Partying, Pressure and the Past: Jordan Belfort at the Cambridge Guild

Felicity Garvey 21 February 2019
Image Credit: The Cambridge Guild

“I made, one day… 14 million in three minutes.” Jordan Belfort said, before adding “pretty cool, huh?” with a wide grin. Belfort is perhaps better known as The Wolf of Wall Street and is the real-life inspiration behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s outrageous character in the 2013 blockbuster film of the same name. While no longer quite the same man as the scandalous character presented on screen, there clearly remains some undeniable similarities and fond memories. The Wolf of Wall Street is renounced for setting the record for most expletives in a film, with some variation of ‘fuck’ being used – on average – 2.81 times a minute. Indeed, in Belfort’s very first sentence addressing the Cambridge Guild, he said “You guys are awesome, you’re so fucking young – is it okay if I curse? Ah, I’m doing this for free… I can do whatever I want.”

Belfort and the author. Image Credit: Alex Denny, The Cambridge Guild

For something that let the general public in on some of the darkest, most debauched and very personal parts of his life, he seems to have a fairly positive view of the film. “It was awesome.” He said of it, though he notes that “the one thing that was in the movie that bothered me… but I understood why it was there…it was the insinuation that we were just like, ‘let’s just fuck the people’. […] If you wanna motivate someone, if you wanna motivate a bunch of kids don’t say ‘here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re gonna rip people off’, no one wants to hear that! Even if I was a total conniving scumbag, I would have said ‘guys, they’re gonna make money!’” Belfort also reveals his personal passion for his ‘Straight Line’ sales technique, and how both he and director Martin Scorsese had hoped to include more of that in the film. “There was a four hour cut. … Marty loved the straight line, he loved the sales stuff so there was another hour of all the teaching the straight line, and they had to cut it out because they couldn’t show a four hour movie… I wish more of that was in the movie.”

Reflecting on his old life as ‘Wolfie’, he is quick to comment that “I wouldn’t change any of the drug use!” He adds, perhaps a little more sombrely, that “I would keep that there because that happened to me, that was my life, part of my life. What I would change is what lost investors’ money. I would change that, I would definitely take that back. […] Since the film, my life now is very different than it was then. A lot of that is mostly because of age. Things that make sense at 23 don’t make a lot of sense at 53. I look at that and get basically tired thinking of that. […] In the old days I would have said we have to go out. We have to go out. We must go out, it’s beyond our control. If we don’t go out… what were we thinking? We were in London and we didn’t make the most? That’s how we thought. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, we must go out, right? That’s how you guys are right now, huh?”

He explains that unlike many films, Scorsese’s work is still a must-see despite time passing since its release. “It’s a rare movie that gets bigger every year, because it’s a cult hit among kids. So what happens is every year… you’ll be in the workplace next year, buying my stuff probably! No, seriously,” Belfort insists, “Learning my stuff for actual business purposes! So for me, I watch my audience grow, because they grow up with the movie.”

Speaking to the Guild, Belfort stated that “I don’t do that many speeches at colleges, I don’t. But, you know, the special colleges, there are some special universities, right? …and I think it’s really important that you get a real life perspective for what you can expect when you go out into the real world. Because it really is very different in the real world than it is at college.” During his talk, he imparted a lot of advice from life lessons learned, but he emphasised one lesson as being key. “I speak from experience. I’m the guy that’s made all the mistakes, but I’ve also done things as right as you can do them. So I’ve done the best and the worst and the one thing I’ll tell you… if at the end of the day, there’s one lesson you can take from this whole thing… from my life, it’s that you are not the mistakes of your past. You are the resources and capabilities that you glean from your past mistakes. When you make a mistake in life, you grow stronger. You learn from it, you grow.”

When asked how he has dealt with pressure in his life, and his advice for students trying to cope, he said that “I think that pressure is not so cut and dry… it’s your perception of pressure, and it really comes down to your ability to essentially deal with overwhelm. Pressure and overwhelm are very much the same thing. There’s so much going on. And I found that, for me, in my life, I deal with overwhelm by making a list of stuff and going to the top. I’m a big believer in making lists… seriously, it’s a very effective way to overcome the ‘overwhelm’ in life. And I think that pressure is a great excuse to not take action or to give up on something, but what happens is that when you deal with pressure and you power through that it makes you stronger and stronger and stronger.” He then grinned, and added, “Until you’re like me: I eat pressure for breakfast. It doesn’t even bother me… I live in a pressure cooker every day of my life and I just move forward and try my best to kick ass and take names.”

Belfort and the author. Image Credit: Alex Denny, The Cambridge Guild


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The Wolf of Wall Street is available on Netflix or on DVD here!