"I was an MD at a bank with a weekly burnout therapist"
I've spent 30 years working in financial services on Wall Street. And then, earlier this year, I decided I'd had enough. I've spent decades getting up at 6am, commuting to the office, and leaving again at 8pm, 9pm or 11pm at night.
It's not a healthy way to live, and it's not something I could do anymore. They were silly hours. I'm in my 50s; I could see myself working until I was 61 and then dropping down dead.
When you're at the top of your game in a bank, you live and breathe the business. On a good day, it's brilliant; on a bad day, Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt.
A particular kind of person thrives in that kind of environment, and I am that person. I’ve always like challenges, games and targets. I'm obsessive and driven; I want to win. I'm used to getting things done under pressure and to delivering by a particular date, even if it's not strictly necessary.
When I was in banking, I wanted to win the game so much that I was almost always the last person in the office. People would go home, and I would still be there, calling clients overseas. I made more progress in my role in months than my closest rival had made in years. I made MD, and I stayed there by virtue of my performance.
However, I also now appreciate that I have a personality problem. By August 2022 I was burned out and I began seeing a weekly therapist. Together, we identified that I wasn't getting enough sleep. Once bonuses were announced, I resigned.
I'm now a semi-rehabilitated former banking MD. Outside of banking, I want to live a different lifestyle, but I am always struggling against my personality. I've already founded a company, which is doing well, and I'm fighting the temptation to scale it. I don't need any more money.
Having had therapy, I know how obsessive and driven I can be, and I'm trying to ween myself off this. When we go on holiday, my wife will read a novel and I will be thinking and reading about work. I'm terrible at doing nothing, and I now see that it's a character flaw. Relaxing is more challenging than it seems.
Robert Bessette is a pseudonym
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