Lloyd Blankfein isn’t just chief executive of Goldman Sachs, he’s also a very sagacious person. In an interview with CNBC, Blankfein revealed himself to be well read and perceptively philosophical.
“Every book I read, I’m in love with it as I read it,” he told the interviewer, before enthusing about his latest reading material – Ron Chernow’s book on George Washington. During the peak of the financial crisis, he said there was no time for contemplation: “You just try to sort things out and to get through and then one day you come out and there’s nothing left to sort out and you realize it’s over.”
Blankfein’s great wisdom was most in evidence when he discussed careers advice for young people. To the young, he said: take things one step at a time.
In his own career, Blankfein said things had turned out very differently to his early expectations. Young people need to accept their lack of control. If you’re a young adult now, Blankfein said you should “do something that’s for the next period of your life and not be so obsessive about where it will take you in the longer term.”
The problem is that not only do you not know the context you’re going to face as a young person, said Blankfein: you don’t even know yourself. “The idea of planning these things and trying to do these things on a course and thinking will this be good for me in the long run,” is wrong, he said.
“I think people should take advantage of the act that in this generation no one is getting drafted into the army, and you can have a few years of experimentation,” Blankfein added. “You can be liberated from the need to make sure that everything is taking you on some straight line to some place, because turns out not to be a straight line anyway.
“To succeed, you have to be a complete person,” he concluded. “In the early part of your life you should focus a lot on being a complete person.”
Blankfein’s own children are aged 19, 25, and 27. He said they don’t take his advice themselves.