Black Swans – Ugly Ducklings?

20 Jan

So the Gladwell book I’m reading currently isn’t so much of a book but more of a collection of stories he’d written for the New Yorker over the years. I’m finding some of the stories to be pretty interesting, others not so much.

The most recent one I read was about Nassim Taleb. He’s the guy who wrote The Black Swan which is the what Gladwell is writing about. Idea is that major world-altering events are completely unpredictable. And Taleb is trying to make money off this concept.

His money management team uses this idea by purchasing stock options on both ends of the spectrum and aims at incredible long shots, those options considered “out of the money”. They do not try to predict the long shots but instead build a system where they will profit from them when they happen. They expect to lose a small amount of money on a regular basis but to occasionally make a large amount whenever a “Black Swan” emerges. As a bonus, they have no possibility of really losing alot of money on a downward market swing because they do not own stocks but only options. This method of investing differs from a more normal approach which expects to gain a little bit of money every day, occasionally make a killing, but with a decent possibility of losing alot with a strong market swing downward.

The concept is a touch intriguing. I got drawn into the story from a financial perspective but by the end was thinking about the future in general. I think we of the middle class know that the future is uncertain and so we save/invest as much as we possibly can in hopes that we’ll have enough when “it” happens. We, like Taleb, know we can’t really predict a Black Swan but want to be ready when it does.

Our community group at church had a fun conversation the other night about how the book we were reading encouraged Christians to be practical in the decisions they made in regards to preparing for the future. Reading this chapter by Gladwell and thinking about it considerably has left me with the same question I offered to them.

How often do we in the West take this counsel to be practical and prepare for the unknown future too far and by doing so neglect opportunities that we have in the present to radically alter the lives of others with our resources?


3 Responses to “Black Swans – Ugly Ducklings?”

  1. Kristen January 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm #


  2. Kristen January 24, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    as in, that was one big buildup to a whammy of a last sentence!

  3. Shane January 24, 2010 at 10:10 pm #

    I wish I could say I knew exactly where it was going the whole time…

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