On Lakes and Swans


So what is Swan Lake, what’s a black swan, and why am I a diviner?

Swan Lake is a ballet composed by my favorite composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It tells the story of Odette, a princess who was turned into a swan by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart’s curse. To break the curse, she needed the vow of eternal love from a faithful young man who turns out to be Prince Siegfried. With the intent of tricking the prince into breaking his vow of love, Von Rothbart sends his daughter Odile (the black swan) disguised as Odette to Siegfried. Suspecting nothing, Siegfried falls for the trick and thinking she was Odette pledges eternal love to her. Thinking all was lost, Odette chooses to die to escape the curse and Siegfried who is unwilling to live without her chooses to do the same. In the end, both lovers threw themselves into the lake and were reunited in death for all eternity.

Other than Odile, a black swan (Cygnus atratus) on the other hand is a specie of swans native to Australia. Initially thought of as an uncommon occurrence, the animal served to illustrate a concept in economics when it was introduced through the book published by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2008. The book described the black swan as an unpredictable/improbable event that had great impacts in the course of human history. Some of the notable examples include the 9/11 terror attacks, as well as the rapid spread of the Internet. What makes it interesting is the peoples’ uncanny ability to explain them after they occur, but are unable to do so before they happen.

Bringing them together…

I see the world as a lake of swans. At first glance you’d see a lot of white swans–where everything seems to be in order and goes the way they’re expected to go. Come the black swan and the story becomes exciting–industries get disrupted as emerging tech and players get introduced, companies who were once market leaders become laggers and are unable to deliver, and ultimately progress is achieved for the greater good of our society.

Finally, I’m a diviner because I found myself in a privileged position to experience a black swan for myself. The story of how I met my fiancee illustrates a black swan event.

I also had opportunities to be in the front-lines of the startup community, where I’ve been in projects that worked with these companies even before they launched and were received by the community. These experiences in turn gave me an ability to see possibilities–outside the box–which other people just didn’t see coming before I told them about it.

I believe we are living in an age where possibilities are endless and we have exciting times ahead. So if you’re looking for me, you’ll know where to find me–sitting in my thinking chair with a bag of popcorn and enjoying the show.

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