When you're a Finance major, there are two things that are absolutely required consumption--Wall Street and Liar's Poker. If you haven't gone through both of them, well, no there's no point to even saying that because we all have. Its not just a rite of passage, its scripture.
But, what isn't required, particularly with Wall Street, is learning any kind of lesson. Guys grow up idolizing Gordon Gekko with his slick back hair and fancy 15 pound cell phone (it was 1987) on the beach, but the morality lesson gets a bit dwarfed in the whole thing.
When I was in college, I ran a retreat for business students in the spring of senior year. A lot of people complained about how empty and exhausted they felt about recruiting. Trying to figure out and play who you think these companies want you to be and sell yourself can get to you after a while. And for what? Do the people that "play the game" really actually wind up winning in the end?
I avoided the whole brokerage/investment banking side of Finance. I never liked who I was dealing with there because it always seemed like it was either about being better than the next guy or being the closest fit to a mold--never about being the best self you can be. I just wasn't willing to make that kind of sacrifice and I never felt I should have to.
I wasn't going to stay up nights like Bud Fox, charting companies to prove my worth to somebody. I was going to live my balanced life and I bet on the fact that I would get appreciated and discovered by others who wanted the same kind of balance in their lives.
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) gets sucked in... the money, the women. A lot of people do. But you know what? That's not what really gets you to be that successful. Success in this country is built on equity... built on building things and owning the equity in things you built, not tearing things down. That's why most leaveraged buyout returns never get high multiples--there's only so many ways you can improve a company, only so much leverage you can get. Sure, it's also less risky, but in my life, if I'm going to be around an industry, I think its more fun to be in one that's shooting for the fences.
And when you're doing that, you've got to have your heart in it. When Bud Fox sold out Blue Star, he knew it wasn't right at the moment he did it. When we see entreprenuers, its easy to tell who is passionate about their business in a positive way. It flows out of them and drives them upward.
Ok, so I didn't talk so much about the movie and kind of went on a tangent. Its a great movie, even outside of all this moral commentary. Michael Douglass really is Gordon Gekko and Charlie Sheen is equally well cast. Its great to see him play on screen with his dad, making the whole betrayal seem that much more real. Go rerent it if you haven't seen it in a while... or rent it if you're boyfriend is a hungry, aspiring broker/banker and you want to know what all the fuss is about.
Oh, and I'm not trying to be sexist... plenty of women are obviously successful bankers, but I don't know too many of them who really like Wall Street. Disagree? Feel free to comment.