Earning Wealth

There was a related conversation in the game journalism thread that didn’t really belong there, and this perspective is so spectacular for several reasons that it needs its own thread.

Written in response to a couple of Goldman Sachs interns dying - one from overwork and passing out in the shower, another jumping out a window after blaming overwork - Goldmans is trying to prohibit interns from working past midnight (at least at the office). Not a popular view in that world, as evidenced by this facebook post making the rounds:

Again I’m disgusted. Goldman Sachs has banned the all nighter and ordered interns to leave at midnight because one died in the shower and another jumped out of his window because he was “worked to death”. Boo Hoo Hoo. Listen if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. Finance is a culture about pushing yourself to the extreme and the “all nighter” is a right of passage for many young finance guys. If these guys wanted to be pussies they could’ve been teachers. The reward is extreme wealth if you make it through the grueling process. People should die. And everyone should pour out some Dom and move the fuck on. (We never heard about this during the 80s when Wall Street was dominated by cocaine snorting alpha males. Now we’ve got a bunch of adderall eating nerds raised on Degrassi and bullying seminars so yeah a few of these tulips are gonna jump of their windows.) These people are soldiers in the war of wealth. We’ve criminalized success in this country. We love failures and sob stories. We cater to weakness. We’ve become an after school special. We’ve bought into the idea that people don’t earn their money, that its put under their pillow at night. This idea helps all the nothings sleep at night. So let’s bring back the all nighter. I want these kids worked to brink of insanity. I want them jumping out of windows. I want them dropping dead of exhaustion. I want them tough. China’s coming, after all. Every litter has a runt. The problem with this country now is everyone’s a runt. Every no good town employee union stooge should be worked to death. What a glorious way to die. What happened to Bob? He was “worked to death”. People get into finance because they don’t want to end up janitors, cleaning up some kids puke in the cafeteria. They feel they have more to offer the world. But sometimes they’re wrong. Sometimes they were the janitor all along. But they can’t face that (I don’t blame them) so they decide to the manly thing to do is remove themselves from the equation all together (they’re right) so they try to fly from their window but they end up splattered on the concrete. Jumping out of your luxury apartment window is better than never have a luxury apartment in the first place and don’t let anyone tell you different.

Gives some perspective on what a foreign mindset and lifestyle that world is, for people who haven’t lost a few seasons from work. This world is crazy, but they earn their wealth working harder and living a lifestyle than most people can never (or wouldn’t ever want to) adopt.

If you’ve ever actually spent an hour or more with Wall Street finance folks, you’ll find that most are insufferable assholes. I spent two years working with a bunch of them (not Goldman Sachs, but another company) and while they did live the mad money life, they all seemed like incredibly shitty, angry people. Just constantly unhappy and rude. They seemed destined for early heart failures.

I’m sure there are good ones, just like I’m sure there must be some actual truck stop hookers with hearts of gold.

Income is a flow, wealth is a stock. Thus one earns income, but accumulates wealth.

Sorry, having flashbacks to my days both as an economist and as a copy editor.

As for the quote itself - eh, it’s some guy with self-image issues who needs to see himself as a glorious blood-stained warrior fighting off the barbarian hordes rather than what he is, namely a pampered, entitled white collar worker with nothing much to complain, or brag, about. In other words, another random dude on the Internet. (But he pulled an all-nighter once. It was epic. Kids today just don’t understand.)

He may be someone you’d consider a douchebag, but you couldn’t be more wrong about everything you wrote above. And kids sure as hell don’t understand that.

Interesting topic, and it reminds me of one of the more important realizations I’ve come to through personal experience. Apologies for the length.

About five years into my legal career (I was with a big firm in NYC), I decided to switch careers completely. I went into Management Consulting. A month later, I’d given up my nice office on the 34th floor of a building on Lexington Avenue, and I was (literally) counting dead chickens rolling off a conveyor belt in rural Virginia. This was one of those times I questioned my career choice.

But the real epiphany came later that same year. I’d spent all day, 12 hours, in a small-engine plant in rural Georgia, in July. It was so hot in there, they ran a cart around with cups of lemonade all day. I spent the day watching a couple guys working on lathes. It had to be 120 degrees, and I whined to myself all day about how hard this job was, and what a dumb mistake I’d made.

Later that night, I was jogging around the Wal-Mart parking lot. Hotels in small towns tend to be next to a Wal-Mart, a Lowes, or other big-box stores. I don’t know why, but they provide a good place to jog. My internal whining continued. Then, a forklift starting chasing me. WTF? Whining intensified – the perfect ending to a crap day, right? When the forklift caught up, I recognized the driver. He was one of the guys I’d been watching all day. We talked for a while. He was working his second (full-time) job. He worked both, because he was saving up to help pay for his grand-daughter’s college costs. Nobody in his family had ever graduated high school before her. My internal whining stopped that day, and I don’t think it’s ever risen to its previous level.

In any case, I have worked really hard. I worked hard, long ridiculous hours as a lawyer in NYC, and I’ve certainly done so the last 20 years. I’ve had the opportunity to work with CEO’s of very large companies all over the world, and most of them work very, very long hours, too. Hard work absolutely is a driver of wealth and success, for those not borne to it.

But I’m pretty sure none of us worked harder than that guy on the forklift. So, if you’ve made good money and didn’t start out with a trust fund, there is reason to be proud. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that hard work alone makes anyone rich. It’s mostly the circumstances of birth, modified by stuff like your willingness to work.

That may sound preachier than I mean it to be.

Jumping out of your luxury apartment window is better than never have a luxury apartment in the first place and don’t let anyone tell you different.

Yeah, he sounds like he’s pretty great. Oh wait, he sounds like a sociopath, which statistically he probably is.

Worship of money is the worst and he’s a fucking high priest.

This is the truth. I’ve known plenty of people who worked 80+ hours a week and they sure as fuck never got rich. And they did things a lot harder than shuffling other people’s money around.

The most remarkable part of that insane banker’s manifesto is how totally unconcerned it is about the purpose of any of the sacrifices it celebrates. Exhaustion has become an end in itself, serving as the tangible product labor itself can no longer provide.

Naw, his view is that the competition, challenge, extreme pressure and drive creates strength - for individuals, workplaces and in areas as important as corporate finance & m&a, the country. Because humans somewhere are always going to push forward as hard as possible.

Definitely not a loveable chap though, and that’s not a lifestyle that I’d want after age 30, particularly if you want kids.

I dont really understand this. I work in the 401k business as the recordkeeper and Third Party Administrator, so I work with a number of small financial advisors. Laziest fuckers in the world. Nust glorified sales people who cant be bothered to do their own job and expect the recordkeeper to do everything. Ive had advisors ask me for fu d suggestions. Whats the point if I am recommending fund line ups. Anyway, I may just be dealing with a few bad apples, but industry wide, fees and costs are going down and it is hitting the financial advisors the hardest.

One of the virtues of the free market is precisely that it channels greedy, blinkered morons into overworking themselves - granted, for what they perceive as their own benefit, but also for everyone else’s benefit too (barring fraud). No other system can do that - most other systems hand the the reins of political power to such people on a platter.

Of course, I’m talking about the free market as an ideal - but hey, if we can talk about the ideal form of other political systems that have notable failures in the real world, why can’t we talk about the ideal form of capitalism? :)

I spent 10 years in the consulting world, working for a firm who did IT and financial consulting. Mostly I was on the IT side, but there were a few times that I crossed over to help the accountants when there was some technical aspect to their project (usually setting up some kind of new computerized system at a client). Those folks do work hard, no question about that, especially the tax specialists during tax busy season. Some of them would literally live at the office, with small cots in the corner and using facilities at a nearby gym. That was almost always a short-term thing, though…a couple of weeks or a month of crazy hours on a particular project, then cut back into the “normal” (for consulting) 60-hour-a-week range, and during slower periods take some time off.

I’ve run into situations like what Oghier described, too. Did an email implementation at a small auto supplier here in the Midwest in the early 2000s, and in the process spent a lot of time at both their sales offices and production plants. I didn’t see anyone sleeping in their offices while I was there, but I talked to several who had second jobs similar to what Oghier said, and the IT guy that I worked most closely with never seemed to be off duty at all. None of them were getting rich, just doing everything they could to stay afloat. Didn’t stay in touch, so I have no idea how any of those folks fared in the financial crisis years, but I’d bet it wasn’t good.

All of that is a really long-winded way of saying that I agree with this:

I’d add that in addition to circumstance of birth, natural aptitude plays a big role. Personally, I was fortunate to have IT consulting skills come easily to me…I think in math easily, have a knack for problem solving, and do reasonably well in written and spoken communications. Combine that with my ability to get into good education (albeit with lots of loans), and you have a recipe for a good career…just add hard work. Some of the folks I’ve met working at lower-income jobs, working just as hard as me if not more so, just didn’t click with those high-value (in our current society) skills like I did. Same for some folks who got a good education, but ended up not being able to find a solid-paying job in their field. Their natural aptitude was for something else that didn’t lead into the same high-value career path.

Yeah, I have to agree that a ton of financial guys don’t really “work” much. A lot of them seem to have some confused idea of what constitutes work… so maybe they THINK they’re working? I think your description of them as sales guys is pretty much spot on. Their skills are mainly focused on being charismatic, and in the past that’s focused heavily on being able to bullshit like an alpha male.

Many of the successful ones have what I’d call “hustle”, but they don’t seem to be working super hard. There’s definitely pressure, as the environment is pretty tense, but the idea that they work harder than other folks isn’t really what I’ve observed.

I think that the OP demonstrates something that I’ve noticed, which is that a lot of the personality types that were successful in the past incarnation of the financial industry, who basically get by through bullshit and aggression, are kind of becoming obsolete. The world’s moving on from that, and it kind of scares them.

Where I hit the disconnect with this, is simply how the worship of money has completely twisted his worldview.

Seriously fuck that guy and everything he stands for.

Do you think that mentality stops when it comes to things outside of working hard? Do you think guys like this are totally on board with things like morality or legality (hint: they are not). When money is the goal, the only thing worthy of consideration, when claiming that having interns commit suicide due to stress is a good thing (and how well do you think those interns are paid, if at all), when all of that is wrapped in macho posturing do you think for a second this guy wouldn’t break the law to make a buck? It is a direct result of attitudes and mentalities like his that the banks pulled the crap they did. Money is their god, and they slavishly worship at that altar. Causing untold hardship and misery for others is ok as long as they make a buck.

Guy is a sociopath, and there really is no excusing that type of environment. He tries to claim it as some form of point of pride, when really it is to the shame of that entire industry. People are not machines, it isn’t even productive to be in that type of work environment. Bringing things several steps back from that abyss would do a ton of good. There is a ton of academic research showing how that type of work environment is detrimental to productivity. Further the environment is specially geared towards incentivising sociopathic behaviors by demanding such things, since only sociopaths would be willing to do that.

But hey, it’s ok, make that almighty dollar.

It’s behavior and attitudes like this that cratered the economy in 2007-08. There is nothing worth venerating here. It is merely the ramblings of a sad excuse for a human being, proclaiming what is cruel and twisted as virtuous.

How do you cure yourself of this mentality? When do you go “this is enough”

Some of these guys treat wealth like it’s the high score on an old Pac-Man machine.

Hey, I’m pretty sure I remember reading that passage in American Psycho.

It’s a confusion that both Left and Right share, that the market either rewards or is supposed to reward (and either succeeds or fails to reward) any of: hard work, luck, talent, etc., etc.

It does none of those things. Ideally, all things being equal (i.e. barring fraud of one kind or another, or just plain error) it rewards the marginal contribution one’s decisions and efforts make to the final value of the product. (also cf. Whistler)

Which means that sometimes reward does coincide with things like hard work, talent, luck, etc., but sometimes it doesn’t. You can labour hard towards making a product that turns out to be successful, or towards making a buggy whip. You can cause either the success or the disaster of an enterprise by one simple decision. Labour is more redundant (there are more labourers who are just about as good as each other) than good high-level decision-makers (they’re rarer), hence the former is paid less, the latter more (it’s a magic ritual that is supposed to attract good high-level decision makers :) ).

We are all winging it. Nobody really knows what they’re doing. All entrepreneurial activity is essentially an attempt at prophecy. But some people have a knack for making the right decisions (for whatever reason of particular brain structure - so maybe in that sense you could say that it is luck at the end of the day) - the rest of us copy them (or don’t), and standards and procedures, professional mores and methods arise. But nothing is guaranteed.

You know finance guys don’t earn their money by working harder, right Desslock?

As Tom Wolfe once famously said, they survive in crumbs. Finance is an ancillary industry thats supposed to provide access to capital and liquidity of that capital. That’s it.

These guys do nothing all day and act like they are smarter or harder working than anyone else. It’s not them. It’s their industry. Which is full of lazy, big headed criminals.

Have you ever actually known anyone who works as a trader, broker, investment banker, commercial banker, or anything else?

Finance guys seems to think they are important because they float commericial paper. What a joke. As Elizabeth Warren just said, the financial world hasn’t done anything useful or innovative since inventing the ATM.

Not at all, thanks for sharing that, it echos a lot of conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues in my neck of the woods.

Matthew 19:24


And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

That is all.

I don’t have much doubt that there is a lot of energy, brains, creativity and work applied to finance. I do question what fraction of that work is beneficial overall. It seems pretty plausible to me that much of finance is a kind of arms race, where resources are poured in to win the game, because it is a logical choice for each player, but when viewed at the global level it amounts to a big waste.

The guy takes pride in being a financial warrior, but doesn’t concern himself with the cause of the war.