I considered myself fortunate because I am always surrounded by awesome people. Many of those with awesomeness are my readers and today, I’ll introduce you to one of them, Lawrence Illoc whose particular article captures my eye and led me to ask him to allow me to present his story to you.
If you love this special piece, you’ll be happy to know that there is a follow-up piece too!
Being bipolar was instrumental in my success in trading and asset management for nearly 30 years.
I will demonstrate in this post why I am making such a statement.
I am going to share with you the first part of my career as a trader for 19 years and will tackle the remaining part of my journey in asset management in another article.
Somehow I managed to work for nearly 30 years in trading and asset management, carrying a huge load of responsibilities until the day the load became too large and caused me to totally collapsed, ending my career overnight.
I have to be very honest and say that my bipolarity helped me in the first 19 years.This first chapter took place in trading in the broader sense of the term and I won’t bore you with details and different types of trading/brokering that exist.
I was groomed in Wall Street, on the floor of New York Stock Exchange, at the age of 20. I honestly felt comfortable and at ease in this environment, and for that, you needed to have a screw loose. Afterwards, I left the floor and started to trade behind multiple screens as you probably have seen in movies. To give you an idea as far as the timeline, it was closer to the first movie “Wall Street” than the second one. I survived the crash in 1987, which was an absolute blast for a trader (not for an investor). I was an arbitrageur for few years, which means, buying or selling a stock in one country and selling it or buying back in another country, this had to be done almost instantly, it required quick thinking and speed in the execution.
In financial markets, you can do something that you cannot do anywhere else, which is selling something that you don’t own. Arbitrage done by human disappeared slowly as the computers were starting to do the job more efficiently and less costly.
Then I ended up being a broker in New York (for 10 years), an independent broker if I want to use the proper definition. Brokering is putting a deal together. A quick explanation; client A wants to buy or sell a specific bond or stock, he asks me to make him an offer or a bid depending whether he wanted to buy or sell. Client A asked other brokers as well at the same time, therefore, you had no time to sleep over it. I had to call my contacts to see if they were interested in the transaction or not, I had to call as many counterparts as possible in order to have the best possible bid or offer. Then I relayed the price to client A, who said the magical word “Done” or not. If he said done, I had to quickly go back to my counterpart and cover my open position. Sometimes the bid or offer was gone and I ended up losing money on the deal, these were the rules of the game (losing happened very rarely). Believe me, I cannot explain it more simply than this. They are many more types of transactions a broker can do and we did, but I chose to explain this plain vanilla one, just to give you a taste of it, these type of transactions are called; Over The Counter deals (OTC). I usually had several deals going on at the same time, actually, it was rare to have only one deal to work on at a time.
Tons of fun, looking back. Being bipolar was an asset to me. The faster, the bigger the better. It slowed down my brain somehow. I was at peace, the demons were quiet. I saw things in slow motion. I was operating in one extreme environment. My brain was fed with the right food.
Once my wife offered to come and helped me as my partner was gone. I was quite happy that she did but she ended up hiding in the boardroom after an hour or so as she could take the chaos knowing what was at stake.
These were the best years of my entire career. I was free to be myself and my messed up brain was definitely an asset. I made lots of money which I squandered in luxury cars, motorcycles, art and so on. These manic phases were impossible to decipher as most traders had similar behaviors. By the way, I was already seeing a psychiatrist as I had major problems with anxiety, this is why I said that mania or hypomania brings me anxiety and I feel very agitated. This is when I was diagnosed with “severe anxiety disorder” (1992). Even though we found out later that I was already suffering from bipolarity, it was impossible to figure it out then due to the line of work I was involved with.
I don’t know how the other traders were functioning and I wouldn’t dare to say that they are all sick even though I can safely say that one of my close friend, former trader as well, has something off for sure.
Trading was an escape for me. I wasn’t connected to the real world. I was free.
My life was balanced. I WAS HAPPY.