4:25am on a Thursday
It's gotta be something that you can do over and over with a reasonable amount of fun and competency. I learned that much from standing in the pits for all those years. In the best of conditions, I would wake up in the morning, eat a bowl of cereal, drive to the train, write like hell for 40 minutes, walk to the Board of Trade Building, stop at the counter for my jacket, take the escalator up to the trading floor, and wait for the bell to ring.
And then what?
Raise my hands and start yelling, instinctually, and then do that for the next seven hours or so. And then drop my jacket off at the counter, walk across the south Loop to the train, and then sleep on the way home.
That doesn't sound so exciting, does it? You think of the trading in a pit and you think of the glamour, the stress, the risk of trading. You rarely if ever think of the routine of trading. But in the end, if you do it long enough, you realize that it is the routine that makes all of the stress bearable and the temptation to succumb to the trappings just out of reach.
It is the routine that you embrace, that stabilizes you. It's not that different doing four hours of radio a day and then doing real work for several more hours. You wake up, take a shower (sometimes), walk downstairs for a bowl of cereal, flick on Megan Glaros and the channel 2 news, stare at the TV while you chew, walk back upstairs, put on your clothes, hop on your bike, ride to the radio station, walk in the door, and within a minute of putting up your kickstand you're talking about how cold it's gonna be and how much traffic there is on the Bishop Ford.
Once again, the routine pulls you through and, in a weird way, makes for less drudgery. Intuitively, you would think that the routine helps create the drudgery, but believe me, that's not the case, at least not for a very long time. What can happen, though - and what happened with me near the end with trading - is that you lose touch with the beauty and simplicity of the trading day. What once was eerily satisfying - the sun rising over the south side of Chicago, the smell of fresh bread on your walk from the train to your jacket - no longer satisfies. There is no longer beauty in it. One day it just happens. I'm sitting here trying to find a reason for losing touch with the beauty of the routine, but I can't find a quick and simple way to explain it. I'm sorry. It just happens one day and it's gone.
I figure that's probably what will happen one day with me and radio. That's part of the reason I sit here to write it down. I've already totally immersed myself in a craft and then one day it was just gone. Technology changed all the yelling to all the clicking, but long before we had started the migration from pit trading to trading on a computer I had already started to lose the beauty of the routine. It's just the natural unfolding of things and at first it's a little scary - shit, I thought I'd be a pit trader for the rest of my life - but when you learn to accept that there is beginning, a middle and and end to everything then life unfolds better.
And that would be the biggest lesson that I learned in the change from pit trader to radio host - that you must accept that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to all that you do. Everyday I talk about politicians, athletes, TV hosts, high school coaches and more that hang on too long. You can tell that they already lived their beginning, middle and end, and now they're attempting to either repeat the cycle or stretch out the end. And that's dangerous. If it's a politician, it's dangerous for us. If it's you, it's dangerous for the well-being of your soul.
Acceptance. That's what it is. You learn to accept that here I am one day writing a blog about my life in radio, and I sense that if I live long enough that doing a radio show every morning will probably be a thing of the past. Not for certain, but probably. The market will change. It is changing. As with trading, where we did things the old-fashioned way by looking at a guy and making a hand gesture and then stopping to write down the trade and then handing it to a clerk. With radio, I have injected into the tradition of turning a knob and talking and then a nanosecond later some guy scratching his nuts on the way to a job in the mill hears the incredibly interesting thing I just said. Technology will change it, but in the end that guy scratching his Johnson will still have to listen to something on his way to the mill (if there is still a mill). And there's a good chance that after a number of years that what he listens to won't be me.
Because I will have experienced the cycle. My beginning, my middle and my end in radio. Where am I now? I have no freaking clue. It's time to put some clothes on, walk down for a bowl of cereal, grab a coat.... and then start talking into a microphone with no one around but trucks and SUVs going 50 miles an hour down the Boulevard. The beauty of it all. The simplicity.