Career Changes While Listening To Bohemian Rhapsody

So this headline hit inside of Baird last week: “We are excited to announce that Michael Antonelli has transitioned to Private Wealth Management, joining the Investment Strategy team as a PWM Market Strategist”.

I always wondered if trading was something I’d do until the final day of my career. Trading can be an incredibly rewarding role full of excitement and endless opportunity but the fast pace and relentless pressure can grind people up and spit them out like so much chewed bubble gum. There are people who make a 30+ year career out of it though and I have an unbelievable amount of respect for them. They wake up each and every day ready to help clients execute investment strategies in quiet markets and in savage markets all while keeping a calm, unflappable demeanor (cough ahem). I guess I could’ve made it the whole way but I discovered that I loved writing and talking to people about markets in a unique, easy to digest way so I pitched that to Baird management and here I am, a freshly minted market strategist.

On my way home from a final work trip to London, as I sat crammed into seat 27E desperate for some kind of whiskey product and to be entertained for 8 hours, I came upon Bohemian Rhapsody, the best picture nominated biopic of Queen and their riotous front man Freddy Mercury. I think my first real experience with Queen’s music was like most people who are in their early 40s: in the movie Wayne’s World, the brilliant 1992 comedy starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. You see I was born in 1973, so I came of music listening age when Duran Duran and all that other 80s crap was flooding high school airwaves. Now I’m sure there are 40 year old music-philes who will say they always loved bands like Queen but I never really appreciated anthem bands and classic rock until I was older which, I guess, is the natural evolution of someone who is always late to cool stuff. Anyway, as I settled in with my tiny Jack Daniels (can I get two or three at once?) I had no idea that I’d leave that plane inspired by a man and a band that some say put on the greatest live performance of all time.

The penultimate song of the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, was savaged by critics when it was released. Rolling Stone called it a “brazen hodgepodge” and in TIME’s words, “a six-minute cut that mingles introspection with Gilbert and Sullivan operatics” by a band with little public profile. I can’t say that my initial reaction to hearing the song was “holy cow this is a masterpiece” but after watching the movie and reading about Mercury and the creation of the song I think there’s wisdom in it for all of us. 

It is said that the song is a story about Freddie’s life, his confessional. A man who became a legend but struggled mightily on his path to fame, someone who would’ve been happier had he just been honest about who he was from the start. The song, like his life and your life and my life, has multiple disparate sections where you wonder “how is this all going to tie together and not turn out to be a disaster?” But the lyrics and the different styles, while seemingly all over the place, turn the song into a wondrous rock epic. They come together to create a masterpiece just like the different parts of our lives weave together to make you and I who we are. One part anthem, one part melancholy, one part operatic, one part confession. You and I piece together a twisty turny career alongside friends and family, we link them all together into one musical movement that defines us. Child one day, adult the next. Trader one day, Strategist the next. There’s no set course for us to be on, no framework to follow, so keep being you and know that true masterpieces always show up in the most unexpected of places: an Italian woman smiling, a red bridge across a bay, a clock tower along a river, a 6 min song that people initially hated. Freddie and Queen poured every bit of creative energy they had into that song and it shows. I’d argue it’s the best rock and roll song of all time; people will be listening to it long after we depart this Earth. 

Allow me to end with the lyrics to another amazing Queen song, Radio Ga Ga:

So don't become some background noise
A backdrop for the girls and boys
Who just don't know or just don't care
And just complain when you're not there.
You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour