Nobody knows anything – William Goldman

William Goldman opened his best-selling book Adventures in the Screen Trade with “Nobody knows anything”.

Goldman writes movies. Good ones. His filmography to date according to the Internet Movie Database:
Hearts in Atlantis (2001) (screenplay)
General’s Daughter, The (1999) (screenplay)
Absolute Power (1997) (screenplay)
Fierce Creatures (1997) (uncredited)
Ghost and the Darkness, The (1996) (written by)
Chamber, The (1996) (screenplay)
Maverick (1994) (written by)
Chaplin (1992) (screenplay)
Year of the Comet (1992) (written by)
Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992) (screenplay)
Misery (1990) (screenplay)
Princess Bride, The (1987) (also novel)
Heat (1987) (also novel)
Mr. Horn (1979) (TV)
Magic (1978 ) (also novel)
Bridge Too Far, A (1977)
Marathon Man (1976) (novel)
All the President’s Men (1976)
Great Waldo Pepper, The (1975)
Stepford Wives, The (1975)
Hot Rock, The (1972)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) (written by)
That is one impressive list of credits. What has it got to do with wealth creation?

Goldman was talking about the film business and picking winners. His dictum applies to any industry where the results are affected by the interaction of huge numbers of people. Sort of like the property and stock markets and the business world.

After the event economists tell us why the economy changed. Bankers explain movements in interest rates. Stockbrokers clarify market gyrations. All with 20/20 hindsight. Popular prognosticators make dozens of predictions then point to the ones they got right.

People ask where is the next boom? Which suburb will take off? What IPO is the next Microsoft? Repeat after me “Nobody knows anything”.

The keyword is “knows”. Knowledge! Facts! Data! Wisdom! If analysis could give accurate predictions, we wouldn’t have booms and busts. Pricing information would be accurate. But certainty is impossible. Fool yourself into believing in certainty and I guarantee an expensive lesson. People who are certain get lazy and inattentive. They miss warning signs. They also get bored and meddle with a working system.

Figure out a plan to go forward. Consider your entry and exit strategies. What happens is it all goes pear-shaped. If you find yourself saying “that will never happen” then ask “but what will I do if it does?”

In 1991 I bet the farm that no federal Labor government would allow first mortgage interest rates to hit 18%. History proved me wrong and I lost a million dollars. Now I look at a deal and have exit strategies for good, bad and neutral scenarios. That way I deal with “what is” not “what should be”. If the unexpected occurs, I throw out the strategies and get creative.

Power lies in the ability to make drastic changes in the face of new and overwhelming obstacles. Think fast and use imagination to tap that power. Quit wasting energy and time trying to predict the future. Get out and have a go.

Lastly remember this:
Some people watch things happen;
some people make things happen; and
some people wonder “what happened?”

Which one are you?

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