I worked on Wall Street, and one of the things I loved most about my time was the long hours. For many years, I worked through weekends, and I was happy! If you're not happy with working 12 or 14 hour days, it's not the time you have a problem with, it's the job!
If you're passionate about something, you can put 100 hours in and it's not a chore. If you are passionately in love and you spend 100 hours a week with the beloved, doesn't that lower the quality of life. If your ruling passion is your children, and you spend 100 hours with them, your life won't be diminished.
Wall Street isn't for everyone, and certainly the investment banking division isn't for me. At. All. Personally, I like risk taking. I was in sales. That is a different kind of job than investment banking. I was professionally passionate about it, and I chose to spend my life that way. Some people do. At one point in my career, I had an office down from David Solomon at Bear Stearns. He put in tremendous hours, but it was clear he was perfectly delighted and thrilled to be putting together investment banking deals. He was fired up! And of course now he leads Goldman Sachs.
I'm not advocating working long hours. I'm simply saying that I personally loved it because I loved my job. I really did. Other people are different. I respect that. If you don't want to work more than 37 hours a week, of course you shouldn't.
You should also know your limits. Personally, I could work 100 hours but couldn't work 120 hours, for instance. Someone else's limit might be 80 hours. You have to respect who you are and take care of yourself as the person you happen to be.
People talk about work-life balance, but it doesn't exist. Balance is a static concept. As a pianist, I prefer the concept of counterpoint, the weaving together of several melodies in harmony. Your life is a composition with its own complex of varying themes. How you harmonize them becomes the composition of your life.
My advice to young people starting in investment banking is this: you are about to test your limits. Finding what those limits are is essential to self-knowledge, which in turn is essential to a contented and fulfilled life. If it turns out that job violates your limits, quit! You should never destroy yourself for anything or anybody.
There is no such thing as making mistakes in your twenties. Your life now is a series of experiments to learn who you are. There is no failure at your age. None. There is only learning who you actually are and discovering what you actually love to do. Be happy when you discover a certain career path is not for you! There are a million paths, and you will find yours and feel great about it. But only if you try...
Meanwhile, for banks, what is the point of putting grunts through 100 hour weeks except to see who is enthusiastic in those long hours?! How many are? Very few! Which is the point. Those that are excited and pumped and jazzed after 100 hour work weeks are OBVIOUSLY keepers. It isn't "inhumane" it's picking those rare few that can't imagine anything better than the job you offer.
OF COURSE there are other things life has to offer. So what? Who cares? This isn't play school. This is the real deal. This is now. This isn't some moment where we all hold hands and chant saccharine bromides. This is MONEY, and a lot of it.
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