Everyone gets nervous on the first day at a new job. Even a hotshot trader named Lloyd Blankfein, who was named the head of Goldman’s currency desk in 1994.
Blanfein described his first day jitters a few years ago in an interview with the NYT:
I remember the first time I was put in charge: I was put in charge of the foreign exchange business, including sales and trading. And of course, you know the way bread always lands on the buttered side down. In the first minute, the business is going through something where we start losing money. And by the standards at even that time it was probably a piddling amount of money. But it meant a lot to me, and I was nervous as hell, and I went in to my boss at the time. And I said, “You know, we’re losing money.” And he said, “Well, what would you do?” I said what I would do, and he said: “That sounds right. Why don’t you do that?” I would remember that always. His validation made it my idea if it worked, and his problem if it didn’t. So he took a lot of pressure off me. He took weight off the scale for me.
And I remember a second lesson in that same meeting. I turned to walk out of the room, and he said: “Lloyd, just one second before you go. Why don’t you stop in the men’s room first and throw some water on your face, because if people see you looking as green as you look, they’ll jump out the window.” And that was a second thing: I learned in general about how important that kind of symbolism is and how you can inspire or defeat confidence.
We found this anecdote in Robert Sutton’s Good Boss, Bad Boss, which gives Blankfein as proof that confidence is something you learn, not something you’re born with.