Craig stopped talking about his trading at that point. He was obviously still upset about his huge mistake in his first month. The regular charismatic Craig had turned a bit angry, even, and I could imagine how disappointed in himself he must have been. He expressed his determination that I should never make a similar mistake, and I assured him that I absolutely would not. I decided that before I traded again, I would request a withdrawal of $500 from my forex trading account, so that I could pay off the iPod purchase for my wife and make sure that I realized some of the profit. It felt like the right decision from the moment I made it. I told Craig that I planned to do this.
"You will be so happy you did. You are doing what it took me a long time to learn to do. You are taking your gains. Good for you." This got him smiling again. He then changed the subject: "John Murphy told me that you two are conspiring to get him an appointment with Anderson about some deal."
I nodded. "That's part of it. My end of the promise."
"Well, if you can work that out, it will be quite a coup."
By telling me that I was going to have to work it out, Craig let me know that if I wanted to conspire to get John and Anderson together, I was on my own. That didn't bother me.
"That would be a sizable legal deal," Craig said before he bit down on his sandwich. "Might even keep John at the firm."
I didn't know what to say—was John in danger of losing his job? That was news to me, certainly, and I wasn't going to spend any time delving into that problem. Maybe that's why John was so excited about getting a meeting with Anderson to do the work on the forex fund.
"Well, keeping him at the firm seems like a good idea to me," I said.
"Really? Is that what John told you?"
"No. I just thought it sounded like the right thing to say."
"So John didn't tell you," he said.
"Tell me what?" Now I was more interested.
"He wants to leave the firm and come down and work with me."
This made sense. If John got the deal to do the forex fund work, he could meet Anderson—and then he would be right in line for a job on the trading floor. I said this to Craig.
I was confused. "Why not? He would know Anderson; he could get to know him better."
"But then Anderson would lose an attorney he really likes, assuming he gets to know John. And who knows what kind of trader John would be.
He's my good friend, but honestly he's not passionate enough, too straight around the collar, a bit too organized for trading as a career."
"Too organized, too methodical. Not enough feeling. Anderson won't like that. John has to plan out every move that he makes. He used to make four-color calendars for our study groups in law school. He is a planning maniac. It could help him be a good trader in some ways, but Anderson won't go for it. In five minutes, Anderson knows if he wants to hire you or not. All the things that he won't like about John, Anderson will understand immediately. He reads people instantly. While you're still trying to think of something smart to say, you've already been hired or not. That's why I haven't introduced John to Anderson yet."
This was bringing up more and more questions. "But wouldn't John already know this about himself? Haven't you spoken to him about it?"
"Oh, yes," he replied, finishing off his sandwich, at which point he started looking around for something, as if this conversation had brought to mind a forgotten task. He pushed back from the table a little bit, and bent down to grab what looked like a drink coaster from his briefcase. He shoved it in his shirt pocket and forgot about it.
He continued: "I talked with John about it. I told him that he was going to have to let it go a bit, become a bit more of a risk taker. He promises he can do it, but I can tell he just wants to make the switch because of the money. Like I said before, Anderson will be able to figure that out before John barely opens his mouth."
I shook my head. How could a lawyer's salary not be enough? "He's got to be making plenty of money at the firm."
"How much do you think he makes?" Craig asked.
"I don't know. Over one hundred."
He nodded. "John made more than one hundred his first year with the firm. He's making at least two hundred right now, and he is doing well enough that he is clearly on the path to partner in a few more years—and then he'll make at least five hundred grand a year. That's good New York money."
I had never thought about it. I had spent a lot of time thinking about how much I made, but never very much about how much the attorneys in the firm were pulling down. Of course I knew they were wealthy. More than $100,000 per year meant wealthy to me. But I had no idea that the attorneys back at the office considered themselves so poor.
"That seems plenty to live on to me."
"What? One hundred? two hundred? five hundred?"
"Yeah. Easily enough."
Craig looked me squarely in the eye, and said, "A good trader could make that in a month on the trading floor."
A month! I nearly spit up the sandwich that I had only taken a bite from. A month of working on the trading floor for $100,000? Was that even possible? Was I dreaming? I reached under the table and held my right leg down, which was starting to bounce up and down from my nervousness. I thought that I might pee in my pants right there. I wanted to laugh out loud, scream, and throw up all at the same time. I had thought that $300 per day was good money. There was an entirely different league of traders out there.
"I never knew," I admitted.
Craig nodded. "From the moment I met you, I had the feeling you were going to say that. You had no idea at all how much traders make. This is not about the money for you, is it?"
I stopped at that moment. I could tell the truth, and he would think less of me, or I could lie and he would continue to talk with me, and perhaps even help me. Lying seemed like such a good idea at the moment. I said: "No, it is about the money. Honestly."
He laughed. "How could it be about the money if you never knew how much we were talking about?"
I shrugged and decided to clarify this slight misunderstanding. "It's about the money in the sense that I need to do better at supporting my family. I am hungry for more. I didn't know what 'more' was until I walked onto the trading floor. I suppose you could tell me that those guys were making the same salary I am, now that I think about it. Yeah, you could tell me that those guys are all making forty-five grand a year, and I would be like, okay, where do I sign up? Because for the first time in my career, when I walked onto that floor, it wasn't about exact dollar amounts. It was about potential. I could smell money there. It was being created by doing things that I don't understand, with people I don't know, with computers I haven't learned to use. But I could sense that there was a huge amount of potential for me to build something for myself as a trader. Not on the trading floor, necessarily. But trading for myself at the least."
Craig was just staring at me and listening. I could tell that he liked what he was hearing. So I continued, "And I think that I imagined that these men and women on the floor were way too unsophisticated to be making as much as lawyers. They were . . . wild .. . down there on the trading floor."
"But it didn't matter to me—I knew they were making more money than I was, or at least I was pretty sure about it. And I knew that they were on a roller coaster ride at their job. Some of them looked like they were on top of the world. Others looked like they needed barf bags. But they were feeling something. Anything! The last time I felt anything at work was when I handed a set of files to Herb Johnson's secretary and accidentally touched her where her bathing suit covers."
We laughed. By now I knew that I was overstaying my welcome. I had asked more questions than I can remember and write about here, and he had happily answered all of them. He spent his time so willingly with me that day that it seemed like he was paying me back for something that I had done for him, which obviously was impossible.
"I know you gotta go," I told him.
"Yes. I do. We've got some economic news coming out at two. Fomsee interest rate decision."
He spelled it out: "F-O-M-C. Federal Open Market Committee. Alan Greenspan and Company of the Federal Reserve make a decision on whether to raise interest rates. This decision—even no decision—can move the dollar 100 points in sixty seconds."
That might not have sounded thrilling to any of the people sitting around me. But now I considered trading my future, and I was determined that as soon as I got back to the office I was going to log on at my desk, and spend as much of my employer's time as possible trying to find out what the FOMC said about interest rates and how it moved the U.S. Dollar.
He nodded and said that a few years before, someone had done the same for him, and he owed it back. So that's why I had the feeling that he owed me something. Well, it wasn't me, but it was someone else. Maybe it had been Anderson?
We shook hands, and he started to leave. But before he left, he reached into his coat pocket and reached for the drink coaster, but then hesitated. He was thinking deeply.
"I have a card for you." He was really thinking hard about this one. "But I don't know if I can give it to you."
Was it a business card from the human resources people at Ernest Wellington? Another contact? Craig's mentor or friend? He was hooking me up! Of course, I wanted to play it cool and not seem so anxious that I scared him off.
"It's okay if you can't for right now," I lied to him. I was probably willing to kill him right then and there for the card, but I knew that a homicide was going to look bad on my employment record, and probably affect my ability to get back to the office in time to trade again.
"Well," he replied, "Technically, I shouldn't give it to you right now. So I won't. Just know that when the time is right, I have a friend that I want you to meet. He can help you. He helped me. I still have my job today because of him."
"Anderson?" I guessed.
He nearly choked on a laugh. "Oh, gosh, no. Not Anderson. Not anyone at the firm. Someone else."
I felt stupid for suggesting that Anderson was his secret mentor but realized that it didn't matter. Now I had a plan and at least a view of the path ahead. I couldn't have the job interview today, or maybe tomorrow. But maybe in a week or two. And the name on the card? I would know it soon enough. Maybe I didn't need it anyway. I was doing all right with my trading already.
"I understand that now isn't the right time. Hopefully, we can talk again," I suggested.
He agreed that we could meet again soon. Then he scribbled words on a napkin, handed me the napkin, and it said:
Rule Number One: Don't Become Cocky
While I stood staring at the words, Craig raced off to trade. Before he left, he put cash on the table for the bill and said, "I'd stay longer, but I'm one of the only guys on the floor up there that knows how to read that report in sixty seconds. Last month I banked over 200 points on this report."
"It's not about the money. But it meant over a million in profits in the first two hours after the minutes were released."
Craig then rushed away. And I also wanted to get back to the office. The FOMC interest rate decision was going to be out in 40 minutes, and I needed to be ready.
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