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Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers [Hardcover]

Jared Dillian

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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
When Jared Dillian joined Lehman Brothers in 2001, he fulfilled a life-long dream to make it on Wall Street—but he had no idea how close to the edge the job would take him.

Like Michael Lewis’s classic Liar’s Poker, Jared Dillian’s Street Freak takes readers behind the scenes of the legendary Lehman Brothers, exposing its outrageous and often hilarious corporate culture.

In this ultracompetitive Ivy League world where men would flip over each other’s ties to check out the labels (also known as the “Lehman Handshake”), Dillian was an outsider as an ex-military, working-class guy in a Men’s Wearhouse suit. But he was scrappy and determined; in interviews he told potential managers that, “Nobody can work harder than me. Nobody is willing to put in the hours I will put in. I am insane.” As it turned out, on Wall Street insanity is not an undesirable quality.

Dillian rose from green associate, checking IDs at the entrance to the trading floor in the paranoid days following 9/11, to become an integral part of Lehman’s culture in its final years as the firm’s head Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) trader. More than $1 trillion in wealth passed through his hands, but at the cost of an untold number of smashed telephones and tape dispensers. Over time, the exhilarating and explosively stressful job took its toll on him. The extreme highs and lows of the trading floor masked and exacerbated the symptoms of Dillian’s undiagnosed bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorders, leading to a downward spiral that eventually landed him in a psychiatric ward.

Dillian put his life back together, returning to work healthier than ever before, but Lehman itself had seemingly gone mad, having made outrageous bets on commercial real estate, and was quickly headed for self-destruction.

A raucous account of the final years of Lehman Brothers, from 9/11 at its World Financial Center offices through the firm’s bankruptcy, including vivid portraits of trading-floor culture, the financial meltdown, and the company’s ultimate collapse, Street Freak is a raw, visceral, and wholly original memoir of life inside the belly of the beast during the most tumultuous time in financial history. In his electrifying and fresh voice, Dillian takes readers on a wild ride through madness and back, both inside Lehman Brothers and himself.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (Sept. 13 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439181268
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439181263
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 4.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #301,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“[A] disturbingly candid memoir . . . the highly personal journal of a poor kid who quit the U.S. Coast Guard to chase his dream of becoming a trader. . . . His narrative crackles with authenticity . . . the dominant tone is unsparingly confessional and even modest. Dillian’s snail’s-eye view is what makes his book a valuable companion to previous volumes on Lehman. . . . From hair-trigger decisions to trashy banter, Dillian captures how the market feels from inside the belly of a trading room. . . . [A] blunt and sometimes hilarious account.” —Bloomberg

“This revealing, personal memoir of a volatile period in the dual lives of a big-time trader and the fallen American giant Lehman Brothers is depicted in the fueled words of Dillian, a major figure at the company. . . .Writ[ing] in a style that veers from gonzo lucidity to precise trader chatter . . . Dillian offers a candid look at the demise of a corporate behemoth.” Publishers Weekly

“Thank God for the 3rd element, because if it wasn’t for lithium Jared Dillian might still be in the psych ward looking for his shoelaces. Instead, we get Street Freak, the best Wall Street memoir in a bunch of years. This guy can really f***ing write. Street Freak is more than just a great read, though. For anybody who’s ever gone off the rails, or thought they might, it’s a comforting reminder that there’s always a way back.” John Rolfe, coauthor of Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle

“Always vivid, by turns hilarious and sad, this is an electrifying memoir about not only money and madness, but the madness of money. It left me wondering yet again about the shifting boundaries between sanity and insanity.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Summer Without Men

“A scathing critique of selfish, scrambling men so driven to earn a buck that they lose all sight of the world beyond the tickers. . . . Dillian hardly fit the mold of the rich, Northeastern prep-schooler, and his outsider status served as a great attribute, offering him a clearer view of an industry both morally and economically bankrupt.” Kirkus Reviews

"A bipolar math whiz [and] amusingly caustic writer whose new memoir pulls no punches about a financial career that nearly cost him both his sanity and his life." —Fortune.com

About the Author

Jared Dillian is the founder of the subscription-based, daily financial market report The Daily Dirtnap. He worked on the Pacific Options Exchange from 1999 to 2000, and was a trader for Lehman Brothers from 2001 to 2008, specializing in index arbitrage and ETF trading. Dillian is a graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy and earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of San Francisco.  He lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Visit JaredDillian.com. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  88 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read even if you don't work on Wall Street! Sept. 22 2011
By Elevator Club - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I picked up "Street Freak" and was immediately hooked. I couldn't put it down. The amazing thing is that I've never worked on Wall Street. Dillian does a terrific job of pulling the reader into the chaos, the adrenaline, and the stress of a trading desk -- and he does it with a punchy sense of humor. I found myself alternately laughing out loud and sweating with nervous tension. As a bonus, Dillian provides juicy details on how much Wall Street guys actually make.

And, thankfully, this is more than just a book about Wall Street. Dillian is refreshingly honest about what was going on in his head through all of this. He leads us through the ups and the downs of both his personal and professional life, culminating in his eventual diagnosis with bipolar disorder.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get wrapped up in a great story.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first honest Wall st memoir Sept. 15 2011
By JGLOW - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a gloves off, brutally honest account of what life is like working on Wall St. Dillian nails it by not hiding a thing about his experience and being brave enough to tell the world his perspective from the "dark side." Anyone who has worked in a sales or trading function, buy or sell side, will appreciate reading this piece. In addition, if you have no connection with Wall St other than the picture that politicians have painted by berating the group, I think this book will help shape your opinion. There is a lot of baggage that comes along with working on the Street that most people are not fully aware of and Street Freak gets to the heart of many of these conflicts.

I like to think of Dillian as the next Michael Lewis with a sprinkle of Bret Easton Ellis: Liar's Poker meets American Psycho.

Hats off to him for having the balls to say how he really feels!
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A blow-your-brains take on what it's really like to trade Sept. 7 2011
By M. Park - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Street Freak doesn't just put you in the Aeron chair of a single trader making markets in every ETF under the sun. It goes beyond the cologne, the order-in sandwiches and flatulence of the Lehman trading floor and puts you deep inside the brain of Jared Dillian--a "poor, smart and determined" Wall Street outsider with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

The characters are real and the trades are real. A department head is "a walking molecule of testosterone... who patrolled the aisles, rotating his shoulders and practically his entire torso just to tell people to go f--- themselves." And Jared recounts some of his biggest winning and losing trades with play-by-play accuracy.

While has-been traders like this reviewer will jaw-drop at how Jared literally moved markets on the "Street," it's the dark and deeply personal episodes of the "Freak" that make this a special read. Jared was a great trader, but luckily for us he's an even better writer.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a read! Sept. 20 2011
By SurfingInHB - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I tore through this book the weekend I got it. "Street Freak" is a surprising book. It is a vivid account of life on the Lehman Brothers trading floor from 9/11/01 through the bankruptcy of the firm, but it's also a moving account of the author's struggle with his emotional and mental problems. Jared Dillian does an amazing job of pulling the reader in to the story of his transition from Coast Guard officer to ETF trader at Lehman. It's often funny, irreverent, poignant, and full of colorful characters! I was expecting an updated version of "Liar's Poker" or "FIASCO", and while there were certainly aspects of those two Wall Street classics, this book was as much about the author's personal journey and ultimate redemption.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed, and unreservedly recommend this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Street Freaks Unite ! Sept. 21 2011
By Anthony Greer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
They say it takes a brilliant man to understand difficult concepts and a genius to explain them. To engage readers in a truthful and believable tale about a trader's tumultuous Wall Street career in this day and age it takes a cutting edge writer with bipolar disorder.

From his beginning as a frugal, hyper responsible, and wise beyond his years Coast Guard Officer to "the big ETF trader at Lehman Brothers", who happens to also be speculatively lugging around $1B worth of two-year notes, Jared Dillian tells a brilliant tale about his trip on Wall St. His manic career was largely bookended by two world changing events of very different denominations - the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the Lehman bankruptcy that will forever punctuate the fate of the credit bubble bursting. Street Freak is so captivating because it examines those events only as they apply this trader's mental state and be forewarned: the emotional volatility is not for the faint of heart.

Dillian may have sealed his own fate when guaranteeing job interviewers he could work harder than anyone else because he was "insane". He guided himself in that direction by applying ancient academic trading principles, complex behavioral theory, and a military work ethic to his trading desk at Lehman where his job quoting clients was skewed sharply toward the impossible. He admits there is nothing fun about the indignities of his trading job, yet he wouldn't trade it for the world. Dillian actually did his job masterfully but the emotional side of his brain and inherent fear of failure kept him from processing everyday information properly and he experienced waves of paranoid panic attacks. Some of them are sad while others are blatantly amusing and you get the distinct feeling Dillian knows which is which.

The originality of Street Freak lies in Dillian's rapier wit and ability to analyze situations down to their bare bones. His skill in stepping outside of himself to observe his own behavior at all the right moments makes his book a treat from start to finish. Dillian should be commended for noticing during his time in a mad trading fish bowl that decent people do unflattering things when getting bombs dropped on their head on a daily basis, that people who are smart and lazy really do make the best colleagues, and that no one is entitled to anything on Wall St. You can slay all the trading dragons in the land, conjure untold millions in extra profits from perfectly executed trades, but in the end - you get what you get.

In this day and age there is TRULY a lot to be said for that but it takes a complete Street Freak to roll you up in a tale like this one.

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