A former Wall Street hedge fund trader’s transformative turnabout from greed to philanthropy.
Raised in Southern California by a doting mother and a crass, dismissive father, Polk grew up dreaming of the day when the need for money wouldn’t dictate his every choice. In his engrossing debut memoir, the author retraces his beginnings as an overweight youth mercilessly bullied at summer camp and protective of his twin brother, Ben. Polk reinvented himself in high school, and his competitive nature matured as he became voraciously determined to outshine Ben in grades, sports, and dates. Acceptance at Columbia University further fed his overachievement fixation, though things almost derailed after bouts of bulimia, a suspension for theft, and problems involving drugs and alcohol. The memoir picks up narrative tension once Polk shifts his attention to his early 20s, during which his motivation and greed began to surmount his better judgment. A summer internship on a frantic stock market trading floor fueled a drive to succeed in business. Once he was hired on Wall Street, the salary and exorbitant bonuses became intoxicants to Polk, who became addicted to money with an eagerness to adopt the “easy confidence of millionaires.” The author writes with sincerity and passion, traversing over the increasing trouble his greed immersed him in, though it’s clear his behavior is derived more from a self-sabotaging, deep-seated psychological need to accumulate wealth, validation, and for “someone to tell me I was worth being taken care of.” Though Polk impressively aced the Wall Street learning curve and became a high-ranking senior trader, his introspection brought his insatiable avarice, maltreatment of women, and general misery into stark focus. This epiphany, somewhat rare for a self-made millionaire, inspired him to break away and embark on more personally enriching and rewarding humanitarian ventures like the food, education, and empowerment-building program he founded for families in low-income communities.
A heartfelt and cautionary success story incorporating both the deceptive promises of wealth and the life-changing power of self-awareness.