Ben Franklin Schumpeter VIII
My inspiration for this story came from this Youtube video, Subway Long Jump.
Jamon Cardom Smith was arrested two months ago at the Wall Street station for jumping the turnstile of the New York City Subway system and for not paying the subway fare. It was his fourth arrest this year for the crime. When questioned by Judge Wayne McDonald why an employed well paid stock broker like himself would jump the turnstile, Jamon replied, “Because it goes against my Wall Street training to pay for something that I can get for free.”
The minute he said it, Jamon knew he made a mistake. It was a snarky and too arrogant thing to say to a Judge. One should have expressed regret and contrition but those emotions are foreign to Wall Streeters. To the Wall Street sharks, regret and contrition for your sins is just blood in the water and you should be devoured by your peers for such weakness. Now he would pay for his stupidity.
Judge McDonald frowned on the answer and then delivered up his punishment, “It is clear from Mr. Smith’s multiple arrests that he is an aficionado of jumping. I therefore sentence him to enter the US Olympic Trials and to qualify for the High Jump event or to be remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections for a 30-day incarceration.” It was an unexpected punishment. When the law historians research the history of this case, they will be disappointed as Judge McDonald did not include in the case notes his reasons for this sentence. At most, historians could claim that it was a throwback to the days when judges ordered guilty defendants into the Army.
Jamon elected to accept the Judge’s leniency and to enter the Olympic trials. His only comment to the Court on his sentence was, “I hope to do my best and to represent the Country in an honorable way.” Yes, too late for regret and contrition.
So what if Jamon knew nothing about high jump? He would learn. The first step was to get to a bookstore to read up on high jump. There had to be a book by some former Olympic gold medalist. After all, that's what those guys did, write books about their athletic prowess, although nobody read them. Amend that, almost nobody read them. Jamon would read them and he was not a nobody. The book would explain the techniques and he would learn them. How hard could that be?
Hard work was Jamon’s normal. He worked hard at all his learning, his friendliness, his charm, for hours on hours, until he made it look natural and effortless. He made sure that he would always win, always beating his competition, by working harder than everyone else and then he still did not stop when he had surpassed them all. He knew that there was always someone better somewhere in the world, and when he met that person, he intended to win over them too. Sure, he would meet others who could best him in a narrow skill, after all, there are people like math or dancing geniuses and he certainly could not match them. But none -- and he meant that to be a capital NONE -- could match him at everything. Beat him at one skill and he would beat you at nine others. Learning high jump did not seem to be… a high hurdle.
Jamon had the body for athletics but he never took it up. Jamon preferred to spend his time on finance, economics and Wall Street internships. Sure athletes did made lots of money, some as much as 100 million a year but for how long? An athlete was good for ten years of high earnings on average. Jamon intended to make $100 million per year for the rest of his life and that life led to Wall Street. Apparently, that life also put him on the path to the Olympic high jump trials.
Jamon learned all about high jump. The key to high jump was to get your bottom (center of gravity in sport-speak) up and over the bar, then every other part would follow. Good thing he had a flat bottom. His flat bottom was a sore spot for him because he did not fill out his skinny jeans in that space as he would have liked. He though that girls preferred something more there. Now he appreciated his flat bottom. Perhaps he could improve his chances in the high jump with some surgery to make his bottom smaller still? Something to think about.
Now the question arose, how much practice time was needed? There is an idea in some places that one needs 10,000 hours of practice to become great at any task. Jamon did not want to believe this true, as that meant he could only be great some five years hence, and his trial was only months away. If he was to win, he would have to rely on his natural athletic talent as the Judge sarcastically claimed he possessed.
The next step was to think about a coach. In Jamon’s business, that of stockbroker and investment management, it is said that a broker who represented himself has a fool for a client or is it a fool for an investment adviser? It didn’t matter. Jamon was his own investment adviser and as far as he was concerned, he did better than anyone else would have done for him. Jamon did not feel the need for a coach. He had read the high jump books and knew what to do. It was only a matter of doing. If one wanted to play golf, just swing a club. If one wanted to run a marathon, just run. If one wanted to learn to high jump, just jump. In truth, it is easy to learn techniques. The difficulty came in repeatability -- can he do it ten times in a row to the same high level of skill?
He did need a coach as a separate pair of eyes to see what he was doing and what might need to change. So, he bought six cameras. He would record and play back his practice until he got the techniques textbook perfect.
Jamon’s plan went quite well except that he could not jump more than six feet ten inches. To win the trials, he needed to add at least six or seven more inches. In desperation, Jamon hired a coach to review his practice video. The coach’s analysis was simple: Jamon had great technique but he did not have the leg strength to power him upwards, leg strength that comes from many months of work outs, months he did not have. He would not win the high jump trials.
Jamon Cardom Smith, along with the crowd, applauded as the winner of the high jump trials ascended the podium to receive his gold medal. Jamon was disappointed, distressed, and angry. He hated the results of this event, for you see, he came in last place, twenty-nine of twenty-nine.
One could say that he was better at this event than everyone in the country but for the twenty-eight in front of him, but not everyone in the country was interested in this event. At least he was better than the thirtieth person, but that person was not here. So Jamon did not know who he was. Knowing the person, placing a face to the person, mattered; otherwise, that person may not exist and may turn out to be wishful thinking on his part. There may in reality be only twenty-nine participants in the whole country and that made him the one in last place.
Jamon had never finished last place in anything in his life. Not always first, but never ever last place. The ignominy of it! He was so irritated and angry that he contemplated quitting his job to take up high jump full time so that he would be there to win the next Olympic trials in four years. It was truly a dumb idea and he recognized it as so. Now, Jamon had to learn how to let go of his failure. He had to learn that there are tasks that will be unfinished and must stay that way and be replaced with other tasks of far more importance and he would not be a lesser man for it. Judge McDonald certainly knew what he was doing when he imposed this sentence.