One humid night this August, I was lethargic but proudly dragged myself to the gym. I was feeling quite self-satisfied as I began walking on the treadmill when someone got on the machine next to me. He was blind.
In addition to this man’s bravery, I was struck by his positive spirit and willingness to let me lend a hand. Once we were done on the treadmill, he allowed me to guide him among the various pieces of equipment. It takes strength to ask for help. He accepted my assistance with a smile and we became friends. Reflecting on his courage, I was reminded of an inspirational line by legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, who said, “Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”
You don’t need to be blind to understand the loneliness of adversity. Managing a hedge fund presents plenty of challenges. Starting a new firm and growing a small one have never been harder in the history of the business. You will have to dig deep to endure what comes your way. Only the best will survive. Only the finest leaders will be able to generate returns, manage risk, raise assets and develop a strong team around them. There will be moments of clarity and moments of confusion. In the thick of it, at the nadir, you will discover the quality of your character and the depth of your courage.
1. Empathize. Everyone struggles. Your struggling leads to an appreciation of what others are forced to withstand. When you realize challenges are widely experienced, you will be calmed by the camaraderie, encouraged to engage in the battle and reassured by the perspective. We are all on this journey together. The personal is universal. This is very, very good news because it means that others can relate to your situation and help
2. Face your fear. We know that courage is not the absence of fear but the strength to face it. Fear is draining and debilitating. Turn around and confront your doubt. You’ll crush it and be energized by doing so
3. Treat people as equals. Everyone being equal makes us all stronger. Putting someone down makes us all weaker. Intimidation is inherently insecure. If you’re confident, you don’t humiliate colleagues. Bullying does not train or inspire people. It does not motivate them. It causes paralysis, paranoia, dread and inaction. Imagine what that does to your firm
4. Combine diligence with flexibility. You have to be gritty and tenacious along the way, through all the ups and downs, while also adapting and innovating as the world changes around you. It is a grind to build a firm. Do what it takes, day after day
5. Celebrate victories. Progress is not all linear but it is progress. When your firm wins, pat your team on the back and enjoy the moment. Pause to allow people to feel good about accomplishment
6. Guard your energy. Building and running a firm is an endless marathon filled with urgent sprints. Conserve your power for the long-term. This means staying fit physically and mentally. Exercise, relax and take time off to recharge
7. Be yourself. You have to be the leader and manager you are. You can be inspired by others and learn from them but ultimately you have to be true to yourself. Leverage your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Trying to be someone else is inauthentic, ineffective and unsustainable
8. Think clearly. Lawyers separate fact from the unknown. Engineers separate noise from signal. Managing a hedge fund requires a myriad of talents. Don’t be distracted by the cacophony around you
9. Listen to outsiders. Sometimes the best advice comes from people who care about you but don’t know the details of your business. They have the perspective that comes with distance and are not beholden to industry sacred cows
10. Lean on your team. It is not weak to ask for help. It takes strength. Lean on your team and find your balance when they lean on you
You’re not alone
Adversity feels lonely but you are not alone. Everyone faces challenges. Your hurdles are yours to overcome but they are not unique. The personal is universal. Others understand your struggle and can support you. You will endure and your team will help. When you lean on each other, you will excel.