Why The Fuck Are You Here?
It’s 9:26am on a Monday morning in 2013. Our morning meeting had just ended and let’s just say it was wildly unproductive. No one had any meaningful set up to discuss:
“Um AAPL looks good through $80…?” Wrench states sounding as confident as a one-armed juggler.
“I'm looking to take BAC through $10 for $.25,” Jack exclaims as he swings his baseball bat into his right palm
I have no value to add so I state “I like that Apple too through $80” (classic move on the trading floor when you had nothing better to say).
“I like this AMZN through $300” Shake stated, pretty much the only one prepared.
There are about a dozen more callouts as we go around the desk. However overall, long ‘yawns’, short ‘ideas’ as the desk was not prepared for TGIM. Our manager of the desk who looked and acted like Hugo Drax from the classic James Bond films is for a lack of better words, fucking pissed, blood fucking boiling pissed.
He can tell that none of us (except maybe Shake) did any homework over the weekend. To add insult to injury, our desk was performing poorly as we were not adapting to the ‘buy high, sell higher’ market (5 years later, same market). We were just getting back to the prior ‘dot com’ and ‘financial crisis’ highs -- and were looking to ‘short’ every top out there -- and boy were there plenty. We would quickly get pushed out as steppers would push through filling their orders through the resistance level and stopping us out as stocks ripped higher daily.
‘Steppers’ aren’t nearly as prevalent as they used to be. These trades were more in a day traders skill set from reading the order book. A stepper would be huge size on the bid, say 100,000 at $59.10 when say the bid ask spread was $59.30-$59.35, so you would market in, throw offers up $.20 - $.50 higher, and the desk would yell “STEP” as he stepped up to $59.20 and more people would market in.
Then he would step again, and more people would market in. This was the shortest mini bubble one could see intraday. People would chase and the last kid would get it at the high of the move, then the stepper would pull his size or get printed and the stock would flush a dollar. That trade is no longer around anymore. If you were fast on the keys it was a lay up trade. If you’re asking what keys? It wasn't for you.
Anyways, confidence was at an all time low to put it simply. It’s almost funny in hindsight because we were about to go on the biggest breakout broadly since 2000.
I digress, our boss starts laying into us:
“Wrench how the fuck did you hold that short so much against you last week?”
“Jack really? You want to trade BAC for a 10 cent scalp?”
“Bennett seriously -- what the fuck are you doing here? You’ll never make it as a trader.”
He continues to lash into the rest of the traders, and skips over Shake, as he continues his rant, Mr X strolls in sipping a Jamba Juice. Hugo doesn't bat an eye, he might be scary however he is not stupid. You don't yell at the guy who puts $30,000 in your pocket daily as easily as Curry draining 3s at practice. After he rips into me, I zone out on the rest of his rant with intense focus. Focus similar to that rush you might have had walking into a Monday morning gap down in a position you were just a little too heavy in with no plan. I start to focus on what I need to do to prove his statement wrong just like when my Dean told me I never would get a job on Wall St with my GPA, or when the car salesmen said I would never be able to buy an Aston at my age. I will never make it is on repeat in my mind over and over, kk cool. This is now my main focus to prove myself right. Key word, prove myself right, not prove him wrong. He lite the fire it was now time for me to stoke it.
“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing for you”
Now you might be thinking Hugo is an asshole, which he might, however traders are some of the most competitive people you will ever meet. I make 20% in a name, Shake needs to make 22%, and than Hugo top ticks and makes 25%. (Recently I made 65% in a swing, our member Tommy held out to make 66%, than Shake came in a week later to knock down 70% - competitive sport).
If you are not competitive that's fine just don't bitch and moan when Hugo flushes the figure, runs your stop, only to make you chase a dollar higher where he has his offers out. What Hugo was doing, was extremely painful in the short term. However, long term, extremely wise for a few reasons.
- The ones who couldn't handle the embarrassment would quit, which the weak traders did. (Less of Hugo’s time wasted on teaching quitters)
- Made the ones who could push through even more committed and harder working
- The ones on the fence would either shit or get off the pot (I was in this camp)
On a trading desk, it’s Social Darwinism at its max. If you’re the best, you get treated like a king. If you suck balls, don't expect to be invited out for lobster rolls with the BSD’s. Given today's ultra PC society, unfortunately what Hugo was doing will probably not fly in a few years. However being real and telling the brutal truth tends to be the cup of humble tea more people could use every now and again.
I couldn't be more thankful for that brutally honest feedback and I try to get that same feedback from my peers to improve the chinks in my armor on a regular basis. So when people tell you can’t do something, just shut up and get to work to prove yourself right. Saying I will prove you wrong is cheap (and makes you look weak). Buckle down and master your craft, eventually that person who told you that you can't, will ask you how can he and that's the circle of life for the hard workers.