Let’s Talk About Your Big But

March 18, 2020 Steve 0 Comments

Everyone I know has a big “but”. My plan was perfect, BUT there is a pandemic. His algo was brilliant, BUT trading was halted. I’ve never seen so many but’s at once.

These are strange times. Strange enough to seek the wisdom of Pee Wee Herman. In his 1985 movie, Pee Wee tells Simone, basically: Do not let your “but” do your thinking.

Use your head next time. Five quick lessons:

  • Nassim Taleb was right (again). Black Swans are inevitable. Fragile business models eventualy hit a wall of regret.
  • Warren Buffet was right (again). We see who lost their shorts after the tide goes out. Take risk deliberately. The tide will go out again. Be ready.
  • Bill Gates was right (again). We are underprepared for a pandemic (but we are learning fast!). For your business: “Continuity” is not enough. There can be huge shifts in customer needs, supply availability, staff childcare, and government edicts. You need to have a viable business when customer touchpoints go online and your whole model goes stale over a weekend.
  • My Finance 101 professor was right (finally). Diversification is a great way to optimize risk/reward for a typical investor. Equities looked great for a while. In hindsight, most portfolios would have done better over the past year with some bonds & gold. Check the price charts (look up Swiss Francs while you’re at it).
  • Gell-Mann Amnesia is a thing. People who were so incredibly wrong about yesterday will probably be wrong about tomorrow.

Today’s financial media is packed with opinion peices about the virus, telecommuting, “the new normal”, social distancing, business continuity planning, risk management, the future workplace, diversifying supply chains and the other obvious “topics du jour”.

The challenge is figuring out which parts are useful and which will be the “but’s” of tomorrow.

On a personal note, I just took a good hard look at my “but”. It was pretty big. I took a fairly big personal career risk just before the earliest reports on the coronavirus from China. Bad timing.

The good news is that I am now in a “win-win” situation: I am now available for a great new opportunities (make me an offer!)… BUT I have a great backup plan: spending some quality time with my newborn son when he arrives in a few weeks.

I have the best “BUT” of all.

But for actual events, my plan was awesome.  Key lessons for dealing with the real world.