“Greed is good, but good is better.”
– David Weidner
In the winter of 2010, I was a struggling retail stockbroker with a blog that people were occasionally reading and a terrible uncertainty hanging over me all the time. I had already decided that my profession was toxic and I had finally admitted to myself that the only reason I was still doing it was the fear of leaving. A month earlier, I told the owners of the firm to take my branch manager title and shove it. I no longer had the stomach for policing brokers in the midst of a depression. This meant walking away from a lot of income each month in overrides and a lot of fighting with my wife about money in front of our two babies.
But I was paralyzed. I knew I had to escape the brokerage business before it crushed my soul and I knew that somehow, my nascent blog was going to be the answer – but I just couldn’t figure out how the pieces of the puzzle were meant to fit together. So I kept showing up at work and did the bare minimum just to bide my time. I was drinking a lot and staying in the city late so as to avoid eye contact around the house, I’d get home most nights after everyone else was asleep. And more importantly, I kept writing. Everyday, twice and then thrice a day. “What’s the point of all that,” the other brokers would ask me. “Just get on the phones and do some biz already, the pay period is almost over!”
“Fuck you,” I’d mutter to myself.
If you go back and read my posts from early 2010, there is an anger underlying the prose. It is a combination of moral indignation and thinly-disguised self-loathing, a running rant of everything that was wrong on The Street and with me. At the time, I don’t know how close I was to salvation, I was blogging with the determined ferocity of a prisoner digging himself out of his cell – with no idea when I’d actually hit daylight, if ever, so I just kept putting my back into it.
And then the most amazing thing happens, clear out of the blue. It’s my birthday, February 25th. I’m turning 33 that day but feeling miserable and trapped. I get to work that morning and check my blog’s traffic – the visits and pageviews are shooting through the roof (the roof was pretty low in those days, but still). The source of this influx is – are you ready for this – the Wall Street Journal!
I click the referring link, and the article is titled Ten Wall Street Blogs You Need To Bookmark Right Now. I start to lose it. This is the first instance where I’d ever made any kind of list in the mainstream media. Then I see my idol, Barry Ritholtz, listed as number one. “I’m on the same list as Barry!” Turns out I’m number nine. I email the link to my dad and my wife and my father-in-law and my mother. I am freaking out! All this work I’ve done and it turns out that it means something – people are reading it, newspaper people!
The columnist who’d put together the list, the Wall Street Journal’s David Weidner, is one of my favorite financial writers extant. I had been linking to and citing David’s stuff from the beginning, he and I seemed to share the same cynical disposition about The Street. And so I was doubly honored – first to have made the list at all and second, to have received this stamp of approval from Weidner himself.
Was I a top ten blogger in February of 2010? If we’re going by effort maybe, if we’re going by impact or traffic totals, then definitely not. But David put me in, he saw something in my work that earned me a spot. And I have to tell you, it meant everything in the world to me. Sometimes, when you’re struggling on a new project and you’re coming from a dark place, all you need is a little validation. All you need is some sign that you are getting somewhere, some reminder that there are bigger things possible in the future.
David Weidner did that for me.
And as a result of his article, I turned the blogging into overdrive. When I showed my top ten mention to the owners of my brokerage firm, they were actually unhappy about it – they felt threatened and they didn’t want the other brokers to see it. That’s the moment I knew I was done with those assholes, by the way, but that’s a story for another time.
Because of Weidner’s piece, when I finally got to meet Barry I knew he had already heard of me – we were in the same club now, after all. Because of Weidner’s piece, I got a call from the Journal and was awarded the daily writing gig for their Financial Adviser blog. And in part, because of my inclusion in his list, I finally got up the courage to take my blogging and my experience and my clientele out of the brokerage swamp and over to the advisory side, a dream I’d been nursing for almost ten years at that point.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
I’m not sure where I’d be right now if it weren’t for David’s article. I doubt I would have stayed in that rut forever, but my escape may have come under different circumstances. But I go through life believing that things happen for a reason, it’s literally the only way I can cope day-to-day. And so I’m eternally grateful to David for that bit of validation that came just when I needed it most.
In my blogging I try to take what’s been given to me, this amazing opportunity to share my thoughts and build an audience and a business, and I try to pass that chance on to as many other great bloggers as I can. I have no idea if I’m making an impact in anyone else’s life. But I know that if someone is writing helpful, smart, important and interesting things, the least I can do is help shed light on their work – for the benefit of my readers more than anything else.
And in paying it forward, I hope that what David did for my career can be echoed in the lives of others.
Anyway, what brought this post about is David Weidner’s announcement this morning. He is leaving the Wall Street beat after 15 years as one of the most badass financial reporters in history. He is headed out west according to his final post at MarketWatch, hopefully off to greater things and bigger challenges.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to wish David all the luck in the world and to thank him. Including The Reformed Broker in his top ten list was a minor decision in the course of his career but it has meant more to me than he ever could’ve imagined.
Thank you, David.
Read David’s goodbye column here: