My friend Jason turned to me in computer class and said that his mom had been buying him stock in Pfizer for years. He started buying when it was something like $6 and now it was something like $15 so he was going to get a new car next summer. We were sophomores in high school.
What?! What’s all this stock market hullabaloo? Are you telling me you put your money in there and it magically multiplies without you doing any work and then you take the money out and buy crap with it? Where do I sign up?
I bought a book about the stock market and started devouring online articles. I learned about stops and shorts and puts and margins. It was late 1999. Do you see what’s about to happen here?
That’s me right in the middle of 1999- almost at the peak. Mr. Smartypants.
I worked my butt off every summer to make money. I dumped $500 into one stock. It went up, and up, and up just like every stock in the world. I obsessed over it. I checked it between every class. I dreamed about it. I sold a few months later and cashed out with over $1,000.
That was it. I had found my calling. I was going to be a professional trader and make millions of dollars without really doing a damn thing. I doubled down on another couple of stocks. They started dropping. This appeared to be an opportunity to buy more at a discount. I dumped more money in and rubbed my greedy little hands together.
I still remember the day when the Enron scandal broke. And I remember when I finally sold what stock I had left and took my few hundred dollars because I needed to buy a car. I had lost about $5,000. I thought I was going to vomit.
It wasn’t clear at the time, but this was one of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned. I was not one of “The Smartest Guys in the Room”. I was an idiot. But that whole experience was like a mini MBA program in my life. A lesson in patience, ignorance and mild depression.
Now that I have some perspective, I see that was such a cheap lesson. Thankfully it wasn’t years later when I decided to dip my toe in the market and spin the roulette wheel. How much might I have lost then?
NEXT TIME I WILL ASK FOR MONEY
My good friend said he happened to know the guy who started Cici’s Pizza, Joe Croce. Interesting. I wondered how many more degrees of separation until I could meet Kevin Bacon. That’s another story.
Back to Joe. I invited him to lunch. His first comment when we sat down was, “I need to know if you are asking for investment or just for advice.” I guess a lot of people ask him to lunch to ask for money. That would tend to happen after you just sold your company for $70 million. “Ah, yes, I’ll have the taco salad. And by the way Joe, can I borrow a million bucks?”
I was just asking for advice, by the way. He told me about starting the first restaurant, then the second, then the third. He said there are three parts to every business… 1) starting it 2) growing it 3) selling it. He said you never worry about the third one. Just keep your head down and grow the business and it will take care of itself.
Those words are not profound. What is profound is observing somebody with the passion and focus to go from one location to over 400 without being distracted by some other opportunity.