I know a guy. He's smart, funny, a good husband and father. He helps the twins with their homework and plays soccer with them on the weekends. He's a registered Independent who cares about the environment and opposes severe income disparity. He's involved with several charities promoting education. Sounds like a good guy. But what happens when I tell you he works on Wall Street?
I'll be the first to admit, I made a lot of mistakes and participated in some questionable behavior during my time on the Street. I created collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) in my secret lab. (Shhhh, don't tell anyone.) But the truth is, the only financial collapse I participated in was my own, and for every Wall Streeter who broke bad there are a thousand good guys.
I would say at least 75 percent of Wall Street consists of decent people like the one I just described.
But it's hard to get excited about the good guys or the moral updates like we do with the scandals and the corrupt villains. Seriously, who's going to tweet, blog, link, pin or Facebook about the guy who lays out his suit the night before and studies charts until 2 a.m. or the girl who adds numbers in her head as fast as a calculator? The only market for stories like these would compete with Ambien.
Having trouble sleeping? I once knew a guy …
Occasionally we hear a feel-good story about Wall Street, like the "Modern-Day Robin Hood" piece "60 Minutes" did recently on Paul Tudor Jones, a hedge-fund manager and founder of the Robin Hood Foundation. The charity addresses issues surrounding poverty and the piece offered a rare glimpse into the philanthropic attitude within the finance community.
(Read more: After a dazzling early career, a star trader settles down)
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I had friends who left their jobs to work for free at Cantor-Fitzgerald because the firm, located in the World Trade Center, had tragically lost so many people. I know countless individuals who participate in programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, Fresh Air Fund and even started charities of their own like G.O.A.L. (Giving Open Access to Learning).
Negative Wall Street news has been swirling in the wind for years now. More negative press almost feels like pitching another vampire movie or piling on. ( I'm having flashbacks to elementary school and someone screams "PIG PILE!")
For the record — yes, I've seen "The Wolf of Wall Street." No, that's not what we consider real Wall Street.
(Read more: Strippers, dwarfs & coke: The real Wall Street)
It seems like everyone has an opinion about Wall Street. If you wanted to you could talk about it for hours.
The longest continuous conversation I've ever had on the subject of Wall Street was six hours. The reason I know the exact duration is because that's how long it takes to drive from Maine to New York City. I made the mistake of calling shotgun in the rented minivan a guy named Ron was driving. He was a friend of a friend. There was a foursome of us en-route back to the city after a weekend charity golf event. The conversation, which quickly became more of an interrogation/monologue, began, as I remember, something like this:
"What do you think about the valuations in biotech?" Ron asked.
"Dude," I said turning the radio up. "It's Sunday."
At the time, Ron was an analyst at a midlevel bank. I was a trader at the infamous Galleon Group. Ron could talk about his job and the markets for hours (and he did). He had the passion of a New York Jets fan on the first Sunday morning in September. The only thing missing was his face paint and company jersey. When I finally returned to my apartment that evening, I was left with the thought I might be missing something. How could someone love working on Wall Street as much as Ron did?
(Read more: Advice for young Wall Street: Turney Duff)
A few months after my book came out, Ron called to congratulate me. I hadn't spoken with him in over ten years. He was married now, with two healthy children, he sounded happy and content. But then, after we'd caught up, I made the mistake of asking him if he still worked on the Street. Twenty minutes later he was still talking about the markets.
To be clear, I don't think you should respect someone just because they work on Wall Street. And equally, I don't think you should disrespect someone just because they work on Wall Street. It would be like hating all of baseball just because you don't like A-Rod. I'm not a Yankee fan, but I have the utmost respect for Derek Jeter. His reverence for the game, passion on the field and work ethic are admirable. I know a lot of Jeter's slinging stocks, but only a few who used financial performance-enhancing drugs.
How about this: If you want to hate Wall Street then hate me. I'm the one who borrowed $1.6 million from Wells Fargo and couldn't pay it back, lived way above my means, picked up a drug habit and shorted the stock market in 2008.
I'm not naïve enough to think I swayed anyone's opinion. But next time you meet someone who tells you they work on Wall Street, maybe try and get to know the person. See what he or she is like. Maybe his name is Ron.
In the words of one of the great philosophers of our time, Ice-T, "Don't hate the playa, hate the game."
If you want to hate, I'll be working with my papier-mâché making the best piñatas on the Street. But you have to supply your own blindfold.
— By Turney Duff
Turney Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side." He is currently working on his second book. Sony recently bought the rights to his first book to turn it into a movie or TV show. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.