If there is one thing I learned having spent some thirty years as a bond trader it is that mistakes and problems cannot be ignored for long, they must be addressed. And for bond traders it is literally impossible to live through very many market cycles without experiencing at least some trades that turn sour, positions that sink underwater becoming losses. But it is not the loss positions that get traders in trouble; rather it is the failure to address them. That’s not as easy as it may sound, by the way, especially when positions sink rapidly from bad to worse, to even worse than you can imagine causing tension filled days and sleepless nights. It happens, I’ve been there.
It may be overly simplistic to say this but I suspect this may be exactly what occurred leading up to the great financial meltdown in 2008 and the collapse of some of the great Wall Street investment firms. The collective brilliant minds who were leading these prestigious investment institutions became so overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems tangled up in those complex derivative transactions that they waited much too long to address them, thus the disastrous outcomes we all witnessed.
What does it mean when we say there is an elephant in the room? It simply means there is a problem or issue looming so large it is impossible not to recognize it, yet so daunting we pretend it is not there – deny its existence. Either that or we “hope” it will simply go away, which rarely happens. Or we cover it up, hide it, disguise it – anything but address it. And that’s what gets us into trouble.
Just as bond traders are bound to have trades that turn sour, we all experience an elephant in the room from time to time. It comes in the form of disease or addiction, marital or family issues, business and job situations, it happens within our homes, workplaces, and volunteer organizations. But it is not the elephant in the room that gets us in trouble; it is our failure to address it. I know; I’ve been there.