After this article I wrote about quitting Goldman Sachs took off, I got a lot of attention.
Former colleagues and others wrote me wanting to know more, yet there was also some confusion about what I stand for.
My message has never been, and never will be: Quit your top job on Wall Street.
Too many faux experts preach mantras like:
- “Escape the 9-5”
- “Join the gig economy”
- “Achieve financial independence”
The only mantra I use is this:
“Live the life YOU truly want”
Do you see the difference? I’m into how you create your dream life. People who follow the faux experts are into creating an easy life.
Top performers don’t want an easy life. They want to challenge themselves to win, and take it as far as they can go.
If you want to rise to the top of your industry, then quitting a top job is the last thing you should do.
Forget “The Right Job”—Find The Right Seat
My work has never been about quitting your job, but utilizing your job as your vehicle to keep creating the career and life that you truly want.
In most cases, that requires some navigation.
If you’re just gonna sit in the same seat and “step up” a little bit more every year, then of course your career is on the slow track stopping all stations, but in the right seat, you can drive your career wherever you want to go.
This requires being clear on what makes for the “right” seat:
Evaluate Your Career Using “The Winner’s Circle”
OK, so for years and years and years I’ve read books and listened to so-called experts dispense shockingly terrible career advice.
That’s mostly because they have no method, no system, no model, no formula for what makes a top career, and so, their advice is merely a bunch of ideas they picked up along the way, mixed with stupid ideas like “follow your passion,” biased by their own particular choices, peddled as advice that’s right for everyone…Ugh.
Instead, you need simple frameworks that help you make the choices that are right for you. For instance, a top investor I know has only two major rules for investing:
- First, the company must be in a high growth market.
- Second, they must be an industry leader.
If either of these factors is missing, he could care less about the “opportunity.”
The Winner’s Circle works the same, only with three variables.
Working from the inside out, ask yourself:
1.Is this a Winning Platform?
Look, nearly every single aspect of your experience and success is driven by the platform upon which you build your career. You could be the absolute greatest tech entrepreneur of our era, but if you were born poor in rural Sudan, you’re unlikely to become the next Peter Thiel.
Similarly, you could have the most potential of any investment banker in the world, but if you’re sitting at Dodgy Brothers & Co, you’ll likely have a dodgy career.
2. Is this a Winning Business?
If you work for a top firm in a crappy business, you might as well be at Dodgy Brothers & Co.
You might have been the top draft pick, but if you had joined the Detroit Lions in 2008, you still failed to win a game. You might be the best running back that has even taken the field, but you’ll never win a championship playing for a losing team.
Simply ask yourself: Am I on a winning team, and perhaps more importantly, a team of winners? If you don’t know, the answer is “no.”
3. Am I in a Winning Seat?
You might be on a winning platform in a winning business, but if you’re in a losing seat, where you personally cannot succeed, you’re toast.
If you were the best up and coming point guard in all of NBA history, but you joined the Bulls in the era of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, good luck shining on that team.
So, it’s not just a matter of whether you are on the right platform, in the right business, but whether, you in particular are able to win on that team.
The Exceptions Prove The Rule
When you learn to write you are forced to pay attention to the rules of grammar, but, as you become a better writer, you learn that you can bend and flex and make up your own rules.
Careers are the same.
Anyone getting started in their career would be well served to pay heed to The Winner’s Circle, and, most certainly, if you are starting in your career, it is an absolute no brainer to begin by seeking out the best platform that will have you.
But once you’re established, if you’re damn good, you can kill it almost anywhere.
There are plenty of people on Wall Street who have built phenomenal businesses on merely OK platforms, such as Frank Quattrone and Ken Moelis. They are the types of rock stars who don’t require the power of the franchise to succeed, and who have such an edge in their market that they could succeed no matter what.
Similarly, there are plenty of people who are on the right platform in the “wrong” business, but, for some reason or another, it’s still the right place to be.
Such was the case when I moved to Leveraged Finance at Goldman as a Vice President. Unlike many businesses at Goldman, we were the industry loser, and you certainly wouldn’t want to build a long-term career in that seat, but it was absolutely the right seat at the right time for me, equipping me for a move to the buy-side.
Putting all of these ideas together, I hope you can see that there are many ways to win by joining and staying on a top platform, and if you are in the right business and right seat, quitting is the last thing you should do.