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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Block Out All The Noise!

Lately, I have been getting an unusual number of shrill e-mails and online offerings from financial Cassandras. Headlines include or are similar to: “Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall 80% this year, Gold is on the verge of a historic up-move, Social Security to go broke in 2016, Oil set to crash to $10 a barrel.” You get the idea as I bet many of your are also receiving such panicky pronouncements. Now, like any thinking person, I am a bit uneasy about the global economy in 2016. Yet, even though I firmly believe and have observed that markets tend to go to extremes, these headlines are unlikely to come true. With the growth of communications, particularly online platforms, we are inundated with too much information along with wild speculation.

A few weeks ago, I was watching a business channel and an amazingly successful billionaire hedge fund manager was being interviewed. When asked how he was able to be so decisive (and successful) in a rumor filled world, he answered, “I just block out all the noise.”

By remarkable coincidence, the next day I received an e-mail and a telephone call from a semi-retired media strategist (do we ever fully retire?) whom I have long considered to be one of the top five in the business. For over 35 years, I have always admired how he was constantly testing new concepts such as cable in the 80’s and the internet in the late 90’s yet he never wasted client money by placing large bets in emerging media too soon. When I asked him how he was always so sure of his touch his response was a self-effacing--“Simple. I just blocked out all the noise.” The guy is a genius and is being a bit modest.

Both of these industry leaders make an important point, however. When making decisions regarding allocating resources, be it a client’s money or that of investors, you always want to be data driven but rumors and information of questionable accuracy or importance are always front and center. It takes a steely resolve, even courage, to ignore the chatter or conventional thinking. I have spent 40+ years trying to learn to do it.

Finally, I was at the dentist on Tuesday morning. While waiting for my six month check-up, I read a copy of a year old issue of FORTUNE magazine. Tim Cook, of Apple, was talking about how he managed the tech giant and also tried to fill the epic shoes of Steve Jobs. His simple answer was, you guessed it, “I block out all the noise.”

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com or post a comment on the blog.

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