Mr. Belfort was a man who acquired a vast fortune by the time he was 30. And it wasn’t through some snazzy startup that he became an ‘overnight millionaire’, but rather through years of working his way to the top. Sure, the means which he achieved this are questionable—he went to prison, so obviously there was illicit activity going on. But to deny the man’s talent and intellect is naïve.
He was making a million bucks a week and had everything a young man on Wall Street could want: Fast cars, a big house, power, a hot blonde wife (with tons of hookers on the side). Yet this would ultimately lead to his demise.
Jordan always wanted more.
More drugs, more money, more power (Scarface anybody?).
It would be this endless chase that would lead to his demise in health, wealth, and family. On his way up, and down, he had one hell of a ride though.
Hedonism at its Finest
It’s human nature to be attracted to short-term pleasure. People are glued to their phones, do drugs daily (you could consider TV and internet a drug too), have casual sex as they please, and in general have no long-term goals because they’re too focused on pleasing themselves.
I certainly wouldn’t throw Jordan into this crowd of plebeians. He is a genius, a shark and all around go-getter—that doesn’t exempt him though from hearing the siren call of hedonistic pleasure.
One could argue that Belfort wasn’t any more hedonistic than your typical American. Sure, he threw money around like it was nothing, fucked hookers, and did ungodly amounts of drugs. But the only reason he did all that because he could afford to do so. If you turned your average person into a millionaire, would they not likely fall victim to the same trap?
As the Bible says, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Should the man who skips church to watch football and drink Miller Lite all Sunday look down his nose at Jordan Belfort? I think not.
I’m not here to be an apologist for anyone, rather it is important that we all take stock of our daily hedonistic activities, as they are most often a roadblock to happiness and success.
Jordan even lays this out at the beginning of his book:
But what I sincerely hope is that my life serves as a cautionary tale to the rich and poor alike.”
When Money Matters
As I already mentioned ‘Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness’, but is that really true? Belfort’s life at times appears to be miserable, but who wouldn’t want that much money nonetheless?
Reading Wolf of Wall Street will make you want to be filthy rich, if that wasn’t your goal already. We can see movies and TV shows and get glimpses of the high-life, but to have the detailed, daily life of a multi-millionaire is another thing—yachts, limo drivers, helicopters, mansions, hoes, private planes, shopping etc. Sure, there’s more to life than materialism, but if somehow your bank account went up to 8 figures you probably wouldn’t complain, would you?
Where money may cause misery is where one’s life completely resolves around currency. The associates at Belfort’s firm certainly exemplified this:
Look at them; as much money as they make, every last one of them is broke! They spend every dime they have, trying to keep up with my lifestyle. But they can’t, because they don’t make enough. So they end up living paycheck to paycheck on a million bucks a year. It’s hard to imagine, considering how you grew up, but, nevertheless, it is what it is.
Anyway, keeping them broke makes them easier to control. Think about it: Virtually every last one of them is leveraged to the hilt, with cars and homes and boats and all the rest of that crap, and if they miss even one paycheck they’re up shit’s creek. It’s like having golden handcuffs on them. I mean, the truth is I could afford to pay them more than I do. But then they wouldn’t need me as much. But if I paid them too little, then they would hate me. So I pay them just enough so they love me but still need me.
I’m in no position to tell investment bankers how to spend money, but it seems objectively clear that having such little regard for one’s financial well-being can’t bode well.
But money is such a strong motivator, especially for the young men who worked at that firm. Jordan knew this and used it regularly to fire them up to crush their sales calls. The biggest example in the book is when they’re doing the IPO for Steve Madden shoes, and Belfort goes wild:
…And I don’t care how many problems you have right now, because every single one of them can be helped with money. Yeah, that’s right; money is the greatest single problem-solver known to man, and anyone who tries to tell you different is completely full of shit. In fact, I’m willing to bet that anyone who says that never had a dime to their fucking name!” ….
What a bunch of happy horseshit that is! Having money is wonderful! And having money is a must! “Listen to me, everyone: There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I choose rich every time. At least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I can show up in the back of a stretch limousine, wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit and a twenty-thousand-dollar gold watch!
Well said, Mr. Belfort.
But what happens when you have so much money you don’t know what to do with it?
I see there being two options for people with addictive personalities like Belfort:
- Make More Money
- Find something else addictive
Belfort chose the latter. He became a raging drug addict. In fact, he goes over his daily drug regimen at one point in the book (it’s too long to share…yeah, really) and it was jaw-dropping. He was likely exaggerating, but still, the man had a big problem.
I’ll tell you, Rob: I got a quarter million in cash down there and I couldn’t give a shit about it. But we gotta get those fucking Quaaludes. We have two hundred, and we can’t leave ’em behind. It would be a travesty.”
Drugs are a bitch.
The Book vs. The Movie
I saw the movie right after it came out. It was wild. The partying, the woman, the drugs—it all made for one incredibly entertaining film.
I’m not going to be a pretentious douche and say, ‘Wow, the book was so much better than the movie’. They both have their merits, but the benefits of a book is that the author can give you insight into their own mind. Jordan also goes into great depth about his current psyche, whether he is getting ready to pounce on his wife, get high, or smuggle millions into a Swiss bank account. You just don’t get that in movies.
This also doesn’t mean I feel sorry for him. In fact, he painted himself as a selfish, manipulative ass. Sure he was a drug addict, and some may say that exonerates all his behavior, but I don’t feel that way. He put his family through a lot that they didn’t deserve. Sure, he gave them everything, but that doesn’t give him the right to bring someone into his life only to neglect and abuse them.
Secrets of the Wealthy
If you’re looking to learn his secrets to becoming rich, you’re going to be disappointed. There’s a $2000 course for that. This book is more about his struggles, than it is his successes. That said, when you’re inside the mind of a man with such intelligence and charisma, you’re bound to learn a thing or five:
And that’s why I say: Act as if! Act as if you’re a wealthy man, rich already, and then you’ll surely become rich. Act as if you have unmatched confidence and then people will surely have confidence in you. Act as if you have unmatched experience and then people will follow your advice. And act as if you are already a tremendous success, and as sure as I stand here today— you will become successful!
There was also a lot to learn from Jordan’s time in rehab, which was entirely omitted from the movie. There were a ton of funny and insightful moments from this chunk of the book. One of which is when he goes off on the looney toon addicts that inhabit his therapy center:
I resent every last one of you for being total fucking pussies and trying to take your life’s frustrations out on me. If you really want to focus on your own recoveries, stop looking outward and start looking inward, because you’re all complete fucking embarrassments to humanity.
To reiterate, Belfort wrote this book in part as a cautionary tale, but only a rich man could write this book.
And only a rich man could tell you what it’s like to have all those drugs and hookers at the tips of your fingers.
And only a rich man could tell you what it’s like to have the FBI and SEC on his tail for years.
It would be silly to say the poor have nothing to offer in terms of wisdom, but wealthy people have simply had broader, more impactful experiences.
People are quick to dismiss most wealthy people because they were ‘born with a silver spoon’ which is completely bogus. Even if the rich had nothing positive to offer, you could at least learn form their mistakes, and relish in the laughs and misfortunes they went through.
The Wolf of Wall Street was definitely an enjoyable read. It was 500+ pages, but you’ll want to read all of it.
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