Communicating Connections

Not everybody knows astrophysics, but everybody knows Star Wars and Beyoncé. As professionals, we have an obligation to put things in terms people can understand. Not to obscure or mispresent the truth, but to create a “good enough” analogy that enables understanding and drives appropriate behavior. 

When astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently spoke with James Altucher, they spent a lot of time talking about the importance of communication skills. Tyson’s a huge advocate for using pop culture and comedy in explaining science. He believes that deep knowledge of some narrow subject demands broad knowledge of popular subjects in order for one to actually get their message into the world. He sets a high bar we can all strive for. 

The finance industry is filled with jargon and complexity, and it just so happens to suffer from a great deal of physics envy as well. As the Isaac Newton quote goes, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.” Dan Arielly famously said people were “predictably irrational.” Whichever labels we prefer, the reality is that people often need better stories to help get them through the inherent uncertainty the world brings than the ones they are currently hearing and seeing in their social lives. We have a job to do, and most of it centers on our expertise in executing standard operating procedures like setting the plan, staying diversified, and opportunistically rebalancing.

Luke couldn’t explain the force, but he learned how to use it to overcome the dark side. Beyoncé likely was nervous when Destiny’s Child disbanded, but she stayed focused on her craft to become one of the most popular artists ever. Our ambitions may be smaller in scale, but these tales of how people stayed true to processes in search of outcomes will always generate a connection. We just have to help people find them.

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