Dave Lukas Chats with Mike Kimelman
67: Success. Prison, Reinvention, and the Importance of Perception with Mike Kimelman
This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Michael Kimelman. We’ve never had a guest quite like Mike on Misfit before. Michael was a successful lawyer turned extremely successful trader and hedge fund owner on Wall Street.
Through a series of unfortunate events and standing on principle – Mike went to prison for insider trading. He was not willing to admit to something he says he was not guilty of or take a plea deal that stated he broke the law, so he stuck it out, went to prison, and while there through self-reflection and introspection finding who he truly is.
Post prison, with law and trading prohibited and the prospects of getting a job as a felon diminished, Mike had to re-invent himself as an entrepreneur. He founded a company called the Clarity Group and entered real estate investing building a successful company that has done over 300 deals in the last 3 years alone. He has also entered other industries as a consultant and published a best-selling book, “Confessions of a Wall Street Insider.
He also runs a successful leadership and growth coaching business and speaks on how to overcome life’s biggest challenges.
In meeting Mike, the most amazing thing I found in our initial conversation was the sense of calm and peace that he has about him. We explore a whole host of topics from his journey to success, then prison, battles with substance abuse, and how he learned to find himself and create a new life of success.
Book: Confessions of a Wall Street Insider
Mike grew up in southern California and had a pretty normal childhood. He was always successful and did well in school. He went to law school and excelled. Upon graduate, he had his pick of jobs and chose one of the biggest and oldest law firms in New York, as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer.
The work was not as excited as he thought and he was working 100 hour weeks. He had a lot of friends that were working in finance and technology working half as much and making more than he was, but also doing more exciting and interesting work. So, he moved over to finance and starting trading for several different funds. He quickly became a top performer and then in late 2007 started his own fund that he grew to over a quarter of a billion in assets and a team of over 50 traders – in just 18 months. The firm did well in the 2008 crisis and became a powerhouse. Until the FBI came knocking at his door…
At the 6 min mark, Mike tells the whole story of what happened to him and how we decided to go to prison rather than agree to a plea deal saying did something he did not do.
The process took over 7 years and he wrote his book telling the whole story and being part of the largest insider trading scandal in history.
He went in with what most people would consider everything. The perfect life. And then walked out with nothing. He lost it all.
What is the most important thing you learned in going through your journey?
The most important lesson is that perspective is everything and it is all relative.
Mike talks about how he had everything. Had sold a piece of his business for millions, but was miserable. He would mask his unhappiness through going to excess in everything from alcohol to exercise, etc. Prison was the great equalizer. Everyone is the same. You have nothing and your life is controlled. For Mike, once he realized that you still can survive it and in some ways, adapt, prosper, and even grow from it – it is empowering. It eliminates the fear aspect that impacts everyone in their lives. Once you have had the worst case happen to you in every area of life and realize that you still can keep going and have gratitude for the things you do have – it gives you a new perspective and fearlessness. But you don’t have to lose it all to realize this. You just have to be open to changing your perspective.
Was there a moment where you finally found meaning? And how can others find theirs?
At the 16 min mark, Mike talks about how he has found calm through everything and uses that to succeed today – especially what he learned about gratitude.
“The ability to exercise gratitude for what you do have is a tremendous asset to be able to employ as an entrepreneur or for any person trying to find happiness and meaning in their life.”
“In my poverty, I realized that I had tremendous wealth.”
You have to take the time to work on yourself and do so in your own solitude where you can clearly think and ask yourself and get to real answers for the following questions:
We have tremendous reserves within us that allow us to get through and overcome anything. We just have to realize it and embrace it.
At the 25:30 mark, Mike give his advice for anyone wanting to start over in life or their career.
Where are things going? What does the future look like for investment and opportunities?
What should people know about Wall Street?
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