My wife was screaming at me from upstairs.
“It’s a stick insect… come now!!”
I dropped whatever it was I was doing and raced up the stairs into the bedroom.
Nicky was standing on our balcony.
Right there, sitting on the balcony rail… was a…
Very predatory-like stick insect.
“Ahh, honey, that ain’t no sweet and loving stick insect; that is a praying mantis.”
“Who cares” she said. “Catch it.”
So I did, and we put it in a container with a stick and a few leaves inside it.
I sat down at my computer, opened a new tab, and typed in: “Do praying mantis tmake good pets?”
I quickly realised that they did and were quite easy to look after, too.
Feed them a cricket a few times a week and moisten their enclosure. That was pretty much all there was to it.
Honestly, I was excited, but I wasn’t as excited as my son, Huey, who LOVES insects. He’s the kind of kid who will stop his scooter suddenly on the footpath, get on all fours, and watch an army of ants for an hour if I let him.
So the next day, my wife Nicky went to a pet store, got an enclosure, and we kitted this thing out.
Our praying mantis, which we named Harry, seemed pretty content in his new home, and Huey was happy as Larry.
A week would go by enjoying our time with Harry.
We’d watch him stalk an unsuspecting cricket, reach out with his pincers and snatch it up, then eat the poor sucker from the head first.
Nature is f*cking ruthless, hey.
Anyway, one morning, Nicky opened up our front door, and there, on our footstep, was another praying mantis. It looked like a different species, but a mantis all the same.
I couldn’t believe our luck.
Until that point, I’d never in my thirty-two years seen one in the wild, and now I’d seen two at my house in two weeks.
So back to the pet store, we went, and we kitted out another enclosure.
We called him Fred.
A month went by, enjoying our two new pets.
Then one morning, I hopped into the car, and I kid you not, another praying mantis was sitting there on the windshield, looking at me.
I offered a hand, and this guy just walked straight onto it.
He was more chill than the other two and less skittish. We called him Sam.
And just like that, we now had a family of Praying Mantis sitting on our TV cabinet side by side.
A few weeks ago, Nicky and I went away for a couple of days up north.
When we got back, both Harry and Fred had laid egg sacks.
We’d accidentally misgendered them (LOL).
Harry became Harriet, and Fred stayed Fred because we couldn’t think of a female version for Fred.
Fast forward to yesterday, and our family of 3 mantis had grown to 4 (we found another one, a baby, a week later which Huey named “Spreads”); plus, we were incubating two egg sacks due to hatch in about a month.
But, in my research on egg sacks, I came across something quite sad.
Laying an egg sack is one of the last things an adult female mantis does.
So even though I knew it was coming at some point, I wasn’t well prepared for what came next.
Yesterday morning, Huey and I walked downstairs and said hello to our Mantis family, like we’d do every morning before turning Bluey on the TV.
Lying there, upside down, clinging onto life, was Harriet, the OG that started it all.
I spotted her before Huey did, so I quickly told him that it was time for Harriet to go outside and spend the rest of her life with her family.
That’s all he said.
But his eyes glassed over, and I knew he was gutted…
I was gutted for him.
I didn’t know how to explain death to him, except, “Everything living dies eventually, Huey, and it was Harriet’s time.”
I should have been more prepared so I knew what to say and how to handle that situation better. Huey is only three, so he probably deserved a more considered approach. But in hindsight, I ignored the warning signs and hadn’t thought it through.
I tell you this rather personal story because I think it’s got an important lesson about business and economic cycles.
Everything in nature has seasons.
There are seasons of growth and seasons of decline.
There are periods in time where abundance is just attracted to you, and then there are periods where resources you need are in short supply.
And this couldn’t be more true with what we’re currently experiencing economically.
For the last three years, money, and access to capital, have been abundant.
So any business that was above average probably benefitted from this transfer of capital and wealth. We certainly did — and it’s no denying that our rapid expansion was at least in part due to how available capital was.
But the tide is now going out, and it reminds me of the Warren Buffett quote:
“Now we get to see who’s been swimming naked.”
Money is drying up, everyone is talking about an economy going into recession, and the coming season will separate the wheat from the chaff.
And those who understand business fundamentals and effective capital deployment will have a leg up on everyone else who has been “swimming naked at high tide.”
Because something no one can deny is that crisis is an opportunity for those looking for it.
This month’s Alley-Oop is all about understanding the fundamentals of business economics, so you can just that.
It goes over what KPIs to track, how to spend, conserve, and allocate capital, and most importantly, how to know what is going well (and not so well) in your business. It’s all about turning business numbers and data you get on your P&L into insights that tell you how to act.
Because of this, I’d argue that this is my most important Alley-Oop newsletter to date, and it’s fitting given it’s also the anniversary edition (just another season and cycle, hey).
So if you run a business, but don’t feel like you’ve got a complete grasp on translating raw business numbers into actionable insights, or you’ve already started thinking what a downturn of the economy would mean for you, then this is the most important edition for you to read.
You can subscribe here:
– Karl Goodman