Grass is greener on 'the other side' for trader-turned-author
Todd Harrison has emerged on the other side of Wall Street, now observing the wild swings he was long in the thick of as a top trader with Morgan Stanley, Galleon Group and Cramer Berkowitz, CNBC host Jim Cramer’s firm.
“Every day was like an ever-changing jigsaw puzzle,” Harrison writes in his new memoir, “The Other Side of Wall Street: In Business It Pays to Be an Animal, In Life It Pays to Be Yourself.”
Harrison, 41, founded Minyanville.com, a website with a mission to educate, entertain and inform readers about the worlds of business and finance, after years of heart-palpitating stock market crashes, selling his soul to corporate America and trench warfare with Cramer. (“The venom was thick as spit flew from his mouth, and he smashed his phone and keyboard against the desk, over and over,” he writes of Cramer.)
His candid comments about Cramer also have attracted attention.
In response, Brian Steel, a CNBC spokesman, said that “if you want the real story on Jim Cramer during that time period, read [Cramer’s] ‘Confessions of a Street Addict.‘ It is a riveting read.”
We recently caught up with Harrison.
Q: How would you describe the stress of being a Wall Street trader?
A: I had $25 million to $30 million swings in single sessions, and the anxiety was palpable. There were stretches when I believed I was actually having a heart attack, and the cardiologist told me that I would be a high-risk candidate if I continued at that pace.
Q: As the 2008 economic collapse unraveled, did you look back on your career and think, “I wish I had never been involved in any of this”?
A: Quite the contrary: I left the world of active money management after 2003 and devoted my life to effecting positive change through financial understanding. ... None of [what I do today] would have been possible without my previous path.
Q: You talk in your book about confronting your demons. What were they and how did you deal with them?
A: For a long time, I didn’t feel worthy of success, which had much to do with how I was programmed as a child. I confused self-worth with net worth, and I looked for validation at the bottom of my bank account. I risked — and almost lost — everything when I turned my life in a new direction. It was then that I realized what wealth really was.
Q: If you had to describe Jim Cramer in one word, what would it be? What would you say to him if you saw him on the street?
A: In a word: passionate. Jim has a frenzied energy that only knows one speed. If I were to bump into him on the street, I would probably say “hello,” wish him well and continue on my way.
Q: What made you leave Wall Street?
A: The catalyst was 9/11, [watching] the planes hit and people jump from atop the towers. I had an epiphany called Minyanville, and once it began to germinate, there was nothing I could do to stop it.