So i eased up i could have really turned on the heat

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So I eased up. I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear—but I didn’t. My whole plan was to keep the ball in play. To give the crowd a good show, instead of slicing the ball back when PPM smashed it at me, I would lob it up for him so he could smash it again. Smash, lob. Smash, lob. Oohs and ahs from the onlookers. After three or four exchanges like this, I’d either hit it into the net or give PPM such an easy pop-up that he could make a legitimate put-away on me. I was letting him show off for his fellow clients a little bit. He loved it. He won the first game 21 to 17. The matches were best two out of three, and my plan was to squeak out a win in the second game, then maybe win by just a little more in the third. But when I was ahead 15 to 12 in the second, Ted Simpson caught my eye. He gave a little shake of the head, and then, using his left hand as a shield, gave a quick thumbs-down with his right. I’m quite sure nobody but Ted and I knew what was going on. I nodded. After all, wasn’t putting the client first number one of John Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles? The Putnam portfolio manager was very magnanimous in victory—as was I in defeat.
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——— The Ping-Pong tournament was a bright spot in a dark summer. The worldwide recession continued, and emerging markets, a niche area in the best of times, started falling apart. That summer, the sharp- elbowed Slovak analyst on my desk was moved to Goldman’s London office to become a European shares sales trader. Now it was just Rudy and me, and the management buzz saw seemed to be headed straight in our direction: the writing was on the wall for Emerging Markets Sales. I knew I needed to find a lifeline—a new job—in order to survive at the firm. Apparently Rudy had the same feeling about himself. As the summer wound down, he became uncharacteristically secretive, constantly leaving the desk for “private internal” meetings, talking extra softly on the phone. Even though we were partners in crime and sat right next to each other, he wasn’t acting much like a partner anymore. I had a pretty good hunch what was going on, a hunch that was confirmed when Rudy turned to me one day and said, “Springbok, I’m moving up to the fiftieth floor, to U.S. Equity Sales, on Monday. I know this is scary, but you’re going to be fine. I’ll do what I can to help you.” Another colleague on the floor pulled me aside that day and gave me some unsolicited advice that stuck with me for a long time. “Change is scary,” he said. “But often change is good. It can lead to new and interesting experiences. Keep your head up and keep an open mind.” In retrospect, I realized what Rudy had been up to: tapping his contacts in the U.S. Equity Sales group with a view to moving there. It was a more stable, less volatile area than Emerging Markets Sales, focused on selling larger and more liquid U.S.-based stocks to U.S. investors. But it was also a bigger playing field, with dozens of salespeople: Rudy was becoming a small fish in a big pond.
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