Another year older, another year wiser (or, at least, twelve months more experience of life) and what has changed?
It would appear, nothing for the better. Looking back over the past few years’ anniversary reports, we have had global pandemics, the growing environmental crisis, war in Europe, economic upheaval and now slaughter and carnage in the Middle East. The Chinese curse (“may you live in interesting times”) has, sadly, never been more accurate.
On a macro scale, one has to wonder if the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are now galloping towards us. It seems like there may be more than four of them, all intent on spreading their own particular form of misery and disaster. To Death, Famine, War, and Conquest should probably be added environmental ruin and economic collapse. Each year, I seem to find some positive signs, despite all the evidence to the contrary, but that may be just my natural optimism. I (optimistically!) hope not.
For the moment, from an economic perspective, the multiple geo-political threats to the global economy do not seem to be having the dramatic effect in the UK that might have been foreseen. Inflation is still high and the cost of borrowing (Governmental and private) is significant, but there is still a small amount of growth, quarter-on-quarter in the UK. If all these adverse winds and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have not led to a full-blown recession, there must be hope for the coming months. Sometimes the “big picture” hides the detail.
From a personal and professional point of view (which humility demands I refer to as the “sub-micro” scale), the past sixteen years have been, quite simply, some of the most rewarding of my life and last year was more of the same. There have been enormous challenges, throughout, but these have been met and overcome; there have been wonderful “highs” with major M&A transactions, some very rewarding restructuring mandates and Donald Stewart achieving some excellent results in his London-based listed market work; and, there have been fantastic opportunities to work with and for some astonishing businesses and people that have been grasped and enjoyed.
All-in-all, I have had a tremendous time and I still pinch myself, every so often, when I think of how fortunate I have been. I have to admit that I am not much of a Stoic (I plan too far ahead, as all optimists do) but living each day for the joy (or, on the odd occasion, simply the benefit) that it brings gives a perspective on life and what is achieved. Too often the focus on “big plans” (whether achieved or not) hides the many small, daily successes which, taken together, can amount to a huge amount of satisfaction and happiness. As I said about the world stage, the big picture often misses the detail.
I still have a spring in my step as I prepare to start another year in the journey that is “Kepstorn”. I have to admit that, currently, this is aided by the fact that Dundee United, the football team that I have supported for very many years (through bad times and worse!) managed, away from home, to put five unanswered goals past their opposition, last weekend. Thirteen games played this season and still unbeaten – if Dundee United can perform like this, there is hope for us all! Happiness can be as prosaic as that – take it wherever you can get it.
At the end of the day (a poor choice of cliché, as you will see), what gets you up in the morning (told you!) shouldn’t be your alarm, it should be your enthusiasm for the day ahead, for the opportunities that it provides and for the experiences that it will bring. We will all have different motivations, different things that “float our boat”, but it is to those personal preferences that we must look to measure our progress. We shouldn’t let others dictate what we call “success” or “failure”; what we consider to be our achievements; or, to determine the value that we add to our community and the pleasure that we receive from it.
Hopefully, this time next year, my optimism will prove to have been well founded. Until then, I can do no more than wish for you what you would wish for yourself in the next twelve months.