Blessings in Disguise

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Since it’s a Sunday (and in front of a quiet holiday week), I thought I’d write about blessings. In particular, blessings disguised as misfortune. To do this, I’ll share a couple of personal stories, each of which involves my former company, Prophet.

In August of 1993, a little more than a year after I started Prophet, we were hit by a devastating burglary (this is all detailed in my video documentary about the company which you can see here). It pretty much erased all the progress we had made since starting the place, and it took us about a year to recover.

At the end of our recovery year, my partner had had enough. He wanted out. This was terribly worrisome for me. He was my only partner, and he had all the technical talent. I was just the marketing and business guy. So his departure seemed like it would snuff the place out just when we were starting to get back on our feet. It seemed like very bad news to me, and he told me the (very modest) sum he woudl require to be bought out of his share.

Well, i wrote him a check for $25,000, and although I instantly doubled my holdings in the company, I really wondered how I was going to pull this off. Necessity, it’s said, is the mother of invention, and in a way, that’s precisely what happened here. I busted my ass learning everything I could about stuff I knew nothing about……….the OS/2 operating system, SQL databases, how to run web servers, how to write charting code………..everything. And, as I think history proved, I did indeed pull it off.

Had he stayed on, it probably would have ruined the place. He had a difficult personality, he wasn’t particularly talented technically, and he was emotionally draining to me. Indeed, there were two “bad” events – – the burglary itself, and my partner’s departure – – and yet these were both absolutely key in the ultimate success of the company (and my much larger payout from its purchase). So this was a blessing in a really, really good disguise.

Prior to Prophet’s sale, however, there was another debacle, and it involved the sale of the place to a totally different party than the one which ultimately bought it. Early in 2004, optionsXpress made it quite clear they wanted to buy Prophet. We got about 90% of the way down the road to selling ,but there was one huge sticking point – – a sale of some intellectual property the company had done (a portfolio of patents) which OX thought would bite them in the ass later.

I strongly believed they were worrying about nothing, but their lawyers were adamant on this point. Out of desperation, I offered to drop a million dollars off the purchase price, but they still said no. And let me tell you, it’s not like dozens of companies were lined up waiting to wite us a check. OX was pretty much the only game in town, and after months of hard work and some very expensive due diligence, they slammed the door in my face.

The same day they did, however, I decided to send an email to Lee Barba, the CEO of Investools. He and I had met years before, and for some reason, I thought I should reach out to him and see if he’d be at all interested in Prophet. Well, the angels above smiled on poor old TIm, and miracle of miracles, Lee was instantly interested.

I made plain to him very early on (holding my breath as I did) about the issue with the patent portfolio, and, God bless Lee, he didn’t give a flying crap about that issue. We were able to use all the due diligence materials we had already prepared for optionsXpress, and within weeks, we had all the paperwork and materials done for the acquisition (and it didn’t involve some pathetic discount either!)

So what was the blessing? Simple………getting bought by Investools worked out FAR better than being bought by OX ever would have. Investools gave me totally free reign at Prophet after the purchase, and I was able to work for a number of years with a degree of freedom and creativity that OX never would have allowed. In addition, it led to a long-term relationship with Tom Sosnoff, which continues to this day by way of my tastytrade program, as well as giving me the privilege of creating and running Slope of Hope without any bureaucratic meddling.

So what’s the latest misfortune in my current life? That can be answered by this charming little contribution from a Sloper………


The past eight years have indeed a horrible misfortune. However, I know that years from now, I’m going to look back on it as a positive thing. I don’t know why, and I have no idea what form this positivity will take – – but experience has taught me to be strangely optimistic about these big life events.

There are going to be times in our lives that things don’t go the way we’d like. (As the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans). It’s easy now for me to look back and be grateful for those “misfortunes” which turned out to be so beneficial, but it’s nearly impossible to be positive at all in the real-time midst of malady. During those times, try to think back on instances in your own life when you were wrong about the “goodness” or “badness” of a particular event, and on top of that, keep this bit of wisdom in mind………..