5 lazy tips to succeed in finance

Grizzled Guru's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 362

When I was thirteen years old, my mother handed me a book and told me that I should read one of the stories in it. "Son," she said, "here's your life plan."

The book was Robert Heinlein's Time Enough for Love and the story was The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail. It was about a man who keeps consciously making lazy choices and yet somehow succeeds wildly at everything he does.

I quickly read the short story, shrugged, and handed her the book back. Then she told me not to be that lazy and to read the rest of the damn book.

At the time, I had no idea that my life would have strong parallels to this story. My mother was right. This was my master plan. I went to grad school because I didn't want to work for a living. I became a banker for the same reason.

Don't get me wrong. Being lazy doesn't mean giving up on work. Don't work harder. Don't work smarter. Work lazier!

  • Automate
  • Lazy people let machines do the work. I'm really a computer scientist, not a banker, so this comes naturally given my lazy nature. I'm always shocked to see quants and analysts doing the same crappy handwork again and again. For god's sake... write a program to do it!

    Oh, you say you don't know how to program? Well, you damn well better learn or I'll write a script that will replace you. Oh, and Excel doesn't count. Go learn something real like Python or Ruby.

  • Delegate
  • To be truly lazy is to let other people do the hard work. You don't need to have minions and be an MD to have other people work on your behalf. Build stuff that lets other people plug their own work into it. Or be super-meta and build stuff that builds stuff to do that.

    I write a lot of Python scripts and accelerators that need to be "finished off" by the quants to do exactly what they want. I just tell them they're specializing it. It makes them feel super-special-awesome and talented, but they are really just meat puppets dancing on the ends of my strings.

  • Share
  • Being lazy doesn't mean being greedy. Share your stuff! Ms. Zlavonia, my kindergarten teacher and the third love of my life taught me that. Don't bogart your stuff. Don't bogart your knowledge. Share it! Lazy people know that when you share credit, you actually enlist all the sharee's as hapless minions that will extend and fix your stuff for you - and you still get the credit!

  • Fix somebody else's problem
  • Yes, you always have your own work to do, and, yes, our educational system teaches us to be individual contributors. But that's bullshit. Lazy people know that fixing someone else's problem is the way to go.

    A quant I worked with at my BB job was having some problems with some library interface work. I automated it so he could do it all himself. For years, he cited that work and told everyone that I was a genius (true, but it's nice when someone else blows that horn). I got more good press and made bank off of his connections come bonus time. A lazy man keeps his ears open and swoops in on opportunities.

    Which brings me to number five...

  • Blowing the horn
  • Here's a life lesson for you. Your work does not speak for itself. It doesn't matter how great it is. It is making the tiny squeaks of a drowning mouse at the bottom of a well during a hurricane. Here's another lesson. If you go around tooting your own horn, people will think you're a suck ass sycophant. Don't do it more than necessary.

    Besides that's too much work for a lazy person. Get other people to blow your horn for you. When someone complements me on some work, I say "thanks" and I say, "If your really like it, could you write a short note to THEIRMD and MYMD saying so?" Nine out of ten times, I end up getting cc'd on an email five minutes later to [email protected] and [email protected].

    As a Lazy Man, I'm glad that I didn't have to write it. Also, I have an email copy that I can lazily forward to my boss when he's wondering what I've done to deserve my fat bonus check. I've watched these email chains get sent all the way up to [email protected] so those bozo MD's can get their cut of the credit for "bringing the organization together for maximal synergy and that kind of shit." Remember! They became MD's because they were super-efficient at being super lazy!

So go forth and be lazy. Be wildly successful whilst others do the hard work. Oh, and if you liked any of this advice, could you write a short note to [email protected] saying so?

Comments (31)

Aug 25, 2013

This is great! Thanks for posting this!!!

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

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Aug 30, 2013

Thanks! This was my first post, so I'm glad someone liked it.... XKCD gives you a bonus point for not saying "First". (see xkcd.com/1258)

Aug 25, 2013

So how does a lazy person learn to program?

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Aug 25, 2013

what happens if someone throws the ring back into the fire in which the ring was initially forged?

Aug 30, 2013

You get burned.

Aug 25, 2013

Very happy to know that programming skills can be used very effectively for a Quant on smaller/simple tasks. My only question though, given that you are doing the work, is there any CS courses (besides basics) or books you would recommend to a non-programming background?

Aug 27, 2013

So, who wrote your post? Hopefully an analyst listening to a dictated copy. Well said across the board nonetheless.

Aug 28, 2013

"Learn Python the Hard Way"

Sep 7, 2013
jjjjl241:

"Learn Python the Hard Way"

Let me one-up you there: http://learnyouahaskell.com/chapters

Aug 28, 2013

Good post and nice sticking-to-concept with the last two lines. SB for you!

Aug 30, 2013

Thanks for the banana!

Aug 28, 2013

Come on guys, if a dinosaur could do it, so could all of you.

https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/cwj91/2013/04/29/chris-bos...

Aug 28, 2013

Working with data a Python library called Pandas is the way to go. A guy named Wes McKinney wrote it while he was working at AQR and it is undoubtedly the easiest way to go for working with financial data....

- Not Wes McKinney

Aug 30, 2013

Pandas is awesome...

The very best thing about Python is that someone has already written things that are very close to what you want already. Import foo and off you go!

Aug 28, 2013

This isn't lazy. This is smart.

Aug 28, 2013

What if you're actually a banker and not a programmer geek?

Aug 28, 2013

Then learn programming. Python isn't that hard.

From BA in Political Science undergrad

Aug 30, 2013

That's my nightmare... waking up to discover that I really *am* a banker. Better to be pais like a banker but keep my brain functional.

Aug 29, 2013

I appreciate all the wisdom, but i"m skeptical that learning python at a basic level will actually further one's career in finance in a non quant role.

Aug 29, 2013

About pythons effectivness in terms of a non-quant role: Yea... I'm having the same thoughts? Is it worth the effort?

If someone could elaborate...

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to fifty words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.

Aug 29, 2013
GimeThatBanana:

About pythons effectivness in terms of a non-quant role: Yea... I'm having the same thoughts? Is it worth the effort?

If someone could elaborate...

Learning to code isn't just for work. It makes you think differently/better about some things. For example, I've noticed that most people with computer science backgrounds who go into consulting case interviews with little preparation still do very well, because that type of step-by-step modular thinking is enhanced by learning programming. And you'll possibly come up with ideas to do things at work in more interesting and potentially more efficient ways. And it honestly isn't that much effort (especially Python) so yes, it's worth it.

Aug 29, 2013

OP, what do you do for a living?

Aug 30, 2013

I'm a computer scientist working as a developer at a prop traders.. Before that, I was at a big bank. Before that, I worked for an excentric billionaire on a supercomputer, before that, nuclear weapons design

Sep 7, 2013

Do people really agree with the last one? I would be pretty uncomfortable actually asking someone to talk me up in front of their MD

Sep 8, 2013
abcdefghij:

Do people really agree with the last one? I would be pretty uncomfortable actually asking someone to talk me up in front of their MD

i know it's super uncomfortable -- especially if you were brought up in a culture where modesty is valued and the lackthereof is punished (i.e are you east asian).

..but that's how people get ahead in america

Sep 8, 2013

Comfortable or not, it is effective

Sep 8, 2013

I love this. thanks. really helps someone in my shoes (2-4 years in)

Sep 12, 2013

Haha this is great. I love it. Your posts are some of my favorite. Please, keep this up.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

Sep 12, 2013
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Sep 15, 2013
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"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."

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