How do you stay motivated?

This goes out to investment bankers and students alike - how do you stay motivated when it seems sometimes that the constant bullshit you are drudging through (work for bankers, college shit for students) has little meaning and no impact ?

Is the money that much of a driving force for you guys ?? What keeps you guys so cut throat and competitive for so long in life (people with top undergrad -> banking -> top MBA, etc.)

Want legit answers, not something along the lines of "Eye of the Tiger" or something. I am sure it is different for everyone, and would like to hear what it is for people on this forum.

Comments (61)

 
Jul 20, 2008 - 7:09pm

I like to win and hate to see myself in an inferior position to my peers.

Basically, I want and need to be #1.

A rather depressing goal seeing as you cannot always be first, and forces you into a perpetual rat race.

 
Jul 20, 2008 - 8:33pm

I wouldn't say it's money... money is actually a poor way to motivate yourself once you reach a certain income level (diminishing returns and all).

I think reputation, as nystateofmind mentioned, is a good one. Beyond just what people above you think of you, it's also about what your peers think as well - it's tough to drop out or quit if most of your friends are still in the profession (although I actually did this recently so who really knows....).

For me a lot of the motivation comes from wanting to do better than my parents did - I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat, with parents who never ended up achieving all that they could and hyper-competitive children who want to do everything possible.

I have to say, though, after 2 years of doing this I did "re-focus" some of my motivation - I didn't really lose motivation to do well or achieve things, it was more of me wanting to focus on other areas rather than strictly continuing on "the track" and within a set career path, if that makes any sense.

 
Jul 20, 2008 - 10:08pm

Meaningless sex with ridiculously hot models, a closet of the most expensive Italian suits and a garage of Ferraris, Lambos...

No just kidding. It's the sense of being "successful", and admiration from your family, relative and friends. Also the personal satisfaction that comes from yourself knowing that you have worked hard to get to a place where a majority of people can never reach and that you weren't a bum sitting on the couch living at the expense of others. Lastly, the power and the financial flexibility to help those who needs it and weren't privileged to be born and raised in a civilized and wealthy society.

 
Jul 20, 2008 - 11:42pm

Ahhhh, let's see.

I think reputation. I've chosen this area of study: it's not profoud, nor is any of the work earth shattering. But it is important. That makes me want to be good at it. I feel good when people come to me and ask questions: they have faith that I'll know the answer or know how to find it out. That keeps me going. Being thought highly of isn't the end goal, but it helps remind me that I'm where I want to be.

 
Jul 21, 2008 - 1:37am

in a really bizzarre way its laziness. i'm pretty simple in terms of lifestyle and dont spend too much money; i'm a big saver. banking allows me to stack some chips much faster than any other job which will ultimately allow me to retire/take on some easy life style job sooner. thus i figure if i work my ass off for 5-10 years in banking, i'll ultimately be able to do nothing and relax carefree. this is what motivates me.

 
Jul 21, 2008 - 9:39am

Reputation is definitely important, even as SA, after you mess up a few times, you will generally see a decline in the quality of work you are given. Imagine messing up FT, and getting the crappy deals during your 2 years....

Though I can imagine it takes more than just reputation to get through two years, no matter how motivated you are, I can imagine the two years are a piece of cake for anyone...

 
Jul 21, 2008 - 11:17am

I'm a big Ayn Rand follower, so I actually beleive in what I do. As much BS as it may sound, I beleive in banking being the capital highway. While its not exactly saving the whales or curing cancer, I think banking is both a noble and important job, so I don't need any motivation outside of that belief. Well... outside of ridiculous amount of blow, goose, and strippers.

 
Jul 21, 2008 - 11:47am

ginNtonic:
I'm a big Ayn Rand follower, so I actually beleive in what I do. As much BS as it may sound, I beleive in banking being the capital highway. While its not exactly saving the whales or curing cancer, I think banking is both a noble and important job, so I don't need any motivation outside of that belief. Well... outside of ridiculous amount of blow, goose, and strippers.

So do you also believe in no bailouts from the Fed - financial Darwinism? Have you read "Alan Shrugged" (I haven't but I'll probably pick it up at some point)?

 
Jul 21, 2008 - 1:22pm

GameTheory:
ginNtonic:
I'm a big Ayn Rand follower, so I actually beleive in what I do. As much BS as it may sound, I beleive in banking being the capital highway. While its not exactly saving the whales or curing cancer, I think banking is both a noble and important job, so I don't need any motivation outside of that belief. Well... outside of ridiculous amount of blow, goose, and strippers.

So do you also believe in no bailouts from the Fed - financial Darwinism? Have you read "Alan Shrugged" (I haven't but I'll probably pick it up at some point)?

"Capitalism rests on a clear principle: those who get the profits should take the pain. For the system to work, bankers sometimes need to lose their jobs and investors their shirts. Yet were a collapsing Bear Stearns or Fannie Mae to sow destruction for the sake of a principle, it would impose a terrible price in lost jobs and output on everyone else. The unpalatable truth is that by the time a financial crisis hits, the state often has to compromise-to impose as much pain as it can, of course, but to shoulder a large part of the losses nonetheless." - Economist (this week)

 
Jul 22, 2008 - 3:05pm

What keeps me motivated in banking/high finance is the opportunity to make a lot of money in a relatively short amount of time and an opportunity to pursue other careers that pay even more.

I save a lot of money as well but doubt that I will be able to retire or will want to retire in the next 5-10 years as one of the above posters.

I'm a PSD so..thats why money is my motivation. In my first year, my bonus was more than what most people (incl. my friends that graduated with me) get as a base salary + signing bonus. Add that to my signing bonus and my base and I made 1/10th of what my MD earned.

The payscale is great and in IB, it essentially is more of an "easy" job at the junior levels compared to the 24 year old "good" cold callers, where they can make in one year what an IB analyst earns in 3 years.

------------ I'm making it up as I go along.
 
Jul 22, 2008 - 9:04pm

Imagine yourself as inferior compared to someone, somehow. Unimaginable isn't it? For, me it's the challenge of being a banker (yes, i enjoy a challenge). I also enjoy knowing that I'll clock in more hours than other bankers, so I'll have sometin to brag about.


http://modernyuppie.blogspot.com/
The musings and antics of a Meathead College Wrester turned Asset Backed Securities trader living in The Rotten Apple.

 
Jul 22, 2008 - 9:06pm

reputation is the deciding factor for me.

from the outside, a lot of other factors seem to take center stage in importance (i.e. - money, interesting work, prestige, etc - take your pick). but from a day-to-day perspective, not wanting to be perceived as a "dirt-bag" serves as strong motivation to put in 110%. sure, the work/hours suck at times, but when you're on a deal/pitch, you don't want to slack off and hand in a sub-par work product.

it's like everything else in the world that you might not really enjoy doing, but, for whatever reason, decide to do anyway initially...

like working out for fat people: AS LONG AS YOU'RE AT THE GYM (i.e. - bank/office) might as well give it your all (especially because you will have an MD/client to answer to). if that doesn't motivate you, i guess you can stay fat (i.e. - an accountant/back office/your choice of lame ass jobs).

 
Jul 22, 2008 - 9:13pm

I was always criticized most of my early life from people who say I have untapped potential. The motivation is not having people say that to me anymore. So I guess this would fall under reputation. Still a student though.

 
Jul 23, 2008 - 12:45am

This thread got featured on the homepage and got a pic, awesome. Very interesting to see the large majority of you draw on reputation rather than $$ as your motivation.

"There is only one bottom line -- how much money you make."

"There is only one bottom line -- how much money you make."
 
Jul 23, 2008 - 10:09am

C.R.E.A.M.:
This thread got featured on the homepage and got a pic, awesome. Very interesting to see the large majority of you draw on reputation rather than $$ as your motivation.

"There is only one bottom line -- how much money you make."

The dollars between top and middle tiers (after taxes) isn't that much. So money would be a weak motivation for junior bankers. There is canyon between the repuation of top and middle tiers though.

 
Jul 23, 2008 - 12:20pm

I think that motivation comes in two stages:

1) Trying to get into the game. I can vouch for the fact that juggling 18 credits, a social life, prepping for interviews and flying out to NYC every other Friday isn't always fun. Motivation isn't as hard to come by here though when you realize that 1) your life will likely be just as hectic if not more as a banker 2) you're lucky as hell to have these interviews and 3) it feels kind of cool to be flown out and put up. Motivation comes into play much more as you prepare for these interviews and network for hours on end, months before interviews start. Here it's a matter of keeping your eye on the ball and really being honest with yourself as to why you're doing it. For me, it's the exit opps, the desire to succeed, the experience you gain and that I know if it's not something I pursue I'll be kicking myself later. And that's not a good feeling.

2) After actually landing the job, it certainly takes more to keep motivated. At the SA level it's easy in the morning to fight the desire to sleep by saying, "alright, only six more weeks of work." That doesn't work as well FT with a justification of "alright, I can do this, only fifty eight more weeks."

I am still in school, but personally when (and if) it comes to full-time, I will be motivated by the desire to keep my reputation stellar. I'm a big runner and I could see how things could compare to getting to the 15th mile of a marathon when it starts to hurt and you wonder why the heck you're doing this. You've already made the commitment and come so far (ie recruiting, moving to a different city, etc) that there's no way you can stop or turn back. When the motivation level is dropping, I've always tried to focus on something small that is somewhat enjoyable in the task I'm doing and also, stopped and recognized, as terrible as I am feeling or the job may be, why I am lucky and grateful to be there. Makes a big difference.

 
Jul 23, 2008 - 8:54pm

First of all, what I "love" to do no one would ever pay me for, since it's spending time with my family. So with that nonsense of having your work being what you "love" to do safely out of the way, I'd say that the cash and the look on people's faces when you tell them you're an investment banker are 1 and 1a. Sure it's a lot of hours and I miss my family, but guess what, it's not forever, shit does get better (so they tell me), and with all the cash rolling in, the magic 8 ball just may be foretelling an early retirement.

 
Jul 23, 2008 - 11:02pm

Some others have touched on this already (reputation), but a big motivator for me is simply expectations others have of me and expectations I have of myself. I come from a completely modest family, and am the only person in pretty much my entire extended family (except for my sister) that could even dream of being in the position I'm in.

I'd guess it's the same story for a lot of people: at some point in your life, you hit a sort of turning point where friends/family/etc start to think "Damn, this kid is pretty smart," and from there the expectations just continue to build. You end up in a bunch of AP classes, continue getting top grades and end up applying to (and getting accepted to) some of the best colleges in the world (schools that most people could only dream of attending).

Now, you're the Ivy League superstar, majoring in something that your family members or friends back home couldn't dream of understanding. Those people look at you with awe when you tell them the list of courses you are taking, amazed they could sound even crazier than "Electrical & Computer Engineering."

Then you get an internship at a great company, and your pesky friends/family members back home grill you about how much money you make until you eventually give in and let them know you are making more money than they will probably make for at least a few years out of college (or, for the older ones, the kind of money they didn't make until 35). They eventually realize that the types of people you are working for are those who own mansions in Westchester, Scarsdale, and Greenwich by the time they are 35, and the expectations build even further.

Maybe it is just me, but this is where I am in my journey, and I'm sure as hell not just going to end up some average Joe now. Tying into that, of course, is the admiration and, sometimes, awe, from my friends/family/etc that I feel I've earned at this point.

This post is probably way too long at this point, but I'd also agree with ke18sb - if I didn't have a shit ton of work to do, I'd probably lay around and be worthless. May as well err on the side of caution and completely overachieve rather than risk feeling complacent.

 
Jul 24, 2008 - 12:37pm

For me, it's simply about being competitive and achieving everything I know I can.

My favorite quote, which comes from Arnold, sums it up pretty well...

"For me life is continuously being hungry. The meaning of life is not simply to exist, to survive, but to move ahead, to go up, to achieve, to conquer. "

I always like to be doing something and that something must have a purpose. The feeling of success and accomplishment is one of the greatest feelings on earth.

I guess I just don't aspire to have the "typical" American life (decent house, family, etc.) and I'm sure a lot of you guys feel the same way. It just does not appeal to me, especially at this time in my life (I'm sure I'll get married... but not soon).

Never a dull moment.

 
Jul 27, 2008 - 3:53pm

Izuno, sure, why not answer truthfully? If you are interviewing your resume is probably not the resume of a lazy unmotivated couch potato, so something must drive you.

I remember a while ago even reading a piece by Cramer saying he used to count it against people if they tried to say they were motivated by a love for the job or a passion or whatever because he knew they were all really after money, reputation, etc. He's probably brasher (and more inconsistent, lol) than most, but anyone who's interviewing you must have been in your position at one time.

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:27pm

Trading effort washed: Any advice to help stay motivated (Originally Posted: 03/05/2016)

Friend of mine's been managing $100k for an angel investor for 3-4 months.

Went from $100k - $89k - $113k - $101k and closed all positions for a breather.

She wants to keep doing this but is feeling a bit low. Any words of advice to build perseverance? The run up from $89k to $113k came with a lot of psychological hard work and she says its disappointing to start over (though she has not lost money yet at this point).

Mostly trading oil and a small amount of equities. She's cute you know, so I'd like to be armed with the best way to advise her.

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:30pm

How Are All Of You FT Applicants Staying Motivated? (Originally Posted: 09/14/2008)

How are all of you honestly going to keep positive while prepping for interviews (if you're lucky to even get a 1st round) knowing damn well this FT season is going to make 2007 look like the 2004-2006 heydays?

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:34pm

Staying motivated and constantly acheiving (Originally Posted: 06/28/2010)

Kind of a stupid post, but with so much competition and pressure in the industry I have to open this up to discussion.

For those of you who are full time, how do you keep yourself motivated and constantly rising up day to day. After a while the "everyone would kill for my job", "you get paid" and "the prestige" wears off. Working 14+ hours a day (not even in banking) starts to wear on you...

Does anyone face this same feeling of fatigue? (I am sure yes)

I have some really stupid remedies and I would love for you to share yours.

Reading books/articles on the hardworkers/legends of the industry. The famous wall street lawyer who woke up at 4:58 every morning of his career to check his faxes.

Looking at the happy members who are in top positions at the firm (this definitely is not everyone, a lot of miserable people at the top).

Making friends with analyst/associates so you feel like oyu are working with your friends

:Lets just say as I slave away this summer with friends around me enjoying their shorter days...I can't help but get the slight depression. I already know I wouldn't want to have that job because I wouldn't be satisfied (know from experience), but it still bothers me.

Naturally this is a stupid rant after a long painful day in the office. But if anyone else has thoughts to share from personal experience, I would love to hear. I can imagine many people never get over this and just burn out, but then there are those who rise up and battle through.

One love.

 
Best Response
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:36pm

Staying Motivated When You Just Want to Give Up Sometimes (Originally Posted: 09/12/2013)

This is my first blog post so take it easy on me. A little background. I'm a college junior so my perspective is that of someone trying to break into Wall Street.

Similarly or maybe not to a lot of you guys, a good chunk of my friends tend to not be the overachiever types. The ones who major in Arts and Crafts or what not. While a lot of us with big career aspirations might chuckle and say good luck with your future to them, recently I've thinking about what that type of life would be. They seem to enjoy college to its fullest and have made the best out of this experience they've been given. They seem to employ the motto "Life is short. Live it to the max."

These are the kids who likely will not only take full advantage of what college has to offer, but will continue it into their mid and later 20's and whatever other golden years they have left in them.

So while I find myself continually stressing about my next Econ class or all the competition for that prestigious finance job we all desperately want to land, my friends are having the time of their life. They go out much more often than I could dream of and always seem to be in high spirits with their biggest stresses being an analytical paper of a movie they watched in class.

Over the summer, I started wondering why I'm really getting into the rat race and what the endgame is. I think what I'm fearful of is looking back 20 years from now and realizing that all this effort and struggle wasn't worth it and I should have lived life to the fullest when I had chance.

Obviously, these kids want to have jobs that will likely be a lot more fun and rewarding that the ones we will have, but are content with being paid a fraction of what Wall Street potential is down the road. The frustrating part is that a bunch of these kids come from wealthy backgrounds so they may be just as rich as us or richer without ever having a job that's even close to the caliber of ours. That's the frustrating part.

I just hope this is all worth it down the road.

So I guess that's me having a quarter-life crisis and releasing a lot of pent-up tension. Interested to hear what you guys think. Bash away.

  • 5
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:37pm

I agree with you. I am a freshmen in college and I am already stressing about my Econ classes and others. I think you just have to keep in mind the end goal. Live life to the fullest I agree but sometimes in order to have a better life we have to give up a party or two. Do not let failure enter your mind just work hard and keep your goal to work on wall street in mind, because when you do get that job your life will change forever you can even say you life will be better then your friends because you struggled much more then they did and came out on top

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:38pm

Can't do anything about people who are able to work less and still have the privilege of wealth, so no point worrying about that. I've thought about similar things in the past, and one thing I think is worth mentioning is this- to your point about your more "relaxed" friends living life to the max: I think there is more than one way to live life to the fullest. While most people associate it with relaxing, having "fun," going out etc, and although I enjoy all those things, to me living life to the fullest also includes having a rewarding and successful career, an amount of money that means I never have to be stressed about my finances, and experiences that only that kind of money can buy. To live life to the fullest in that way, all the work and competition is worth it, in my opinion. Just my $0.02.

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:39pm

My theory is that people are built differently. If you have aspirations to get a top finance job, and not just any job, than you won't feel satisfied if you "live your life" or whatever for a few years. What does "living your life" even mean? It's college, unless you are some ridiculously quant/engineering major - you should be able to do well enough and still have fun. Believe me, it's worth it when all of your friends are looking for jobs senior year and you get to relax with your dream offer. Then you'll get a WHOLE YEAR to do what you want. Oh yeah, and all of freshmen year. And half of sophomore year...and second half of junior year when you have an internship. So you really only have to kill yourself at a few points in your college career. Second semester sophomore year, first semester junior year, and junior summer. Rest of the time, have fun.

If you're worried about regretting devoting two years of your life, sure that's a fair point. But you know what you're getting yourself into. I'm definitely not looking forward to it...but I know I'd never be satisfied with myself if I settled for less. Do what makes you happy (or least miserable), and fuck everyone else

 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:40pm

I know the feeling. There's many different ways to think about this, but I've come up with one that I think works best.

As you go through life, there are always opportunities. Some big, some small. There are experiences that you will go through that will change who you are, whether you want them to or not. The combination of these things will mold who you are, hopefully, and the way you react to both the situations that you find yourself in and the decisions that you make should ideally tell you who you are. It sounds like you are in the middle of realizing that right now, and that's a good thing.

There are a few questions you must ask yourself, because you have to establish a baseline. Are you competitive. How important is success to you. How do YOU define success? Wealth? What makes you happy? Are you doing it? Why are you doing what you are doing? What are your goals in life? Are you currently doing things to push yourself towards those goals? All of these are things you must ask yourself, and answer honestly. It's funny, the person I find it the easiest to lie to is myself. And many times, when I have found myself questioning my motives, it's usually because perhaps, they weren't in my own best interest.

It's hard to turn your back on something that you've put so much energy into. It's even harder when your perceived opportunity cost was so high (not going out, not having fun, not "living life to it's fullest potential", not going to that concert, or that party, that club, that date, because you were working your ass off instead) and you know that things would have been different if you hadn't. This is why it is important to try to live a well-rounded life in school. Living in the library will not make you a better person, ultimately. It will make you better at taking your test next friday, but it will not make you a better person, overall. Not to say that reading, learning, aren't important. They're very important. I read every day, and much of what I know is self taught, and not at all a result of any work I did in high school or college or any jobs I did. And that's probably even more my point. I didn't end up with a great GPA. It wasn't terrible, but it is low enough that I will have to work harder to reach my aspirations in finance (or whatever other direction I might try to go in) as I go forward. But I could not have raised it by spending one more hour in the library, or by spending one more hour reading a text book, or by paying attention one extra minute in class. I got what I got because there were times that I neglected the work I was supposed to do in order to things that I felt I had to do. Instead of finishing my stats homework, I was reading articles on black-scholes and its accuracy. Instead of writing a summary on how I felt about "The Last Lecture" (which I thought was stupid), I was researching investment theories given by various investment managers. Instead of paying attention to the 5-forces model in class, I was trading stocks from my phone and watching P&L and trying to make a profit (and many times failing).

I'm trying not to go way overboard on this (although I might have already), but the point is this. Do what you love. As much as you can, as often as you can. And unfortunately, there isn't a set percentage of time that you can do this. You might be able to live the life your friends live, or 90% of it, but the difficulty of your classes will scale accordingly. You have to decide how much of a trade-off you are willing to make for happiness now vs. happiness later. And even decide IF happiness now, in a given amount, equals the required amount of happiness later. Sound familiar? Life is like an investment. Sometimes, you have to do what you don't want to in order to get to where you want to be. So, if banking is where you want to be, then by all means, do not feel bad that you are working your ass off now. It will be worth it. All the hours you spent studying or reading while your friends were drinking, smoking, partying, it will be paid back to you. But only if it is truly what makes you happy. And that is where what I said in the beginning comes into play. Because if you are only doing banking for the money and prestige, then it will become significantly harder to stomach the next few years of your life. The rest of this year, and the next at school. The summer stint working your ass off. The first couple years as an analyst at bank. If your heart isn't in it, you will be miserable. But that's where the tradeoff comes in. It's ok to sell out for a short period of time if you have an exit opportunity, or plan. If you want to work at a hedge fund, it's a lot easier to put your time in at a bank than suffer nobly will trying to jump straight into the buy side out of undergrad. But you have to make that decision. You have to decide if banking makes you happy, and if it does, how much that happiness is worth now vs. how much it will be worth in the future. In this case though, the discount factor is always unknown; we never know how our experiences and choices will change us.

This is definitely the longest post I've ever written on here, but it's only because I feel so strongly about the subject. I don't want anyone to have to spend 4 years doing the process I outlined above, as I did. Seeing as you're on the back half of your education, this is definitely a pressing issue. There's no need to stress about it, you just need to do some soul-searching, and really think about what makes you, you. And what makes you happy. And where you want to be. And, after all that, you still can't figure it out, that's ok too. It's better to work hard and aim high than to just spin your wheels and flail about without direction. If you decide you don't want to do banking, at least you'll have a stellar academic record that will undoubtedly serve you wherever you go.

Good luck, don't be afraid to make big decisions. That's the best advice I can give.

"When you stop striving for perfection, you might as well be dead."
  • 1
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:44pm

.

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:45pm

The possibility of making a dream come true.

Not gonna lie dawg, it ain't a 400 meter sprint, it is a marathon.

“...all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” - Schopenhauer
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:47pm

MagicKarp:
The pain of regret > the pain of hard-work.

Live by this dude, this is your motivation. If you're not moving towards something, well, now you're moving away from something....and that's just fine.

You may also want to take some time off or reconsider what direction you're taking. This is serious: you don't want to wake up at a job you didn't really have any interest in, and honestly, finance is just too labor intensive to fake interest for very long. Do not do this only for money, look into all the different jobs to see where you belong, and then GET TO IT.

Only you know.

Get busy living
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:48pm

Said another way, my favorite quote: "Regret for things we have done can be tempered by time, it is regret for things we do not do that is inconsolable."

- 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
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:50pm

watch youtube clips like this in the morning

Here's the thing. If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, you are the sucker.
 
Sep 23, 2012 - 2:57pm

i probably listen to more rap than anyone on this board and drink quite a bit of coffee. i found that altering my diet helped (plain oatmeal for breakfast, whatever for lunch, and a salad for dinner, depressing yes) but i still find myself seriously unfocused at times. i was reading some fabozzi last night, "read" a page while thinking of something completely different, and then could not recall what i read later. this used to happen to me quite a bit before without me even realizing it (until much later) but i've been catching myself lately

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