What do you want?

It’s a simple question; a simple concept:

What is it that you want?


Length: 1368 words


Did I want to burn my face in the sun today? (did I want to spend two hours having lunch and drinking wine at a downtown terrace with a sea view?)

Do I want to write this article? I mean, it does take some time, that I could spend meeting people, playing with my dog, reading a book, stretching or catching up on Game Of Thrones (I wonder…, could it be that the cold season is approaching; and what about the pale wanderers up north?).

Do you want to get rich? Do you, really? Why? What are you going to do with the money, i.e., what do you actually want?

Do you want status? Do you want to get laid? Think about it.

Do you want nice things? Clothes, cars, watches, houses, boats, yachts? Why? To achieve a certain stature? Why? To be admired? By whom? To what end?

Why? To get laid? Or to get an even better paying job with even higher status? Why?

when

nobody’s

watching

Ask yourself what you truly want at the end of the day. What do you do, want or enjoy when nobody’s watching?


 

I asked myself these questions long ago.

Eventually I sold my cars, quit my job and started blogging and podcasting as a result of my mulling these issues. I had realized I was a pattern recognizer and that my deepest desire was to learn (occasionally I want to eat, fuck and sleep of course, but evolution had it that to do those things I first had to recognize the patterns of food and females, e.g.)

Sure, I do strive for higher ratings, more listeners etc., but only to spread the message in, e.g., this article and my books. I don’t want status or fame per se, I use it to spread a message. But why do I want to spread that message?

That’s a much harder question, but here’s my attempt at answering:

It’s a drive I have. It’s the mirror image of wanting to learn as much as possible – I guess I assume you and everybody else share the same drive. Rather than waiting for your pull, I push both the method and the message onto you.


 

Yeah…, I like being appreciated, it feels good to be seen per se (not just for the potential it lends), and a groupie or two wouldn’t hurt (come on! what? noone? 10 000 readers and not a single girl interested? Alrighty then, maybe I’m already seeing somebody). However, most of all I just want to make others stop chasing other people’s dreams, and start realizing their own.

 

It applies to everything:

Why spend 5 years on ‘higher’ education, just because the last generation did. Why spend 40 years in employment, to impress people with your titles, or to buy things that put you ahead of the pack? Do you really want to be ahead or to impress, instead of doing real things with real people?

I get it that there are certain realities of life to consider. You need to eat and you don’t want to be cold or dirty or look bad to potential partners. You might want to get kids and care for them too… So, sure, you need some kind of an income and a place to stay.

But do you want to dress up like a monkey in a suit and tie everyday? (Bobby Axelrod never wears that kind of attire). Why do you want a flashy car you don’t really need? Do you really want to spend those extra hours, weeks, months, years at the job to finance a lifestyle that is just theater for others?

Do you want to throw money from the bridge of your yacht shouting “money is fun coupons” (at the price of studying for others, working for others, worrying, sleeping too little, aging prematurely)? Maybe you do, I’m not judging. I’m just asking questions.

I understand if you want to throw big parties, jet comfortably around the world (but where and why?), get the best seats at concerts (I don’t like live music), catch the attention of the most interesting people and so on.

However, are you going about it in the most effective manner, or are you taking a very big and unnecessary detour (perhaps endlessly chasing the Joneses)?

It’s very easy to get distracted, to just do what everybody else is doing. We are herd animals after all. It’s all too easy to just keep doing what you’re doing as well; breaking out of homeostasis doesn’t come naturally.

It’s irritatingly easy to just climb the nearest hill, to enjoy whatever is right in front of you, without regard for the bigger picture.

Did I want to burn my face today? No. Did I understand I would, and that my eyes would be sore in the evening? Well, I guessed as much, but the wine was good and the alcohol felt nice…

Do I want to check my investment portfolio every day? No, not really. A year ago I hardly checked it every week, but lately I’ve spent at least five minutes every day, and often more than an hour just looking and maybe making a trade or two. I actually don’t want to do that, or need for that matter.

Today, I did what I want: I did not open the trading app and never checked my portfolio or the financial markets. I went to the gym as I always do every other day. I want that. And I met a friend for lunch and we had a bottle of wine each in the sun. I really enjoyed that, laughed a lot, learned a few things, perhaps provided a few insights as well. However, I should have moved into the shade after the first hour. I wanted to (in hindsight); I just never thought about it hard enough.

 

So, what do you want?

I guess getting up in the morning to go to school, prepare your exams, or put on a suit and too warm shoes and be in time for the morning meeting aren’t things you really want – you just do it for the money. And how do you spend or save that money? The way you want?

Here’s my tip to you. Think through how you would design your life if you could start from scratch. How would you live (where, what kind of house/apartment, what climate, what view), what would you do (given your financial constraints), what would you eat? Who would you meet?

Once you have that ideal situation detailed, start thinking about how you can approach it from your current vantage point.

What do you want and need to learn? Is there any point in being employed or could you create value without a boss? Are you maximizing your potential during college by keeping up to date on real stuff outside school? Could you learn even more and faster without school? Are you trying out business ideas while in school or are you just focused on rote learning what and only what they tell you, like an automaton?

 

Back to square one:

  1. Start from scratch, break from the herd, from homeostasis
  2. Be mindful of when you feel good, when you’re happy, fulfilled, energetic
  3. Search deep within, and ask what you want for you; the endgame so to speak, your primary objectives that you do for their own sake, not as intermediaries
  4. Design the ideal situation with the point above in mind
  5. Think about how to approach the point above, step by step; small, easy steps

Feel free to share this article with anybody you think are in danger of joining the Joneses. Please.

And if you’re new here, you just have to read my first e-book: “The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager” (it’s free of course). Well, that is, if you are at all interested in how a guy from Jukkasjärvi went from nothing to receiving the award for “The European Hedge Fund Of The Decade” while managing not to turn into a big dick; and then unceremoniously retired before turning 42.

Get it by signing up for my free and spam free newsletter here.

The Retard’s Guide To Becoming a Finance Mogul

So, you want to work in finance?

so you want to work in finance retarded hedge fund manager

Good luck.

No, seriously. You’ll need it:

work in finance retarded hedge fund manager

No contacts, not the right schools, no money? Aiming to become so good they can’t ignore you anyway? You want to become one of the best (and richest) portfolio managers (ever), starting from scratch? There you go again…

how to land a good job in finance

Okay, so I did it that way. That only makes me a sigma-something anomaly and nothing to try to copy – just as most top performers in all areas, including ball players, athletes, musicians, models, fund managers and so on.

However, without hard work and at least trying, you are certain to go nowhere at all. The ones whose strategies you should try to emulate are among the hard working and excellent top one per cent, rather than the stellar, and lucky or gifted, top basis point (1/100 per cent).

Finance Cloud 9

investors

 

Caveats aside, here is the Retard’s Path To Finance Cloud 8 (too many sigmas at 9, and Buffett):

How To Become Someone In Finance

Apart from money, luck and doing whatever Wall Street Playboys say, here is my way.

First, make sure you understand what you are talking about:

  • Do you want to work on the Buy side or Sell side?
  • Do you want to be a broker, an analyst, a PM or a corp guy?
  • Are you into equities, bonds, commodities, macro economy (or real estate – though not quite finance)?
  • Do you prefer sales or number crunching?
  • Are you interested in business models and the economy,
  • or more into group psychology and trend analysis?

market retarded hedge fund manager

It’s okay, you actually don’t have to decide right now. Many, including me, have profitably gone from one area to the other, back and forth, up and down.

Some paths are more lucrative than others, but most work – as long as you don’t stay too long in sales, i.e., unless you plan to stay there (-the only way to get rich unless you own your business, according to the WSP sages).

I personally went from broker assistant, to licensed broker, to sell side analyst, to certified analyst, to buy side analyst, to portfolio manager and partner (owner).

The first few steps (up until and including certified analyst) were done in around a year. I then worked as a certified sell side analyst for 5 years, before joining a hedge fund, where I became Partner, Portfolio Manager and the Managing Director after respectively 4-5 years. I worked in that (those!) capacity for the remaining 10 years, hiring a handful of analysts and dismissing many more applications over the years.

Then I couldn’t wait to quit, and you ask me for advice on how to get in…!?

 

Show me the money!

You don’t care what side of the money you are, you just want it. Fuck the job, just tell me how to make enough para to get the hell out before becoming ancient.

That’s the spirit. No, really. If you are going to work in this soul sucking industry anyway, make sure you get the green for it.

The dough is in sales (ref WSP) and in PM (portfolio management – if you have a stake in the firm, i.e., if you are a partner).

Sales can mean many things, but you’d want to be an institutional broker, an analyst or work in corporate finance as key account manager or possibly research. In short, you need to own the firm or you need to be a specialist with a direct client relationship (some kind of sales).

Please note, though, that new rules mean clients will pay less and less for research and brokerage services. In addition, the coming normalization (crash in prices and volumes) of markets most likely means the sell side industry (brokers and research boutiques) will be decimated, leaving a selct few making big bucks and the masses forced to cut down on their current too lavish lifestyles. New guys, like you, will be at the bottom of this food chain.

I would recommend aiming for the buy side (the money side, the client side), possibly via a short stint as an analyst on the sell side just to make yourself a name. If you are good or lucky enough, and work until your behind becomes unstuck, you’ll be noticed and just might get bought over to the money side by a greedy PM that has grown tired of doing the work himself.

Hmmm, who am I really talking about here..?

 

The path in practice

1. Start trading and make money. Get the skills online. Make yourself rich enough to not be ignored (only then will your track record be taken seriously). Then start your own hedge fund and accept outside money.

-Good luck! This would typically take forever, or end like the Challenger in 1986 (too soon?). Get rich quick schemes on the stock market are all but a sure way to ruin. In addition, why would you need or want outside money or employment if your formula works and you’re already rich?

finance full retard

2. Get the skills online (math, statistics, programming, economics, accounting, cash flow analysis, business model assessment).

Cold call existing mutual and hedge funds and sell yourself cheap enough (for free?) to get the chance to fetch lunch for the real money managers and analysts. Then prove yourself (build models, provide creative input, make your bosses look good) and hope that somebody dares take a chance on you for some real responsibility, despite lacking the right degrees and pedigree.

gene wilder

“Tell me more how you plan to get into high finance by yourself”

Unfortunately, no matter what I usually say about institutional education, when it comes to a traditional career in finance, you still have to take the…, well, traditional route. With a twist:

 

The straight and narrow

3. Get a degree from as prestigious a university you can get in to. Combine finance studies with math, statistics and programming, or perhaps engineering and/or law to stand out from the faceless crowd of “but, but, I have a master in finance” puppies. Any real world experience, such as running a start-up or working in technical industries (pharma, med tech, technology, software etc.) is a plus.

Do not take a back office job, “to get close to the real action and hope to transition from there”. It can happen. It has happened. I have actually personally interviewed and hired a three years straight back office summer intern and hired him. Just don’t count on it to happen. Both Futuris and I were outliers.

Instead, start as a front office assistant (or as high up as you manage to land a job, e.g., junior broker or analyst) on the buy side (much easier) or sell side (not that many slots available, so much harder to accomplish right out of the box).

Work your ass off. Be the light switch. Turn it on when you come to the office and off when you leave. Last. Make sure you get just about enough sleep to function (probably on average 5 hours a night, plus whatever naps you can get during transports etc.). Note, that this runs completely contrary to my advice for individual long term success and happiness. This is only for making it as a finance slut – something I usually advice against.

Whether you are an assistant, a broker assistant, an analyst assistant, a junior broker, a junior analyst or PM’s assistant, expand your skills as much as possible. Ask questions (not too many at a time though, and never the same question twice unless you couldn’t actually hear the answer). Read up on whatever is discussed and if the same topic surfaces again, respectfully and humbly provide your input. If possible, make it seem as if it was your closest superior that came up with the idea/solution.

Never be idle. The density of your tasks will be low in the beginning. Take advantage of that for both acquiring skills, getting contacts and not least taking initiative, aiming just low enough to be able to present real and  unambiguous results in a short time. And again, and again.

E.g., back in 1994, on my first job as a broker assistant, my boss mentioned Warren Buffett’s model for selecting investments. The model’s criteria had recently been featured in Sweden’s largest financial magazine. My boss proposed perhaps screening some of our best buy recommendations according to that criteria.

A little proud, albeit still with my peculiar spectrum disorder detachment (not realizing the pivotal importance of the moment), I could tell him I had already built an Excel model doing just that, as well as tried it on our top cases. I showed him the model and the result (screaming buy for Scribona, among other companies). I had more “secret” projects lined up, so it wasn’t that much of a coincidence I hit that home run.

How to land a job in finance

I like to think that specific moment was crucial to my keeping the job after the initial 6 trial months, despite being “kind of like a round peg in a square hole”.

4. Be a quant. If you love math, statistics and programming, prove yourself in some way – preferably with a finance related thesis or a PhD – and sell yourself to a quant/HFT/trend following fund and constantly blackmail the owners for a share of the company.

quant

5. If you simply fail to land a job in finance, do not settle for back office, try management consulting instead, or a job in a real and technical industry (pharma, med tech, technology, software, gaming) where you can acquire a deep understanding, that later can be leveraged as an analyst or portfolio manager.

Use your spare time to study finance and apply for finance jobs. You’ll get in sooner or later.

 

Summary and conclusions

  • If you are into DIY, I suggest trying a different career

Here is how to do the finance tango properly:

  • Document and show interest in investing/finance/markets. Invest and trade.
  • Get a degree. Get two, but don’t take your sweet time – do it in parallel
  • Kiss ass, work ass off. No real skills needed to land or keep a job in finance
  • Acquire real skills (for the future as a portfolio manager or sales)
  • Finally, use the skills to produce value, and make sure you get your share (as owner or through blackmail [employer jumping, silly season pro])

 

It’s not easy. It’s not fun, but you can get rich

It’s not easy to get in, not to mention up, in finance, but if you really, really want to whore out in this business, I think almost anybody can make it quite high:

Just pay attention to what your bosses want, what your clients like to hear, and always be working, always improving, always acquiring skills (mostly cheap, easy to communicate skills, parlour tricks almost). Read my review of Carnegie’s “How to make friends” to get some cynical tips on how to approach and use people with power.

Here are some other useful books to read before your first interview: Liars’s Poker, Reminiscences of a stock operator, Bull!, Wall Street Meat, The Great Crash and City Boy. If you just want to impress you can claim you read Intelligent Investor (but don’t actually do it).

 

Always be investing

Do I have to add that it’s mandatory to have traded with your own money before applying? Unless you have a documented interest in the market you’ll be dismissed in a minute.

Please note, that:

the skill set for landing and keeping your first position is quite different from the skill set and habits needed for adding value

…and performing once you get some real responsibility.

Should you eventually find yourself in a position with actual responsibilities as a portfolio manager (or just managing your own money), then cut back on the hours, the parlour tricks, the kissing ass, the working extremities off, and focus on understanding, on strategy,…, well on all the things I laid out in my book The Retarded Hedge Fund Manager.

Some useful books for once you handle real money are: The Most Important Thing (risk), Margin Of Safety (investing), Lords Of Finance (central banks and their failure), Tomorrow’s Gold (power shifts), How An Economy Grows And Why It Crashes (macro economy and real investments) and The Black Swan (risk)

If you never read my book, do. If you haven’t subscribed yet, do it now and get the book for free. I hear it’s amateurish, but a page turner, a little fun and highly recommended.

I promise to never spam your e-mail address, or allow any third parties to get near you.

From n00b to master of the universe in 16 years. Are you up next?

cropped-skandia-annual-report-1994.jpgThe Retarded Hedge Fund Manager

Know Thyself instead of chasing somebody else’s dream (car)

Know thyself

If I could give you just one piece of advice, that would be it. Get to know yourself.

-And be more mindful when reading (non-fiction) books.

That is the key to success, happiness and all things good in life.  If you don’t know who you are, there is no way you’d reach your goals – simply because you don’t really need what they are and instead go after somebody else’s objectives.

know thyself SpreZZaturian McLaren P1

If you know who you are and steer your life accordingly you won’t suddenly wake up afflicted by some random strain of age anxiety.

So, how do you know who you are and what you want (as well as what to do about it)?

By running ‘experiments’ and paying attention; in short by being mindful of your own reactions to various stimuli (and your environment).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Iron Man

Experimenting means trying many different things in real life, but it also means reading, watching, listening, discussing and thinking. It means finding role models; mentors even.

Most of all you need to ignore the siren calls of the herd, the temptation to climb the closest hill and the marketing noise of modern society.

E.g., you neither want nor need a ridiculously large mansion, Iron Man’s cliffhanger villa (above), Rafael Nadal’s watch (below), or the baddest and raddest super car by McLaren (the P1 pictured above). That’s the “Jones” in you talking, that Beta character yearning to be Alpha.

know thyself SpreZZaturian

 

Do you have a megadream?

I can’t say I was never just as programmed regarding what success is supposed to be. Thankfully, I stopped short of buying this church in central Stockholm (picture below), making it into a one bedroom studio with a 30×30 ft bed in the middle.

It used to be my “mega dream” though, inspired by Scrooge McDuck who started his sleeping career in a drawer and eventually upgraded to the world’s largest bed – as the world’s loneliest duck.

know thyself SpreZZaturian Gustaf Vasa church

Before learning my lesson, I bought an expensive Swiss watch (Hublot Big Bang Rose Gold), a few cars (BMW, Porsche, Ferrari 360 Spider, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder) and a downtown penthouse that is borderline too big for me and my girlfriend (2350 sq ft). Luckily, she vacuums.

I even test drove a 55 ft Itama yacht (pic.) before getting the message. Right there and then with my hand on the throttle and steering wheel, it was painfully obvious that the yacht was way more boring than my 7ft water scooter (Seadoo RXP).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Itama 55

-not so fun

 

Know Thyself SpreZZaturian Seadoo RXP waterscooter

-fun! (yep, that’s me… breaking the law, breaking the law)

So, it took me some ten years of luxury and conspicuous consumption, before I realized it wasn’t things I wanted. In fact, those things stole more energy than they gave me – in particular the cars (and actually the scooter too). I eventually realized that I was brainwashed into impressing others, even if it felt as if I really wanted those things.

 

Real remorse

I think Buyer’s Remorse isn’t that much about the anticipation being better than the actual purchase. I think it’s simply a case of paying for the wrong things, i.e., the remorse is a real and true signal of a poor decision. Now, that is something to take with you the next time you’re visiting a car retailer.

You definitely don’t want to bathe in money (ew!), and yet you can easily find money bathing pics on Instagram.

know thyself SpreZZaturian happy times money bathing

-happy guy?

Oh, and I’m too so guilty of throwing cash around in pictures – and as embarrassed as I am about it (on my Instagram account), it’s still even more important to stress what a ludicrously second hand behavior it is. Living for others is a surefire way of making the least out of life.

There is nothing wrong in being or becoming rich, or in optimizing whatever it is you do. What’s wrong is if money, fame and status are your primary objectives, without a thought to why you want it or how you’re going to use it as a means to fulfilling your true desires.

 

When am I happy?

When reading a particularly good book. When listening to music. When understanding science. When playing with my dog or my friends. Gym-related happiness: (breaking plateaus, in the sauna, showering, eating and resting afterward), when expressing free will, when writing down a worthwhile thought, when experiencing moderate danger, when falling, when laughing, when completing projects: taking out trash, hanging a painting, writing a book, installing a router.

I enjoy heights, views, beauty, the sky, the vastness of space, exerting myself…

In short I’m happy when I use my brain for discerning patterns, and when I’m using my body to its fullest. Simple as that.

I don’t expect you to appreciate the same things as I do, and I fully understand if you want to at least try the money game of wealth, things, fame and status before focusing on satisfying yourself. However, I hope you take my experiences into account, and keep seriously questioning whether you are doing things for you or for somebody else. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself faster than I did.

 

Summary

  • Study yourself in as diverse situations as possible
  • Pay attention to your primary reactions
  • Avoid vicariousness; pleasing others can be a means to an end but not a goal in itself
  • As a practical example: When coveting something, try to imagine what it would be like actually having the item in your possession. Pinpoint what joy or use it is supposed to give you.
  • And as a bonus, since I recommended reading as a way of analyzing yourself: To get the most out of reading, ask yourself during reading “What am I learning? Am I making progress toward my goals? How does this fit into or alter my body of knowledge”

I never said it was easy:

 know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 1know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 2

By the way, the above strip was my first encounter with the “know thyself” meme, in the early 1980’s. It flew right over my head though.