I worked closely with our attorneys during the Simutron litigation and developed a close professional relationship with them. They referred me to one of their clients who owned a relatively new and growing stock brokerage firm with offices across the country. I applied for a job conducting due diligence on companies seeking to raise capital through this securities firm. I was surprised that the interview consisted of the president of the firm only asking me to describe the interior of my car. I was even more surprised when he then took me into a conference room, showed me a row of boxes two to three high lining the far wall, and said, “This company wants us to fund their new real estate venture. Review their documents and give me your report tomorrow.”
I have many deficiencies, but fortunately God has blessed me with a quick and analytical mind. I scanned the records and didn’t waste time going through files that were not important. I looked at documents that described the project, their projections, the historical rents and expenses for the properties, and the company’s track record. When the president read my report the next day, he immediately hired me to be in charge of the firm’s due diligence department, and later its compliance department as well.
My talents were very well suited for this job, and I excelled at it. I tried to train other due diligence officers, but they just didn’t have the same knack for it that I did. For example, I took a new trainee with me to evaluate an investment in a gorgeous resort in the Colorado Rockies. Right after we arrived, I asked what the new hire thought was the biggest risk for this venture. The well-educated trainee ran through a detailed list of standard financial and economic issues that were taught at the university. I smiled and said no. I said, “Look around and tell me what you see.”
Puzzled, the book-smart trainee looked around to see any flaw in the facility and answered, “I don’t see any problem. All I see is a nice hotel with a phenomenal view nestled in a beautiful natural setting. What am I missing?”
I smiled and said, “Trees. Trees everywhere. The biggest risk is a forest fire, and the offering circular did not even mention it. The risk is so high that I doubt they even have fire insurance.” I was right, so we passed on this investment because investors were not given an opportunity to consider this uninsured risk.
Our firm grabbed the industry’s attention because of the number of popular investments that I rejected that later ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for financial irregularities. I caught a large horse-breeding operation using fraudulently obtained audited financial statements from one of the Big Eight accounting firms. The balance sheet for numerous limited partnerships showed that each of them had millions of dollars in the bank, but in reality, they were insolvent. They comingled all the different partnership funds in the promotor’s bank account, and then the company would write a check to each partnership at the end of the year before their audit for the amount of money that the partnership was supposed to have. But they did not deposit the check in the partnerships’ accounts until after the first of the year, when the partnerships would write a check back to the company for the same amount. They were kiting checks to cover the deficiency in the general partner’s bank account. There were many similar situations. One of the owners of an NFL football team raised more than $100 million dollars a year, claiming his apartment limited partnerships were much more successful than he had projected because they provided the investors with greater tax write-offs than planned. In reality, they had more tax losses because the apartments were hemorrhaging cash and close to foreclosure. Another company had nearly $500 million dollars of its assets in the name of the owner and his wife as nominees without any nominee agreement. Oil companies used revenue from new wells to prop up the reported income from depleted wells. The list goes on and on. The president of the firm started calling me Crusader Rabbit, trade magazines called me to comment on breaking stories, and the trade association of due diligence officers asked me to present a workshop at its annual convention.
Work in the securities industry is very intense and fast paced. For example, our brokers would call in their orders to our staff in the trading room, who would then forward the orders down to the floor of the stock exchange. On October 19, 1987, known as Black Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 22 percent of its value. As the firm president and I walked past the trading room, one of the traders mentioned that a particular broker had just ordered five thousand shares of Compaq Computer when everyone else was selling. I turned to the president and said, “He is a new rep and doesn’t have clients large enough to make that size of an order. I just audited that branch a few weeks ago.”
The president immediately looked at the trader, pointed his finger, and yelled, “Sell!” During that short time, the stock lost $15,000 in value. The new broker had a client who wanted to buy $5,000 of stock, not five thousand shares. He literally fainted when we told him that he personally had to eat this loss.
My life was just as harried. Typically, I would catch the first flight out Monday morning and visit two or three companies or branch offices before I would return Thursday night and then write up my reports Friday before I repeated a similar schedule the next week. One week I was the last person on the plane from San Diego to Dallas, the last person on the plane from Dallas to Chicago, the last person on the plane from Chicago to Denver, and the last person on the plane from Denver to Boston, and I got to the Boston airport to fly home Friday night as they were boarding. I flew so often that I knew exactly how long I could sleep before I had to rush to the airport and run to the gate to catch my early-morning flight. When I arrived at each destination, I would look at my watch when I stepped off the plane and again when I arrived at the company I was going to audit. I then allowed the same amount of time to return to the airport to catch my flight to the next city. My buffer was that it took longer to rent a car than to turn it in. This was before the airport security put in place after 9/11, so you could often see me running through the terminal to catch my flight.
I knew I was away from home too much, but it still shocked me one morning when our three-year-old son hopped in bed with us and said, “Mommy, who is that man in bed with you?” The real wake-up call came when I was sitting in the church at my younger brother’s wedding, tapping my foot, thinking, “What’s taking so long? Can’t they move this along faster?” I realized that there was something wrong with this picture, and it wasn’t with anyone but me.
“What? Me, obsessive? No way! I’m just busy,” I told myself. However, the mere fact that I felt too busy was evidence that my life was out of balance. I knew then that I needed to change my employment to regain balance in my life.
It seems that we are all rushing about frantically, trying to find something that is missing from our lives. We feel obliged to rush to work, rush to an appointment, rush home, rush to take the kids to school, to the dentist, to soccer practice. We even rush to the movies or other entertainment. The fact that we feel stressed by all the demands on our time indicates that our lives are out of balance.
If our lives are not in balance, we are putting too much emphasis on some aspect of them. In essence, to the degree to which our lives are out of balance, we are obsessive and compulsive in some area. If our lives were really in balance, then why would we be rushing about so much as if compelled by some invisible force to jump from task to task like puppets? Are we really directing a well-managed and balanced life, or are we actually controlled by a subconscious quest to find the acceptance and love we are missing?
Do you feel calm and at peace or anxious and agitated? Do you get upset with your children and then promise yourself to never do it again, only to find yourself raising your voice once more? How many other things in your life are out of control?
We allow outside forces to control our lives without even realizing it. The degree to which our lives are out of balance is evidence of the extent to which we are allowing unfulfilled emotional needs, rather than our own will, to control them. This truth applies to all of us in varying degrees.
All of us have some emotional deficiency resulting from being raised in a flawed world. This subconscious quest to fill our personal void has a greater impact on our lives than we probably realize. Yet denial seems universal and is the first major hurdle we need to overcome in order to achieve a peaceful, fulfilling and balanced life.