Back when I was young and dumb (probably last month), my dad used to ask me, do you want to be the “big monk in the small monastery” or the “small monk in the big monastery”? Well, I was also pretty cocky (probably still am), so of course I said, “big monk in the big monastery.”
Yet, today I find myself as the “medium-sized monk in the small monastery.” “Medium-sized” only because I’m slightly less cocky now and “small” because we do have a pretty big deal going on (so, it’s not the microscopic monastery). Today, I was officially staffed onto this big deal and now I, unofficially, am involved in all but one of every single live / important deals in the firm. Oops. Combined with IT’s insistence on calling me the “king of the interns” (based somewhat on reality), I suddenly found myself thrust into an interesting position.
Eleven months in and I’m not too sure how to feel about this recent development. I guess I’m not as cocky as I used to be. On the one hand, I’ve already queued up a “thank you and farewell email” to my social life (lowering expectations!). On the other hand, there is some accomplishment in accumulating projects here (now if only I didn’t actually have to work on them…) The respect of your abilities is always nice. But on the other other hand, I wonder how much leverage I actually hold in my hands now (probably not enough). So then, I ask myself, have I conquered [insert name of firm here]? If so, is that enough?
A lot of people have left the firm in recent years and felt lost in the wild afterwards. They didn’t just escape the cocoon you’d typically have in banking, but they lost the status of “big monk” that they’d found here. At a boutique, with little to no middle layer, you can get away with a lot and here, sometimes junior bankers can almost run this place. You’d definitely get your pick of projects. You’d have as much trust as you can garner in banking. No one is running around forcing facetime on you. Oh, and….plan events, run recruiting, staff interns….wait, who am I? HR? Anyways, so, is that enough?
Another Chinese parable tells the story of the frog who sits at the bottom of a well and only see a small portion of the night sky. Not knowing that the world massive beyond his imagination, he’s content with his known world and feels no need to jump out.
But what if you had seen what’s beyond your sliver of sky? What if you’d had whetted your appetite already? What if you knew that there’s something else out there – but you didn’t know if it was what you wanted? Would you jump out of your well or would you stay? Would you accept that it was enough to be the “big monk” in the “small well”?