with that, which is a huge step forward for me. 

A situation which appeared horrible at first glance (and several later glances) has been the thing that has caused me to grow. I have learned to step out of my comfort zone and into my life. There is good in everything and I’m going to go out there and find it.


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Matthew Pilling
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