The @GSElevator Book – Straight To Hell – has nothing to do with Twitter…

Now that my book is available for pre-order, I wanted to quietly make a few things clear….

First of all, the issue of my anonymity was simply a device, and one that has suited the construct of the Twitter feed. GSElevator has never been an anonymous person. It’s not a person at all. It’s the embodiment or aggregation of “every banker,” a concentrated reflection of a Wall Street culture and mentality.

Being anonymous had this enigmatic mystery and intrigue; it protected my privacy, but also prevented me as a person from getting in the way of the message. But to be clear, it was never about hiding.

I’ve always expected to be outed, especially given the sensitive and personal nature of many of the stories coming in the book. It’s part of the process – liberating me to speak even more candidly and credibly about the vantage point from which I have observed and enjoyed my outrageous Wall Street experiences.  Being outed gives me nothing but credibility…..

I started as an intern in 2000 for Salomon Brothers in London on the Victoria Plaza trading floor of Liar’s Poker fame. My wild ride formally commenced the following year, beginning in the wake of the dotcom bubble bursting, and carrying me across three continents, and through the worst financial crisis in generations.

So, was I hired by Goldman Sachs? Well, when they offered me the job of Head of Asia Debt Syndicate, it was deemed headline-worthy at the time…

Have I been in their elevators? Too many times to count.  But Greg Smith tried writing that book, and it was boring as hell…

The fact that a contractual dispute with a previous employer prevented me from taking the job is irrelevant to me, the premise of @GSElevator, and my book.  But, for the avoidance of any doubt, any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overhead in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot.

Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it’s never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it’s about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way.

I have been completely transparent in saying that my tweets are edited, curated (from submissions), and crafted, in a way that I think will best resonate and still embody the soul and mentality of Wall Street. My focus has been to entertain and enlighten, without being completely devoid of substance and insight.

As I said, the book – Straight To Hell – is not about Twitter; it’s a collection of true stories from my experiences directing traffic at Wall Street’s epicenter – the bond syndicate desk.

I sat above the Chinese Wall – straddling the private side (Investment Banking) and the public side (Sales & Trading). I helped companies raise billions of dollars, companies like Ford, General Electric, AIG, Unilever, Rolls-Royce, GlaxoSmithKline, and Diageo… and then Korean and Indian bureaucrats, Chinese billionaire tycoons, and Indonesian thugs.

My seat is like being the catcher on a baseball team. I’m the only person who can see the entire field; I coordinate the calls, and I’m involved on every play. And since most public deals are not sole bookrunner transactions, I have worked exhaustively with every bank on Wall Street; I saw it all.

Again, the book has never been positioned as the story about life just inside the walls of Goldman Sachs. And while I have done countless deals with Goldman Sachs, it’s far more interesting than that.

And it certainly isn’t an indictment on any particular firm or some kind of exposé snoozefest. My objective is to unapologetically showcase the true culture of Wall Street in a way that hasn’t been done before.

My vantage point is particularly unique and credible… and now, I can share it without the shackles of anonymity:

Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals

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The @GSElevator Guide to Bar Etiquette

I shouldn’t have to write this, but apparently I do.

The following came to my attention via the fantastic Twitter feed of Jon Carney, my collaborator on the highly-popular (2.5 million views) and reasonably well-received post, How To Be A Man.

It’s called 12 Tips on Proper Bar Etiquette, by Gavin McInnis

I read it only because I recognized the author’s name as a sometimes 1/5th co-host of one of my go-to late night TV shows, Fox News’s Red Eye, hosted by the affable and usually politically-on-point Greg Gutfeld (Howard Stern meets Bill O’Reilly, with a splash of Marge Schott).

It also piqued my interest because Gavin has received an unjustified amount of attention (and criticism) for a rather funny YouTube video he recently made, “How To Fight A Baby.”

Clearly the author is playing the part of low-brow provocateur.  But I’ll take the bait and respond, because hyperbole aside, the actual advice he gives is just downright terrible.  Regarding bar etiquette, Gavin, this hipster-pretentiously-masquerading-as-an-unpretentious-working-mans-man (and co-founder of Vice), writes the following:

(My comments are in red)

“In America, people do air travel like they’re going to a sleepover, bring kids to R-rated movies, and let their offspring run around restaurants like we’re all in the same living room. It’s hard to know where to begin when imposing some decorum on Western culture, but I’m an alcoholic so I’m going to start with bars.”

For starters, people who call themselves alcoholics are usually just garden-variety drunks.  Winston Churchill was an alcoholic. F. Scott Fitzgerald was an alcoholic. Guys who order Budweiser at dive bars are drunks, who usually end up running over the neighbor’s dog or pissing in their wife’s closet.

As John Carney pointed out on Business Insider, stop pulling out your credit card for one drink. You’re not only wasting the bartender’s time and delaying his tip by at least a week, you’re slowing shit down for the rest of us. Go to an ATM and pay the fee they charge you to not waste everyone else’s money.

First of all, we said ‘carry cash.’  We didn’t say, ‘go to a bar, have only one drink, pay cash, ask for change, and leave a shitty tip.’

Keep it simple.  Carry cash, and have the right denominations to tip well and still say ‘keep the change,’ or just throw your card behind the bar and open a tab.  Even if you go to a bar by yourself, are you going to have just one drink?  The last thing a bartender wants to worry about is making change, trusting other bartenders with the collective bank, and worrying about cash tips sitting on the bar top or getting lost in ‘books’ (the black vinyl cases that checks are usually delivered in).

And for the record, bartenders get paid their tips every single night, even the credit card tips.  The only thing they might have to wait for (depending on the establishment) is the “tip out” – the percentage (3-5%) of sales that waitstaff pay out to bartenders in exchange for making the drinks that they get tipped on from their tables. 

You know what booze is? It’s water with a tiny bit of booze in it. No more ordering a drink with a water chaser. Try the drink first and see if that quenches your thirst. It’s a fucking DRINK, for crying out loud. The only exception to this rule is a megabender where you’re risking alcohol poisoning by not having a glass of water for every seven pints of beer. It’s rational to do it then, but I still think it’s faggy.

There’s nothing wrong with water. Period. It’s not a chaser. It’s just water. And bartenders don’t mind serving it to you.

I guess I might be ‘faggy,’ but I enjoy ordering a water with my first drink, and then finishing it before I start my real drink. It quenches my thirst and sets the right pace for the evening.

Gavin, great use of the word “faggy” too.  I forgot, hipsters can say it just to show how comfortable they are in not being considered homophobic.  Isn’t that Chapter 4 in Alec Baldwin’s, “A Bully’s Guide To Using Racial Slurs, You Rotten Little Pig.”  I just see a cheap textbook ploy for attention.  That’s about as provocative or clever as saying “I’d rather watch Michael Bolton finger-bang my Mom,” or when white women think they’re edgy for endearingly calling each other “hooker” or “whore.”

Can we stop asking the female bartender what IPA she recommends? She drinks Pinot Grigio and she doesn’t even like it. Order a Budweiser or a Guinness or a Maker’s on the rocks. The drinks they’re serving are really just rotten vegetables and we’re drinking them because they give us a buzz. As you sit there poring over the menu like any of this matters, we are fantasizing about ripping your head off. You don’t go to a drug den and order strawberry heroin, so stop asking questions about some stupid pumpkin ale.

None of it matters? Is that because the guy is being pretentious, or because you (Gavin) are a nihilist?

I get it. You’re saying chicks don’t know beer, because you’re a man, and you said so goddammit.

But in reality, there’s nothing wrong with asking a bartender (male or female) about the increasing number and varieties of draft beers that bars carry these days.  Bartenders are usually educated on what the beers are, and how to best describe them to customers.  Secondly, they know what sells and what people tend to like.

Female bartenders only drink Pinot Grigio? Really. Do you even know what a vagina looks like? Oh never mind. I get it. That’s just you trying to be provocative again.

Finally, I’m concerned about you.  You’re fantasizing about ripping off some guy’s head because he inquires about the draft beers.  Really?  Sounds like there’s some misplaced anger in you.

We know women should be legally allowed in bars, but they belong there about as much as I belong in a feminist workshop about rape. Ladies, you are in a man zone, so please try to dial it back a bit and keep it to a dull roar. Your laugh after three wines sounds like a hyena being pummeled with a fire extinguisher.

Gee, I haven’t figured it out yet; do you use words like ‘rape’ and ‘faggy’ to try and get a rise out of people, or to mask a lack of substance? 

Oh my God. A feminist workshop about rape. That’s edgy AND hilarious. “Hey guys, it’s me, Gavin. Yeah I’m over here. Watch me cross the line. It’s gonna be awesome…. Guys? Guys?”

For the most part, I find a group of women having fun with their friends while getting drunk to be incredibly sexy.  I’d rather listen to that hyena than stare at the chip on your shoulder.

I can’t believe this is a genderless rule but yes, even grown men order these elaborate drinks. If I am at an airport bar and I’m trying to get a bourbon buzz before a six-hour flight, please do not cut my drinking time by ordering something that takes 10 minutes to make. I have criticized men for doing this in the past and they were so oblivious their reaction was, “I know! ‘Not normal,’ right?”

If you let some tool interfere with your airport drinking, then you’re a moron.  Anticipate the actions of idiots and fools, and act accordingly.  If I’m stuck in an airport bar, I always order two at a time. 

More importantly, it all comes back to the “When in Rome” rule, i.e. the exercise of common sense and discretion.  There is a right time and place for a peach daiquiri or a piña colada, so don’t be shy… Just not when the bartender is busy, doesn’t have a blender, or if there’s no beach.

When someone leaves the booth to go to the loo, they don’t need their exact seat when they get back. When he returns, everyone shuffles down one and he’s now in the aisle seat. Besides, it’s healthy for the conversation to have a musical-chairs scenario, so everyone needs to stop getting up and allowing dude to slide into his spot next to the guy who won’t stop talking about the price of his daughter’s gymnastics lessons.

Guy booth etiquette? This makes your list of Top 12 rules?  

“Come on, bro.  It’s my turn to sit between Andy and Greg.” – Gavin, apparently, while also using the word ‘bro’ ironically.

Ah yes.  I remember the last time I sat in a booth full of dudes and experienced the same thing. I was 14.

If three guys are going for a drink, two may sit and the other must stand between them, creating a triangle of conversation. When three guys sit in a row at the bar, one is forced to crane his neck to hear what’s going on and another often has his back to a dude. You’ve been sitting at a computer all day. You can stand for a couple hours.

Another important conundrum – when one dude is the third wheel of your man-date.

When I’m with friends or colleagues, sometimes we sit and sometimes we stand.  But, we don’t think too much about it.

Freedom isn’t free and neither are free drinks. The custom is a dollar a drink on free drinks and that includes buybacks. If you know the bartender and she starts throwing out free drinks like a drunken maniac, you should tip $2 to $3 a drink. If a male bartender gives you change where it’s awkward to tip well, fuck him. If a female bartender gives you a $10 and a $1, you should ask to have the $10 broken to give her a better tip.

First of all, the $1 a drink rule dates back to the 70s and expired in the 90s, the early 90s. And wait, is $2 to $3 what you mean when you say ‘tip big?’

Secondly, never tip a bartender on a free round.  You may as well be calling them a whore.  Usually, they’re giving you the free drink for a reason, so thank him or her and tip big on the next round or when you tab out.  Bear in mind, most bars religiously count and measure inventory, so the bartender either has a quota of free drinks or they actually have to pay for it out-of-pocket. So in their mind, it’s either a dividend payment or an investment in you. 

Furthermore, Gavin’s scenario is preposterous.  The bartender has already calculated the appropriate tip mechanics when he/she gives you your change.

Finally, Gavin had previously been so concerned (#1) about being an irritant to the bartender or to slowing down the service of other patrons.  Yet, he now suggests asking a bartender to go back to the drawer a second time for even smaller change.  “Here’s a five and five ones for your ten, you cheap fuck.”


Today I saw a dude drinking a wine and a water. He might as well have been raping a baby and holding a Klan rally. Wine is for dinner parties and women and fancy restaurants. Pubs are places where Robin Hood’s merry men get wasted and fight. You can’t do that while holding a glass stem in your hand like it’s a goddamned rose.

Ah rape again, only now it’s babies…  That’s outrageous! Hashtag winkyface.

Real men drink wine, too.
At a game, or with a fox.  On a plane, or from a box.  At a club, or in the tub…..

The only reason not to would be if the establishment doesn’t offer anything much better than hairspray.  See “When in Rome…”

I’ll even drink wine in a sports bar, if I’m watching the game… or if I’m trying to bed a damsel (since you’re using the Robin Hood vernacular).  Because I don’t want to constantly have to piss.

Go ahead and drink 15 Buds.  But, you’ll be in the bathroom every 10 minutes and will come out just in time to see me leaving with that chick you were talking to.  Don’t worry Gavin, that spot in the booth next to Friar Tuck just opened up.

Every time I go on a business trip, the hotel bar is crammed with dads showing the spinster bartender a picture of their kids. She doesn’t give a shit, dude. In fact, you’re depressing her because her roadie boyfriend is never going to be a dad. If you’re so drunk that you think everything you find interesting is also interesting to us, you need to go up to your room and sleep it off.

Sorry, I guess I’ve never been on a business trip to Omaha or Little Rock.

Gavin, in your mind, in this scenario, are the pictures physically in his wallet? Or is this an old drunk, sitting in a dark pub across the street from the Embassy Suites, surrounded by manly men, thumbing through a smartphone.

If your buddy says you’re slurring, you are. The only way to tell when someone is wasted beyond a shadow of a doubt is when they adamantly deny it. The second someone mocks your slurred speech, try to take it down a notch. Also, here’s a bonus tip: If you’re about to meet your wife or a business associate and you’ve had too much, stretch your cheeks by inflating air in them. I don’t know why this works, but it does.

I can’t really comprehend this series of incoherent non-sequiturs, so I don’t have much to say.  Maybe Gavin is just wasted at this point and is slurring his own words?  Some kind of hipster performance art.

Make up your mind.  Am I meeting my wife or playing, “What’s the capital of Thailand?” with Robin Hood’s merry men?  It makes a difference in terms of what kind of bar I’m going to and how much I’m gonna drink. 

But if you’ve had visibly too much before meeting your wife or an associate, nurse your drink, order a snack, and keep your mouth mostly shut for an hour or so.

And next time, ask for a water every once in a while.

Asking a bartender to charge your phone is like asking him to change your diapers. If you’re in a situation where your battery keeps cutting out, get a Morphie.  If not, let your phone die. Bars lived without cell phones for thousands of years and they should continue to do so for thousands more.

Are you retarded? Oh I see, you just wanted to plug a shitty product… Nice…

Once again, it comes down to discretion.  If it’s a quiet afternoon, and the bartender is on an iPhone, I’m going to ask for a quick boost if I need it.  She’s happy to do it too, because experience tells her she’ll benefit come tip time.

In summary, Gavin, it seems like you are just a little bit angry.  I think it comes down to the fact that you consider drinking in bars to be a hobby, yet cannot figure out why you are always treated like shit. (Pssst… It’s largely because you don’t tip).

 So Gavin, I have a moral obligation to set you straight with The @GSElevator Guide to Bar Etiquette:

  1. Be a regular at more than one bar.
  2. Be patient. There’s no line for drinks in your refrigerator.
  3. Always tip more than you should.  Tipping at a regular bar is a good investment.
  4. Never ask for a ‘good pour.’  That’s asking them to give you something for free, and bartenders can and do get fired for that. If they like you, they’ll hook you up.
  5. Never tip a bartender on a free round.  Thank him or her and tip big on the next round.
  6. If you’re having more than one drink, or are with a group of people, always throw your card behind the bar.  You can always settle the tab in cash at the right time.
  7. Don’t get drunk on beer when you’re trying to pick up girls.
  8. Never take off your suit jacket.  Nobody ever pictures a drunk in a suit and tie.  Remove the jacket; destroy the illusion.
  9. Don’t treat a bartender like he’s just some guy waiting until he finds a real job.
  10. Don’t whistle, snap, yell, or wave money. Unless you want people to think you work at Morgan Stanley.
  11. If you want to buy a woman a drink, ask her permission.
  12. If you are having friends, colleagues, or a partner meet you out, clear your tab before they show up.  It’s not cool if they end up paying, but more importantly, it might make you look like the drunk that you are.
  13. If you want to put ice in your Pinot Grigio, go for it.  Do what you want to do, not what people expect you to do.
  14. Don’t try ordering a drink from a bar back. You’ll end up with dishwater as a Corona, not that you could tell the difference.
  15. Don’t argue about a tab.  If you’re arguing, it’s probably because it’s a material amount of money.  And that means you’re probably not sober enough to argue.
  16. “When in Rome” might be the Golden Rule.  But it’s just another way of saying, “have some goddamned common sense.”
  17. Don’t preemptively mention the tip.  There’s no need to ever say, “I’ll take care of you tonight.”
  18. Shots generally only serve one purpose, to speed up the effects of alcohol. There’s a time and a place. And that time and place comes around less frequently after the age of 30.
  19. Always know what you are going to order ahead of time.  Have a go-to drink in your repertoire.  An old fashioned, vodka martini, a common beer, or even just a house chard.  Sit down, take a sip, relax, and then figure out what you really want to drink.
  20. When out with friends, stop looking at your phone.
  21. As per ‘How To Be A Man,’ you can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.
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How To Be A F%#king Man…

We’ve all seen and perhaps grown tired of guides and lists that are ripe with tedious clichés and full of humdrum regurgitated meme wisdom. For that very reason, in collaboration with CNBC’s John Carney (@Carney) here is a fresh and hopefully thoughtful look at what it means to be a man today.

  • Stop talking about where you went to college.
  • Always carry cash.  Keep some in your front pocket.
  • Rebel from business casual. Burn your khakis and wear a suit or jeans.
  • It’s okay to trade the possibility of your 80s and 90s for more guaranteed fun in your 20s and 30s.
  • If you are handling a small white baggy in a bathroom stall, face away from an open toilet. (This was censored from the original article)
  • The best public restrooms are in hotels: The St. Regis in New York, Claridge’s in London, The Fullerton in Singapore, to name a few.
  • Never stay out after midnight three nights in a row… Unless something really good comes up on the third night.
  • You will regret your tattoos.
  • Never date an ex of your friend.
  • Join Twitter; become your own curator of information.
  • If riding the bus doesn’t incentivize you to improve your station in life, nothing will.
  • Time is too short to do your own laundry.
  • When the bartender asks, you should already know what you want to drink.
  • If you perspire, wear a damn undershirt.
  • You don’t have to like baseball, but you should understand the concept of what a pitcher’s ERA means.  Approach life similarly.
  • When people don’t invite you to a party, you really shouldn’t go.
 And sometimes even when you are invited, you shouldn’t go.
  • People are tired of you being the funny, drunk guy.
  • When in doubt, always kiss the girl.
  • Tip more than you should.
  • You probably use your cell phone too often and at the wrong moments.
  • Buy expensive sunglasses.  Superficial? Yes, but so are the women judging you. And it tells these women you appreciate nice things and are responsible enough not to lose them.
  • If you want a nice umbrella, bring a sh*tty one to church.
  • Do 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and dips before you shower each morning.
  • Eat brunch with friends at least every other weekend.  Leave Rusty and Junior at home.
  • Be a regular at more than one bar.
  • Act like you’ve been there before.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in the end zone at the Super Bowl or on a private plane.
  • A glass of wine or two with lunch will not ruin your day.
  • It’s better if old men cut your hair.  Ask for Sammy at the Mandarin Oriental Barbershop in Hong Kong.  He can share his experiences of the Japanese occupation, or just give you a copy of Playboy.
  • Learn how to fly-fish.
  • No selfies. Aspire to experience photo-worthy moments in the company of a beautiful woman.
  • Own a handcrafted shotgun.  It’s a beautiful thing.
  • There’s always another level. Just be content knowing that you are still better off than most who have ever lived.
  • You can get away with a lot more if you’re the one buying the drinks.
  • Ask for a salad instead of fries.
  • Don’t split a check.
  • Pretty women who are unaccompanied want you to talk to them.
  • Cobblers will save your shoes. So will shoe trees.
  • When a bartender buys you a round, tip double.
  • The cliché is that having money is about not wasting time. But in reality, money is about facilitating spontaneity.
  • Be spontaneous.
  • Find a Times New Roman in the streets and a Wingdings in the sheets. She exists.
  • Piercings are liabilities in fights.
  • Do not use an electric razor.
  • Desserts are for women. Order one and pretend you don’t mind that she’s eating yours.
  • Buy a tuxedo before you are thirty. Stay that size.
  • One girlfriend at a time is probably enough.
  • #StopItWithTheHashtags
  • Your ties should be rolled and placed in a sectioned tie drawer.
  • Throw parties. 
But have someone else clean up the next day.
  • You may only request one song from the DJ.
  • Measure yourself only against your previous self.
  • Take more pictures.  With a camera.
  • Place-dropping is worse than-name dropping.
  • When you admire the work of artists or writers, tell them. 
And spend money to acquire their work.
  • Your clothes do not match. They go together.
  • Yes, of course you have to buy her dinner.
  • Staying angry is a waste of energy.
  • Revenge can be a good way of getting over anger.
  • If she expects the person you are 20% of the time, 100% of the time, then she doesn’t want you.
  • Always bring a bottle of something to the party.
  • Avoid that “last” whiskey. You’ve probably had enough.
  • Don’t use the word “closure” or ever expect it in real life. There may still be a mortally wounded Russian mobster roaming the woods of south Jersey, but we’ll never know.
  • If you are wittier than you are handsome, avoid loud clubs.
  • Drink outdoors.
And during the day.
And sometimes by yourself.
  • Date women outside your social set. You’ll be surprised.
  • If it’s got velvet ropes and lines, walk away unless you know someone.
  • You cannot have a love affair with whiskey because whiskey will never love you back.
  • Feigning unpretentiousness is worse than being pretentious. Cut it out with the vintage Polo and that ’83 Wagoneer in Nantucket.
  • The New Yorker is not high-brow. Neither is The Economist.
  • If you believe in evolution, you should know something about how it works.
  • No-one cares if you are offended, so stop it.
  • Never take an ex back. She tried to do better and is settling with you.
  • Eating out alone can be magnificent. Find a place where you can sit at the bar.
  • Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party – provided that you don’t initiate conversation with, “So, who are you reading…”
  • Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.
  • Hookers aren’t cool, but remember, the free ones are a lot more expensive.
  • Don’t ever say, “it is what it is.”
  • Start a wine collection for your kids when they are born.  Add a few cases every year without telling them.  It’ll make a phenomenal gift in twenty years.
  • Don’t gamble if losing $100 is going to piss you off.
  • Remember, “rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.”

John LeFevre is the creator of the @GSElevator Twitter feed and the author of the soon-to-be-released Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, and Billion-Dollar Deals.


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Meet Jack The Plumber/ Philosopher

Over the weekend, I came across an editorial by Jack Hope, a philosopher turned philosopher/plumber, that puts a name and face to a question that has garnered a reasonable amount of attention in recent months – Should a college degree still be hailed as a key barometer of achievement, and, with few exceptions, a prerequisite to, and trophy of, the American dream?

As Jack illustrates, forgoing college in lieu of learning a trade isn’t about embracing mediocrity; it’s just plain common economic sense, particularly in light of the current employment dynamic.  Considering that 80% of Americans view themselves to be ‘above average’, this might be a tough pill for many to swallow.  But, once we are able to overcome any social stigma, it will undoubtedly make all of us better off.

Jack the Philosopher/Plumber writes:

Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Jack Hope and I own Hope Plumbing in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I want to speak briefly about education, the economy, and the skilled tradesperson.  While I acknowledge that my education has helped to make me who I am, I would like to challenge the notion that everyone should go to college. 

With the help of two loving parents, I graduated from a private high school in Indianapolis, and went on to pursue an undergraduate degree from Indiana University, which was also paid for by my parents.  From there, I earned my Masters degree, also from IU, in Philosophy with a Special Concentration in Bioethics.  During this time, I became the Philosophy Department’s teaching assistant, which allowed me to design and teach my own courses.  As a result, in addition to receiving a small stipend, my own tuition was also paid for.

I have subsequently gone on to instruct philosophy and ethics courses at two prominent educational institutions, and now, I currently own a successful plumbing business in Indianapolis.

I want you to ask yourself a set of questions.  How many college-educated people do you know that work in a job that requires substantially less education?  How many college-educated people do you know that can’t find jobs at all?  How many people do you know who do not work in a field from which their degree came?  How many college educated people do you know that can’t afford their student loan payments?  If you are at all like me, you know plenty. 

As noted in a recent Business Insider article, “the pool of college graduates is growing more than twice as fast as the pool of jobs requiring a college degree.”  

Now, ask yourself another set of questions.  How many skilled tradespeople do you know that work in a job that requires substantially less education?  How many skilled tradespeople do you know that can’t find jobs at all?  How many skilled tradespeople do you know who do not work in a field from which their degree came?  How many skilled tradespeople do you know that cannot afford their student loans?  It you are at all like me, you do not know any.  But for many of you, sadly, that may be because you just do not know any tradespeople.

If you don’t really know a skilled tradesperson or what it means to be one, I will tell you. A skilled tradesperson is simply a person who works in a skilled trade.  Licensed plumbers, electricians, mechanics, insulators and drywall installers are all great examples of skilled tradespeople.  A skilled tradesperson typically spends time, following high school, in an apprenticeship program and when it is complete, earns a license in his or her trade.

No matter what you think about the economy, we can all agree that a stronger, safer, more diversified and growing economy is something we all want.  How do we obtain such an economy?  For starters, people need jobs.  People need jobs that allow them to pay the bills, have a little fun and save some money for later. This can be really hard to do if you have $8,000 in student loan payments each year and a job that pays $38,000 per year. 

So what do we do? 

We need to again start telling people that it is okay (and even admirable) to get their hands dirty.  Manual labor is not evil.  Have you ever considered that most people in the United States can no longer really fix anything?  How many people do you know that can repair their own toilet, change the oil in their own car, or even simply change a tire?  What happened to teaching young people how to fix stuff?  We have long been a nation that prides itself on hard work.  Put down the iPad and help your kids take something apart.  If we want people to find jobs, let us figure out how to get people the skills needed for the jobs that exist today, and 5 or 10 years down the road.

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity
will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” – John W. Gardner

Every time I talk to someone about plumbing, they comment on how gross it must be and every time I reply, “that is why they pay us the big bucks.”  People, of course, think I am kidding, but the average starting salary for a licensed plumber in our shop is $45,000 per year with full health benefits, life insurance, a paid cell phone, a take home vehicle and matched retirement savings. 

While that may not be big bucks for some of you big shots, a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds that just three liberal arts majors had average starting salaries that topped $40,000 in 2012.  The average cost of tuition for a college degree from a private college is about $127,000 and the average cost of tuition for a degree from a public college is about $37,800.  On the other hand, the average cost of a (4) year apprenticeship program for a plumber in Indiana is $5,800 and an employer will often cover those costs for a good employee.  We require all of our technicians to attend the apprenticeship program and those costs are covered in full. 

What Hope Plumbing needs, and what the economy needs, is large amounts of skilled tradespeople that are ready to go to work.  Please don’t get me wrong, I think that a Liberal Arts degree can be fantastic for the right person, but I challenge the notion that everyone needs a bachelor’s degree.  One of the largest problems that Hope Plumbing has (as well as most other skilled trades businesses) has, boils down to finding qualified tradespeople.  Find me a person with a few years of experience, a little bit of personality and a plumbing license and I will find them a job.  Find me a person with little to no experience, massive amounts of personality and a Liberal Arts degree and I will have an engaging conversation with them about the “original position” most recently espoused by John Rawls in Justice as Fairness and the irony of mentioning it here.

Stop being lazy, back away from the computer screen, pick up a hammer and learn how to build something. 

Jack Hope

It’s refreshing to see that Jack the Plumber is not Joe the Plumber. He doesn’t politicize the issue or talk about how many people he employs, the ramifications of ObamaCare, or lament a lack of understanding on the part of east coast liberals.  It’s simply a common sense and practical real-world viewpoint and recommendation in the context of the world we live in, and what, in all likelihood, the world will look like five or ten years from now.

While I think Jack’s message succinctly encapsulates this message better than any statistic, this is clearly a topic that has received considerable attention of late, particularly in the context of long-term underemployment.  The oft brusque Mayor Bloomberg caught heat recently for saying that people should consider skipping college to be a plumber or to master another in-demand skill or craft.  The statistics (taken from Richard Vedder’s excellent essay on the subject), it seems, are very much in Bloomberg’s (and Jack’s) favor, particularly for those that do not excel at a handful of elite colleges and universities:

  • 48% of employed U.S. college graduates are in jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests requires less than a four-year college education.
  • 33% of college graduates said they did not feel that college had fully prepared them for the working world, and 55% said they’d choose a different school or a different major if they could do it again.
  • Youth unemployment is at its highest level since WW2; not to mention 35% of Millennials – those born in the 80s or 90s – still live with their parents.
  • 32% of graduates from the past two years reported a current salary of less than $25k.
  • The average student debt has doubled in the last 10 years, to $40k, and it’s only going in one direction.
  • And considering that 45% of those entering college fail to graduate within six years, why do too many kids even bother?

Most amazingly, only 30 million jobs exist in America that require a college education, and there are currently more than 60 million Americans with a college degree.  Furthermore, over the next 7 years, the number of Americans with a Bachelors Degree is projected to increase by 30% (19 million), while the number of jobs requiring a college degree by only 14% (7 million).

“LinkedIn is the of the underemployed.”@GSElevator

Hence, more and more college graduates are crowding out High School graduates in traditionally blue-collar, low-skilled jobs – working in The Gap, at Starbucks, or as a bartender.

A great way of articulating this:

“Suppose in 1970, a bar owner advertised for a bartender and received 15 applicants, most or all of whom had high school diplomas.  He would most likely choose the bartender on criteria unrelated to educational credentials.  Suppose today, another bar owner likewise advertises for a bartender, and also gets 15 applicants, but four have bachelor’s degrees.  The owner, to minimize time and resources devoted to interviewing a long line of applicants, might restrict interviews to the four holders of degrees, since it is likely a priori that these persons will on average be a little smarter, a little more reliable, etc., than the other applicants.  Education, heretofore not much of a screening device, has become one in terms of hiring the most qualified person for jobs for which skill requirements are relatively modest and learned on the job quickly.  The existence of an ample supply of college graduate bartenders has created a demand for them.”[i]

From this, one might conclude that a college degree is necessary now more than ever, just to compete for jobs that traditionally would not require a college degree.  This logic is fine if you want to be a college-educated barista or bartender.

“Thanks to the economic crisis, bartending got upgraded from a job to a career.” – @GSElevator

As has clearly been stated and supported statistically, a technical degree is likely to be more financially valuable than a liberal arts degree – both today, and in all likelihood, ten years from now.  Some of the fastest growing job categories are currently in middle-skill positions that do not require a four-year education.  Plumber, nurse, electrician, real estate broker, air-traffic controller – the list goes on and on…

Study for four years, rack up tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and then struggle to find meaningful employment… Or very quickly become an electrician, nurse, or plumber.  Can you say opportunity cost?  The 2012 median pay for plumbers was almost $49,000, while the median pay for all occupations was slightly more than $33,000.  Moreover, the top 10% of plumbers earn more than $79,000, and the job segment is projected to grow 26% through 2020, with new construction and a wave of baby boomer retirements among older plumbers spurring employment.

Shouldn’t we be telling our average students to start a career as a plumber, and aim to one day own a fleet of plumbing trucks?

We can expect that, over time, market forces will solve the problem.  But in the meantime, people need to wake up.  This naïve, elitist  “college for all” dream is the simply the wrong mantra.  Its wrong for the individuals chasing this dream, and it’s wrong for America.  We need to be talking about “appropriate skills for all” instead.

[i] Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe, Why Are Recent College Graduates Underemployed? University and Labor-Market Realities (Center for College Affordability and Productivity, 2013) pp. 8

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How to Survive a Sporting Event with Your Boss

As a follow-up to my recent piece, Tips for Summer Interns of 2013, I have been asked to provide pearls of wisdom on surviving a sporting event with your boss.

As an international bon vivant, hopefully I have put something in here for everyone – well almost everyone.  If you’re going to a hockey game, it’s time to look for a new boss because it means he’s at the bottom of the food chain and there’s no point hitching your wagon to that star.  Regular season hockey games are for analysts and shitty brothers-in-law.  On a trading floor, it’s almost impossible to even give the tickets away.  But then again, we work in legitimate cities with real sports.  So if you are in Detroit, feel free to disregard.  But if that’s the case, you need a completely different set of survival tips right about now anyway.

Going to a sporting event with your boss (and presumably clients and colleagues) is a complicated, nuanced, and often conflicting minefield to navigate.  If it was so easy, then everybody would work at Goldman Sachs.

To the point:

1)    If it’s a weeknight, wear what you wore to the office.  If you show up in skinny jeans, you’re obviously not busy enough.  If you are at a Miami Heat game, wear whatever you want because you don’t have a respectable, IRS-abiding job anyway.

2)    No photos. No tweets. No Facebook posts. Act like you’ve been there before.

3)    Bring a date, but not if she’s needy or insecure.  (Odds are that she is.)  First of all, most girls aren’t huge sports fans to begin with.  But more importantly, she’s going to feel like a 3rd wheel when you’re talking with clients, colleagues, or your boss.  And if you prioritize coddling her, you are going to look like an unprofessional, pussy-whipped dickhead.

4)    Stop checking your Blackberry. You both know that your boss is more important than you are, so if he’s not checking his, why the hell do you need to check yours?  It can wait.

5)    Don’t wear a jersey… unless it’s a fútbol match.

6)    If it’s a big game, and you’re on club/box level, do a lap. You never know who you might see… unless it’s a Mets game; no one gives a fuck about Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann.

7)    If a work rival is there, get him wasted and convince him that the drinks girl working the suite wants to bang him.

8)    Remember, in 50 years, no one will watch baseball.  It was invented when there was absolutely nothing else to do.  So be mentally prepared to make 4 hours of conversation.

9)    While passion is a good thing, if you didn’t have a poster above your bunk bed as a kid, stay neutral.  No one likes a poser, and only Asian kids can get away with conveniently being ‘diehard’ Manchester United or New York Yankees fans.

10)If it’s a cricket match (The Ashes?), don’t go unless you understand the sport.  Chances are, if your boss is there, he loves it.  And not even Meryl Streep could pretend to enjoy that sport.

11)Clients come first. Keep it professional. Usually, they leave early, and if they don’t, it means they have a free pass for the night.  In which case, you are required to show them a good time.  Don’t bother saving the Flashdancers receipt (Matt Defusco?); just expense the next three “date nights” at Jean-Georges.

12)Bring a joke. But don’t use it unless someone else tells a joke first.

13)Don’t be a sports douche.  Nothing is worse than canned, feigned sports knowledge. “Lampard saved the day, but I still don’t understand why Mourinho went with the 4-4-2.”  Fuck off.

14)If you’re at Wimbledon, do not drink Pimm’s. You don’t want to be that guy who passes out on the tube home with grass stains on his trousers.

15)If there’s a good-looking girl, get her drunk, preferably on Pimm’s.

16)Talk about work when prompted, but otherwise, this is a chance to showcase your personality and find a connection.  Seriously, it’s not that hard: travel, cars, wine, family, and sports. But drop the wannabe trader-speak and avoid saying “yours” every time some douchebag (Vinay Jayaram?) mentions Duke.

17)If you are the office rock star, wear the latest outfit from the John Daly collection.  When you get to Arthur Ashe Stadium, tell everyone you thought it was the US Open at Bethpage.

18)If you don’t have a girlfriend, bring one of the Puerto Rican secretaries as your date. If you have coke, don’t share it with her until after the match, or she’ll start talking about how much she likes anal sex in front of your boss’ wife.

19)Don’t forget to tell any work rivals that “everyone is going to Wiggles in Rego Park after Serena loses.” – Google it or ask Shahryar Mahbub.

20)Most importantly, your boss is always the benchmark of depravity.  If he’s sitting in first class on the plane to Hell, make sure you’re in the cockpit.

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