Title: "Goodbye Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul"
Author: Anthony Scaramucci
Publisher: Wiley, 2010; 224 pages; $27.95
I heart "Wall Street." To disambiguate, Wikipedia-style, I’m not referring to the place, or the stock market with which the street name has become synonymous.
I’m talking about the film: 1987, Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen, an exaggerated testament to the conspicuous consumption and audacious everything-be-damned, whatever-it-takes trading and corporate raiding "ethic" (for lack of a better term) that characterized the ’80s.
Of course, I’ve been greedily awaiting the 20-year-later sequel coming out this week, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." Exit Charlie Sheen, enter Shia LaBeouf — color me happy.
Piggybacking off of the interest in the film, Goldman Sachs alum and "alternative investment management" mogul Anthony Scaramucci has released his debut title, "Goodby Gordon Gekko: How to Find Your Fortune Without Losing Your Soul" (Wiley, 2010).
This is not a total co-opt, though, as Scaramucci was actually director Oliver Stone’s technical adviser on the "Wall Street" sequel, and comes with hearty endorsements by Stone and actor Josh Brolin, who appears in the sequel.
Mix in equal parts the memoir of a 20-year Wall Street career and a mantra-packed, light self-help guide, and you have "GGG." The stuff of "GGG" is largely clichés you’ve already heard — very, very basic stuff about the good and evil in most humans, the importance of first impressions, the lack of an "i" in team (no joke), and the eternal "Know thyself."
What you haven’t heard is these clichés and, to be fair, some new ones, in the context and from the mouth of a man who has made millions from deep inside the industry so many Americans now see as the true axis of evil, yet still (admirably) persists in holding absolute beliefs about which things are and which are not OK to do for money.
This, then, may be the primary public service provided by "GGG."
The book starts out with Scaramucci’s exploration of ambition and the beginning of his tale, from begging his way into law school to his first few million as a trader at Goldman, with a few lessons tossed in around the dangers of becoming overly competitive and how the ambitious can avoid becoming egomaniacs.
He then turns to the themes of success and failure, and shares his own story of repeatedly failing the bar exam, while already working at Goldman, and the trauma these failures did to his workplace reputation, despite the fact that passing the bar was not needed for his job.
The primer on failure doesn’t end there — Scaramucci was actually fired from Goldman at one point (he was later rehired), due to self-described complacency; he uses these painful episodes to launch lessons on how to parlay failures into success.
Next, "GGG" covers vocation and meaning, in a chapter riddled with Yiddish adages about family and Scaramucci’s tales of rejecting, first, the legal profession and then the traditional trader’s life (and fabulous income) to become a "capital-artist," starting several businesses, including his current hedge-fund seeding company.
Then, onto capital, the most original chapter in the book (in my humble opinion), which lays out a compelling argument for leaving money on the table in deals — making sure that everyone involved makes good money on every transaction, even if you could have gotten away with paying less or making more.
Knowledge, mentorship, teamwork and even the selection of business partners based, at least in part, on liking and trusting them — these themes round out the remainder of "GGG."
It closes with a chapter devoted to delivering on the promise of its subtitle, "How to Find Your Fortune without Losing Your Soul," with simple yet profound life philosophies ranging from self-forgiveness to the importance of having fun.
"GGG" is an easy read that will be of special interest to those who like an insider’s view into Wall Street’s inner workings. I wouldn’t say it’s the most actionable book about how to make money that’s ever been written, but it does offer a nice collection of basic insights about maintaining humanity and balance even as you try to operate profitably in the business world.
Gekko would hate it. And that’s a good thing.