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A little lie can go a long way

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Gary Cohn had a dream. But he needed to lie to attain it.

Cohn, the longtime president and chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, battled dyslexia as a child. A teacher warned his parents that he’d be “lucky” to get a job as a truck driver when he grew up. But Cohn persevered through high school and college. After graduating from American University in 1982, he sold window frames and aluminum siding for US Steel.

Yet Cohn aspired to work in high finance, and during a business trip to Manhattan he took a day off to visit the famous Wall Street trading floor. The security guard would not let him onto the trading floor, but fate intervened.

He spotted an options trader racing to catch a cab to the airport. He asked to share the taxi ride, and the man agreed.

Chatting in the cab, Cohn pretended to know everything about options—a complex investment instrument—and said, “I can do anything for you.” The trader invited Cohn to call to set up an interview. Within a week he nabbed a job.

“I lied to him all the way to the airport,” Cohn recalls. But before his interview a few days later, he read extensively about options so that he would sound credible when it counted.

Cohn, 56, joined Goldman’s commodities trading unit in 1990 and became a partner in 1994. He recently left Goldman Sachs to become director of the National Economic Council.

— Adapted from “Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn has the ultimate Wall Street underdog story,” Julia LaRoche, finance.yahoo.com.

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