It’s been over a month since I published something on this blog, making it the longest period of quiet I have endured since I fully dove into the world of finance back in December of 2015. At the time, I was on track to play professional Smite, a Multi-Online Battle Arena game or MOBA. At the time I had received a few offers from professional teams to join them in the upcoming season. Fate had other plans.
I woke up on the morning of December 12th to discover my dog of 3 years Dragon had died that night. I found him at the foot of my bed lying motionless on the floor. His sudden death, forced me to take stock of my life. I was depressed, overweight, and stressed beyond reason. I may have climbed to the pinnacle of my “sport” but without my best friend it was a hollow achievement. Later that week, I decided to rededicate myself to the craft of finance, focusing specifically on global macro economics, figuring that if I could climb to the top of one game I could do it again.
I bring this up, because once again I find myself wracked with the sudden departure of another dearly beloved family member, this time, my Opa, Leonard E. Baum. Many in the financial community will know him as a legend, the man who helped build the foundation of mathematics which supports our modern society, but to me and my family he was always just Opa.
He never bragged to us about his accomplishments. In fact, he rarely talked about them. He kept that part of his life a secret, only leaking small details here and there when we probed him enough, like the time he admitted to cracking a certain Russian leader’s personal code.
And despite his penchant for silence, I was able to learn of some of his most inspiring trades.
He bought Amazon so long ago, that his brokerage firm did not have electronic records of the date. During the depths of the GFC when everyone thought the world was going to end, he was buying Citi Bank, temporarily holding the market at $1. Although it briefly broke $1, he never sold and like Amazon still held those shares till his death. Despite these incredible trades, when I asked him just a week before his death, what his best trade was, he without hesitation responded “Julia”, my late grandmother.
It’s no wonder why I’ve always held him in such high regard. But to me, despite those incredible accomplishments he’ll always be the one who taught me how to multiply large numbers when I was three. In fact he gave me so much mathematical instruction that by the time I entered the first grade I was already doing fifth grade math. My elementary school teachers hated accommodating their lesson plans around me.
What is not widely known though were his story telling capabilities. Most children got simple bed time stories, but Opa would give us his rendition of the Iliad and the Odyssey so often that “sulking in his tent like Achilles” became a common phrase around our household.
Little did I know how inspirational these stories would be to me later in life. I wrote my first ever screenplay loosely based on Opa’s serial tellings of the knight Kay who would travel around the world killing witches and freeing princesses and the like. Like his stories, mine too starred a knight, although not in shining armor, his name was still Kay. And even though Opa was legally blind, and even though it was a beyond awful piece of writing he still found a way to read it. He was even kind enough to tell me how much he liked it, noticing the mathematical patterns embedded within.
Fortunately for readers of this blog, I won’t make you read it. Instead, let me leave you with a piece of Opa’s own writing. A critique of what he saw to be his strengths and weaknesses as a trader. I hope you will find it has insightful as I have.