The Market is Always Right

Tom Hymes
Humans, however, are often wrong, especially when it comes to understanding and engaging markets, so where does that leave us? Torn between two lovers, that's where. On the one hand, we have an almost irrepressible need to control our collective and individual destinies, and on the other, we love to embrace the fact that life is chaotic and provides us few if any assurances. Add in millions of years of genetic programming to ensure a reasonable expectation of survival, and the end result is something that looks very much like the adult entertainment industry. Ta Da!

I always am reminded of this internal duplicity in our nature around this time of year, as I post-facto evaluate the annual two-month round of trade shows, Las Vegas AEE and Internext in January and the XBIZ Conference in February, which kind of set the stage for the coming year. I say kind of because the stage actually was set long ago, maybe even more than a year ago; we are living with the detritus of decisions already made. This is increasingly my philosophy of life as it is actually lived; that more often than we care to realize, we are walking, talking time capsules living out pre-ordained actions that we have made for ourselves or allowed others to make for us. While I readily admit that there is nothing surprising or revolutionary in this observation, I do also believe it needs to be re-realized on a regular basis or else we are doomed to forget that it is so.

When we forget that life is a process, we all but guarantee that our current decision-making will be based on illusion rather than reality and thus seriously flawed. In such a demented state of mind, we tend to make assertions that are equally demented, and if we happen to be sitting on a seminar panel, we are instantly complicit in helping create a false and demented vision of whatever we are talking about. Obviously, this can done wittingly or unwittingly, but for the interested observer, who might be making business decisions based on these demented observations, the difference is difficult if not impossible to ascertain and practically besides the point. The damage is already done.

Having facilitated, moderated and participated in dozens of industry seminars and workshops over the past decade, I have few illusions about the tension that exists between the seminar speaker's desire to create his/her own reality on that panel, for that audience, and the larger goal of creating an accurate picture, a realistic assessment, of the sector of business or issue under discussion. I can maybe count on one hand the seminars that have fulfilled my own expectations going in, which are always large. When that happened, though, my satisfaction is not for myself but for the audience, which, if they are paying attention, can learn something of tangible value. This is my definition of seminar bliss.

So what does any of this have to do with the title of this column? Not much, I guess, except that one of our worst traits is the proclivity to confuse our selves with the market, and in doing so actually convince ourselves that we can outsmart it. This is demented thinking, and what we are living through now is proof of the awesome damage it can do. It is a wise man who is humbled before the collective power of his own humanity, and an even wiser industry, for in doing so they at least have created a fighting chance to harness that power to their benefit.