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I found myself reading yet another gloomy article about the collapsing housing market in the United States this morning and my mind drifted to the subject of economic cycles of boom and bust.

Unlike, it seems, a lot of people, I feel relatively sanguine about down times and relatively unimpressed by up times. I was wondering why this was so when I realised that the best lesson I ever got about real world cycles – of anything from business to global warming – was sitting by the sea as a child and watching the tide go in and out.

Everything you need to know is right there. The sea never encroaches or retreats in a linear fashion – there are strong and weak waves, sometimes little cycles of them, that seem to go against the prevailing trend of high or low tide. Looking at those, you could easily fooled into thinking the trend was the exact opposite to what really happening. Only in the fullness of time could you see the big picture.

A lot of what passes as business commentary is caught up in these little spurts of activity. Some trend the right way, the others the opposite. But there is no way of knowing which is right until you see the whole.

So there is little point in getting caught up the minutiae. Even the most educated of us can be flat out wrong.

I always feel comforted by thoughts such as these. 🙂