Seeing the Future

Seeing the Future

Have you seen Margin Call ? Its a great movie about the GFC. There is a scene where Jeremy Irons, playing the CEO is sitting in the board room talking to his team about how to win & survive on Wall Street.

There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.

After eighteen years on Wall Street, I agree. Except I don’t know if I’m smart and I don’t want to cheat, so I just try to be first (that’s what Jeremy Irons tells them to do too…)

Or to quote one of the greatest Ice Hockey players ever, Wayne Gretzky, on what made him great:

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.

What I’m saying is that to succeed on Wall Street you want to know the big ideas, the big trends, the big opportunities and then get ahead of them and ride them.

Most trends follow a Hype Cycle.

I didn’t see this until I was about 32, but so much in finance can be explained by it.

For example, here’s a chart of the NASDAQ into 2000 and after.

This especially true in technology, here’s how Gartner, the firm who invented it sees it.

Here’s how I have used this in my career.
1. Discover CDOs in 1999
2. Leave Lehman Brothers in 2006
3. Get into short CDS in 2007
4. Discover Family Offices in 2009
5. Move to the buy side in 2014

What does this mean for you ?

It’s easier to find and get involved with the big ideas and trends, and ride them, rather than slave it out in something that isn’t moving. 

I want to show you two ways to find and capture big opportunities:


Gather Intelligence:

Before you ride the trends you have to find them. Books aren’t as useful, because they are too slow. People are the key.

You have to spend an hour a day meeting new people and learning from them.

Find people doing interesting things, as far away from your area of expertise as possible. Find people that you think are going places and hang out with them. That’s what Steve Jobs did.


Prepare for the Wave:

While you are gathering intelligence you should also build out your Talent Stack.

What skills and talents do you need to be more successful?

Look at yourself objectively and decide what’s holding you back, then fill in the gaps. Usually it’s going to be a mix of presenting, sales, influencing or networking skills.