Twenty years ago, I took my first trip to Germany and visited the Deutsche Boerse, the German Stock Exchange, in Frankfurt. These were the days before the Euro currency was introduced and they still traded in Deutsche Marks. Outside the Exchange, on the Boersenplatz, there are two bronze statues: a bull and a bear. They represent the rising and the falling market respectively.
Twelve years later I was in New York and took a tour of the financial district with a guide who was a former Wall Street banker. Like in Frankfurt, there's a similar bronze statue of a bull on a traffic island near the New York Stock Exchange. I asked my guide the obvious question: 'Where's the bear?'
'Bear?' he scoffed.
'There's no bear on Wall Street.'
When there's a growl all the way from Frankfurt to Manhattan, it might be foolish to believe that there is no bear. Yet, optimism is inherently human. It's what gets us out of bed in the morning. It's what keeps us going when things get tough.
On the Boersenplatz, the bull and the bear are locked in an eternal tussle. When the bull rears, the bear ducks. When the bear growls, the bull keeps fighting. There is no winner in their struggle.
When we hear the bear growl, the important question is not, 'Who will win?' but, 'How will we rise to the challenge?'