Over the last four weeks I’ve gone through an emotional experience that changed the way I operate. The ingredients for this change have been in place for a while but they existed only on an academic and conceptual level for me. Then recent events gave that conceptual knowledge a kick in the pants and introduced an emotional dimension I hadn’t known before; now I see things differently.
I know some stock and commodities traders and admire their ability to cope with risk and uncertainty. But at the same time, I’ve never wanted to live the kind of life they live; always watching streams of numbers; hanging on the latest news about everything from crop reports in Iowa to political deals in Washington and Brussels and rumors about what’s going on in Saudi Arabia and Iran. But the last few weeks pulled me into that world and I see there is no going back.
The whole world is a stock market. The Internet and search engines and electronic trading and procurement systems that drive the global economy also do something else. They provide massive non-stop flows of data the likes of which we used to see only in connection with financial markets. Now e-commerce and supply chain networks and millions of websites generate continuous data flows and the Internet moves all this data from anywhere to anywhere 24/7. These data flows cause the whole world to behave like a giant stock market with all the volatility and uncertainty that comes with it.
Because real-time data is available, we all do business in real time whether we know it or not (or even like it). Just as stockbrokers use real time data to constantly monitor and react to their markets, the rest of us are also using real time data to monitor markets and react as things change. Because information is available in real time and because I have money at stake (like my 401k retirement money and other investments) I’m personally involved and so are hundreds of millions (soon to be billions) of other people. Change ripples through the world like never before.
I have mixed feelings about this. It’s one thing to follow my favorite sports team but I don’t have money riding on whether they win or lose. I’m not a gambler. However I am an investor. How are those two activities different? And how do I avoid getting way too wired up following and reacting to everything that’s going on?
Wait… the Dow just rose 500 points… I need to move some money back into stocks… Gotta run.
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