Andy note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from December 2011 . If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.
This is Part 2 of 2 (see part 1 here) of my Exclusive Interview with Edmundo Braverman. To be brutally-fucking-honest these interviews are a treasure trove distilled with wisdom from a guy who has lived the life and seen it all, the highs and lows, the glories and the tragedies. I never conduct interviews and am no journo scum, frankly most people are not even worth listening to. But what I gathered from Eddie by watching NSFW and reading his various articles was that this man had a story to tell and had to be interviewed. EB I would like to thank you for the opportunity and trusting me with this, even though we are complete strangers.
Without further ado, I present to you Eddie Braverman:
Q. You seldom post articles on the cost of a college education. What were the advantages and disadvantages of not going to college for you?
Eddie: The biggest advantage to not going to college for me was that I learned a trade. It's a pretty miserable trade, but it has saved my bacon more than once. The Marines trained me as a helicopter mechanic with a jet engine specialty. I got my A&P license about a year before I got out and my turbojet flight engineer shortly thereafter. I became an AGI and traveled around the country training pilots and mechanics for a while.
No matter how badly I kill myself in the market or what part of the world I find myself in, people always need to get from Point A to Point B and they need pilots and mechanics to get there. No matter how bad things get, I know I can always feed my family. A degree in economics or finance doesn't provide the same safety net.
Now, the obvious disadvantage to not attending college is my knowledge deficit. Almost every bit of higher learning I possess I had to teach myself, and that's just not optimal. I wouldn't call it a regret, but I often wish I'd gone to school to study computer science, organic chemistry, or physics. I've always had a gift for both computer programming and marketing, and that skill set in the mid to late 1990s was a formula for making millions.
Q. Eddie, how do you reminisce your time spent in the military? What did you take from it and apply it to your life? Also, any stories you would like to share pertaining to your time in the military?
Eddie: Just like any other military guy, I focus on the good memories and leave the bad stuff for when I go to sleep at night. Probably the most important thing I took away from the military, specifically my time in the Gulf War, is that nothing that ever happens to me for the rest of my life will ever be that bad, and that knowledge is a source of strength and comfort. When I look at some of the petty shit people freak out about, I just kinda chuckle to myself and think about the nights spent in frozen mud, smoke from chemical fires burning our eyes and lungs, empty bellies, dead friends, and it's hard to take anything I'm faced with today too seriously.
The only story that comes to mind immediately is the cautionary tale I made of my military career. I had a lot of promise when I first went in; I was gung ho, I was a gifted mechanic, good at my job, good attitude, etc... A lot of the right people noticed and it looked like I was on the fast track to Officer Candidate School. Then one night I was working late and my dickhead boss was messing with me and I got fed up and beat the crap out of him. I honestly thought it was no big deal at first; everyone knew what a shitbag he was and I just figured it would be one of those Marine things that got swept under the rug. Boy was I wrong. I ended up standing for NJP (non-judicial punishment) and my Commanding Officer tore me a new one. OCS went out the window that day, and I never got promoted for the rest of my time in the Corps. Terminal Lance, as the saying goes. I did five years in the Corps, and I saw my last promotion when I was in for only 18 months. During the war I did a couple things my superiors thought worthy of a battlefield promotion, but when I went before the board this crusty old Sergeant Major walked into the tent and reminded them of what I did years before and there went my promotion. At the end of my enlistment, I had a single hash mark on my forearm (a measure of time in service) and a single stripe on my bicep (rank of lance corporal). Not a successful career.
The moral of this story is that, if you're gonna beat the shit out of your boss, make sure you're not on company property and there's no witnesses. Catch him out in town after a couple of beers, manufacture an altercation, and then give him the what for.
Q. You often mention your passion of traveling. How many countries have you visited or care to visit and how do they compare in terms of beauty, lifestyle, cuisine and women?
Eddie: St. Augustine once wrote that the world is a book and the man who does not travel reads only one page. I think that's true. Americans, as a rule, don't travel. And that's a problem. There's a sort of institutionalized ignorance in America and oddly enough we pride ourselves on it. It leads to an unfortunate hubris in our foreign policy that has cost millions of lives globally. When more than 50% of the diplomats you send to set up the new government in Iraq have to apply for their FIRST passport, you're doing it wrong.
My point is, not only is travel enjoyable, it's essential to gain a global perspective. I'd probably have to sit down with a globe or an atlas and a couple hours to list all the countries I've visited over the years. It's easier just to list the ones I've lived in. (England, US, Japan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, CNMI, France) I've been so many places, and I'm generally able to find something I love about each of them.
The only exceptions that come to mind are Russia and the Middle East. I know there are beautiful parts of Russia, but I've been to Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Magadan (pretty much the span of Russia) twice and just didn't find anything appealing to me. I think you have to be born and raised in the Middle East to even be aware of anything remotely beautiful there. The Persian Gulf itself was quite pristine when I first got there, but after Saddam dumped a couple of oil tankers into it, it was completely destroyed.
I have a real soft spot for Mexico and the Caribbean islands. I've been all over Mexico and I lived in a Mexican fishing village for six months when my old firm was after me for $14 million and I was more or less on the run. I hit Cabo a few times when Sammy Hagar was still the only guy who knew it was there, and it was fantastic.
Now I hear it's all resorts, which I'm sure is nice too, just not my thing. I can stand Cancun for a long weekend, but anything more than that and I want to be on Isla Mujeres, an island just off the coast of Cancun. I've been all over the Caribbean, but if I'm forced to pick a favorite island it's either Antigua or Barbados. Barbados probably has the slight edge because it's the home of Mount Gay, and they grill up flying fish so good it'll knock your dick stiff.
France is hard to beat for cuisine, Paris is near impossible to beat for beautiful women. We even have a type of woman here in Paris we refer to as a "1664". 1664 is the national beer, like Budweiser in the States. When you're walking behind a Parisian woman you might think she's 16 because she's in tight jeans, high heels, perfectly styled hair, and a slammin' body. Then she turns around and you see she's actually 64 (and still looks damn good, believe it or not). It'll mess with you until you get used to it.
As for lifestyle, island time works best for me. I lived on an island in the West Pacific (see life on the run, above) peopled by the laziest human beings I've ever encountered. I fit right in. I like to plan ahead, that way I'm never doing anything right now.
Q. You post many articles on the subject of entrepreneurship. Have you pursued any entrepreneurial ventures? If yes, what did you learn and gain out of it (monetary and experience wise)?
Eddie: I started my first real company when I was still in the Marines. It was a lingerie company of all things, and we were true innovators. I applied the Tupperware model to the lingerie business and began offering in-home lingerie parties. They're commonplace today (they're even referred to as "Fuckerware" parties), but we were the only game in town back then. It was a steep learning curve, but I enjoyed it every step of the way. I never got into the fashion or design side of the business (no aptitude for it), but spreading the gospel of sexy undies was right up my alley in my early 20's. I lost the company in my first divorce, but at the time we had more than a dozen employees and substantial inventory turnover.
The reason guys like me start companies is because no one else will ever let us be the boss. If I'm being honest, there's no way in hell I'd ever hire a guy like me. I'm just not a good employee. The longest stretch I've ever spent with a single company in my life (aside from being contractually bound to the Marine Corps for five years) is about two years. I'm always looking for what's going to pay me more. I watched my dad work for the same people for decades and rack up multiple pensions, and it just wasn't for me. I'm all about the big payday, and I'm completely mercenary when it comes to employers.
For that reason, I'm better suited to entrepreneurship. I can pick what I want to do (own a bar, own a yacht services company), things that I truly enjoy, and then I have no trouble working hard and making a bunch of money. It's also nice to have a business you can walk away from and still get paid.
Q. Now that you have retired from the street, are you still engaged in trading or business? How can a person maintain his bank balance after his walk away number?
Eddie: That's a great question, because making it is SO much easier than keeping it. I think I have it figured out this time around, but I guess it remains to be seen. Yes, I still trade occasionally, though now I concentrate more on alternative investments (start-ups, P2P lending, etc...). Usually if I put a trade on, I'll let the site know so everyone can see how it works out. I like the emergence of ETF's as I think it gives the average investor a better shot against the insiders. I think the accredited investor rule is archaic and that people should be able to opt out of it. Too much of the "real" market has moved to the private stock market which average investors have no access to, and maybe it's the blue collar kid in me but I hate any semblance of the "Billionaire Boy's Club" in the market.
I stay busy with my writing, and I recently signed on to help turn around a failing retail operation here in Paris. We'll see how it goes, but it doesn't look good now. If I can save this one, it'll be one for the books.
As for maintaining your bank balance, I guess the best advice would be to live frugally and don't get divorced. Well, the best advice is to not get married in the first place, but by the time most guys hit their walkaway number it's already too late for that. Just remind yourself how bad it sucked to put that number together, and you'll be able to tolerate most of the crap a woman can dish out.
Q. You mention how rampant the drug culture was on the street during your time. Why do some people resort to them and what are the end consequences?
Eddie: First of all, I have to take issue with the way the question is worded. No one RESORTS to recreational drugs. You RESORT to Adderall when you can't focus on your mind-numbingly boring job. You RESORT to Rohypnol when you can't get laid. You RESORT to Haldol when you can't get the voices in your head to shut the fuck up.
No one ever RESORTED to shrooms. Nobody ever had so much stress at work that they HAD to drop acid or roll on ecstasy.
You could point to the supposed performance enhancing properties of cocaine, but I really can't remember anyone doing coke at work. That would be something of a waste, I would think. Who wants to get all jacked up and be trapped in an office? Plenty of people I knew did coke AFTER work, but that was purely recreational. We had a couple guys who would get baked every morning before the opening bell. I never understood how you could function after smoking a couple bowls, but these were two of the most consistent producers in the office, so it obviously worked for them.
Coke was big after hours because it was still something of a status symbol in the early 90's. It's pretty easy to think that you're the king of the world when you're 23 years old doing a bump off the end of a Ferrari key on your way to Vegas. We worked hard and we played hard; it was just the culture back then.
I know I've mentioned this before (probably ad nauseum), but the only people I ever worked with who had drug problems were the women I worked with in commodities. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them. And it was always meth. Now, you want to talk about RESORTING to a drug? Based on what I've seen, when meth gets a hold of you it's all over. My old boss was a tweaker, and he's doing a 9-year jolt in the federal pen for fraud right now. I can't say the meth drove him to it, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised. Likewise, the chicks in the office who were meth-heads were a total mess. I never understood how people who made what we made would choose a gutter drug like meth. This was the late 90's, though, and the culture had already gone through a major shift.
In the early 90's, the job was all about funding your good time. My VP at the time was 27 years old and never made less than $100,000 a month. Still, he ended every morning meeting by saying, "Let's have some fun and make some money", in that order. It was a fratty environment and everyone had a good time at work, mostly. I could write a whole post about that shop. When we had an IPO we needed to book over a weekend or something, my boss would bring in this huge camping stove and make omelets to order in the office while we pounded the phones. We all worked together, but we were all friends outside the office as well. If that meant some retail pharmaceuticals got passed around, that was just a part of it. It certainly wasn't the focus.
By the late 90's the business had taken on a certain desperation, no doubt brought on by the Internet and our shrinking margins. It took a great deal more talent and sophistication to succeed in the business then, and all the fun was gone. I literally rolled out of bed every morning and said, "God, I hate my fucking job." I had an exit plan, and that's how I stayed sane. If you thought you were going to have that miserable slog for the rest of your life, I guess meth would start to look like a viable coping mechanism. The parties in the late 90's were all about getting destroyed, and I watched one of my co-workers OD on ecstasy and God only knows what else one Saturday night. I was in my late 20's by this time, so I was cognizant of the consequences of such behavior and generally observed from a distance.
As far as the end consequences of illicit drug use, in my experience it runs the gamut from 9-year prison terms to running a successful hedge fund. Everybody handles their dope differently. I'm an alcoholic by any rational measure, yet it doesn't seem to have a negative impact on my performance.
I think Doug Stanhope says it best when he points out that the only people who are against drugs are the people who have never done drugs and the people who suck at doing drugs. As a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, I find it ludicrous that we commit billions of dollars annually to prevent people from doing something enjoyable. Meanwhile, Big Pharma churns out shit to treat every imaginary ailment you can think of, and a few you can't. Restless Leg Syndrome? Get the fuck out of here. But that's shit's legal. Go figure.
Part 1 of 2 can be found here