Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s best piece of career advice is a bit of a puzzle.
“I’ll give you advice that’s impossible to follow,” Blankfein told a roomful of Goldman Sachs interns last week.
But, the chief executive said, if he could go back in time and tell his younger self that advice, he wouldn’t have followed it.
“It’s the reality and it’s the curse that you don’t have the benefit of going forward and looking back — you have to live through it,” Blankfein said.
“There’s not a sport — there’s not an activity in life where, if you have a really hard grip, you actually are better. Whether it’s baseball or golf … the looser you are, the further the thing goes, because it’s a lot easier to whip around a string than a stick. If you’re tight, I’m speaking metaphorically, if you’re really tight you’re not necessarily better.”
Blankfein also said he recommends studying history over economics or markets when you’re young. History is reassuring, he said, because you can read about people who failed five or six times before accomplishing great things, or who didn’t achieve success until they were older.
Even Blankfein himself felt lost in his 20s, he said. He attended Harvard Law School and worked as a lawyer for five years before becoming a precious-metals salesman at a firm later bought by Goldman Sachs.
“All the frustrations, the detours, the disappointments — I think that’s a lot more instructive and educational” than a finance education, he said.