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“Being Important”… And The 10 Commandments Of Goldman Sachs



Mai Le


*All of my articles are of my own individual opinions and is by no means representative of any institution’s views.

When I was an IBD intern in 2013, we listened to a talk from Lloyd Blankfein who shared several bits of advice for summer interns. (YouTube Link) One of his bits of advice, which I followed religiously, was to study the bibliography of those who I consider as in a position of power, money, admiration and respects, to learn from them. I’ve studied politicians, philanthropists, public figures and successful entrepreneurs and managers; some are alive and most are dead. This study may seem like a redundant activity, some argue, as no two lives are the same. However, I’ve found extraordinary lessons shared by extraordinary people really meaningful and insightful; almost as if they are alive again and become my mentors.

One of the people who I studied bibliography is John Whitehead, who recently passed away on February 7th 2015. He’s one of the few men that brought Goldman Sachs from a small shop trading commercial papers to the global powerhouse it is today. His brief obituary is here on the FTHis short bibliography (~20 pages), in his own words here , is much worth a read.

I remember when I attended the A Level Girls program with Goldman Sachs in my high school year; we had a session where we study the 14 Business Principles of the Firm, which are also publicised widely on GS websites and marketing materials. John wrote these 14 Business Principles. Little did I then knew there was an earlier version of these 14 Business Principles that John wrote, called the “10 Commandments of Goldman Sachs”. These 10 Commandments were the guiding principles for Goldman through the late 20th century – when they grew from a small shop to the world’s powerhouse.

10 Commandments of Goldman Sachs

1. Don’t waste your time going after business you don’t really want.
2. The boss usually decides— not the assistant treasurer. Do you know the boss?
3. It is just as easy to get a first-rate piece of business as a second-rate one.
4. You never learn anything when you’re talking.
5. The client’s objective is more important than yours.
6. The respect of one person is worth more than an acquaintance with 100 people.
7. When there’s business to be found, go out and get it!
8. Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one?
9. There’s nothing worse than an unhappy client.
10. If you get the business, it’s up to you to see that it’s well handled.

I may speak about other principles in other articles; for this time shall I focus on commandment #8.

Important people like to deal with other important people. Are you one?

What do you mean by “important”?

When you consider someone as “important”, it’s often in references to either their significant value or status/influence. In Vietnamese, for example, “important” is translated to “quan trọng”. “Quan” means authorities/officials or people with great power in the ancient time, and “trọng” means heavy weight or respect. Overall, the commandment means people who have significant values; status or influences like to deal with each other, and urge the reader if they are one of them.

Why is this? Isn’t this somewhat superficial?

It’s mostly a matter of trust and is constituent of the desire for a mutual beneficiary. Why important people like to deal with other important people, mostly because first, “I” trust on the less likely probability “you” will rob my wealth/resources/health or harm me physically/emotionally/financially – because “you” are in a position with less incentive to do so. Second, as “you” are in a position of some importance, the matter of us dealing with each other will most likely result in mutual benefits for both “you” and “me”.

Everyone likes to consider himself or herself important. And most reach out to other people with an equal level of importance that they think deserve their trust, attention and business. Of course, on a relative scale, it can’t be that everyone is more important than the average. Some will fall into the median area and some will fall below median area. In the world with most people being blinded by their own arrogance, the people who recognize their deficiencies have their ultimate strengths and competitive edge to excel among the crowds.

For people in the median area of the belt curve distribution, it may be more crucial to first appear important than being important themselves. People buy in the dazzle of someone’s positive mysteries, image, great tastes and reputation. How important you think of yourself can decide how successful you’ll be in “appearing” important.

However, this method of appearing importance will only buy some short-lived respect unless you truly have what other needs.

1. Appearing important will brought more people to you as the rest are attracted to, and believed in, the dazzle of you being in great height among the crowd.
2. Over time, as people deal with you more, they can slowly adjust their belief to who you truly are. Only appearing important but offer no true value will drive people away once they realise the discrepancy in their belief and reality.
3. Having true value is when you have something people need or want. That’s the ultimate way to make you important to most people.

Remember: the eyes of the others price values and respect, and others judge how important you are and determine your market value.

Are you one?

A lot about “being important” is how you project your view of yourself to the world. Many people don’t have a lot of what others want or need, but they can sell what they have very well and vice versa. Everyone thinks of himself or herself as (more) important (than others) and would like to be treated as an important person. Being able to persuade someone else to think as highly of you as you do to yourself requires a firm belief of your own position and height.

Commandment #8: Important people like to deal with important people. Are you one?

I have collected over 100 of myself and my friends’ cover letters and published it at Cover Letter Library to help you. This member-only library includes successful cover letters from people who secured jobs at all major investment banks, big 4 firms and other. Check it out 🙂 


Illustration by my friend Karl –

I am also active on Instagram too! Follow me @official.mai.le 

Written by Mai Le

My name is Mai. I am originally from Vietnam. After my university years at LSE, I worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After a wonderful time there, I started several of my own business as well as helping others on theirs. I've always been building communities and businesses for as long as I can remember, and absolutely thrilled to see others enjoy what I've built.


1 Comment

  1. Lily Nguyen

    Thanks for another great blogpost ! I really enjoyed reading it. I also want to start studying the bibliographies of successful people. Would you recommend reading autobiography or biography? And do you have any recommendations on who I should start learning about? — Thanks!


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