Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on July 1st, 2014

Gene Estess: Who left Wall Street for a greater mission, to help the homeless.

Many people think of Wall Streeters as rich, greedy and self-centered.

But Gene, who recently passed away at 78, found happiness and a far greater life than money could ever have brought him, after he quit Wall Street.

Gene Estess
Gene Estess and his wife, Pat Schiff Estess     Photo: Storycorps.org

How did this unlikely story happen? One day in 1984 Gene had a life changing experience while commuting to his suburban Westchester County Armonk home, from Wall Street.

At Manhattan's Grand Central Station, he struck up a conversation with a homeless woman lying on the floor.

Gene took a liking to this homeless woman, whose name was Patricia.

"He would leave work and before he got on the train for Westchester, he'd find her, talk to her and give her money for the next day," Gene's wife, author Pat Schiff Estess told The New York Times.

"And then on a Friday he'd give her enough money for the weekend so she could have food and stuff like that."

Eventually Gene got Patricia help through the Jericho Project, a New York nonprofit organization that provides housing, job training and other services for homeless people, including those with addictions or mental disorders.

Gene also joined the Jericho Board of Directors.

Then he did something that dramatically changed his life and would change the lives of many other people. In 1987 at age 52, he quit Wall Street to become the Executive Director of Jericho.

In middle age, Gene finally found the satisfaction that had eluded him his entire career.

"For 20-some-odd years I really didn't have a good day," Gene told The New York Times in a 2003 interview. "I didn't come home with any stories to tell or satisfaction or a feeling I'd done anything to help anybody except myself and my family."

Today, Jericho serves more than 1,500 adults and children annually, including over 500 military veterans. Additionally Jericho told Bloomberg News that 87% of addicts they treat remain sober, versus 20 to 40% nationwide.

The Jericho website also stated that they provide "540 units of supportive housing in all five NYC boroughs."

Some on Wall Street might not consider this a good investment compared with stocks, bonds, real estate and commodities, but to Gene and to many other people, the returns in resurrecting some fallen members of humanity are golden.

Success Tip of the Week: Like Gene, if you want a meaningful life follow your dreams and not just your pocketbook.

Editor's Note: To learn more about the Jericho Project, visit jerichoproject.org or about Gene in his NY Times obit or his LA Times obit.

In the next KazanToday: A man who came to the U.S. with just $22 and later built a $100 million a year company.

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