Until April 2011, Matthew Simon's life had revolved around his Very Important Job. He'd spent 25 years in senior executive roles for multinational companies like JP Morgan, Standard Chartered Bank, Merrill Lynch and the NAB. Everyone knew him as Matt the Banker. But one day he realised he'd had enough.
"People around me – family and friends – had no idea what I did when I went off to the office," he says. "I was just Matt the Banker, who did complicated things, or Matt the Banker, who did evil stuff, depending on their particular world view.
"What became obvious to me, though, was that I didn't really know who I was either."
So Matt walked out those revolving doors one last time, re-evaluated his life, and wrote and published his novel, Dancing with the Bull.
In it, Luke Glass, Matt's fictional Master of the Universe, loses his job only to be offered another under mysterious circumstances. Soon after joining The Organization he meets an unexpected ally, who slowly reveals the ways of the corporate world and how it manipulates those within its grasp.
"I came to realise that, especially at the most senior levels, managers and executives were simply creating tasks and issues so that they appeared to be not only incredibly busy but also invaluable to the company," says Matt.
"Along with that came the willingness to target people who threatened their position and throw them under the proverbial bus."
In Dancing with the Bull, Matt has captured the horror of corporate speak and the fundamentally flawed, ultimately inhumane ways in which large organisations thrive at the expense of the people working for them.
"It was important for me to separate myself from my job, and writing this book helped me to do that," says Matt.
"I'm hoping it will help other people do the same thing."
Dancing with the Bull
Author: Matthew Simon
Question: What inspired you to write Dancing with the Bull?
Matt Simon: After a career spanning over 25 years in banking, I had become increasingly disillusioned with the profession I once loved, and decided to leave. Writing Dancing with the Bull went a long way in assisting me to come to terms with, not only how I felt about the contradictions and idiosyncrasies of modern corporate life, but also the world around me. I like to think that writing Dancing with the Bull allowed me to change (hopefully for the better), and move on.
Question: Can you tell us about the moment when you decided to walk away from the corporate world?
Matt Simon: I don't recall there being one particular moment, but rather a series of moments that crept up on me over time. Working through the maze of complex issues of what is now, regretfully, known as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), exposed me to management's unwavering focus and desire for power, money, influence and the pursuit of self-preservation. Dealing with the many problems at hand was almost a secondary consideration. If there was, in fact, a single particular moment that led me to my decision, it was the belief that management was not willing to learn from the mistakes made and the turmoil created as a result of the GFC. They just appeared to want things to return as they were before. This was something I could never accept and chose to leave.
Question: What lesson do you hope readers take from Dancing with the Bull?
Matt Simon: On more than one occasion, someone who has read Dancing with the Bull has come up to me and commented that they can't believe I wasn't sitting next to them at an incredibly frustrating meeting they had just attended, or that I was not, in fact, employed at their current place of work. The scenes depicted in Dancing with the Bull, are relatable and allows those having difficulties navigating their way through the complexities and contradictions of a large corporation or institution to understand that their situation is not unique; they are not alone and that, 'culture is what happens while management if busy making other plans.'
If the reader was to take only one thing away from Dancing with the Bull, I hope that it is that, 'change is an emotional state. You feel change, you dance with change, but not everyone can see change, not everyone can understand it. You need to be accountable for choices made, and appreciate that fact that not everyone may want to join you for the ride.'
Question: What's next for you?
Matt Simon: This is a question I get asked a lot. I love talking to the issues drawn from Dancing with the Bull and hope to continue presenting as long as audiences are engaged and willing to listen. As for a second book, there is a title I have in mind, If these walls could talk, a novel exploring one family's evolving relationship with money, power and influence as it moves from generation to generation. Hopefully one day I'll get to writing it.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Dancing with the Bull
Author: Matthew Simon