Longform recently did a great podcast with financial author Michael Lewis, who just released his new book “Flash Boys.”
There’s a section toward the end of the interview where Lewis talks about how he would never have his career path today.
Lewis began his career as a bond salesman at now-defunct firm Salomon Brothers, which was the subject of his first hit book, “Liar’s Poker.”
Lewis left Wall Street for a career as a financial journalist and author. He has written a number of best-selling books. Many of them have been made into films.
Longform asked Lewis if he would have ended up on the career path as a financial author if he were 30 years younger.
Lewis said “probably not.” His career path would be different today because it’s much harder to get a job on Wall Street. He also said that the pay is much better these days and that it would have been impossible to walk away.
Here’s a transcript (emphasis ours):
“Probably not…The reason I say that is if you’re taking some version of me that is now 23 years old…So I would have grown up in the world that a 23 year old now is growing up in. In the first place, I probably wouldn’t have serendipitously ended up on Wall Street…I would have never have gotten a job. And I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Princeton. So I would have had a different trajectory in life probably right from the start…But the competition…has gotten stiffer. So I assume I would be less well positioned for like Wall Street success now at 23 now than when I was at 23. But let’s say you adjust me slightly, and my character slightly, so that I got A’s in school all the time, and my board scores were perfect, and I was student body president and captain of the football team and so I got to go to Princeton and I worked my way into a position to get a job at Goldman Sachs. The amount of investment I would have put into getting that success would have made it virtually impossible that I would have turned my back on it. The key to my decision to chuck a Wall Street career and go be a writer is that I put almost no effort into getting a Wall Street career. It really landed in my lap. I had this other thing I had put a lot of effort into and really loved which is writing. And I did it all on my own without any help from teachers or anything. I was just trying to freelance and having some success in it. It made it very easy for me to just walk away from it because I hadn’t invested anything to get it. You wouldn’t be able to do that now. You would have to invested so much to have success on Wall Street. You couldn’t imagine walking away. Plus, you add in the numbers. What did they pay me? $US225 grand bonus… It was ’87, so like $US500,000 per year.. But then they’d say ‘You’ll be making a million bucks in a couple years’ kind of thing. Now, that person now would be thinking ‘I’ll be making $US10 million in a couple of years’. And the sums of money have gotten so much greater. I think it would be impossible to make that decision.”
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