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Flash Boys Rules
Posted By Bob Lefsetz On April 13, 2014 @ 9:30 am In Books,Think Tank,Trading | Comments Disabled
ADVANCE PROMOTION IS DEAD
Your anticipatory hype is forgotten in the endless tsunami of new data. It makes no sense to build anticipation, it just dissipates. Now you pounce when the story is hot. Radiohead started it, Beyonce improved upon it and now Michael Lewis is taking it to the book business. The new watchword of marketing is SURPRISE!
PEOPLE LOOK FOR AN EDGE
It’s no different from Sony selling Mariah Carey singles for 49 cents to go number one. Everybody’s trying to rig the system. But when this is so, it’s he who is honest and has credibility who gains people’s ears. That’s what today’s musical artists don’t understand. That by chasing the buck, whoring themselves out to anybody who’ll pay, they’re losing their identity, they’re becoming no different from their compatriots. Want a tribe? Go your own way, have integrity, speak from the heart, people will follow.
Unlike in the music business, Michael Lewis is building a long term career. Sure, he started with a hit, “Liar’s Poker ,” but many of the greats do. Then he wandered in the wilderness until he truly found his groove. “The Blind Side ” made him a star years after the book came out, and “Moneyball ” enhanced his reputation. You think you’ve made it but the truth is most people have never heard of you. Now people have heard of Michael Lewis, to the point where he can hype his book on “60 Minutes.” That’s almost equivalent to playing the Super Bowl. Only unlike Bruno Mars, Michael Lewis has something to say.
MOST PEOPLE CAN’T READ
“60 Minutes ” did a good job of explaining the story. But the truth is most people will not read “Flash Boys” because they can’t. Inured to television, they can’t hold multiple concepts in their brains at one time, when the reading gets tough, they give up. “Flash Boys” is even harder to read than “The Big Short,” it’s the hardest book I’ve read in years. But wading through gives you passage into the club, and the truth is all winners want to be in the club, but most just say they’re there, without truly being inside. Success is not only money and status, it’s wisdom and knowledge. You gain that through experience, and hard work, like reading “Flash Boys.”
Despite “Flash Boys ” being a difficult read, Michael Lewis is a great writer. He’s evidence of the blockbuster syndrome. We only have time for great. I’ll read anything Lewis writes because he’s trying to get it right, he’s not dumbing it down for mass consumption, and his style is to explain without emotion, he lets the carefully laid out facts sway you.
JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE’S RICH, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THEY KNOW ANYTHING
Nobody on Wall Street could explain flash trading, except for those perpetrating it, who were tight-lipped. Imagine a world wherein a label head has no idea how the records are made, how they get on the radio, that’s what’s been going on on Wall Street.
SPEAK THE TRUTH AND BLOWBACK WILL BEGIN
They’re not gonna let Michael Lewis edge in on their turf. As soon as the book came out, insiders pooh-poohed it. They always do. America is a game of who has the biggest dick, and those at the top whip theirs out on a regular basis and the little people succumb to this intimidation. You get ahead not by kissing butt, but by standing up to power, that’s what a great artist does. Michael Lewis is a great artist. Nobody on the “Billboard” chart is.
CURIOSITY RULES THE WORLD
Brad Katsuyama couldn’t understand why trading had changed. He searched for answers. It was a long torturous path. He found them. If you’re not busy questioning, you’re busy dying.
SUCCESS IS A TRIAL BY FIRE
In other words, they’ve got no time for you until they do, after you prove yourself. Brad Katsuyama worked at the also-ran Royal Bank of Canada, the big boys laughed at him, but when he enlightened them and proved he could make them money… You want access? In business it’s all about money. Doors open when you can make people a profit.
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Coders quit jobs they find unfulfilling. There’s more money on the Street than there is in music, but many leave aside the riches because there’s no fulfillment. In other words, when you’ve got access to money, you realize money is not the only thing.
Change doesn’t happen without it. Brad Katsuyama quit a $2 million a year job to open a new exchange. There was no guarantee it would be successful. It still may not be.
We don’t get good music because those at the top are all about the money. And those at the bottom don’t understand the game. What we need are people who rise above who stand up to the b.s. That was what made Kurt Cobain a hero. He was insanely talented and yet refused to play the game, he needed to stay punk. It killed him. Hopefully it won’t kill you.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
We all need a purpose. Being famous is not one. That’s just an end. But in today’s culture we’re inundated with the scorecard of fame and money, because they’re easy to quantify. Work takes up an insane amount of time, it needs to be fun.
In the old brick and mortar book days, W.W. Norton would either be caught short or overprinting. It’s hard to guess the amount of physical inventory necessary. But in the digital sphere, where you can buy a book wirelessly in a foreign country, a runaway success can continue to run.
If you’re unfamiliar with technology, you’re going to have a hard time being a success. That does not mean you’ve got to code, but you’ve got to know what coding is, and fiber optic cable, and have a familiarity with tablets and smartphones and not only usage patterns, but where the game is going. If you want to bring back the past, you’re doomed to live in it. It’s hard to see 0′s and 1′s. Some people believe they need to be able to touch something to experience it. But the truth is so much is virtual these days. And this frees you up to play. But in a world of cacophony, you must execute at the top level and deliver that which intrigues if you want attention.
ART IS FOREVER, TECHNOLOGY IS NOT
The fiber optic cable laid from Chicago to New York is being superseded by microwave transmission. A great record is forever, nobody wants yesterday’s flip phone.
IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS
It just ensures you continue to be the tail wagged by the dog. Inform yourself. Care. It’s not only stimulating, it’s profitable.
THE WORLD RUNS ON MONEY, SO WHAT HAPPENS WITH IT COUNTS
The cash the flash traders were extricating from the system reduced productivity, the same way so many of the best and the brightest are wasting their time in finance as opposed to making a difference creating something.
LINKEDIN IS A TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION
That’s where IEX found so many of its talented employees.
INTERVIEWS WILL TELL YOU ALL
In Wall Street if they want to know what’s up with a competitor’s business, they make like they’re trying to poach you, or fill a gig, and you’ll spill your guts.
THOSE AT THE TOP USUALLY HAVE NO CLUE WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE BOTTOM, AND WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE BOTTOM USUALLY BECOMES THE NEW TOP
It’s like record execs who didn’t use e-mail. But still, most execs don’t have the time to check out social networks and WhatsApp, believing they’re beholden to radio and retail. The truth is all these new systems will eclipse radio and retail, and if those in power let young ‘uns in, they would. And they will eventually.
YOU DON’T NEED A PEDIGREE TO SUCCEED
Brad Katsuyama went to the local university in Canada. Sure, Yale and Harvard will open doors, but they won’t make you a success. Furthermore, they may not make you think. Read this editorial re the job opportunities of the Ivy League prospect: http://huff.to/1jBprS3
THE PUBLIC HAS A VERY SHORT ATTENTION SPAN
Those in power on Wall Street know that this brouhaha about flash trading will fade. Power is often about distracting the masses. If someone can easily become famous on reality TV, they’ll put all their energy there as opposed to doing the hard work to climb the ladder and crash your established party.
THE GOVERNMENT CAN’T BE COUNTED ON
Because of the revolving door between the companies being regulated and the regulators themselves. Furthermore, the best and the brightest rarely work for the government. And those who are rich get the best justice, it wasn’t only O.J.
MAKING A LOT OF MONEY MAKES YOU NEITHER HAPPY NOR LIKABLE
“Flash Boys” is littered with put-downs of the blowhards who think they rule, but are oftentimes clueless.
WE CAN’T ERADICATE EVIL BUT WE CAN INSPIRE GOOD
That’s the ultimate message of “Flash Boys ,” that one person can make a difference. Then again, Brad Katsuyama built a team around him. Which he found through relationships and interviews and LinkedIn surfing.
GOOGLE WILL TELL YOU EVERYTHING
He who knows how to sift out information wins in the end. Almost everything is lying in plain sight, assuming you know how to enter the right search terms and know what you’re looking for. This is the education that is sorely lacking in our schools. How do you theorize and reconstruct the obvious to end up with new insights? That’s your challenge.
Article printed from The Big Picture: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog
URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2014/04/flash-boys-rules/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393244660/thebigpictu09-20
 Liar’s Poker: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/039333869X/thebigpictu09-20
 The Blind Side: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393330478/thebigpictu09-20
 Moneyball: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393324818/thebigpictu09-20
 60 Minutes: http://cbsn.ws/1fE3Cgk
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