So Inspired

So there you are, a blank white screen in front of you and the entire journey ahead. You’ve gotten a WordPress account and selected a URL for your blog, you’ve found an available Twitter handle that matches it and you’ve had a friend take a picture of you in your suit for the avatar.

And then you start typing. You quickly erase what you’ve just typed but then take another crack at it. You’re on your way.

But to where? What are you imagining will come of it? What adventures lie ahead simply because you’ve decided to give this a try? What events will you attend, what jobs will you get and what will you earn – financially and spiritually – as a result?

And who will you meet along the way?

In my case, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have met my many of my heroes on this journey, almost all of them. In my wildest dreams when I took those first halting steps a few years ago, I could never have imagined it.

Today I want to tell you about two of them who have inspired so much of what I do that my debt to them is unpayable.

On Friday night I attended my very first Festivus, the annual charitable event thrown by Todd Harrison for all the friends and fans of Minyanville. While everyone in financial media likes to walk around talking about “building community,” Todd Harrison is one of the few guys who has actually done it.

The Minyanites, from what I could see and hear, are bound by a sort of ethos – this idea that investing should be fun and serious all at once, and that good people will come out ahead of sleazeballs in the final tally. This isn’t shtick – you don’t need much more than a conversation or two with Todd to see how deeply he believes this. Everyone I met at the event is in a similar headspace and it shows. It’s a powerful thing to be in the midst of, even for a cynical fuck like me.

By way of background, I’ve been reading Todd for so long, I still remember his columns about trading the B2B internet stocks from three bubbles ago. Todd was the first guy to write a straight-up “tales from the trading turret” column while simultaneously allowing you a peek at the rock star lifestyle he was leading after the closing bell. I was in my early twenties then and making six figures slinging around stocks. I had my own New York City apartment and no ambitions beyond meeting up with the boys each evening and taking a girl home each night – Todd’s mix of trading savvy and hinted-at winship off the desk were an intoxicating combination for a kid like me, and I ate it up.

And so to attend his party and see so many of my friends from the financial industry and the business media buying in as well, I have to tell you – it’s incredibly invigorating. Todd Harrison’s mission to combine investing with altruism and friendship, to me, is the embodiment of investing success. The fact that he can throw an event like this and attract both amateur investors and some of The Street’s heavy hitters is a testament to his message’s transcendence.

Which brings me to my pal Dougie Kass. I’ve been reading Doug for about a decade, his daily trading diary was the first of its kind and I gladly forked over my credit card for the Realmoney Silver subscription at The Street, even during years where I was barely making enough money to survive. There’s not a lot I need to say about why Doug’s work was so groundbreaking and remains so vital. There are only a handful of people who can perfectly dissect and then summarize the market mosaic at any given time – Santoli’s on that list, too, but Doug is at the top of it. It’s through his writing that I first pulled my head of my ass and learned about the larger market and economic forces around us that matter so much more than the myopic stockpicking that everyone else was worried about.

Over the weekend, Dougie gave a few of us the head’s up that he was going public with the following at The Street today:

In late October I was diagnosed with cancer. Originally it was thought only to be in my prostate, but an ensuing bone scan revealed that it might be in my ribs, which would not have been a good thing.

Early last week I learned that the cancer had not spread outside my prostate and that the indicated metabolic activity (and potential bone cancer) was simply a byproduct of a harness racing driving injury incurred 23 years earlier (in which I broke seven ribs) and was not an indicator of more cancer.

On Dec. 5 I underwent surgery (for nearly four hours, ugh) at New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and I am happy to report that I will recover 100%. In fact, despite a lot of soreness I consider myself already recovered.

I am proud that since the time I found out about my health issue has coincided with what I like to think have been some of the most productive times in my Diary (both in quantity and, hopefully, in quality), in my media appearances and, importantly, in my hedge fund. I have not missed a step.

And I am quite confident that following my successful operation the same will hold true in the future.

I guarantee you all that I won’t be missing many steps.

I’ll tell you exactly what I told him – not only did he not miss a step, in many ways his commentary throughout the fall has been elevated. His short and then go-long calls on Apple, in particular, were exquisite. And to think, he’s been running his fund, posting day in, day out, and making his media appearances while privately coping with something like this – it’s inspiring to me on many levels.

Meeting and getting to know Doug has been one of the highlights of this whole thing. He’s made me a better investor over the years and I can only hope to be similarly influenced by his character and work ethic as well.

Meeting one’s heroes is an amazing thing – but finding out that they’re even more heroic than you had originally thought is downright transformative.  Thanks Todd and Doug for all the knowledge and inspiration – and for showing the human side of this business way before it was in vogue. Those of us who have come after owe you both a debt of gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

Full Disclosure: Nothing on this site should ever be considered to be advice, research or an invitation to buy or sell any securities, please see my Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.

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