Minyan Mailbag - Ricky Williams
Note: Our goal in Minyanville is to remove intimidation from the financial markets and encourage an interactive dialogue among the Minyanship. We share this next discussion with that very intent.
Remember when I said this guy (who very well may play for the Raiders someday) needs our prayers, not scorn? I still believe that as he may have serious mental and emotional issues (including social anxiety disorder) that he has medicated his whole life with sports and substances. He may have been scared and ashamed to admit this to anyone to the point that he was willing to give up millions of dollars and a football career (that suddenly didn't make him feel free but rather trapped) and RUN AWAY to HIDE in a tent in Australia for $7/day.
Even though he has come out of hiding, his emotions are so screwed up that he (still) can't live without medicating himself (ie, smoking marijuana), much less have the public watching him all the time. Now the Fins are suing him for $8MM (which he doesn't have), and he has 3 children from 3 different mothers to support! I would bet that he is going to get a bunch of negative reviews on that interview as a self-centered druggie with no consideration for others. That "may" be true but it is a SYMPTOM of his (untreated) condition that is there for the whole world to see.
For as big and strong as he is, Ricky is just a little boy in a man's body who has never learned how to cope with emotions such anxiety and fear. Todd, think about that for a second - a big, strong pro football player making millions who is NO DIFFERENT from anyone else afflicted with his condition. Is his condition and absence the fault of those three little girls of his, or his inability to commit to a relationship the fault of their respective mothers? Hardly. But you are watching a 27-year old man distance himself from everyone and everything because he is ashamed of himself, doesn't know why and is trying to figure it out while he still self-medicates. A very sick disease. Not only destroys the person who has it (if left untreated), but saddles his or her family with feelings of confusion, resentment and/or abandonment that remains trapped in the subconscious for a very long time.
What happened to him happens to a lot of people in professional sports and on Wall Street. I've seen it firsthand. Athletic prowess makes a person feel uninhibited, strong, accepted, and free from negative emotions when "between the lines." The very best make it to the very top. But for Ricky, the money couldn't take away those nagging feelings when he wasn't "between the lines." And "that was the biggest fear of my whole entire life," he says, about people finding out that he uses marijuana to make those feelings temporarily go away for a little while so he can tolerate himself. A fear (and self-loathing) that was big enough to RUN AWAY FROM BIG-TIME FOOTBALL, MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, THREE CHILDREN AND HIDE! But football was only an outlet for his emotions, and when it ceased to work (or would take away his real tonic - marijuana), he ran. This man needs help, not scorn.
I've seen the same thing on Wall Street as I know you have (as you have written in The Money Tree piece). Lotsa people are attracted to the business for competitive reasons and/or to make some dough, but then realize it doesn't fill up their emotional and spiritual emptiness. A horrifying realization strikes: "This was the pot of gold at the end of rainbow?" You work all day and night near the freely-flowing money, power and prestige, don't sleep well if at all, stare at computer screens all day, take important phone calls, make and give Board presentations, use car services, fly first class, carry a Blackberry, and have all the trappings except PEACE OF MIND! Well, that stinks. "More, that will do it."
Nope, it's never enough.
Each person can only learn that for himself. I suspect that may be what is grinding at a lot of long-time Wall Street traders or fund managers in this environment. If someone is in this business because the material trappings make him or her superficially feel better and not because of the love or passion for it, this "weeding out" survival process is going to be an absolute nightmare for him or her and force some serious soul-searching. Because the trappings are much harder to scalp and come by with 8000 hedge funds chasing the crumbs! But I suspect there are probably some young snappers out of college or MBA programs who are jazzed about getting higher bonuses in February 2005 with the monster amount of corporate debt deals done this year, along with a healthy appetite for equity and renewed multibillion dollar M&A activity (by the way, don't Wall Street bonuses generally peak near the high in financial markets and capital market activity?).
And so will have begun their journey which was capped off by the annual Bulge Bracket Christmas Party where MD's dance like high-school sophomores to celebrate a year of lost sleep for everyone under them. Little do they know that if the MD's aren't celebrating a year of lost sleep, then they should be worried about why they got so much sleep! Geez, not an easy business on the personal life.
With all that in mind, I hope your Festivus celebrates the creation of a unique and special community that transcends all of this. A community where people genuinely care about one another, and it's OK (unlike Ricky Williams) to share your experiences with others and ask for help during bad times. A community with a trusted network that watches each others' backs, which will be tantamount for survival in the years ahead. A community where people continue to grow and learn about financial matters not solely as a means in itself, but also as a means to growing closer to one another and helping each other through the journey of life. For as you are prone to say, the purpose of the journey is the journey itself.
And as far as I am concerned, the journey of Minyanville has only barely begun. Thanks for all the blood, sweat and tears to turn a dream and vision into a very real reality.
Minyan Name Witheld
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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