Top 10 Lessons From the Decade From Hell

Whoever said, "May you live in interesting times," must have seen the first decade of the new millennium coming. And if you ever wondered whether that enigmatic proverb was meant as a blessing or a curse, as far as this decade is concerned, well, it sort of depends on whom you ask.

I'm sure Jeff Skilling and Bernie Ebbers would say the first year was great, then everything went to crap. Bernie Madoff and Tiger Woods, on the other hand, at least had 9 good years. I have no idea what George W. Bush would say, but I'm relatively sure Al Gore had a blast.

But in case you somehow managed to block it all out and hide it away in your subconscious (where it probably belongs), here's an overview of the most turbulent and chaotic decade imaginable:

On January 1st, 2000, most of us awoke with major hangovers and relief that the "millennium bug" hadn't caused every computer in the world to crash and airplanes to drop out of the sky and fall on our throbbing heads.

Two days later, on the first trading day of the new year, the NASDAQ closed up 1.5 percent to 4,131. On January 11th, AOL and Time Warner merged amidst great fanfare. That should have been a clue that the end was near. Two months later, everything went to hell.
On March 10th, the tech bubble started to burst. Then came 9/11. On a personal note, my shockingly brief reign as a CEO came to an abrupt end as InLight Communications filed for bankruptcy. I got to lay off 40 employees on Thanksgiving. Lovely.

A week later, Enron filed for bankruptcy. Then WorldCom collapsed. The market continued to crash for two years, then spent the next five years slowly clawing its way back. In the mean time, every company that didn't get enough of an adrenaline rush from the dot-com bubble overleveraged on subprime mortgages.

In 2008, the housing bubble began to burst, followed by the collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and a whole laundry list of banks including institutions like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, and AIG. And just like that, we're in a global financial crisis rivaling the Great Depression.

Anybody who thought they still had any money left after all that, found out they'd been scammed by Bernie Madoff.

On the plus side, there was Wal-Mart, Google, and Apple. I think that's about it.

After all that, here's what I learned:

Top 10 Lessons From the Decade From Hell

  1. You can be miserable with everything and happy with nothing.
  2. Don't count your chickens before or even after they've hatched.
  3. You're only an institution until you do something really stupid.
  4. Live in the present because the past sucks and the future may be worse.
  5. Hiding your money under the mattress is the best investment advice (better still, gold).
  6. Today's boom is tomorrow's bust.
  7. Be careful around people named Bernie.
  8. The monks were right - you're better off not owning anything.
  9. Don't get too hyped up over a job title.
  10. You can make a ship load of money off the weather.
So, what did you learn from the past decade?