COMMENT: How to work in finance and have a great life

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You may not believe this, but it's perfectly possible to work in finance and to be incredibly happy. I know: I've worked in finance for 18 years and I like my life.

If you don't like yours, there are probably good reasons for it. There are plenty of bad bosses in banking. The work can be boring. The colleagues can vicious. The clients can be sh*tty.

Whatever it is, Finance can make the best of us hate our lives and be miserable.

I've been there, I’ve wanted to quit on a daily basis and I've survived for almost two decades. In the process, I’ve figured out a couple of things that have made me love finance and have made me happy.

These are my five rules:

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously

I’m pretty convinced that I am stupid. I look back at the way I was acting five years ago, maybe even two years ago, and I smirk. I like to think I've got better since, but I suspect I'll look at myself in two years time and be astonished again. I'm trying to get better every day, but this doesn't mean I'm a great banker or person by any means.

2. Don't take other people too seriously

We are here together all on this journey called life. Sometimes, we will meet people who seem miserable, who act badly, and who hurt us. Rather than being angry at them I’ve come to feel sorry for them. If they're so miserable and cold, I figure they must have had some bad experiences of their own.

My approach is to assume that everyone is just doing their best to cope and to survive. If I see them act badly I assume either that they don’t know better, or that they have been through something bad. If it's the latter, I try to help them. That might be naive, but it works for me.

3. Don’t worry about the past or future, be here now

When you work in banking, it's too easy to live in the future. Too much time is spent thinking about the "number" and the moment you retire. In the meantime, you probably worry about client meetings, about the promotion, about what your boss will think. Worrying about the future won't change it: it will just kill you prematurely.

The same applies to worrying about the past. You could have done things differently, but the past is done.  You are where you are. You did the best you could based on what you knew at the time.

What matters is right now. It's about where you are, what you're doing, and with whom. Focus on this and you'll drop a whole load of baggage.

4. Diversify

I've said this before, but the best way to work in finance and to be happy is to diversify, diversify, diversify. Too many people get committed to their one job, one team, one boss. Their identity is the job, their identity is their pay check and their identity is their promotion. When the boss shouts at them, their world explodes. When they get fired their life ends.

I know the feeling.

I was the kid crying in the toilets when my boss erupted about a deal closing. Now I think, WTF!! Don’t be a loser. If your identity is diversified - if you have lots of things in your life, one thing falling away won’t impact you.

5. Focus & execute on your agenda

Figure out what you want. I mean really.

What needs to happen in the next five years for you to feel successful in your life? I'm not just talking about work. I'm talking about everything: your career, health, relationships, money, and intellectual development.

Know what you want and execute the plan to achieve it.

What I Learnt on Wall Street is an education focused business founded a group of Wall Street veterans from the best firms determined to help the next generation. 

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