Michael Kimelman’s life turned upside down when an FBI swat team arrested him in 2009, eventually convicting him to 30 months in prison. At the age of 42, he walked out of prison with nothing but the clothes on his back. He was starting over again.
Formerly an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, he was the Founder & Managing Partner of Incremental Capital, a New York based hedge fund. Michael Kimelman is also a speaker, bestselling author and executive coach.
Here is his story.
Tell us about your journey
I’ve coached youth sports and have always been a leader whether it was on the trading desk or elsewhere, but I found my true calling when I went through a very traumatic experience late in life that would have broken many people.
I was the founder and managing partner of a $250M New York-based hedge fund and my entire world came crashing down at dawn on November 5, 2009, when an FBI swat team arrested me in front of my wife and three young children.
In a very public and controversial trial during the height of the Financial Crisis, I was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison.
My experience and the intense studying and thinking I did while away formed the basis of my coaching philosophy.
In one of the darkest places on earth, I was able to find light and positivity and make a meaningful, positive difference in the lives of the people around me.
Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is a much more extreme example of what human beings are capable of under duress.
By going through a very public, hellish experience, I discovered that the human spirit has the amazing ability to not only adapt but to prosper under the most severe and barren circumstances.
We won’t always be able to control our circumstances, but we can almost always control our reaction to them.
More importantly, as we take that journey and realize that we have the ability to define our reality and focus, a critical obstacle in all of our lives ‘fear’ is removed.
I cultivated a practice devoid of fear and dedicated to service and growth. I also recognized that we could apply these principles forged in a crucible, to nearly any person and any situation that’s out there. That’s an incredibly liberating realization.
How did you choose your niche?
I’ve always been a student of history and dedicated to self-improvement.
In school, I studied the great leaders from all disciplines, be it military, business, or spiritual. There were always recognizable traits and habits of leaders that ran across disciplines including a refusal to allow your circumstances to define you.
Because my mind was in the right place, and I was finally clean and clear-headed, I was able to take a horrible situation and use it productively.
Instead of sleeping late, watching TV, and playing cards all day, I was rigorous about using my time productively with clear goals and values in mind.
I was up early, exercised, and spent 6-8 hours a day studying great texts, taking notes and fleshing out and providing my philosophy on inmates. It was the most optimal situation I could hope for.
Plenty of time, and plenty of people who needed coaching for their return to the ‘real world.’
The stakes were high, and the results were profound. And remember, not everyone aspires to lead a Fortune 500 company, but the leadership and growth principles I practiced and now coach, matter whether you want to lead a platoon, a little league team or just be a leader within their own family.
What was your biggest challenge as a coach?
My biggest challenge is also my biggest blessing.
I’m a formerly incarcerated man who walked out of prison at the age of 42 with nothing but the clothes on my back. No job, no degrees, no reputation, no money. Yet, that was also an incredible blessing.
The person with nothing to lose has no fear, and fear, whether real or imagined, is the greatest paralyzer and hindrance we face in trying to realize our dreams.
It’s a fact our ego doesn’t allow us to accept, but in 100 years we are all dead, and likely no one will remember us. So why lead a life frozen by ‘what other people might think’ when we have it within ourselves to be so much more?
How did you get your first client?
They found me. I wrote a book while I was away about my experience on Wall Street and the brokenness of the criminal justice system called Confessions of a Wall Street Insider.
It became an Amazon Best Seller, and I’ve appeared as a speaker at numerous venues and have done dozens of podcasts and radio shows.
After hearing my story, I’ve had everyone from CEOs to those in recovery contact me for help or to learn more.
I was a ‘regular guy,’ who by some incredible confluence of events had everything taken from him and had to start over from scratch at the age of 40.
I’ve done that without any resentment or excuses, and all with a smile on my face while also making my children the first priority and being the best father I can be. That story resonates with people.
What specific training do trainers need?
I think like any other skill, training is a huge part of the equation, but practice is equally important.
Doctors aren’t at the peak of their skill set when they graduate medical school after seven years. It’s only after thousands of hours of practice and on the job education do they become masters. It’s no different for a coach.
Like many professions, it starts with doing your research and then finding a teacher or mentor whose methods and philosophy aligns with your own.
I chose and completed a rigorous, multi-year certification program and mentorship from John Maxwell.
In my case, I’m also a vociferous reader and bit of an agnostic, so I’ve borrowed from the best out there whether that is Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, or Seneca, and implemented some of those methods into my life and practice.
How do you acquire clients?
Because of the book and my public appearances, I haven’t had to do any traditional marketing.
Most of my clients are word of mouth. I also wanted to start slow and work on my craft while I had a small client base, so I turn down many more clients than I accepted at the beginning.
What is your pricing methodology?
It depends on the level of service. I’ve been 1-on-1 for the most part so the pricing is premium and commensurate with what you would expect for that type of service.
I’m currently considering expanding into a group format to offer a service that is more affordable via a webinar or live video conference that would be priced at a lower entry point.
What are your revenue streams, as a coach?
Individual coaching sessions, speaking events and book sales are the majority of my coaching revenue.
While the book is not directly related to coaching, there are some great narratives and concepts in there that apply to anyone dealing with adversity or facing obstacles and frustration in their lives.
Everyone has their demons; mine just happened to be more public.
I also utilize my finance background and write a high-end newsletter and produce educational products in the Cryptocurrency space.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a coach?
Figure out why you want to be a coach.
Is it for the convenience? To work for yourself?
Like any other career we pursue, if there isn’t passion, a purpose and hunger behind the pursuit it will quickly become a job, and that lack of enthusiasm will ultimately reflect on your work.
We all have limited hours in the day, and limited years in our lifetime.
The easiest way to wake up in the morning motivated and excited is to do something that’s meaningful.
Only you can answer what that is.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, turn off the news.
We spend an inordinate amount of our day obsessed with the cycle of negativity from the news, social media, twitter and elsewhere.
There are great news delivery services out there that can give you a download in 10 minutes everything you need to know in the morning without the handwringing, alarmism, and gossip.
Imagine how different your life would be if you took the 90 minutes a day you wasted on those channels and replaced it with knowledge and positive programming from speakers and writers who have mastered the sectors and habits we want for ourselves.
Michael Kimelman is currently a real estate investor and serial entrepreneur, launching new ventures in the Crypto, FinTech and Cannabis spaces. You can connect with him at https://www.mikekimelman.com/