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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reminiscences of Elizabeth

When I was at Steinhardt, I worked with Elizabeth. She was amazing. She was a killer on the desk. She'd rip a sales trader's lungs out for an eighth. She said cocksucker more than any person I have ever known. She HATED to be called Liz (still does, I think).

Elizabeth also had a gigantic heart. She was the chair of the St Jude's Childrens Hospital charity for Wall Street (I may be messing up her title but you get the idea). She also raised a lot of money for Ronald McDonald House. Seriously. Huge heart.

I was young when I started working there. Eighteen. I had long hair all the way down my back and used to go to work in shredded jeans and a concert t-shirt, put my feet up on the desk and chain smoke all day. It was my uniform and I was damn proud of it. I had spent 3 years not cutting that hair and one night I decided it was getting too poofy so I cut it myself. Of course, I didn't know anything about cutting hair. I cut hair off the sides and then kept trying to even out what was left. It did not turn out well. If I could have figured out how to do a mullet, it would have improved it. Very bad.

I came in the next day wearing a baseball hat. Eventually, Elizabeth asked me why I was wearing the hat. Embarassed, I confessed what I'd done. She asked to see. When I took off the hat, she laughed for a second but then saw the pain in my eyes, said "oh, you poor baby" and hugged me. She made an appointment with her hair dresser and literally went with me and held my hand while he fixed it. It was such an act of maternal kindness and sympathy. Somehow that horror show haircut I gave myself is one of my fondest memories because of her.

A few months later she left to run the desk at Soros. Before she went, she gave me her copy of Reminiscences of a Stock Operator and I eagerly read it. That book has meant a lot to me over the years -- I don't know if it's because Elizabeth gave it to me. I have also given copies to people that have worked for me. I go back to it constantly for inspiration and reinforcement. It's kind of my stock market bible.

There's one passage that seems to resonate for me often.

"After spending many years in Wall Street and after making and losing millions of dollars I want to tell you this: It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight! It is no trick at all to be right on the market. You always find lots of early bulls in bull markets and early bears in bear markets. I've known many men who were right at exactly the right time, and began buying or selling stocks when prices were at the very level, which should show the greatest profit. And their experience invariably matched mine -- that is, they made no real money out of it. Men who can both be right and sit tight are uncommon. I found it one of the hardest things to learn. But it is only after a stock operator has firmly grasped this that he can make big money. It is literally true that millions come easier to a trader after he knows how to trade than hundreds did in the days of his ignorance. The reason is that a man may see straight and clearly and yet become impatient or doubtful when the market takes its time about doing as he figured it must do. That is why so many men in Wall Street, who are not at all in the sucker class, not even in the third grade, nevertheless lose money. The market does not beat them. They beat themselves, because though they have brains they cannot sit tight."

I keep thinking about suggesting taking profits in names like SYNA, DRIV, RACK, MU, WDC, STX... but they have further room and when I start to do things just to do something or as a response to boredom they're rarely correct. I shouldn't cut my hair if I don't know where to cut.

I need to be patient and wait for my prices.


Jim said...

Loved this post Roy. The bible is always right.

Roy Howard said...

Thanks, Jim.

Larry said...

Well written............By the way, who is Marc Howard????....OK, I know!!! And I knew you when you were making noise in the apartment above Harry Belafonte!!

Roy Howard said...

I stopped once his son threatened to kick my ass if I didn't.

Larry said...

Dad, who is "blogically" impaired, tried to put a comment is something like this......She is still charitable, she still hates to be called Liz and the California air seemed to have dampened her use of the word "cocksucker".....


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