A Memoir of Money and Madness
By Jared Dillian
Published: September 11, 2012
Format: Trade Paperback, 368 pages
"If you're a trader, it is important to exercise the illusion of control,because the reality is that you're not in control of anything", writes former trader for Lehman Brothers, and founder of the daily market report The Daily Dirtmap, Jared Dillian in his eye opening and deeply personal book Street Freak: A Memoir of Money and Madness. The author describes his career as a trader at the now defunct Lehman Brothers, rising from rookie associate to head Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) trader. That transition from former military, working class person to trader who handled trillions of dollars in value, is only one part of the author's story.
Jared Dillian shares a story that goes far beyond the peaks and valleys of his Wall Street trading career. The author delves into the serious issue of his bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Neither condition was diagnosed, and both were heightened and covered up by Jered Dillian's manic trading activity. The author takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through the trading floors of Lehman Brothers, where he made and lost millions of dollars, all while attempting to maintain his sanity. Jared Dillian was battling his personal demons in a world where his psychological and medical conditions were valued for the results they created for the company.
Jared Dillian (photo left) recognized that his career and his life were spiraling out of control. Faced with the possibility that he lacked what he considered the necessary skills of a successful trader, the author felt his world collapsing around him. A failed attempt at suicide, and a growing sense that he was going mad, found Jared Dillian mired at rock bottom. In the end, the author arrives at the realization that more than his own emotional challenges, the trading environment was an unhealthy one for him. In a flash of insight and self awareness, Jared Dillian considers the trading desk world to be insane.
The culture of Lehman Brothers encouraged socio-pathic and manic behavior. The result of that culture norm was not one that worked in favor of the company over the long term. Lehman Brothers, with its culture of paranoia and dysfunction went bankrupt. When the stock market melted down in 2008, the culture of the company was ill suited to respond to the challenge. Not understanding or even considering its own flaws, the organization blamed outside forces. In the end, Jared realized that as world of Lehman Brothers was collapsing, that he could live a normal life again.
For me, the power of the book is how Jared Dillian shares his personal story openly and without flinching on the the often painful details. Along with his own journey, the author offers a rare glimpse inside the rough and tumble trading desk world, with all of its dysfunction and excitement on full display. Jared Dillian recreates the hectic and manic world, of the last era of Lehman Brothers, through the eyes of a person whose personality and emotional makeup were strangely suited to the overall company culture.
At the same time, however, those same personal attributes led to the author's complete emotional breakdown. In a world where the structure was unsustainable, and the endgame was the complete failure of the Lehman Brothers company, anyone could be destroyed emotionally by it. The author tells his own story, of an average person in an insane world, and how he regained his own normal life.
I highly recommend the tumultuous and riveting book Street Freak: A Memoir of Money and Madness by Jared Dillian, to anyone seeking a clear eyed view of Wall Street in its grittiest and most morally and ethically bankrupt form. The book is a real page turner, that reads like an adventure novel, but the events portrayed in this story are very real and affect people's lives.