Millennial Mentor: A-List Mover and Shaker Turney Duff
This is the section where I’m supposed to tell you who I am, but the truth of the matter is: I’m just a dude. I’ve been extremely fortunate and have had some lucky breaks throughout my life. I’ve also been knocked down many times and sometimes it was of my own doing, but I always get back up. In 2010 I managed to spin my first career on Wall Street into a second as a paid speaker, an author, a journalist, and television personality.
- New York Times Best Seller
- One of Amazon’s Best Business Books 2013
- Wall Street consultant for Showtime series Billions (2016) staring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti
- CNBC.com contributor
- Public Speaker
- Featured commentator on CNBC’s prime time television show The Filthy Rich Guide, seasons 1 and 2
I guess it’s impossible to tell you who I am without telling you who I was. During my 20s and 30s I was on a first-name basis with the doormen and managers of every hot club in Manhattan. My motto was, “I don’t wait on lines, I snort them.” In short, I was everything that folks dislike about people who work on Wall Street—at least on the outside. On the inside, however, there was a constant struggle between the person I’d become and the person I was meant to be. I sold my soul to The Street in steady increments, and medicated the pain of each transaction with drugs and alcohol. And sometimes it was the other way around. By January 2010 I put some sober time together and I began to write. I wrote every day. I couldn’t stop writing. I went to meetings, therapy, and an outpatient program. I felt fulfilled by the writing and the recovery process. I’d never felt like this before. It was a natural high. It’s all I could think about.
Under The Hood
I was born in Cleveland in 1969 (which explains the tattoo of Chief Wahoo, the Indian’s mascot, on my ankle), but moved to Kennebunk, Maine, when I was only 7. Kennebunk is a nice place to visit and an even better place to grow up, which, of course, means I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
I graduated from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in 1993. In January of 1994, I moved to New York City wearing L.L. Bean boots and a flannel towing a U-Haul trailer with a lobster and the words “America Moves From Maine” painted on its side hoping to land a job as a journalist. When that didn’t work, my mother suggested I call her brother for guidance. “Trading,” my uncle said when he answered the phone. I hadn’t planned what I was going to say to him, I barely conveyed that I was looking for a job. Before I knew it he told me he would call me back in 10 minutes. I set the phone down and sat on the couch also known as my bed. Twenty minutes later my phone rang,
“You have 10 interviews this week,” he said.
“For what?” I asked.
“Just tell them you want to get into sales,” he said.
It was like a drug. My first interview; ding ding ding, the opening bell rang as I sat quietly in my untailored JCPenny suit at Lehman Brothers. Wide-eyed and fearful, I watched the trading floor erupt as the opening bell sounded. I’m not sure if I was more in awe of the energy, the fast-paced electric vibe that pulsated through the room, or how well Oliver Stone depicted the culture in his movie. Regardless of what it was…I wanted in!
Though Wall Street wasn’t in my plan, once I was there I figured what the hell? Let’s make some money. So I set my sights on a trading career. But during those 15 years of climbing the Wall Street money tree, writing would call to me, like a whisper somewhere in the back of my thoughts, but never forceful enough for me to focus on it or sit down long enough to truly pursue. It would take nearly a complete disaster in my life, self-inflicted by city lights and fondness of cocaine for me to turn back to the page. But it took what it takes, and I’m grateful it did.
What was your worst spill and how did you recover?
Drugs and alcohol brought me to my knees so it’s hard to choose. What was my worst spill?
A. Faking a mugging to get out of work
B. Losing my house, relationship, and job
C. Losing all of my money and self-respect
D. All of the above
I’d have to go with D. It wasn’t until I got honest with myself that I was able to recover in all aspects of my life.
Aaron Sorkin, I think. It’s really a hard question because there are so many people I’d love to have a business lunch with. But I think it would be great to pick his brain about storytelling and I also think he’d pick up the check.
Who is your favorite personal mentor?
Anyone who is sober.
Words of wisdom
Watch people. See how they treat other people because they will eventually treat you that way.
Turney Duff’s award winning book, The Buy Side, can be purchased at Amazon.com and in book stores nationwide.
photo credits: @TurneyDuff, CNCB.com, hitc.com
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