Friday, August 12, 2011

The Secret of the “Soothsayer”

I was contacted this morning by a young lady representing a Northeastern newspaper, looking for a comment on the accuracy of some of my predictions in recent years, most notably the downturn in September of 2008, the current economic struggles and some company successes and failures that I predicted contrary to the predictions of others.

She seemed to be fascinated that the things I have gone on public record about appear to have manifested as predicted and within the window that I predicted and she wanted to know how I did it.

In my reply, I mused about the potential sources of my predictions, namely:

1. Perhaps my Wall St. background and connections give me access to information not generally available.

2. Maybe its my recent work in predictive analytics, using math models to predict human behavior and the results of that behavior.

3. It would be nice to claim that I had a red-phone directly to God, but I don’t.

4. I can’t profess to have any belief in tea leaf reading and other forms of divination so that’s not it.

5. It could be my 20+ years providing strategy and global technology architecture, in a world where optimism must be balanced by pragmatism and where the art of listening is critical to providing solutions that work.

6. Maybe its my upbringing in a small community in eastern Canada, where common sense was bred into us (and beat into us if we still didn’t get it).

Yes, they may have all played a role (except for the red-phone, which hasn’t been installed yet but I have ordered one). :-)

But then I mused, that maybe, possibly, it is because ….

1. I can read.

and ….

2. I accept that information is just information.  It becomes good or bad news depending on what I choose to do (or not do) with it.

and finally ….

3. I am not afraid to ask questions and to speak frankly about the responses that I receive.

Many people, in an effort to escape the squeeze of daily life, prefer to ignore most the important information around them, filling their life with distractions that are more time-waters or mind-deadeners than anything.  If it looks like bad news (even though it is just information), they avoid it or embrace the mantra “I only read positive, reaffirming material”.

When I absorb information, I like to explore it, question it, evaluate it and analyze it, filtering out stuff like why some famous person spends $28,000 a week on her hair.  Many times, my questioning makes the owners of the information feel uncomfortable, since my questioning reveals avenues that they hadn’t explored or truths that they hadn’t or don’t want to acknowledge.  They forget that these truths aren’t good or bad – it is still only information until they make choices that turn it into good or bad news.

When I ask questions, I have a purpose behind them that was well described by my friend Bill H. when he said, “I am not trying to question your faith, I am trying to build mine”.

And finally, I am not afraid to speak my mind about the results.  I try to present the information objectively, fairly and responsibly, but I share it all the same.  If the emperor has no clothing, I have no qualms about saying it, as long as it is presented in an appropriate fashion.

Many people today hunger for optimism – if the news is good they want to hear from you as a fellow optimist but if it is bad news (as they perceive it), then they don’t want to hear from you with cries of “away from me, you pessimist”.

But I believe this is an unfortunate state of denial that doesn’t allow us to manage our lives in a better fashion and is largely responsible for how we have arrived where we are today.

And so when I examine things in front of me, whether it be the state of the economy or examining an organization to help them be successful (or warn them if the inevitable collapse is approaching), I strip the subjective fluff out of the information and view it as just that.

Information – pure and raw.

And then I ask a lot of questions until I am satisfied that I understand what I am looking at and can make appropriate choices with it.

The information is not good or bad until we make our choices as to how we will use it.

But if we ignore the information or our right and responsibility to understand it, question it, analyze it and apply it, then the results are VERY predictable.

And that’s not pessimism.

It’s reality.

In service and servanthood,


1 comment:

  1. We all like the good news, but sometimes it is the hard question that makes us look deeper for real answers. In the end if we face those hard questions we may end up with better news than we would have had without the helpful criticism.

    Thanks for being the guy that asks the difficult questions Harry. May we now have wisdom to make the application after the analysis.