Full Disclosure: Reflections From the Front
Lessons learned and carried forward.
There is a certain ethos in Minyanville; all you have is your name and your word and honesty, trust and respect are the foundational constructs of any successful endeavor. I learned those lessons from my grandfather and they're the touch point of our community, a salmon to the stream of ever-increasing societal acrimony that seemingly surrounds the globe.
Through the years, I've written three columns of "Full Disclosure." The first was in January 2005 after I returned from a retreat in Arizona. It shared the story of a spiritual rebirthing, a shift in perspective from pain to promise. I wouldn't believe the particulars of that day in the desert if I didn't experience them; it was a powerful pivot point, a proverbial game-changer.
The second iteration arrived a year ago today when, after receiving a devastating phone call, I shared the following passage:
"Today is a profoundly sad day in Minyanville as we received word that one of our own -- one of our family--suffered a tragic accident. We are, above all else -- above the acumen, humor, humanity, education, insight or foresight -- a community. When one of our own hurts, we all hurt. When one of our own is in need, we are there to help shoulder the load.
"Out of respect for the family, I cannot communicate details and will ask Minyans not to inquire further on this matter. I will share more when I'm able and do my best to focus on the task at hand, heavy heart and bloodshot eyes notwithstanding. I will ask for your understanding, patience and empathy, as our greatest loss today has nothing to do with a P&L."
As I would post later that afternoon -- a full 365 days ago -- Professor Bennet Sedacca had passed. I remember that morning as if it were yesterday; I was loaded to the gills with upside exposure and anxiously awaiting the NCAA tournament. When I got the call, I immediately flattened my book and took the first flight to Florida. I missed a monster move and didn't care; the first round games began and I barely noticed.
On this anniversary of our fallen friend, I urge you to take some time and read the tributes posted on The Exchange below that column. Those who knew Bennet understand how much he would have appreciated those sentiments; as grizzly and gruff as he could be at times, beneath his exterior beat a heart of gold and a benevolence that underwrote his acumen.
The third disclosure column was scribed in October 2009 when I offered a nod to the cumulative consciousness and points of recognition as they spread throughout the societal spectrum. I spoke of the persistent fortitude, steadfast perseverance and proactive preparedness required of us all, from the inside-out, individually and collectively; society is simply the sum of its parts. While the market recovered in an astounding fashion, deep-rooted pain remained; much as it does today.
The Here and Now
One of our mainstay Minyan mantras is that we don't hide from our mistakes, we learn from them. While others brush errors under the rug in an attempt to save face, we put them on a pedestal for all to see. We're human beings with an interest in business, not financial robots programmed to print money. That is precisely why I told my tale; the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
I recently received an email from a gentleman who expressed that he's been reading me since I agreed to fill in for Jim Cramer for a single session on Thestreet.com (TSCM) in July 2000. "You've really cost us a lot of money lately. I feel bad saying this because you seem like a good guy but your advice has been terrible; I'm a faithful and long-term reader but I'm not so sure I remain a fan."
I appreciated his candor and told him I own the thoughts I publicly share or privately trade. I also expressed, in a non-defensive manner, that there are two sides to this trade.
If he read me over the last decade, I said, he knew my aggregate batting average has been healthy -- calling the tech crash in 2000, maintaining "long energy & metals, short tech & financials" for a long stretch, predicting "a prolonged period of socioeconomic malaise entirely more depressing than a recession" in 2006 and strongly suggesting the financial industry was insolvent in 2007 before the wheels fell off the wagon. I left other examples out -- such as the seemingly obscene suggestion to short oil at $135 -- but reminded him I was one of the few bullish bents as we dangled in the abyss.
If that seems defensive or worse, like a post-rationalization, I assure you it's not. When trading, you're only as good as your last trade and when writing, you're only as credible as your latest words. I understand the path we arrive at pales in comparison to the destination we arrive at; heck, I've been scribing that particular vibe my entire career.
Circling back to the gentleman above, I told him that it's indeed been a difficult year; perhaps the toughest since 2003. While I'm not here to offer advice, I take great pride in my name and word; I feel both the pleasure and pain of this community, which is a blessing and a curse.
I've been off my trading game, for lack of a better analogy, for some time and I'm not entirely sure why. I would venture to guess it's a multi-linear dynamic, a combination of an entirely more difficult world, a tremendous amount of daily tasks and a steely-nerved resolve to deliver on the mission of Minyanville, from the ABC's to the 401(K)'s.
My friend Jeff Saut at Raymond James often tells me it's impossible for the human mind to think about more than one thing at a time. It stands to reason that juggling a plethora of concurrent endeavors takes a toll in many unforeseen ways.
I concluded my response to the above reader by saying:
"I appreciate you taking the time to write and understand if you no longer want to be a Minyan. Free will, my friend -- free will. I wish you health and happiness no matter what you choose to do but I would be remiss if I didn't add 'Just be careful doing it,' now more than ever."
The Learning Curve
Why have I chosen to put this "out there?" At first, I thought the anniversary of Bennet's passing made me nostalgic or perhaps melancholy but that's not entirely true. I've had this date circled on the calendar for a long time, in part to ensure I expressed love to the Sedacca clan but also as a remembrance of the difference between loss and loss.
These are tough times and they require tough people to suck it up and affect positive change. The ability to do that while remaining empathetic and sensitive to those less fortunate is a rare combination indeed. It's not easy but that's sorta the point. At the end of the day, all we have is our name and our word; it's what we were born with and it's all we'll die with.
To be completely candid, I've been attempting to balance a multitude of endeavors. It's not just Minyanville or The Ruby Peck Foundation or content creation or capital raising or market navigation or life lessons or personal growth; it's the "how" more than the "what" with a constant eye towards the "why?" The air of integrity gets thinner with age for a reason; there are more potholes and detours, more conflicts and temptation.
I'm proud of the man I am; that wasn't always the case. Life, seasons and trading mojo are cyclical, as they should be; as the business cycle should have been. I'm simply trying to find his way through an increasingly complex world, as we all are.
If that means sometimes trading less and shifting my focus towards the macro landscape with hopes of adding value, so be it.
If it means attending business meetings during the day, I'll do what I have to.
If it means raising my hand and offering a "mea culpa" on not having the sharpest feel for a stretch of time, consider my hand raised, for those who look for such admissions.
When I started the 'Ville, I had a vision. I didn't expect it to take as long as it did -- or consume me as it has -- but, as the definition of professional nirvana is to do what you love with people you respect while serving the greater good, I awake each morning with a profound sense of gratitude. While it's a labor of love, however, make no mistake that its labor in the purest form; a constant exertion of energy, leaving it on the field day after day after day.
I used to say work to live, don't live to work*. I included the asterisk as a nod to the notion that if you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work. That's true to a point but the stark reality is that there are only so many hours in a single day. Everything comes at a cost as time is the most precious commodity.
I share this with pure and transparent intentions. The email discussed earlier likely represents more than a few folks who didn't take the time to write. So to him -- and you -- I'll share that we'll continue to put our best foot forward with passion and purpose. That will include a multitude of business development meetings and as an extension, sporadic stretches when I'll be away from the fray.
But that, my friends, is why we've built such a fantastic roster of Professors. Whereas once I couldn't take a vacation without the 'Ville taking a spill, we're now surrounded by an array of professionals who encapsulate the essence of Minyanville; people who are very good at what they do but better at who they are. Not a day goes by when I'm not reminded of that; not a day passes when I don't learn something new from our community.
Fare ye well and as always, thank you ever so much for your continued Minyanship. And to my fallen friend, I'll simply say that I miss you my brother; may you rest in peace.
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