Be Careful For What You Wish

All our wishes come true but not in the forms we imagine.

In 1973 I graduated from college and planned to start working, have a family and take a year at a Zen monastery when I reached 40, like Philip Kapleau who wrote The Three Pillars of Zen. At 40, my family and business partners would not have been encouraging had I taken a year-long sabbatical. However, at 43 my family and 140 friends threw a farewell party for me at the Harvard Club before I left for a 13 month stay at a Federal prison.

What landed me in prison was my involvement in an “insider trading” case. I personally profited $50K. Legal fees cost me roughly $2M and fines and penalties another $1.8M. Moreover, I was no longer allowed to manage other people’s money, though all of my investors stayed with me until I was prohibited from working. As a result of my not being allow to work, my net worth today is not even a tiny fraction of what it would have been otherwise.

I didn’t think that my trading was criminal. But others obviously did. In any event, the cost of going to trial, fines, penalties and the sanctions placed upon me undoubtedly were punitive to an extreme.  How do I feel? Pretty good as I play squash 4 – 5 times a week and I play with the prosecutor in my case. Why? Because I was born with the gene of happiness and the prosecutor is a wonderful guy, good squash player.

I did learn something from this ordeal: best be careful what we wish for as every wish will come true but not in the form we imagine. While I didn’t go to a traditional Zen monastery, prison was a Zen monastery of sorts. It did provide an awakening moment.

During my stay, my interactions with the other prisoners was for the most part fun. As well, I generously paid some to make my bed, clean the shower before I used it and make me foods like hand-cut French fries. The night before I left the prison, I asked a group of inmates whether they would miss me as we had a good time together. Seemingly in unison, they said no, because they hated me. I was a bit shocked. They said they hated me because I had such a good time. Maybe they needed a Zen monastery more than I did.