Brokedown Palace: In Remembrance of September 11, 2001
If the greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain, we're blessed with the opportunity to evolve and the experience to remember.
Picking Up the Pieces
People who shared a similar 9/11 experience dealt with their emotions differently. Some left the business, opting to enjoy a life where bells didn't bookend their days. Some married and others divorced as the specter of death shifted their path in life. Still others fell into drug and alcohol addictions with hopes that self-medication would dull their pain.
We each did what we could; we all did what we had to do.
My personal path was reflexive and subconscious, guided by motivations I didn't fully understand at the time. I spent one more year at the hedge fund before stepping down, shifting course, and founding Minyanville.
Many 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 at the bottom of a 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 entered a deep depression. I worked 20-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 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
If something good comes from all things bad, an optimist would offer that September 11 provided perspective.
I, for one, appreciate things I once took for granted but never thought to question. I recognize the difference between having fun and being happy. I realize that time is the most precious commodity, and truth and trust are the most meaningful currencies.
I've learned that the difference between lessons and mistakes is the ability to learn from them, and friction between opinions is where education is found. I've found that negative energy is wasted energy, money comes and goes, and viewing obstacles as opportunities is one of the greatest enablers of success.
Twelve years after that fateful day, our country finds itself in a fragile socioeconomic state with a false sense of security. It's easy to be angry and wallow in the "why" as the ramifications of the financial crisis ripple, the next wave approaches, and policymakers employ perceived solutions that will lower the standard of living for our children.
Today, however, is a day of reflection, a day of remembrance and 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 us to realize we've got it good, and all of us have profound reasons for gratitude. As we remember September 11, please take a moment to appreciate what we have rather than lament about what we don't.
May peace be with you.
(See also: Reality Check: The Enemy Is Among Us)
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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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