New Trend On Wall Street "Lets Urban Professionals Be Savage Again"

Does the domestication of Wall Street really grind your gears? Does it kill you to sign emails "Best" or "Thx," when what you'd really like to do is walk over to the person you're corresponding with and simply grunt out your request? Are you shamed of the fact that your hands not only look like you've never done manual labor in your life but that you get regular manicures to keep lines and ragged cuticles at bay? Does it burn you up inside to order yet another lunch of salad and diet Coke via SeamlessWeb, when deep down inside you know what you should be doing for lunch is hunting and killing it yourself via bow and arrow? Does it chap your hide to no end that the JPMorgan 5K is considered a physical challenge, when real challenges are supposed to involve carrying someone for many miles on your back and being electrocuted? Do you want to bond with like-minded individuals looking to put hair on their chests and pay a fee of $80-$200 so your nipples can finally know real pain? Then Tougher Mudder* might be right for you.
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Does the domestication of Wall Street really grind your gears? Does it kill you to sign emails "Best" or "Thx," when what you'd really like to do is walk over to the person you're corresponding with and simply grunt out your request? Are you shamed of the fact that your hands not only look like you've never done manual labor in your life but that you get regular manicures to keep lines and ragged cuticles at bay? Does it burn you up inside to order yet another lunch of salad and diet Coke via SeamlessWeb, when deep down inside you know what you should be doing for lunch is hunting and killing it yourself via bow and arrow? Does it chap your hide to no end that the JPMorgan 5K is considered a physical challenge, when real challenges are supposed to involve carrying someone for many miles on your back and being electrocuted? Do you want to bond with like-minded individuals looking to put hair on their chests and pay a fee of $80-$200 so your nipples can finally know real pain? Then Tougher Mudder* might be right for you.

Started in 2010 by a Harvard Business School graduate, Tough Mudder has exploded onto the fitness scene, with 35 races this year in 4 countries and 660,000 participants to date. Next year, 55 events are scheduled for 5 countries. Along with other quasi-military obstacle courses like the Spartan Race and Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder is the new gantlet for body-conscious Gen Xers. Though the muddy details vary, each challenge consists of a 3- to 12-mile course spiked with cheekily named obstacles like Ball Shrinker...The common motivator could be called the Walter Mitty weekend-warrior complex. While the races draw a fair share of endurance athletes and ex-military, many of the muddiest, most avid, most agro participants hail from Wall Street...“Obstacle courses like these are the physical representation of masculinity, which is lacking for people like lawyers, doctors, bankers and others in softer careers,” said Dr. Robert Heasley, a sociology professor at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the president of the American Men’s Studies Association. “By associating themselves with the military and military training, these men are becoming masculine by association.” founders of these tough-guy races are intimately familiar with that primal urge. Mr. Dean, a former intern at Bain Capital, developed the business plan for Tough Mudder as part of a competition at Harvard. “Finance people are in a weird juxtaposition,” Mr. Dean said. “They may make 100 times more than their fathers, but their hands are soft. We designed Tough Mudder to fill that void.”

Interested but need to know about what day of ball shrinking and void-filling will entail? Here's what you can expect:

* A colon cleansing and sense of smugness come Monday.

Michael Cugini would be back at his desk at a major Wall Street firm, another high-powered cog in the engine of finance. There would be men on his left, men on his right, all yelling into their phones and scanning the stock ticker. But Mr. Cugini bore unseen scars beneath his crisp custom suit. Twenty-four hours earlier, Mr. Cugini (nickname Cujo) was shirtless, face down, crawling through a 40-foot-long pit of cold mud, while being electrified by low-hanging wires. He also scaled a 15-foot-high wall, ran 12 miles and underwent something called an Arctic Enema, in which he jumped into a Dumpster filled with ice water, dyed neon green, and swam under concertina wire. “There’s always a lot of moaning on Monday morning,” said Mr. Cugini, 31, a small man with a bald head and a strong grip. “And I just think, ‘Come on, what did you do this weekend?’ ”

*Free haircuts.

The chest thumping began before the first obstacle. Next to a cheesesteak stand, a barbershop was set up to dispense free mohawks. A chin-up bar was erected next to a chalkboard, where the highest scores were posted. Nearby, men warmed up by tossing kegs at a cardboard cutout of Fabio.

*Electric shock therapy.

A few miles ahead, Brian Polakowski, 36, a vice president of BlackRock, the giant money manager in Midtown Manhattan, had collapsed into a muddy pit after being electrocuted in the Electric Eel challenge. As he crawled from exhaustion, a stranger grabbed him by the arm and pulled him to his feet, saying, “You did it, man, you did it.” Mr. Polakowski stumbled on.

*Hugs when warranted.

Male bonding, needless to say, figures prominently. Like Iron John before it, these obstacle challenges are designed to forge camaraderie. The bonhomie is reinforced by challenges like the Everest and Berlin Walls, which require the men to work together and, in some cases, stand on one another’s shoulders. There are many one-arm bro-hugs, and even some full embraces.

* A terrorist attack on your erogenous zones.

“Goldman brings a massive team,” said Will Dean, the 31-year-old founder of Tough Mudder. “So does Morgan Stanley.” That they do makes sense since Mr. Dean tailored his sport for cubicle-bound masses yearning to breathe free. “When we started Tough Mudder, we identified a few key demographics,” he said. “One of them was the white-collar urban professional.” From a distance, the Tough Mudder course at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park looked more like a medieval battlefield than a 400-acre racetrack. Beefy figures, silhouetted against a frigid slate gray sky, faltered up steep hills. In the gravel parking lot, teams of men prepared for battle. Some stretched, others squeezed into compression shirts. One man, placing surgical tape on his chest, said fearfully, “This is going to be 9/11 on my nipples.”

Who is in?

Forging A Bond In Mud And Guts [NYT]
Related: New Trend On Wall Street Involves Chopping Wood, Hypothermia, If You’ve Got The Balls
*Similar to the Spartan Races, which include not just physical but mental challenges and also weed out the men from the men who can dice onions ("The 24-hour Dantean course — which involves chopping wood for two hours, carrying rocks for five hours, cutting a bushel of onions and memorizing the first 10 presidents of the United States — was partly inspired by the film '300,' which chronicled the Spartan stand at Thermopylae").

Related

How Can Wall Street Feel Alive Again?

As some of you may recall, there was a time not too long ago when you could work on Wall Street and be compensated in a way that made you feel special. Appreciated. Loved. Eight, nine, ten-figures of love. Now, obviously, not so much. But that is not what's eating the industry's most fragile spirits of late. They are fine taking pay cuts. They could care less about the money. What they're not fine with is having the rush, the intensity, the adrenaline-pumping fear that comes with, say, putting on a trade in which maybe the firm will make $1 billion or maybe it'll lose $10 billion, WHO KNOWS, IT'S ALL RELATIVE, I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS, THAT'S WHAT MAKES IT SO EXCITING taken away from them. Take Sean George. He used to spend his days destroying company property and now, thanks to financial regulation, has had to get his kicks elsewhere. Sean George kneeled in the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. He wasn’t praying. A gash below his right brow bled into his eye and down his nose before a knee to his groin sent him to the floor. George, 39, head of credit-derivatives trading at Jefferies, was making his Muay Thai debut at the church June 22 in a sport that allows kicking, elbowing and kneeing. His eye was swelling shut by the time he lost in a split decision. It was the happiest he’s been all year, he said. “Right now at work I’m making less risk decisions -- and I enjoy taking risks,” George, who headed investment-grade credit-default-swap trading at Deutsche Bank AG before he joined Jefferies last year, said in an interview. “If you’re in it for the game and the fight, the game’s over and the fight’s over.” Risk is what drew George and the colleagues he respects to Wall Street, he said. He could bring in millions of dollars in a single month at his peak, and trading was so intense that during one credit-default-swap deal he smashed a phone against his desk, sending part of it three rows away, “one of the records for the best break,” he said. Ethan Garber's lost that tingly feeling in his plums. “There’s no sexiness, there’s no fun, there’s no intellectual intrigue, either,” said Ethan Garber, who ran proprietary credit-arbitrage portfolios for Credit Suisse Group AG and Bear Stearns Cos. “A lot of my friends who actually lingered for the last four years are all now getting fired anyway,” said Garber, 45, currently CEO of IdleAir, a Knoxville, Tennessee-based firm that provides electricity at truck stops. “The air is taken out.” Robert McTamaney has been reduced to doing his best impression of a whiskey-swilling, cigar-chomping newspaper man from the 1940's, who we assume addressed Bloomberg's Max Abelson as "toots" here. “The socks are higher, the skirts are longer,” said McTamaney, who helped run Goldman Sachs’s equities- trading business in Asia. “It’s like styles: They change, and you’ve got to change with it or be left behind.” Former King Street Capital and Bank of America trader Sam Polk isn't gonna lie, the worst part of Wall Street 2.0 is not being able to feel like a god by dropping $10,000 for bottle service on Wednesday nights, and sometimes even Thursdays. “You could be a 20-something trader three years out of school, able to go to any restaurant or club or ballgame on any night that you wanted, and it was totally paid for,” he said. “It was a tremendous feeling of power.” Michael Meyer is dying a slow, painful death. “The light at the end of the tunnel is dim,” said Meyer, now co-head of sales and trading at New York investment bank Seaport Group. Clearly, it's not pretty. But here at Dealbreaker we're about offering solutions, not whining about problems. How can these guys and girls replicate the feelings they once got by taking on risk on the job, if, unlike Sean George, getting kicked in the balls is not their thing? Drinking the carton of milk in the break room that's been sitting out for two days, telling the boss's wife it looks like she's gained a couple pounds, having unprotected sex with a junkie, shouting "You go girl!" at yourself in spin class after being kindly told to "Shut the fuck up" or else, and leaving dirty dishes in the sink all seem like good jumping off points but we can do better. These people need our help. Bloodied Trader Pines For Risk As Wall Street Retreats [Bloomberg]

James Gorman Will Say Something Nice About Wall Street When Wall Street Earns It

If you're looking for a cheerleader, go bark up another tree. “Say you want to be out ahead of it and give a lot of speeches and talk about all the good we’re doing,” Gorman said today at an industry conference in New York. “And then some trader does some stupid thing like this guy at UBS did and he’s in jail and all bets are off,” Gorman said. He was referring to Kweku Adoboli, the UBS AG trader convicted of fraud this month in the largest unauthorized trading loss in British history...Traders at New York-based Morgan Stanley had too much latitude in the past, “what I call having an outsized sandbox,” Gorman, 54, said at the conference, which was sponsored by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. “Until we can be really confident we’ve got discipline around the sandboxes, I think you have to be really careful not to be holier than thou,” Gorman said. “We’re going to be in the doghouse for a while.” Incidentally, this would a good time to mention that Gorman's bonus policy instituted last January-- STFU or GTFO-- still stands.

Occupy Wall Street Defense Specialist: "Try In Vain to Sprint Away Alone" At Your Own Risk

Remember Occupy Wall Street? After being evicted from its Zuccotti Park global headquarters in Lower Manhattan last year the group seemed to loose a bit of steam but has vowed a resurgence, starting with a May 1 "spring offensive." Protests have been planned in 115 cities where "the financial elite play and plan," including the midtown offices of JPMorgan and Bank of America. Worried your place of business or home might be the target of some uninvited guests and/or a surly gigantic check? Then you might want to get in touch with your fellow prey and start strategizing. Planning for May 1 in New York began in January in a fourth-floor workspace at 16 Beaver St., about two blocks from Wall Street, according to Holmes. The date serves as an international labor day, commemorating a deadly 1886 clash between police and workers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The midtown demonstrations will take place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a march from Bryant Park to Union Square and a 4 p.m. rally there, according to an online schedule. Protesters, including labor unions and community groups, have a permit to march from Union Square to lower Manhattan, according to police. Goldman Sachs Group’s headquarters is among financial- district picketing options, Holmes said. Brian McNary, director of global risk at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, a subsidiary of Sweden’s Securitas AB works with international financial firms to “identify, map and track” protesters across social media and at their assemblies, he said. The companies gather data “carefully and methodically” to prevent business disruptions. Banks are preparing for Occupy demonstrations at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Chicago summit on May 20 and 21 by sharing information from video surveillance, robots and officers in buildings, giving “a real-time, 360-degree” view, said McNary, who works on the project. Banks cooperating on surveillance are like elk fending off wolves in Yellowstone National Park, he said. While other animals try in vain to sprint away alone, elk survive attacks by forming a ring together, he said. As for what to do in the interim, pre-attack by wolf pack, lock it up. You're not doing anything. You're not teaming up with other elks, you haven't even heard about the demonstrations. What is Occupy Wall Street? Sayeth Mcnary, “When you portray a position ofweakness, it invites attack. [Banks] don’t want to provide the perception that they’re hunkering down behind their bulwarks and putting up big walls.” Wall Street Tracks ‘Wolves’ as May 1 Protests Loom [Bloomberg]

Charlie Gasparino: Rumors Government Is Planning To Nail Four On Wall Street Probably Only Rumors But Listen Up Anyway

Point: "The latest urban legend to spread on trading desks and through the executive suites on Wall Street goes something like this: coming this fall, as President Obama makes his final push for a second term, his Justice Department will finally give the public what it wants in the form of an arrest of a major Wall Street figure for his role in the financial crisis. The men at the top of this "October Surprise" list are two of the more infamous figures in the banking business: former Lehman Brothers chief executive Dick Fuld and current Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein. Using the Justice Department for political purposes is, of course, pretty sleazy." Counterpoint: "...But after speaking to my law enforcement sources -- and you can throw people who work at the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department in this category -- I give low probability for this urban legend coming to fruition." Regardless: "Here's what I am told, confirmed by two senior law enforcement officials involved in the insider trading probe: investigators are looking at charging someone they describe as a "big fish." The person has been described as someone I would know, which since I cover Wall Street, means that it's a major financial type implicated in the matter. I cannot be certain of this because my sources refused to provide any additional details; the case isn't complete. It involves cooperators, which means that it might go forward or it might not. So the October Surprise is a very real possibility, much to delight of journalists like myself. But before rejoicing we in the media should take a deep breath. These same law enforcement sources investigating insider trading among Wall Street fat cats and other corporate titans are also looking at the alleged improprieties of a major journalist who covers stocks. That case, like the other, isn't completed, but both have been described as "moving forward." In other words, stay tuned. An October Surprise On Wall Street [HP]