Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Black Swan Year

I love to collect interesting facts, anecdotes, and trivia. The other day, my husband, who devotes much of his professional and private life to the world of finance, said, “This is a black swan year.”

“Huh?” I asked, not being knowledgeable in matters of high finance.

It seems the term is used occasionally by stock market analysts to refer to an incredibly rare event that impacts a lot of people, but it doesn’t apply just to financial events. New York’s 9/11 and the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004 are two good examples. The collapse, or near collapse, of financial institutions around the world also qualifies as a black swan event.

The term “black swan” comes from a common belief in the 17th century that all swans were white. In fact, your average North American didn’t believe a black swan could even exist. But then someone discovered black swans in Australia and so the world had to accept the new reality. Thus, the term's evolved to now mean that although a certain event could technically happen, the possibility is so remote that no one takes it seriously . . . until it happens.

Winning a Pulitizer or landing a seven figure book deal would definitely qualify as black swans in my world. I wonder if looking for those elusive birds would help.

Feel free to use my black swan story at your next party. And on that note, a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone!

To read excerpts of FATAL ENCYRPTION and TAXED TO DEATH, please visit

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