Black Swan

Alyssa Milano, Star Wars and The “Rainbow Swan” Effect

Black Swans, Purple Cows, colorful animals..

The idea that something big and unexpected could happen without notice is a joke. At this point in time, if you don’t expect big and unexpected things to happen without notice, then you aren’t really paying attention in the first place. This is why I don’t understand big banks, agency ratings and their financial models (besides the fact that I don’t really understand big banks, agency ratings and their financial models).

The financial crisis, BP’s oil mega-mis-step, earthquakes, wars…

These are all things that we know will happen, in some way, shape, or form. But now that we live in a highly interconnected world, the likelihood of these events happening are much greater and will be much more frequent.  In fact, during the financial crisis, three kids (now known as Cornwall Capital) took $100k and bet it on these “rare” events. They turned $100k into $15M which they then turned into $120M.

They essentially bet on “black swan” events.

I digress..

In today’s world, mini-black swans will occur almost daily.  We’ll call these “rainbow swans.”

Take for example these two recent “tweets” by Alyssa Milano.

The first was:

Well, shortly after, she tweeted this:

With nearly 850K followers on twitter, she was able to move a relatively large mass of people, at a specific moment in time, to a relatively unknown website. To that website owner, he has no doubt experienced a mini black swan, now unofficially known as a, “rainbow swan” event.

How was Brennan supposed to know that Alyssa Milano would be in the mood for a hemp-jacket wearing Jar-Jar Banks?

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Glorified Plumbers

Emergency medical technicians evacuating an in...
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I always thought I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger. I joined the National Ski Patrol at age 14 (EMT on a snowboard), attended a National Youth Leadership forum on Medicine, signed up for Biomedical Engineering in college, sat in on 3 open heart surgeries (thanks to my uncle who is an electrophysiologist), and set out on a path to
becoming Dr. Reich.

Now while I have THE utmost respect for doctors, above every single profession (most of my family are just that..and builders), I realized one day that doctors were nothing more than glorified plumbers.

(Before you say how absurd that comment is, please continue reading)

As I got older, gained some experience and business intuition, it just became clear to me that being a doctor was limited in growth potential. My earnings and output would be tied to a fixed amount of patients or hours, unless I pursued tangent endeavors. If I was going to become a doctor, I wanted to do just that and not become some medical adviser for a television station, movie consultant, etc for additional income.

When I told my parents I didn’t want to be a glorified plumber they laughed with discerning looks on their faces.

“A doctor is by no means a plumber. Are you fu$!ng crazy?”

I didn’t think I was crazy at the time and still don’t now.

I am currently reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (have to see what all of this hype is about), and while most of this book is fairly obvious, what he wrote did however validate all of my “doctor” thoughts:

“Some professions, such as dentists, consultants, or massage professionals cannot be scaled: there is a cap on the number of patients or clients you can see in a given period of time….

If you are an idea person, you do not have to work hard, only think intensely. You do the same work whether you produce a hundred units or a thousand. In quant trading, the same amount of work is involved in buying a hundred shares as in buying a hundred thousand, or even a million. It is the same phone call, the same computation, the same legal document, the same expenditure of brain cells, the same effort in verifying that the transaction is right.”

The profession is not, as Nassim puts it, “scalable”.

Thank you Nassim. Case closed (at least for me).

What other jobs are scalable? What jobs aren’t?

Disclosure: I believe serving and helping others is THE very best thing a person can do, and there is no real way around this other than being a “glorified plumber”. This will be my 8th consecutive season volunteering or “glory plumbing” for Mount Snow Rescue. I will be volunteering this weekend for the AST Dew tour competition.

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