Best Lessons Learned From F&#%ing Up

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Some of the absolute best lessons you can learn in life come from f&#%ing up. Advice like "wear a condom" or "don't push that fart out after eating Thai food" or "don't eat pizza for literally every meal because your metabolism will slow down one day and you'll get fat" really never hits home until you experience it first hand.

I had to do some reflecting today as part of an exercise and remembered a time I made an ass out of myself. While the memory faded before just today and I no longer care about the ramifications, the lesson learned certainly never left. I figured I'd share mine and then get some good stories from everyone else.

During an internship I had in college, I wanted to take some time and meet all the higher ups of the company. My dad brought me along to business functions from time to time growing up and I had held numerous leadership positions in my fraternity and student government so I was very used to speaking with executives one on one with little to no intimidation factoring in.

I secure a sit down with the president of a different group in my company and make my way to his office. I got caught in traffic on my way back to the office and was super anxious because I was always taught to be early, much less late. I had rushed up the elevator and down the winding halls. He shook my hand and seemed genuinely excited to see me, always a great feeling in these situations.

It only went down hill from there. Throughout our conversation, it become abundantly clear that I had not done any research on the man at all, knowing only a general sense of his career path and accomplishments. We were fraternity brothers too, albeit at different schools, and that fact had escaped me as well. On top of all that, when he brushed it off to give me advice as well as other people to speak to, I had neither a pen nor anything to write on. He commented repeatedly on all of this and seemed thoroughly disappointed with how I presented myself as a result.

The worst part is, I knew all of this already. I always looked up bios beforehand. I always carried a pen and notebook with me. In my anxiety due to traffic, I hadn't had the half hour I factored in to look him up and in my rush I left my notebook in my car. I was getting "advice" about simple things I had been taught my entire life and all I could do is sit there, thoroughly embarrassed. This story of course made its way back to my boss as well as the dean of my program. I, with all of my leadership experience, couldn't even manage a simple meet and greet.

You better believe that I have pens in each one of my blazers and suit coats as well as numerous moleskin notebooks on me at all times now. I look up LinkedIn profiles and bios far, far in advance, and numerous times at that. There's not a worse feeling than being looked at as an incompetent by a superior while internally kicking yourself because you absolutely know better.

What's your story?

Comments (37)

Jul 22, 2016

simple yet solid advice, +1

Jul 23, 2016

Thanks for this.

Jul 25, 2016

Nice advice thank you for that.

I've always been unsure as to what is proper etiquette regarding taking notes in one on one little meet and greets like that. If anyone has any tips or can point in the right direction I'd appreciate it.

Jul 25, 2016

In my experience - you do not want to be sitting there with a pen and notepad in hand constantly writing down every little point.

If anything, jot down (in 3-5 words) the themes of the conversation. Afterwards, revisit those bullet points and your memory will be fresh enough to write down more detailed notes on your own time.

Not only is it rude to be taking notes the entire time but if you are writing the entire time, you will be thinking "oh what did he just say" instead of crafting your own response.

The alternative, is to bring pen & paper so you appear prepared (which you are). However, wait until after the meeting is over to write down your notes/summary/etc. That way, you're fully engaged in the conversation, but will be able to take notes directly after when it is still fresh on your mind.

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Jul 25, 2016
  1. If you're unsure ask. Phone calls leave little ambiguity, can take less than a minute, and ensure you don't make any mistakes.
    1a. Use your counsel, you pay them so don't be afraid to give them a ring and ask a question. This holds especially true if you're junior (if your firm allows it), they'll feel less pressure, and will be happy to explain if you phrase your question the right way.
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Jul 26, 2016

I had let several days of anger build up while I was a consultant. One small email set me off and I threw my wireless mouse. Unfortunately when I threw my wireless mouse it hit my secondary monitor that my laptop was docked to. This obviously broke my screen and immediately solved my built up anger, as it was now replaced with fear. I immediately, almost simultaneously as the screen broke, went on Amazon to order a matching monitor with overnight shipping. I had to keep my secondary monitor off for the remainder of the day and the following to prevent my boss, or anyone for that matter, from seeing the broken monitor. This forced me to work in spreadsheets on only my 15 inch laptop screen while constantly being concerned about someone asking me why. I then had to take a cab back to the office late the following night to avoid running into anyone and replace the monitor after hours, and also attempt to avoid being questioned by building security.

This moment of anger caused me significantly more frustration, money, and additional stress. I laugh about it now, but constantly remember my broken monitor anytime a situation gets under my skin. Not that this situation was an incredibly big deal, but it's a small example of what happens when you let your emotions takeover your judgement. It is much better to think about the consequences or walk away rather than risk losing your job or the respect of others.

Jul 26, 2016

Great story. SB+1

Jul 26, 2016

Thank you. Happy you brought up this topic, hopefully others will respond too. Good story and advice from your end as well. SB+1 to you.

Jul 25, 2016

Literally shit myself the other day from Thai food and thought it was a fart. Wish I would've saw this advice.

"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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Jul 28, 2016

Haha thanks for the stories - I learned one of the most important lessons of my career by F%^&ing up one of the most basic tasks ever...

It was my first couple of months at my new firm and as a rookie I had landed my first big deal (so my boss was pretty impressed) - all that we needed to do was get through one final routine meeting with our bankers. So the meeting went well and the deal was all but done, only for my boss to get a call just before we boarded the plane from the head valuer at the bank questioning the municipal property rates expense - I had done the DD on the property but for some reason had forgotten to check the "property rates" clause in the lease agreement for the ANCHOR TENANT who occupied +-80% of the property!!!

Needless to say I was all but shitting myself the entire flight home (I didn't have the DD files on hand), only to dash back to the office to check how big the F&*% up was and to find that to my relief, the Tenant (not the LL) was responsible for paying the rates account (otherwise we would have been 5m bucks in the hole and I'd be out of a job)!

Moral of the story - it's the little things that can make all the difference so master them as early as possible (I now read through every single lease agreement from top to bottom often more than once).

    • 3
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Jul 28, 2016

This probably has been mentioned but whats far more important is how you fix your mistake(s), learn from them, and move on that matters.

I've made my share of mistakes but in the long run I've realized what I did wrong, made mental notes of what to do differently, and realized that none of these mistakes have harmed anyone or resulted in a negative financial impact.

Jul 29, 2016

Unless you have 100% absolute insight into a matter, don't talk about it with co-workers or managers, and then maybe still don't.

I made this mistake and it was terrible. Lots of people gossip, but now I try never to. My VP who I was close with mentioned to me that the SEC was driving the firm crazy with an audit. I thought that sounded really bad, like the firm did something. A few days later, I was small chatting with a new MD at the firm and for some reasons mentioned I had heard the firm had just received an audit from the SEC. The guy went absolutely ape sh**. He was shocked he didn't know and said this would cause immense issues raising our newest fund (which he was hired to help raise). He then walked out of the room to go call the head of our firm.

Long story short, I was called into the head of my firm's office when he for 30 minutes demanded I explain where I heard this 'rumor'. Being an analyst and finally understanding he wasn't trying to kill anyone I mentioned I inferred this from what my VP told me. Turns out the firm was not being audited but was answering some routine annual questions given our fund structure. The CEO was really unhappy with me and he also spoke with the VP which double blue up in my face.

I had a perfect year at the firm there and never had any material mix up until then. The worst part was my annual review was 3 days later and this stupidity was still sitting in the air.

Lesson Learned: Don't F***ing talk about what you don't 100% know about when it comes to internal firm stuff. Being in the know isn't going to make you any better and will only hurt you if you do something stupid.

    • 2
Jul 29, 2016
TheBigBambino:

Unless you have 100% absolute insight into a matter, don't talk about it with co-workers or managers, and then maybe still don't.

I made this mistake and it was terrible. Lots of people gossip, but now I try never to. My VP who I was close with mentioned to me that the SEC was driving the firm crazy with an audit. I thought that sounded really bad, like the firm did something. A few days later, I was small chatting with a new MD at the firm and for some reasons mentioned I had heard the firm had just received an audit from the SEC. The guy went absolutely ape sh**. He was shocked he didn't know and said this would cause immense issues raising our newest fund (which he was hired to help raise). He then walked out of the room to go call the head of our firm.

Long story short, I was called into the head of my firm's office when he for 30 minutes demanded I explain where I heard this 'rumor'. Being an analyst and finally understanding he wasn't trying to kill anyone I mentioned I inferred this from what my VP told me. Turns out the firm was not being audited but was answering some routine annual questions given our fund structure. The CEO was really unhappy with me and he also spoke with the VP which double blue up in my face.

I had a perfect year at the firm there and never had any material mix up until then. The worst part was my annual review was 3 days later and this stupidity was still sitting in the air.

Lesson Learned: Don't F***ing talk about what you don't 100% know about when it comes to internal firm stuff. Being in the know isn't going to make you any better and will only hurt you if you do something stupid.

So did you infer when your VP mentioned SEC he meant audit, or did you VP directly tell you there was an Audit? By mentioning to an MD that there was an audit when your VP directly told you there was an audit should not result in you being in trouble.

Unless the case was he didn't explicitly say audit and you just assumed it was an audit....

Either way, it always seems to work better to shut your mouth and nod when bad, and smile when good.

Jul 26, 2016
TheBigBambino:

Don't F***ing talk about what you don't 100% know about when it comes to internal firm stuff.

Piggy backing off of this - don't talk shit about ANYTHING in the office unless you are sure you will get a good reception. Weddings came up in conversation with a group of us at one of my jobs and we talked about wedding trend that were annoying or overdone. I mentioned how everyone in the world seemed to be doing some dumbass hipster barn wedding Instagram-friendly theme lately, especially people who could barely explain what a farm is. One of the principals' daughters had apparently been married in a hipster barn wedding the year before. Luckily he was not in the office, but there was an audible gasp and everyone looked around, horrified.

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Jul 29, 2016

Biggest mistake I had procrastinating too much and believing I could prep for anything given 24-48 hours, as a result I ended up not prepping enough for a big ER interview. I never thought I would get it in the first place, the lead I had seemed like a .00005% chance of working out for me, (looking back, it still was) so I never fully prepped on my weakest area ... the accounting technicals. I figured if I got through some of the initial process I would still have a few weeks of prep time and I would be fine.

As luck would have it, out of the blue I receive an e-mail requesting a first round interview. I'm told it should go for half an hour, but I ended up having an amazing stock pitch (one that I worked my ass of on) and it led to an additional 30 minutes of talking for a total of a one hour first round interview. I think this was on a Monday / Tuesday. Well... turns out I did so well that I was selected for the superday... happening that Friday. I had 2-3 days to FINALLY learn my accounting, BUT I was slammed with 3 mid-terms on topics I didn't know shit about. My focus had to shift towards my classes so I didn't fail. (Double fucked myself).

Superday comes, I had minimal sleep, I was nervous as hell, and my first interviewer was a dick who railed me on technicals. Second interview, first thing the tandem interviewers say to me, "Heard you had some trouble with technicals". I was a dead man. Even though I answered all of their questions what I felt was fairly well. Left NYC knowing I wouldn't get it, but every day waiting for the rejection was nerve racking. I felt my whole body sink down when I finally got the call a week later. Now a days, I'm always prepared for any interviews / discussions / how to answer management's questions. I've stopped procrastinating...mostly :)

TL;DR - I procrastinated way too much and fucked up the chance of a lifetime in ER. Now I don't procrastinate. Kind of.

...

    • 2
Jul 29, 2016

Story of my friend Interviewing at a ~$3bn HF

Interviewer: So who do you read?

Friend: If replicating returns from reading books were that easy, everybody would be a billionaire.

Awkward "haha"

Interviewer: Well we have a flight at 12:30, better leave now. It's been nice meeting you.

    • 2
Jul 31, 2016

Your boy has got some balls.

Jul 31, 2016

Best Response. Your friend is a bad ass.

Best Response
Jul 31, 2016

My first year out of college working in consulting I fucked up a fairly small portion of a deliverable. It wasn't caught in review but I double checked the numbers and it was definitely wrong. I talked to my Senior about it and he told me the most important lesson of my career:
"Anything can be fixed or explained, except for a lie."

From there on out I've made several mistakes, with varying degrees of consequence, but I've never forgotten that lesson and have always admitted my mistakes to the appropriate people with humility. That approach will not fail you in the long run.

    • 6
Aug 27, 2016

Great advice.

Jul 31, 2016

Fresh out of my 2nd year, I got a gig at a big 4 in audit. For my first engagement, I was on a year end client where the financial statements needed to be audited in about 3 days. My first assignment was to analyze 500 mutual funds and recalculate their interest rate risk, currency risk, credit risk and foreign exchange risk. This was a near herculean task because each of the calculations needed to be done manually then tied out to the financial statements, but I gladly accepted. Before I started the task, the partner on the job personally told me that the job needed to be done in three days, because if I failed to do so, the audit opinion would have to be delayed and that would piss off the client. I shook my head and acknowleged his statement. As I started working through the task, I quickly found out that I was completely lost - I just kept staring at the arcane spreadsheet, unable to make sense of anything. Looking beside me, I saw my seniors and other interns who seemed to know their shit, and were working furiously throught their work. Finally, one of the seniors came up to me to see how I was doing. Afraid to look stupid, I said everything is going great and I should meet the deadline. Looking back, I think my senior knew I was lying but I think he wanted believe I was telling the truth because he had other stuff to do. Anyway, the first half of the day went by and I failed to make any progress. The client had essentially given me a data dump, and there was no reference point to start. I finally managed to google some stuff and make progress and by the end of the day I had a general understanding of how I was going to calculate the risks. Side Note: It wasn't so much the calculation that was hard, the hardest part was discerning the client specific spreadsheet and finding out where to start. Anyone that has worked in audit knows that the toughest part about the job is the client giving you files that seem second nature to them, and just expecting you to know how to read it Anyway, as I started to work throught the calculations I noticed that I wasn't going to make the deadline in two days. However, afraid to admit this and look like an idiot, everytime my senior asked me how I was doing I would respond by saying "great, should be done soon". Finally the last day arrived, and I still had 150 funds to make my way through, it was 3:00 am and the financial statements were going to be signed at 9:00am in the morining. At that point, I knew I had to get help. I worked up the courage to approach my senior - who was occupied with his own work, and when I told him situation, he went ballistic. I got pulled aside and given my first stern talking too. After picking up what was left of my pride, my senior got another couple of interns to help me out with the task. He also told me that I should have came to him on day one, as he did the task the year before and could have saved me a day of headaches by telling me where to start. I will never forget what he said "it is okay not to know, it is not okay to think you are above getting help". With my first "learning experience" under my belt, I now understood the importance of embracing my knowledge gaps, and seeking help. In this situation, with the help of my fellow interns, we were able to finish the task by 9:00 am, but it was a far from pleasant experience.

Aug 27, 2016

These guys were just plain dumb.

Why would you use code words like frequent flier miles and Macy's sales... and then go around writing each other checks and wiring money to eachother's brokerage accounts. So on Monday Egor wires 5K to Vladamir and tells him, I just got 5K frequent flier miles... and no one is going to crack their code? Not quite KGB are they?

Since when did the currency of ill repute turn into wire transfers and checks? I guess they were burning all their Rubels to keep warm.

Aug 27, 2016

He's innocent. A banker would never use "Macy's" as a code word - are you kidding? Now, had he used "Bergdorf Goodman" or "Barney's", we might have something to talk about.
-- Chingona

LOL.

Aug 27, 2016

Hurry, sales end soon.

Aug 27, 2016

What about just exchanging RSA-encrypted emails? Dumbasses.

Aug 27, 2016

lol Rex Banner, what a good episode

Aug 27, 2016

ha, right? "I'll get you beer baron..."

... "no, you won't."

Aug 1, 2016

As an intern, I don't get an abundance of responsibility so if I make a mistake on my work it is minor and easy to fix. My most embarrassing moment this summer was calling one (quite overweight) employee by another (quite overweight) employee's name (in my defense, they do look very similar). I immediately realized and tried to correct myself, but the damage had been done.

Learn everyone's name in the first week at a job and don't think you know someone's name when you don't. Calling someone by the wrong name is worse than forgetting it.

Great topic!

    • 1
Aug 2, 2016

Really not that bad of a fuck up to be honest, this shit happens to everyone and, unless you've been calling the same guy with the wrong name for 2 weeks, it's a non-issue. If there's one thing I learned interning this summer from my boss is that as interns, we tend to over-think and over-react from fear of coming off as incompetent or having a poor image. Care about what others think of you, but don't sweat it to the point where a mistake as trivial as the one you made can be turned into a lesson.

Aug 1, 2016

Something simple, yet so easy to screw up - dress. Grew up in Midwest, taught the old lessons of "the clothes don't make the man" and somehow I was able to succeed despite "poor" dressing habits. Outside of funerals, I never wore a suit and wore ironed (and quality) polos anytime I could get away with it/

I went to meet a new client in a banana-republic island nation - and I took a suitcase of Brooks brothers shirts and dress slacks but at the last second I decided to wear a polo shirt since "what the hell this is an island and it's 90 degrees outside". Walked into the room to meet the senior person on the island for the gov't corporation I was assisting and she looked me up and down with a scowl and said "You are ready to go meet my customers?" I came up with some excuse to get driven back to the hotel and switched into a BB shirt but the first impression had already been made (it was a poor one of me).

I ended up kicking ass on that assignment and got a good review out of it but I'll never show up under-dressed anywhere again.

Aug 4, 2016

I chose marketing initially as my major and that was a big mistake. I'm a wiz with numbers and I really enjoy capital markets and the banking industry, but I was told by friends and some colleagues/professors that a marketing degree is the most applicable degree you can have, and it would translate to any position I was interested in. I soon found out when applying to BBs that although I had the qualitative experience of business, the quantitative aspects are an imperative key in this industry. So, I decided to add on a second major: finance. It was the best decision I ever made and my career is now incredibly fulfilling as I head into my 5th year to finish up 2 classes, but I missed the opportunity to graduate with my friends. In short, don't do something just because it's the popular choice among friends, pick your own path.

    • 1
Aug 4, 2016

Showed up to a client meeting with our Partner on a wrong date, argued with the client that the date is correct. Never back down.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.

    • 2
Aug 5, 2016

Back in college (2009), I was interviewing for an ER internship at BofAML, through a referral from a friend who used to work there. I went through 4 rounds of interviews and I was in the last round, which was an interview with the head of ER. His assistant calls me and wants to schedule to a time I couldn't attend and I politely asked if there was another opening available. She started going ape shit and yelling on me and her exact words were: "Listen here son, do you know who XYZ (head of ER) is? He has no other openings". I replied with: "Right, you don't need to raise your voice on me, I'm fine with the initial schedule". The next day I got a call from another assistant canceling my interview and that they would get back with another time. I don't need to say I never heard back from them. My friend later let me know that the guy's assistant (whom he confirmed is crazy) went to the head of ER and said I screamed at her on the phone.

Lesson learned: BE VERY CAREFUL WITH ASSISTANTS/HR, SPECIALLY WHEN YOU ARE INTERVIEWING. Treat them really well. Some of them are very, very crazy and almost all of them suffer from doorman's syndrome.

Aug 5, 2016

Good advice. My two penny's: If your boss is a women, dont fuck her. Especially dont fuck your boss if its a man.

    • 2
Aug 5, 2016
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Aug 25, 2016
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