'Explore GS' is a speaker series for interns at Goldman Sachs. A few years ago, CEO and Chairman of the firm, Lloyd Blankfein, participated in it, giving sage advice on how to forge a career path that will lead to success.

Blankfein is in a good position to comment. He became a billionaire in 2015 and has led Goldman Sachs for over a decade.

"I'll give you advice that's impossible to follow," he prefaced before dropping his epic knowledge, then followed up by saying his younger self would probably never have been able to follow it.

So what was this gem, these words to live by?

"Chill out."

That's right: the head of one of the best-known financial institutions in the world says that when it comes to your career, the best thing you can do is to just ... chill.

His point was twofold. First, "There's not a sport -- there's not an activity in life where, if you have a really hard grip, you actually are better. Whether it's baseball or golf ... the looser you are, the further the thing goes ... If you're tight (I'm speaking metaphorically), if you're really tight, you're not necessarily better."

We've all seen this firsthand. It's the manager whose team doesn't want to follow him because he's too controlling. It's the sales rep who's trying so hard it's uncomfortable to be around her. It's the management consulting client who's gripping to such outdated ideas that it's costing his company everything.

In business and in your personal life, when you're holding on too tight, it comes across to those you're with (and those you're trying to sell to).

In other words, chill out.

The second thing the phrase calls attention is life pacing. When Blankfein said it was "impossible" to follow, it's because he knew his audience: a bunch of overachieving perfectionists.

He knew that because he was one, too. "It's the reality and it's the curse that you don't have the benefit of going forward and looking back -- you have to live through it," he said. He wanted to emphasize the idea that your career won't be linear, and that's more than just OK; it's expected (a hard thing for perfectionists to truly accept).

"All the frustrations, the detours, the disappointments -- I think that's a lot more instructive and educational," he said, referring to truly valuing the school of hard knocks over schools like HBS.

And perhaps the most important part of all: "If you had asked me [earlier on], did I have everything nailed down and wired about what I wanted to do, and was I following some real plan? No."

It's not even a month into the new year, and you may already be beating yourself up for not having accomplished enough; or not having good enough resolutions; or not knowing exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life and exactly how to make that happen.

Stop doing that.

If there's anything to take from Blankfein, it's that the idea of a "real plan" is an illusion. You've got to stay loose to win, and you won't always know where you're going until you get there.

Instead of stressing out about where you're going, stay present where you actually are. Quit taking everything so seriously, have some fun while things unfold, and keep the faith: when the right opportunities arise, you'll take them. 

And in the meantime ... chill out.

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Published on: Jan 23, 2018