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by Derek Loosvelt | February 15, 2012


According to a University of Southern California study to be published later this month, the high stress and long hours of a job in investment banking can lead to "insomnia, alcoholism, heart palpitations, eating disorders, and an explosive temper." However, a stressful and demanding job in banking (or in any other industry for that matter) can also lead to a healthy life.

An important part of the USC study, which followed numerous bankers over a 10-year period, found that "by the sixth year, the participants [the bankers involved in the survey], now in their mid-30s, had split into two camps: the 60% who remained 'at war' with their bodies, and the remaining 40% who decided to prioritize their health, meaning they paid more attention to sleep, exercise and diet and set limits on how much they allowed work to consume them."
That is, nearly half of the bankers figured out how to deal with the 100-hour workweeks, screaming bosses, and pressure to perform at a very high level by simply eating well, exercising, and not allowing work to swallow their entire lives. Now, I'd bet if the study looked at similar employees in other demanding industries (such as Big Law) the findings would be similar: half of the participants would find themselves in poor health, while the other half would find themselves in decent shape after learning how to cope with their stressful situations.

I'm reminded of a story the great Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami tells of the early days of his writing career. According to Murakami, when he decided to become a full-time writer, he was still the owner of a jazz bar in Japan and he drank quite a bit of alcohol each week, kept odd hours, slept little, and exercised hardly ever. What Murakami understood was that a successful career in writing novels would mean sitting in front of a keyboard for several hours each day, every day. It also meant having a clear mind, able to think and imagine clearly for hours at a time. As a result, Murakami decided to take up jogging and decrease his alcohol intake.

Forty years later, since he began jogging, and began his writing career, Murakami has run more than 25 marathons, a handful of triathlons, and at least one ultramarathon (a 62-mile race). He's also limited his drinking to beer (I read somewhere that he's a fan of Sam Adams lager), as well as written a dozen novels, scores of short stories, and a couple of nonfiction books, one of which is called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

In any case, the point is that irrespective of how you feel about investment banking, or any other career, it's important to understand the demands of your job and then appropriately shift your lifestyle in order to deal with it. Of course, you can also do this: switch careers.

Read More:
Hazard of the Trade: Bankers' Health (WSJ)
Marathon Man: Alastair Campbell takes fellow novelist Haruki Murakami's views on life and running in his stride (Guardian)


Filed Under: Finance|Workplace Issues

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