My name is Frederik Gieschen.
I tell the stories of the players of the money game, investors and founders, who bet on themselves and set out on a journey through the market. (In particular, I admit to a somewhat concerning obsession with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.)
I believe every great player can teach us something about success and life. Sometimes their stories are inspirational, sometimes they are littered with red flags. Their ambition, hubris, creativity, and tenacity offer us a mirror. We focus too much on the outer journey, the how. How to find the best investments, the most profitable opportunities. But deep in the maze, on the quest for treasure and truth, the most important goal is to not get lost.
The inner game is about developing self awareness, cultivating temperament and habits, facing fear, coming to terms with desire, and, ultimately, personal growth.
Unfortunately, people want a silver bullet when the most important lessons are often subtle.
It is my hope my writing will help my readers make better choices, in markets and life.
I also write about my own journey and the metaphors I use to navigate life.
My own journey.
I grew up in picturesque rural Southern Germany on the banks of the Neckar river. Stepping into Manhattan’s concrete canyons for the first time changed my life forever.
After college, I moved to New York to be with one of the world’s most breathtaking women (now my ex wife, still terrific). I spent more than a decade on Wall Street, cranking in banking and strategizing for wealthy families. I watched how institutions allocate billions and finally got my ass kicked at a hedge fund.
Unfortunately, I never quite fit in. I was always trying to be someone I was not. Life had to hit me like a midnight freight train before I could let go.
It started after my divorce. I started burning out at work, trapped in a state of perpetual confusion and frustration.
I picked up a new hobby. On Saturday mornings, I took a notepad and a sandwich and made my way to the New York Public Library (specifically the old SIBL building across the Empire State Building and a block away from J.P. Morgan’s amazing private library). There I started browsing through old articles and microfilms.
I was desperately trying to find that spark, something interesting, a hint at why I was still hanging around the world of financial markets.
The dusty archives gave me a new perspective on the drama and actors of markets. I could watch their younger selves learn, evolve, and navigate storms. I was rediscovering my curiosity and enriching the world by sharing what I found. It was deeply satisfying.
I have since written about my own journey, including my brief experience at a startup hedge fund (Attempting the Impossible), wrestling with ambition (Gratitude, Desire, and a Money Paradox; On Ambition), and the notion that everyone gets what they want out of the market (Divorce, Denial, Dissonance Reduction: How to lose money and friends).
Today, I am again following my curiosity in financial markets. They represent both the highest abstraction layer of the global economy and a money game.
On the one hand, all the complexity gets reduced to ticker symbols, charts, and endless reams of data. Here we look for patterns and meaning and often find nothing but narrative. We have to navigate that jungle in our search for wealth, security, and freedom. We have to place our bets.
It is also a game, a microcosm of the human condition, filled with colorful characters, adventure, danger, and hidden treasure. It’s a challenge of wits and a test of character. It’s a game that demands for us to change and adapt or watch our fortunes crumble. It is both trivial and vital. Money can be paradoxically meaningless (‘you can’t take it with you’) and all consuming.
We’re all facing this game. We all have to find a way to place our bets. And I believe the stories of other players offer the best way to truly learn the inner and outer lessons of this journey.
George Soros can teach us about survival and about the many layers of conviction stacked behind outsize bets. David Tepper can teach us about the courage needed in moments of extreme asymmetry. Stanley Druckenmiller can show us how to assemble multiple philosophies in a unique way to fit our own temperament. Paul Tudor Jones teaches us the need for humility in markets.
All of them show us how many ways there are to win in markets — and how rare the winning combinations of ability and temperament are. Much of what we can directly observe we cannot replicate.
Meshulam Riklis shows us the dark ways in which the valuable teachings of Ben Graham could be used. Marc Rich and Sumner Redstone, masters of their respective domains, show us the downside of pursuing wealth above all else.
These are examples of the kinds of people we will encounter in markets and that we must remain wary of. They also show us how the money game can change us, that outlier success can come at an extreme cost.
Check out the Table of Contents.
Buffett: The Reading Obsession
Leverage is one hell of a drug. Kirk Kerkorian spent a lifetime perfecting its use and rose from school dropout to one of the world’s richest people. Oh, it also cost him much of his fortune in the end.
How did a people person like Michael Bloomberg build the world’s dominant financial information company? (“Small, earned steps – not lucky big hits.”)
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