Sunday, October 2, 2011

You think Tiger Woods has problems?

I'm not usually the go-to person for young people who need advice. I'm here for laughs and chocolate chip cookies. On the rare occasions when I've been consulted, my suggestions have been universally ignored, so I no longer feel constrained to impart a thoughtful, considerate response to inquiries from the youngsters. 
          All of which brings me to today's topic -- a truly smart, athletic young man I've known, since he was just out of diapers, got fired from his brutal Wall Street job two weeks ago.     
          Brutal, because his life was circumscribed by endless work, which, in my opinion, could never, ever be offset by the size of his yearly bonus. Brutal, because he worked seven days a week, year round. Brutal, because his bosses handed out assignments at 10:30 PM on Friday nights, due the next morning. Brutal because the only gold at the end of this sordid rainbow was greenbacks, not job satisfaction. 
         In case you missed the cinema versions of Wall Street, making a difference in the world, saving lives, and giving back -- the kind of meaningful altruism that gives your life purpose and makes it worthwhile -- is not anywhere on the job description for a Master of the Universe. Greed is good, but money is everything.     
          He's only thirty years old. But for the last two years, in pursuit of becoming rich enough to retire at forty and play golf, he's missed a huge chunk of his real life. Instead of going to a film festival or having dinner at some tres chic bistro with one of New York's good looking women, or just hanging out with the guys, he has been coming home from work at 2:00 or 3:00 AM on Saturday nights, only to be expected back in four hours. 
          His one relief from the relentless demands of this f**ked up career path was running five miles through the streets of New York in the middle of the night to burn up some of the frustration. The good news is that he lost his football weight and looks like a runner now. 
           He didn't ask, but I told him being rich wasn't an admirable life goal. I also told him he was going to turn forty, not be rich, and hate what he was doing. So forget the money. Figure out a way to follow your passion. And take time to play golf now, not later. 
          I didn't hear he'd lost his job until a couple of days ago. I'm out of that loop now. I did text him two weeks ago to get the zip code for his address, so I could entertain his overworked butt with a funny letter. He texted back with an oblique comment that he might not be living there at the end of the month, but I just assumed he'd found another place to live. He didn't lose his job because he wasn't competent. One of the bank's clients, who relied on him very much, offered him a position with their company. But there were payment deferments and he had to move to another country. Actually, how bad could that be?  In the end, it was about money again. Not enough up front. So no go. Money seems to decide everything.
          Determined to find a reason for what really happened, or just why, he came back to work the day after they fired him so his boss could sling some b.s. about the decision. There wasn't a truly meaningful answer. He was told it wasn't about his work, blah blah blah. I'm sure the conversation went something like a bad breakup, when one of you insists, "It's not about you; it's me." 
          Some day he'll realize that the real reason might have been as stupid as he's single and didn't have a family to support. Intelligent, aggressive young men are a dime a dozen on Wall Street. In the end, it really isn't about any of them, personally; it's about the money. 
          For what it's worth, an insider told him he wasn't even on the list of people to be fired. That group apparently got pink slipped in the morning. He was saved for late in the afternoon. Purges on Wall Street are happening regularly. He was a casualty of the continuing banking fallout from 2008. His bank is still in deep do-do. He was expendable. That, and he has never listened to me. Have I mentioned I told him to play golf?
          For a long time we had been like family. I was his crazy adopted aunt; he was the son I never had. He grew up playing sports, guided by a superstar dad and mom. Football was our common ground. I played a lot of sports myself, but I follow football like a construction worker with season tickets and a 60" plasma in his man cave. So even though I'm old enough to be his grandmother, we had plenty to talk about. 
          A multi-sport athlete and a natural born leader, he quarterbacked his high school team to their first state championship game in 20 years. Do something sports related with your life became my mantra. He lettered in baseball and could compete with his state champ cousins mano a mano in tennis. I suggested that he could be a tennis pro at a club. You can't make Wall Street money doing that. Okay, then how about golf. You love golf. So be a club pro. The money thing. It helps that he's smart, a Phi Beta Kappa from a top school [in only three years. majoring in micro-economics]. He earned similar accolades in MBA school. Hey, he could run his own sporting goods business. Or sell golf equipment. 
          He loved it. Why hadn't I suggested that before? Haaa. Kidding.
          Hey, you're still young, I would say, when he was still young, you could quit whatever you're doing and try to make the golf tour. 
          I even got Troy Aikman to help me out a few years ago. I needed some background on Troy's career for a client video, so I bought a coffee table book he wrote about himself. On the set, I asked the ex-quarterback, a scratch golfer, to dedicate the book to my young friend, whom I'll call "Tex." He wrote, "Tex. Play golf. Troy Aikman." 
          The only feedback I ever got about my relentless attempts to get "Tex" to do something he loved instead of something for money was that he told me he often thought about what I'd said about golf.  
          Meanwhile, let's review this past decade of his life. He went to a brainiac university so he could be the team's quarterback, but it turned out the coach didn't want him to play quarterback. He majored in a subject that would be useful in his career goal of being rich, despite the fact that he never really liked his major. So he quit football and graduated in only three years, just to get out of school sooner. 
          At that point, he could have taken a year off to start playing golf seriously. I even gave him some contacts in Florida. But he got his first job with a big consulting firm in finance. I didn't think he was having much fun in the consulting biz, so I thought there was a chance he might consider golf. But he went to MBA school instead, so he could get that job on Wall Street. The good news was that his second college experience was more fun. He attended a football power and even had a lovely girlfriend who was in law school there. But they hit a snag over religion. She was religious. Him, not so much. They broke up after he graduated. 
          What a great time to start playing golf I thought. I also mentioned it to him several times. I'm nothing if not persistent.
          But he was determined to be Wall Street's bitch. He let her harness him up and she rode him hard. Now, after three years, the economy has spit him out. Sure he got some good bonuses out of it. His debt is gone. He showed he can play with the big boys, but now he's sitting on the side of the road.
          What if he'd just played golf instead?


IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Sometimes we can get really confused about what will make us happy.

Mrs. L said...

Before he found out he was color blind, he wanted to be a jet pilot. I think he knows all the dialog from Top Gun. Talk about a missed opportunity.