Thursday, November 13, 2008

Explain that to me

Michael Lewis ( The End [of Wallstreet]
The second company for which Eisman was given sole responsibility was Lomas Financial, which had just emerged from bankruptcy. "I put a sell rating on the thing because it was a piece of shit," Eisman says. "I didn't know that you weren't supposed to put a sell rating on companies. I thought there were three boxes -- buy, hold, sell -- and you could pick the one you thought you should." He was pressured generally to be a bit more upbeat, but upbeat wasn't Steve Eisman's style. Upbeat and Eisman didn't occupy the same planet.

That is the kind of honesty and adherence to solid principles you should want in an employee. You should want an employee that is capable of examining the facts at hand and using his or her domain expertise to draw a reasonable conclusion. There is a lot of pressure, though, to be empathetic and to try to figure out what your boss or other superior expects for an answer to any given question, and then to give that answer.

Boss: How long is this project going to take?
Employee: About two months.
Boss: *furrowed brow*
Employee: About a month?
Boss: *furrowed brow*
Employee: Two weeks?
Boss: *smile* Great! Bye!

Both Daniel and Moses enjoyed, immensely, working with Steve Eisman. He put a fine point on the absurdity they saw everywhere around them. "Steve's fun to take to any Wall Street meeting," Daniel says. "Because he'll say 'Explain that to me' 30 different times. Or 'Could you explain that more, in English?' Because once you do that, there's a few things you learn. For a start, you figure out if they even know what they're talking about. And a lot of times, they don't!"

This guy is my new hero. My new phrase of choice is Can you explain that to me?


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