I was a new stockbroker at Merrill Lynch when the ’87 Crash occurred. I’d joined the firm during the Go-Go years of the early 80s, and was unprepared when the Blue Chip stocks I had recommended to my customers–the IBMs, GEs, Intels–all started to nose dive south.
My loyal clients called in a panic. Why had I put them in such lousy investments? They yelled at me. They swore and called me names I won’t repeat here.
My health suffered as did my sleep. I started popping antacids like M&Ms. In fact, the only thing that kept me going in the days that followed was the office squawk box.
This was back in the days before video cams, and each morning before the market opened we would routinely get a conference call from the Merrill Lynch headquarters on Wall Street. Usually it was the newest analyst on the block, hawking his latest hot stock tip.
We’d yawn and listen with half an ear while we tried to figure out how we were going to make the required number of cold calls and still get in a good workout at the local downtown gym at lunchtime.
But in the days and weeks following the crash, Merrill Lynch did something different. Instead of the young Turks, we had the Senior Analyst on the conference phone. This guy had seen ’em all. Been there through the ups and downs of more market cycles than he cared to remember. Each morning he came on the Sqawk Box, day after day.
And he talked to us. His voice was low and soothing, filled with confidence and world wisdom. He told us things like, “We’ve been here before.” “Your customers don’t hate you, they’re just scared.” “You are doing the right thing.” “We know what you are going through, and we are proud of you.” “Stay the course.”
Stay the course.
I thought about that this morning as I scanned the newest issue of USA Today. It had a huge graphic, above and below the fold, of blood red arrows going down, down, down. I thought about it as I read the Wall Street Journal, whose front page trumpeted: “Mounting fears pummel world markets” and “Worst crisis since ’30s with no end yet in sight.”
Stay the course.
Sometimes that’s all you can do. Be firm. Be true to yourself and those you care about. Know that what you are doing in your life is true. Trust in the future to unfold as it is meant to do.
We will get through this crisis as we have many others before. Through determination and hard work. Through love and connection with others. By dipping down into strength and courage we didn’t know we had.
We will grow stronger through crisis. That’s the way it has always been and the way it always will be.
And that’s why I’ll stay the course.