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Memoirs of a Minyan: War Games


The purpose of the journey is the journey itself.

The stakes had never been higher and as I looked around the table for the sucker; I couldn't help wonder if that sucker was me.

The Other Side of the Trade

I was mired with losses, consumed with relative performance, overwhelmed with overhead costs, completely miserable during the day and helplessly sleepless at night.

I pressed harder, worked longer, traded faster, wrote more -- it was the only solution that made any sense.

Surely, if I fought for the extra yard and clawed another inch, I would be rewarded for my efforts.

As the year progressed, I put everything that wasn't directly related to my professional efforts on hold. I worked around the clock, my social life was a ghost town and I was edgy and angry at my lack of success.

The toys that were once a validation of my happiness served as sad reminders of a misplaced soul.

I always believed I was humble, particularly in a business where humility is viewed as a weakness, but then I was bare. My fire -- the energy that ignited all of my hopes and dreams -- was damp and dark as I delved deeper into depression.

Lou Mannheim once said that, "Man looks into the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."

I've had many swings during my career -- $20 million-$30 million swings in a single session -- but it wasn't until 2003, as my savings and resolve dissipated, that I truly got it.

I won't say money is insignificant as that's untrue but I can tell you from experience that if you look for happiness in a bank account, you're missing the bigger trade.

I didn't find what I was looking for when I seemingly had it all. In fact, it took losing almost everything to understand what true wealth really is.

The private jets and front-row shows morphed into calls not being returned by those I helped succeed. David Slaine told me to expect it but I didn't foresee the magnitude or suddenness. Friends on the Street, those who benefited from my free flowing, revenue-generating ideas, disappeared when I needed them most.

I wasn't naïve enough to think that I would be treated with the same standing but I projected my loyalty to people and places it didn't belong. My circle of trust tightened, slowly at first but then dramatically, as I mentally released those who bit the hand that once fed them.

Socially, a similar dynamic began to take shape. My phone stopped ringing as often as it did when there were free bottles and fancy rides. It was a painful realization to absorb.

The bigger better thing; if I couldn't deliver it, I was no longer part of it. It took a round trip for me to finally see it but I am certain that I'm a better man for it.

Full Circle

In May of 2003, I arranged for my father to return to the East Coast for the first time in 20 years. While I was absorbed with trying to save my symbiotic ecosystem, I made a promise to my father when he was in jail two years prior. My grandfather Ruby taught me that all a man has is his name and his word; while I was losing money, I wasn't about to lose those too.

One year after my brother Adam and I ventured to Hawaii with hopes of saving our father, I returned as I said I would to enjoy his freedom. After his long stretch of homelessness and hopelessness, he was properly medicated and volunteering at an animal orphanage. It was then we discussed his trip to the East Coast and before I knew it, he touched down in New York City.

As I greeted him, we embraced in a long hug that melted away years of disappointment, anger and judgment. He was a humbled man, the type of humility that comes after you've lost everything and stared into an different type of abyss, that of life.

He told me he contemplated suicide many times but the glimmer of his children saw him through his pain; he cried as we talked for hours upon hours.

A few days later, we traveled to Baltimore and he met his grandchildren for the first time. As we sat around the dinner table the first night, I found myself watching him with pride. It was the first time I ever experienced that particular emotion; after a childhood of seeking his approval, I found it ironic that our roles somehow reversed.
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