He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.
— Samuel Johnson
Knowing about markets is knowing about other people's weaknesses.
This man was old. His attitude towards his job was, by our standards, sentimental. He released his epigrams like pet doves: "When I'm trading, you see, I don't stop to pat myself on the back. Because when I pat myself on the back, the next sensation is usually a sharp kick lower down. And it isn't so pleasant." When asked the key to his success, he said, "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king." Best of all, he gave us a rule of thumb about information in the markets that I later found useful: "Those who say don't know, and those who know don't say."
I thought instead of a good rule for survival on Wall Street: never agree to anything proposed on someone else's boat, or you'll regret it in the morning.
The only thing history teaches us, a wise man once said, is that history doesn't teach us anything.
I don't do favours. I accumulate debts.
— Ancient Sicilian motto
That was how a Salomon bond trader thought: he forgot whatever it was that he wanted to do for a minute and put his finger on the pulse of the market. If the market felt fidgety, if people were scared or desperate, he herded them like sheep into a corner, then made them pay for their uncertainty. He sat on the market until it puked gold coins. Then he worried about what he wanted to do.
Alexander insisted at our farewell dinner that I was making a great move. The best decisions he has made in his life, he said, were completely unexpected, the ones that cut against convention. Then he went even further. He said that every decision he has forced himself to make because it was unexpected has been a good one. It was refreshing to hear a case for unpredictability in this age of careful career planning. It would be nice if it were true.