So there I was, back in the studio, all mic’d up and ready for my return to CNBC’s “Tomorrow in 30:” segment where you have thirty seconds to talk about something that will be moving or will be moving the markets the next day.
I had been in this position before and even wrote a post entitled “10 Thoughts That Went Through My Head Just Before My First CNBC Appearance,” where I outlined the fear, trepidation, and general anxiety I experienced related my virginal television appearance.
This time as I sat there waiting for my cue I was marginally more relaxed than the first, perhaps partly because I knew what to expect and partly because I had just shotgunned a “tall boy” of Beck’s beer in the studio parking lot before I came in. Is there anything beer can’t do?
Also, I had practiced my rap ad nauseum and had it down cold;
One of the big stories among traders over the last few months has been the bottoming pattern in natural gas. That bodes well for companies like Chesapeake Energy ($CHK) who announce earnings tomorrow. What I want them to tell me on their conference call is that all their operational issues are behind them, and if so, I would look to get long the stock above $21.00 because as the price of natural gas continues to rise, that should help drive Chesapeake’s stock price.
But still, I could not completely shake off the nervous tension that was building inside me.
What was I worried about?
Was it the fact that I was being given a ridiculously short amount of time to explain a complex and nuanced idea, with no opportunity for follow-up, and that people might actually put some of their hard-earned money into a sound bite trade that I came up with while taking a shower?
Was it the fact that 99% percent of everything you hear on CNBC is disposable and I myself have not only turned CNBC off, but encouraged others to do the same to improve their trading?
Was it the fact that given those two previous points, by actually going on CNBC, basically with the only benefit being that someone might occasionally say to me, “Hey, I saw you on CNBC,” I might seem a bit disingenuous and hypocritical?
Any and all of the above would have been valid reasons for the discomfort on my part, but despite my theoretical musings about the validity of CNBC, I work for a company, and that company pays PR people to get us this type of exposure. As I am representing my company and not myself, I don’t have the luxury of begging off opportunities like being on CNBC.
So what was it that was making me feel so ill at ease?
It was simple. I was afraid of looking stupid.
Can you believe I just said that? Have you seen my StockTwits stream? Have you read this blog? Because if you have done either or ever met me in person, you know that I tend to be the one person who least cares about what people think of me. Hell, sometimes I even encourage people to think bad of me just for fun.
But there I was, under the glow of the studio lights, surrounded by HD monitors, the sweet siren song of Maria Bartiromo’s voice wafting through my earpiece, and I was afraid of looking stupid.
I mean what if in the middle of my spiel my mind suddenly went blank and I just blurted out something like….
…cheese stromboli looks good on leather shoe bags.
What a total idiot I would have looked like, right?
But then my thoughts turned to my six-year-old daughter. One of the benefits of shooting the CNBC spot was that I worked from home that day and was able to drop her off at school in the morning.
It was “All Saints Day” at her school and she was supposed to chose a Saint to dress up as, and give a short report about, in front of her classmates. She choose to be Saint John Bosco, who interestingly enough was known for his ability to juggle.
We had worked on her costume for a couple of days and I had been going over her presentation, helping her learn all the info, for about the same amount of time.
The only thing she had trouble remembering was the day of her Saint’s feast. It was January 31st, but for some reason she keep saying “July 31st” by mistake. We had tried various ways to get her to remember the correct month and I figured it was about a “50-50″ shot that she would get it right.
I told her that when it was time for her to say the date, she should just take a breath and relax, and if she said the wrong date by mistake, to just say “excuse me, I meant January 31st.” No big deal.
But this morning as I walked her into class none of that mattered as she was so excited about her speech. She couldn’t wait to get up in front of class and tell them everything she had learned about her Saint (especially the juggling part).
In the past I have written about keeping perspective in both your trading and your life, and now as I sat there in the studio, trying to ward off flop-sweat, it was time for me to swallow an adult-sized portion of perspective myself.
Just a few days earlier I was sitting on a sunny San Diego beach while the whole East Coast was preparing for a storm that would end up destroying the homes of many and taking the lives of some. Now here I was, sitting in a TV studio, in the middle of one of the most prosperous counties in the country, worried about a 30 second hit that most people would not remember three seconds after it was over.
Meanwhile, at that same moment my daughter was proudly, excitedly, and joyfully speaking to her equivalent of a CNBC audience, undoubtedly with not a hint of self-doubt or fear.
Suffice to say, I felt foolish. Shame on me. And then I felt angry. Angry at myself for letting such a silly thing like being on CNBC get me so hyper-neurotic that I felt physically uncomfortable. Who was I anyway, James Altucher?
I suddenly felt a wave of relief come over me as I realized that I was going to do this thing, and knock it out of the park or fall flat on my face, neither outcome would affect my life or my opinion of myself one bit.
When I picked my daughter up from school later that afternoon the first thing I asked her was how her presentation went.
“It was great Daddy,” she replied. ”I was a little bit nervous at first, but I just got up there and did it and it was fun. And I even got ‘January 31st’ right.”
“Awesome,” I said. ”I knew you would do great. I love you.”
And how did my CNBC performance go?
Well, I watched as President Obama and Gov. Christie’s impromptu press conference about hurricane Sandy continued to go on, and then I suddenly heard the voice of CNBC’s New York producer in my ear…
“You’re going to bump me,” I said.
“Yes, I am so sorry, the President went longer than we thought.”
“Oh man,” I sighed, using my best feigned disappointment voice. ”My grandmother is watching for me right now.”
“Awww…..really?” the producer asked.
“Oh, now that’s not nice.”
“Yeah,” I thought to myself. She’s right, it’s not nice. But it’s funny. It’s irreverent. It’s unfiltered. It’s a statement that doesn’t care what the other person thinks of it. And it’s who I am.
I say stupid crap at times. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s insightful. Sometimes it falls flat. But that’s me, unfiltered, honest, and not afraid of what anyone else thinks.
Somehow the “aura” of CNBC suckered me in, and I forgot that about myself.
The producer apologized for bumping me and promised that she would get me back on again real soon. And if the opportunity comes up, I’ll do the show.
I’ll probably still shotgun that beer ahead of time and maybe I’ll dress up as a Saint and juggle. But either way, I am going to relax and I will not forget who I am.