In a recent phone conversation, Harris spoke about the origins of “her pearls,” moving past one’s fear, and one of the biggest lessons she’s learned working on Wall Street.
At what point in your career did you develop “The Pearls”? How did that all come about?
Carla Harris: I acquired the pearls very early on in my career. In fact, I gave my first speech around “the pearls” in February of 1990 out at the University of Michigan, and I was only a third year associate. I wasn’t even a full three years but I had already acquired a couple of the pearls, and a lot of the pearls were acquired, really, by making mistakes. Something didn’t work out and then you reflect on it and then you say ‘Aw, that’s what I should have done.’ And of course the way life is it will send you that event again just to see if you’ve learned something. Of course when I found myself in that situation again, then I would apply the learning so that I could make sure that I had gotten the lesson life came to teach me again. I could confirm that the pearls worked. That’s why I can look at people so confidently and say ‘use the pearls. They work.’ Because they’ve been tried and tested in all kinds of environments: very intense, dynamic, competitive environments across all economic cycles, and they still work.