Tell me I can't

October 14, 2014

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right."

- Henry Ford


Starting college, I decided to study engineering. I was good at math. It was a marketable skill. It would lead to stable, well-paying jobs, and seemed the perfect means to the end of being a great dad and better husband, which have always been a priority in my life.


My test scores were lower in my engineering classes than typical, but not enough to raise concerns. I knew engineering was challenging. That's one of the reasons I liked it.


Then I got my report card. Apparently everyone else was getting perfect scores. The class curve brought my final grade down. You know you're in the wrong place when the curve hurts you! I recognized that engineering wasn't tapping into what I had to offer the world.


What else is out there that was a marketable skill, steady employment, good pay and reasonable hours? Maybe those weren't the right criteria, but I didn't know better. These criteria fit the social definitions of success. Both my brothers studied engineering and were doing well.


Was it worth stepping into the unknown? The unknown peaked my interest.


In walks a guidance counselor. I explain my predicament. I explain that I want to do something of impact to the world, make a difference, but most importantly make that impact and difference in my family. My family is where I can be heard, maybe even understood. That is where I am most likely to truly love and be loved. So I asked him, "Where should I start?"


The guidance counselor was as helpful as a Frenchman who sees right through your American accent.  Maybe he felt a little bit like Hobbs as he listened to me:



Finally I said, "Just tell me the hardest thing out there; the place you'd least likely expect to find a guy like me; where you think I'll never make it." (If you ever want to get me to do something, tell me I can't.)


His reply? "Wall Street."


"Where's 'Wall Street'?" I asked.


With a smug you'll-never-make-it look on his face that only fueled my interest more, he brought me to the career library and introduced me to the WetFeet guides for investment banking. This was October. By end of November I had an internship lined up in equity research at Bear Stearns, in what I had then discovered is a part of a loosely defined world of Wall Street. That was no easy feat.


Despite the apparent odds, I was headed to Wall Street. If you ever asked my advice back then, I had two words for anyone interested, "Make ithappen."


I had learned how to force my will. That would later come to haunt me.

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