The RIA business' most prolific tweeter and blogger unexpectedly suspends activity with a semicryptic letter to his readers
Josh Brown, who's shown us how far and fast you can go by giving something of yourself through social media, is now taking an abrupt timeout for 'projects'
Brooke’s Note: I went to Josh Brown’s website yesterday not because of what he wrote, but what he didn’t write. On the site there was nothing except for the letter republished below with his permission. For somebody who pumps out tweets by the dozens (he has 55,000 followers) and blog entries by the fistful, Josh’s silence hit me like a punch. Not that he doesn’t deserve a rest. It’s more that his online presence is part of my online life — which, as an online publisher, is pretty intense, as I, too, seek to capture the energies of green shoots exploding from a morphing financial advice industry. While we don’t know exactly what’s going on here with Josh’s hiatus, we do know that what sparked Josh’s metamorphosis from broker to advisor three years ago was a result of deep introspection. This wrinkle in his doings seems to emanate from a similar place.
I suppose I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe in destiny.
Is that even possible? Do I want to believe in destiny because it seems to have a positive connotation, while the term fate seems to have had much graver implications throughout history, religion and literature?
Three years ago this month I had become a fee-only financial advisor and had dropped my commission brokerage business in its entirety. See: 'Reformed Broker’ and blogger 'Downtown’ Josh Brown joins BrightScope’s advisory board.
It was the biggest risk I had ever taken, personally or professionally. I was 33 years old, had a 4-year-old daughter and a year-old son. And zero dollars in the bank.
The credit crash and its aftermath had been particularly tough for me in that my compensation was tied to how many trades I did or products I sold — and I had refused to sell my clients anything in the midst of the maelstrom, on principle. I had no idea how bad things could get, but I had known instinctively that something major was going on, and logic and reason dictated that I cease all brokerage activity until things calmed down.
Which makes perfect sense until you’re a year without a paycheck and you need to keep reminding yourself that you’re doing the right thing every time you have a fight with your wife over money.
And then, in your darkest hour, the revelation sets in: This is all wrong.
I realized that the retail brokerage business was inherently flawed if I couldn’t go about it without hurting people or exposing them to undue risks in the name of grinding out a paycheck. And while this isn’t always the reality, it certainly was throughout 2008 and 2009.
And so, after 10 years of selling investments to people who trusted and relied on me, it was time to plan my escape. See: Should I dump my securities licenses?.
Upon leaving, it felt as if a thousand pounds had been lifted off of my chest. I could breathe again.
More importantly, I could align my own success with the success of my clients’ portfolios — the way it should be. I could give advice without concern for pay periods or differential compensation or any of the other implacable conflicts that beset the retail broker at every step along the path.
Suddenly, there were no conflicts. There was just me, my clients and the business of investing — which I love.
Followers in the thousands
I began to trot, unsteadily at first, and then broke into a jog. Then I was running, flying around the country to meet customers and contacts, seeing my name in the newspaper and the magazines. Then I took off into a full sprint, the book came out, the weekly TV appearances on CNBC began, shout-outs in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and even Time magazine. One by one, I began meeting all my idols in the investment business. Hundreds of thousands of new readers on the blog, 20,000 Twitter followers, then 30, then 40, 50… See: How to get going on Twitter.
Our assets were growing and our portfolios were working. Clients were appreciative, a sensation I hadn’t felt in a long time.
And then it hits me — it’s working out.
I realize that I can let go of all the anger and the frustration of the preceding 10 years. I don’t need the chip on my shoulder anymore, I don’t need all that angst. It’s served its purpose — if it ever had any — and now it’s just a vestigial relic of a previous failed career.
I am doing what I think I was always supposed to do. Helping people and communicating with them about their investments is why I am here. It has to be true — it feels too right to be otherwise.
In “The Alchemist,” Paulo Coelho teaches us that when you go for something, and it’s a righteous quest, and you really want it, the universe is going to conspire to help you.
Three years ago, I didn’t understand any of this. I just knew that I was deeply unhappy and professionally unsatisfied. I knew that if I had kept going in that direction, it would’ve eventually killed me or at least snuffed out my soul.
I made a choice, and the universe conspired to help me do what I wanted to do.
Change of direction
In Greek mythology, the Fates were three goddesses whose whims determined what would happen to the mortals under their purview — people had little say in the matter. In contradistinction, the Essence of Buddha explains that “Your destiny is shaped according to the combination of conditions predetermined at birth and other factors that you are able to change through your own efforts.”
What has happened with me was not fate — it was wholly avoidable had I simply chosen to go on with my miserable status quo. Was it destiny? Maybe. But even if not, it feels as though it is, and that 's enough for me to keep going. And I much prefer the idea that I have had a hand in it, a conscious impact on the results.
I hope this story inspires you to take the risk that could change your life or to stop doing things the wrong way just because you may be feeling trapped. You are not trapped, not for long, anyway. You have a choice, and when you make that choice, the universe will get out of your way.
I have to go away for a while, I’m working on a handful of major projects that require my full attention. Before I do, I want to thank you for taking this journey with me.
Upon my return, the saga continues…
See you then,
New York City, September 2013
Josh Brown is a New York City-based financial advisor at Fusion Analytics Investment Partners LLC. His clients include individuals, corporations, retirement plans and charitable foundations. He is author of Backstage Wall Street, new from publisher McGraw-Hill, and a member of the advisory board of BrightScope Inc. His blog, The Reformed Broker, covers: markets, politics, economics, media, culture and finance, using statistics, satire, anecdotes, pop culture references, sarcasm, “fact, fantasy and any other device that I feel necessary to get my points across. What I don’t do on this site is give financial advice or tell anyone what to invest in. The Reformed Broker is a forecast-free blog.” He is also a regular contributor to: CNBC, InvestmentNews and TheStreet.com, among other publications.
What will we all do with our snarky Twitter quota due to Mr. Brown’s creative ability? This is a bummer to hear. He truly was the voice of the people on a lot of Wall Street’s secrets that left many clients holding the (proverbial) bag. Jason is on the right track, would any of us be surprised if a custodian, etc. swooped in with a position? Hopefully, he is just recharging the batteries.
I can’t think of anyone who is as soulfully and doggedly outspoken and critical of Wall Street practices infecting financial advice — in a street-language kind of way — as Josh Brown. Were he to pop up on a higher platform, that could be good for promoting positive change in the advisory business both for practitioners and investors.
There is no way Josh Brown just quietly fades off into the sunset. It will be very interesting to see what “major projects” means. His social media and PR savvy were a thing to behold, and there is no question he will re-surface in an even bigger way. Having him pop back up with his own talk show or something of that nature would not surprise me at all. Strong voices need an outlet – I’m guessing whatever he does is somehow media oriented.
He’s used that star wars post in the past – when he needs a break and to recharge.
Argh! Stupid smahtfone! Our should I say Swype. Quote=quite; and “served is” = “served its”; but you already knew that. Hey Brooke how about enabling edit of our comments?
I fixed it.
I think Josh made himself quite clear. The anger and angst that built a massive presence served its purpose. The energy that was directed at that cause has been refined, cleaned even. Now he is directing it toward the next phase of his career and presence.
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uh, false alarm?
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Brooke that’s a great point. I really hope that this is on the horizon for him, because if he brought this voice “mainstream” he would have significant influence on how the general public views the independent advisory community. Of course we’re looking at it through a media-oriented lens – I’m sure he pops up at a big 4 custodian or something when its all said and done, with some new initiative. But one dares to dream.