The Only Crystal Balls That Work Are Broken Ones

Over the course of my lifetime. I have been through my share of difficult times, extraordinary matters of happen stance, and quite a few others which for the sake of brevity I won’t go into details here. However, I want to share just one of my experiences and how I believe it’s relevant to today more than ever. (I’ll be going into these and others in more detail in my next book.)

Everyone wants and is searching for a crystal ball. Nearly everyone thinks there is some form of “knows all” device where if they could just get a glimpse at it. Just once. They would be able to capitalize on it beyond their wildest dreams and live happily ever after. They wont – ever.

Why? Answers easy, everyone knows it. Because, (say it with me now) “There isn’t one.” Does that stop people from wasting time in a pursuit they claim “they know” better of? Not in the least.

This phenom permeates every social level, business, political corner, as well as age group. Not to forget it also is a quest as old as human kind itself. Traders in financial markets get enamored with all kinds of T/A (technical analysis) where “this” indicator or, that oscillator or, this pattern is “money in the bank.” If that were the case. Then why are there more now than before to choose from and more seemingly added weekly?

Correlation doesn’t equal causation. And, all correlations work – till they don’t. Most things sold with exclusive Nostradamus like powers are junk. (Just ask any former Elliot Wave® subscriber. Gotta love that “alternative count”)

This is not limited to traders or the financial markets. As I said earlier – it’s everywhere. The problem is not so much with any “predictive indicator”  per se. The issue is when people believe, “This is the one, I found it!” Then bet the ranch, their lives, their future, in some all in type bet – and lose everything!

Analysis on what to do with money or life is paramount. Careful thought as in “trying to read the tea leaves” is not the same as crystal ball thinking. Using indicators of any sort whether it be T/A in financial markets. Or, scanning the web for stories and more to adjust your business or life should be done for one thing and one thing only: To give you an edge as – to put you in front of (or clear of) what you think might possibly occur. Nothing more.

The most successful people in life look to put themselves into circumstances where: The possibility of a meaningful payoff is the reward. Also, in that analysis will be the calculation of Risk vs Reward. Then they will act knowing full well – “There aint no guarantees.”

The real difference here is this: Crystal ball type people want to skip the risk vs reward step. That’s why they want a crystal ball and continue to look for one. Risk vs reward type strategies take careful planning, thought, and put decision weight behind analysis.

You can bet the farm and lose it. But (and it’s a very big but) if you knew that going in and that’s your decision, if you lost – you can look at yourself in the mirror. If it was for the result you believed in a crystal ball and bet the ranch. I’ll bet my bridge in Brooklyn the last thing you’ll want to see is anything made of glass.

With all that said, here’s a true life example that I actually lived. Not read in someone’s book, that read someone’s book, that says they read someone’s book yet, never did any of what was in the book. Only now, they wrote a book on what you should do, so buy their book. (Life coaches anyone?)

Years back I was toying with the idea of rock star. For a while it seemed I just might have a chance. I played many years and have quite the list of: “You played with who?” from my playing days. I took music as a serious pursuit right up until the late 90’s. In my area there were a tight-knit group of musicians. Some played and toured with some of the largest names in music. However, no one hit that sustained rock star level. The field itself were all players that were ready and capable if the chance ever came.

While “in between” what to do next. (I was in limbo from yet another business deal gone wrong) both myself and some friends (relevant to this story) would sometimes help out a mutual friend at his restaurant. We didn’t care what we did we were helping a friend and killing time. Nobody knew what the future held for any of us. For all we knew maybe this was “the end.”

Then a few of us made decisions that would be life changing.

I decided right after doing 2 very large local shows to give up music as a pursuit in any shape manner or form. Business would be my only focus. There was no crystal ball to help in the decision. It was all risk vs reward and I would live with the consequences of my decisions, good – or bad.

My friends on the other hand decided to continue the pursuit mirroring my consequence of decision. Good or bad – they were all in. No crystal ball here either. I know this first hand because of discussions we had. One such discussion resulted by way of a favor I was performing.

My friend called and asked me if I would go negotiate the price on an instrument he saw at a certain music store that he really liked but, thought I could cut a better deal for him. (I was viewed as the “talker” I guess. Who’d a thunk it?)

After looking and negotiating I believed it wasn’t worth what they wanted and met him in the parking lot. After talking about the instrument we talked about life things. What was going on and such.

He was playing with a few other mutual friends in a band and success was looking tough. He also just recently auditioned for a very well-known singer from a very famous band (multi-platinum seller) and felt a little dejected in not making the cut. i.e., The thoughts of “Am I really good enough for this?” we all get at times.

I told him he was crazy and more, and to not allow those types of thoughts. He went on to tell me more about the band and that he and the lead singer (another friend from our restaurant crew) were ready to go to NY and throw everything on the line there. If it didn’t work he had a plan on what he could do to go back to work. There was no crystal ball to consult. The decisions were risk vs reward. Put yourself in the best position possible for a meaningful payout and, the chips will fall where they may.

When he asked, “What about you?” I was of a similar mindset. I decided to move in my direction, put myself in the best place I could and let the chips fall where they may. For as I keep repeating: “There is no crystal ball.”

Just 2 years later or so that struggling band, seemingly unable to catch a break, nearly dispirited with record labels not giving them recognition and potential managers telling the “no.” (I remember being 1 of what seemed like 10 people total at their first solo venue) Took matters into their own hands, recorded their own album, sold it, delivered it, and promoted it themselves.

Within about another year not only would they be multi-platinum recording artists but – would be playing venues such as Woodstock®, Ozzfest®, and more. Playing on the worlds largest stages and venues, nominated for 4 Grammy’s®, along with their music used for movie soundtracks, and the music bed for promoting the US ARMY. The band? Godsmack.

For myself? I’ve been asked many times, “Are you sorry you didn’t stay with music yourself?” No, absolutely not. (I can say the same about my thoughts on markets, failed business adventures, and a whole lot more) I didn’t make my decisions based on some crystal ball type thinking. That does nothing but lead to heartache for most in the end. I made my decisions and could look at their success with whole-hearted rooting and cheering for them even though I at the time seemed to have gone in the wrong direction.

I looked at my options. Weighed my risk vs rewards. Made my decision, and as stated earlier: “Could look myself in the mirror if it all fell apart.” All one can do is look for an edge (What ever that may be in your circumstance mine was tenacity I believe.) Then put myself in the best place possible where a meaningful opportunity for a successful payoff was possible. And, let the chips fall where they may. You can’t do any more.

Within about the same time period as they were off to the races, my career took off from not catching a break seemingly for the umpteenth time, to running the #2 largest private meat company in New England with annual sales nearing $100 million, and other ventures allowing me to retire at the age of 45 at the top of my game.

Nobody knows the future. There are no Nostradamus tools or indicators. All one can do is look at what ever indicators, T/A, headlines, and more with an eye to “does this information help in possibility giving me an edge?”  Weigh your risk vs reward. Place the amount (what ever that may be monetary, repute, future or more) then put yourself in the best possible place you believe is where a meaningful payout is to be had. That’s all you can do.

If it doesn’t work as planned at least you can sleep at night then adjust your plans if you change your mind. Crystal ball believers and searchers are usually ruined when things don’t work as planned. Both financially as well as dignity, and for some – much worse.

Life is in control and does what she wants. She doesn’t show her hand (or allow peeking) till she decides. Regardless of how many tricks we think we can come up with to see her cards. Although life will treat your odds with far more “favor” than the people continually looking for crystal balls.

The only crystal ball worth looking at is a crystal ball that’s been smashed to bits. This way when you look at it, you know by virtue of its broken state: Trying to use it is a waste of your time.

Which is exactly the point.

© 2013 Mark St.Cyr