“There is nothing new in Wall Street. There can't be because speculation is as old as the hills.” Jesse Livermore
“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own” Bruce Lee
Be curious and kind in your search for truth and harmony in life and markets.
My name is Frederik Gieschen and I write about the players of the money game, the investors and founders who bet on themselves and go up against the market. As a friend of mine liked to say, financial markets “mass produce Greek tragedies.” And this is where I tell their stories.
I believe every great player has something to teach us. Unfortunately, their lives are reduced to soundbites. Wisdom is ground up and regurgitated in meaningless platitudes. People want to know the what, hoping to find a silver bullet (“how do I pick stocks like Buffett?”). However, the most important lessons are often subtle.
There is an inner and an outer to everything. We focus on the outward journey of finding the best investments or business opportunities. The inner journey, “the game that takes place in the mind of the player,” is about developing self awareness, cultivating temperament and habits, facing fear, coming to terms with desire, and, ultimately, personal growth.
The ambition, hubris, creativity, and tenacity displayed in the quest for wealth offer a mirror to observe our own lives. Sometimes these stories are inspirational, sometimes they’re littered with warning signs. Sometimes the lesson is to model their behavior, sometimes it is to invert.
George Soros can teach us about survival and about the many layers of conviction stacked behind outsize bets. David Tepper can teach us about the courage needed in moments of extreme asymmetry. Stanley Druckenmiller can show us how to assemble multiple philosophies in a unique way to fit our own temperament. Paul Tudor Jones teaches us the need for humility in markets.
All of them show us how many ways there are to win in markets — and how rare the winning combinations of ability and temperament are. Much of what we can directly observe we cannot replicate.
Meshulam Riklis shows us the dark ways in which the valuable teachings of Ben Graham could be used. Marc Rich and Sumner Redstone, masters of their respective domains, show us the downside of pursuing wealth above all else.
These are examples of the kinds of people we will encounter in markets and that we must remain wary of. They also show us how the money game can change us, that outlier success can come at an extreme cost.
It is my hope my writing will help my readers make better choices in markets and life.
Why study risk takers? My own journey.
I grew up in picturesque rural Southern Germany (on the banks of the Neckar river). Stepping into Manhattan’s concrete canyons for the first time changed my life forever.
After college, I moved to New York to be with one of the world’s most breathtaking women (now my ex wife, still terrific). I spent more than a decade on Wall Street, cranking in banking and strategizing for wealthy families. I watched how institutions allocate billions and finally got my ass kicked at a hedge fund.
Unfortunately, I never quite fit in. I was always trying to be someone I was not. Life had to hit me like a midnight freight train before I could let go.
It started after my divorce. I started burning out at work, trapped in a state of perpetual confusion and frustration.
I picked up a new hobby. On Saturday mornings, I took a notepad and a sandwich and made my way to the New York Public Library (specifically the old SIBL building across the Empire State Building and a block away from J.P. Morgan’s amazing private library). There I started browsing through old articles and microfilms.
I was desperately trying to find that spark, something interesting, a hint at why I was still hanging around the world of financial markets.
The dusty archives gave me a new perspective on the drama and actors of markets. I could watch their younger selves learn, evolve, and navigate storms. I was rediscovering my curiosity and enriching the world by sharing what I found. It was deeply satisfying.
I have since written about my own journey, including my brief experience at a startup hedge fund (Attempting the Impossible), wrestling with ambition (Gratitude, Desire, and a Money Paradox; On Ambition), and the notion that everyone gets what they want out of the market (Divorce, Denial, Dissonance Reduction: How to lose money and friends).
Today, I am again following my curiosity in financial markets. They represent both the highest abstraction layer of the global economy and a money game.
On the one hand, all the complexity gets reduced to ticker symbols, charts, and endless reams of data. Here we look for patterns and meaning and often find nothing but narrative. We have to navigate that jungle in our search for wealth, security, and freedom. We have to place our bets.
It is also a game, a microcosm of the human condition, filled with colorful characters, adventure, danger, and hidden treasure. It’s a challenge of wits and a test of character. It’s a game that demands for us to change and adapt or watch our fortunes crumble. It is both trivial and vital. Money can be paradoxically meaningless (‘you can’t take it with you’) and all consuming.
We’re all facing this game. We all have to find a way to place our bets. And I believe the stories of other players offer the best way to truly learn the inner and outer lessons of this journey.
Check out the Table of Contents.
A few favorites:
Buffett: The Reading Obsession
Leverage is one hell of a drug. Kirk Kerkorian spent a lifetime perfecting its use and rose from school dropout to one of the world’s richest people. Oh, it also cost him much of his fortune in the end.
How did a people person like Michael Bloomberg build the world’s dominant financial information company? (“Small, earned steps – not lucky big hits.”)
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