February 2, 2023

**Note,** If you haven’t read the introduction and the first part of chapter 1, please be sure to do so they are posted below….thx.
Chapter 1 (part 2)
The world of a telephone stockbroker is one of controlled chaos. Because my closing rate was around 30%, I was assigned three dialers. 30% may sound low, but do the math. If I talked to ten qualified leads every four hours and managed to close three of them on an initial investment with Foley and Co. of $5000, then that meant that my commission was $450. It meant Foley and Co. made around $800. So three dialers was a mark of prestige.
The dialers were broker trainees who were still studying to pass their series 7 and 63 commodities licenses. Using two telephones they would call business owners and current investors from our lead sheets in all fifty states. They were expected to make 20 calls an hour. Out of those twenty calls, perhaps one of the leads would be qualified. Qualified leads had to own stock already, be the person in charge of buying, and most importantly, stay on the phone long enough to hear my initial pitch.
This week I was pitching JP Morgan. Dialer three sent me a qualified lead “Here’s Cliff McCreary.â€? It was the signal that the unknowing lead was about to be handed off for the hard sell. My computer screen flashed with his information as my phone rang. His name was David Blackwell.

“Mr. Blackwell,â€? I said in a cheery and confident tone, “ Cliff McCreary here. I hear you own a little bit of Eli Lily. How’s that treating you?â€? The number one rule to keep the lead on the phone was to keep him off balance. Ask a lot of questions, surprise him with your knowledge of his personal business, and most importantly, don’t give him a chance to leave the path you lay out for him.
“Yeah, it goes through its good times and its bad, wait, who is this? Cliff who?â€? he was starting to realize what had happened. I had to get him interested quickly or he would hang up.
“McCreary. Foley and Co. Largest independent west coast brokerage in America. How’d you like that move last week with the stock reversal? Did you catch that? What did you think of that David?â€? It was important to get on a first name basis while the lead was still trying to figure out who I was and how I knew he owned Eli Lily.
“Of course,â€? David repliedâ€? I’m a share holder. I vote on these decisions. I voted against it of course….â€? He tailed off a bit thinking of the money he’d lost when his shares had consolidated three to one in a reverse stock split. Of course he owned Eli Lily. He was the owner of a farm equipment supply company in Indiana. Everyone in Indiana owns Eli Lily. Especially the farmers. It had been a calculated risk to assume, but it was one that usually paid off. That was why I had the dialers working Indiana today. The stock had went through the reverse split on an earnings report, the price had dropped, and everyone that held it long term knew that it would come back up. Well, actually, they didn’t know at all. They hoped. It had always done it before. Inside every investor there is a fear that they will get caught in the next Enron or Worldcom. That was what I was shooting for.
“Tell me David, “ I said in my calmest, most charming voice, “Is that how you always pick your stocks? Do you always pick whatever is closest to home and then hold it tight until it either sinks or swims? How much did you lose?â€?
“That’s none of your business…eh…Cliff. I lost enough. Where are you calling from again?â€? He was actually pretty good. I bet this guy was a great businessman. He didn’t lose his focus for very long. He was asking me a non inflammatory question. That was good. I knew I had him. The rest of the conversation had already been mapped out. He just didn’t know it. He would tell me that he had a broker. Someone he knew, that lived in his home town. I ask him why his broker didn’t warn him to sell before the reverse split? He would say that it would come back up, he believed in buying and holding. Of course he did. That was what his lazy broker had trained him to do. He would defend Eli Lily and I would agree with him and then I would let him have it.
“But David, wouldn’t it have been nice to work with a broker that was actually tracking the earnings reports, institutional investors, and the Fibonacci curves? Wouldn’t it have been nice to sell high and then to buy low? I mean, David, you are in this to make money, right? Not to make friends?â€?
He was a smart guy so of course he followed my reasoning. He wasn’t in this to give his old friend’s nephew a commission. He was investing to make money. He was a nice Midwestern guy so he had stayed on the phone while I insulted his business acumen and tried to let me down easy now.
“Look Cliff, you’re right, but it’s a little late to kick myself now. I mean the stock has already started going back up.â€?
“Exactly,â€? I said. It’s a great word to make people feel like they are still in control of the conversation, “but you have to admit JP Morgan seems to be headed in the right direction….â€? He was hooked. It took another thirty minutes to get past all of his objections but I did it calmly. He had to raise the objections to make sure in his own mind that I was for real. I, of course, knew his objections before he did. I also knew how to counter them. The bottom line was I had showed him that he and his current broker didn’t have a clue how the market worked…and that I did. He decided to ‘take a chance’ on me and bought into JP Morgan for just under seven grand. I passed him back to the cage so that they could take his e-check and filled out my order ticket. Five minutes later he was an official client of Foley and Co. He’d be telling his buddies about his hotshot west coast broker over beers that evening. My only concern at the moment was to ring the brass bell that hung near the cage and let all the other brokers know that Cliff McCreary had closed another sale.
When you are dealing with the whole country the only time standard you can really go by is when the markets in New York open, and when they close. Closing time meant lunch. I avoided the dialers who all wanted to congratulate me on ringing the bell, I avoided the brokers who all wanted to talk strategy, and instead I went across the street to the sandwich shop. I ordered a tuna on rye and took it into the walled Chinese Garden. Portland is filled with unusual parks that you would never expect to find in such a white bread city. I paid my entrance fee and went inside to sit by the placid pools filled with giant goldfish.
I was still on a bit of a sales high. This was what I did for a living. It was exciting. It was dangerous. It was a rush. It made it hard to remember that there is more to life than closing deals. That was why I had to sometimes escape my colleagues, my desk, and my clients. The Chinese Garden was a good place to do that. I sat under a pagoda and unwrapped my sandwich.
“I would love to share that with you.â€? A familiar voice said. I looked up into the same blue eyes I had seen that morning. “Your sandwich, I mean. Can I have half?â€? His grin made it hard to tell if he was serious. He was somewhere between 35 and 50. Obviously life had aged him prematurely. I was happy to notice that he didn’t stink of sweat or alcohol.
“Are you serious?â€? I asked, fully expecting him to say no.
“Am I serious? Hell yes I’m serious, in fact, I’m earnest.â€? The lines of his face made him look closer to his 50’s. I laughed.
“Well, in that case, nice to meet you Earnest. I’m Cliff.â€? I held out my hand and he took it, the smile never leaving his face.
“That’s great Cliff, but I still would like half of your sandwich.â€? I broke it in half and set it on the table across from me.
He picked it up and started eating. The guy looked like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. God knows where he got the money to get in the Chinese Garden.
“Hey, so what’s your name really?â€? I asked him.
That big grin appeared on his face again. “Earnest,â€? he said. “With an ‘a’. Why else would I love that damn dhammapada so much?â€? He winked at me and made me wait for any further conversation until he had finished his half of my sandwich.
I would start to ask him a question and he would put up his hand while he chewed. His eyes never left me. I started to feel nervous and would begin again. Again the hand would come up and that exaggerated chewing would stop me. At last, after what seemed like an eternity, he wiped the sleeve of his tattered old green parka across his mouth, and looked at me intently. “Well Cliff,â€? he said with a satisfied look on his face, “It seems that you have some questions.â€?
“Yeah,â€? I jumped at the opening I had been waiting for, “How did you know I was thinking about the Earnest Man this morning? What were you doing under that bridge? How did you get in here? What….â€?
He shooshed me. He actually and really shushed me with one finger in front of his lips and that wisp of air coming out. “Cliff,â€? Earnest said,â€? I meant big questions…real questions, not these ephemeral thoughts that have no significance. Let’s start with the Dhammapada.â€?
I was hooked.

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