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What are the best The Wolf of Wall Street quotes? How did Jordan Belfort lead Stratton Oakmont to its success, and then its downfall?

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort explains how he enriched himself through illegal stock manipulation and how he hid his ill-gotten riches by laundering his money. He also details how he fostered a culture of hedonistic excess at his firm.

Below is a collection of The Wolf of Wall Street quotes that summarize Belfort’s story.

Quotes From The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street, published in 2007 and adapted into a 2013 film by Martin Scorsese, is Belfort’s confessional memoir of his illegal actions, both in high finance and his personal life, which led to a self-destructive spiral into drug addiction and life-threatening behavior. Belfort’s actions eventually resulted in his arrest, but not before endangering himself, his friends, and his family. 

Here are three The Wolf of Wall Street quotes that encapsulate the downfall of Jordan Belfort.

“They were drunk on youth, fueled by greed, and higher than kites.”

Belfort wasn’t alone in the wild life he led—he cultivated an organizational culture to embody it. Being a member of his Stratton Oakmont team wasn’t just about making money, but also spending it in the most outlandish ways possible. Belfort details the example he set for Stratton Oakmont’s cadre of brokers, the type of lifestyle he encouraged them to lead, and how he used that lifestyle to control them. Thanks to the electronic NASDAQ stock exchange, it was no longer necessary for investment firms to be physically located on Wall Street, so Belfort founded Stratton Oakmont on nearby Long Island in 1989. 

To fill Stratton Oakmont’s desks, Belfort says he deliberately recruited young, malleable traders and indoctrinated them into his way of thinking, the tenets of which were as follows:

  1. Money is the solution to every single problem.
  2. It’s vital to make money while you’re young and still able.
  3. If you act like you’re already rich, then the universe will make it so.

In addition to Belfort’s basic principles, he told his brokers that the point of getting rich was to indulge your every fantasy and whim. To that end, he led by example and encouraged his brokers to do the same—buying expensive houses, cars, and boats; going to expensive clubs and restaurants; engaging in high-adrenaline pastimes, and indulging themselves with drugs and prostitutes. In what was once a staid, refined Long Island small town, Stratton Oakmont’s brokers supported a whole cottage industry of gambling, vice, and the sale of high-end goods. The behavior of Stratton Oakmont staff grew so extreme that Belfort recalls having to send a memo asking staff not to have sex on company property during working hours. 

Belfort writes that he encouraged this behavior to keep his traders competitive and hungry, even as they raked in millions of dollars. Belfort wanted his employees to spend their money as quickly as they made it, keeping them on the hook to Stratton Oakmont and dependent on him as their leader. The flaw that Belfort discovered in this plan was that since he had to lead by example, he was just as trapped by his lifestyle as his brokers. Once he’d established his “Wolf of Wall Street” persona, he was expected to maintain it. If he didn’t party, have promiscuous sex, and take every drug known to mankind, his staff would have seen it as a sign of weakness.

“The easiest way to make money is [to] create something of such value that everybody wants and go out and give and create value, the money comes automatically.”

Though Belfort did many things that were against the law, it was his financial crimes that both enriched him and eventually sent him to prison. So many of Belfort’s business dealings were against federal and state regulations that a significant amount of his time was spent inventing schemes to hide his transactions from regulatory institutions. Here, we’ll look at the principles upon which Belfort’s firm, Stratton Oakmont, was founded, the mechanisms by which it manipulated stock prices, and how Belfort attempted to conceal his gains by laundering his money through the Swiss banking system.

Belfort writes that stockbrokers like himself don’t actually create anything of value, nor do they have any specialized knowledge that gives them insight into the stock market. He says that at heart, stockbrokers are nothing more than sleazy salesmen, and that any kid out of high school or college can be trained to sound like a stock market guru. And thus, he created Stratton Oakmont as a firm comprising young, hungry traders with little financial knowledge but with plenty of motivation to make sale after sale.

Unlike other unscrupulous traders who preyed on poor investors with what were known as “penny stocks,” Stratton Oakmont made money by preying on the wealthy using inflated stocks that they sold as get-rich-quick schemes. Belfort argues that this strategy worked because most rich people are compulsive gamblers for whom playing at stocks is like going to a casino. Therefore, it’s easy to sell them sketchy stocks, and they trade at higher volumes than less affluent investors. This strategy also confused the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which investigated Stratton Oakmont for years without really understanding the true nature of its business.

“I’ve got the guts to die. What I want to know is, have you got the guts to live?”

Since drugs had become his only refuge, Belfort couldn’t see any way out of his situation that didn’t involve drugs as part of the solution. Belfort describes his head-on collision with depression and attempted suicide before giving in to professional help, as well as the peace and self-awareness that came after.

In a fit of anger and depression, Belfort attempted suicide by taking morphine pills, though he argues that it wasn’t a real suicide attempt because he knew a friend of his was near and would be able to save him. After having the morphine pumped out of his system, Belfort was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold, during which Nadine arranged for an intervention—she let Belfort know that unless he went to rehab, he’d never see her again. Belfort’s interventionist explained that he and Nadine were deeply codependent in that she’d been enabling his rampant drug use while he took advantage of his power in their marriage.

Once in rehab, Belfort asserts that his urge to do drugs simply turned itself off, though he felt his sex addiction would remain more of a problem. He slowly opened up to his fellow rehab patients, while admitting to himself that he ought to be dead from the sheer amount of drugs he’d been taking. He returned to New York where he was able to stay sober, though his recovery sponsor pointed out to him that even though he’d stopped using drugs, he was still in danger of repeating the behaviors that he’d used the drugs to justify.

Nevertheless, Belfort recalls that those first sober months were the clearest, happiest, and healthiest he’d had in over 10 years. He worked on trying to repair his marriage, spend time with his children, and explore his new reality. Many of his old friends drifted away, and his relationships with the ones who stayed changed. Stratton Oakmont had long since closed down, and Belfort’s other financial streams folded. He didn’t care—he was sober, rich, and happy—until September 1998, when the FBI arrested him for money laundering and fraud, shortly after which, Nadine filed for divorce.

The Wolf of Wall Street Quotes: Getting Rich Through Crime

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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