Five Alive! Part I
Minyanville is a humble community, one that only exists because folks like you choose to be a part of it.
“A dream is only as powerful as those who believe in it.” --Unknown
Someone once said that something good comes from all things bad. Many times, that lesson crystallizes with the benefit of hindsight.
I often say that September 11th, 2001 was the genesis of Minyanville. That as the towers fell, Minyanville rose like a phoenix from the scorched earth.
I didn’t realize it at the time but that bird saved my life. Some people turned to drugs and alcohol after that fateful day. Others got married or divorced, depending on their previous course. We all did what we could.
We all did what we had to.
Experience shapes how we perceive the world and our place within it. Like a pebble in the proverbial pond, that fateful day rippled through lower Manhattan, New York, America and the world. Each of us was affected in our own way, profoundly for some while abstract and surreal for others.
As the president of a $400 million dollar hedge fund located down the street from the World Trade Center, I was living my perceived dream until that crisp autumn day arrived.
Like so many in the business, I was conditioned to believe that my net worth and self-worth were one and the same. My validation was the business card that announced with authority that I arrived. I had the toys that society bestows on those with money. It was—or should have been—the best of times.
Still, I didn’t know the difference between having fun and being happy. In fact, I’m not sure I even thought to question the distinction between the two.
While I always considered myself to be humble—particularly in a business where it’s viewed as a weakness—I was in constant search of the bigger, better deal and next best trade. That’s how I was taught and what I was conditioned to believe. It didn’t seem wrong. In fact, it was all I knew.
If not for 2001, I might still be of that mindset.
Here’s to You, Hoofy and Boo!
In July of 2000, my former partner who wrote for TheStreet.com asked me to write his column while he was on vacation. I was hesitant at first, having never written anything other than a few letters to my mother from camp. But I decided to have fun with it and, with Zeppelin and Dead wrapped around trading insights, stepped into cyberspace.
It’s better to be lucky than smart and, as the tech mania migrated towards the top of the bubble, I was extremely bearish. I suppose that had something to do with the resonance of my writing style, which was clearly unconventional in the homogeneous world of financial media.
I also found that writing helped me synthesize my thoughts which, in turn, helped my trading. So when the managing editor offered me my own column, I accepted. I wasn’t doing it for the money—I had a job—I was doing it because it was something that I came to enjoy.
Soon thereafter, I began using Hoofy the Bull and Boo the Bear as metaphorical representations of the stock market. There are always two sides to a trade, I thought, and you can’t have one without the other. It seemed intuitive to me and soon began to resonate with readers.
I got hundreds of emails per day asking “What’s Boo thinking?” or “What’s Hoofy doing?” and suddenly realized that, while these metaphors had played globally for as long as the markets existed, nobody had ever branded the Wall Street bull and bear.
Think about that.
If Walt Disney could take two rodents and brand them as cultural icons, I could surely take the Wall Street bull and bear and affect positive change through financial understanding. The writing, in many ways, was on the wall.
The question remained where that wall would be located.
The Ruby Wink
I juggled roles at the hedge fund and writing platform for the next year, with both sides gaining intensity as a function of exposure. During that period, my grandfather became increasingly ill and was spending much of his time in intensive care. As he was my best friend, I traveled to Florida every week to hold his hand.
I eventually shared with my readers why I had to leave each Friday before the bell. The story of Ruby struck a nerve and to my amazement, I received thousands of emails that expressed support, similar experiences and well wishes. I printed them out each week and shared them with my family during that difficult time.
It was then that I realized the power of the internet and the ability to touch the lives of those you’ve never met. If thousands of people took the time to express such kindness, I could surely return the favor by sharing my trading skill-set. It was the genesis of a loyalty that remains to this day and the spirit in which Minyanville would be predicated upon.
Ruby passed in April of 2001 and, a few months later, the towers fell. That confluence of loss seeded a powerful shift deep within me and, shortly thereafter, I focused my attention to creating the Minyanville platform.
I began that journey with the belief that with twenty-five grand or so, I could build the critters a neat little nest. As I delved deeper into development, it became increasingly apparent that my aspirations would far exceed my budget.
Seven figures later, I realized that Minyanville was going to be the world’s most expensive hobby unless I took drastic and necessary steps.
Please click here to continue the story in Part II and Part III.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at email@example.com.
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