Transcript: Michael Lewis

 

The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Michael Lewis, Liar’s Poker 30 Years Later, is below.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

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Barry Ritholtz: This week on the podcast. What can I say? Michael Lewis author of so many amazing books starting with Liar’s poker, which just celebrated its 30 something anniversary and the audio rights reverted back to Louis. We have a fascinating conversation about that, about expertise, about his podcast. Really? What can you say? Michael Lewis is just a, one of a kinds. Everything he does is just absolutely fascinating. I really enjoyed this conversation and I think you will also with no further ado. My interview with Michael Lewis

My extra special guests this week, you know him, you love him. You’ve read all of his books, bestselling author, Michael Lewis. He has written so many seminal books, so many seminal tomes on wall street from Liar’s poker, the new new thing, the big short flash boys, the premonition on and on and on it goes, he is out with season three of his podcast against the rules. And he also created a series of short discussions about Liar’s poker, which celebrated its 30th anniversary. Right before the pandemic. You can get that either as an audio book, the print book, or listen to the audio companion that he’s put out on other people’s money. Michael Lewis, welcome back to Bloomberg.

Michael Lewis: Good to hear your voice.

Barry Ritholtz: Same here, same here. So for, for the people who may not be familiar with you, let, let’s just do a brief background. You graduate from Princeton and you head to wall street to make your fortune where you were pretty much rejected by everybody. Most notably Lehman brothers. Tell us a little bit about that experience.

Michael Lewis: Well, I was at that point I was a senior Princeton and everybody was showing up on odd days of school wearing a suit and going to the career services office and the interview with wall street firms. Cause that’s just what you did. And so this is what, 1981 82. And it was, it was kind of a new thing that, you know, half the class of Princeton wanted to go to wall street, but half the class person want to go to wall street. So I thought, well, I must want to go to wall street too. And I rolled into a few of those interviews, one with Lehman brothers, not even knowing really what wall street was. And I didn’t really understand why I was supposed to know what wall street was, but, but it was, you know, like, do you know the difference between a stock and a bond? No, I’m happy to learn kind of thing. And, and, but, but I was doing it not, I really, I kind of, it’s not, it’s probably too strong to say it was a Lark, but I just didn’t have anything better to do. So I thought, what the hell I’ll go, go to these interviews. And it was only later. So what, three years later after I’ve done a master’s at the London school of economics that I really accidentally fallen into a job at Solomon brothers.

Barry Ritholtz: And just to flesh this out at, at Princeton, you’re not taking economics or business courses, you,

Michael Lewis: That was an art history major. And I was an art history major, but that didn’t stop anybody. I mean, it was, I mean, that’s the beginning of the world. We’re still kind of living in today. I mean, I have a daughter who’s a junior in college and you know, a third of her class wants to go work in financial services where in financial services is a little different back then it really was very bank centric. It was Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, brothers, Solomon brothers, and so on. But it was, I mean, it was strange, right? I mean, everybody just takes it for granted. Now you don’t grow up learning the difference between a stock and a bond. You don’t grow up knowing what a difference between a commercial banker and an investment banker. That was a question that you had to have the answer to if you were interviewing for investment banks, because they really needed to be flattered that you knew the difference that investment bankers were like, you know, they were alpha dogs and the commercial bankers were nobodies.


Michael Lewis: You need to be able to explain that difference. So he did it. I can remember kind of cribbing for the thing. You’re getting the cliff notes from a friend who really cared about it. Like if they, what are they going to ask me? And what do I to say? And it was like, well, if they asked you about the difference between investment bankers and commercial bankers, you tell them that investment bankers drive Ferrari’s and in commercial bankers drive forwards kind of thing. And, and, and it was, but it was, it was so, I mean, shallow, it was, it was a shallow is having a quick conversation with a friend and then ducking into an interview with Lehman brothers to see if I could get away with it. And it wasn’t any genuine interest. Cause how could it be genuine interest? You had no idea what they did now. My insight was that this was true of the other, you know, 700 people in my class who were applying for these jobs too, that nobody knew what they did are almost nobody knew what they did. So everybody wanted to do it, even though they didn’t know what it was.

Barry Ritholtz: I found it really ironic that you got rejected by Lehman brothers who then come back into your life with the, the big short,

Michael Lewis: Well, I never really made that. I didn’t feel deeply embittered by being injected. What bothered me about the Lehman brothers interview and is in Liar’s poker. And I feel this to the day is that there were two people interviewing me. And one of them was a young woman. I really liked who was two years ahead of me at Princeton. And we were like pals on the Princeton campus. And she knew me well pretty well. And when I get into the interview, it’s like, she’s a different person. She’s like, we’ve never met. And if, I don’t know, if I can’t talk intelligently about stocks and bonds, she’d given me a cold stare, it’s created a really chilly environment. And I thought this is strange. It’s strange to do that with someone who you probably know well enough already to evaluate whether this person is going to fit in or not fit in, or be able to do the job or not do the job, or, you know, has anything going on between areas or doesn’t. And it, she, it was this really artificial things. She was in one of those at the time, the suits that women wore with a big boat build puffy bow tie. And, and I just thought, it’s just, it’s just, it’s just a really uncomfortable, socially uncomfortable. I did pick up. I don’t know, probably every kid picks us up when they’re moving from school life to work life. Just how, how, how artificial work life can be, how artificial it can seem. And, and that was, that was my first brush with it. And it was really an unsettling,

Barry Ritholtz: I couldn’t, I can imagine. So, so you, you don’t get by Lehman brothers, but eventually through a crazy story, you tell in Liar’s poker, you end up at what actually is the hottest farm in the world, Solomon brothers. How soon after you arrived at Solly, did you realize this is a really unusual place?

Michael Lewis: Well, I’ll tell you, I tell you two stories and you can decide which one is true. Cause I actually don’t remember, but the first story is I told myself, I thought I told myself, look, I know I want to be a writer, but no, one’s paying me to be a writer and are really, and you know, I can get $90 an article writing for the economist or the wall street journal up at page, or I can go take this job where huge piles of money. I can make some money and then figure out how to be a writer. I think that’s what was on my mind. And, but, but, but I walked in, I knew even before I walked into the place that it was a really interesting place. I mean, it was, if you just go back and look at how much at Solomon’s profits compared to the rest of wall street in say 19 83, 84, they made, it was like they made more money than all the rest of wall street.

Like it was just, you were, they were clearly in some other business, even if you didn’t know what it was, you’d say something weird is going on here. And I get there and it’s Rawkus, I mean, it’s crazy that the training program is a frat house that the trading floor isn’t even better for a house it’s, it’s intellectually stimulating. It’s actually the, the, the, the, the false kind of presentation of wall street at the time was that these investment bankers and the people in the investment banking department start out as analysts, then become associates and work their way up to vice presidents. And they’re always, they’re meeting with CEOs and they’re doing the M and a transaction and all that, that that’s where the actual intellectual life was. That if you were a really good student, that’s where you went. And if you really liked, just had greasy elbows, you went to the trading floor.

The truth was that the real intellectual work was being done on the trading floor. It was pricing these figuring out how to price and value and, and trade these, all these new complicated securities. And it was riveting. And also understanding how global markets were working. I mean, just, just there, all these new markets opening up everywhere and their relationships. It was far more intellectually stimulating than, than the stuffy stuff that was going on inside of the offices of the investment bankers. So instantly it’s like, wow, people are wild here. And wow, it’s actually intellectually interesting so that the training class, which goes on for five months or wherever it was was, was one of the best courses I’ve ever had in anything. It was absolutely riveting. And I sat there taking notes and asking questions and feeling like I was getting the world’s best survey course in how the financial system worked.

So I was, so the second story, so first is I’m gonna go make some money and then figure out how to be a writer, the second story. And you can decide whether this rings true or not. I have a friend who was in that training class, that first training class that I was in, his name was Keenan Damon. And he was an earnest young guy from Minnesota. And I, I never met him. I sat down next to him the first day of class, he says, and he, he says, I sat down and I said, Hey, who are you? And what are you here for? And he said, I’m Keenan, Damon. And I’m here because I want to sell mortgage bonds. And this is the place to sell mortgage bonds, which I thought was strange. Cause how would anyone know? They know one of the sell mortgage bonds, but anyway, and he said, he said to me, who are you?

And what are you here for? And according to him, I said, I’m Michael Lewis. And I’m here to write a book. Now I can’t believe I would have said that the, you know, the first day of class at Solomon brothers, but it is possible that I was already thinking this material so good that this is what I’m going to do. I’m I spend a few years here, write a book about it, but it was messy. It, cause I was kinda like, I got very engaged with it for awhile. If you’d asked me a year in what I was gonna do, I probably would’ve said I was going to stay five years.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so you also kept a, a diary during your days at Solomon brothers, that that might suggest that you had a book on the mine. When did you start keeping that diary?

Michael Lewis: Yeah. I’m not really a diary keeper, so that’s true. If I was, and I was keeping a diary, diary is a little strong. It wasn’t like, you know, I’m sad today. And cause my, my best friend said something mean to me. I didn’t do it. None of that stuff. It was, I was just recording what I saw and, and my thoughts about what I saw and by the, and, and, and by V I mean, I do remember that by the crash of 19 seven, when I just by chance was wandering around the New York trading floor. I worked in London, but I’d been flown back to New York. And if all hell was breaking loose, I wa I wandered around with a notebook out just writing everything down. And I knew that I was going to write about this. At that point, I left three months later, but I think that what I was doing was going, I was, I was still writing while I was there. I was going home at night and trying to publish, write magazine articles. So I think at the same time, I was just going to kind of keeping a record in my computer of what I was saying. And so that does suggest that at some point I realized this was material for me.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so you touch on so many things I have to ask first, good trade leaving Sali three months after the 87 crash. Was that, was that good timing?

Michael Lewis: Well, the timing wasn’t to the crash, the timing was to my bonus, which landed in the bank account at the end of January of 88. So I had to hold my breath until that money hit. At the end of 87, I already had a book contract. I didn’t sign it, but I’d already, I’d already sold an idea for a book and going in. And so at the end of January, I went in and told my employers that I was leaving this good trade. Well, if my literary career hadn’t worked out, I’d been catastrophic. I was, I was, it looked anyway, like I was gonna make a lot of money. Solomon brothers, I was paid. Then they told me I was gonna make a lot of money. And I tell you, there was a really funny moment. And this tells you something about the spirit of that moment.

It’s very different from now. It’s hard for people to believe that you would think, right. Anybody who was in like Goldman Sachs. Now we think there’s no way I can like walk out of Goldman Sachs and write a book about what I just saw. Goldman Sachs. They’re gonna assume me. I will have signed all these nondisclosure agreements. I’ll be discredited. Every which way. Actually, there were no non-disclosure agreements at Solomon brothers. There was I, when I told the bosses I was leaving, they took me, they took, these were very senior people. They took me into her room. I told them I was leaving. I was gonna write a book about wall street. I didn’t know what the book was going to look like exactly. But I said, I’m going to go write a book about wall street.

They didn’t say, oh, like what’s in the book. And don’t write about us. Nothing that was like that furthest from their minds. They were worried about my mental health. They were sincerely worried. It was really sweet. If you’re there, you just be thinking, these people really care about this young man. They really thought they said, look, you just made whatever a quarter of a million dollars. You probably gonna make twice that next year. They actually said, now this is probably BS. But they did say, we think you’re someone who might run the firm one day. And, and I was just like, wow, you know, this is so nice of them to care so much. And th and it was like, they just don’t do this. Like they said, wait, 10 years, wait, five years, you get rich. And then go write your books, which is also what my father said. And, and I said to them, I, you know, I just can’t. I just feel like I got to do this thing. And it was, but as a really sweet departure conversation, and they were just worried, they thought I was insane. So at the moment it looked like in the moment, it looked like a totally insane trade, but, but you know, when you’re 27 years old and you are full of passion and you think, you know what you want to do, I think you really, I think it’s smart to honor those feelings, right?

Feelings. I really had a, I mean, I had a head of steam. I had no real justification, but thinking that I was going to be a big success as a writer, but I had a head of steam.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so there are two points I have to, and it sort of annotate what you said first. I think it’s fair to say that Liar’s poker is to some large degree why Goldman Sachs has non-disclosure agreements. You kind of, you kind of force that on the rest of the street. I think that’s pretty fair.

Michael Lewis: [LAUGHTER] So I, I ruined it for everybody.

Barry Ritholtz: You did! Hey, listen, someone has to break the glass ceiling. And then secondly,

Michael Lewis: I usually end up on the bottom of the sea and concrete shoes. But yeah,

Barry Ritholtz: [LAUGHTER] But secondly, you had already published a column at the wall street journal while you were working at Sally that got you into trouble that had the most hilarious resolution. Tell us about the compromise that was reached when you published under your own name.

Michael Lewis: So this, you have to do a tiny bit of backstory. You need here. I, it was. So I was writing while I was there and things would get into print and maybe a year and a half into my journey there, I published an article on the op-ed page of the wall street journal, arguing that investment bankers were overpaid. And it said at the bottom, Michael Lewis was an associate at Solomon brothers in London. And, and I know, so this actually gets to you really kind of can’t believe the spirit of the thing, but I remember exactly how I felt. I was so excited. I was in the wall street journal. I thought when I came in the next day, like people would be slapping on the back on, wow, you got a piece of the charitable, all that I thought, I thought like, everybody’s gonna be happy for me.

And I roll in to the London office the next morning and Charlotte who I adored, who ran the whole Solomon brothers international and had been the one who hired me, was waiting at my desk, ashen faced. And he hadn’t slept. And he said, we’ve had meetings with like the board of directors overnight about your piece, because it’s being re apparent, gonna be reprinted all over the country. And people would talk about it. Clients are calling. And he said, he said, you can’t. I mean, my God, you create a crisis. And now you would think, oh, Michael you’re fired. There is the next line. But actually this is the backstory. I was in a very odd position I had at that point, the, maybe the second or third biggest customer of a whole firm who would speak only to me, it was, it was, it was a prodo hedge fund in London.

Jacob Rothschild was the, was the firm, but, and the guy who ran the money there thought it was amusing because I re I acknowledged to him how little I knew. He said, well, nobody knows anything. You aren’t gonna at least try to sell me stuff. As long as you don’t try to sell me stuff. He said, I’ll do my business through you. And he made me like the most successful salesman in, in, in, in the London office overnight, he was just channeling a huge volume through me and would refuse to like, speak with anyone else at the firm, including John Goodfriend the chairman, when he would show up in London, he’d say I only talked to Michael. So I had this situation where that guy, he was probably generating $10 million of profits for Solomon brothers. They weren’t going to fire me because of him. And so it was sort of like, how do we deal with this problem?

And the boss of all of the bosses was sitting there at my desk. And he said, I said, I’m not stopping writing. I that’s, you know, I made to do this. I’m going to do it. And he said, alright. He said, could we do, could you do it under it? Could you leave us out of it? I said, yeah, I’m sorry about that. And he said, he said, he said, could you use another name? And I said, well, how about if I use my mother’s maiden name? I don’t know why that popped into my head, but my mother’s maiden name was Diana Bleeker, Monroe, and Diana Bleeker. Monroe wrote several pieces, a couple for the new Republic, a couple for a magazine in London about Anne. And I’m still using the material around me. It was just disguised. And, and I would come the couple of times the new Republic ran pieces.

I’d come into the office or the evening they’d come out kind of thing that someone would fax them over to the one in the office. They would be reprinted a thousand times and all over the desk. And no one knew it was me who wrote them and they were, everybody was reading them. So I had market testing for this stuff before I wrote wires poker. I knew that people fought when I was writing about wall street was kind of funny and like on point, but that’s that. So I had a little literary career rolling alongside my, my career on the Solomon trading for, and because of this conversation with this guy.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so not a total leap of faith. You had an idea, Hey, I have some traction as, as a writer.

Michael Lewis: I just see, you know, it seemed to me when I published a couple of things I published that were about wall street, that everybody on wall street wanted to read them. And I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t know how big the audience was exactly, but I thought that was a good sign.

Barry Ritholtz: Really interesting – Season three of against the rules just dropped season one was about umpires and all the interesting things they go through. And how umpiring has changed. Season two was about coaching. Tell us a little bit about season three and experts. Why did you choose experts as a topic?

Michael Lewis: Well, so the idea is to pick some role in American life. So referees or coaches is very broadly defined like referees also regulators, for example, or, or, you know, are kind of people who are making, making calls about things and with experts. I, the key to the role is that it’d be important and it’d be a little volatile. And you’re asking the question like what’s happened to this role. And there are a couple of things about experts that got me into it. Well, one, I mean, just to hook it up to the wire’s poker, I have been bewildered by people’s willingness to accept other people as experts since I was on wall street. But when I was on the phone selling stuff to people and professional investors would take what I said seriously, when I knew, I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I, because I was at Solomon brothers, I was the expert. And so I, I got, so I think my interest actually dates back to that, to the, just how, how, how fuzzy the whole concept is. And then of course, like my whole literary career is based on finding true the best experts. I mean, it’s one way of looking at all the books. I find, I find people who actually know what’s going on, who you might not think are the people who know what’s going on. Certainly true. The big short Moneyball. I mean, it happens over and over

Barry Ritholtz: The Premonition.

Michael Lewis: Exactly. It’s if, if it’s surprising where you find the expert, I have found over and over again, and it’s often not the high status people. It’s often people who are buried away and no one knows who they are. And so I wind up writing whole books about people, characters that the world thinks are in the beginning, at least obscure until they make the movie about them, but they are obscure to begin with. And, and, but they’re, they shouldn’t be because they are the one who actually knows, say how you value a baseball player or how you should manage a pandemic, or what’s going on in some, in, in subprime mortgages in 2006. And so I, I think that’s another source of interest, but, but so that’s got that got me into it, but they’re all these questions that just seemed really worth exploring, starting with like the pandemic before the pandemic, w w the United States was like judged to be by far the most expert in managing pandemics of all countries on earth, but in a S in a survey that had been done and, you know, a year into it, we have, we have 4% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s deaths.

We clearly didn’t, whatever that expertise was. It didn’t quite work. And I, I kind of look at the world, I think over and over our country, I think over and over again, we’re demonstrating this very strange ability to generate expertise, to generate knowledge and not use it or not understand it or not identify it or not respected. So, so that gets me in, and, and the nature of the podcast is different from what you and I are doing, right. I mean, these are I’m writing film scripts episode is, is, is, I mean, it’s a pain in the ass. It’s every episode is

Barry Ritholtz: It’s work. It’s – What you do is work.

Michael Lewis: It’s like everyone takes me about as long as a long magazine article. Wow. I interviewed a whole bunch of people and try to make sense of some aspect of this problem and try to tell it as a story. And, and so the seven episodes, each one is a different story. And I mean, like the one that dropped this week to just give you just to get an idea of how it works. One that dropped this week is an attempt to make a kind of argument in story about why, about this paradox and the paradox. Is there all these fields where you can see expertise has improved, where they experts are getting better and better, but where people trust them less and less, or think they’re actually think they’re more, they’re wrong. I think less and less of them. So medicine is a really good example.

Nurses and doctors will tell you that for the last, you know, 15 years, they felt that they’re clearly more likely to help you than they were, you know, every day they’re learning stuff. And, and yet every day, the people who walk in their office are more likely to be armed with something from like web MD. They read that says, the doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And, but, but, you know, really so that’s complicated example, but it really simple example, that’s kind of fun. Talk to a really old weatherman. Someone who’s been a meteorologist on TV for the last say, 50 years as we did. And they’ll tell you that look 50 years ago by forecast is basically sticky, sticking my head out the window and seeing what the weather was that I, yeah, I could kind of do it kind of, okay. Two or three day forecast.

My 10 day forecast was just as good as guessing and know better. And I certainly couldn’t tell you like where wind tornadoes were going to happen and where they were going to hit. He, they can do all this stuff. Now. They can be very precise about extreme weather. Their 10 day forecasts are pretty good. Their three-day forecast their multiples more accurate than they used to be, but they used it. But they’ll also say we used to get on TV and speak with total certainty. Like Ron burgundy. We were like puffed up important, confident people. Now we speak because we understand, we really understand things. We’re kind of talking in terms of probabilities and uncertainties and we’re expressing uncertainty and the audience, the way the audience has responded is you like to doubt them more. Th the, the podcast is about how people don’t really think probabilistically.

And, and if you give them, if you tell them is a 20% chance of rain and it rains, they think you don’t know what you’re talking about. They don’t understand what that means. And so I think so much modern expertise. One answer to the question why, and the expertise is getting better and better, and why people understand it less and less is in the nature of the expertise. The expertise is very, it is probabilistic and data-based, and it’s, it’s, you know, in grand historic terms, data’s a relatively new phenomenon. And people really don’t understand when Nate silver says, you know, Hillary Clinton has a 77% chance of beating Donald Trump and Trump wins. They think Nate silver doesn’t know where he’s talking about. What they should say is, wow, Nate silver was actually a little more bullish on Trump than all the people on TV. And in his model, Trump won almost three out of 10 times. So it’s, it’s, it’s sort of exploring this phenomenon, this, this problem people have with problems with experts who talk in terms of probabilities

Barry Ritholtz: And you and I discussed this when we did the podcast after the undoing project, that if someone goes on TV and says something bold with a lot of confidence, they’re believed more by the audience and the person who comes out and says, well, you know, there’s a 60% chance this could happen. And there’s a probability that can happen. They’re perceived as wishy-washy

Michael Lewis: Not, not only does the person who expresses certainty, usually stupidly get believed. They’re much more likely to be on TV when the TV producer calls you up. If you say maybe this, and maybe that they just don’t invite you on TV, TV wants you to come on and be certain and bold and interesting. So it’s, it, it it’s screwy how we don’t. We should respect experts who express doubt if even in their own understanding of the world, far more than experts who seem really confident. That should be like, that should be the bias, not the opposite. And instead we re we were reward this phony certainty, this phony confidence. We think we think it is. We think it reflects a deep understanding. We sort of, we sort of get bluffed all the time at the poker table, instead of realizing that this is a bluff and the person, of course, oftentimes the person who is expressing total certainty thinks they’re right. It isn’t that they’re lying. It’s that they actually actually, they know they may know a little enough about what they’re talking about to sound certain about it

Barry Ritholtz: Often wrong, never in doubt,

Michael Lewis: [LAUGHTER] Often wrong, never in doubt.

Barry Ritholtz: There is a quote of yours from, I don’t remember if it was the first or second episode this season about how challenging it is to find the experts. And the line that you use is your job is to find the L six, explain what the Al sexes and, and this I specifically is the person who ends up saving thousands of lives via the coast guard, because he changes the way we look for missing boaters.

Michael Lewis: So those are you’re conflating two episodes here. Yeah. They all 6Ls — episode is about a woman, a woman who figures out how to get money out of insurance companies,

But put, you know, what, the it’s also true that the guy in the coast guard is an L six, six, and L six is six levels down in the organization. And this is an insight that I first heard from an entrepreneur named Todd park. And Todd park had, has created, I think, three different multi-billion dollar companies in the healthcare industry. And in addition, he was chief technology officer for the United States in the Obama administration. And Topbox said to me, and the story we tell in the first episode is his first company. And it’s the story of he’s trying to create a business where he makes pregnancy less dangerous, more pleasant for women and, and cuts the cost of catastrophic outcomes by basically caring for the mom better and buys a pregnancy clinic in San Diego. And it’s catastrophe because it’s catastrophe because one, the insurers won’t pay him to make pregnancy more pleasant.

And to the clinic itself, isn’t getting paid for the work it’s doing. And he realizes that the problem he really needs to solve is medical billing that all around the country, the insurance industry has gotten so complicated in how it responds to doctor’s claims that doctors aren’t getting paid any fines, Barry, in a basement, in a hospital in Boston, this woman who has mastered the complexity, but thousands of different insurance programs in the thousands of different permutations on the programs. And it’s just got a gift for getting paid, knowing how to handle the complexity, your name’s Sue Henderson. And he realized that like on the org chart of the hospital, she’s six levels down, but without her, the hospitals, but goes bankrupt and the hospital itself doesn’t fit. It doesn’t understand why its business is working. And Todd extrapolates from this and realizes that in big systems and big corporations and big agencies and government, that, that when there is a crisis, when there is a problem, and you’re looking for the expertise to solve the problem, to answer the question, it’s never at the top of the organization, it’s always some, someone low in the organization who has some specific knowledge.

And when you have, when you have an, a hierarchical organization, not a flat organization, that knowledge, the expertise has unbelievable difficulty in finding its way into the decision makers hands. And so Todd sets out to kind of build a career on this insight and they’re really spectacular results. He gets, he gets called in when, when Obamacare fails on the first day when the website crashes and it’s like, it’s like one of the, one of the catastrophes of the Obama presidency, right? He goes all the trouble of getting it, getting the thing passed. And, and now the website crashes Todd is I think at that point CTO of the country. And he knows, don’t ask the people who were a top ghost ghost go six levels down ass who understands how this software works. And he finally finds six levels down contractors for the government who, who can solve the problem, but over and over, he finds that, that you got to go to these people.

And so it, it, it raises like this bigger issue about expertise. I think when you live in a society that’s more or less equal where, where the person six levels down is not all that far away in status from the person at the top in pay in the way that people look at them and their sense of self-importance, there’s a freer flow of conversation information. It’s easier for the six to get what they know into the head of the L one. But when you live li live in an increasingly unequal society where the CEO is being paid, $30 million in the all sex is being paid 50,000 and is regarded as, you know, an interchangeable part it’s harder. And I think that part of our problem in unearthing expertise is a problem with inequality, but we, that we get it that only elliptically the story of this woman kind of coming in a completely unknown unsung person. And what’s in her head going into software and creating a multi-billion dollar company called Athena health is a spectacular story. And, and so that’s the first episode of the season.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so now you’re, you’re almost done with season three. How do you like the short of scripted podcast format that you’re doing? It seems a whole lot more collaborative than sitting alone and, and typing in your, your office in home.

Michael Lewis: It’s a perfect palate, cleanser cleanser between books, because it does a couple things. It is collaborative, it does work different muscles cause you’re writing for the ear rather than the eye. And the year is a more, it’s a more, it’s got it’s, it’s got a different emotional palette than the eye. It really responds differently to emotion it here, you hear the emotion in people’s voices, it rewards emotion. And so I like being pulled in that direction for the podcast. I love, I love the storytelling challenge of writing these scripts. I think it’s just really useful for me. It’s just a, it’s a different it’s, it’s it’s in some ways looser, some way it’s tighter than what happens with, with when I’m writing a book, but it’s, it is cross-training, it’s like working different muscles. So I really liked doing them. I wouldn’t want to just do them. I think alternating between books and podcasts, seasons is a really good thing is really good for me really healthy

Barry Ritholtz: A year ago, or barely a year ago, you released the premonition, a pandemic story, which was all about America’s history with pandemics and how well prepared we were for the coronavirus. So, so it’s been a year since the book has come out and probably two years, since you first sat down to start writing it, how do you think it’s held up in the ensuing decades?

Michael Lewis: Well, it was a story that was designed to hold up in this way that I knew that it ended in may of 2000, 2020 20. So it ended once it was clear that the United States had screwed up its response and that most of what comes before is characters kind of showing you why the response was going to be screwed up. So in that, and, and so it didn’t depend, it didn’t depend on anything after that. It really is. It was, the story was kind of over when I wrote it, which sounds strange because the pandemic’s not over the I’m disappointed with the, the, the effect of the book in that I thought I’d watched the big short have a very big effect. I don’t know it was exactly the right effect, but I thought that there was such an obvious response to the stories. It wasn’t, you know what I was saying, what the characters were saying, who were clearly the people among the people we should have been listening to going into the pandemic and that they were saying that the CDC has ceased to do what it, what you think it does.
00:37:31 It does not control disease. It, it, it observes and reports on disease. It’s not set up to be battlefield command in a pandemic. And so the first thing you do is create, is create something new that does respond to a pandemic and you acknowledge this. Isn’t what goes on in the CDC. And instead set is trying to pour more money into an, into the CDC that surprised me. I thought, I thought the book might stop such stuff from happening. So I’m kind of disappointed. I’m kind of disappointed in that the second and kind of this isn’t the fault of the book, but it’s the, it’s, it’s a curious aspect of our society, that one of the things, the book points out that I find riveting, one of the characters had gone back. You know, this was now 15 years ago, he’d gone back and looked at what happened in 1918 in the 1918 pandemic and realized that the people then at the end of their pandemic hadn’t fully understand what had actually happened, that they did.

They didn’t understand in particular that the things they had done to slow disease and prevent death, like closing churches and schools and saloons, the social distancing stuff wearing masks had actually really worked and explained differences in death rates between cities in America. And they hadn’t, they hadn’t, they just thought, well, there were deaths everywhere. It’s hard to see the effects of these things. They didn’t have the data, whatever, but they hadn’t really done a post-mortem that enabled them to be prepared if it happened again, like what worked and what didn’t. And it seemed to me, I described that what this guy does in some, at some length, it seems to me like a natural thing for us to be doing now. Right. And we’re not doing it. And I, I can’t, I can’t quite believe it. I mean, I can’t believe it. No, one’s asking why the death rate in Miami is, is, is three and a half times the death rate in San Francisco or, or why the death rate in, in the red counties out here in California, that didn’t comply with public health orders is double or triple the death rate in the blue counties that did, you know, I, I, it may, it may not be that the social distancing work, there may be some other explanation, but we need to know it because there were really different outcomes from place to place.

And it’s, and I think we now understand why.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so let’s bring this back to our previous conversation about experts. It seems that the pandemic has led to even greater mistrust for experts. Or am I saying that backwards? Did the pandemic reveal a mistrust that was already there?

Michael Lewis: You know, what it revealed was an L6 problem that there was so little honest concern about pandemics for such a long time, that we had shoved the, that the role, the actual job of controlling communicable disease or preventing disease from moving from person to person had been shoved down on local public health officers who had ver and who had very little social clout, poorly paid, no one knew who they were, you know, not important people. And so they, you know, if you want to find expertise in actually controlling communicable disease, you go inside you’re really, which nobody does. It’s hide your local public health office. And you talk to the local public health officer who handled the measles outbreak at the school, or, or, or the, you know, drug multidrug-resistant, tuberculosis outbreak in the bad neighborhood. You know, it’s, it’s, they’ve been doing this.

And they have been very aware of the political consequences of trying to constrain people’s movements and very aware of how you actually stop people from getting sick and dying. And they’ve been there, they’ve been fighting battles. So this war breaks out. And to this day, we have not acknowledged to those of the people who should be in front of the Senate, talking about it, or, or on a commission writing up a plan for the country. It isn’t kind of grand poo boss who are floating around Washington. It’s people at the local level who, who we should surface as the experts. And they were the experts going in and they got slaughtered because they didn’t have the social authority that, you know, and what’s happened is in various states around the country, their, their legal authority is being dialed back, which I think is a catastrophe. I think that that, that removing the authority from the expert to do what needs to be done, if there’s a disease outbreak in your neighborhood is really a bad idea to leave it in the hands of politicians is really a bad idea.

Barry Ritholtz: Well, let’s talk about one of those local experts who you surfaced. Charity. Dean is one of the key characters in the book. I actually got to interview her at a conference last week and of all places, Miami, since you mentioned it. And she is saying that given the BA to Omicron variant, that starting to show up both in hospitals and in, in waste treatment plants, which she believes we should be checking lots and lots more of she’s looking for a surgeon in may and June. Tell us a little bit about how you found charity Dean.

Michael Lewis: Yeah. The, the charity team is a wonderful character because she, dramatize is the central problem is just how brave you have to be as a local public health officer to really do your job. Well, nobody should have to be as brave as she had to be. And she, I, but I found how I found her. It’s kind of funny at the beginning of the pandemic. I thought I should be looking into this as a subject, but because I, the book before the premonition was the fifth risk and it was about how the government manages or doesn’t manage or existential risks, how the federal government, how the tools we have at the federal level have been allowed to decay and off the fly. And so, so, and what were the consequences of that? Well, here, this existential risk pop pops up. And I think, well, it’s an example of kind of what I was writing about. Let’s see, let’s see if there’s a story here. And charity was the last character I found of the main characters and every other main character, Joe Theresa prominent, viral, prominent six virus hunter, basically it UCF a group of doctors. They called themselves the Wolverines who had written the U S pandemic plan.

Various people all said to me, look, if you want to get to the guts of this, you got to meet charity Dean because we’ve met her. And she knows much more about like how to actually manage this in the middle of, you know, in the fog of war than anybody. But charity Dean herself was an L six. She was buried inside the state of California health department. And she wasn’t even running it. She was, she was actually exactly six levels down from Gavin Newsome and, and was being in January of 2020 forbidden from using the word pandemic and banned from the meetings where they were discussing what would happen if this was, if this thing that was happening in China was actually serious. She’d already figured out it was very serious. And it was already thinking about strategies to deal with it. And she was being excluded from the conversations that were happening in California for the first couple of months of the thing.

And, and so I wrote her, I have an email somewhere where I wrote to the department of public health in like, oh, I don’t know, may April or may and said, I really want to interview charity Dean. And I, and I got a note back saying, she doesn’t want to, she’s, she’s unable to talk to you. I’m afraid that that’s not going to happen. And it wasn’t from her. So I put it to one side. I thought it was too bad. She didn’t want to talk to me. And then I got annoyed me. And like a month later, I managed to get her cell phone and I texted her and she said they never sent me. They never asked me. They never told me that you’d call it. I’m happy to talk to you. And, and thus began this, I mean, an exploration of a character who I would argue might be the best character I have ever had for any book, just spectacular.

And who took you to, to the nub of the problem in our pandemic response. And I tell you what, among the other things that is surprising, that surprised me about writing the premonition. When you go and spend time with someone who is a local public health officer, just ask them to tell you stories from their day or their career. It is so dramatic. I mean, it’s, it’s guns and violence and scary stuff. And people dying of disease and squirrely doctors who are with dirty needles, who are giving people hepatitis it’s it’s, it’s one drama after another. And I couldn’t figure out why no one had done the TV show. I mean, it was just, the material was so good. I thought it was, it was naturally dramatic, naturally anecdotal material. I couldn’t figure out why we didn’t know about these people. It was, it was an arbitrage. It was like finding a, it was like finding a stock. No one’s paid attention to, and she was the stock. And I went along

Barry Ritholtz:To say the very least last, last premonition question, we’re recording this two days after a Trump appointed judge who the ABA described as not qualified overturn the CDC mass mandates. What, what are your thoughts on this?

Michael Lewis: I think with the judges with effectively saying, I didn’t read, I need to go read the 60 page decision, but I don’t ask that it, the is Ted that’s the, that the Congress, not the CDC has the power to do this. And it’s sort of a version of what’s happened at the low, at the state and local level across the country that the, the political process, and it’s the, it’s the right wing, removing the authority from the public health expert to do public health. I think it’s really a really bad idea. However, inept the CDC has been for, for sort of these sort of federal decisions. They really, you know, until we get something better, th they kind of need to be the expert. Who’s making the call on this, not, not Republic, not a Congress. And I think effectively what what’s, what what’s happened is she’s killed a lot of people. She’s doing this just as there is a rise in the number of cases she’s making, she’s making public trends. I don’t want to wear a mask. So you’re talking to someone, Half of my brain says, God, great. I don’t have to wear a mask on an airplane anymore. I’m not at risk. I got I’m vaccinated. I’m healthy enough. I don’t have any, I’m none of the, none of the risk buckets. So, yeah. Great. I don’t have to wear a mask

Barry Ritholtz: You’re over 60. You actually do have a risk bucket because 60 plus is a co-morbidity.

Michael Lewis: Yeah, but I’m 61 with the body of a 30 year old. So I actually don’t think I’m in the risk.  And it’s it’s. And so I just, I don’t, I don’t, I, myself, I really, my first reaction is that, well, great, thank God enough to wear my mask. But the second reaction is this is really bad public policy. This is like, if you just looking at what’s going to happen because of this. And I mean, I just, it’s a shame. It’s a shame. It’s a shame. And I think that that w bold people will pay the price. And when I, but this gets back to the question of, we need a post-mortem to just at the end of this, to show why people died, where they died and, and like, what and why they were saved, where they were saved, not for repurposes of retribution, not for purposes of blaming this judge for people dying, because they caught it on the airplane. But for purposes of going forward into the next one, we’re not, we’re not using this as a learning experience.

We’re using it as an arguing experience. And that is such a shame because it’s going to happen again, cherries, right? I think Jerry’s right about this. I mean, all my characters, they say, look, this feels anomalous. This feels once every century, but actually the last 20 years, these, these things have been jumping from animals to people at a greater rate. And there’s a reason our relationship with nature is broken and, and we’re watching the result of that. And it’s, there’s no reason to think it’s not going to keep happening. So we need to learn. We really, really need to learn. Our experts need to learn, and you’re not learning if you’re not asking, honestly, why things happened.

Barry Ritholtz: Really, really, really fascinating. When the audio rights for Liar’s poker reverted back, you decided to make a complete audio recording of the book. I just re-read it for the first time, since the mid nineties, tell us what your experience was, rereading your own work.

Michael Lewis: Unsettling. I, I just, I don’t reread my books sometimes. I feel like I should, and I pick them up and I read the first sentence that I got, I can’t do this. And I, I did that with Liar’s poker. I remember right on the paperback tour a year after it came out, I thought I got to go read it to remember what’s in it. And I couldn’t even do it. So this really is the first time I re-read it. And I thought a couple of things were instantly obvious one. I was in the hands of an amateur and I could actually hear one form. The amateurism took was the prose is infected by the voices of whoever is book. I was reading while I was writing it. So at one point I was reading some George Orwell and other mark Twain or, or Tom Wolf or Rebecca West, or I can’t remember what I was reading at the time.

Cause I can hear their voices in my pros and that’s, and it’s a pale imitation of their voices, but I could see that the voice was wavering in, in the book and particularly early in the book and not the first chapter, because I wrote the first chapter last. But, but when you start at chapter two, you’re seeing me in the beginning of my career. And it’s kind of interesting. It’s not till I get to about, I can’t, there’s a passage in like chapter eight where I thought, huh, I’m liberated. This is actually more me. I recognize this and it’s subtle, but it was watching it sort of like I was, I don’t advise anybody to do this. I was learning how to write a book by writing a book and, and you can see it in the pages of the book. So that surprised me.

Barry Ritholtz: Well, let me jump in here because I just have to tell you, I had the same experience rereading this in that it’s clear in the beginning. It’s not truly, you hadn’t discovered your voice yet, but towards the 60% mark or so. And I read this on a Kindle, which I normally, I prefer hard paper, but I noticed that where you start talking about the mistakes that Solomon brothers management made, like the beginning of the end of Salomon brothers, your, your becoming Michael Lewis in that you’re making these broad observations about other people’s judgment errors, and your voice really rings true there.

Michael Lewis: And my own judgment areas. I mean, I think the moment, the phone, when I first recognized really recognize myself on the page is an eight page or 10 page story where I it’s the first time I rip off a customer and I don’t, I’m so stupid. I don’t know I’m ripping them off. I think that the trader has just given me a smart thing to do. And, and that that’s the first time I thought, oh God, this works. I wouldn’t actually change this. And this feels like me. So that’s, you know, that’s, it was so, so that was the first takeaway was it was just, I was, I was figuring out how to trust my self as I was writing the book. And I came to trust myself eventually. So that that’s observation number one, observation number two was how much the financial world had changed
00:54:03 Since then that I remember thinking, as I was reading, I was thinking, God, I was so lucky that people actually shouted at each other and threw telephones at each other. And, and, and we’re actually doing trades face-to-face because that’s, you know, without that, the book just has no life and you walk into a trading floor or a hedge fund now, and it’s just like silence. It’s like people staring at screens and tapping away and algos are doing the trades. And I would be very hard to make it interesting now, as it was, it just, I think it was just a more lively place, but, but there was, the boat was, you could see the seeds of what wall street is now in what wall street was becoming. Then the, there were big macro things happening and they’re happening in the book that are big changes.

It starting with like the half the class at Princeton wants to go work on wall street. These changes that are happening in the culture that are happening right then. And so in that way, there was a current, there was still some currency to it. That was, that was the other reaction. I had lots of other little reactions. The main little reaction was, and this is like a rule. Is it? It was when I thought I was being funny. And again, I wasn’t funny. And the stuff that was funny, I didn’t realize was funny when I was, I was laughing when I was rereading my book. I was laughing in places where I didn’t laugh when I wrote it. And I wasn’t laughing in places where I did laugh, where I wrote it.

Barry Ritholtz: Huh. So, so let me share one thought with you that I didn’t, I couldn’t have picked up in, in 94 and 96 whenever I read it, the first time, but, but it was very clear this time, not just that Solomon brothers was, was formative to Liar’s poker, but Liar’s poker very much foreshadowed your future books, the whole discussion of, of how mortgage bonds were developed and other, the IPO bonds, and other sort of things. Short of pre Sage, the big short that there is conversations about geeks and experts being ignored. Pre-staging money ball and premonition. There’s even some discussions about the computer guys coming in and they’re still ignored, but eventually that’s flash boys. And, and am I wildly overstating this? Or are there seeds of, of your future books presence in 1989?

Michael Lewis: Well, there’s no question that the big short is presaged in, in the mortgage, all the stuff about the mortgage market what’s going on. I mean, Louis Ranieri himself, the guy who, who created the mortgage securities market, when, when the, the, the financial crisis happens, blames himself. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like Dr. Frankenstein blending himself with the monster became, but it’s, he it’s he saw the connection. So that’s, there’s an obvious connection between the innovation that occurred while I was at Solomon brothers and the disaster that ensued 20 years later, the intellectual realization of finance is there is a connection between that and the intellectual elevation of sports.

You know, first, I mean, I would, there’s probably a great story in the undergraduate physics program at MIT. If you go back 40 years, I bet like they all become physicist. And if you go back 30 years, a few of them are trickling onto wall street and you go there now. And it’s, they’re like they either go to wall street or they go into sports. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting how we’ve are, or maybe Silicon valley, how we have channel that kind of intellect into enterprises that previously didn’t see a need for it by complicating those enterprises. And, you know, first finance got very complicated and then sports got very complicated.

Barry Ritholtz: Really, really interesting. Tell us what was the law of the jungle, which runs through the book so much. I always thought of it as, as, you know, kill or be killed, which, you know, very much is, is a factor here, but, but Solomon brothers was a little unique in, in the way they manage that. And you point out later in the book, how they allowed their biggest, best, most profitable traders to leave after they were no longer a partnership. And you know, these guys are traders and they made the trade to, you know, to hit the bid and join Goldman or Morgan Stanley or somewhere else where they, or Merrill Lynch, where they would be paid millions more than the few hundred thousand they were getting plus a bonus at Sali.

Michael Lewis: Yeah. There was an odd contradiction in the solid management theory. John Goodfriend would say things like you got to get, you’re going to come work here. You have to be, you have to wake up in the morning, willing to bite the ass off of bear, or he’d say nobody here is going to get stabbed in the back. People are going to come at you through the front door with a hatchet that he encouraged this red and tooth and claw free for all on the trading floor, where everybody kind of for himself, all for the firms sort of thing. And at the same time, he S after he sold the firm. And so there was not the partnership stake to yoke people to the firm. He expected total loyalty and fealty from these killers who he had encouraged. And th that they weren’t, if they were being paid $300,000, a Solomon brothers, and Maryland’s offered him a million, it would have been, it was, it was regarded as treason to take the million.

And that was crazy that you couldn’t have both. So he, he, he sort of encouraged the very qualities that led people to look out for themselves and respond to market incentives rather than to other kinds of incentives, like loyalty of the firm. And, and didn’t see the contradiction. And it, it really cost him. I mean, he had virtual monopolies in markets that he just let slip away by letting traders go. And of course, they wouldn’t have able to preserve the monopoly. Eventually they would have lost their grip on the mortgage market or on the arbitrage trading or whatever it was that they had an edge, but they had to kept it for some more time in, and, and while they had it, it was so valuable. So it was, it was, it was, it was an odd situation. And the whole firm, the whole firm knew it was mismanaged while I was there.

I mean, down to the lowest geek, everybody knew whatever they thought about good fund personally, they realized that the thing was just not managed well, and they couldn’t quite understand why it was managed the way it was managed. But the effect for me was I really smoothly managed from is much less fun to write about than the total chaos. This is a total chaos. Yeah. So the, the chaos that I got to write about was much more fun. So, I mean, in some ways I’m forever in John. Good. Friend’s dead because, because he, he created an environment that was literary goldmine

Barry Ritholtz:To, to say the very least last question before we get to our speed round. And that is throughout the book because Sally was a bond shop. There’s a lot of talk about debt, government debt, consumer debt, mortgage debt, America’s borrowers, and all what an evil, this is how it’ll eventually weaken the dollar and cause all sorts of economic mischief, but it’s three decades later. And it’s other than the financial crisis, which was very specific and traditional debt driven, we really haven’t seen a lot of the bad things come to pass from all that debt. What’s your assessment of that era? Did everybody just repeat the same things and more or less got it wrong?

Michael Lewis: Well, yes. Part of what was going on, it was such a departure from American historical historical American finance that it was, I mean, the people who said this is all going to be fine, have improved rights so far. I think that there’s still another shoe shoe to drop and maybe it’s dropping now. I mean, eventually you, you can’t live beyond your means forever. And, and the financial crisis was in some ways, a lot of ways, a byproduct of this American willingness to live well beyond its means and using and using debt to do it, the, the machine, I mean the crucial ingredients, the crucial parts of this that enabled this machine to function are things like the dollar as a reserve currency around the world, which we’re putting at risk or, I mean, it’s, it’s so I, I, I know that completely answering your question, the people kind of get it wrong back then.

I don’t, I mean, I think people would, if you go back and talk to Henry Kaufman way back in 1983 or 85, I think he probably would say that I’m surprised by what happened. I would’ve thought that I wouldn’t have fought. The federal government would be able to run. The deficits has been running for as long as it’s been running it. I wouldn’t have thought the American consumer would get away with what the American consumer got away with in the run-up to the, to the financial crisis. But, and it’s not going to end well, he would say, but it still hasn’t ended. I mean, we’re still kind of in this period. So the, the period of the great American debt explosion. So

Michael Lewis: I have to point out that each of your books led to a subsequent expansion of American debt. You had Liar’s poker and the big debt explosion we saw in the eighties and nineties, the big short look at, look at how the fed expanded their barrel battle sheet and then the pandemic. So I’m not suggesting mobilization, right. But, but you’re talking every time you describe one of these big issues in a book it’s often because the result of that issue was a huge expansion of debt.

Michael Lewis: [Laughter] Yeah, it’s true.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so I know I have a hard stop with you. So let me in the last two minutes, jump to our speed round and ask our favorite questions. Five questions, 90 seconds on the clock, let let’s get this started. What are you streaming these days? Tell us what’s keeping you entertained.

Michael Lewis: Well, oddly, I’m streaming a preview of the six part neck Netflix series called the G word, which is based on the fifth risk from just started watching my own television show. I didn’t make it Adam kind over made it the comedian, but I’m watching that.

Barry Ritholtz: When does that come out on Netflix? When can the rest of a stream that

Michael Lewis: May

Barry Ritholtz: All right. Looking forward to that. So, so you, in, in the new podcast, in, in season three, you kind of reveal some of your mentors, tell us a little bit about dash rip rock and Alexander and the human Parana.

Michael Lewis: I actually go back and talk to these pseudonymous characters and they reveal themselves in the podcast. It’s kind of where they are now. That’s interesting because you can see where they were then in the book, but the human Parata who was ferocious on the Psalm and training for it has mellowed into just a sweet guy who is emotionally intelligent. He’s just, he’s transformed in some ways, dash rip rock spent his career. He made up until very recently was in the bond markets and is watched essentially, he says the death of the American bond salesman. He’s watched his career, his occupation just more or less Spanish and Alexander left. Solomon brothers had a blew up, blew up at a hedge fund. And it has had a kind of interesting career as a private investor and lives in Singapore. So they they’re, they they’ve all, they’ve all kind of mellowed. And they all, I think they, I think it’s probably fair to say, like everybody in my training class, all the people who stand on wall street anyway, they all made more money than me.

Barry Ritholtz: So that I don’t doubt. Give us two books that you’ve read either a longtime favorite or what you’re reading right now.

Michael Lewis: I’ve got two novels that I’m starting, and I’m going to re I’m reading. I shouldn’t do this, but I’m about to do it or read at the same time. One is an avocado horse by Geraldine Brooks, who is an old friend and is like a really great writer. And it’s so much fun when one of your friends is actually a great writer. And so, and that actually isn’t out yet, that comes out next month. So I’m reading the galleys of that book. And I just picked up at the same time, a book about my hometown, a novel set in my own town by a writer. I don’t know, let’s call it the yellow house set in new Orleans to get won. The Pulitzer prize of the national book award. Sarah Brum is the name of the author. And it’s, it’s a, it’s a view of new Orleans. It is very different from the new Orleans I grew up in it’s it’s, it’s, it’s black, new Orleans rather than white, new Orleans. And that always interests me.

Barry Ritholtz: So, so you have said that Liar’s poker had a very different impact on the world than you expected, and people requested advice of you after the book came out or thought the book was a how to guide. What sort of advice would you give today to a recent college grad who is interested in a career on wall street,

Michael Lewis: Ask why you’re interested first it, and go talk to people who were 20 years older than you, who kind of remind you of how you, who kind of looked like they might’ve been like you when they were your age and see what you think of their laws. Because they’re really great ways to have careers on wall street. And they really bad ways to have careers on wall street and people go in for the wrong reasons for obvious reasons. The other thing I’d say is figure out whether w whether you’re a job, a career person, a job person, or a calling person, that if you need a calling, as opposed to a job, you can find it on wall street, but it’s much more likely you got a job that pays real well. And you’re going to be really frustrated with your life. If you spend it in the job, when what you really need is a calling.

Michael Lewis: All right, final question. What do you know about the world of either investing or writing today? You wish you knew when you first sat down to write Liar’s poker 32 years ago,

Michael Lewis: And this is damning. I don’t think I’ve actually learned anything about investing in the last 32 years. It’s all at all useful. I think that sort of like all the useful things are really simple. And I pick those up by doing the opposite back in with other people’s money writing, you know, I’ll give you one simple answer. It, it, it, and it’s, I think the best things I’ve done are because I’ve got the best characters that I think that I underestimated the importance of character early on in my writing career. And I’ve, I’ve gotten better and better at, at, at identifying characters who are really good and, and riding them. So I think that leading with character is what I’ve learned.

Barry Ritholtz: We have been speaking with Michael Lewis author of such Seminole books as Moneyball, the big short, and Liar’s poker. If you enjoy this conversation, be sure and check out any of our previous 398 prior discussions. You can find those wherever you get your podcasts. We love your comments, feedback, and suggestions. Write to mibpodcasts@bloomberg.net. Check out my daily reads at ritholtz.com. Follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz.

I would be remiss if I did not. Thank the crack team who helps put these conversations together each week, Justin Nolan, or is my audio engineer, a Tika? Val. Brian is my project manager. Parris Wald is my producer. Sean Russo is my research director. I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’ve been listening to masters in business on Bloomberg radio.

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