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Humility

By Financial Leadership, Humility No Comments

At Scholars of Finance, we have six core values that are at the center of what we teach: Integrity, Compassion, Humility, Curiosity, Impact, and Courage. Each month, our members vote on the “Value of the Month”, which helps focus our discussions on topics pertinent to that value.

Humility was our value for May and we spent a lot of time thinking and talking about it as a community, so I wanted to share some thoughts on this value as we enter the summer. Here are our epithet and principles for Humility:

Humility

Know thyself

  • Serve a purpose greater than yourself
  • Cultivate gratitude for what you have 
  • Recognize both your strengths and limitations
  • Ask for and share honest feedback regularly

In today’s society, “Humility” is often synonymous with “Modesty”. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, Humility is “the state of being humble.” Both it and humble have their origin in the Latin word “humilis”, meaning “low.” The definition of “humble”, in the dictionary, is “not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive”. Many people think it means having a “low” opinion of oneself – that it is the opposite of “arrogance”.

The Scholars of Finance view of humility, however, which we have been taught by our mentors and leading thinkers, philosophers, and spiritual teachers, actually places humility at the center of a spectrum between modesty and arrogance. It’s not thinking too highly or too lowly of oneself. That said, we believe humility can be summed up in two practical ways: 

  1. Accurate self-appraisal; and 
  2. Overcoming our ego. 

David Brooks captures both points beautifully in his book The Road to Character, when he writes, “Humility is accurate self-awareness from a distance. It is moving over the course of one’s life from the adolescent’s close up view of yourself, in which you fill the whole canvas, to a landscape view in which you see from a wider perspective, your strengths and weakness, your connection and dependencies, and the role you play in a larger story”. We view humility as overcoming our ego so we know the truth about ourselves holistically. I’ll unpack this using our epithet and principles.

Know thyself

In order to know ourselves, we need to see ourselves clearly. Our egos can be fragile, and fragile self-perception often gets in our way in life. 

When we read David Brooks’ writing, we see a few ways in which it is difficult for us to know ourselves. It is difficult to face our strengths and our weaknesses. We hear people say they are “self-made”, having difficulty acknowledging how everyone in their lives leading up to that point played some role in who they are now. Often, when we see “the role we play in a larger story” it can throw some of us into an existential crisis, facing how infinitesimal our lives may be in the grand scheme of things – in a world of eight billion people and in thousands of years of recorded history. 

The principles of Humility outline four critical components of a “system” that helps us to know ourselves, empowering us to overcome all of these potential obstacles. 

Serve a purpose greater than yourself 

To diminish the ego, we need to work against self-centered tendencies. The primary way we can do this is by focusing on serving a purpose greater than ourselves so our daily life is not “all about me”. Doing so keeps us focused on the bigger picture, so we don’t become self-obsessed or begin to think we are the center of the universe. When we focus on ourselves too much it can feed our egos. Conversely, a focus on others reinforces altruism and selflessness. It is the antidote in (and through) action. 

Cultivate gratitude for what you have

Greed, as we often discuss, is one of the largest risks to our character that we face in the finance industry, and the cause of many of the problems in the system we have seen throughout history. We do not believe “Greed is good”. Greed is thinking “I need more” or “I don’t have enough”, when we have more than we actually require. On the contrary, Gratitude is feeling, thinking, and/or knowing “I am content with what I have” or “I have enough”. Gratitude empowers us to experience contentment – this repels fear and anxiety, which can often be self-centric. Gratitude is our day-to-day shield against a relentless pursuit for more.

Recognize both your strengths and your limitations

Our ego – our sense of identity – often needs to protect itself, so we run from the less convenient realities about who we are. However, being open to even the hard truths about ourselves keeps us attuned to reality. Embracing these hard truths stops us from falling into a fragile-ego-protection trap, where we are blind ourselves to our own limitations. By recognizing both our strengths and limitations, it keeps us in the center of the spectrum we opened this post with and allows us to have an accurate sense of self. It ensures that we don’t become too modest or arrogant either. We have a full and balanced view of ourselves. 

Ask for and share honest feedback regularly

Lastly, we can only see a part of the picture of ourselves. Because we are an interdependent social species, how others perceive us is also important. While our self-esteem should be intrinsically sourced, others can and will often see strengths and limitations, realities about ourselves, that we won’t see on our own. They help us see blind spots and tell us how our behavior impacts others. By asking for and sharing feedback, it creates an environment where others will help us to stay in touch so our egos don’t blind us to difficult truths.

Conclusion

At Scholars of Finance, we need to take a wider perspective because of the impact investments have on the world. There are several truths about ourselves we need to remain constantly aware of. 

  • If we achieve our goal of instilling stewardship and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow, we will be managing billions of dollars one day and have great influence. We need to take this very seriously. 
  • We are in a culture and society that venerates wealth – in a system that has perpetuated increasingly divergent socio-economic disparity – and we can easily be influenced by our environment. 
  • Focusing on our own needs is healthy inasmuch as it equips us to be our best, but too much self-centric focus can stop us from seeing the bigger picture. In Wall Street, greed can easily creep in, slowly, gradually over time, almost imperceptibly, and can undermine our better intentions and desire to help others. 
  • Our success in finance can get to our heads, our egos get inflated as our sense of self swings toward arrogance, and we become more prone to selfish behavior, greed, and ethical lapses.

Preparing for those risks is at the core of our mission at SOF and Humility is a value that requires a lifetime of constant cultivation. We never “arrive”, we only constantly improve (sometimes face setbacks), and continue to develop humility. It’s a plant that needs to be watered regularly to grow and thrive. So, our community encourages you to test the four principles. 

As we begin to enter the summer season and many of you begin new internships, or for the investors reading, you prepare to close deals, go back to the office, and continue to advance your careers, we invite you to join us in thinking about how you are exemplifying humility in your life and work. 

  • Revisit your mission and values – are they bigger than yourself? Do you have them written down and does your greater purpose resonate and feel real and personal?
  • Express daily gratitude, whether it be alone, with friends, or even by asking people during gatherings, listing 5 things you’re grateful for every day.
  • Take an inventory of your strengths and your weaknesses, perhaps with 15 minutes of journaling time this week.
  • Ask 10 people in your life for 360 feedback. Find out what your mentors, family, friends, and other peers think about you holistically. 

Doing these things will help you play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses, will strengthen your relationships, and will help you to do more good and make a greater impact on people. And in the spirit of humility, these practices will help us know ourselves so that we can overcome ourselves and be true stewards. 

As we venture into June and our value of the month is “Curiosity”, I would love to hear what you learn. Feel free to reach out and share your thoughts or questions. At SOF our greater purpose is to inspire character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow. We’ve made progress but still have so much to learn. We would be grateful for your honest feedback.

Impact and Decision-Making: Analyzing the Economic Impact of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

By Financial Leadership, Humility, Impact No Comments

As an active member of Scholars of Finance, I have learned about the importance of having core values in decision-making and everyday life. One of our core values at Scholars of Finance and our Value of the Month for February was Impact. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, Congress recently passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. President Biden signed the bill on March 11th and it acts as another COVID-related stimulus that will impact the lives of American citizens and influence our economic trajectory.

On the surface, a bill intended to help others during a time of need sounds like it would receive bipartisan support after a year-long crisis. However, for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, that is not the case.

Primary Provisions

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 aims to address many issues ranging from unemployment, small business assistance, vaccine rollout, education, and a range of others including:

  • $1,400 direct payments for individuals making up to $75,000/year and couples making up to $150,000/year (being phased out at $80,000/year and $160,000/year)
  • An extension of $300/week in unemployment benefits up until September 6th
  • Household relief of up to $3,600 per child for families with children
  • $350B in state and local aid
  • $15B to assist small businesses through the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan Program
  • $125B in aid to K-12 schools to reopen
  • Tens of billions in funding for a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program
  • And many more

However, the bill sparked debate in Congress over the enacted shortcuts and its $1.9 trillion price tag.

Political Opposition

The road to legislation for the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was far from smooth. The bill faced opposition from Republicans and some Democrats citing their disapproval of Democrats’ use of the budget reconciliation process bypassing the Senate filibuster to pass the bill and its expensive nature. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has stated that the proposed stimulus is “wildly expensive” and “largely unrelated to the problem”. Jared Golden, a House Democrat from Maine, voted against the bill, defending his vote stating, “I won’t support trillions more in funding that is poorly targeted or in many cases not necessary at this moment in time”. The high cost of the bill has been the main issue Democrats faced in getting it passed, however, the bill received a lot of support from the Democratic party.

Democratic Support

Despite Republican opposition, most Democratic leaders voiced their support for the bill. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has described the bill as “The most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) also stated that the bill “Goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis.” Democrats who supported the bill cited its significance after a year-long crisis and as a preventative measure for the future.

Next Steps

On March 6th, the Senate passed its version of the bill – which did not include the initial $15/hr minimum wage proposal after it was struck down by the Senate Parliamentarian – in a party-line vote. Democrats then successfully passed the bill in the House with another primarily party-line vote on March 10th, and President Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday, March 11th. With the current round of unemployment benefits from December’s stimulus running out in the next couple of weeks, President Biden aims to “Get checks out the door starting this month to the Americans that so desperately need the help” in what will be the third round of stimulus checks since the pandemic started. 

The Effects on the Economy and Markets

With the economy still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that caused an economic shutdown about a year ago, the purpose of a stimulus such as this one is to accelerate economic and GDP growth to get the economy back on track. In addition to the stimulus bill, Chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell, stated that the Central Bank does not plan to raise interest rates (currently at a record low 0.25%) any time soon. However, the proposed stimulus coupled with a relaxed monetary policy from the Fed has raised some concern about inflation and its spillover effects into the bond and stock market. 

One voice of concern comes from Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. Summers recently stated in an Op-Ed article that “The proposed Biden stimulus is three times as large as the projected shortfall. Relative to the size of the gap being addressed, it is six times as large”. His article raises a cautionary warning of inflation which has been reflected in the rising yields of treasury bonds in recent weeks and a decline in tech stocks. However, Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman, responded by stating that the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered “A natural disaster than a normal recession,” and that any fiscal stimulus should be viewed as necessary “Disaster relief”. Krugman additionally argues that concerns over inflation are exaggerated, as stimulus checks are likely to be saved and not immediately spent, therefore providing consumers with stability and expanding their capabilities for future spending. 

On Wednesday, March 10th, the Dow Jones Index reached new highs breaking 32,000 showing signs of delight at the bill’s passage in the House, and continued to reach record-highs on Thursday. However, the effects of the stimulus on the economy will not be immediately observable. In the coming months, economists will be on the lookout for several indicators such as unemployment, treasury yields, inflation, vaccine rollout, and many others. Monitoring these trends will influence whether or not the Fed will have to take action and raise interest rates earlier than anticipated if inflation gets out of control.

Conclusion

Is a $1.9 trillion bill a necessary relief needed to provide citizens and the economy with the support they need, or should the inflationary concerns take precedence? As we have seen, it is up for debate. 

Nonetheless, as a member of Scholars of Finance, I know that my decisions impact those around me. Although they may not be as large-scale as those of politicians and financial leaders, having a values-based approach has undoubtedly helped guide my decision-making. Learning how to implement the values of Integrity, Compassion, Humility, Curiosity, and Courage into my decision-making has enabled me to achieve another core value — Impact. For politicians deciding on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, reflecting on their values and their responsibilities as public servants to citizens hopefully helped guide them in their decisions and best serve the country. By upholding the values of Curiosity and Compassion, politicians can seek to understand society’s needs and act accordingly. With Humility, they will be able to reflect upon the responsibilities they accepted and their role to serve on behalf of the greater good of all people. Through Courage and Integrity, they can build trust through honesty and speak up for what is right. Altogether, enabling them to have a positive Impact on the people they serve. As the world and society continue to evolve, I urge everyone to reflect on the impact they have had, wish to make, and the legacy they want to leave behind.

 

“I believe I have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on society.”

— Dr. Anthony Fauci

 

Sources: 

 

A Lesson in Curiosity, Humility, and Courage

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

Next to the entrance of every Sam’s Club nationwide is the consumer electronics section. In this section stands a sales representative dressed in a suit promoting the store’s latest deals. To adult shoppers, the consumer electronics department is their go-to place for discounted TVs on Black Friday or a new phone when a family member needs a replacement. For children, this section offers the most captivating gadgets to play with while parents complete their weekly grocery run. The consumer electronics department in Sam’s Club was my home last summer.

Like many high school graduates, I pursued a summer job in the months before heading to college. This opportunity was the ideal time for many of my classmates to earn some spending money from a stress-free retail or tutoring job. For my friends, my decision to sell DirecTV and AT&T plans for the summer was a complete mystery. I was an introvert; in the classroom, I did not draw attention to myself by jumping to answer questions. Every action I made was carefully calculated until I was sure I could succeed. The sales rep role was the complete opposite, as conversion rates averaged only 5%. Why would someone like me take a job that required me to seek out attention and rejection from disinterested shoppers? The answer was simple – I had never done it before. This split-second decision only took 5 minutes of courage, but it made a world of difference.

This display of courage led me to a week of sales training where I was taught to smile, laugh, make conversation, and recite a sales pitch. Too quickly came my first day “in the field.” I leaned against the phone display waiting for customers to pass the station. As they walked through the sliding doors, I straightened my blazer, stood up straight, and took a few steps forward. My heart pounded and I opened my mouth to greet them.

“Hi y’all, who’s your TV provider? We’re doing a promotion to–,” I was cut off by a quick wave of a hand and they turned brusquely away. My first rejection. Another one came a few minutes later. Then another. And another. I didn’t make a single deal that day, or even in the first week. I finished my week in the field dejected and began to echo the doubts of my classmates. I thought, “maybe my personality just wasn’t cut out for this role.”

Motivated by my less than satisfactory performance, however, I wanted to improve. My courage had allowed me to take the first step in stepping out of my comfort zone, but I needed to continue growing in that direction. To achieve this, I utilized humility and curiosity. I knew the bounds of which I still had yet to learn and sought the resources to do so. Over the course of the next two weeks, I arrived at weekly check-ins early and stayed later to work with senior executives. They threw every possible scenario at me while I practiced navigating client interactions. I also remained curious about each team member’s unique sales strategies and learned how to apply their sales “personas” to my own. As I improved my communication skills, I also gained confidence. My poor first week stemmed from being so focused on closing deals rather than genuinely engaging with customers. After overcoming this obstacle, I returned to the consumer electronics section with a newfound excitement. My goal would be to connect with people, and deals would come naturally.

Monday morning came around and I once again waited for the first customers to come through the sliding doors. Using a tone similar to that of talking with an old friend, I greeted, “Good morning, y’all, how are you doing?” The members started to talk about their day and I learned about their kids, gardens, and pets. Immediately, I noticed a difference in my sales. I had formed personal connections with customers and even if they did not need a TV or phone right then, they gave promises to return. My first day back, I closed two deals.

My experience as a DirecTV sales rep was a lesson on the importance of courage, humility, and curiosity, and it transformed my perspective on life. Although I still am an introvert, I learned to utilize courage and take risks in order to grow. In pursuing a role that starkly contrasted my personality, I broke through my own doubts that introversion made me unfit for a sales role. Today, I continue to seek opportunities to make genuine connections and meet new people with diverse perspectives. I also strive to help others, promote positivity, and remain humble and curious in each relationship, whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or mentors. It only takes five minutes of courage to venture beyond your comfort zone and exceed your limits, and I challenge all of you to find that moment. What’s something you’re afraid of that’s holding you back from where you want to go?

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

One of the earliest memories I have of life back in Ohio is shoveling mulch in the summer.  I could feel the oppressive rays of the sun persuading me to race back inside where I was promised cold, refreshing water, but my older brother always insisted we continued piling black mulch on top of the soil. 

“The faster we work, the sooner we get done,” he assured me. I wasn’t amused. The ache in my muscles did not care for his cliche captain obvious remarks. As I felt my skin cooking in the midwestern heat, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself: What’s the point?

It didn’t make sense to me; we would spend the better part of two days piling on at least 20 bags of mulch to cover the plot in the garden only for the wind to blow and the sky to rain, eroding all the mulch we worked so hard to place. Why were we spending so much time and putting so much work into something that could never last? Every summer we’d repeat the same cycle of buying mulch, piling it on, and waiting for it to blow away.

When I got a little bit older and was less afraid of questioning my parents, I asked them the question burning in my head for years: why? Why do we spend so much time and money on this? My mother gave me an answer that puzzled me.

“It looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment, it looks nice.” I could tell she did not put much thought into her response, as if it should have already been clear. Again, I was not amused. 

At that time, I was about 13 years old, I was still going through that annoying pre-teen phase, and my first reaction was well, why should I care? After all, if someone sees our yard and thinks it looks disheveled or horrible, that’s their own opinion. How should that affect me? But as I learned more, read more, and took more classes in high school, I started to realize that appearance isn’t vain. Appearance doesn’t have to be people-pleasing, and appearance at its base can serve a bigger purpose.

For instance, if you have ever seen me write with a pencil or pen, you’d know I have very neat handwriting, but it does come at a price: I write extremely slowly. Often, people would notice and comment that those perfect round letters aren’t worth the cost of my glacial writing pace. To them, this is just another ploy to gain approval from my instructors when I turn in a prim and proper paper. 

But they’re wrong. Though I’ll admit I did play the role of teacher’s pet from time to time, that was never the aim with my neat handwriting. Whenever I doll up my paper and worsen my writer’s callus, that is me putting on my gardening gloves and shoveling mulch. I’m putting that work in for my lawn, for my growth, for my plants.

And let me be clear– it’s not because I want to have the best lawn in the neighborhood or that I want my lawn to be the object of everybody’s envy. It’s simpler than that. It’s because after working for long hours over two days, I can have a sense of accomplishment. I can lean back, have a glass of water, and say it looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment and even if nobody sees, it’s okay– it still looks nice.

My challenge to all of you is to reject the idea that your accomplishments only matter if there is someone to congratulate you, to perceive you. Have the courage to say “no, I’m not trying to impress anybody but myself,” because, at the end of the day, the mulch is going to wash away anyway.

Finding The Leader Within

By Curiosity, Humility No Comments

“Um… I-” I stuttered as my interviewer raised his eyebrow at me. I felt the heat rising to my face slowly until words clumsily stumbled out of my mouth, barely coherent. It was transparent to the four upperclassmen in the room grilling me that I was grossly underprepared. The next hour crept by, each question stinging me harder than the latter. My lack of knowledge was apparent. Finally, the hour was up, my torture was over. I gathered my resume and stumbled out of the room, frustrated. It was the first month of business school and I was already struggling.

As the elevator lurched down to the lobby of Stern’s Tisch Hall and screeched to a halt, I held back my tears. How was it that I was so unprepared? Why did they expect me to know all these advanced questions for a club interview? What are technicals?These questions continually circled through my head, especially when listening to my friends detail their positive interview experiences later that day in the dining hall. They laughed, sharing the inside jokes and connections they had already made with their interviewers while I dejectedly slurped up my Jamba Juice smoothie through a drenched paper straw. It was clear to me that I had no idea what breaking into business, tech, or finance entailed. Going to Stern, I thought the next four years were going to be a piece of cake. I was going to learn everything I needed to in class, and magically secure my dream job, touting my business school’s name at every major firm. In an hour, my mindset shifted from overconfidence to anxiety. How was I going to get a job if I couldn’t even get into a club at Stern? What do I need to learn and by when? How does everyone already know everything?

The anxiety persisted throughout my first month of college. I had only applied to and got rejected from one club, and had no direction with how I should be developing myself professionally. I turned to LinkedIn, scouring upperclassmen profiles, figuring out how to get involved, remain proactive, and abate my consternation. One day, when I thought all hope was lost, I received a message from Trent Madill, Chief of Staff Intern, reaching out to me about an organization called Scholars of Finance and the opportunity to co-found an NYU chapter. Thinking it to be a spam message, I checked the link attached to see the legitimacy of the website. Shocked by its extensiveness, I messaged Trent back, indicating my interest. My interview was lined up within the week, and this time, I was determined to be overprepared. Reading through the key tenets of Scholars of Finance, I was instantly drawn to the mentorship aspect. I needed guidance on how to navigate the complex world of finance and all it had to offer.

As I sped through the interview and onboarding process, it became evident that Scholars of Finance was an organization that would prioritize my professional needs and growth. The open conversations I had with our CEO, Ross, and our National Management Interns, Jake, Trent, and Mason, all gave me a platform to pitch myself confidently to the organization while being candid about my struggles and lack of knowledge. As elections for the NYU chapter rolled around, I knew I wanted to become as involved as possible, so I ran for President and had the privilege of being elected. Unfortunately, I was under the impression that becoming elected would be the hardest part when in reality, the arduous challenges were yet to come.

Having had extensive leadership experience in high school, I anticipated I already knew everything there was to know about leading and managing people. However, my first month as President was a complete disaster. My inability to properly delegate work and empower others to complete it became painfully obvious. My Slack Direct Messages were filled with feedback from my fellow leadership team members explaining how they felt out of the loop and unable to actually complete any work, and as I took over major initiatives, I left little room for collaboration. As this continued, I quickly became bottlenecked by all the work I needed to complete, resulting in the poor organization and execution of our programs. It was only when I spoke candidly to Ross that he identified the underlying issue. “Leadership is not about doing everything yourself. It’s not about controlling or forcing others to do it either. The best leaders empower others to reach their full potential and don’t have to lift a finger themselves.” I cried as Ross continued (I wish I could say that was the first and last time), because, deep down, I knew he was right. I needed to grow and make a significant change for the sake of my chapter and co-leaders. And so, I consistently sought his feedback and implemented SoF’s philosophy of being slow to speak and quick to listen. Consequently, it did not become hard for the NYU chapter to grow and become one of the highest functioning and engaged chapters in the organization. All it took was a little guidance.

And so, Scholars of Finance made me realize true leadership and mentorship is not just about learning technical knowledge or professional development. It’s about investing in someone’s growth to make them the best possible version of themselves. Looking back on this year, I can confidently say that Scholars of Finance has made me a much better leader and manager while equipping me with the skills to continue my growth in the future.

 

— 

Shivi Chauhan is the President and one of the original Co-Founders of the New York University chapter. She is currently a freshman at NYU Stern majoring in Finance and Data Science with a minor in Public Policy and Management. Along with Scholars of Finance, Shivi is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer for the Stern Gould Standard, a Research Assistant in the Management and Organizations department through the Stern Program for Undergraduate Research, and she will be joining NYU’s premier raas team, NYU Raas Malai, this coming fall. In her free time, Shivi likes to learn new languages and cook with her family.

This Is It: The Most Important Lesson for Future Leaders of Finance

By Courage, Humility No Comments

If I could offer one piece of advice to millennial professionals in the finance industry who have never been through a bear market, much less an unfolding societal crisis like that caused by the COVID-19 virus, it would be this: Pay attention.

Extreme times reveal core values. Crises reveal character. This may be one of the single most important moments you will ever experience in your development as future leaders of our industry. Decades from now you will talk about this with your children and grandchildren, with the employees who will then be reporting to you, with the companies and businesses you will be running. The pandemic of 2020 will be one of the things that formed you as a professional and a person. 

Now is a time for heightened mindfulness. Pay attention to what you are feeling and how you’re reacting to situations. At work. At home. In the communities, you are a part of. What matters most to you amid the profound unfamiliarity and uncertainty and anxiety we are living with on a daily basis?

Watch the people you admire and respect. How are they behaving? My bet is that those rising to this occasion are radiating an outward-focused commitment to attending to and serving others, while at the same time, they seem centered and grounded. 

This is the secret to leading effectively in a crisis. You need to find the solid ground on which you can stand – stable, centered, strong. But that solid, stable ground has to be the conviction that your purpose, at times like these, isn’t to worry about yourself – it is to help others. To help real people in the real world with real problems. 

As I wrote in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008 – 2009, “The best way to make it through a crisis is to stop focusing on your own problems and start helping others with theirs.”

Learn that. Experience that. Live that. And you will have the most important thing you need to lead our industry through peak and valley cycles and crises in years to come. 

 

John Taft is the Vice Chairman of Baird. John is a current member of the Board of Advisors of Scholars of Finance, the former CEO of RBC Wealth Management, has served on the board of several Non-Profit Organizations, and is deeply committed to the prosperity of our communities. This blog post originally appeared on financeforthegreatergood.com.

Enduring the COVID-19 Quarantine

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility, Impact, Integrity No Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the world as a singular, integrated entity—one free of borders, restrictions, or individual nations. Rather, a massive unit of free-flowing thought, boundless inspiration, and limitless ideas. With our current circumstances, how could I not? No matter which corner of the Earth you hail from, you are likely to be one of billions stuck at home, battling similar feelings of concern, angst, or frustration toward the COVID-19 quarantine. However, looking past its overtly devastating impact and a tragic impediment to society, COVID-19 has left one particularly remarkable effect on the world—solidarity

A new degree of global awareness, one that is far too often lost in the hectic pace of everyday life, has been garnered by so many of us. For example, never have I found myself so engaged in the daily lives and feelings of those from Italy or China, who were initially afflicted the most dramatically. Never have I been so inspired by the collective voices of citizens singing from balconies, or videos of healthcare workers stripping their masks off in celebration of success. Never have I felt so in sync with the world or understood so clearly the nature of humanity—to suffer, and heal, as one.

Still, even with a firm grasp of the nature and severity of the situation, how are we going to get through this? As Scholars of Finance members, business students, and analytical enthusiasts, we are certainly accustomed to a level of unpredictability, but never before on this scale. How can we make the most of our time during the COVID-19 quarantine? In what ways can we harness growth and continue to build our personal and professional skillsets? While I am no expert, I am happy to share the number of ways I have been sustaining my productivity and sanity, plus a few more that might help you do the same.

First and foremost, while I have continued maintaining relationships that I have formed with professionals during my first semester at NYU Stern, I have also continued maintaining personal relationships. It is equally as important to check in on those who care about you and to be responsive. Allow your academic and professional roles to be principal in your life, but prioritize your friends and family just as carefully. From personal experience, when you have trouble balancing all of these different sectors of life, consider revisiting the Scholars of Finance core values—integrity, humility, curiosity, courage, and impact—to help guide your decisions.

Furthermore, it is very possible to excel in your academics. Following a relatively strict time schedule to complete your coursework, possibly one identical to your pre-quarantine schedule, deems itself a promising plan. Give yourself a structure. Consistency is key. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to change out of those pajamas you’ve worn for three days!

On a more professional note, it is unfortunate to hear that many summer internships have been canceled. However, there are a number of firms that are willing to accommodate internships digitally. In fact, just last week I interviewed for a firm that told me to expect the possibility of an online transition. Additionally, there is a multitude of online resources aimed at providing alternatives to those whose internships have been canceled: I’d recommend simply opening up your LinkedIn account, and I can guarantee that a number of these resources will pop up on your feed. If you’re having trouble, be sure to reach out to your established connections or create a post—you never know who might be able to help you. Luckily, interview prep, resume workshops, and career panels are still in abundance. Many companies are hosting live and interactive webinars, such as Wells Fargo’s 2020 Beyond College Webinar Series, and are committed to your success now more than ever.

With that, I hope a weight is lifted off your shoulders and you are able to find clarity in the transition to a digital academic/professional experience if it comes down to it. Again, it can be extremely beneficial to stay busy. Keep up with your coursework, continue advancing your professional skills, and maybe even pick up a new hobby—personally, I’m trying to learn Spanish!

To the extent that you can, try to mirror or slightly modify activities that helped you find success, and peace, before the days of the COVID-19 quarantine. In the midst of enormous chaos, it is vital that you keep stillness inside of you. Here at Scholars of Finance, there is a tremendous amount of support and guidance through all of this, so do not hesitate to reach out to a member or an executive should you feel lost or defeated—maybe even consider joining our organization in the future. Lean on your family, friends, and mentors as you see fit. It is difficult to overstate the tragedy and disturbance that COVID-19 has brought us, so please know that any fears or concerns you may have are valid, understood, and empathized with. Above all, stay positive and hopeful for the future—your own future, the future of the sick or less fortunate, the future of the economy, and the future of the cities you might call home. As not just a member of Scholars of Finance but a student at NYU Stern, I am incredibly hopeful and optimistic for the greatest city in the world (and others) to beat COVID-19 and to return just a little bit greater.

 

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Tony Ferrara is a member of Scholars of Finance and one of the original Co-Founders at New York University. Tony is currently a freshmen at New York University and is majoring in finance and sustainable business with a minor in public policy at the Stern School of Business.