The Occupational Joys of Start-ups


Michael Lewis

A few posts ago, I implied that “Show me the money” was not the only mantra needed to generate success or why I love start-ups so much.  Last week, I wrote about the career goals of Millennials.  Readers also know that I have written about the pure satisfaction that accompanies the unleashing of new products/services that put the lives and satisfaction of others first.

So when I read Michael Lewis’ recent piece lamenting the draw of Wall Street for many university graduates – I was intrigued.  Lewis questions why a bright, energetic young person, with ideals and “hopes to lead a meaningful life,” would be willing to self-immerse in the unsavory practices that tend to occur in the world of finance.

This is a significant question and the answer lies within the social and cultural fabric of capitalism.

The nature of a capitalistic system tends to overemphasize self and minimize collaborative efforts of a group.  In practice – I’ve found that most company-building activities are “team sports” and I fundamentally believe that nothing is really accomplished alone.  It does take a village to get a company off the ground and running. Maybe there is one or two founders with the core of the idea, but a host of others work closely to create a great company. The entrepreneurial group of a start-up provides many opportunities for happiness, satisfaction, and ultimately, much more reward and meaning.

Lewis tells us that there are occupational hazards in pursuing a financial career (or perhaps any functional position) on Wall Street.  Selfishness reigns, in his opinion.  There is the tendency to think one knows more than he or she really does know; that trust among the working group is lacking; that unethical practices are really not; and conforming to the rules of the game is of utmost importance.


Have you faced this decision in your career?

The fork in the road offered to us by Robert Frost comes early to an ambitious, talented young person.  I feel that the choice involves how one looks at the role of others in his or her future life.

On the one hand is the pursuit of wealth in clandestine fashion through the process of financial transactions, where moving money according to chess moves is the mysterious norm. If one conforms to the system, remains unemotional about the negative effect on the economy, and chooses not to admit to one’s mistakes, ideals disappear.  “I’m going to Goldman” becomes a ‘badge of honor’ and is the cocktail party line of choice.

On the other hand, there’s the draw of doing something different, of making an impact on the world that lifts us up beyond a commuter train ride to the trading desk.

Lewis suggests that the financial industry can benefit from the “scorched-earth entrepreneurship” of Silicon Valley caused by innovation that strips away Wall Street’s veil of shady and rule-bending efforts guided by selfish interests.

I agree and propose that there are many routes to job satisfaction when choosing early in one’s career to work in a start-up.

  • First and foremost, you may not have to have the original idea to thrive in the entrepreneurial environment.  Yes, an idea must exist and it likely is to start with one person, but what is truly important is the Entrepreneurial Group that you join. You are part of the fun and contribute enormously with your talents and enthusiasm to make a new product and organization successful.
  • Second, entrepreneurship repeatedly demands the virtuous cycle of trial/error/failure/success.  By avoiding failure, nothing really good happens in our world.  Try making mistakes.  You will like the progress you achieve and the results that occur.
  • Third, members are part of a team that encourages a collaborative culture in which to thrive and produce results!  You will feel wanted and appreciated.
  • Fourth, there is the excitement of constantly asking, “What’s next!”
  • And finally, of course, there always is the potential of making some money, which you can plow back again into another good project.

toon331Conclusion:  complex world, challenging world — you can go it alone and ignore the common good, or you can cause continuous improvement working with others on how to live better together — healthy, educated, safe, and collaborative.

This is why I love start-ups.

Add a comment here or message/follow me at twitter: andyhpalmer.

This entry was posted in Employeees, Entrepreneurship, Founders, Start-Ups. Bookmark the permalink.

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