And now a moment to reflect—with sincere earnestness—on what
makes it all worthwhile.
The text for this post comes, coincidentally, from an interview with Michael Lewis (an author so talented that, as they say, his
shopping list makes gripping reading), who Bill Henderson and I just
Lewis’s first book, "Liar’s Poker" (see the interview
for dust-jacket images and Amazon links) covered Salomon Brothers
at its apogee as bond-trading leviathan (the era, in the caustically
incorrect phrase, of "big swinging d***’s"); his
second, "The New New Thing," Jim Clark and Netscape at
its apogee; and his third of course was "Moneyball" profiling
Billy Beane, the nonconformist general manager of the Oakland Athletics
who discarded the received wisdom of baseball scouting tradition
and instead embraced a statistical, quantitatively-driven analysis
of players that produced championship teams with rock-bottom payrolls.
The natural question that occurs is, of course, why Lewis chose
these three so disparate topics; what on earth do they have in common
that tantalized him? Here’s Lewis’ explanation (emphasis supplied):
ML: The only necessary ingredient for a book to work is for me to feel passionate about the material. I have to feel so enthusiastic about it that I can persuade others to feel the same. As a magazine writer, I get paid to dip my toe into new waters. So, for every book I write, I seriously consider as many as nine other options. The[Interviewer]: So you’ve written about bond trading, the internet,
books are the subjects that truly hold my interest.
sports. Across those, what common trait makes people successful?
More importantly, what makes them happy?
ML: These industries all employ high price people. They are talent with
a “capital T”. Every manager will tell you their most important
assets walk out the door every night.
While there’s no definitive answer, there’s one trait that goes under-mentioned…a
capacity for wonder and interest. You look at Jim Merriweather
at Solomon, Jim Clark in Silicon Valley, or Billy Beane in baseball.
Their great successes began with curiosity and openness. You may
know everything, but it’s what you learn after you know everything
that’s most important.
As for happiness, it comes from thinking your job has a purpose. The
scarcest resource in the world is purpose. People who have purpose, other
than money or social position, tend to be much happier.
Lewis has said it all, hasn’t he? About why we get up in the
morning with energy and passion, why we’ve chosen the paths we have,
why we inhabit the professional and personal ecosystems we do.
Or, as Buddha allegedly said: “Your work is to discover
your work and then with all your heart put yourself to it.”
For those of you who may not have "discovered" your work yet, all
I can say from across the perspective-chasm of one who has is, "Keep
seeking." There is no higher reward than finding it; and
your heart will then need not be "put to it," but will race to pursue