Casey Gerald, author of “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” was the poster child for the American Dream. But as he climbed the social ladder, he saw how this hierarchical divide stifled those at the margins. In this interview with AFP President and CEO Jim Kaitz, Gerald discusses keeping a positive, but realistic mindset when faced with adversity, while challenging our preconceived notions of success. At AFP 2019, he will elaborate on these ideas even further in a special presentation.
AFP 2019, this October in Boston, is where treasury and finance professionals separate the hype from the reality. Visit www.afp2019.org/register to sign up and use discount code PODCASTAFP2019 at checkout to save $100.
Here are four key takeaways from the interview.
Do away with the dichotomy of the personal versus the professional. “In many ways, bifurcating those two creates some of the misery that we have in the world. So I'd start with that resume and, kind of, rip it up. Because I remember I went to business school and I had big plans. I said, ‘Oh, man, I want to work in a magazine. I want to do stuff that I'm excited about.’ And by the end of my first year, I had only applied to two jobs. I had applied to Bridgewater, the hedge fund, and I had applied to McKinsey. I had never had any interest in either of these places. But, the social pressures of what is a good resume were so strong. And, also, to be honest, you know, I said, ‘Oh, man, that's great money.’ So I said, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to pursue these opportunities.’
“I wound up getting a job at McKinsey for the summer. It was like putting a bad organ in my body. I was awful at the job, I was miserable at the job. And I remember, one day, in one of my last meetings I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can't get out of the bed.’ I have tremendous amount of respect for McKinsey. Most importantly I have respect for them because they fired me. The work for me did not align with things that I was good at, or passionate about.”
Get in touch with the preconditioned version of yourself. “I remember I went to TED in 2017, not to speak, but just to go. And the name tags said, ‘What is the future you?’ And some people were like, ‘Oh I want to be bionic, or I want to be on the moon.’ And on my name tag, I said, ‘The future me is five-year-old Casey.’ When I get in touch with the preconditioned Casey, when I get in touch with that kid who didn't care about any of the things that adult Casey cared about, I'm much closer to my truer self, the things that I really like to do, the ways of being that I really enjoy.”
Sometimes, “no” is the best option. “I was in New York, and I was 23 or 24. And I was working in this job and I was just miserable. I didn't have any money; I was making $3,000 a month. And so I was, like, ‘Oh man, if I quit this job, what am I going to do? How am I gonna live?" I was eatin' tuna fish, peanut butter, that-
“One day, I called a mentor of mine, who actually is a CFO, funny enough, Evelyn Henry Miller, down in Dallas. And I said, ‘Evelyn, I just don’t know what to do. I'm stuck.’ And I'll never forget, Evelyn said, ‘Well, Casey, sometimes it's not about knowing what you're going to do, it's about knowing what you're not going to do. And you're not doing this anymore. So you go in there tomorrow and you quit.’ And so that changed my life, because I never saw ‘no’ as an option. So much of my adult life has been learning what to say no to, and then trying to find the courage to say it sooner.
Think about what you would say or do if you had no fear. “The most important question that I ask myself and then ask other people is, ‘What would you do if you were not afraid?’ And in a lot of ways, the book [“There Will Be No Miracles Here”] was guided by that question, and I try to have my whole life guided by that question. If you really ask yourself, ‘What would I say if I were not afraid? Would I say, I hate my mother? Would I say I betrayed my friend?’ That's just a starting point, right? There's so many things that we feel so ashamed, so guilty, so afraid of saying or doing.
“All of that stuff... It's almost like turning on the light in the closet. You thought the big boogeyman was, 12,000 feet tall. It turns out to be just a little mouse. How do we right-size our fears? There’s something in your life that you're afraid to do or say. And the quicker you get better at doing it, the more fully realized you’re going to live.”
For more insights, check out the full interview below. And don’t miss Casey Gerald’s presentation at AFP 2019.