The Businessman and the Barman

The Businessman and the Barman

The Businessman and the Barman

Imagine there are two cousins, Steve (Esteban), and Charlie (Carlos). They both move to the US from Latin America when they are teenagers. Steve’s family is comparatively well off, and they send him to a four year school, then back for his MBA, and he gets a job in corporate America. Charlie has more trouble, his family isn’t as well off, and his father falls ill, To support the family, Charlie enrolls in a bartending school, and after a few weeks, starts working in a bar.

Over the years Steve has a steady income, a car, a mortgage, and health insurance. He works in the same office everyday, he knows and likes his boss and his co-workers. He feels secure. Charlie works many different jobs, sometimes working 3 or 4 at the same time. He works in nightclubs and dive bars when he’s younger, and slowly gravitates to steakhouses and wine bars. Throughout he works private parties and catering events. On some nights he’s made as little as $75. On other nights, like the one where the rock star he didn’t recognize but treated very well left him a $500 tip, he’s made over $1000. His income varies tremendously, but in general, he makes about as much money as Steve. He pays for his insurance sometimes, and sometimes the hotel or bar he’s working in covers it. he envies the stability and comfort of Steve’s life. In fact, Charlie’s life is much more secure than Steve’s.

When both cousins are 50 the economy takes a turn for the worse. They both lose their jobs. Charlie, who had two jobs to begin with, quickly finds a few shifts at a previous job to pick up the slack. Steve has much more difficulty finding a job in his field, he is told there are no positions or that he is overqualified. He walks out of interview offices, and sees that he is interviewing against a fleet of new 28 year old MBAs. He is disposable. Charlie can keep bartending into his 90s, like Angelo Cammarata, who famously retired at 95, to pass the time and stay active. Steve’s career is effectively over.

Charlie entered a profession where there was variance, volatility, and a lack of job security. He adapted. Steve entered a profession where there was false job security, and false stability. He adapted. Charlie’s money came from many sources, Steve’s came from one.

Which cousin are you more like?

Adapted from Nissan Taleb’s Antifragile