The Struggle Is Real

The Struggle Is Real

Sometimes, you feel like the world is playing against you.  

Best laid plans crumble in an instant.  Months and years of hard work produce zero results.  Even the proverbial coin tosses go the wrong way.  

You are disappointed, exhausted, and ready to give up.

At other times, you’ve got all the wind in the world at your back.

You are notching up one win after another.  Everyone around is cheering you on.  Everything you touch turns to gold.  

Life is EASY.  You are on fire, pumped up and ready to take on the world every single day.

In a long enough career, you are guaranteed to experience both scenarios.  The winning part is obviously great.  But despite what many people think, you also want to experience the struggle. 

Struggle isn’t a bug – it’s a feature of a well-lived life.  It’s a sign you’ve set ambitious goals, well above the status quo.  And it’s a pre-requisite for truly enjoying the wins.  

In other words, show me a person who never struggled in their life and I’ll show you someone who never reached their full potential.  

But as with everything in life, there are different ways to struggle.

You can accept defeat and walk around dejected, waiting for someone to put you out of your misery.

Or you can view the struggle for what it is.  A temporary rite of passage, one to be navigated with grace, positivity, and self-respect.

In Andre Agassi’s autobiography, he talks about the coaching he received from Brad Gilbert after a slump in his career.  In addition to the physical training, Brad would sit Andre down and make him watch one match replay after another, with particular attention to body language.

In matches where Agassi would get off to a bad start, it would immediately reflect in his demeanour.  In between points, he looked disappointed in himself, walking around with hunched shoulders and even smashing his racquet once in a while.  

But everything was different on days when Agassi was winning.  

He would have his shoulders back and head high.  He’d smile to the ball boys and the audience.  He walked briskly and exuded confidence as he geared up for each point.  

And so, a lot of the work Brad did with Andre was designed to make him project the same body language, irrespective of the score.  All the top players on the tour have immense physical ability, but it was Agassi’s mental game that soon made him one of the most formidable players on the circuit.  

Andre went on to win six of his eight majors under Gilbert’s tutelage, including one of the rarest accomplishments in tennis – a career Grand Slam.  

There’s another, less obvious reason why you want to learn to navigate struggle with grace.  Yes, it makes you so much better at your job.  But even more importantly, it makes other people so much more willing to help you along.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time with people who wanted to break into investment banking.  Undergrads, MBAs, lateral hires, you name it.  Some of them have made multiple attempts at getting the job – only to fail again and again.  You can’t blame anyone for feeling disheartened in that scenario.

But the people who really stood out in those conversations where the ones who acted with strength and courage.  Who were candid about their failures and introspective about the reasons they fell short (many of which were outside of the individual’s control)

Most importantly, they were the ones who remained confident, positive, and energetic.  They were the ones most likely to get a referral to my other contacts in the industry.  They were the ones whose CVs were forwarded to HR with an implicit ask to take another look.  

It’s only natural – if you are talking to ten people but can only put forward one candidacy, wouldn’t you go with the one most likely to succeed? 

So the next time you have a tough stretch, take your cue.  And if you like tennis, pick up the Agassi book – it’s excellent.  

PS: I know it’s been an extremely long time since I’ve posted or responded to any comments here.  Life has been busy after the big move!  But no, the blog is far from dead and I will continue writing, albeit the new cadence is still to be determined.  

About Banker On Fire

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Banker On FIRE is an M&A (mergers and acquisitions) investment banker. I am passionate about capital markets, behavioural economics, financial independence, and living the best life possible.

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16 thoughts on “The Struggle Is Real”

  1. Great to have you back! You were missed believe me. Are you going to update all on your ‘silent’ few months via your blog? Would be fascinating. I hope you and your family are well and wish you all a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. Warm wishes, David

    1. Thanks David! Good to be getting back into the swing of things after a while. And yes, an update post is definitely underway.

      Merry Christmas to you and your close ones also!

      1. Likewise, really happy to see your post. I always enjoy them and learn something. Looking forward to future ones, and the update on the transition. was it moving from the UK to the US?

  2. I love agassi’s book, Open! My favorite, tennis book and a book I got signed to give to my largest client at Capital Research so long ago. And now we’ve been good friends ever since, even though I left the industry in 2012.

    What have you been up to?

  3. Glad to see you back BoF, and happy new year!

    I’ve always found balancing long term retirement and saving goals with living in the here and now a difficult one (particular because given I am in my mid – late 20s, working in PE, I don’t have a clear view on how much I will be spending on retirement, my future earning potential and whether I am saving too much or too little to achieve my goals, even with quite a bit of modelling on this)!

    Would it be on the cards to write a post addressing this for the younger readers?

    I would also throw it out there that I’d be keen to have the opportunity to benefit from your experience on this directly privately but appreciate you may not have the time for that!

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