Soul Searching

These last few days I’ve been soul searching. Hence the silence. Personally, for me — I’ve found soul-searching works best when I’m quiet. Some people like to use their voice like sonar bouncing it off of everything & everyone to see where they are. It’s mostly the Alphas on Wall Street from whom I see this. You know, “I’m gonna do this– and that.”

I used to be one of those… now? I find that silence allows me to get really soulful. And these days, I take it all the way– ‘imagine the grave marker’ stuff.

I find removing noise is a great way to find peace. When I get too casual about saying, “I’m starving” — I fast. I’ve fasted for a whole week before. It’s the mind games of the first 72 hours that are the worst. After that, you actually feel pretty great– I remember thinking, “I’ll never need to eat again!!”

But with your internal voices, It’s harder.

When I get too casual with my words– I fast too. I once took a 48-hour vow of silence. I only lasted 24 hours. So, I’m not a monk.

That being said, a lot of ‘big things’ are converging in my life right now that is causing me to pause.

My oldest graduates preschool this Friday.

This summer will mark the three year anniversary of my company.

In the near future, I’ll be launching a new project that marks 2 years of effort.

And right now, as we speak, I’m talking to some people about partnering on some things that could be pretty big.

And 10 years of marriage. Wow.

All of these milestones mark years of sleepless nights, self-doubt, and confusion, chipping away at the prize & my ego simultaneously. All while being told, “it will never happen.” And sometimes thinking, “I’ll never make it.”

And then, hopefully, there’s the birth of something new & better.

But that’s not always the case as we know. Sometimes when you reach for the stars you can still end up in the dumpster. As James Altucher points out, most things don’t work out. James has also become the closest thing to my guru lately. He has a great post on the daily practice, which I’ve actually been implementing for the last two years, without his crystal clear guidelines.

These days, when I’m not writing, I tend to do a lot of my self-reflection at the gym or doing yoga — literally– with all of those mirrors.

As diluted as I might be about what I think the future holds for our industry, I’m pretty grounded in reality, because even though I’m a dreamer… my incessant self-doubt is what pushes me to work endless hours to forge the reality I envision.

The gym is the respite for my control issues. It gives me a chance to control most of the variables: sleep, diet, focus. This is in stark contrast to the markets, where I can’t control much of anything, per se.

At the gym, I can see tangible (almost linear) progress.

Yesterday I could 50 pushups, today I can do 100. (I cannot do 100) Or yesterday I could hold a pose for 2 minutes, today I can hold it for 5 (I cannot hold it for 5)

Today — when I look in the mirror, I see someone who sits at a desk too much.

I sit at the desk because I love my work. At my office, my desk is the gym for my ideas. And so, in some ways, the little spare tire I carry is a badge of honor.

But I certainly don’t want to become a caricature of myself. Not in life & not at the gym. Being at the gym helps me keep things in focus about where I am in the pecking order of sanity & reality.

And boy, there are some people with major disconnects running around.

This guy is drinking Muscle Milk.

You know the types at the gym: There’s the person who lives at the gym, has the perfect body– but nothing else in the world to show for it– no life, no loved ones, no depth. There’s the person with all of the latest gear & gadgets — always talking about the specs, instead of working on their pecs. There’s naked man — who walks around & talks to everyone in the locker room stark naked — oblivious to the obvious eye-gouging discomfort of EVERYONE around him.

Or the person who takes all of the supplements to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Venice glory days. And then finds out their hero was on the juice instead of the things they were being shilled.

Life is weird like that, you wake up on a random Tuesday & find out everything you were striving to be, is not what you thought at all; or worse– you were kidding yourself the whole time.

The first time one of my industry heroes became a zero was actually a personal friend. He’d been held in high regard to all that knew him. Then one day, out of the blue– it had turned out, he was having an affair with one of the assistants (allegedly) & had been doing lines of cocaine under his desk with some of my colleagues (also allegedly). I was shocked. Mortified. Here was a guy, I looked up to– And he was done. Fried. Toast. Now he’s rebuilding his life at another firm far, far away from the place he called home. His career & family torn to shreds. All of the principles he stood for… jeez.

Now, life is certainly big enough for mistakes. We all know the turn-around stories. Heck, if you screw up big enough, someone might even make a movie about you.

But for me, personally– I just don’t want to go through THAT. My motto, fail small. I don’t mind failure. I just don’t want it to totally wreck me. It’s served me well.

As it is, I had my own random wake up call recently. I’d said something to some people only to find out I was dead wrong. It was even an elementary fact, that I’d been wrong about — should have known — and I was just wrong. The damage wasn’t/isn’t irreparable, but I was pretty embarrassed.

Ok, really embarrassed.

Ok, I was really depressed actually.

I took solace in knowing I wasn’t alone in my misinformed view… Sadly, I know a ton of colleagues who’ve made the same mistake. But I was still pretty crushed. I’m supposed to be different.

So, after sitting in silence — I did share it — with my ever important partner & sounding board, my wife.

My wife was embarrassed for me — then she went on to tell me. “Ok, So… now what? It’s not like you can’t comprehend the correct answer… Deal with it & move on. It’s what you do with the information afterward… It’s not like you are a bad person as a result. You’ve always meant to be a good person, that’s what’s important.”

She went on to ask me to list things where people were wrong & still show their faces in public…

  1. There are the uber bears who’ve missed the entire rally.
  2. There’s that infamous Dow 100,000 call.
  3. There’s all of the big detective work that goes on around Apple’s product launches.
  4. John Stewart & The Daily Show regularly skewer politicians about the basic truths or history of our country.
  5. Oh yeah, there’s also every major investment bank that touts their wisdom & strength after the bailouts.

All of them dreadfully wrong. Embarrassingly.

In the end, even though my gaff was elementary, the bottom line of who I am & what I do (quite well some days) hasn’t been compromised. That’s what my wife wanted me to see. It’s helped. But it still stings. I guess I could always follow the Reformed Broker’s punditry playbook:

When you are wrong about something, for months and months and years and years, declare it to be “irrelevant”

Instead, I’ll keep soul searching; but the show must go on. After all, you can’t look inside forever, or else you the outside world will simply pass you by.

So, back to writing. Back to keeping the inside connected with the outside. Back to laying it on the line — because that’s people on Wall Street are supposed to do. You know, before we learned too big to fail.

Follow my soul-searching on Twitter.

See Also // Appearances – I heart Wall Street

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3 thoughts on “Soul Searching

  1. Thanks so much for the kind words Lavonne.

    I’m happy to say I will probably laugh 20 years from now, & most of all– I’ve never tweeted a picture of myself in my underwear. At least I dodged that bullet.

  2. Ask yourself if your mistake is something you could conceivably see yourself laughing about in 10, 20, 30 years. If yes, it’s irrelevant! If no, it’s probably still irrelevant.

    When I thoroughly humiliate myself, sometimes I take solace by enjoying the greater crash and burn of some public figure. Could your pain be worse than Rep Weiner’s is tonight?

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