5 things I learned in my first year out of investment banking

Man And Screen In The Dark

I’d given up a career at UBS hoping to find freedom in entrepreneurship, but this was a bitter taste of reality.

It was 1:43am and I woke up in a cold sweat. I made zero sales last week and wondered if my world was coming to an end.

How long would this streak last ? Should I call it quits and just get a 'proper' job ?

Things weren’t supposed to be like this.

I expected to be much further by now - given a year has already passed by. 

A reality where some days you win, and some you lose. A reality filled with self-doubt, limiting beliefs, and the occasional euphoria when things actually do go your way.

It’s not glamorous or newsworthy because people only want to hear the billion dollar exits, hyped-up IPOs, or absurd valuations of 'pre-revenue' companies. Overnight success ? If only such a thing existed.

There’s a concept called the 1,000 Day Rule by my friend Dan Andrews at TropicalMBA. Having met thousands of entrepreneurs in the past few years, he says you need to be poor for 1,000 days before you can enjoy the previous level of income you gave up.

So if you’re thinking about hanging up the suit, walking away from the trading floor, or leaving the corner office behind - here’s what you can expect in the first year:

You Need To Learn New Skillsets

Most of the skills you gain working at a bank are very insulated. Unless you plan to build your startup in the financial markets, there's little use for financial modeling, Bloomberg, or putting together derivative products. The vast majority comes down to sales, marketing, and your ability to hustle. That’s why most people believe if they don’t have the right skillsets to become an entrepreneur, they are better off staying in their banking jobs.

But new skillsets can be learned. The catch is that you must go all-in. Useful skills like copywriting, online marketing, and customer development take an enormous amount of time and energy to acquire. This is where books, podcasts, and blogs come into play. In a future post, I’ll share a few books and resources that will get you down the right path.

You Need A New Identity

Once you leave this path behind, you will need to change the way you see the world. You’ll need to redefine your identity and the mental scripts in your head. The metrics and ideas you use to define work, vacation, weekends, or even a bonus must be scrapped, and you must start putting value on your time.

Growing up you were told to go to school, get good grades, and find a nice job. It’s the safe path that society constructed for you. It rewards you with praise and validation from family, friends, and money because its the life script that the masses subscribed to.

The good news is once you’ve taken the red-pill, a new identity is up for grabs. The scary part? Going down the rabbit hole and putting yourself out there for the entire world to see.

You Need New Friends And Peers

People will say you’re crazy. Some will tell you it’s just a phase. But if you find that empty feeling going home from work every day, you gotta do something about it. You can try to cover it up with a new Audi or weekend in Vienna, but it will still come back and haunt you every Monday morning.

Going down this lonely path, you’ll need to find new friends and peers that share the same mindset. Appreciate the ones that believe in you and ignore the ones that try to bring you down. This is your life and you can choose who to let in or out.

You Need A New Education

In school you are rewarded by not making mistakes and conditioned to avoid risk. As an entrepreneur, you must rewire your educational paradigm to always be learning. You can only learn by trying new things, so that means pushing the comfort zones and doing what makes you uncomfortable. It’s closely aligned with self-improvement because as Jay-Z said, “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”

You Will Work Harder Than Ever, But For Yourself

If the early days of your career was forged in IBD, trading, or equity research - you’ve got the work ethic and perseverance. The biggest challenge is taking that first step, finding the discipline, and maintaining the focus on building your own asset.

Leaving everything behind is no easy task. I’ve had countless debates with my friends and family about this path, but in the end what you do with your life is your responsibility. With the tools, apps, and resources available on the internet now, it’s just a matter of finding the courage to take that first step. 

Terry Lin is the founder of #BALLER Leather, a boutique accessories company that features travel wallets, card holders, and wallets designed for the modern and sophisticated man. You can find him @itsmeterrylin or email terry@ballerleather.com.

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