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12/4/14

Mod Note: Throwback Thursday: this post originally went up 4/25/12

Like a majority of people who are on this website, I used to come on here and write bullshit about a life partly my own, partly fantasy. I'm now going to uncloak the anonymous man and tell you my story.

My name is Stephen Ridley. I graduated from a top tier British University with a First Class Honours Degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 2010 and went straight into IBD at a top tier European Investment Bank, after interning there in 2009. I worked in the top team (on a revenue basis) for 16 months, before quitting in October 2011. I want to tell you about that experience, and about what has happened since then, about how I left the green to chase my dream. This will be blunt and honest. I do not mean to offend, quite the opposite, I hope to inspire! Again, this isn't an attack on those who choose to be bankers, it's just me sharing my experience together with the lessons I've learnt, and hopefully it speaks to a few people. If you look at the picture above you'll see a picture of what I do now. It's a little different from where I was 6 months ago!

Banking is fucking brutal

I knew this after my internship, but I didn't care. I wanted money. I wanted respect. I wanted to be a somebody in the eyes of myself and others. But most of all, I wanted money. Why? Because money is freedom. Money means I can wear what I want, live where I want, go where I want, eat what I want, be who I want. Money would make me happy. Right? Well... not exactly I'm afraid. In fact, money didn't seem to make any of the bankers happy. Not one person in the roughly 200 I got to know in banking were happy. Yet all earned multiples of the national average salary.

The reality of banking is this. Like everyone there, I worked my ass to the bone, working mind numbingly boring work. My life was emails, excel, powerpoint, meetings, endless drafts and markups about shit I couldn't give less of a fuck about, edits, drafts, edits, drafts, edits, send to printers, pick up, courier, meetings, more work, multitasking, boredom, boredom, tired, boredom, avoiding the staffer on a friday, more work, depression, tired, tired, tired, fucking miserable. 15 hour days were a minimum, 16-17 were normal, 20+ were frequent and once or twice a month there would be the dreaded all nighter. I worked around 2 out of every 4 weekends in some form. I was never free, I always had my blackberry with me, and thus I could never truly dettach myself from the job. These are the objective facts, contrary to what any 'baller' wants to tell you. The only models were excel models, the only bottles were coca cola, which I drank a lot of to stay awake.

Though I managed to maintain relationships with certain friends (testament to how good these friends were), I never was really 'there' and never really relaxed to enjoy their company, I was either pre-occupied, exhausted, or too self-centred to really have a 2 way conversation. I was constantly tired, constantly stressed, and I had this constant reoccurring thought. The thought went like this. I'm not happy. These are my golden years, my 20s, the years I want to look back on and talk about with fondness and pride. I should be making interesting stories, having the time of my life whilst I have no dependents. I'm richer than I've ever been, yet I'm not as happy as I was backpacking around South America on a shoestring. This is bullshit.

The work isn't interesting

That placed me in the 95% majority. Your not golfing with CEOs, talking about strategy, then driving your lambo home at 3.30pm to have sex with your hot girlfriend. No, your sat at your computer, haven't spent more than 5 minutes in the sun in weeks, your out of shape, bad skin, tired, overworked, and your facing yet another office dinner before calling yourself a cab somewhere between 1am and 5am to take your lonely ass to your empty bed. In those rare moments you do get out your tie to go talk to a client, you're not having a nice interesting chat with an interesting person, you talking finance to some other depressed office drone in some corporate office, who either pretends to give a shit or, more often than not, doesn't pretend. Of course, every now and then, I did meet that rare breed who got their kicks from debt-restructuring or endless levels of back-solved pseudoscientific analysis, but this only depressed me as it reminded me how little I cared about this nonsense, and thus made me further question why I was spending every waking moment - and half the ones I should have been asleep - devoted to it.

You're never going to get as rich as the superstars you admire on the TV and watch in films

Even though I got paid well, I wasn't going out buying a different coloured helicopters every weekend, rolling in designer threads, splashing PS30k on a night out and holidaying every other week in some exotic location whenever I can be bothered to charter my private jet. You'll be above average, but still pretty average. Sure, you can buy an macbook air without really thinking about it, and you can take taxis instead of the bus. But that's it. I was amazed how modestly people lived in banking given all the hype that surrounds it. They were just sad middle class bland people, with unexciting lives, and unexciting prospects. A bunch of nerds who got caught up in a cage made of money and dreams and greed, and never got out. There had to be more to life than this.

Eventually, I thought fuck this

I got to the point where I wasn't buying myself nice things anymore because doing so only reinforced my dependency on a job which I hated, a job which was taking over every aspect of my shortening life. I had worked hard at university to have a good life, a happy life, a 'successful' life. And I wasn't finding it in IBD. And nobody above me was either. Even the 'baller' MDs were really just miserable, uninteresting, and often pathetic old farts. I didn't want to be them. I wanted to be a colourful, shinny person with love in my heart. Someone with passion, happiness, laughter lines, someone who has taken life by the horns and lived on the edge, taken risks, had love and loss and seen the world.

I made my plan to leave in baby steps

First I started interviewing at other city jobs - everything from hedge fund analyst to private equity analyst to inter dealer broker to insurance to wealth management to sales to trading and even equity research. These all looked boring, these all involved wasting away the majority of my life at a desk. These all involved long working hours, even if a little better. None of these lit the fire I once had before being crushed by banking. So I looked at jobs in corporates, in their M&A team, their finance team. Again, I went to a few interviews, got offers, but it was just the same shit. I didn't want to be a drone in a suit and tie. Fuck that Stephen, fuck that!

Eventually I snapped

Despite being staffed up to my eye balls, I left the office at 7pm to prepare for an interview I had the next morning at 8.30am. The AD I was working with (5 years my senior) consequently had to work until 5am. The next morning, I wasn't at my desk at 8am as I should have been. I was at my interview. Just another mind numbing 'opportunity' to work in debt refinancing team at Tesco's head office. Fuck that. I'd had enough. There was nothing for me in any spectrum of finance. I'd had enough. I walked into work at 11am, and by 11.01, the AD had dragged me into a side room to rip me a new asshole (she'd got a little cranky after 90 minutes sleep and a lot of stress). She said that she was going to go and talk to our team head about this and stood up. I told her to sit her ass down, I'd do it for her. I walked over to his desk, and I respectfully told him I'd had enough. I thanked him for his time, he did the same, we shook hands, and I packed my shit together and sent my bye bye email around the team.

Within 20 minutes of quitting, I was out of the front door. Bye bye blackberry, bye bye security pass, bye bye banking. The sun has never shone so bright, the air has never tasted so sweet, I have never felt lighter, than that moment. I was free. I was free. I was so fucking free I could taste it!

Now, oddly, I chose this moment to go to a shopping centre (long story) with a friend. Upon walking around in a slight state of shock I saw a piano in a suit shop, and this was exactly what I needed. To play a little tune and unwind. I didn't even ask if I could play, I just went in and started playing. A man quickly came up to me, paid me a compliment and then asked me what I did. I responded 'I'm a musician' (why not?!). He asked how much? I said PS100 for 2 hours. He hired me 5 days a week. Just like that I'd become a musician, working around a ninth of the hours for about the same money.

Now I'm going to speed up the story a little. I quit this in a couple of weeks because I realised I didn't want to be a background musician in a shop, I wanted to be in the limelight. I wanted to entertain the world. I wanted to try and make it in music. I rolled a piano onto one of the busiest streets in London, and I started playing. Within 1 month I had 9 management contract offers and had started recording my first album. It's now been 6 months. I've travelled around the world, I've got an album on iTunes, named 'Butterfly In A Hurricane'. I've played to literally tens of thousands of people. I've felt all the love and beauty of the world. I've laughed until I've cried. I've enjoyed more female attention than I thought a guy with my face could get! This is the most alive I've ever felt.

I used to do something I hated all day everyday, I used to hate myself for doing that. I was bad company around people and nobody really liked me. Now I do something that I love, that makes me bubble with excitement daily. In return for doing the thing I love the most, people are made happy, people are overhwelmingly kind to me, people open their hearts to me, and I do the same to them. I roll my piano around the world sharing this love which grows inside in the soil of my happiness and fulfilment. I never ever thought I'd be this happy.

Okay, I can't afford the Prada suit right now, but I can't wait to wake up tomorrow, I've got a singing lesson in the morning and I'm meeting Coca Cola in the afternoon to talk about being in an advert for them. My future is unpredictable (which I love), but I know that it will be fine because I'm the one in control. I spent 23 years developing my brain, and now I'm using it.

I just wanted to reach out to all those people who are in banking and miserable but too scared to leave, I want to reach out to all the nerdy kids with the great CVs who want to go into banking, I want to reach out to everyone who has got this far reading and I'm telling you to take a leap and do something you love. You might not know what that is, but you sure as hell aren't going to find it sat unhappily at your desk trying to multitask all day long. You only progress by taking a leap of faith, not in God necessarily, but in yourself. Know that you have all the tools within you already. You can do and be whoever you want to be, and you deserve to be so much more than a tired suit in an office. Of course if that's where you get real happiness, then that's fantastic. I'm just saying that wasn't my experience, nor was it for the majority of those I met.

Life is short - you're young, you're old, you're dead. React to that knowledge. You have nothing to lose!

With all my love,
Stephen Ridley

In the interests of proof (and self promotion), here are the links to some YouTube videos and my Facebook/twitter.

www.facebook.com/stephenridley.official
https://twitter.com/ThisIsRidley
http://youtu.be/gEeu2oNS2uc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikMKtok0pm8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nnYgVPy7gA

Comments (291)

10/24/12

Awe inspiring story. Best of luck and may you achieve success

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10/24/12

.

If you ain't gettin money dat mean you done somethin wrong.

" If you have built castles in the
air , your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be .
Now put the foundations under
them." - Henry David Thoreau

10/24/12

.

If you ain't gettin money dat mean you done somethin wrong.

" If you have built castles in the
air , your work need not be lost;
that is where they should be .
Now put the foundations under
them." - Henry David Thoreau

11/8/12

I saw you playing on Brick Lane (London) last year, it was amazing. It's a good surprise to find your story here (you see I didn't forget this pianist I saw 1 year ago) ! Maybe you wouldn't have found your way without going through that job you hated. Good luck

  • observer
  •  11/12/12
  • observer
  •  11/12/12
11/24/12

seriously out of words for you mate... I was aspiring to be a banker, an investment banker and have been studying ACCA to finish my accountancy qualification. I was in London for 2 years and to be honest did nothing but only STUDIES, didn't at all even enjoy the sights, the places, the beauty or anything at all in London and was just running behind someway getting ahead to earn hundreds of thousands of PSs asap. but now, at this stage, when I am in India and about to appear for my final ACCA exams in Dec (within 10 days from now), I have started realising this is not really something I ever wanted to do, I want to follow my passion, I want to get entertained and entertain others. I want to do good for someone in a way that makes me feel smiling and feel good.

I don't go what I am going to do as I am in somewhat financially disturbed at the moment and so I have pressure to finish my exams and start working next day onwards as an accountant or something similar to that to make some good money, but I really want to breakthrough this life and do something that I really wish to do.

Its tough to fight with my fear now, is there anything you could suggest I could do to fight my own fear first before having to face others.
To be honest I am even scared to face my own parents as they spent a fortune for my overseas education (in the UK) and now when they need me financially to be earning and make a healthy living, I feel as if I am going to ditch them or ditch myself. For some reason I prefer ditching myself and stay put for my family to start earning a living and then later on whenever possible go ahead and pursue my passion.
And on the other side, my heart says, "Its either now or never", but I don't even know exactly what my passion is, but its certainly not finance / banking / investment banking etc. My passion is something to do with athletics, something to do with music, something to do with creativity, something to help others (I have always wanted to impart education to those who are not able to get it for various reasons).

I am really unknown to what I want to do, but I do know that I want to do something that is not in line with what I am doing at present.

I am confused and worried and scared and in fear!

12/8/12

There have been many great posts on here so far. All just displaying the differences in perception and ideas people have and how everyone is different. Everyone has different goals in life, so there is no one definitive path. Some people enjoy challenge, others want stability, some want love, others want power, some want just mindless sex & parting lol.

To me It sounded like you were expecting more from IB, but when these didn't happen you were let down, now you're looking elsewhere for perhaps other exciting things. Anyways I have a story of my own you might want to hear.

One thing I couldn't help but wonder was if this is your first job out of Uni? I remember my first full-time job was a finance office job, and I hated it aswell, went through the whole "I'm wasting my youth / This is soul crushing" phase and I ended up quitting. After quitting I then ended up going the whole 'music' route myself haha. I love music, still do and always will, but I realised after a while that making music, especially when you get into the really technical aspects of it ended up feeling exactly the same as my finance job. It was just me sitting in my room by myself 14 hours a day designing algorithmic patches and composing songs and scrutinising over minute details etc. Lets not even bother mentioning how extremely flawed the entire music industry in itself is haha. It was at that point that I realised that you can rarely ever have it all. There'll always be aspects in a job you like, and aspects you dislike. You just have to accept it. The 'grass isn't always greener' on the other side. Luckily for me when I was making music I loved the details of it, learning about DSP / signals & electronics etc. So much so that I'm now studying engineering & that interest in engineering has stemmed to other areas of science and mathematics etc, and I'm still making music as a hobby. I've realised the key to my happiness is to continually learn new things & challenge myself. Perhaps I am a jack of all trades but I don't care, I'm happy because of it and I've found what makes me tick! :-)

12/31/12

This guy's music is incredible, I'm just glad he's doing what makes him happy.

12/31/12
1/8/13

Your voice reminds me of Tom Waits. It is a subtle thing, and it's delicious. Again, love that new music video "To Be Alone With You", which I caught earlier today.

On IB, you gentlemen have your phones, we have/had our pagers. I only worked as an analyst for half a year (don't ask), but I can sympathise. I moved on to health care and, believe me, there are many here to feel your pain. I just had dinner the other night with a friend who worked in IB, quit and just finished his surgical fellowship. There are a large number of ex finance (and ex everything) peeps in medicine. Those hours can go on long sometimes, though, whether you are IB or doctor. Punishing. Late, bleary-eyed all nighters, weekends, calls, presentations, being constantly yelled at for no good reason (hierarchical hazing process), unreasonable (but understandable) expectations from patients and their families. Then there are your patients who don't make it.... It's not easy, but at least one is able to feel that medicine is an interesting learning experience more often than not, at least that has been my experience. Please don't take offense, I'm not out to denigrate IBers either. I'm sure some of what you gentlemen do is fascinating. I have family and friends who work in finance all over the globe, and some enjoy their jobs, or at least say as much. It just wasn't personally interesting to me. I think being a woman in a mostly male environment might have a little to do with this initially, but, overall, I enjoy the "action" my expertise in specialised medicine provides me. Finance and health care are completely different animals anyway.

idently then many doctors graduate to practise and realise they haven't managed the business aspect of partnerships where it's kill what you eat. Medicine practitioners are, as a group, fundamentally clueless about most business issues. Like investment bankers, we have extensive in-depth knowledge of narrow/specific areas, with scant time to figure out much else including our personal relationships. It is unfortunate. Having a profitable job during uni allowed me pay my way, so I lucked out in terms of school loans and all that. So after exiting fellowship, many friends have loans averaging 300k USD; I had none. Overall well being: anxiety and depression remain rampant in medicine circles, but many doctors are unwilling to seek psychological help for fear of reprisal, labels, disability concerns. A friend had a private breakdown and after seeking help, she was forced to change specialities because she was "no longer allowed" to practise in her specialty. As a doctor, you worry about any stigma attached to your name, but we're all human. With cadres of intellectually brilliant, privately depressed yet high functioning workaholic medical professionals running around, you can imagine our family dysfunction and divorce rates are high. Still, medicine can still be a gratifying field for those who are aware of what they are getting into. If one is in it for the money/easy money, look elsewhere. SO many easier ways to turn a a hunny. There IS better job security in medicine than finance, but it's a hard road, with smaller tangible payout. Despite longer hours, the heyday of private practise partners pulling "very high" compensation has been on the decline in the U.S. for a long time, not that those "high" numbers were ever close to touching the ballpark of real baller Wall Streeters. Clinics, surgery, and close ones keep me gratified most days, though, and on the really the bad ones, I remind myself that saving another person's vital organ/life is not a shabby accomplishment. ;P

On a serious note (no pun intended), Stephen, you are genuinely talented and your stories are a pleasure to read. Keep them coming. I read a few more of your past posts and appreciate your cadence and flow.... You are reflective, self aware, well spoken. I quit the piano after primary school because I didn't have that thing. Talent. If I had that, your voice (the girl version of it anyway) and your gift for composition, I would have gone the musical way instead health care. We each have our journeys and nothing seems ever completely easy. But you know what I think is real? Your obvious passion. That is visceral. Try to keep that. Take it with you, no matter where you go, what you do. I'll be ordering your album from you or itunes when my mental faculties return from this punishing flu I have.

1/27/13

1) Most jobs suck. You aren't a janitor, or a coal miner who has black lung, or a single mom struggling paycheck to paycheck working 3 jobs worrying about how she is going to pay for her kid's education and healthcare. You're not coming home from a war to your young wife and kids missing your legs. There are plenty of people worse off than you that don't FUCKING COMPLAIN LIKE A LITTLE BITCH, or moan about how "unhappy" they are all the time. Cry me a fucking river about working long hours and being "bored".

2) There aren't enough jobs out there for people to just "follow their dreams". How many street piano players do we need? Sure, I'd love to be an undersea explorer, or a writer, or a movie star, or any number of things. But, in the real world we get the best jobs we can that pay well and allow for the best options for future employment down the road. If we're lucky we can eventually get to a point in life where we are a little more comfortable, work a little less, and have the financial flexibility to pursue some of our passions. But certainly no one is "entitled" to a life like that.

3) That said, sounds like you are pretty lucky. If you hit the jackpot and are able to hang out all day doing something you like, I guess that's cool. But I'm certainly not going to feel sorry for myself because I have to work.

In reply to scottmuck
1/28/13

scottmuck:
1) Most jobs suck. You aren't a janitor, or a coal miner who has black lung, or a single mom struggling paycheck to paycheck working 3 jobs worrying about how she is going to pay for her kid's education and healthcare. You're not coming home from a war to your young wife and kids missing your legs. There are plenty of people worse off than you that don't FUCKING COMPLAIN LIKE A LITTLE BITCH, or moan about how "unhappy" they are all the time. Cry me a fucking river about working long hours and being "bored".

2) There aren't enough jobs out there for people to just "follow their dreams". How many street piano players do we need? Sure, I'd love to be an undersea explorer, or a writer, or a movie star, or any number of things. But, in the real world we get the best jobs we can that pay well and allow for the best options for future employment down the road. If we're lucky we can eventually get to a point in life where we are a little more comfortable, work a little less, and have the financial flexibility to pursue some of our passions. But certainly no one is "entitled" to a life like that.

3) That said, sounds like you are pretty lucky. If you hit the jackpot and are able to hang out all day doing something you like, I guess that's cool. But I'm certainly not going to feel sorry for myself because I have to work.


Strong first post. Welcome to WSO.
1/30/13

Powerful post. The controversial topic of Money VS. Happiness.

Happiness is subjective for all of us.

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2/5/13

Very well written sir, congratulations on finding the life you wanted!

3/6/13

Great story man, lot of respect and keep up what you are doing

Jose Blanc

3/12/13

Can I hire you to play music in my office?

5/24/13

Funny, I quit music to go into finance. I work fewer hours, get more attention from girls, have a lot more money than I used to, and get to wear a suit.

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.

8/17/13

Wow. At a loss for words. Wish I could be that impulsive.

Read my blog: Bateman Begins

In reply to Virginia Tech 4ever
7/6/14

Virginia Tech 4ever:

John Law is one of the primary founders of modern finance. Mozart was an amazing composer. One guy laid one of the critical components of the foundation for modern western civilization, the other guy composed music that works really well with electronic synthesizers that make dance club music.

Ya know what's great about history? A little critical thought often results in the destruction of myths--and on a daily basis!

7/6/14
7/8/14

Wow, this was almost two years ago? How time flies...

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

10/28/14
12/4/14

cool! Hats off!

12/4/14

The story is truly inspirational! I'm really glad you were able to finally realize what you truly wanted for yourself and took the leap of faith to do something you are passionate about.

For the 99% of people on this planet, they don't have much choice other than being stuck with a "job" (whether it's IBD, consulting, corporate or w/e, all the same shit) and they are all miserable everyday because they have a "job" they have to do! For the lucky 1% who are either rich because they've finished accumulating their wealth/capital either from inheritance (born out of rich/upper class family) or self-made (tech entrepreneur who became mill/billionaire after companies got sold/IPOed), those are the people who can really enjoy their lives and do the things they really wanna do because they've achieved financial freedom (they don't need to trade their labor for monetary award) - they have total control of their time and could do what ever the fuck they want - vacationing at different countries, dining at the best restaurants, or doing charitable work or helping create the next big thing in human society or whatever they desire to do. In my mind, they are the only lucky ones who get to truly enjoy their lives and experience what it is like to live in this world (maybe a little extreme here...). For the rest of us, it will take us longer or never to reach that stage. As long as you have a "job" that you can't quit because your financial health depends on it, as long as you are forced to spend 8-10 hours of your life everyday doing your "job", and as long as you don't have "wealth" that could provide enough cashflow to support the lifestyle of your choice, you will never be free to pursue what truly makes you happy in life (whatever that might be). Of course, if someone finds a job he/she genuinely enjoy doing everyday (which is rare), then that's great as well.

Life is short, do something that matters (if you can, off course)! and best of luck to OP in the future.

12/4/14

Love the post.

I'm in a similar situation as you were in about five years ago, so this story is both uplifting and very depressing... Probably just going to do the finance thing for a bit and if I find myself wanting to jump in front of a tube, I'll quit. Or at least I hope I will..

But good luck with living the dream and all; and it's nice to see there are genuine people like you in the world of finance, even if you did end up hating it.

Cause who wants to be in the 99%?

12/4/14

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Strength & Honour
Lads pass exams

12/12/14

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

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