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Think Bigger by Michael W. Sonnenfeldt

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LESSON 6Experience at a First-Rate Company Is Really Valuable

When I first heard this lesson, it struck me as so obviously true that I wanted to kick myself for not having thought of it first. I immediately flashed back to 1978, the year I spent at Goldman Sachs. Despite all the controversies that Goldman Sachs has been embroiled in recently, at the time, in my mind, it was the gold standard for a world-class organization. Goldman Sachs had the greatest collection of financial talent under a single umbrella.

I was recruited by the firm’s mergers and acquisitions (M&A) department, the number one M&A shop on Wall Street that year. They hired just one associate: me. I was beyond thrilled. But when I walked through the door on my first day of work, I quickly noticed that I was the only professional sporting a beard and wearing Earth Shoes. (I bet you don’t even remember Earth Shoes.) From day one I realized I was cut from a different cloth than my colleagues.

The co-leaders of our department were Geoff Boisi, Goldman’s youngest partner at the time, and Steve Friedman, who would become Goldman’s co-chariman with Robert Rubin (who served as Bill Clinton’s treasury secretary). After Goldman, Steve went on to become head of the National Economic Council under George W. Bush, served on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Bill Clinton, and then chaired it under George W. Bush. Eventually he became chairman of the New York Federal Reserve Board.

I loved being surrounded by so ...

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