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  • Wall Street, Pro Wrestling, and Seventh Grade

    Posted by David Foster on August 17th, 2008 (All posts by )

    A couple of years ago, Sallie Krawcheck, then CFO of Citigroup (now Chairman & CEO of Citi Global Wealth Management) was asked how being a woman had affected her career. Her response:

    I think it’s an advantage. I grew up in Charleston, a very genteel, very Southern city, a gorgeous city. I will say there’s something about going to an all-girls school in Charleston that’s tougher than Wall Street. You don’t know what it’s like. I had the glasses, the braces, the corrective shoes. I was half-Jewish, half-WASPy. I couldn’t have been further outcast. There was nothing they could do to me at Salomon Brothers in the ’80s that was worse than the seventh grade.

    The current issue of Fortune (8/18) has a profile of Meredith Whitney, who was one of the first securities analysts to recognize the seriousness of the subprime/CDO situation. Ms Whitney is married to a professional wrestler. From the article:

    Another eye opener for Whitney has been how gracious most wrestlers are–at least when the cameras aren’t rolling–in comparison with the viper-pit culture on Wall Street. It sounds absurd–the world of high finance being less collegial than an industry in which employees belt each other in the face.

    If we put these two assessments together, we get:

    Pro Wrestling

    is nicer than

    Wall Street

    which is nicer than

    Seventh Grade

     

    9 Responses to “Wall Street, Pro Wrestling, and Seventh Grade”

    1. Shannon Love Says:

      I think that, counterintuitively, the potential for emotional torment of a circumstance varies in inverse proportion to the likelihood in the circumstance of being punched in the face.

      When we create a physically safe environment, we sever one of the feedbacks that prevent people from hurting each other. Safe from physical retaliation, people feel free to tear into each other verbally and emotionally.

      We further compound this by creating artificial circumstances in which people do not have to rely on the cooperation of others in order to succeed. For example, the academic component of the typical America school. Outside of sports, schools do not require children to cooperate with one another to succeed. Children can follow their genetically programmed urged to dominate others without fear that such actions will boomerang.

      So Professional wrestling is a more civil environment that Wall Street because large powerful men must cooperate closely to put on a good show whereas brokers on wall street work more independently and retaliate with gossip and lawsuits. Junior high is worse than Wall Street because children do not need each other at all to succeed academically while at the same time being completely protected from the consequences of emotional cruelty to others.

    2. Methinks Says:

      I used to work for Sallie Krawcheck before she went to Citigroup. That woman is made of STEEL and we got along well. I completely agree with her assessment.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      “…completely protected from the consequences of emotional cruelty to others.”

      One of the great Machiavellian games of childhood was to treat a kid with perpetual mental and verbal cruelty, until he finally exploded, threw the first punch, and got clobbered by The Man. Teachers have no incentive to police verbal cruelty, which they frequently don’t hear, or have too few facts to make a judgment, and in any case they see the loser kid as the problem. But a punch is a punch, and a punch is always a disciplinary issue. Learning not to respond with violence, even in the face of the most severe verbal provocation, is a hard discipline to impose on a child, but necessary. Of course, the kid who is subject to this stuff is the kid who is going to lose the fistfight, anyway, once he finally cracks. I speak from unhappy personal recollection.

    4. Shannon Love Says:

      Lexington Green,

      Yes, I’m not really surprised at the level of anger and frustration many children feel today. Month after month of being exclude, mocked and humiliated with absolutely no recourse. Very large schools exacerbate the problem by making the victims even more anonymous. With weakened families, children may not find any refuge at home.

    5. Deirdre Mundy Says:

      I always thought one of the best things about Chicago was that social rejects were the norm, and the culture valued the EXACT SAME THINGS that got you beat up/ ostracized/ picked on by teachers in middle school. =)

      I don’t know if that’s still true, with the current emphasis on a more popular definition of ‘fun.’

    6. Lexington Green Says:

      “…the best things about Chicago was that social rejects were the norm…”

      “Chicago” here meaning the U of C, of course.

      There is a lot of truth to that. The place was packed with oddballs and doofuses, and you could find a niche. Being academically incompetent was a problem, in my case (2.9 overall final GPA — ouch), but that is another story. Just because you are a bookish goofball does not mean you are smart, let alone a person with good study habits.

    7. Lexington Green Says:

      “Month after month of being exclude, mocked and humiliated with absolutely no recourse.”

      Shannon everything you say is true, except you have the time scale wrong. It is “year after year”.

    8. Robert Schwartz Says:

      My wife made me forward it to our 20 something year old daughters.

    9. Sam_S Says:

      Good observations. After a few years in both business and academia, I think it might be said that 7th grade is also nicer than academia. Shocking how viciously a group of PhD’s will struggle over finite research grants and tenure slots.