Being a trader isn’t your traditional 9-5 job. There are wild swings of emotion throughout the year and even during a single day as bets pay off or end up costing you money.
What’s it like living that life? One word: volatile. For an inside look, we turned to Wall Street trader-turned-standup-comedian Raj Mahal. He describes the feeling of making and losing huge chunks of money, and what it’s like being the office hero and goat.
Describe the feeling when you are making money trading?
There is no greater feeling than making money trading. When you are hot, it can feel like you can do no wrong. You feel like Bradley Cooper in the movie Limitless, Michael Jordan in his prime, or how Obama still feels about himself. You literally feel like you are the smartest person in the world and have the Midas touch.
When you are on fire, everything feels different. You always pick the shortest line at the airport and gain that extra five minutes, you eat a huge 32 oz. steak and potatoes au gratin for dinner and actually lose 5 lbs. or you can pick up the girl at the bar that looks like a young Marilyn Monroe even when you look like Marilyn Manson.
Describe the feeling when you are losing money?
[efc_twitter text="Death, despair, depression. It’s like rooting for the Jets."] You know something will go wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.
For example, you want to cheer yourself up by eating at your favorite restaurant but they are closed for a private party. You just want to spend a quiet evening to collect your thoughts but your in-laws show up for a surprise week long visit. You go to play golf and while standing on the 9th green, you get hit in the head by a wayward golf ball.
Describe how your bosses treat you when you are losing money?
When you are losing money, what can be even more frustrating is the office politics. You get unsolicited opinions from people you didn’t even know existed. Your boss’s boss all the way down to the janitor have an opinion on what you should be doing differently.
You will get advice like, “Raj. You should have sold all your Twitter stock before it went down”. And you can do nothing but agree when you really want to say, “Wow. Did they teach you that at Harvard Business School? Did you think of that all by yourself? Why didn’t I think of that?”
Describe how your co-workers treat you when you losing money?
They avoid you like you have Ebola. People listen to what you say and they do the opposite. Kind of like George Costanza in Seinfeld where he does the opposite of his natural instincts to get a job working for the New York Yankees.
For example, if a guy was losing money I would ask him, "Who do you like tonight? Alabama or LSU?” Then I would bet the opposite team of what he likes. If the Cooler was ordering sushi for lunch I would avoid that restaurant, because I knew there was a good chance he will get food poisoning. If he shook my hand, I would immediately go to the bathroom and wash off the bad luck with industrial grade soap.
How do they treat you when you are making money?
When you are making money, you have carte blanche to get away with anything. So my advice is take advantage. If you show up two hours late to work because you head is pounding, and your boss wants to talk, you can give him the Heisman (putting your hand up and telling him to not come any closer). He has no choice but to oblige because he doesn’t want to be responsible for turning the momentum the wrong way. Use that Get Out of Jail Free card because remember if you don’t use it, you lose it!
Another thing to remember is that traders are very superstitious and creatures of habit. One deviation from the norm and your stars are no longer aligned and your universe is turned upside down. Your co-workers want to piggyback what you are doing no matter how ridiculous it is. Let me give you an example:
I was in a bit of a funk. Nothing too bad. After lunch one day, I walk into the men’s room and used the urinal. I notice my colleague at a different urinal and hear this brushing sound. We are the only two in the bathroom. I notice him brushing his teeth and peeing at the same time! In public!
I asked him,”What the hell are you doing?” He says, “Rajjjy. I have been doing this every day after lunch this week and have made more money than I ever have.” So I respond, “Do you have an extra toothbrush?”
Raj Malhotra (Raj Mahal is his stage name) is a former Wall Street trader-turned-stand-up-comedian. He has worked at Wall Street firms covering three continents, including at Bank of America, BNP Paribas and Nomura. He draws from his unique ethnic background and Wall Street career to entertain audiences nightly, highlighting the struggles of the 1 percent. He can be seen at Gotham Comedy Club, Broadway Comedy Club, NY Comedy Club, Greenwich Village Comedy Club, and the Tribeca Comedy Lounge. Follow him on Follow him on Twitter @RajMahalTweets or his website therajmajal.com.