All I Need to Know I Learned From the Collapse of Bear Stearns

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Back in March, we worried about the people of Bear Stearns. What would they do after the firm's collapse? Where would they live? How would they go on? Well, actually, that's a lie — we weren't worried about them, but they were worried about themselves. But anyway, the Times tells us today that plenty of them are doing fine. Better than fine! In fact, right now they are looking around at the carnage and thinking, "We are goddamn lucky bastards." Which you might take as a sign of how bad things really are. But don't be such a pessimist! The Survivors of Bear Stearns have had time to marinate in their failure, have gotten intimate with it, and they will tell you: If you can keep your head about you when all around you are losing theirs, you, too can make lemonade out of lemons. Maybe not a full glass, but a half-full one.

Take the story of Vincent Van Pelt, a London-based Bear executive who used the opportunity to broaden his horizons. Van Pelt was "so shaken by Bear’s collapse that he was receptive to an offer to move to Singapore, where he is now global head of equity derivatives and commodities for Standard Chartered. “If you’re some place for a long time, you just kind of get used to it,” he said. “This opened up our vistas.”

“The thing about investment banking is it’s so grueling that you are always daydreaming about going off and doing something interesting,” said former Bear investment banker Doug Pugliese. “Your heart is crying out, but your wallet is telling you there’s nothing else out there that is going to have this kind of payoff.” He opened up his vistas, too, by moving to a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. There, his heart presumably no longer cries, as even after losing all of his stock options he is far wealthier, smarter, and more attractive than everyone else.

And then there's Andy Neff, a twenty-year former technology analyst at Bear, who turned quite literally to religion. He has taken a year off to study the Talmud and other religious texts: “Is this comfortable? No, it’s really not comfortable, it’s disorienting,” he said. “But I find it unfortunate that people tend to focus on how much they lost. Coming out of every situation, you need to focus on what you have, not on what you lost.”

Idea: Someone should hire these people to go around and make motivational speeches to all of the folks still working at struggling financial institutions. You know, like they hire clowns to visit burn units and hospices and stuff. If you're up for it, call us, we'll take 10 percent and invest it all in Goldman.

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