“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men go oft awry; And leave us naught but grief and pain For promised joy”
I am continually amazed by the frequency of ‘suckers’ that I see going about my day to day business.
You know ‘suckers’: Those people easily taken in by confidence tricksters- whose cohort include the newbies, the ‘wet behind the ears’, the inexperienced, the idealists and novices.
In the morning – in the evening – everywhere I travel. I find them everywhere.
In fact, I regularly see a particular one travelling to work each day in my car.
He’s also there when I travel home.
In fact I see him in the mirror every morning.
I am a sucker I admit it. But I am not alone.
I am constantly battling my ‘habit’ of being drawn into confidence tricks and schemes and ending up with the usual ‘rewards’ that follows.
The ‘con-artists’ scheme that I fall for inhabits and appeals to my earthly needs for comfort, reassurance and security.
That need of reassurance – the one that you had when you were safe in you mothers arms when you were a child, or those encouraging words by my coach in the under 13s Devils Aspley Junior Rugby League team, or the one that yearns for validation and affirmation of the things that you do.
The need for security and predictability is something that I think society values – and that we all secretly crave.
“There’s a sucker born every minute”
To wit, many years after retiring from my junior rugby league career, and no longer hearing the coachly exhortations I still find myself listening to the regular morning finance report – and hanging on their every word.
Some ‘expert’ is predicting what is likely to happen in the markets today and I’m intently listening. I am getting sucked in without thinking.
I’m listening. Intently listening, in order to gain some sort of comfort or reassurance. Irrationally listening.
Reassurance and comfort in the knowledge of the performance or otherwise of my superannuation nest egg – or to apply a mental balm to some sort of worry or another that is inhabiting my subconscious. Some expert is talking about the GFC, or Greek Debt, Mining Tax, the euro and the ASX.
For me it’s finance. For others it is parenting. For some career, employment or education. Others sport. We want someone to do the thinking for us.
The ‘expert’ validates my current financial approach. I now think, that what I am doing is fine. Relax. You’re smart. Everything is okay. You’re perfectly safe. Your long term plan is guaranteed. See, even the Experts agree.
Politicians trade on this need for re-assurance. “Trust us. We are from the government and we have experts working for us”.
I want to believe that the Mr K Rudd Ms J. Gillard will solve the green house problem with an emissions trading scheme (or maybe not), or more traffic cameras will somehow halt the road toll.
I want to believe that adding a solar cell to the roof of my house really does make a difference based on the financial model expertly predicting energy prices and government subsidies spanning the next 20 years. (Spain just cancelled their subsidy scheme- I wonder how much longer until we do too).
If things look bad, or if the market closes down, I’ll be thinking of switching my investments, worrying or trying to put it out of my mind.
I’ll be ordering another water tank or going to www.localpower.com.au (the best solar power provider – seriously they are great!) and ordering my solar cells.
What ever the ebullience or otherwise of the financial ‘oracle’, I can’t help myself listening to what they have to say.
If things aren’t going well, I look for an expert’s opinion that aligns with what I want to hear.
For the same reason over the millennia , experts, oracles, astrologers, meteorologists, financial market soothsayers serve their auguries for our consumption everyday – and we readily accept their regular dispatches.
The human creature in us craves certainty, reassurance and the calming stroke of our mothers hand, saying “everything will be all right”.
The media play on this need for reassurance with their array of talking heads commenting on the day’s activity. Government placates us by reams of reports and expert opinions. The trend is towards the nanny state – where all the hard decisions are made by the infallible high priests of economics.
Of course, rational evidence suggests that all this is bumf.
The worlds best computer weather forecasters can only predict localised weather with any certainty in the order of days ahead. Analysis has shown that financial market forecasters are no more accurate than a toss of a coin as to if the market is going up or down . Economists expert opinion varies widely.
Forecasting the future precisely is futile. Tomorrow is mostly unknowable. The most accurate prediction of tomorrow is that it is something like today.
So how can we use this revelation to our advantage? How can we use this realisation to achieve our goals?
How can we wean ourselves from the need for reassurance?
The first step of course is to acknowledge that we are natural suckers for this con-artist scheme.
Think independently. Research and learn from a diverse range of views. Accept that you’ll make mistakes and make sure that you prepare you can accept mistakes. Don’t invest based solely on an experts opinion who doesn’t know about your personal circumstances. Slow down. Act Slower.
And most importantly, when people try to sell you “certainty” and “reassurance”, remind yourself that the future is uncertain, and sit back, relax and enjoy the current. Because as the saying goes.
Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.