30-year Wall Street veteran Dave Liu shares his best career advice

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Navigating your career path can be a difficult task. For people of color and other underserved communities, this process can be even more difficult, with factors such as discrimination, lack of representation and burnout at play.

Dave Liu, entrepreneur and 30-year veteran of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, has faced many of these obstacles during his career in finance.

“I saw reasonable representation at the middle level, but none at the GM level. And that really had a huge impact on me because I wanted to be successful,” Liu shares with CNBC Make It. “I wanted to get up, but when I looked around, there were only white people. And that made me realize that if I didn’t learn how to break through the bamboo ceiling and hack into the system , so I was going to be stuck at the middle management level.”

Using the tips and tricks he’s learned throughout his career, Liu says he’s managed to raise more than $15 billion for hundreds of companies and start successful businesses himself in areas such as commerce, entertainment and artificial intelligence.

In 2021, the Harvard MBA used his career tips to write his book, “The Way of the Wall Street Warrior: Conquer the Corporate Game Using Tips, Tricks, and Smartcuts.”

These are two of the “smart cups” that Liu finds most valuable:

Be a stork, not a pigeon

Liu is a big fan of analogies and the one he says is the most profound was inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

Liu shares that in Andersen’s stories, storks are known to “take babies from the lake and deliver them to pregnant women.” In contrast, pigeons are known to fly, “flap around” and vanish.

“I use storks as a metaphor for always providing value. So whatever interaction you’re in with a colleague, boss, client or employee, think ‘do I adds value to that person so that when they reflect on our interaction, they’ll say, wow, that was a really good use of time,” Liu says. “As opposed to the opposite, which is like, ‘man, I wish I could get my hour back’, because they got nothing from your interaction.”

According to Liu, thinking of yourself as a stork and not a pigeon will help you build relationships in the workplace and become a valuable asset to your team. By taking the time to provide solutions to problems, summarize complex information for your boss, or move a project forward, you’re maximizing what Liu calls your return on time.

Four keys to flourishing

As a child, Liu says she saw her mother struggling to make ends meet. When he went to college, he knew he had to choose a career that would allow him to support his mother and pay off the $100,000 in school debt he had accumulated.

Although he found success, Liu says he could have had a more fulfilling career had he followed the Japanese framework, Ikigai.

According to career coaching platform BetterUp, Ikigai means “your reason for being”. By experimenting with careers, hobbies, and interests, a person can discover the meaning and joy of their work.

When advising others, Liu tells people to ask themselves these four questions:

  1. What are your passions?
  2. What are you good at?
  3. What does society value?
  4. What would the company pay?

According to Liu, if you are able to find the intersection between the four, you have essentially found your life purpose.

“When I was in my early twenties, if it wasn’t just about getting out of poverty and paying off the debt, I would go back and tell myself to focus on those four questions and spend your young years of experimenting and trying to find meaning in what you do, because if you ever find it, you’ll be really, really happy.

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