For a recent project I’ve been calling investment banks talking to associates and analysts. Why is she doing this, you ask yourself? Believe me I’ve been asking myself the same question, but it’s really made me think.

————————-

Last week I was at the beach practicing earthing on my lunch break. Standing ankle deep in the ocean, I remembered a dream I’d had the night before. Chris and I were driving down a dirt road in Australia. Outside my passenger window, alongside the road, was a narrow waterway kind of like a river with the most crystal clear, blue water. Inside the water were sharks, lots of sharks. I screamed SHARKS! and he tried to get a look by craning over into my seat.

Ahead was a driveway leading to someone’s garage. Being Chris, he pulled in and parked illegally while I (being me) repeatedly told him we should not be parking in someone else’s driveway. He thought he’d seen some sharks swimming around their house and wanted to get a quick look, so we hopped out of the vehicle. Sure enough there were sharks turning over and over in the water – almost showing off – white bellies in the sun, fins up, fins down, googly eyes, swimming in these super narrow channels all around the house. Scared to death, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing near the edge and why all these people?! If you’ve seen JAWS you know why. It was the longest dream of my life spent sidled up against a house watching sharks up close and personal in the cleanest water I’ve ever seen.

————————-

The conversations I’ve been having with these analysts and associates have produced a lot of different emotions in me. Sometimes I hang up the phone and think WAIT A SECOND HERE THAT TWENTY-SEVEN YEAR OLD KID IS MAKING $150,000! W.T.F. And then go on to assess every career move I’ve made over the past 10 years, asking myself if I’ve worked as hard as I possibly could and made the best career decisions. So basically, feel like a failure.

Other times I’ve sat on the phone and listened to stories of 12 to 15 hour work days, 6 to 7 days a week, and then gotten depressed. Some of these people are happy with the lifestyle, believing they’ve selected the superior career. A lot of them, happy or not, have admitted they are so tired and stressed out they don’t know how much more they can take, that they don’t get a single day off at the holidays, haven’t taken a vacation, signed up for a class, or even had time to read a book. With the exception of a few, most of these confessors have ended with something along the lines of: But it’s so much money, more money than I could make anywhere else, and if I make partner… And then I’ve felt sick because they’ve bought the lie.

Whether they’re doing it willingly or not, these young people are giving up (in most cases) the healthiest and most vibrant years of their lives for a very long shot. Most of them will burn out, some not quitting until long after the fact. But even if they are one of the ones who succeed in making that long shot, will gobs of money really compensate for all the experiences they will have traded in for it?

At one point I probably would have shakily said maybe and possibly leaned to yes, even as a self-employed person who’s for the most part bucked the system. After getting sick last year though, I’d have to say no. I look back on my thirties with a lot of fondness and pride, primarily because of the success I had in my career. I whooped some ass and am pretty good at what I do, but do I think it was all worth it now after having had a stress-induced stroke (which let me be clear wasn’t just from work, but it was a contributing factor)? No, I don’t.

If I could go back I’d take more vacations, go for a walk for absolutely no reason right in the middle of the work day, and not work so many weekends. I’d go home more, work less nights and learn to say no. None of these things would have changed the quality of my work and, if anything, might have even improved it. I was talking to a colleague tonight and we were comparing two candidates we both like very much. At the end of the conversation I summed up by saying, ‘They’re both good, it’s just that this one is hungry and this one…just isn’t anymore’.  Immediately I wished I could take those words back because the truth is just because you aren’t hungry to get ahead in business, it doesn’t make you any less hungry to live a happy, healthy life filled with great experiences.

I know I’m starving.