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May 16, 2005

Comments


I only know one Chet-type person and he's a fundamentalist preacher. Your description of his personality is bang on the money--especialy the lack of contemplation and the over-weening ambition.

I hate Chet but I aspire to Chetdom.

Reason #4 is my downfall. Lots of pre-everything worrying. I lay awake at night chewing my wife's fingernails.

But I have a thin wife, who despite being roughly manicured, is wonderful. So, I'm happy, but not very well rested.


As always, the comment section on this post at DeLong's is worth reading.

I have an intuitive faith in markets, and a belief that price, at least at large numbers, somehow relates to value. However products and especially services can be more complicated than they appear. People who have six figures to invest:do they want a technocrat, or do they want a sharpie who will somehow charm or con their clients a profit? How do rich people think money is made?

"Chets" are of course the best of the best, and I haven't known any; but I have known salesmen of various levels and kinds, and to say they have a simple self-confidence is to slightly oversimplify. It is trite to say ambition masks insecurity and the need to constantly prove one's worth, but we all know successful people with incomprehensible flaws and vices. And then I have known successes who like high-ranking military officers are just close to perfect humans.

Myself, I am anti-social, don't understand salesmen, like to think I have never been "sold" anything. Also all my successes have been due to blind luck, and all my failures due to deep character flaws. I am not a Chet.

The critical importance of putting in hours at the office is understated by both you and Brad. At one point I was going to be an I-banker; i was a paralegal in NY waiting to get into an I=bank program and many of my friends were i-bankers. The hours they work are, by most measures, utterly crazy. All-nighters are common for the 20-somethings. 12-hour 6-day work weeks are common for everyone. Alcohol and drug abuse (cocaine) is rampant. Traveling great distances at a moment's notice for unspecified periods of time is also common, and utterly ruinous fo family life.

Business travel, btw, sucks. Hotel to conference room to hotel is fun once, and therefore just aggravating.

Chet succeeds because (a) he's smarter than he looks, and good at hiding it because you never embarrass the boss or client by being smarter than them, (b) willing to work utterly crushing hours in hopes of making f--- you money pretty young, (c) willing to gamble big sums of other people's money without be paralyzed by worry.

(to those who read the underlying links, and want to know just how close to being Chet i came, well, i went to Groton.)

Point #3 is huge.

There are a tremendous number of things to be done that just need someone to get them done. No big ideas, no great insights, just elbow grease. Bosses love it.

From personal experience, and to the aspiring Chets out there: do not -- do not -- be an ass to the folks in the mail or copy room.

Let me also include secretaries of every stripe in that category. And making friends with the cleaning staff has its rewards too. In fact, my general rule of thumb is to make nice with everyone "below" me in the nominal power scale; you cannot underestimate the importance of the people who actually do the work.

Traveling great distances at a moment's notice for unspecified periods of time is also common, and utterly ruinous fo family life....

Chet succeeds because (a) he's smarter than he looks, and good at hiding it because you never embarrass the boss or client by being smarter than them, (b) willing to work utterly crushing hours in hopes of making f--- you money pretty young, (c) willing to gamble big sums of other people's money without be paralyzed by worry.

This characterizes my brother, who is an investment banker, to a T. Politically, I might add, he voted for Kerry, who he regarded as an idiot but better than the alternative.

There are a tremendous number of things to be done that just need someone to get them done. No big ideas, no great insights, just elbow grease. Bosses love it.

The weird thing for me is that I have a rather nasty irregular sleep disorder that kicks in at the most random times. I quite literally can't show up, on a reliable basis, for morning classes, meetings, etc. What gets me through is the fact that a) I can occasionally do so when the need is absolutely pressing, and b) I can work like an absolute SOB in the afternoons, evenings and nights when other people are shutting down. Once they get past the fact that I can't do mornings, my bosses are always lavish in their praise for my hard work and reliability... which cracks the heck out of me, since I always think I'm unreliably slacking off.

(to those who read the underlying links, and want to know just how close to being Chet i came, well, i went to Groton.)

There's no shame in that; not everyone can go to Choate.

I've known plenty of Chets in my day and I'm very impressed with them. I couldn't be an investment banker. Indeed, I know this because I got rejected by one iBank and then realized we were mutually incompatible. Tall jocks from good schools are recruited for those places for a reason.

I was peripherally recruited by the i-banks, but (I think) only because I was a math major at an Ivy League school. I took one look at the kinds of people who were signing up for the interviews -- Chets all, whether man or woman -- and fled for the hills.

Choate? hrmph. how many presidents and cabinet secretaries have gone to THAT third-rate institution? ;)

[The degree to which new england boarding schools - which separate 13 year olds from their parents for months at a time and subject them to a lifestyle somewhat equivalent to being raised by grouchy wolves {aka upperclassmen} -- prepare the next generation of yuppies for the i-bank business is left as an exercise for someone less traumatized by the experience than i.]

Yet another advantage of being terminally odd: there has never been the slightest possibility of my being a Chet, so I was spared the temptation. But I have observed them from afar, and I think that while everything everyone has said is true, it is also true that Chets hire one another.

I echo the importance of being nice to support staff. And I'd add: it's good not to have an ego. That way you can allow everyone else's to rampage about and not lose anything that you, personally, value when they insist on being shown visible deference by everyone around them. If you think you need to throw your weight around (an overrated exercise, imho), you can approach the questions: when? and how much? and is it really necessary? in a cool dispassionate way, since you have no personal investment in it.

Choate? hrmph. how many presidents and cabinet secretaries have gone to THAT third-rate institution? ;)

JFK. Class of '34.

As one who spent 10 years as a paralegal before becoming a lawyer, my advice to young associates is NEVER, EVER, EVER underestimate how much good being nice to the paralegals and secretaries can do and how utterly awful your lives can be if the paralegals and secretaries don't like you. In any firm of 20 or more lawyers, your already horrible work hours can have 20-30 more hours a week added to them if you aren't liked by the staff. The good paralegals can always find something from a key partner that requires their attention if they don't like you and you won't be able to do anything about it on a regular basis. And heaven help you if the good secretaries don't like you.

Good article; Brad had me right up to As to why they're all Republicans. Seems like a pretty silly thing for a guy with with that kind of education to say.

As for me, I have to have both Chetlike and anti-Chetlike qualities. Sometimes information is best harvested from other people, rather than documents. In order to obtain that which can only be found between the ears of someone else, people-schmoozing qualities can be helpful. Other than that, I've always pretty much been the odd one out. I pretty much suck at starting up small-talk conversations, and am horrible at chatting up the opposite sex.

Mea cupla

So, you were quite a pair last night?

yeah, they work really hard. but sooo much harder than the guys and gals trying to make partner at Cadwalader? and *those* people are smart. no, you don't have to have opinions about Camus to be smart. I know smart people who never went to college at all. but, I would think that, other things being equal, being a math genius might help you make financial decisions--of some kinds. now, salesmanship, negotiating; I perfectly well see how Chet is good at this, and how it could be good to have some around the firm. but why so many? and why with the so much money? surely the toiling math dude at the back should be raking it in a bit more? finally, I am so fucking much fun at parties.

Chets are salesmen, and good salesmen get PAID, in every industry. There really isn't too much more to it than that - sales is hard, hard, hard, and nobody at a law firm or an investment bank has anything to work all night ON if the salesmen aren't out there Chetting it up. There are, for example, lots of Chet superpartners out there who are not really known for being spectacular lawyers, but who have HUGE books of business, and spin it off to non-Chet underlings like me. When the client is in town, I come down to the conference room, Chet introduces me, and maybe a couple of others as "the A team" that's going to win the client's case for him, I shake a hand and smile; the client bullshits with me for a few minutes about the case, or the inexplicable success of the Expotionals, or whatever, then heads off to Kinkeads with Chet, while I go back to work. Now, I don't know where Chet met this guy, or how this guy came to entrust Chet with a litigation that has by now run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I literally have no idea. Knowing Chet, I certainly wouldn't do that. And, to be honest, I really don't like Chet. And I know that Chet is himself quite a miserable fellow, on wife #3, and aging poorly. But I work extremely hard to make him look good. It's an odd thing, Chetdom.

And oh, jeez yes, god absolutely, if you are an ass to the paralegals you are dead. Hint - a good 40-year old professional paralegal who is not just marking time before law school is worth MUCH MUCH more to a busy partner than a 1st or 2nd year associate, no matter what your paycheck and billing rate says. Don't believe me? Well, okay. Good luck in your new firm.

Don't know a lot (perhaps any) Chets, but I do know that intelligence comes in a lot of different packages and some people who can do X very well are simply unable to do Y. We don't usually notice this is the course of things because very seldom are jobs in our modern society mission critical. I think it was in Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogy that he quoted how people assigned to one level of responsibility would be utterly worthless at the next level, while people who were hopeless at one level would blossom when given command. Having worked in a ammuntion factory for 6 months (an education in itself) I realized that there were guys in the world who barely got out of high school who could think with their hands in a way that amazed and chastened me.

A similar situation occurs here. Many of my Japanese colleagues complain that students have gotten dumber, but I suggest that they know that the work that they do at university really doesn't matter, and so they avoid it like the plague. This indicates a higher sort of intelligence to me. Needless to say, my colleagues remain unconvinced.

Chets hire one another

Yes. And promote those that most mirror them. (Remember the sage adviec, "dress like your boss" -- but never out-dress him)

So, you were quite a pair last night?

Ha!

I knew lots of Chets (or rainmakers, as we used to call them), and long ago decided not to be one. The problem with being a Chet is that in order to be successful at it, you need to have a resevoir of people willing to hire you (and not someone else in your field) for the service they need. Unfortunately, the way to get that is typically from 1 or more of the following ways:

1. have family who need the type of services you perform.

2. have friends who need the type of services you perform.

3. have a long track record of getting good results for your client (almost impossible for a new professional to have).

If 1 and 2 are not the case when you start out in your profession (as was the case for me, and likely most people who are not "old money", which is likely why DeLong thinks of Chets as primarily Republicans), the primary open course is to cultivate as your friends people who will need your services. I was and remain unwilling to choose my friends on this criteria, and therefore am much happier working as an in-house attorney, where being a Chet is not as important.

Totally agree on the importance of being nice to your staff.

I was and remain unwilling to choose my friends on this criteria...

Amen, brother.

I've been in sales (ICT systems to government) and it is not my thing. Money was nice, I made my target and got the bonustrip to Brasil, but the selling itself is not my thing.
My conclusion was that the 'Chets' like to play a role, they see life as a roleplaying game, which gives them a certain kind of detachment that I do not have. Or want to have. I am more of a nerd, and nerds are not Chets ;-)

I allready linked to this article once I think, in the discussion about Sebs grouppsychology theory, but it is worthwile in this context too. If you are not a Chet, than maybe you have to conclude that you do not want to be one.

Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests?

Dutchmarbel
Mad props for that link. It has a Japanese translation at the bottom!

"From personal experience, and to the aspiring Chets out there: do not -- do not -- be an ass to the folks in the mail or copy room. "

As I mentioned on DeLong's post, I have a brother who is an i-banker, but far from being a Chet--not only smarter than I, but more intellectual in the opinions-about-Camus sense. (Oh, and richer, too).

Anyhow--I remember some years ago he told me he was contemplating a sci-fi novel of office-politics and backroom backstabbing, kind of Tom Wolfe meets Jules Verne, to be called Descent into the Mailroom.

Amazing link there, dutchmarbel. I'm going to have spend several hours deciding who to forward it to (including possibly my students from this semester, most of whom are/were freshman).

which is likely why DeLong thinks of Chets as primarily Republicans

Interesting. So, can I conclude that there's some data out there correlating "old money" with political affiliation, and that Delong's analyzed it? Just curious.

Chets like and hire other Chets, and non-Chets often avoid Chets or the fields dominated by Chets.

Chets are also willing to work long hours for the sake of being sucessful (& wealthy, but I think it's almost more about the status than the stuff...if it were just hedonic/materialistic apart from status--they're spending way too much time acquiring stuff & not enough enjoying it) as opposed to needing some additional motivation.

I am a great employee when I'm interested and really lousy when I'm not. In the Chet-dominated fields, I would be a lousy employee.

Katherine, i recommend not telling future employers about how lousy an employee you are when not interested. virtually every entry-level legal job i can think of, be it public or private, has a tremendous amount of grunt work associated with it.

(get it? "associated"? i tell ya, sometimes i just kill myself.)

(sigh. i really need (a) a life, (b) a vacation, and (c) some sleep.)

Okay, now I'm offended but I suppose I brought it on myself. For God sakes, I was making conversation...I've HAD jobs, including some jobs that involve more grunt work than my summer jobs' legal grunt work. (Cite checking is fascinating compared to some of the stuff I've done.) I know that. I didn't mean day to day and I only meant comparatively lousy.

I meant, if I haven't done anything that interested me in three weeks, my work is not as good as it would otherwise be.

"So, can I conclude that there's some data out there correlating "old money" with political affiliation, and that Delong's analyzed it? Just curious."

You are more than free to ask him yourself. There's a link in the left column.

"Okay, now I'm offended but I suppose I brought it on myself."

For what it's worth, Katherine, although I have no trouble understanding your reaction, my own read is that what you responded to there was merely intended as perfectly friendly advice, not as a statement of presumptive knowledge about you that you need take insult from.

Chet, my dear clueless friends, was on the lacrosse team at Choate and a member of The Ivy Club at Princeton. Chet steers good deals to his former teammates and club members and they steer deals to him. He sucks up to the guys who graduated a few years ahead of him and the guys younger suck up to him.

In investment banking a key element of success is having some people to trust and others to cheat. Chet has a network of people, in and out of his firm, that won't lie to him and that he won't lie to. The rest of the world, in or out of his firm, are suckers or sharks and he will lie to them and he expects them to lie to him.

People who were really smart at school but were not accepted into the important networks before entering the investment banking world are like teenage punks in prison. They get fucked.

JR:

a) watch the language, and
b) there are worse things in the world than being fornicated.

Chet, my dear clueless friends, was on the lacrosse team at Choate and a member of The Ivy Club at Princeton.

If you can get him drunk enough, one of my friends will confess that his proudest moment at Princeton was not his myriad academic nor extracurricular activities, but the fact that one night after he'd had too much to drink he took a leak on Ivy.

There were photographs.

The sad part? I'm not saying I'd've done it... but I sure wish I'd been there.

Slartibartfast, I think that the implication behind being a prison punk is that the fornication is non-consensual, and not enjoyed by the punk.

Slartibartfast, I think that the implication behind being a prison punk is that the fornication is non-consensual, and not enjoyed by the punk.

Barry, thanks for pointing out the painfully obvious. If you insist on taking me literally all of the time, you're going to be one bewildered fellow. But if you must belabor the point, nonconsensual fornication usually has a different set of words associated with it, so as not to be confused with the consensual sort.

If you insist on taking me literally all of the time, you're going to be one bewildered fellow.

Waitaminnit. You mean you're not actually a several-thousand-year-old fjord designer played like a somewhat drugged hippie by Bill Nighy? I'm so confuuuuuuuuuused!

tsk, tsk, Gary, ending a sentence with a preposition.

katherine, it was supposed to be a gentle tease, from someone who's practiced law going on 15 years. You have all the makings of a fine advocate.

"...tsk, tsk, Gary, ending a sentence with a preposition."

Absolutely. "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put." I know enough about grammar not to. We're not writing in Latin. I'll split infinitives, too, so best stand back. Check it out.

Since none of my fellow academics haven't pointed it out yet, I'll do it.

There are Chets in the academy, yes, but the most important lesson for any student, grad student, or professor at any level is...

The departmental secretary, not the chair, not the dean, is the One Who Makes Things Happen. He or she (more often she) knows all the stories and all the levers. So, ask about her photos, her family, her dog, her health, whatever it may be, but get on her good side. She's probably as smart as you are and has seen it all, so you need to be human, humble, honest, and communicative to get her to work her loophole-working power.

[/hard-learned lesson]

What is missing, or at best tacitly argued, is that Chet is somehow inauthentic, and that there is something wrong with that, and therefore by extension, Chetdom.

It is sadly, all to common, to confuse the merits of authenticity in one's personal life, with the value of it in one's professional life.

Authenticity, fairness, compassion, humility, and love, all have the potential to make us feel good about ourselves, but are not always adaptive or even necessary for success (read, survival in a system).

Rather, charm, guile, tenacity, and even ruthlessness are the kinds of adaptive skills and behaviors needed for the acquisition and maximization of scare or coveted resources.

Chet is because Chet begets Chet.

He who has gets.

Or in this case, he who has Chets.

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