A Personal Perspective

Megan Fraser

May 2022

As a beginner student to the practice of yoga, I’m intrigued by the insights and routines of this ancient tradition that is so new to me.

One of the maxims offered by instructors during class is to ‘take it to your edge’. As I’m puffing, sweating and grimacing like a Bulgarian bodybuilder, this suggestion really inspires me to do just that…hang on at the edge even though it hurts. You never quite fall off the edge and, although it feels like you are about to shatter, you don’t…and then that passes…as all things do. The other mantra that inspires me is to ‘keep doing the never-ending work’; there is no endpoint in the practice, you never actually arrive (I think the whole Nirvana-thing was the marketing department going rogue). Furthermore, the teacher invites us to embrace the seismic activity of wobbles and shakes as we hold a pose – this is how the body receives the feedback that will strengthen it and then it processes the information for its own development.

This very grounding and balancing practice provides useful tools for all of life, but I find it particularly germane to my working environment. It helps me maintain equanimity regardless of which degree of tantrum or truculence markets are presenting. Anicca is a word in Theravada Buddhism allowing the belief that all things, including the self, are impermanent and constantly changing. And so it is in our investment world; it is constantly changing and we never actually arrive at an end point for final evaluation of performance.

Yoga also helps me to grasp the potent energy of a group, the vitality of common purpose. This energy motivates, inspires and strengthens, and holds you in a sense of unity. All beautiful and rosy…right?? Or is it…?

The power of the collective is thought-provoking. Most of us have some understanding of the wisdom of crowds; the idea that large groups of people are collectively smarter than individual experts when it comes to problem-solving, decision-making, innovating, and predicting.

The words that come to my mind encapsulating this thinking are conservative and conventional. I’ve tended to conflate the words, using them interchangeably. More significantly, for me, I’ve resisted either myself or Gryphon being labelled with either of those adjectives.

Then I had a wonderful conversation with an erudite friend that led me to recognise that conservative can hold a very different space to conventional.

Conservative suggests a mindset of conservancy, of protection; protection of energy, of a faith or a philosophy, a practice or, in the case of Gryphon, client’s wealth. This does not automatically denote staid and rigid thinking, although it might be structured and predictable. It does, however, require original thinking, critical thinking, and the courage to hold true to what matters most. And so it is, upon reflection, that both Gryphon and I (tattoos and crystals not withstanding) could be considered conservative.

Conventional behaviour on the other hand, is based on or according to what is generally accepted or believed. It does not require innovation, flexibility or courage – the comfort of being with the crowd provides adequate cover and validation. Being wrong with the crowd is often more tolerable than being right standing alone. Conventional is not an word that I would use to describe either Gryphon or myself.

Bearing in mind that there are three conditions for a group to be intelligent; diversity, independence, and decentralization, is conventional thinking really likely to produce the most constructive outcome?

To quote from this article by Julie Won,

“Where financial markets often fail is in diversity and independence of opinion.  Investors herd.  Instead of behaving differently, they choose the warmth of the crowd by doing what everyone else is doing.  That is how prices can get to be so wrong.”

The best decisions are more likely to be the result of rigorous discussion and disagreement. Too much Kool Aid never leads to any good. As said by the inimitable Warren Buffett,

“You pay a high price for a cheery consensus.”

What I’ve learned from yoga, first and foremost is this: stand up – it’s your practice and there is nowhere to hide! Be brave, leave your comfort zone. Get on your mat, clasp your courage and energy with both hands…and breathe. What this practice has given me is more space, yet more focus and, wonderfully, it helps me to not to take myself too seriously. My challenge in yoga is to keep showing up for myself and to keep doing the never-ending work…and to not take myself too seriously.

What I’ve learned from Gryphon is the elegance of simplicity, the solace of humility, and the serenity of trust. What they have given me is the space and support, courage and opportunity to express myself without censor. My challenge within Gryphon is to meet their passion, honour their space and integrity; what is not difficult is to stand proudly with this tribe that has graciously galvanised me to become more grounded and yet able to fly freer than ever.

“I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth – and truth rewarded me.”

~ Simone de Beauvoir

Om shanti shanti shanti