In remembrance of September 11, 2001.
Most of my peers thought I was crazy to relinquish such a lucrative position and perhaps I was, but I wanted to create an existence where self-worth wasn't dictated by net worth and validation wasn't found in my bank account. Trading, for all its vices and virtues, offers little in the way of personal redemption or societal benefit.
I didn't realize it at the time but for a period following the attacks, I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and deep depression. I worked twenty-hour days and when I wasn't lost in my work, I locked my doors, turned off the phone, closed my window shades, and stayed in bed. I didn't see my friends or seek the comfort of family, I simply passed time until I was again too busy to digest the overwhelming sadness that saturated my soul and spirit.
I always believed I was humble, particularly in a business where humility is viewed as a weakness, but during that dark and vulnerable time, I discovered what true humility was.
Lou Mannheim once said, "Man looks in 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 put on a brave face following 9/11 largely because others looked to me for guidance. Ironically, it was that purpose -- that self-imposed obligation -- that allowed me to summon the strength to pull myself out of that seemingly endless crevasse. It was day by day; sometimes it was hour by hour. It felt endless.
I often tell people that New York City, America, and the world forever changed that day but I sometimes wonder if it's me who changed. I'm not the same person I was before the attacks but I'm entirely certain that I'm a better man because of them.
Life Goes On
Something good comes from all things bad and the blessing of September 11th, for me, was one of perspective.
I appreciate the things I once took for granted but never thought to question. I understand the difference between having fun and being happy. I realize time is a precious commodity and the arbiter of fate. I've learned a dream is only as powerful as those who believe in it, the difference between lessons and mistakes are the ability to learn from them, and friction between opinions is where true education is born. And after a long, hard road, I've found that negative energy is wasted energy, money comes and goes, and viewing obstacles as opportunities defines success.
Ten years after that fateful day -- a full decade -- our country finds itself in a fragile socioeconomic state and a false sense of security. It's easy to be angry, place blame and lash out as the ramifications of the financial crisis ripple, the next wave approaches and policymakers seek solutions that will lower the standard of living for our children.
Sunday, however, is a day of reflection, a day of remembrance, a day of personal introspection. If the greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain, we're blessed with the opportunity to evolve and the experience to remember.
It should never take something bad for to realize we've got it good, and all of us have profound reasons for gratitude. On September 11th, take a moment to appreciate what we have rather than lament about what we don't, for tomorrow is promised to nobody.
May peace be with you.
(Also click here to listen to a musical piece by our own Peter Atwater, written as a tribute to the events of September 11, 2001.)
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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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