I guess the problem is that an army of intelligent kids may look impressive on paper, but so much could go wrong. Simply amassing kids with name brand internships and 4.0 gpas would definitely get you an intelligent army, but will they make the wise decisions when the time comes? My friend Mr. Lee classified “smart” kids into the following categories:
Knowledgeable: they know a lot of information, but they can’t create anything out of it
-throws out facts, then rinse and repeat
Intelligent: the capacity of analyze and synthesize it
-critically analyzing old concepts and creating new ideas
Wise: you are knowledgeable, intelligent, and have the right attitude towards your ideas.
-open minded, accepts new ideas; understands implications and choices of their intelligence
Here’s the problem I see: too many knowledgeable and intelligent people head towards Wall Street, and not enough wise people are heading towards it. The problem with Wall Street is not that the people who run it are stupid, but rather they don’t understand the implications and choices of their intelligence.
I was talking to a retired teacher in high school about intelligence. Over the the duration of his long life span, he has seen so many intelligent kids. From studying at Cambridge to teaching at the elitist international school I went to, a lot of intelligent kids proved themselves capable of doing anything, but few people possessed the characteristics of a wise person.
What’s stopping all these brilliant kids from becoming “wise”? I think the problem is that modern education and the modern work force never give society’s youth an opportunity to stop and think about what they are doing.
Once you enter the system, you rarely have a chance to stop moving forward. The system makes you feel as though “if I don’t do something, I will fall behind.” Let’s think about it from a Harvard graduates standpoint. I worked so hard all my high school and college career. I went through a lot, and I only deserve the best of jobs. And the best of jobs (in terms of salary) is right up in my face advertising on campus. What’s more, their advertising power is so strong, the school can’t resist their advances. With a plump, juicy carrot sure to keep you satiated for years to come dangling in front of you, it is hard to stop running forward.
Then, there is the unbearable peer pressure on the other side. Quoting my friend at UChicago: “I can’t believe my friend at Penn State got a job at JP Morgan.” A dumber, less hard-working friend from a less prestigious (and less expensive) school doing better than you? No better motivation forward than inferiority complexes.
So between the carrot dangling pulling you forward and the peer pressure pushing you from behind, there is no time to stop and think. No time to step out of the scene, and wonder if you really want to participate in this race. Do you really love finance?
I personally think this is what it takes to be wise: by stopping to think. If you’re clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it, it is more beneficial to both you and the employer. This process takes one day of staring out into the rain for some, and taking one gap year to explore rural America for others. Either way, I urge everyone at the crossroads of their life to stop and think about what you want to do and why you want to do it.
It also helps with talking with your closest friends about this. It also takes a good friend to call you a tool from time to time so you can ask yourself whether you are doing it for the carrot you’ll eventually get, or for the satisfaction of running down a path where you would enjoy the scenery. It’s beneficial for both you and the employer if you are running not after the carrot, but running for the joy of running.
So, grab a beer, sit down with your closest friends and talk about your hopes and dreams. Take a rest, and ask yourselves: “Am I enjoying the run?” Don’t worry, the carrot won’t run away by itself. Better to stop and think now than 30 years later when you are forced to stop because of a mid-life crisis.