“I have a huge ego,” he said. “In fact it’s still an issue I deal with. You probably noticed it already.”
“No, not at all,” I responded.
Kevin Loomis is the kind of guy who arrives before he arrives. At just 5’6” he may be one of the shorter guys in a room, yet he has a huge presence. As he walked in to meet me per my request to write a story on him, his stride was confident and slow and he gleamed a handsome smile at those who greeted him on the Rock’s 3rd floor. There was a quiet power about him. He had the aura of an owner of a building who comes to see if the tenants are treating it well. He shook my hand firmly and looked me square in the eye. “I’m Kevin Loomis,” he said. That’s all it took. I was officially intimidated.
As we sat down for me to hear his story about life on Wall Street, he soon used the words that quickly piqued my interest.
“I had a hunger to get rich,” he told me right off the bat. “I needed to be the one everyone went to. I wasn’t going to be denied. That’s why I became a stockbroker. I was going to make it big.”
He used the word, hunger, I thought to myself. He’s already jumped to the spiritual heart of the matter. This could be quite a story.
I had no idea.
You moved from San Diego to New York to work for the now famous, Stratton Oakmont? What was it like?
Keep in mind you’ve entered a place that exists beyond anything most people can imagine. It’s the love of money par excellence. As you open the doors to Stratton Oakmont, a wall of sound and fury takes your breath away. Picture 300 guys who have thrown their chairs to the far side of the room, all standing, yelling at the top of their lungs to each other, making deals, cursing, frantic jumping, and gesturing. They screamed like their lives depended on it. And for most, it did.
It was profane. It was base. It was cutthroat and intense and ugly and exhausting. The things the brokers did out in the open were crazy. Guys snorted cocaine, took pills, drank crazy amounts, cheated on their wives. They basically gave up their lives to be rich. It was the sickest, most unhealthy environment conceivable.
So you’re really talking about an alternate kind of universe.
You wouldn’t believe. On the outside, it seemed to be a company like any other. But on the inside, it really was a cult—even in the classic sense of the word. You couldn’t question authority. You had only one source of information. You couldn’t talk or socialize with anyone outside the firm. They used public belittlement to discipline. And they worked you to the bone. They even encouraged you to spend as much you can on a lavish lifestyle so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. But it’s really a ploy. Some of our heavy hitters were spending 100,000 bucks a month buying up everything from jewelry for their wives to cars to real estate. Therefore, a lot of the guys I worked with had long since stopped working to get rich—they had shifted into merely trying to stay afloat. They were in debt up to their teeth.
And yet you excelled in this environment?
Unfortunately, I did. In about a year’s time, I was in the top 10 percentile of brokers.
So what were you bringing in?
Guys in the top 10 percentile made $15-$50,000 a month. However, guys in the top 5 percentile made $800,000-$1,500,000…a month. Big difference. I wasn’t at the top yet, but I knew I was on track.
That must have fed your ego.
Oh yes. I was heading into the financial stratosphere. I actually called my mom and said, “Hey mom, do you have any idea how lucky you are to have a son like me?” And I was dead serious. I sat on the phone with her enumerating all the reasons why she should count her lucky stars. I wouldn’t hesitate to stop anybody at any time and tell them who they were in the presence of. I stopped a guy at a diner and told him, “Hey, let me tell you how awesome I am.” And I told him.
You must have made people try to get away from you at times.
Sure. But I didn’t care. At the time, I walked away with my head held high. What did they matter to me?
Was it that attitude that made you so good at selling on the phone?
Stratton Oakmont taught us, usually at the threat of company-wide humiliation, to have an answer for every push back that a person could have. I knew that if I was going to have a chance of making it, I had to become a master of it. I grew to have the ability to stroke these business owners, CEOs, and high net worth individuals while squeezing them into corners they had no way out of. I had an answer for everything. If you really didn’t want to spend money but just happened to answer a call with me on the other end, that was your bad luck. You were going to write a check.
That’s a lot of power. It had to have changed you.
Yes. I became an absolutely awful human being. I was a drunk. I belittled my wife terribly. I lost a lot of people a lot of money by selling them some stock I knew was dodgy. People weren’t really people to me—they were a means to an end. I lied. I cheated. When I saw guys around the office who I no longer wanted to be there, I started moving the pieces to get them fired. I played the political game so well that on more than one occasion, when guys were being fired, they would thank me and tell me that I was the only guy in the office they could really trust. I would shake their hand and pat them on the back knowing all the while that it was me who had just detonated their career. I was ruthless.
I remember looking in my wife’s eyes and telling her, “Nothing means more to me than my career. Nothing.” She knew what I meant. It hurt her terribly, but that was how it was for me. I had one goal, and like I said, nothing was going to get in the way. In the meantime, I had bodyguards placed outside my apartment. I went hunting with Mafioso. I got sued for $20 million. On another occasion, my apartment was raided by FBI agents with their guns drawn and I was handcuffed and taken away. Try waking up to that at 6AM in the morning. The rap got dismissed, but that will give you some idea of the life I was leading.
So how does a guy like you come around to finding Jesus?
I got up one morning, drank a tall glass of vodka to get me good and drunk and got on a plane from San Diego back to New York. As I sat in my seat on the plane, I pulled out a book to show those who were sitting near me that I wasn’t interested in a conversation. But the guy in the next seat over turned broadly toward me and said, “Hi my name is Marty.” I thought, Oh, great. What does this guy want?
But he was a very nice, interesting guy and I found myself enjoying talking to him. I thought, This guy is about as cool as it gets. Suddenly he says to me, “So do you believe in Jesus Christ?” Now, I had made a bit of a hobby in slapping down Christians and their beliefs. So that’s what I tried to do. I got aggressive with him as I did with everybody, yet the strangest thing happened. He would address all my barbs with the greatest of ease and sense of humility and grace. Instead of overpowering me with his knowledge, he disarmed me with joy and kindness. He wasn’t defensive. He was just eager for me to have what he did. He was like me—only the inverse. My sales pitch tried to take. His sales pitch tried to give.
The master circler was being circled. And it was with love.
When we parted ways, he told me he would send me a Bible, and he did. In the next several months, my life bottomed out. My wife left me. I sank further into alcoholism. I had no real friends. My dog, who I loved like a best bud, died. I had a vision that I killed myself. I left Stratton Oakmont when federal agents started snooping around and I was no longer making much money. I felt my dreams slipping away, my life slipping away. I was miserable.
Suddenly I get a call from Marty. I was so happy to hear from him. He didn’t try to force Christianity on me, he just talked about all that he was doing: missions trips, the life of being a pastor. I told him I hadn’t read his Bible in the nine months since he sent it. He said that was great with him. I asked him, “Why is that great with you?” He said, “Because I know you've been thinking about it.” He was right. His God was on my mind.
Marty would call periodically, which was great because the more he called, the more I looked forward to them. I was really lost and his calls were somehow hopeful to me. One day, I had another vision, only this time, it was all of the moments when I had lied throughout my entire life. Each lie passed before my eyes like a newsreel. I broke down and asked Jesus into my heart—the same Jesus Marty had told me about. At that moment, I get a phone call and it was Marty. He says, “Kevin, I’ve had about 50 guys praying for you all week. It’s time for you to receive Jesus. I said, “I just did!”
So your life did a complete 180?
Yes, and it’s been the greatest period of my life. God’s love was really what I was after all along. My wife and I got back together, and she also gave her life to Christ. We attend the Rock and our life is about service to God, a relationship with Him, and feeling gratitude for where he has brought our marriage—as well as giving us two beautiful children. I ran the mountain bike ministry for many years. Lots of guys who came to ride with us became Christians because after I told them my story, they said, “If God can forgive a guy as awful as you, He can forgive me.”
* * *
My time with Kevin was nearly up. He had graciously sat with me for two hours. He had answered every question and told me more than I had anticipated. However, while he had given me his life story, he didn’t give me the reason for his life story. Nobody does what he did without a reason. The heart of the matter, the one he alluded to at the beginning was still missing. Had he meant to keep it that way? I knew it was a risk to ask for more, but I just had to.
Before you go, I’d like to ask you one last question. Why were you so hungry to get rich? What was behind the hunger?
Ah, the hunger. As a kid, I was always the shortest guy around. I was also the weakest. When all the kids got together to pick teams, I was always, always, always the last one picked. That hurt. It drove me crazy. I couldn’t be him for the rest of my life.
But there was more.
My dad put an incredible emphasis on work while I was growing up. So I worked myself to the bone. I had several jobs at a time, worked around the house and also worked at my dad’s factory. I didn’t care about the money, I just wanted my dad to tell me he was proud of me…but he wouldn’t do it. I would have given anything. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me that everything I had just done that day was awful and needed to be redone. Finally when I was 18, I was working with my dad in his factory and he was criticizing me like he always did, and I suddenly hit an emotionally wall. I looked at my dad and screamed, “Why aren’t you proud of me?!” He said, “Of course I’m proud of you. What are you talking about?” I said, “Well then why don’t you ever tell me?” He suddenly began to bawl. He collapsed in my arms and we wept together. “Because my dad never told me,” he could hardly say he was trembling so hard. “I vowed never to be like my dad and I’ve become just like him,” he said.
Kevin’s eyes welled up and his voice haltered. It was clear I had asked enough questions for the day. Two weeks later, however, I ran into Kevin at a Rock function. Without really thinking about it, I blurted out, “Do you mind if I ask you one more question?” Was I pushing it?
“Not at all,” he replied.
“Great, I’ll email you.”
What a chicken. I went home and sent him this question: “Considering all the pain you had from your childhood, perhaps it wasn’t that you had a big ego, you just had a big hole to fill. Perhaps all ego is, someone just trying to work out their insecurities.”
“That is a good read on me,” he replied. “I was always trying to prove I mattered. But the cross does that for me. The cross says, “Yes, you do matter, Kevin, no matter how awful you are. You matter enough to die for."