Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is among the most successful people in finance.
At 61, he’s been the chief executive and chairman of a global investment bank for 10 years. He hit billionaire status in 2015.
But Blankfein didn’t always know that he was destined for greatness. He spoke about his early career in a town hall meeting with interns last week:
“If you had asked me, did I have everything nailed down and wired about what I wanted to do, and was I following some real plan? No,” Blankfein said.
“In fact, by the time I was in my mid-20s or even late-20s, and I was still in the law firm, I really was starting to get a little nervous that I didn’t know what I was going to do. My hands were starting to get a little sweaty about it.”
Blankfein, who grew up in Brooklyn and went to Harvard Law School, practiced law for about five years before moving to the commodities trading firm J. Aron & Co as a precious metals salesman. That firm was bought by Goldman Sachs shortly after he joined.
Blankfein described the anxiety he felt in his late-20s.
“Whatever I decided told do, I would want to be good at it. But in order to be good at it you have to start, and I hadn’t started,” he said. “Now people feel like that when they’re 16.”
He said people get nervous and start “marking themselves to market” versus their friends or people in the media at a young age. But the type of people who seem pegged for greatness from childhood are not necessarily the ones who succeed.
He said he was not like that. Instead, he said, he always told himself: “All you can do is the best you can do.”