Thinking about grad school and figuring out where my next challenges are going to come from has made realize just how much of a constant GM has been in my life. I've been there since February 3, 1997. Just the idea of not being there is a little strange and just that building itself has become sort of a mental safety beacon. I walk around midtown with friends or on dates and enivitably I walk by it and point out to anyone who doesn't know yet, "I work here." Walking around its halls has always felt comfortable and there was never anyone there I felt I had to be careful or timid around, from Allen Reed on down. Oh, I applied for other internships and jobs in the meantime, but nothing else provided the challenge and the stimulation, so it was never really an issue. Even when I signed with JP Morgan, my start date was so far away that I'm not sure the realization that I would be leaving GM ever truly hit me.
And now, leaving in the next year is a realistic possibility--in fact, its a likely occurrence. Its not necessarily scary... its just... different. Its a lot to think about. At the same time, its exciting. The one thing I'm definately not used to is having to convince anyone of my ability. I was sitting there writing applications and I just wanted to write down what I told Larry--that I would bet any amount of money that, when all is said and done, however you want to measure success, that I would come out in the top quarter of my Stanford class in twenty years. The trouble is, like investing in venture, is that there isn't a commonly accepted set of predictive criteria on leadership, so you present who you are, and you just leave it up to some admissions counselor to decide whether or not you're a top quartile candidate. Its very frustrating. You just want to reach through the computer (the app was online) and grab the counselor and go, "How can you not see that I'm great!? I'll outhustle any of these goofballs."
And that's what it really comes down to--outhustling your competition, which is difficult to show in a short trial. That's why I did so well at GM. I had four years to show them I was worth hiring. That helped, because I'm not particularly flashy as a candidate for anything.
That's what happened to me when I tried out for baseball at Regis. Its hard to show up with 80 guys trying out for 18 spots and singles hit your way onto the roster. I remember this one at bat when I was playing for St. Ephrem's... I must have fouled off about 8 or 9 pitches. The pitcher was visably frustrated and it just popped into my mind that I was absolutely getting a hit. I just decided to get a hit. Now, maybe that's just drinking the Kool Ade, but it was so clear to me in my mind that I was going to get one. On the next pitch, I smacked an eye level fastball right up through the box on a line drive--nearly decapitated the pitcher. It was really a laser. Yet, how can you show people in a short trial that you can do that?
So here I am with three or four possible paths that my life could take over the next year, but I'm not exactly holding the cards. I hate feeling like I cannot affect my life and that I have to depend on outside forces. I've always believed that your life is what you make out of, and that, to a large extext, you can pretty much brute force your destiny--if only because few others believed you could and no one else was really trying. I still believe that in the grand scheme, but these little individual decision points that I need to leave in the hands of others are inordinately frustrating for me. Last night, I saw the Incredibles, which was incredibly entertaining. There was a preview for Star Wars (which I don't seem to be as big a fan as everyone else's), but it made me think of Obi Wan's ability to influence the decisions of others. I'd like to just be able to wave my hand and get them to say, "This one has promise, we should take him on."
I'll tell you though, this is where blogs become interesting. Someone made a comment the other day about how blogs might change the nature of job interviews.
Deirg (I figured I'd post a picture of her, since I'm going picture crazy lately and she does represent a good third of my social life as one of my two best friends) said last night that she would never feel comfortable with an employer reading her blog. Personaly, I didn't have an issue with it, and in a way, I welcomed it. In all honesty, this is as close to a record of who I've been for the past eight months as anything...certainly more fullsome than an interview. Sure, maybe there are some off color jokes, but if people aren't comfortable with that, then I'm probably not suited to work for them. Politcal comments? Yeah, that could hinder me, too. But, its me. I'm not apologetic for any of it and I think its a lot of the kind of insight people are looking for in an interview. To me, interviews have always been more about personality and drive than qualifications. When I interviewed Jeff the Intern, he had little experience with Access, and no experience dealing with institutional investing. He knew nothing about private equity either. But, what he had was curiousity and drive. If there was a model to do that he had to learn from scratch, I could count on him to figure his way out of it. Would I rather have had someone who had created cashflow models for portfolios? Well, actually, no. Because, how would I know where their knowledge ends. Everyone's knowledge ends somewhere... more importantly is where they are going to take it when they reach that point. Will they strive to learn? Stay late or wake up early to noodle their way out of a perplexing problem? I can throw a lot at that kid and I just know enough of it will stick that he'll figure it out, which is how I think of myself. I can't tell you how many times I've cut Larry off and said, "Just give it to me, I'll figure it out." That's personality... that's tough to diligence in an interview. Yet, I don't think most people would be comfortable with an employer delving into their experiences on such a personal level. Me? I say, "Bring it on."