Do What YOU Want on Wall Street

geoffblades's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | 2,048

Yeah, yeah, we've heard it all before.... 97 ways to be a rockstar analyst. 233 things I wish I knew as an associate...

There are plenty of good ideas for making it through the day but I'm betting you want to know what I wanted to know when I began transforming my career at Goldman Sachs some fifteen years ago-- How do you create the most amazing career and life you can imagine?

Back in 2000 when I began asking that question, I thought I had it figured out. Getting from my working class background to the only job offered at Goldman Sachs Australia, and then getting promoted early to associate and landing a plum transfer to Goldman's Silicon Valley office in '99, success seemed straightforward--put your head down and work hard.

But when the Internet bubble burst and half my colleagues were laid-off, I began to think differently. With compensation slashed in half and my career stalled in its tracks, I began asking, is this the career I want? Looking ahead to my bosses, I wondered, do I want their career? Their life? What do I want?

I didn't know. So over the next decade I read thousands of books and wrote thousands of pages of ideas figuring it out. Putting these ideas to work I transformed my own career, making two moves inside Goldman before moving to the Carlyle Group, and then leaving Wall Street to follow my obsession and share these ideas...

The first thing to know is that while working hard is a necessity, you won't win that way. Instead you want a sophisticated approach that gets your career working hard for you. This I call the System for Doing What You Want:


To get what you want, first, you must know what you want. Makes sense, right? Fortunately it's wrong!

For nearly ten years I drove myself nuts asking the question, What Do I Want? I believed that if only I could figure out what I wanted, I could get it. But, the truth is, if you don't know what you want, repeatedly asking the question won't solve it!

Instead, it was only in hindsight I could see that even though I didn't know what I wanted, by continuing to execute on the step right in front of me, I kept moving forward and figuring it out over time. That led me to develop a simple yet BULLETPROOF two-step approach for setting goals:

1. You begin at a high level with your grandest vision for your career. This might be vague as it was for me--to do what I love every day--or it might be more specific like seeing yourself as CEO or running your own firm. This is the guiding vision that you use to direct your career over many years.

2. Day-to-day you forget about your grand vision and simply focus on the goal that is right in front of you.

For instance, say you are an associate dreaming of one day starting your own firm. That's a great vision that might play out over decades, and all that matters right now is that you are executing in your current job and creating the options that keep you moving in the right direction.

Then, if you are looking at making a move, you set up for yourself what I call a dual-track roadmap which enables you to focus on both moving forward in your current career while exploring your options...

That's the mechanics, but here's what really counts to Define It--Commitment. To go for what you truly want, you must be absolutely committed, and be willing to keep taking action.


Now that you are committed to the goal that is right in front of you, get smart, in fact, get smarter than smart, on what it takes to succeed. This I call Getting It.

All the time you hear: He just gets it or she doesn't get it. But what does it actually mean to be getting it?
By my definition, it is knowing with absolute certainty what it takes to win in your career.

Consider, you might spend months analyzing a company and an industry. Building a model line-by-line, you seek to know what truly matters to the company's success. Now, imagine applying that approach to your own career, going deep into modeling what it takes to win.

To do that, look around for role models. Carefully analyze what they do, and ask yourself, how can you do it too? And look deep into your job. Figure out in detail, what does it really take to succeed?

For instance, if you are in sales, what does it take to be exceptional at selling? If you're a banker, ask what does it take to truly excel at the job? Even as an analyst, knowing a key to your success is getting better and faster in Excel, you might simply ask, what more can you do to, well, excel?

Thomas Edison said, "Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration." That's Getting It.


Once you are focused on your goals and you know what it takes to get it, you want a plan.

Makes sense, right? But, how many people do you know who have a plan for their career? Not just a to do list of things they need to get done in the next week or two, but an action plan as to how they are going to get what they want this year, next year, over the next five years, and over the long-run?

How many people do you know who have that? Can you imagine talking to the CEO of a company and hearing that they have no strategic plan for the business?

Now, the key to Plan It is to plan in as little detail as possible. Simply focus on that one goal that is right in front of you and plan only as much as you need to keep executing. That might be a couple of boxes on a page. It might be a punch list or a more detailed spreadsheet. Either way, lay out a plan that gives you the steps to get what you want.


Most people on Wall Street are excellent at executing and getting things done. The problem for many people, however, is that they are not executing on the things that truly matter to getting what they want.

That's where the plan comes in. You want to be militant about how you are using your time and stay focused on the tasks that drive your success.

And rather than setting up a definitive plan before executing, you want to be planning and executing iteratively over time. Hence you are constantly taking action and coming back to your plan to keep moving towards what you want.

And there's another wrinkle here. You must be willing to execute on those things that you are avoiding. Yes, I know you have some of those things. The things you consider risky, hard, or uncomfortable. Those things that scare you are the things that are most likely to drive getting what you want...


To get more of what you want, get better.

Every day a top athlete trains their skills because they know that the best athlete typically wins. The same is true in your career. Develop skills. Learn more. Master your craft. And you are more likely to win.

This requires stepping back and figuring out what skills enable you to excel in your career? If you're a trader, wouldn't you get better results if you mastered the skills of emotional mastery? If you're in banking, wouldn't mastering the skills of influence help you on every deal and in every meeting?

These are skills that many people consider you either have or you don't have, yet with a small amount of effort you can begin to learn any skills.

While that might seem like a lot to add to an already busy day, by reading just one book on each of the four skills I call the Power Tools you can go a long way: 1. Time management: Read Eat That Frog. 2. Communications and influence: Read How To Win Friends and Influence People. 3. Selling: Read How to Master the Art of Selling. 4. Mindset: Read Think and Grow Rich.

Or, if that seems like a lot to read, check out the only book you'll ever need for doing what you want on Wall Street where I cover all these topics in detail...

Geoff Blades is the author of Do What You Want on Wall Street. A former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and investor at the Carlyle Group, Geoff Blades is an advisor to senior Wall Street executives, CEOs, and other leaders on strategic matters as well as topics of personal and professional development.

United States - West

Comments (22)

Dec 7, 2015

can I ask you:
What would you do if you were a 23 y/o, Economics undergrad with 3.3 GPA, no expierences and doesnt know what he even wants in life and lives with severe amounts of regret of fucking all these opportunities up?

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Dec 7, 2015

I just want to hit the reset button but I dont know and it feels im just too late

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Best Response
Dec 7, 2015

You're 23 and it's too late?

  1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  2. Polish your resume and make sure it's ready for the real world.
    3.. Define what you want in terms of a job, or what jobs you can reasonably get that will get you to the next step.
  3. Make a list of 150 firms that you can apply to that would satisfy the above ^.
  4. Make an extensive list of your network, alumnus, dad's friends, etc who you can talk to.
  5. Start blasting away cold calls, emails, applications etc.
  6. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
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Dec 7, 2015

Thank you

Dec 23, 2015
  1. Keep not feeling sorry for yourself.

You're still a kid at 23. I'm 31 and I still feel the entire career is ahead of me. We live in a new brave world, very distant from our parents' one when the pressure to marry, have kids and settle was mounting in mid 20s.

At 23, you have solid 20 years of any career - which is light years imho - and you'll be 43 (i.e. still young) after that. Good luck.

Dec 7, 2015

I would suggest you take control of your mind, and get focused on taking constructive actions.

If you are haunting yourself with regret, STOP. How does that serve you? It does nothing but hold you back. If you think it's too late at the ripe old age of 23 to hit reset, then hit reset on that idea... You are too young to ruin your life with crappy thinking.

And I would suggest picking up my book and being serious about working through it. Don't just read it, but work through each of the chapters and get yourself on track. That isn't me selling (for a few bucks it's hardly worth my time...), it is me suggesting the best course of action I know.

For nearly a decade (starting from Goldman Sachs...), I didn't know what I wanted and this book is the result of the ten years of work I did to figure it out.

Also inside you will see the best ideas I've learned from thousands of books and training with the best teachers in the world on personal change, ways of training your thinking.

Specifically you will see ten exercises in the chapter The System of Your Limitless Mind that I suggest you do every day, and perhaps multiple times a day, until you have yourself in the right headspace and taking constructive actions.

Former banker and investor, advisor to senior Wall Street pros. Learn more at

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Dec 7, 2015

Thanks a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dec 24, 2015

I failed out of my first shot at university, and then after recovering from that fuck-up... I saw my would-be career evaporate through no fault of my own. I had to start over at your age from scratch without a degree, no money, no support and a marred academic record. You'll come up with a ton of different directions on what to do from here, but you have to commit and run with it. Whatever you end up choosing will work.

Dec 7, 2015

Another amazing post.

Dec 7, 2015

Nice post. Really makes you take a step back and think about the bigger picture.

My question is, how has your mentality changed over the years from when you first started to when you exited? I'm on the brink of graduation and starting a career, but I feel as if I am an over-optimist which might not serve me too well. I always look at the bright side and always try to exert confidence, even if I feel as if I'm under-qualified, under-performing, etc. I tend to look at the bigger picture compared to the meticulous details. I would say I'm a realist, but for whatever reason I always try to refrain from being negative, even during times that I feel "defeated".

Looking past background, credentials, connections, networks, etc .... Is a Wall Street career for me? Obviously with such limited information it would be hard to say, but considering all of the various personalities that you've dealt with over the years, how have people's mentalities changed and what would you say defines a general Wall Street'ER today?

Dec 7, 2015

yep, that's the key. my work is all about stepping back, seeing the bigger picture and charting your course.

it's a good question. my mindset has shifted dramatically at every different phase of my career and life. but I would suggest that has less to do with where I began and exited my Wall Street career and much more to do with the work that led to that conclusion.

you're right. from your description it's impossible for me to know if WS is right for you. beyond your personality fit, what matters most is how much you want it

read the threads on here or talk to anyone on WS and you know it's a tough business where the most important determinant of success is what you're willing to do to earn it.

Former banker and investor, advisor to senior Wall Street pros. Learn more at

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Dec 7, 2015

Just picked up your book on audible. Definitely worth the time.

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Dec 7, 2015


Dec 8, 2015

could you please provide a link to where we can find your book?

Dec 9, 2015

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Dec 9, 2015

It's on Amazon--
To keep it tight I also added the link to the bottom of the post.

Former banker and investor, advisor to senior Wall Street pros. Learn more at

Dec 8, 2015

Too late?

Hardly. Look at me: I've got BB ib interviews lined up, and I had a 3.0 GPA from a no-name undergrad school and I'm at a "non-target"(I use the term loosely...there's recruiting channels and then there's other recruiting channels) MBA program.

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Dec 9, 2015

Thank you. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dec 9, 2015

That said, don't think it's going to be easy or that you'll get your dream job right away. You may need to settle into a more roundabout way of getting there (Big 4 is great, I know a couple folks who pulled that off) than others. Just focus on performing well in whatever you end up doing, put yourself in a position to learn, take smart risks, and make sure that you use your time wisely.

Dec 9, 2015

As an Australian - I have a more specific question as to having an international career;

1) How easy/difficult is it to be globally mobile? (I'm lucky enough to have a start in HK in markets - is a move to London/New York viable?)
2) What are the cultural elements that an Aussie faces - generally as a culture US seems more receptive to Aussies, London seems a bit more reserved (barring Aussie expats of course)?
3) How do you overcome the University bias (such as double degrees/honours/undergrad law etc) and explain that to people in London/US/HK?

Dec 9, 2015

Former banker and investor, advisor to senior Wall Street pros. Learn more at

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Dec 9, 2015