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Memoirs of a Minyan: Animal House


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

Editor's Note: "Memoirs of a Minyan" is a first-person account that follows Minyanville founder Todd Harrison as he weaves his way through Wall Street and beyond. This e-Book will publish each Wednesday over 18 weeks. Click here to read previous Memoirs chapters.

Chapter 2: Animal House

I walked on to the Syracuse University campus knowing nobody but excited for a fresh start. There were a few familiar faces from Great Neck but no one I would consider a friend. That changed the opening day of school when I attended my first class.

Sociology 101 was held in Maxwell Auditorium in a fishbowl-style classroom. I was on a work-study program and made a commitment to myself that I was going to take my studies seriously.

As I sat in my first college class, my eyes drifted toward the shaggy-haired kid with a Zeta Psi hat sitting in front of me drawing a picture-perfect Tasmanian Devil. "That has to be traced," I offered as we gathered our books. "Nope, it's freehand." he said with a smile, "I'm Kevin Wassong, sophomore-damned glad to meet you."

We walked out of the building and continued to talk as I watched him exchange pleasantries with other students. He had a way about him, an infectious energy somewhere between Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption and Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years. He was instantly likable.

Our friendship grew that semester, and I pledged his fraternity in the spring. The following year, we lived together and continued to build our bond. When he graduated in 1990, he headed west to work at Creative Artists Agency. His passion was entertainment, and he set out in search of his dream.

While he was at the Newhouse School of Communication and I studied business, we used to talk about one day going in to business together. 20 years later, we would do just that.

Spring Training

I edged my way through Syracuse University but wasn't sure which career path to pursue. I enjoyed accounting, but finance was entirely more exciting. I reminded myself that if I wanted to make money, I needed to stand near the cash register.

The deepest drawers were on Wall Street, I knew, but I didn't have blue blood or any means of infusion.

I was a solid student and took my academic career seriously despite an active commitment to collegiate hedonism. I was competitive -- perhaps because I felt I had something to prove -- and when I began to view my course load as a contest, I excelled in kind. I was obsessed with success and the empowerment that came with it.

Dean's List felt good, so I kept making the grade. After waiting tables my freshman year, I took a bartending class over the summer and worked at several bars before landing a job as a bouncer at Harry's, one of the more popular hangouts on the hill. I had no interest in standing in the Syracuse chill, but it was an opportunity to get my foot in the door and I grabbed it. That, too, would be repeated throughout my career.

One night, when the regular bartender called in sick, I was asked to fill in. Under the watchful eye of the owner, I was "high ring," putting more money in the till than the older, more experienced pourers. I joined the rotation, and with each successful night, was given more latitude. In a few short months, I had my choice of shifts.
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