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Market Update: Don’t be surprised by black swans

A lot of people are worried and concerned about our economy and the world we live in—and we take the job as your trusted advisor very, very seriously—so there are a few things that I’d like to give you some inside information.

Recently, I met with a group of some of the most brilliant people I have ever met regarding the stock market. These are people who run hedge funds, they’re CEOs of major tech companies, big energy companies, some of the most notable money managers and economists in the country.
 Now the purpose of this meetup was to share insights and perspectives on the economy, financial markets, business logistics, and geopolitics.

Here’s the bottom line: Every single one of them is pessimistic about the economy, where we’re heading as a nation, and the evolving geopolitical dynamics. They all expect that we are headed into tougher times before things get better.

Half of them expect the economy will be in a full-blown recession at some point this year. There is still a lot of debt that needs to be cleared out of the system. All the asset classes that got over-inflated? They’re still rebalancing.

Things will continue to be expensive. Labor will tighten even further and consumer debt will climb, which is squeezing consumers from both ends and making people more and more frustrated.

We continue to tiptoe on the cliff’s edge with our geopolitical picture in regard to tensions with Russia, China, and Iran.

What is a Black Swan event?

As we head into 2023, I wanted to bring up a term, Black Swan.

Now—if you are unfamiliar, a black swan is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected and has potentially severe consequences.

For instance, THE ECONOMIST magazine—a very respected publication that does thoughtful and thorough forecasting—every January they project what is to be expected over the next 12 months.

Well, if you go back and look at the January 2020 edition, for what was to be expected in 2020, there’s not a single word about COVID.

Of course, they were writing the edition in December of 2019. And that was an unknowable event at the moment, but it soon became a black swan event.

And if you look at their edition from January of 2022, there’s not a single word about Russia and Ukraine, which again, you would not have known with any kind of precision that an invasion was going to take place as brazenly as it did. But it soon became a black swan event.

COVID and the Russia-Ukraine war are the most significant events for each of those periods, yet each was utterly unknown 30-to-60 days before they took place, even by the best experts in the world.

And this isn’t a criticism of them. It’s only an example, that the most significant issues that will affect our quote-unquote, “normal circumstances” and future are often unknowable 30-to-60 days before they happen.

Learn to expect the unexpected

We really have no idea what the future holds and what the biggest news stories will be that affect our future.

This is part of what I want to talk to you about: This unknowable future is also true for you personally as well.

Your most significant life-altering events are probably unknowable 30 to 60 days before they happen. A cancer diagnosis, heart attack, a car accident, meeting the one you’ll marry, who you end up spending the rest of your life with, becoming pregnant.

Meeting a future friend at your grandkid’s soccer game. Receiving a recruiting call that changes your professional trajectory forever, etc.

Now, I know that this fact is hard for most people to accept: We often can’t control the issues that most affect our future.

In the next 10 years, in the next five years, over the next year, or even in the next 30-to-60 days.

Now that can seem distressing, right? But understand this: It has always been the case.

I don’t think there’s ever been a time in modern history when we knew what the biggest news story for the next few years would be.

Think about it: Many of the events that were generational and societal defining events, virtually nobody saw coming before they happened.

Things like COVID or 911, Pearl Harbor, the Great Depression, all the way back to Julius Caesar being well pretty surprised one day, as well as the dinosaurs, right?

So, what is the first takeaway? It’s that it is okay not to know. Not knowing is normal. The second is, volatility is normal. In fact, it’s inevitable. The majority of what we are experiencing right now and what still might be coming is normal.

Volatility, normal economic fluctuations, normal market conditions, normal accidents and normal uncertainty, are all things we should expect to occur in the stock market, in the labor market, the housing market, in geo-politics, and the economy during our lifetime.

Even the unexpected black swan events should be expected over time. The lesson here is don’t be surprised or dismayed by the inevitable. Recognize it as normal.

If the sun goes down and someone says, what’s happening? What’s happening? Look, it happens every day with regularity. There are some things that you don’t want to look surprised about.

When events happen, it is often presented—and it is headlined by The Wall Street Journal, by Bloomberg, by the Financial Times, and other media outlets—as a crisis, a shock, and a catastrophe.

Even if what we are dealing with are normal market fluctuations or corrections that have always occurred fairly regularly and will always occur at fairly regular intervals. Just know that the media or expert commentators are in the business of selling news, not reporting it.

Don’t let uncertainty surprise you

So, my advice to you is this be amused by what you read, not alarmed, and become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Know with certainty, there will always be uncertainty and it is normal. In fact, it’s inevitable. If you are feeling uncertain, congratulations. You’re human. And this is life. Welcome, this is the way it is. It’s the way it’s always been and will continue to be. So let that be okay.

Now, if you can truly grasp this, I am telling you will have such an emotional, psychological, and resilient advantage over others around you.

And then the choices that you can make with this same perspective can make you more comfortable, at the very least.

If you understand uncertainty is normal and you become comfortable being uncomfortable. At least uncertainty won’t surprise you, paralyze you, or debilitate you.

There’s a misconception that when humans face fear, uncertainty, or crisis, they either take flight or they fight.

But there’s a third response. And this is the one that is most often taken. They freeze. And this is the most dangerous response of all. Why? Because action is required, but the right action, levelheaded, wise action.

I hope this helps in giving you something to think about and to have less worry when an event occurs knowing that is part of life.

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