A Dream Deferred

I’m fortunate to have received a great education. At just the graduate level, I’ve studied leadership, personnel selection, performance appraisal, tests and measures, attitudes and values, statistics, and individual assessment from some of the best in those fields. However, for someone going into the business world, I lack comprehensive training in finance. To make up for that deficiency, I read a lot.

One of the books I’ve read recently illustrated why my lack of a background in finance is nothing to be concerned about. 4th and Goal by Monte Burke is a biography of Joe Moglia. Joe was a 30-year-old football coach with a master’s degree in education before talking his way into the financial world and promptly turning it on its head before in route to becoming the CEO of TD Ameritrade.

Joe’s story is one of transition. In 1983, Joe was the defensive coordinator for Dartmouth College’s football team. After spending a decade slowly rising through football’s coaching ranks, and nearing his dream of being a head college football coach, Joe was faced with a decision. He could either continue with a football coach’s salary that put him near the poverty line or find a new way to support his wife and four children.

Joe lives and preaches the mantra, “Be A Man” so he abandoned his dream of being a head football coach and walked onto Wall Street. He earned a place in Merrill Lynch’s MBA trainee program, without an MBA. Once he was through the program, he rose fast and eventually applied his skills as a football coach to change the selling of financial products from an individual activity where individual accomplishments were rewarded, to a team based process that rewarded team success.

Moglia spent 17 years at Merrill, before eventually accepting an offer to be the CEO of what was then Ameritrade Holdings. In his seven years with Ameritrade, Joe grew client assets from $24B to over $300B and increased the company’s market capitalization from $700M to $12B. He oversaw the merger with TD Waterhouse that led to the company now being called TD Ameritrade. Joe led TD Ameritrade thorough the 2007 financial crash by eschewing junk bonds and credit default swaps, and as a result posted profits while other financial institutions were crumbling.

At the height of his success in the financial world, Joe stepped down from TD Ameritrade citing the desire to pursue other interests. Those “interests” were football and coaching. The fact no one wanted to hire a football coach over 60 years old and 30 years removed from the game whose experience with the SEC was limited to the Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t stop Joe. He became an unpaid intern at the University of Nebraska before eventually getting a shot with the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks. In 2011, Joe won Big South Conference Championship and Coach of the Year award in his first season with Coastal Carolina.  This year, Joe and his team are 9-0 with three games left to go before playoffs. He’s a contender for coach of the year.

4th and Goal is an inspiring book about a man overcoming odds and finding success in places he had no business succeeding. Given my love of football, interest in coaching, fascination with finance, and obsession with success, this was one of the most captivating books I’ve ever read. The art of storytelling is not easy, and Monte Burke does Joe Moglia’s brilliant story justice. 

For more information on Joe’s transitions see: Joe Moglia Transitions From Boardroom to Locker Room. Check this Forbes article for an excerpt from the book. I highly recommend you buy the print or audio version of the book here.  

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