Lately I was wondering if I underachieved greatly in life. I’ll share a very personal story, just as a warning in advance.
Current situation: 32 years old, together with my girlfriend since 7 years. We own an apartment since a couple of months, our savings rate is good, might start a family soon. Very good relationships with both of our families. I like my job as a private client advisor and the salary is decent (120k total comp this year). I’ll make further progress within the industry once I finish my Bachelors (Banking & Finance) degree next year. So all in all everything seems to be good.
Still I believe that I could have done so much more and do a much more meaningful and intelligence-demanding job than I’m doing now. I have a huge interest in chemistry, physics, engineering, space, tech…just everything what’s making our life better and further progresses our knowledge of the world. I watch a lot of videos from YT channels like ColdFusion, Cool Worlds, Everyday Astronaut, PBS Space Time, Practical Engineering, Primal Space, Real Engineering, RealLifeLore, Tom Scott, Veritasium, Vsauce and many more. I get everything from it, even the more complicated and confusing videos from PBS Space Time for example. So how did I end up in banking?
My early life wasn’t easy. Abusive father with alcohol addiction, very bad neighbourhood…just a lot of violence as a kid. I developed behavioural disorders very soon and had to go to the psychiatrist for many years. I was kicked out of 2 public schools before finishing the 7th grade. My brother (with even more problems than me) left home when he was 17. My future looked very dim at that point. I already lost a total of 3 years (due to repeating the same grade in different schools). I had to make an IQ test (where I scored 129) and got sent to a private school (paid by the state) to finish the mandatory school. Things started to get better from here on. No more bad friends, my father got his shit together (stopped drinking altogether) and my grades got better.
I managed to get into the Gymnasium after I finished the mandatory school. I ended up with very good final grades (6.0 in math, physics and chemistry). I chose advanced physics as supplementary subject (where I learned a lot about relativity and quantum physics). To be honest, getting those grades wasn’t even that hard, I barely had to study for it. Everything just made so much sense for me. I helped out others a lot too, some of them even visited me at home for private lessons. I had the luxury of spending most of my free time with playing games (usually with real-life friends online). Then I went to university and studied computational sciences and chemistry. I failed at both. I don’t know why, but my motivation just wasn’t high enough. I spent most of the time playing games instead of actually studying. I was probably so used to not really study for things and being good (from Gymnasium), that I just couldn’t manage to change that. At that point I basically lost 6 years (3 years in the mandatory school and 3 years going to university without getting a degree).
Looking for alternatives I got an internship in a Swiss bank, finished it and started working there. I developed a high interest in financials and got very good at my job. I progressed fast and doubled my total comp in those 5 years after the internship. In the meantime I started studying again and will finish my bachelors degree next year (live-stream university, nothing fancy). I got into the FIRE-movement 3.5 years ago and learned a lot about investing. My annual performance reviews got better year by year and I got the maximum evaluation for 2022 (roughly 5% of the employees). I was promoted too. My line manager and his line manager are thinking highly of me. So my future in this company looks very promising.
I try to look at it in a positive way. Life was far from easy for me, especially as a kid. I could have ended up in a very bad place today. So in the end I probably made the best out of it. But I’m still wondering: if I had grown up in a different family and a different place, would my path have looked completely different? Would I be an engineer today? Working for a aero space company or something like the ITER project? Did I waste my potential? Did I underachieve in life?
The reason I’m thinking about all that is because I checked out the Linkedin profile of a couple of people that went to the Gymnasium with me back then. Some of them have a really great career and finished with a Masters degree from universities like HSG or ETH in Zurich. The very people that I helped out back then.
Sorry for the long post. Looking forward to get some feedback.