Paul Tudor Jones Swings Sword And Use The "F-Word"

Actually, this is pretty deep thoughts from legendary hedge fund manager, Paul Tudor Jones, founder of the 18 billion dollar managing Tudor Investment Corporation. It’s about failure; the kind you have to take the blame for yourself, and those who is caused by forces beyond your control. And why a “perfect failure” can be the best thing that ever happen to you.

“Quite often that dragon of failure is really chasing you off the wrong road and on to the right one.”

Paul Tudor Jones

July 1oth, 2009. The Buckley School. Paul Tudor Jones is standing in front of the graduates, waving a big sword over his head:  “I am going to stop waving over my head now, because A) I think you are permanently scarred, and B) the headmaster looks like he is about to tackle me and C) some of you, I can tell, are way too excited about this sword, and you’re scaring me a little.”

Know as the legendary swing trader who made his fortune by timing the great stock market crash of 1987, as shown in the just as legendary film TRADER: “The Documentary” (1987), the graduates of Buckley was perhaps expecting a lecture in how to succeed as a money manager on Wall Street.

Instead they got a lesson about failure.

And the sword had nothing to do with his famous strategy (swing trading), based on the philosophy that the best money is made when the market turns.

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To get the point with the sword-thing, we have to start at the very beginning of Mr. Tudor Jones’ speech:

“As I sat there considering this speech further, I suddenly had a flashback of the one speaker who I actually did remember from youthful days. He was a Shakespearean actor who came to our school to extol the virtues of Shakespeare. He started out by telling us that Shakespeare was not about poetry or romance or love, but instead, was all about battle, and fighting and death and war. Then he pulled out a huge sword which he began waving over the top of his head as he described various bloody conflicts that were all part and parcel of Shakespeare’s plays. Now being a 15-year old testosterone laden student at an all boys school, I thought this was pretty cool. I remember thinking, “Yea, this guy gets it. Forget about the deep meaning and messages in the words, let’s talk about who’s getting the blade.”

The “F-Word”

“Today, I want to talk to you about the dirtiest word that any of you 9th graders know. It’s a word that is so terrible that your parents won’t talk about it; your teachers won’t talk about it; and you certainly don’t ever want to dwell on it. But this is a preparatory school, and you need to be prepared to deal with this phenomenon because you will experience it. That is a guarantee. Every single one of you will experience it not once but multiple times, and every adult in this room has had to deal with this in its many forms and manifestations. It’s the “F” word.”

“FAILURE. Failure that is so mortifying and so devastating that it makes you try to become invisible. It makes you want to hide your face, your soul, your being from everyone else because of the shame. Trust me, boys—if you haven’t already tasted that, you will. I am sure most of you here already have. AND IT IS HARD. I know this firsthand, but I also know that failure was a key element to my life’s journey.”

The Shame

“It was a Friday morning in June, and I had been out literally all night with a bunch of my friends. My job was to man the phone all day during trading hours and call cotton prices quotes from New York into Mr. Tullis’ office. Around noon, things got quiet on the New York floor, and I got overly drowsy. The next thing I remember was a ruler prying my chin off my chest, and Mr. Tullis calling to me, “Paul. Paul.” My eyes fluttered opened and as I came to my senses, he said to me, “Son, you are fired.” I’d never been so shocked or hurt in my life. I literally thought I was going to die for I had just been sacked by an iconic figure in my business.”

“My shame turned into anger. I was not angry at Mr. Tullis for he was right. I was angry at myself. But I knew I was not a failure, and I swore that I was going to prove to myself that I could be a success. I called a friend and secured a job on the floor of the New York Cotton Exchange and moved to the City. Today, I will put my work ethic up against anybody’s on Wall Street. Failure will give you a tattoo that will stay with you your whole life, and sometimes it’s a really good thing. One other side note, to this day, I’ve never told my parents that I got fired. I told them I just wanted to try something different. Shame can be a lifetime companion for which you better prepare yourself.”

A Perfect Failure

“Some things happen to you that at the time will make you feel like the world is coming to an end, but in actuality, there is a very good reason for it. You just can’t see it and don’t know it. When one door closes, another will open, but standing in that hallway can be hell. You just have to persevere. Quite often that dragon of failure is really chasing you off the wrong road and on to the right one.”

“So here is the point: you are going to meet the dragon of failure in your life. You may not get into the school you want or you may get kicked out of the school you are in. You may get your heart broken by the girl of your dreams or God forbid, get into an accident beyond your control. But the point is that everything happens for a reason. At the time it may not be clear. And certainly the pain and the shame are going to be overwhelming and devastating. But just as sure as the sun comes up, there will come a time on the next day or the next week or the next year, when you will grab that sword and point it at that dragon and tell him, “Be gone, dragon. Tarry with me and I will cut your head off. For I must find the destination God and life hold in store for me!”

Here’s a copy off the full speech.

Personally I’d like to add that if our financial system should collapse, as some predicts, let’s hope it turns out to be a failure of the perfect kind. 

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