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I know this forum and Wall Street as a whole places a large premium in prestige, and so have I (not willingly but just the way I was raised I guess) but it's really a race you cannot win. Remember how happy you were when you got into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton? Well, once you get in, you're not gonna be happy until you get into GS/MS, and then you're still not gonna be happy because you need to get into a top buyout shop like KKR or hedge fund like SAC capital.

Then there's business school - even if youre a pre-MBA associate at KKR you're not gonna be happy until you get into HBS, and then you're not gonna be happy until you get a post-associate at KKR/SAC, and then you want to move up, and then you want to be MD/Partner.

And then you're just getting started. Think you'll be satisfied then? Partners bicker every year for bonuses, committee positions, C-level positions, etc. And then you have to worry about your kids getting into Andover and Exeter, and HYP, and the cycle starts all over again

Shit doesn't end. I'm very focused on the "prestige track" and I'm doing well on it, but I hate how shit doesn't end

And I'm happiest when I'm with friends and family, not when I'm thinking of how highly ranked my school/bank is. Personal relationships are what make you happy, not $100 million -- its weird to say that as a lecture but it's so true. Friends of mine were rich enough to buy $20k watches and were still miserable.

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Comments (51)

  • WallStreetOasis.com's picture

    Congrats on figuring this out early. Now you have to figure out what you actually want to do with you life.

    But seriously, it doesn't end and you will likely be miserable if you constantly try to compare.

  • Eric Stratton's picture

    So it seems you have come to the realization that there is more to life than money and prestige, yet you are "very focused on the prestige track."

    Am I missing something?

    ---------------------
    "Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America."

  • firefighter's picture

    It's sort of that I rationally understand it's stupid to follow that track but part of me still wants to be able to say to friends and colleagues "I work at XXX/I attended XXX university." But I also realize that once you move up all the people around you have your same accomplishments anyway so there's no one who would actually be impressed. Stupid I know but I'm trying to walk away from that mindset

    I think alot of people also have the feeling that "If I went to Harvard, going to a regular job is a waste, so I'll got to Goldman." but once they start at goldman it's "I did 2 years at goldman, it's a waste NOT to go to KKR, etc" ad infinitum

  • blastoise's picture

    keep that mentality during college so you'll have a good resume after it then think about having a change of heart

  • In reply to firefighter
    WallStreetOasis.com's picture

    machinegunfunk:
    It's sort of that I rationally understand it's stupid to follow that track but part of me still wants to be able to say to friends and colleagues "I work at XXX/I attended XXX university." But I also realize that once you move up all the people around you have your same accomplishments anyway so there's no one who would actually be impressed. Stupid I know but I'm trying to walk away from that mindset

    I think alot of people also have the feeling that "If I went to Harvard, going to a regular job is a waste, so I'll got to Goldman." but once they start at goldman it's "I did 2 years at goldman, it's a waste NOT to go to KKR, etc" ad infinitum

    Probably tough to let it go because you place so much of your self-worth in the supposed prestige of where you work. Like you said, outside of WSO (real world) and even on WSO, most people don't give a shit how prestigious a company you work for is...the sooner you mature and get over that the better. If you actually enjoy your work and you want to continue working at top shops because you like the culture / environment / whatever, then nothing wrong with that. Just let go of the prestige card...it's pretentious and sad.

    Most people know (or at least eventually figure it out) that there are brilliant people and morons at almost every company and institution -- so don't be so sure that everyone is judging you by the name on your business card.

  • ibhopeful532's picture

    One word:

    Insecurity.

    And I'm going to venture a guess that you're Asian - amirite?

  • firefighter's picture

    Patrick -- thanks, I'm trying to do that now and I'm happy I'm coming to this realization at 20 as opposed to as a miserable 45 year old MD at Blackstone

  • DaCarez's picture

    This realization is both liberating and empowering in that you are far less beholden to the complex once you're there - suddenly, your employer has that much less sway over you. Of course, you still (probably) need a paycheck, but no longer are you obsessed with working at ____ just because it is the most prestigious.

    SB for OP, even if it is a somewhat obvious realization that all monkeys should come to.

  • CaptK's picture

    You're wise beyond your years if you realize this while you're still in college. Check out my signature for my feelings on the subject.

    - Capt K -
    "Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, bait the hook with prestige." - Paul Graham

  • Nachos's picture

    It will make me kill someone over a business card.

  • midnight_oil's picture

    Some people just want to succeed in things that are rankable. Prestige / reputation can be ranked; hence, the self-fulfillment that comes with it. This is normal and hard to shake off if you just HAVE it internally. You can't cure short or tall, and you can't cure some internal character traits.

    Now if you're one of those restless souls and you do succeed, then you should be happy - life is a challenge that you're good at. Imagine how shitty those people with ambition feel who for whatever reason can't or don't or feel like they don't achieve anything.

  • In reply to firefighter
    rjroberts1's picture

    machinegunfunk:
    It's sort of that I rationally understand it's stupid to follow that track but part of me still wants to be able to say to friends and colleagues "I work at XXX/I attended XXX university." But I also realize that once you move up all the people around you have your same accomplishments anyway so there's no one who would actually be impressed. Stupid I know but I'm trying to walk away from that mindset

    I think alot of people also have the feeling that "If I went to Harvard, going to a regular job is a waste, so I'll got to Goldman." but once they start at goldman it's "I did 2 years at goldman, it's a waste NOT to go to KKR, etc" ad infinitum

    Generally speaking, the only people that care or are impressed that you went to XXX university or work at XXX Bank are people that are in similar situations. Otherwise you just sound pretentious when those are the things that define you.

  • Nefarious-'s picture

    I don't care about prestige. I would be a janitor if it paid me right.

    You're born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Congrats guys on figuring this out early. Your 20s are some of the best years of your life (though we do have folks learning to fly hang gliders at 50), but you're not really living if life is all about money and prestige.

    There is no point working harder than you need to get what's REALLY important out of life. John Rockefeller was a man who gained the world but felt he lost his soul in the process. One of his last letters, he wrote, "I am a shell of a man", and explained how he was lonely, friendless, and his only comfort was his dividend checks.

    Howard Hughes was one of the world's first billionaires and arguably cooler and more prestigious in the 1950s than anything today's 22-year-olds aspire to. When he died in 1976, he was alone in Guatemala, his fingernails were twelve inches long, his arms were riddled with stabs from the morphine injections he was addicted to.

    That's what it takes to get to the top- and that's how it ends for folks who get there. Is that what folks REALLY want?

    I'll take free time, friends, and hang gliding and a comfortable six figures, thank you very much. Someone else can go enjoy bigger salaries, and the screwed up families, sycophantic relationships, and general misery that come with doing whatever it takes to get to the top.

    Probably tough to let it go because you place so much of your self-worth in the supposed prestige of where you work. Like you said, outside of WSO (real world) and even on WSO, most people don't give a shit how prestigious a company you work for is...the sooner you mature and get over that the better. If you actually enjoy your work and you want to continue working at top shops because you like the culture / environment / whatever, then nothing wrong with that. Just let go of the prestige card...it's pretentious and sad.

    I think everyone does some of that to some extent. Older, wiser people have learned to do it less. Of course, everyone has a lot of work to do on getting wiser- when we're 22, we're the Oracle of Delphi, when we're 25, we turn into total fools.

    Life is a search for meaning and self-worth. It's a lot easier to find it when you're not obsessed with prestige.

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  • lolercoasterrr's picture

    Yes it's easy to realize that prestige is overrated but it's not like you can help it. Most people who care about prestige are fairly driven people in the first place. They try very hard during high school and do well academically to get into a good college. By this time the people you hang out with and associate it are also likely overachievers so naturally you all go to top colleges. In college you maintain this mentality and realize you want to go into finance. Everyone else wants to go into finance and since you are driven you want to go the best place. You want to go to a bulge bracket because everyone else is going and you don't want to be viewed as a failure. When you're at Goldman everyone wants KKR, so you want it to... and the cycle continues. Basically your friends/coworkers all desire the same thing which makes you desire it. If all your college buddies went to top banks and you went to a no-name place or couldn't land a job (because you didn't care about prestige) would you be happy about it?

    Not saying I disagree with your sentiment but it's a lot harder to just say "Yeah I don't care about prestige anymore."

    Also I don't think wanting to go to KKR -> HBS is a sign of being a prestige whore; just that you're very driven. If you had a Harvard undergrad and simply wanted the pedigree of HBS then there may be something wrong, but if you want to go to a PE shop or Bschool it makes sense to try to go the top. As long as your mentality isnt KKR/HBS or depression then you're fine.

  • firefighter's picture

    I think if you make $19k one year and $20k the next year (and your friends make $15k), you're happy, but if you make $500k one year and $400k the next (and your friends made $1million) you're not

  • Brady4MVP's picture

    Very thoughtful post. It's sad, but many of us derive our self-worth from pedigree and accomplishments. I think this is especially true for guys who were not the the cool jocks in high school and are consequently trying to compensate for that.

    I still remember being nearly suicidal when I didn't get into harvard, yale, princeton. I've changed a lot, but now i'm sweating over getting into a top 5 MBA program and fantasizing about how fun and awesome my life will be if i get in.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Dude, jjc, relax man. You got into frigging UPenn. It's like that girl in Calculus class who started crying over her 98% on the exam. She wanted a 100%- what a travesty!

    If you get into *groan* a horrible MBA program like #10-ranked Berkeley, it's not the frigging end of the world. Go grab a drink after work and start fantasizing about what life will be like when you get to take a year off for grad school.

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    Brady4MVP's picture

    IlliniProgrammer:
    Dude, jjc, relax man. You got into frigging UPenn. It's like that girl in Calculus class who started crying over her 98% on the exam. She wanted a 100%- what a travesty!

    If you get into *groan* a horrible MBA program like #10-ranked Berkeley, it's not the frigging end of the world. Go grab a drink after work and start fantasizing about what life will be like when you get to take a year off for grad school.

    Upenn undergrad is not in the same universe as HYP, when it comes to prestige, campus life, and overall experience. But whatever. That was a long time ago, and I'm over it.

    Bored as hell in Chicago. Along with helping me to make a career switch into investment management, a top MBA program will be the most 2 fun years of my life: tons of parties, traveling, meeting smart and interesting people.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    penn is nowhere near HYP

    Who cares? Neither are most schools that get kids into banking. JJC is still crying over his 98% on the exam, and this kid who is thrilled to have gotten a 96% on the college front is sitting here looking over at him incredulously. So a classic 1920s mansion on Lake Michigan is nowhere near a private island estate in the Florida Keys. Ahhh, this might be a bit of a surprise, but most people think you're still incredibly blessed.

    People need to stop comparing themselves to others and start thinking about how blessed they are when 25% of folks under 25 are unemployed. I'm just grateful I can put food on the table, have health insurance, and can afford to do the things I enjoy doing. Not everybody can.

    Life is a lot better when you keep things in perspective and you remember to stay thankful for what you DO have.

  • prospie's picture

    I think this thread is complete now that IP has managed to squeeze in a mention of 1) the greatness of a house on lake Michigan and 2) hang gliding.

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    For IP Completeness, we also need a reference to programming/ CS Theory.

    There.

  • ivoteforthatguy's picture

    I've liked the Penn/Wharton kids I have met in business and academia. Smart, hungry and sans arrogance, knock on wood. When I am hiring, I see that as a +1 immediately.

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    happypantsmcgee's picture

    IlliniProgrammer:
    penn is nowhere near HYP

    Who cares? Neither are most schools that get kids into banking. JJC is still crying over his 98% on the exam, and this kid who is thrilled to have gotten a 96% on the college front is sitting here looking over at him incredulously. So a classic 1920s mansion on Lake Michigan is nowhere near a private island estate in the Florida Keys. Ahhh, this might be a bit of a surprise, but most people think you're still incredibly blessed.

    People need to stop comparing themselves to others and start thinking about how blessed they are when 25% of folks under 25 are unemployed. I'm just grateful I can put food on the table, have health insurance, and can afford to do the things I enjoy doing. Not everybody can.

    Life is a lot better when you keep things in perspective and you remember to stay thankful for what you DO have.

    This needs to be said about 900 times a day on this site IP. You are NEVER, regardless of what job you do, where you work etc. going to be able to honestly say that you are the shit to end all shits. There is definitely something to be said for understanding where you are and what you have. Its a sad, shitty person that sits in his huge beach house, next to a hot wife and drives a nice car that looks next door and wonders what the other guy has in his garage.

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    BTW, JJC, I don't mean to rag on you. Trying to cheer you up about all of this. There's a lot of people out there right now who would KILL to be in your situation.

  • tireds's picture

    Guys,

    happiness is not the end goal. Humans are biologically not made to be happy. If human males were happy and could have sex 24/7 wed still be living in caves. Its about making progress. Its about bringing mankind forward. That's not done through chasing KKR and HBS, but its done through working hard in a field your passionate about. And its more done through chasing dreams and prestige than just giving up and settling for mediocrity and chilling out.

    Sure as you become older and more reasonable, you adapt to your current life situation and become less ambitious, otherwise you would become depressed. But for now stay hungry.

  • Guest1655's picture

    hey finally an interesting topic on WSO. I'm actually happy to see that many people here see beyond the brand on the diploma or business card. My background is about as un-prestigious as it can get. Baruch College followed by some OPS at MS and then a somewhat successful online retail venture along with an underfunded startup.

    Funny enough some of my friends that are from more prestigious backgrounds told me that they would love to be in my position. I on the other hand wish to be in theirs. I think for most people its a grass is always greener deal. Funny enough I have a friend who is selfmade (100m networth) Dude has everything... enormous mansions, exotic cars, famous pornstar fuckbuddies etc...and he is COMPLETELY miserable!! Cant stop complaining about his life. On the other hand most middle class people of average means that have a loving family and a somewhat stable job are probably a lot happier with their lives than he is...

  • nycIBD's picture

    its because he is a Godless man. seriously pornstar fuck buddies?

  • In reply to Guest1655
    blastoise's picture

    Guest1655:
    hey finally an interesting topic on WSO. I'm actually happy to see that many people here see beyond the brand on the diploma or business card. My background is about as un-prestigious as it can get. Baruch College followed by some OPS at MS and then a somewhat successful online retail venture along with an underfunded startup.

    Funny enough some of my friends that are from more prestigious backgrounds told me that they would love to be in my position. I on the other hand wish to be in theirs. I think for most people its a grass is always greener deal. Funny enough I have a friend who is selfmade (100m networth) Dude has everything... enormous mansions, exotic cars, famous pornstar fuckbuddies etc...and he is COMPLETELY miserable!! Cant stop complaining about his life. On the other hand most middle class people of average means that have a loving family and a somewhat stable job are probably a lot happier with their lives than he is...

    i call bs no one who is worth 100m can affords mansions(plural) and exotic cars(plural) with out being leveraged in debt

  • In reply to blastoise
    happypantsmcgee's picture

    blastoise:
    Guest1655:
    hey finally an interesting topic on WSO. I'm actually happy to see that many people here see beyond the brand on the diploma or business card. My background is about as un-prestigious as it can get. Baruch College followed by some OPS at MS and then a somewhat successful online retail venture along with an underfunded startup.

    Funny enough some of my friends that are from more prestigious backgrounds told me that they would love to be in my position. I on the other hand wish to be in theirs. I think for most people its a grass is always greener deal. Funny enough I have a friend who is selfmade (100m networth) Dude has everything... enormous mansions, exotic cars, famous pornstar fuckbuddies etc...and he is COMPLETELY miserable!! Cant stop complaining about his life. On the other hand most middle class people of average means that have a loving family and a somewhat stable job are probably a lot happier with their lives than he is...

    i call bs no one who is worth 100m can affords mansions(plural) and exotic cars(plural) with out being leveraged in debt

    3 Mansions = 40 mil
    8 Exotics = 15 mil
    Pornstar Fuck Buddies = Priceless

    Being worth 100mm doesn't mean he's liquid.

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • chewingum's picture

    IlliniProgrammer:
    People need to stop comparing themselves to others and start thinking about how blessed they are when 25% of folks under 25 are unemployed. I'm just grateful I can put food on the table, have health insurance, and can afford to do the things I enjoy doing. Not everybody can.

    Life is a lot better when you keep things in perspective and you remember to stay thankful for what you DO have.

    I find that whenever I adopt the "stop and smell the roses" attitude, my performance (in classes/interviews) always falls short of what I am capable of. So, in order to squeeze the best out of myself, I find it necessary to adopt the "_______ or bust" mindset ex ante. Screwed up, I know. Anyone else suffer from a similar neurosis?

  • In reply to chewingum
    blastoise's picture

    chewingum:
    IlliniProgrammer:
    People need to stop comparing themselves to others and start thinking about how blessed they are when 25% of folks under 25 are unemployed. I'm just grateful I can put food on the table, have health insurance, and can afford to do the things I enjoy doing. Not everybody can.

    Life is a lot better when you keep things in perspective and you remember to stay thankful for what you DO have.

    I find that whenever I adopt the "stop and smell the roses" attitude, my performance (in classes/interviews) always falls short of what I am capable of. So, in order to squeeze the best out of myself, I find it necessary to adopt the "_______ or bust" mindset ex ante. Screwed up, I know. Anyone else suffer from a similar neurosis?

    agree i have same exact shit and people telling me don't be so focused in school have fun get krunk

  • tireds's picture

    Am I the only one that finds the alternative to the "prestige race"(or as I will define it for purpose of my argument, racing for excellence in field of your choice) very boring?

    What's the point of not trying to attain excellence? You just life an average life like billions of ppl before you, you don't excel at anything, your reasonable happy and then you die and that's it. Sound's pretty bad to me

  • In reply to chewingum
    IlliniProgrammer's picture

    chewingum:
    I find that whenever I adopt the "stop and smell the roses" attitude, my performance (in classes/interviews) always falls short of what I am capable of. So, in order to squeeze the best out of myself, I find it necessary to adopt the "_______ or bust" mindset ex ante. Screwed up, I know. Anyone else suffer from a similar neurosis?

    One of the traders who goes hang gliding with me is kinda like that. I never thought that was all that healthy in the long term. FWIW, John Rockefeller and Howard Hughes were like that too- Warren Buffet isn't, though.

    There's a time for work and a time for rest in life. There's a season for everything- including one for stopping to smell the roses- even if it's only one day a week.

    Am I the only one that finds the alternative to the "prestige race"(or as I will define it for purpose of my argument, racing for excellence in field of your choice) very boring?

    I would find trying to become the world's best marathon runner very boring. And folks who need to be the very best tend to have trouble making friends with most folks- and all but one of them tend to wind up pretty darned disappointed and frustrated. You can never have too much ambition and competitiveness when it comes to helping your team- when I get up every morning, I want to us to kick MS's butt and I want to play a role in doing that. Too much individual ambition, though, scares folks. Of the people that obsessively pursue being #1, only one person *might* get there. Everyone else tends to wind up unhappy, frustrated, and mildly deranged.

    I think a lot of folks who last a long time in this industry find intellectual pursuits interesting and are instead obsessed with making sure their team is #1 and helping make the folks they work with successful. Success tends to be contagious, and sometimes the best way to pursue it isn't the direct route.

  • In reply to tireds
    jackilewis's picture

    tireds:
    Am I the only one that finds the alternative to the "prestige race"(or as I will define it for purpose of my argument, racing for excellence in field of your choice) very boring?

    What's the point of not trying to attain excellence? You just life an average life like billions of ppl before you, you don't excel at anything, your reasonable happy and then you die and that's it. Sound's pretty bad to me

    My brother in law went to a top school/top group in IB/top Bschool/top PE shop route. He started a business and sold it for a hundred mil. While starting the second he hit a snag on the way.

    My sister used to tell me that he was fighting depression at the time and would cry every night saying that he is a failure.

    YOU WILL NOT WIN THIS RACE SON. THERE ARE NO WINNERS.

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  • In reply to Guest1655
    happypantsmcgee's picture

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    Argonaut's picture

    More is good, all is better

  • In reply to Argonaut
    happypantsmcgee's picture

    If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

  • In reply to happypantsmcgee
    Argonaut's picture

    More is good, all is better

  • In reply to IlliniProgrammer
    Argonaut's picture

    More is good, all is better

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