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Gary Cohn and Lloyd Blankfein agree: ignore career advice from a wife

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Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer (CEO) of Goldman Sachs and Gary Cohn, chief operating officer (COO) of Goldman Sachs, are very different personalities. If this wasn’t clear already, it’s been made abundantly apparent in recent life-philosophy speeches delivered by Blankfein which were very different to an earlier speech delivered by Cohn. 

However, the two men are in agreement on one thing in particular: when your wife offers you career advice, take no notice at all. Even if she cries.

In yesterday’s commencement address for students at La Guardia college in New York, Blankfein said he made his wife cry when he told her he was quitting law and moving into banking. He did it anyway. Similarly, in a commencement speech delivered to students at the Kogod School of Business in 2011, Cohn said his wife told him that leaving the floor of the commodities exchange and joining Goldman Sachs when she was pregnant with their first child would be the “craziest decision” that he ever made. He did it anyway.

Cohn and Blankfein took no notice of their wives and they are now COO and CEO of Goldman Sachs respectively. As we noted recently, Alex Ferguson, the feted football manager, also took no notice of his wife, both when she didn’t want to leave Glasgow and then again didn’t want to leave the north east.

A meme is emerging here: if you want to get ahead, take your own path and ignore your spouse. Let us know what you think via the polls below.

Cohn vs. Blankfein: force vs. philosophy

Separately, Cohn and Blankfein’s commencement addresses, combined with a recent interview Blankfein gave to CNBC, reveal the men to have very different approaches to life.

Discrepancies between the two men may seem immaterial – except that when Blankfein eventually retires (unlikely anytime soon), then Cohn has been tipped as the person most likely to replace him. Last April, the New York Post suggested Cohn was irked that Blankfein was taking so long to move on.

It’s notable, therefore, that while Cohn used his 2011 commencement speech to drive home the importance of competing and having a goal in life, Blankfein’s advice to young people has been far more measured and philosophical.

“You are competing. Every day you are competing and every day you are playing to win. So remember, wake up every morning and figure out how to win,” said Cohn in 2011. Have a goal, he advised: “Know where you want to end up. Knowing where you want to end up is a lot easier than figuring out how to start and how to get there.”

In contrast, Blankfein recently said that young people need to accept that they have limited control over their lives and to take things in increments. “Do something that’s for the next period of your life,” he said, adding that young people shouldn’t be, “obsessive about where it will take you in the longer term.” When you’re young you don’t know who you are, or the context that you’ll be operating in, said Blankfein – seemingly contradicting Cohn’s advice completely.

A Goldman Sachs led by Cohn could feel very different to Goldman Sachs led by Blankfein – unless you’re married to someone who works there, in which case it may feel very much the same.

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