Tom Hardin is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings. We will celebrate our 250th weekly meeting on Monday, March 29, 2021, 7 pm ET, 4 pm PT; all Fellow Travelers are invited.
My name is Tom Hardin.
When I was 28 years old, I made a decision that would forever change the course of my life. Approached by FBI agents on the street in NYC a year later, I was charged with insider trading (securities fraud) and finally sentenced several years later in 2015. With most of my 30s spent waiting to be sentenced, any chance of restarting a professional career was basically over with my reputation in tatters. I had spent those “purgatory” years waiting to be sentenced running through a never ending loop of “what-ifs”; replaying that scenario in my head,
“What if I had just hung up the phone and not traded?”
“Why did I feel I needed to cross the line?”
This ultimately devolved into a constant spiral of self-flagellation and depression. As the father of two young daughters, I had no idea how I would be able to provide for my family again. Just one search on Google was enough to destroy any promising leads I had in job searches.
Then in 2016, I connected with an individual in a similar circumstance as mine who introduced me to Jeff Grant. A few weeks before my first conversation with Jeff, I had been asked out of the blue by the FBI to speak to their rookie agents in NYC about my case so it could be used as a training example for the young agents. That first speech at the FBI was absolutely cathartic. Laying out why I did what I did at the time opened my eyes to the possibility of the story having some value for future young professionals in highly competitive industries.
I spoke to Jeff for about an hour, swapping stories from each of our personal crucibles and realized how many similarities we had. When Jeff mentioned there is an entire group of people like us who meet weekly, I suddenly felt a sense of relief. After sharing my story in 2016 with the group, I decided to explore the professional speaking and corporate training route as a potential second career. A cold email to 400 NYC financial firms went mostly ignored except for one reply who invited me to speak to their firm. Referrals from that first presentation completely changed my life and a second career was born as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. Now in 2021, I’ve presented nearly 400 times to companies, conferences, universities and associations. It’s never easy to share your personal crucible of mistakes but when you hear the feedback from audiences, which often includes people in the audience reflecting on moments in their own careers at those decision crossroads, I’ve learned all of our stories do have tremendous value.
I never would have taken that first step to cold email without support from the group and very much look forward to our 250th Meeting soon on March 29.
I’ve learned these moments can either DEFINE us, DESTROY us or DEVELOP us into something completely different. I hope we all might find strength to move past the first two and embrace personal development into something new. While none of us can take back our poor decisions, we can choose how we react today, how we can lean into them to become better people, parents, siblings and friends to the most important people in our lives.
Congratulations to all Fellow Travelers on our 250th meeting!
Tom Hardin can be reached at tipperx.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.