Leaving investment banking: Is the grass always greener ?

Green grass

In the sweltering heat of Vietnam, I flipped through my phone during lunch to distract myself from the nearby chatter.

As I scrolled through dozens of photos, I stumbled upon one taken over a year ago when I still worked in finance.

At that time, one of our equity research analysts was in town pitching clients on his latest investment ideas. Being the junior guy on the desk, our sales team would sometimes send me to client lunches as they had to stay in during trading hours.

I enjoyed these events because it allowed me to get out of the office and see how a brokerage worked through the lens of research, sales, and trading. Occasionally, we’d also work together with other departments like wealth management if the proper situation arised.

The lunch I attended was held at an upscale Japanese restaurant with delicately cut pieces of tuna, shrimp, and salmon. It was presented with a pinch of dry ice that added a flair of elegance. The average price tag of a meal ranged from $60-$80 USD -  compared to the current one I was enjoying in Vietnam at a meager $1.50.

'Sometimes you’ll just have to eat ramen when your friends are eating steak', a friend recently told me.

In January of 2014 I moved to Vietnam, arbitraging a lower cost of living while building my business with sales on the US dollar. Living in a city like New York, London, or Tokyo would have drained my savings quickly if things didn’t work out as planned, and the last thing I wanted was to go back to a job with my tail between my legs.

However, there are some days when I question what I’m doing because having a job was a much more predictable way of life. A large company has it’s structure, procedures, and departments in place unlike a small startup. I have to handle my own accounting, expense reports, taxes, inventory, sales and marketing, and customer service over at #BALLER Leather.

With an average temperature of 34C / 95F here in Vietnam, sitting on a trading floor with smart colleagues, having weekends off, and air conditioner during office hours doesn’t sound that bad once in a while.

So, is the grass always greener on the other side ?

'If you have to try to be cool, you will never be cool. If you have to try to be happy, then you will never be happy. Maybe the problem these days is people are just trying too hard', said another friend.

In a world where Facebook and social media platforms constantly remind us about the lives of other people, we’re conditioned to think that ours is somehow lacking. Whether that’s a colleague who left for another company and got a better package, a friend who attended a better school, or another entrepreneur whose business is doing better than yours - it’s the same manifestation:

A failure to enjoy what you currently have. But if we can learn to accept reality for what it is, we’ll have the chance to develop, improve, and grow as individuals.

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