Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Todd Harrison's Memoirs of a Minyan

From The Wall Street Journal, Jun 10, 2009, Chapter 1: "Inmates in the asylum" by Todd Harrison (This e-book, which is published each Wednesday over 18 weeks, is now up to Chapter 4):

How a high-flying trader learned the secret of money

Todd Harrison spent a number of years in the belly of the Wall Street beast and lived to tell about it. In this 18-part series, he relives his days as a highflying trader and what he learned about money.

(WSJ Editor's note: "Memoirs of a Minyan" is a first-person account that follows Minyanville founder Todd Harrison through a Wall Street trading career to the Internet media business, with some important lessons about the nature of money along the way....).

...I struggled whether to share this story because I didn't know if anyone would be interested in my lot in life. As I weaved my way through the many mazes in my mind, I decided to put pen to paper and recount my steps.

If not for you, for me, but with a larger lens on the immediate-gratification, conspicuously consumptive society in which we live. Some might say I bowed to the false idolatry of money, and perhaps I did. I was conditioned to believe that success was measured by a bottom line, and validation could be found in a bank account.

Everything you'll read in this series is true, as seen through my eyes. I share it without vice or virtue, and with all due humility. Lou Mannheim said in the movie "Wall Street": "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've stared into a few black holes during my career and emerged each time with newfound passion and incremental resolve. The ability to turn obstacles into opportunities is one of life's best-kept secrets, and the greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain.

As with any journey, the path we take is more important than the destination. My particular route included climbing the corporate ladder and chasing the trappings of success. Once I got to where I thought I wanted to be, I realized net worth and self-worth were entirely different dynamics.

That was distinctly different from what I was programmed to believe as a child, and it facilitated a professional and spiritual rebirthing....

...At the age of 13, I began working at the local bagel shop. I awoke at 5 a.m. on Saturdays to prepare for the mad rush of customers, many of whom were the families I aspired to emulate.
I never forgot the symbolism of that counter, a divide representing the chasm between the "haves" and "have nots," as money changed hands for goods and services. Little did I know that I would experience life on both sides of that cash register....

To read the original, follow these links:
Chapter 1: Inmates in the asylum
Chapter 2: Animal house
Chapter 3: Let the games begin
Chapter 4: War stories

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