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Are You Looking For A Job Or A Calling: Responses


A selection of excerpted responses to Michael Lewis’s “Job Versus Calling” article posted above.  I’ve kept the typography true to the senders, while their names are withheld.

I’m a radio engineer & build radios for rockets and satellites…..all I ever talked about since jr. high school. I think it was a calling & agree that you build your life around a calling to the detriment of your life outside the calling. I agree with you on this point. In fact I’m at work now at 6:16pm.

Think a lot if us out there are asking ourselves those very questions. I was fortunate enuf to play the game for 15 years (and still am, though I feel as if I’m as close as a Gen X’er can be to a D-day soldier storming the beaches, watching my friends go down beside me, amazed I’m still standing) so I think its easier to pursue a calling w/out having to worry abt ur next paycheck. Truly hope the next generation of smart kids does something with their lives. Its only now, at 38, that I’m going to try to do something with mine that means more than just where the next trade is.

Your piece really resonated the theme of the sense of entitlement of the generation currently of this vintage. Excitement? Satisfaction? Fulfillment? I remember graduating in ’82 during a similar difficult environment and was more than grateful to be making photo copies at Kidder, Peabody!

I think there are a ton of guys just like this. People who came to Wall Street not because they enjoy finance but because they thought it was the fastest way to make a quick buck!

I wanted to make a comment and perhaps you could pass it one to the guy who wrote to you.
To Anthony: Even if you find your calling, conditions might not permit it, and that pursuit could be costly. If you decide to make the leap, ask yourself if you can live with the worst case scenario.

I think your assessment of the impact of the decline on young people in the industry captures the essence of the mood here in NY and elsewhere.
As a 25 year-old hedge fund employee, and former boutique Investment Bank employee, I sympathize with ‘Andrew’. For better or worse, however, the majority of my cohorts seemed to either ignore or not fully appreciate the irrationality of entering a perceived ‘no-risk’ career path such as Investment Banking. . . .
I, for one, feel fortunate to be a young man witnessing the historic events of 2008 despite the stress related to the fallout. These stresses surely pale in comparison to the stresses of those with real responsibilities . . . .


I have just sent your “calling vs job” piece to every member of my family between the ages of 14 and 22.

Please do not take this personally but I have significant issueswith your latest piece.
Why is it always wealthy, highly educated . . .highly compensated, people telling everyone else that money doesn’t equal happiness? That people should follow their dreams — even if they lead them right into the poorhouse?
I know why I am in finance — partly because I enjoy the action and the excitement of life on the trading desk and also because I know what I want.
I want private school for my kids, I want my kids to go to a better university than Michigan, I want the Porsche S-1 one day, I want the apartment in the city and the summer home and yes, I want to marry a beautiful woman who shares certain values.
None of the above happens if you are a broke high school math teacher or a mediocre screenwriter.

I have discussed the calling/job distinction with many bright young people over this time. I have also matured to understand this distinction’s application to myself very much as you have.
As a kid I thought I had a knack for certain things. Eventually I realized that these skills combined to make me a likely architect. But one day, I realized that I had a calling. That I was MEANT to be an architect and that I was going to be one no matter where I worked. I realized I would be happy to be an architect no matter how much money I did or did not make. I even realized that I would do the job with or without compensation.
Today, I feel as if it is almost impossible for me to be without work. I am doing what I am, and I pretty much invent my own work. (Unlike my Wall Street Harvard MBA brother-in-law.)
I often tell my student/employees that I have not needed an alarm clock for 26 years. They say that they need one because they can’t be late. And I say “I don’t need one because I can’t wait to start”.

“Anthony” is a perfect example of the age of entitlement. I’m surprised that you were so soft on him. . . .

Oh please come on. The truth is that a lot of guys got into the securities business over the last several years of the bull market who had no business being here. This business has had ups and downs before and the people who are in it because it’s their calling in life will be just fine over the long term. The guys who hated it and got in just for the money will get deservedly shaken out. And good riddance i say.

I have never viewed my job in investment banking – debt capital markets to be exact – as some higher level calling. I was never a high level m and a guy or flashy trader bringing home boatloads of cash but managed to make good money by my view given my Dad never made more than 40K a year his whole life.
My job afforded me the ability to travel – to own a place in Costa Rica where I love to surf and other amenities. I have always looked at it as a job that allowed to buy far more surfboards than I really need! Youth today has been brainwahshed into thinking they can have everything they want at all times with no tradeoffs – they are finding out life does not work that way.
So I will likely continue to slog it out with my simple reward being another trip to Costa and a perfect wave at sunset. Not the worst gig in the world.

What if you don’t know what you have to offer the world but you know you want to offer something really, really good and you know that you must have something to offer (if only because its too unbearable to think that you may have nothing to offer anyone of any value)?

Anthony himself did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.