Strangely — I'm grateful for all these experiences.
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For those who manage to survive the initiation period, it forever changes your work ethic, assertiveness and resilience. You acquire a list of talents not typically found on the resume under the "Other Skills" section like: Being able to efficiently navigate a crowded Toys 'R Us during the holidays or pay attention to your spouse while simultaneously checking the scrolling scores at the bottom of ESPN channel.
Here are some of the skills I gained during my Wall Street initiations that have translated to life after the trading desk:
Be teachable. A lot of kids coming out of college think being smart is the fast track. But they'll be right-sized in a minute. And until they realize how little they know, they'll be crushed. Being beaten down day after day on Wall Street was painful at first, but it taught me to know what I don't know. So, everything I've embarked on since I left Wall Street, from writing my book to shooting a TV pilot, I've approached from an I-know-nothing place – you'd be amazed how refreshing that is to people.
Get the answer. In one interview, I was asked a question about the Japanese yen. I had no idea what the answer was. The worst thing you can do in this situation is try and fake it, so this is what I said: "I don't know, but I if you give me five minutes I can find it for you." I got up and left the conference room and started parading around their foreign trading desk. The first three people I asked didn't even understand the question. Then I finally found someone who knew the answer. Within five minutes, I was back in the interview with the correct answer. I was offered the job.
Pull the trigger. The timid get trampled on Wall Street. You have to make judgment calls all day, every day — and have reasoning behind it. As a trader, I would immediately tell my portfolio manager when I made a big decision on one of his positions and why. Too many people hem and haw — what do you think? Are you sure? I have a question: Would you hire that guy? Would you give him a promotion? No. You want results, you've got to make a decision and do it with conviction.
Time it right. On Wall Street, you need to know when to buy, when to sell, and when to cut your losses. But timing applies to everything. Don't ask for a raise or a day off when the market is down 5 percent and your firm is getting killed. It seems like basic knowledge, but I've seen too many people make this mistake. There's a right and a wrong time to ask.