iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Karen Salmansohn

Karen Salmansohn

Posted: June 22, 2009 05:34 PM

Laugh Your Way Through This Financial Crisis

What's Your Reaction?

There's a famous expression: "It only hurts when I laugh."

I'm a believer it should be rewritten: "It only hurts when I can't laugh."

For me laughter is the best therapy for difficult times. Laughter lightens up my emotional load-then swoops in as "enlightenment aid"-- helping me to see ways out of supposedly blocked situations.

I know there are many people who might say today's financial crisis is no laughing matter -- that there's absolutely nothing funny about our regulatory failures, sovereign defaults, asset-liability mismatches, subprime mortgage problems, and bankrupt banks.

To which I say: Hahaha!

I believe -- now more than ever -- we need to guffaw it up over our economic challenges! Finding humor in our financial pain is exactly what we need right now to motivate us to want to face the truth about where we're at -- and face the truth about what we need to do to improve our precarious economic situation.

I think we need to laugh our way out of our banking crisis instead of whine and cry our way out of it!

Enter Minyanville.

And what an entrance Minyanville has made!

Minyanville, a financial fitness franchise conceived in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy, won an Emmy Award last year for new approaches to business reporting and is widely known for it's intelligent content, global community and entertaining critters, the first such time the Wall Street bull and bear have been branded.

You know that expression: "A picture says a thousands words."

I'm a believer it should be rewritten: "A viral video is worth a few million words -- and a few million loyally hooked viewers."

I've included links below to Minyanville's wildly popular viral videos and a brief sampling of their written content so you can see why I'm hooked as one of the millions of "Minyans" around the world!

Minyanville's hilarious segments, featuring Hoofy the bull and Boo the bear, feel like the wacky offspring birthed after Walt Disney shared a few too many margaritas with Wall Street -- and then did what Wall Street has done to mainstream America.

In reality, these critters are the brainchild of founder and CEO Todd Harrison, a Wall Street veteran who left a high profile perch as president of a $400 million hedge fund with a mission to effect positive change through financial understanding.

What started as a "company of one" evolved into a collective effort laced with passion and purpose. Kevin Wassong, Minyanville president and the former CEO of digital@jwt , joined in 2005 and in Todd's words, turned "a seven-figure hobby into a media franchise."

Others, including Charlie Mangano (former head of global brand management at Merrill Lynch), Tom Eggers (former CEO of Dreyfus), Kevin Depew, Laurie Peterson, Jon Schwartz, Justin Rohrlich and Bill Meehan are among the staff of almost 30 full-time employees and 40 contributing "professors."

I purposefully listed a few names here, not only because I'd love to applaud these talented people for what they've done but also because "appreciation and gratitude" are among Minyanville's core operating philosophies.

Minyanville runs its day-to-day operation with an instantly felt "We Are Family" spirit -- a loving energy which is evident in the air during a day at their office and continues into the night at their staff outings and community events to benefit children.

I immediately sensed the feisty family ethos the moment I walked through their midtown doors and was led by a series of energetic employees to the office of Todd Harrison.

Todd (aka: Toddo) greeted me in jeans and sneakers -- a drastic dress code difference from a renowned Wall Street career that led him from a seven-year stint at Morgan Stanley to several well-known hedge funds. He looked entirely more relaxed -- but every bit as focused -- as when he traded billions of dollars worth of stock.

In 2000, at the young age of 31, Todd was named president of the legendary Cramer Berkowitz hedge fund. He continued on that track until 9/11 when he found himself running from the smoke of the burning towers -- and he continued to run after enduring tremendous personal and professional challenges, eventually arriving at the helm of both Minyanville and the Ruby Peck Foundation for Children's Education, which he started in memory of his beloved grandfather.

Todd's story is one of virtue, faith, tenacity and inspirational transformation. In fact, he recently released the first few chapters of an 18-part eBook series entitled "Memoirs of a Minyan" that is released each Wednesday on Minyanville.com and discusses the false idolatry of money as we edge into this age of austerity.

According to Kevin Wassong, Todd's business partner and best friend of 22 years, "Todd's much different than he was back in his hedge fund hay days. Back then, he was mostly known as a raucous, money loving party boy. Nowadays Todd's a contemplative, philosophical, people loving leader, a charismatically warm guy who at times is Buddha-like in his spirituality and scarily prescient with his thoughts."

"The purpose of the journey is the journey itself," Todd told me in his office that day as he offered me a bag of Minyanville chocolate chip cookies to nibble on. "As painful as those trying times were, I'm glad I forced to endure those obstacles. After being conditioned to believe success could be found in a bottom line or bank account, I awoke to the realization that net-worth isn't self-worth and there is a massive difference between having fun and being happy."

Todd then quoted Lou Manheim, in the movie "Wall Street":

"Man looks in the abyss, there's nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss."

"Man, I love that quote," Todd shared enthusiastically, a twinkle gleaming in his sparkling eyes. "Let me tell you, Karen, The greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain. The definition of professional nirvana is to do what you love with people you respect while serving the greater good. I would never have found it if I continued along the path I was on."

You can palpably feel Todd's passion for Minyanville emanating from the computer screen when you tool around the site. Minyanville is full of playful liveliness, good humor and an excited "let's-get-real" eagerness to share important foresight to help people live financially empowered lives.

The Minyanville content offering spans from the ABC's to 401(k)'s, which includes www.minyanland.com, a massive multi-player online game for children, to a plethora of daily long-form articles to the Buzz & Banter, a real-time subscription service, along with a host of premium products and services.

"If Walt Disney can brand two rodents as cultural icons, we can brand the Wall Street bull and bear and effect positive change through financial understanding," Todd said as he swiveled in his chair.

In my opinion, he's well on his way. With such wittily written yet incredibly helpful content, it's no wonder that Minyanville readers are cult-like in their following, proudly proclaiming themselves "Minyans" and priding themselves as being part of this most necessary social solution.

It's about time somebody created a trusted choice for a business voice, a place for people to come to be informed about our world's harsh economic truth -- but delivered with feisty humor, making reality a lot more palatable.

"People are so thirsty for the truth, in the absence of water they'll drink the sand." Harrison said before we concluded our meeting, "But they don't drink the sand because they're thirsty, they drink the sand because they know the difference."

"The irony," Todd continued, " is that the folks with cartoons got the market right while many of the people who were supposed to get it right acted like cartoons."

Minyanville's Related Stories and Videos:

http://www.minyanville.com/audiovideo/660/

http://www.minyanville.com/articles/10/1/2007/index/a/14299

http://www.minyanville.com/articles//9/17/2008/index/a/18996

http://www.minyanville.com/articles/8/2/2006/index/a/10892

http://www.minyanville.com/audiovideo/673/1/

http://www.minyanville.com/audiovideo/31/34/

http://www.minyanville.com/articles//12/8/2008/index/a/20251

http://www.minyanville.com/articles/index/a/23134

 
 
 

Follow Karen Salmansohn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/notsalmon