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A blog by Brad Hart

Friday
Oct112013

Can Trading Be A Road Map For Living?

Trading can be a tough job. Most people will never know what it’s like to go into work and lose money.

Being in control as a trader seems paramount. The job forces you to make decisions in spite of fear and against the current of greed. You have to learn to live in the moment, hone and trust your gut, and learn from every mistake. It’s a solitary job: its rare that you have anyone to share the hits and misses with.

Whether you’re up 5 figures, losing more than some people make in a year, or having the best year of your life, you have to keep yourself in check, and keep stepping up to the plate.

Day after day, the market is there. It doesn’t care if you’re stressed, anxious, overworked, or have 10 deadlines vying for your attention. It goes on. Every day billions of dollars changes hands. Our job is to find opportunities – mismatches in perception – that can be capitalized on.

When I set out to start my fund last year, I went through the range of emotions. The gauntlet beat me down in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. Anxiety, worry, sleepless nights, irrational fears: that people would abandon me if I failed, that I might destroy relationships I had worked so hard to cultivate, that I would be shunned or called a fraud or a failure. This line of thinking affected my trading adversely, and eventually culminated in a full blown panic attack.

The following is an excerpt from an email I sent to my friend Charlie Hoehn after reading his forthcoming book detailing his own battle with anxiety. Having worked closely with a number of high functioning bestselling authors, he knew a thing or two about hitting the wall.

“I had a panic attack once right around the time I was putting together my hedge fund. I started having heart attack like symptoms. I called my mom distraught and couldn’t figure it out. I described hopelessly, breathlessly all my symptoms and she talked me down.

I thought I was going to die, right then and there. My mind flashed to my poor father, who died alone on Mother’s Day morning in 2010. He was the one I used to call to relate my failures and successes, when I felt anxious or alone. I thought for a brief moment that I was about to join him on the other side.

I had been putting this fund and other projects together, grinding on for months, trying to analyze every possible angle and cover every base. I had worked out every horrifying detail of what could happen (everyone will turn on me if I fail, what if I get sued, what if I lose everything, no one will love me, what if I do really well and I’m still not happy– talk about a smorgasbord of negativity and bad energy) and worked myself so hard that I was ready to break. My body was finally overloaded and there was no going any further. My mind had turned into a hellish carnival ride of terrible things that were lurking around every corner and just waiting to jump out and tear everything down around me.

Then I had a chat with my friend Joe about fear and the role it has historically played in evolution. He reminded me that “there was no tiger” and no babies or puppies would be harmed because I lost money. It was just my body getting jacked up due to a fight, flight or freeze programming and its insidious effects compounded over time. It helped a little, but it wasn’t the whole picture.

Later I learned that everything (including right and wrong) is a perception we place on information, which is always imperfect. Things simply are what they are, and we assign value to them. The universe does not conspire with or against you. It just is.

This helped me stay in the moment and just make a bet (trade, choice, decision: whatever word resonates with you) with imperfect information, accepting the outcome in either case. By managing risk of downside, but not limiting our upside, good bets outweigh bad over time.

I later related this piece to a friend Brent and he broke into tears. Right then and there.

It floored me.

Something had clicked that he had been stuck on for decades- the need for every decision to be perfect, and the inevitable consequences of living outside the moment (past regret, future anxiety). An insatiable “need” for perfection had manifested like a cancer inside him. His marriage, job, and relationships had all suffered.

This grown man had been stuck in this limiting paradigm as a result of the way he was raised as long as I had been alive, and this idea had just set him free in five minutes. He went on to get a job making 7 figures in the following months at a major media outlet.

Needless to say, this was a revelation which further fueled my desire and passion on this subject.”

Trading methodology, as it turns out, held the answer all along.

A successful trader seeks not to be right. Wrong is also not in his vocabulary. A successful trader seeks instead to make bets, limiting downside but not upside. Any one bet does not a good or bad trader make. Over time, cutting your losses and letting your winners run, your good bets outweigh your bad. No one decision, or even a series, can cripple you if you maintain control of yourself and how much you put on the line in each instance.

As you learn more and your comfort zone increases, you are more comfortable and able to take more risk, knowing that your success over time is a quantifiable probability. Events might be mutually exclusive, but your responses to them are not. In other words, your odds of success increase the more bets you make and the more you learn. You have no control over the perceptions of others, but fostering control over yourself can help you to grab a bucket and fill it from the river, without getting swept downstream.

You must look at the markets as what they are: a river of perceptions looking to match with someone else’s to create reality. In this case the bid and ask are the banks of the river, and transactional data –people or machines voting with their dollars– create the flow of orders running through it. The only way to understand and navigate these waters is to internalize this.

The whole world can be viewed as perceptions seeking agreement, and creating reality.

I’ve used this probabilistic mindset in my own life, outside trading. Using this methodology, and extrapolating out over a long enough timeline, you will either:

a) Die.

Or

b) Succeed.

Even death is not the end if you live on in the collective consciousness. Your words can live on without you. If you look at yourself as a part of a larger organism, you are actually helping the human race evolve by refining these paradigms and making choices.

It’s evolution in vivo. Your paradigms shift reality around you.

Conscious, creative, directed energy– moving toward a world you want to see — with a framework that allows someone to achieve anything, provided they can keep making bets. No one bet should have the potential to be your last.

It is my purpose to teach others this framework and share it abundantly, form tribes and solve big hairy problems, while focusing on better measuring sticks than just money, which is just an imperfect store of value being debased all the time. By instead focusing on assets, we can create abundance.

Learning that everything could be wrong (or rather everything is a mere shade of the truth) and assigning probability instead of arbitrarily seeking “perfection” helped tremendously in other areas of life as well.

Everything is a perception, or at least started out that way. It’s arguably only real when one or more person agrees it is. Also focusing on how I could make others successful (tribal mentality) instead of my own success was a huge switch for me.

How can you really fail when you live to serve others? Your own needs inevitably get fulfilled when you seek to add as much value as possible to others first. It starts with changing your paradigms, it ends with changing reality. True wealth is giving and receiving in abundance. You can limit your risk, but don’t limit your upside. Ask for help when you need it, and jump on opportunities when they present themselves, both to give and receive.

Charlie’s post about how he cured his anxiety went on to be read by tens of thousands of people. I’m very proud of his latest accomplishment and thankful that I have some new strategies to manage my own stress levels. I hope you enjoy his book when it becomes available, and feel free to reach out with comments.

Why am I so interested in this topic?

You see, I have this issue with belonging. Ever since I was a young kid, I was always getting bounced around from different friends and social circles. I felt like I never fit in, just an awkward sheltered kid. My mom was off working, my dad was crippled, and I had no siblings or strong role models.

I worked way too hard to feel accepted. It terrified me that new friends wouldn’t like me, and sometimes kids can be cruel. Like sharks smelling blood in the water, they picked on the younger and weaker kids like me. It taught me that I couldn’t trust anyone. It taught me that the world was looking to take advantage. These are still scarce and ultimately untrue paradigms I deal with on a daily basis decades later. I’ve sorted most of it out, but it’s my ‘dent’ ala David Deida. I will always, by default, act like a hurt child when I encounter feelings of not belonging. This tendency will increase when I’m burned out. I have to keep it in check by acknowledging it, or it will crush me.

This rears its ugly head constantly. I still throw myself into situations with the same level of ambition and optimism, and as soon as I feel like my efforts aren’t working as expected, or I don’t belong for some reason, I have this overwhelming urge to run away or do something else.

I acknowledge it and attempt to assuage it, both through logical means to conquer rational fear and some tactics to assuage irrational fear, which I’ve described above. I’m still on this journey, and I’ve by no means conquered all my demons yet, known or unknown.

If you say the world is scarce and competitive… or loving and abundant… guess what?

It is.

People who say they can and people who say they cannot are both correct.

Use the laws of the universe to your advantage, in all its infinite probability.

If you planted an orchard, would you plant one sapling and call it a day? Hell no. You would plant 100 knowing full well that some would die and some would thrive, but you have no way to know beforehand.

You also have to be careful not to drown in opportunity. You can only do so much, so accepting yourself unconditionally and respecting your actual limitations in time, energy and attention is important.

You have to learn to live in the moment, and keep designing a life you love to live, and by extension a world you love to live in. Perceptions seek agreement, and create reality. Everything around us– planes, trains, cars, buildings, even entire cities and countries — are an example of inspiration and perspiration creating reality.

People made the world what it is, just like you and I, and people, just like us, will make the world what it is tomorrow.

It’s up to us, right now, to accept the risk and responsibility of being alive, both in our careers, our relationships, and the world around us.

It’s up to us to tend to our own orchards, and fight the urge to slash and burn every time the devil rears his ugly head.

 

This post originally appeared on SangLucci.com

Monday
Jun242013

How Does Purpose Find You? Find Mentors | Fail Quickly | Think Abundantly

Here are all the articles from a recent five part series I ran on SangLucci.com with my reflections on how I got to where I am now, and my thoughts on how to go from here.

How Does Purpose Find You? One Man's Reflection

I can remember being fascinated by stocks from a young age. I grew up very poor, with a disabled father and working mother. We lived mostly off social security and disability checks. At one time, long ago, the family had been very wealthy, but an ill patriarch, a spiteful heir, and a opportunistic maid allowed wills to be changed and fortunes to be lost. The prime beneficiary, my grandfather, let ten generations worth of dynastic wealth creation abscond to South America. Hundreds, if not thousands, of prime Long Island acreage was pieced off and sold for pennies, compared to what it would fetch today.  

 


I don't blame my grandfather, he hated his father, enough to change his name to Brad, which is who I'm named after. He had survived World War II in the Pacific theatre, raised a family, built a house, and was doing well for himself. So he let it go. The money and history meant nothing to him. 

 


My grandfather was a kind, funny, generous, intelligent man. He was also a massively depressed, chain smoking, Gentlemen Jack swilling, man of leisure who had given up on ambition long before I was born. He would always say such cheerful things like "Take me out back and put a bullet in me before I get too old." 

 


His uncle Al, an investing visionary who had bought shares of Standard Oil and Bell Telephone, had left him with a portfolio that would make his retirement not rich, but certainly comfortable. A few hundred dollars, properly put to work around the turn of the century, had created an impressive portfolio of dozens of energy and communications stocks, many of which spun off, consolidated, split, and grew to become the powerhouses of these industries, still leading these markets in modern times. Grandpa lived off the dividends.
 

That lesson always stuck with me. A relatively small amount of money, even for the time when invested, can create massive wealth if put to work in the right industries. I am the thirteenth continuous generation in the same little town on Long Island. I feel the “pressure of the ages” if you will, to learn what I can and do the right thing. This is a part of my journey.
 

 

Life Is What Happens When You're Making Plans

Years passed, I grew up, my uncle passed, my grandfather passed, followed some years later by my grandmother and eventually my father. I guess we were ahead of the curve in the “people are having kids older these days” trend.

My dad, before he passed away, had sold off chunks of the portfolio to fund his lifestyle, causing it to dwindle to the point where only two stocks were left, XOM and T. Great companies, but a short shadow cast compared to where they had come from. All of the baby bells and other oil companies that came from the great Standard Oil empire were gone. He had lost nearly half his net worth in the most recent crash of 2008. My grandparent's two bedroom ranch and a small stock portfolio were all the evidence left of what had once been a great dynasty, borne of the promise of the American dream. What had endured since the late 1600's, when my family first settled in what would become New York, had now fallen into my hands, a flicker of a pilot light that was threatened to be extinguished.

My path forward wasn't clear, at twenty four years old. Only child, sole beneficiary, executor. I knew I needed to be responsible and learn as much as I could. I carried out my father’s wishes to distribute what he wanted to cousins etc, cut out everything I could, fixed what needed fixing, and spent a lot of time lonely and alone with my thoughts out on Long Island. Family relationships and friendships became distant and strained, as people who were in my life because of circumstances gave way to a family of choice. This was not an overnight process, and continues years later.

I had been living a very different life up til that point, in New York City. Working my way from bartending and running an ambulance, to cold calling on Wall St. after the bottom fell out. When everybody was running out of the room, I was running in. Needless to say, no one was particularly excited to buy stocks. I quickly grew tired of waking up at 4am in Harlem to be on the street by 6, to cold call Managing Directors at British and American firms. The greased up guido suits that paced around hard selling Visa shares into the phone didn’t inspire me to do the same. Though they were right about the V stock. I studied nights and got my real estate license, starting from nothing and learning the ropes at a quickly growing firm. In less than two years I was managing a team of up to 5 rental agents for a real estate company. I had tried and failed at several startups, but was making it work, always keeping my eye on the bigger picture.

Do I just "live out my days", as my grandfather and father did? I had already decided I was better suited as an entrepreneur. My brief forays into the 9-5 world had made me sad and miserable. I wanted to do more, know more, be more. All of these imprecise feelings could be summed up in one crystal clear driving motivation: don't live a life of quiet desperation, dare to be different, to have an exceptional story. Don't regret the way you spent your limited time here on our pale blue dot.

Don’t meet your heroes? I beg to differ. Humanize them as quickly as possible.

Fools repeat their mistakes, wise men learn from them, but a genius learns from the mistakes of others. - H.G. Wells (Adapted)

I wanted, more than anything, to learn how to be successful in business. I hated the work-a- day world, and knew there had to be a better way than grinding out the days to pay the bills, living a life of quiet desperation. I had a few ideas that I had been putting to work prior to my dad’s passing. I knew that if I could get a solid income stream going, and invest wisely, that I wouldn’t ever have to work for anyone again. I had read great examples of self made people: Kiyosaki, Strauss, Ferriss, Godin, Branson, Buffett, Graham, Greene, Diamandis, Robbins, Hill, Carnegie and dozens of others. I spent countless hours grinding through articles online, in full on information addict mode. I chatted with everyone I could and had long drawn out conversations about business, life and finance. Some of these people became my mentors and continue to be fonts of wisdom today. I searched for answers and knowledge on investing, startups, internet “muse” businesses, and countless other subjects. I tried and failed at many startups before I found my strengths and was able to leverage them.

I made it a point to reach out to everyone who I looked up to. Somewhere along the way I have crystallized three theories in my brain.

1) Having a mentor can allow you to succeed much faster than going it alone.

2) Meeting your heroes shows you what’s possible but also reminds you that they are just people, with their own struggles and shortcomings, and you can be exceptional too.

3) Your story is your own. It doesn’t (and shouldn’t) look like anyone else’s.

What can I offer someone who already has everything?

The only missing link that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around at first was the value proposition. At first I felt I had nothing to offer any of these people who I looked up to, at all. Maybe it was an unfair comparison at the time, as they were older and more advanced in their careers, but I knew I needed to expand, learn and grow quickly. I needed to isolate and adopt the habits and strategies that made them as successful as they were. Friends warned me not to be beholden to anyone else’s story or try to replicate their lifestyles, but to be me. Find my own identity. I realize now just how right they were, though I was fearful and didn’t know the way forward then.

I did everything I could to put myself in front of my heroes, the trailblazers who came before me. I traveled to Kenya with Tim Ferriss, Charlie Hoehn and the Samasource team. I had dinner and drinks with Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Unite and several other fascinating people, including Craig Keilburger at Free the Children in Miami. I flew to Los Angeles and met Neil Strauss, who would become my friend and mentor. Through his abundant vision he created a wonderful network for myself and others to band together, learn, share resources, expand our reach and truly flourish in record time.

I’ve also been blessed to run into countless other mentors, heroes and ‘people on the path’ to realizing their own dreams along the way. I’ve come further, faster than I ever thought possible, all while traveling the world and building my businesses. I’ve written for major publications and blogs, including Forbes. Most recently I trained and mentored with the Sang Lucci team, whose expertise and vision will truly change not only the lives of their students, but the entire financial market environment forever. I’ve founded a successful hedge fund and mentored entrepreneurs, advising and investing in numerous startups. Not everything I’ve tried turned to gold, of course. I’ve failed a large number of times and learned valuable lessons along the way. What’s more is now I welcome failure, ruthlessly go towards what I am afraid of, and realize that I’ve already succeeded. Every day going forward is gravy on top of an exceptional woven tapestry of amazing experiences and triumphs. Don’t worry. I plan to write a lot more and delve deeper into some of these struggles, triumphs, failures and lessons. This is done in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes and succeed that much faster.

My purpose was finding my passion, helping others to do the same.

It was slow going at first, but at each step along the way I realized that the more I learned, the more I could teach and help others with the struggles I had faced in my own life. Every person, no matter how successful or visionary, is likely struggling with their own seemingly insurmountable shortcoming. The point is not to find their flaws and tell them how you can help them or how they should change. The point is to inspire people by showing them what is possible in that particular area of life, then pay it forward by giving them the advice, tools, resources, connections and encouragement they need to get it done themselves. This is a hard won lesson in and of itself. No one learns by being told, they learn when they reach the point where they are ready to change and make the change themselves. It gets easier as the successes pile up. Fear holds people back from making changes. But fear is also the most useful gauge of what needs to change.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself...

“Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... -Kevin Spacey, American Beauty

The skills I have learned and the people I have had the honor to work with are truly a blessing. The value I can offer is increasing as I continue to learn, grow and adapt to be a agent of change and a force of good. My default setting is to give until it hurts now, because I know that the universe will look after me. Helping others get to where they want to go is a better feeling than any material good, any experience I could have, or any amount of money in the bank. I’m constantly pinching myself when I stop to look at the amazing experiences that clog my calendar now compared to three years ago. Its like the end of American Beauty. Hopefully without the bullet in the head to cap it all off before the credits.

That being said, I realize that doing this anonymously benefits only a few people at most. It’s time to share what I have learned and take massive action. Abundance is a philosophy that can help heal the entire world. If everyone spent even a small portion of the time they currently spend fruitlessly chasing their own success and helped others to build their own self worth and ability to add value, the world would be a much better place. I’m not advocating a hand out, or to live in squalor. Money is important, but it is the lubricant, not the engine. It is a tool to be used and sharpened over time with a specific purpose, just like connection capital, skills and other valuable assets. Those who show a willingness to be better should be given the tools to make it so. The education system may have failed, but we still have a responsibility to mentor and teach those who want to do good.

Now it is time to share what I have learned, so that others might be inspired to follow this less traveled path. This is the path of becoming the best version of yourself, whatever that is.

 

Here are the links to the original articles on SangLucci.com

 

 

 

 

 

Monday
Apr292013

Memoirs Of A Nascent Triathlete, Or Not Setting Yourself Up For Failure

 


Many moons ago, after college graduation, I was feeling lost and out of sorts, not sure about how to proceed forward and what path to ultimately take. This was 2007.


I had completed a Biology degree from Binghamton University, and was intending to take the MCAT, to apply to medical schools. It seemed like the best path I could pursue at the time, given my limited knowledge of the way the world works and my horrible understanding of my own emotions relating to the subject of success. I had drunk the Kool Aid, assuming that all I had to do was prove myself in an grueling, demanding, and ultimately unrewarding field to somehow show everyone how worthy I was.

I know, sickening to see myself in such a state. Not to mention the detriment to my health and finances... most of my doctor friends are miserable, sleep deprived and overweight. Their personal transformation has been put on hold, the pilot light on their desire is flickering: they have very little balance in their personal vs. professional lives. Many have confirmed that given another chance, they would not choose the same path. Dodged a bullet there.

Anyway, having just finished two semesters of being on the crew team, about to turn 22 years old, I was in the best shape of my life thusfar. I wanted to keep my training regimen up and my brain operating at full useless fact cramming capability. I knew I could run 10-15 miles at the drop of a hat, and I knew how to ride a bike, so why not do a triathlon? Swimming shouldn't be that hard to learn, right?

Wrong. Fast forward three months, I had been studying diligently for the MCAT, routinely getting 11's and 12's in the practice tests on the 3 sections. My writing and reading comprehension has always been strong, so wasn't worried there, and decided to focus most of my efforts on physics, which was at the time my weakest subject. Overall I was expecting a score north of 35, which would easily, when coupled with my grades and extracurricular activities, get me into some of the higher tier medical schools to which I had been applying.

Over the course of that summer, I managed to raise my physics scores 50% and my bio and chem an average of 30%. I had also kept in shape, done a few miserable open water swims, but never in a wetsuit. I didn't have access to a lap pool, and had no one to mentor me. Did this deter me from my unrealistic goals? Well, if you think it did, you don't know how stubborn I can be when I set my sights on something.

The triathlon was scheduled for two weeks after the MCAT, so no issue there. The big day came, I went to take the test, and did pretty well on the Bio, Physics and Chem portions. I was confident, right until the Verbal section. See, I had always studied on paper, and wasn't really anticipating how different it might be now that the test was recently mandated to be taken on a computer.

We can argue how fair this was til we're blue in the face, but let's just agree that I wasn't prepared to make the transition to reading for comprehension on a paper test in a quiet lecture hall-- what I had been used to for the prior 4 years in college-- to the incessant clacking of PC keyboards in miserable gray cubicles with everyone and their brother tapping, clacking and shifting in their computer chairs around me. Long story short, I couldn't focus, had a mini panic attack, and in my attempts to calm and center myself succeeded only in running out of time, compounding my anxiety, which eventually left me so exasperated that I ended up forfeiting the results and walking away, dejected, from my first attempt at acing the MCAT.

Now, since it was the summer, and you had to have your scores in by a certain cutoff (end of August) to be considered for entry to the following year's class at most schools, I only had one option to consider. Take the MCAT the day after the triathlon, in New Jersey. No problem, right? Let's not pay attention to the fact that the silly tri was a distraction, and I live on Long Island, which means driving through NY weekend traffic to get there? I'll be nice and relaxed from the previous day's exertion, right?

Wrong again. On race day, it was unseasonably cold and choppy overlooking Oyster Bay for August. The water was cold, the air was cold, and the wind was whipping. In my haste to prepare with my dismal budget, I had the cheapest and most ill fitting wetsuit I could buy, a $200 Coleman brand mountain bike, (Camping gear "Coleman"? They make bikes? Exactly.) bad shoes and a bad plan. Terrible preparation overall for a nascent triathlete. Over enthusiasm and stubbornness were the only assets I could have objectively listed in the pro column.

So the day comes, and off into the water we went. When the starting gun fired, I was in the middle of the pack in the 12th of 13 waves, and ended up finishing dead last. So far to the back of the pack, in fact, that the lifeguards were paddle boarding behind me, taking in the buoys as we went. They bore witness to my personal swim of shame, offering to take mercy on me and pull me out of the water. Instead, exhausted but determined to finish, I swam, as inefficiently as humanly possible, more like a drowning monkey, and eventually dragged my own ass out of that freezing Long Island muck that we call the Sound. Sheer stubbornness had cashed the check that my ass was in no position to write.

The photographer for the results newsletter got a great shot of me which I hung on the wall for posterity, along with my finishers medal. I included a pic (attached) because it so perfectly and accurately captures a man so far out of his depth. To twist the knife a bit deeper, included with it was the caption: "And the last shall be first"... when I got the photo I was in full on aimless wandering mode, so I cut it out as a feeble attempt to trauma block a bad experience, yet again. I've since become aware of how often I do this. Blocking traumatic experiences and not truly dealing with them emotionally, but that came much later. I should have kept it, in retrospect, because life is long and there are many opportunities to redeem yourself.

So out of the water and up to the bike station I went, legs frozen, shedding my suit as quickly as possible, wanting desperately, more badly than anything, to finish before someone, anyone, who had passed me in the swim, which was everyone. That became my singular obsession to the detriment of all rational thought.

I hastily tried to dry off, barely changed out of my wet clothes, and donned my woefully ill equipped bike for the long and cold ride up and down the hills of the surrounding hamlets, replete with old money Great Gatsby-esque views. I managed to pass a few folks on the ride up, and started to really enjoy the racing experience, despite being chilled to the bone. I finished the biking portion, little worse for wear, having passed at least a dozen other racers along the way. My hubris was right there waiting for me when I got back to the changing station.


Not ten steps into the run, having forgotten to take a minute and stretch, my dead legs wouldn't cooperate and I twisted my knee. I was so close now, only a 5k away from the finish line, I had to complete what I had started. Never again, I kept saying over and over again. If you just finish this race, you can nail the MCAT tomorrow, get into school, and you never have to subject yourself to something this crazy again. I was full of bad ideas that day.

Somehow I managed to drag my limping ass across the finish line, wet with sweat and saltwater. Did I immediately start to load up on much needed nutrients and electrolytes to replenish my body? NOPE. I made a bee line to the Blue Point beer tent and claimed as many pints as I could swallow to celebrate my doing the damn near impossible. I had finished the race, but the war was far from over.

I don't remember much about the rest of the day, except being tired and proud of myself and stuffing my face with carbs. I woke up the next day fairly sure I had been hit by a truck. I was dehydrated, had a chest and head cold, a bum knee, and several phantom bumps and bruises whose origin I could not quite identify. My headache was an just one more symptom of just how screwed I was. CRAP! My test is today, and this is my last shot. I downed as much coffee, excedrin, and Dayquil as time permitted, and raced out to the Garden State to seal my fate.

Even in my addled state, I managed to pull out a 12 in Physics/Inorganic, an 11 in Bio/Organic, and top 4% in the country on the written portion of the MCAT. My verbal was dismal... a 7, with no chance to make it up for that year. I had been getting 11's and 12's on the practice tests, but combined with the computer test taking format and my exhaustion and illness bordering on delerium, it was just too much. I had met my match. I was solidly denied by all the top tier medical schools I had applied to. That turned my "maybe I'll take a gap year" plan into "I guess I have to take a gap year" and reevaluate. My 30 with the strong writing was better than average, but not good enough for the schools I wanted.

Dejected, I ran off to the city and worked as a bartender for a year to escape my troubles there. This strategy would become a recurring theme in my 20's. That path worked out better in the long run, but man, was I upset at the time. I felt like a failure, but I completely overlooked the fact that I had set myself up to fail. I wouldn't listen to anyone, and now I think I know better, but I still sometimes catch myself letting my optimism get in the way of reality.

 

Sometimes retrospect is your best friend, and some things that are bad in the moment are for the best in the long run. I learned a lot about my limits and setting realistic goals that summer. That temporary tragedy set me off on the path to where I am today. I learned just how human I really am. I have blown away all expectations that 22 year old had about success, and achieved more in a shorter amount of time than I have ever thought possible. So that's the silver lining on that story. Thanks for taking time to read this, it was cathartic writing it. Hopefully this story will help you put similar stories in your own life into perspective.