Rip Tides of Volatility


Volatility. You cannot turn on a news report or search the internet and not hear or read something about it. We don’t like it. We spend our lives trying to figure ways around it or methods to control it. Whole sciences and theories are formed around it. If you don’t believe that, just spend a night looking up the word “volatility” on the internet and you quickly realize finances, physics, medicine, mathematics, economics, etc., all have theories and formulas to try to measure, deal with and minimize it.

What is volatility? Some of the definitions would include: easily aroused, tending toward eruption, unable to hold attention because of inherent fickleness, sudden or rapid or unexpected change, and difficulty in holding or capturing. Whether it is the stock market, riots in the streets of London, Lebanon, Tahrir Square, unpredictable groups formed in social networks, nuclear power plants, or global warming, volatility, and the inherent change it brings, seems to be quickening at a rate exponentially faster than just a generation ago. We live in a time that ushers in great shifts and waves of momentum. That momentum in turn triggers global awareness of events. The grandeur of events that we are witnessing today would most likely have never occurred in the past due to the lack of volatility. Further, even when the large event occasionally occurred in the not too distant past, they were not witnessed collectively by a majority of the planet at one time. Connections that didn’t exist even 10 years ago are becoming not only commonplace but also vital. It is as if a giant mind that has been asleep for millennia, has been awakened and the synapses of that mind are triggering connection after connection.

These new connections cause volatility at first. It is the same as with any new creature that is born and becomes aware. At first, the coordination between these newly created connections are unclear and unpredictable. It takes experimentation or trial and error before the new connections figure how to coordinate between all of the other connections to find rhythm and coordination. Old connections become less frequently used or replaced by these new connections. Sometimes the old connections become full of white noise and static, unclear in transmission or how to deal with the change. Those older connections may take time to find their new balance and frequencies in order to tune in with all of the other newer connections More startling is when an older connection is completely severed and abandoned in favor of the new connection. All these events revolving around changes in connectivity cause volatility.

Volatility is related to fear. It, however, is not fear itself. Fear is how we react and gauge volatility. The greater the volatility, the greater chance for extreme fear. Fear is an effect of volatility. It is common for volatile events, not seen or experienced on such a global scale before, to cause fear or panic initially. As humans, we are hard wired to react in fear to the unforeseen. Since we looked out of the walls of our first caves we feared the unknown. We witnessed our fellow clansmen leaving and returning. We also saw that others would just leave and return injured or worse yet, never return. These observations gave meaning to volatility. However, the other human trait, exploration, called us out of the cave. But it was most likely volatility, and the fear that it caused, that allowed our species to survive over thousands of years. With volatility we learned to measure risk and began to refine and manage our need to survive within the realm of the unknown.

So here we are in 2011. Some would say we are nearing an end. Others would say we are in the process of becoming new beings or a new world order. Still others would call those notions new-age crap. Regardless of who is right, there is clearly change occurring and volatility is at an heightened frequency. It may be the connectivity of the internet, a burgeoning middle class, or other unforeseen factors that are causing this to occur. I suspect it is a myriad of factors. But the point is you have a choice. When it comes to volatility, you can fight it, resist it, deny it, and pretend it doesn’t exist, or you can acknowledge it, observe it and react to it in a way that may be more harmonious in regard to volatility.

My initial thought on the subject is to accept it, appreciate it for what it is, realize that everything has a cycle, that everything changes, that we are a group of 10,000 ideas and cultures that are intermingling in ways that were unheard of even 20 years ago; that there will be an abundance of new clashes, new ideas, and new connections. As we step out of our shells and caves we are bound to be caught up in new flows and experiences that we cannot predict. You can either be terrorized or create new opportunity. You can either fight volatility or flow with it. Relax and swim with it or struggle and swim against it. Volatility is the rip tide of our generation. Eventually, it will release and you will be able to get back to shore. But realize that these rip tides of volatility will happen regardless of your approach due to our becoming interconnected. Some may be strong enough to attempt swimming against it but, for most, that risk is not wise nor the method that will allow the majority of us who wish to continue in our progress on earth to survive and excel. I am not suggesting doing nothing to enact positive change in such things and places as financial markets, democratic or social reform movements, nuclear power plants, or global warming legislation. But what I am suggesting is to have a bit of long-term perspective in these volatile times in which we all live. Smile, breath and ponder why you are here at this present moment of turbulence. What is it you will contribute? Will you go with the flow as opposed to against it? And if you swim with the tide who will you help along the way? Can you give much needed help and encouragement to those who are just treading water or those who are lost and drowning so they don’t perish from the panic found in this rip tide?

Eventually, as we journey to that new place and become adjusted to our new environment, we will again become accustomed to what appears to be the lack of volatility. I suspect that even that new environment will seem slower and easier to live within. But that is just the new cycle…again.

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