On Turning 50

Jeff  Carter
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Posted: May 09, 2012 12:01 AM

I turn 50 today. I don’t feel any different. My perspective on life hasn’t changed. Maybe it’s because my grandfather is still alive. He’s 98. I don’t feel like I am on the back side of my life yet. It used to be people went through a mid life crisis at around 40. If I did that, it manifested itself in getting an MBA at Chicago Booth.

When I was on the CME Board of Directors, I used to have lunch with Merton Miller and Paul Simon. I would eat, and they would discuss. Obviously, they were on opposite sides of the fence. However, they were good friends. One day I told Merton that I always wanted to get an MBA. He told me, “If you do it, do it at Chicago.” Hey, no one ever told me I couldn’t follow orders!

I am lucky and have had an interesting life. Through the years, from the time I was pretty young up to today I have met some pretty cool people. Famous athletes, Medal of Honor recipients and war heroes, elected officials, titans of business, but the ones I like the best realize that we are all just the same in the end.

They realize life is a gift. You have to do something with it that you enjoy if you can. Not everyone gets to do that, but so far in my life at each stage I have done something that I really wanted to do. When I was a kid, it was sports all the time. I worked hard and turned myself into a pretty decent basketball player. Could shoot the lights out, but that was before the three point line! I went to three colleges in four years-Air Force Academy, Triton College, Illinois and at the end just wanted to get a job. I was lucky, and had a great job at 3M ($MMM) with an awesome boss.

A friend brought me to the trading floors and I found a home. In those trading pits, I met so many good people I can’t begin to count them. They influence you in different ways. Roger Carlsson gave me my start and I am grateful he took a chance on me. Even after the floor networks have been blown to smithereens by electronic trading, I have tried to remain in contact through any social media outlet to keep those networks alive.

People rip floor traders all the time. Being a floor trader was one of the greatest things you could ever be. It was a great way to learn about business. I have seen some amazing things on the trading floor-both good and bad but mostly good. When you made money, it was the greatest job in the world. When you lost, not so much. But either way it was fun.

The gallows humor that I heard on the floor was so funny, yet so spot on, you laughed and cried all at the same time. You almost have to experience it to understand it. When you lose 50k in the last minute of trading, you have to figure out how to laugh about it. Otherwise you’d go nuts.

This sounds sappy. I hate when politicians or athletes say, “I am retiring to spend more time with my family.” Hey, we are all busy. When I am not busy, I choose to spend it with my family. If you are fortunate enough to live to 50, you won’t do it without a great family. I have one. If you have met my wife, you know what I am talking about. Based on my early escapades with people that are still close friends of mine today, I’d probably be dead or in a ditch without her!

I have a tremendous group of people I know and the circle grows bigger as I grow older. I appreciate and learn from every one of them. Eli Radke loves to tease me that I am the oldest man in social media. It’s cool. I love social media because I get to meet even more cool people. If we met on the net, thanks for taking the time to reach out to me. Hope we see each other in person sometime.

If there is one thing I have learned from having a 98 year old grandfather, it’s that you never stop. Hitting an age is just a number. Even when he was 90, he was chopping wood and preparing for the future. The answer is to never stop. Never retire. Maybe just change what you are doing. Adapt.

Changing is really tough. Believe me, you don’t want to go through what I have gone through over the past few years. Brutal. Tons of failure. Plans that didn’t work out. But, after jumping off a few cliffs, other cliffs have caught me. I love this video. I tweeted it at @FAKEGRIMLOCK yesterday. He tweeted back that the little kid is the only one that lived. He is right. You never stop running. When you stop, you die or get old. I still feel as old as that kid.

Hope you do too.