The Johnny Carson Principle

On Monday, February 18th 2013, I did something interesting.

I tendered my resignation from Deutsche Bank. And even more unlike me, I did it with no job to go to.

This wasn’t a rash decision, but something I’ve been thinking about over the last few months. Ultimately it boiled down to a few important things.

Overall happiness. I haven’t found a lot of joy in my job recently, and that unhappiness began to leak into life outside of work which isn’t sustainable or acceptable to me in the long term.

Internal opportunity. Or lack there of; unfortunately due to both the ongoing crisis effecting the financial industry, combined with my relative isolation from the US/UK/Europe where most of the important roles are, there were no job opportunities in the short term or even on the horizon.

Career growth. I’ve been at Deutsche Bank for 8 years. That is a very reasonable commitment of time and effort to learn and grow, but I have lofty ambitions which will not be fulfilled by staying still.

Role entropy. While you are always learning (as I have mentioned previously), after being a Network Manager for 4 years I feel that I’ve learnt all I can within the confines of my remit.

Creative asphyxia. For better or worse, my job was largely not about creating new ideas and standards, but to be on the assembly line and fulfil pre-fabricated requests and initiatives. I’m a creative person and I want to get back into a place where I can make a real difference.

Succession. I hired someone in February 2012 who was always intended to be my successor, whether it was 6 months, 12 months, or 5 years after he started. I felt with everything else, and his outstanding performance to date, that it was time to step aside.

Leading by example. Whether you try to or not, you lead by example. Your team will pick up behaviours and attitudes from you, good or bad. I didn’t want my frustrations and grievances to affect them in the long term. My team deserves better than that.

But there’s also one other important element to my decision: in my 8 years I’ve always been regarded as a high performance, high value employee. Last year the head of IT in Japan called me a “Tier 1 VP”. And I want to be remembered that way; to leave a positive legacy and be held in high regard by peers and superiors.

Johnny Carson, who hosted the United States late night talk show “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” from 1962 to 1992, was TV royalty. He decision to retire was a major media event, and even at age 66 he was considered to be retiring prematurely. He told his crew, “Everything comes to an end; nothing lasts forever. Thirty years is enough. It’s time to get out while you’re still working on top of your game, while you’re still working well.”

When I gave my resignation letter to my manager, I thought of another Carson quote I heard many years ago. When he was being interviewed by the media after announcing his retirement, he was asked about his motivation to retire now. His response has stuck in my mind.

“I would rather be asked “why are you leaving?”, than be asked “why won’t you leave?”.”

So what’s next? I’ve decided that it is time to follow a long-time dream of mine, and find work in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area of California. I decided it was time to do something that I really wanted to do, that I feel will bring be better job satisfaction, better challenges, and will ultimately help my career in the long run.

Between now and mid April when I leave Deutsche Bank I will continue my search from Sydney, but my backup plan is to travel to the Bay Area and spend May/June continuing the search in person. I’ve also created a page where you can find my Resume and more information regarding my job search –

This is an exciting new chapter of my life, and the next few months will certainly be interesting. Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “The Johnny Carson Principle

  1. Hey Steve ,

    Nice to hear that, not many people can take that call. Best of luck in your future endeavors!


  2. Steven, well thought & said in words. Every point high lighted should be in the minds of any high performance & valued professional no matter what industry, business line or such. Those are ultimately the true points which people should have a strong think through time in and time out while progressing throughout their career. I’ve been honored to be a colleague w/the 3 years together at DB. I too have had experience quitting a job because I could not tolerate the environment & how badly an organization was functioning yet not securing the next job. It is high risk but I am sure with your skills as an individual will find you a place where you are satisfied & happy to begin your next chapter. I always in support of you.

    Kenneth Blanck

  3. All the best Steven. I look back fondly on the things I learnt in your team as a summer intern in 2010-11. All the best in the Silicon Valley.


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