When In Lockdown And All Is Bleak, Buy Zebras

John F Carter
4 min readJul 14, 2020

I spent part of my childhood on a farm in Nebraska, and that time always stuck with me. There is something about land and animals and nature that grounds me, creating a connection with life and this experience on earth.

I never got that feeling in the suburbs.

As I grew older and went to college, I got a job, quit, learned to trade stocks, and started Simpler Trading. I love the markets, but I never forgot that feeling of space and animals and being part of nature. It’s not surprising that I eventually bought land outside of Austin, Texas.

And then — COVID and lockdown. Once everything settled down and I realized we weren’t going anywhere for a while . . . I started to dream about getting zebras. Why? Who knows. The land in Africa is like Texas. My wife and I and the kids loved Africa. We’ve been 4 times. This was a way to bring some of that feeling home. After all, we aren’t planning to fly anytime soon. Why not bring Africa to us?

I thought since we are in lockdown, wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to sit on our back porch, sip coffee, and watch zebras? It would be such a contrast to everything else going on at the moment. It would almost be . . . normal.

As Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach says, “Want it because you want it. Any justification you tell anyone is a fiction you make up so they will agree with you.”

I hop on google and I find zebras for sale a few hours from us. I call, ask a few questions, and do the deal. Even adding a few wildebeest into the mix. Africa, right?

A few weeks later, a horse trailer pulls up. The driver says, “You need to stand back.” He opens the door.

It was an amazing 125 seconds. The zebras (and a male wildebeest) bolt out, sprint to the end of the field, pause for a moment — and jump the fence. They keep on going, running, and running, just like Forest Gump, right off our place and over a neighbor’s fence. I watch them until I can’t see them any longer.

Shit!

My to-do list the next day looked like this:

1. Close TSLA put credit spreads at 80% max profit.
2. Push-ups, ab roller, chin-ups.
3. Zoom meeting at 2 pm.
4. Find Zebras and Wildebeest.

Luckily the female wildebeest were relaxed from the start and didn’t run off.

I buy infrared binoculars and drones to track them down. The drone takes a week to deliver. I worried that the animals would get shot.

On my 7th drone flight, I find them. Yes! Luckily they are on a neighbor’s property who has a large ranch about a mile from us. I call him up and let him know what’s going on. He laughs his ass off. “You did what?” But he’s cool about it. Not everyone would be.

We open up the gate between our two fields. And waited.

I’d fly the drone each evening and go check on them. About every 3rd flight, I’d find them. As a family, we’d sit around the iPad screen and watch them. You couldn’t get close — they’d run off into the trees. Their comfort level with the drone was about 300 feet.

One week. Two weeks. Three weeks.

No attempts at herding or enticement worked. Nothing.

I could not force this to happen.

Then, a few days ago we woke up . . . and there they were. It was exactly the image I had pictured in my mind. It was a magical scene on many levels.

So far they’ve been hanging out for 3 days now. We don’t have a high fence in place so they can still do what they damn well please. There is nothing we can do about that. But they are chilling and hanging out with the other animals. Getting the lay of the land, so to speak.

The male wildebeest found the females, so I don’t think he’s going anywhere. (The 3 females arrived about a week later and are very chill and have been hanging out with the cows).

The zebra are wild animals, and their comfort level is 100 yards. But they don’t bolt if we keep that distance. (Note, I bought these animals from a hunting ranch in Texas. Our plan is to let them live out their lives).

What did I learn from this?

All of the worrying, thinking, strategizing, and planning did absolutely nothing to impact this outcome.

In trading, oftentimes the best thing you can do is “sit on your hands and wait.” Let the trade work out, one way or another. You can’t force anything to happen, no matter how hard you try.

If the trade doesn’t work, tomorrow is a new morning with new opportunities.

And on any given day, as long as you keep playing, something magical just might happen.

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John F Carter

INC 500 Founder, Simpler Trading. Member: EO, YPO. Husband & father of 3. Options trader. Rare coins, home schooler, zebra breeder. Author, Mastering the Trade.