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Publisher's Summary

From Blackstone chairman, CEO, and co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman, a long-awaited book that uses impactful episodes from Schwarzman's life to show listeners how to build, transform, and lead thriving organizations. Whether you are a student, entrepreneur, philanthropist, executive, or simply someone looking for ways to maximize your potential, the same lessons apply.

People know who Stephen Schwarzman is - at least they think they do. He’s the man who took $400,000 and co-founded Blackstone, the investment firm that manages over $500 billion (as of January 2019). He’s the CEO whose views are sought by heads of state. He’s the billionaire philanthropist who founded Schwarzman Scholars, this century’s version of the Rhodes Scholarship, in China. But behind these achievements is a man who has spent his life learning and reflecting on what it takes to achieve excellence, make an impact, and live a life of consequence.

Folding handkerchiefs in his father’s linen shop, Schwarzman dreamed of a larger life, filled with purpose and adventure. His grades and athleticism got him into Yale. After starting his career in finance with a short stint at a financial firm called DLJ, Schwarzman began working at Lehman Brothers where he ascended to run the mergers and acquisitions practice. He eventually partnered with his mentor and friend Pete Peterson to found Blackstone, vowing to create a new and different kind of financial institution.

Building Blackstone into the leading global financial institution it is today didn’t come easy. Schwarzman focused intensely on culture, hiring great talent, and establishing processes that allow the firm to systematically analyze and evaluate risk. Schwarzman’s simple mantra “don’t lose money” has helped Blackstone become a leading private equity and real estate investor, and manager of alternative assets for institutional investors globally. Both he and the firm are known for the rigor of their investment process, their innovative approach to deal making, the diversification of their business lines, and a conviction to be the best at everything they do.

Schwarzman is also an active philanthropist, having given away more than a billion dollars. In philanthropy, as in business, he is drawn to situations where his capital and energy can be applied to drive transformative solutions and change paradigms, notably in education. He uses the skills learned over a lifetime in finance to design, establish, and support impactful and innovative organizations and initiatives. His gifts have ranged from creating a new College of Computing at MIT for the study of artificial intelligence, to establishing a first-of-its-kind student and performing arts center at Yale, to enabling the renovation of the iconic New York Public Library, to founding the Schwarzman Scholars fellowship program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

©2019 Stephen A. Schwarzman (P)2019 Simon & Schuster Audio

What listeners say about What It Takes

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A really "big" deal ...

There is an idea in economics that consumers vote with their money. Every dollar you earn is a reward, a vote and affirmation that you have added value to someone else.

If you subscribe to this idea, then Mr. Schwarzman is someone we need to listen to and pay attention to. With $500 billion under management, Mr. Schwarzman and the company he co-founded, Blackstone, sure have a lot of "votes" and they created a lot of value.

The book shares a story of privilege, educated in Yale and Harvard, a successful career from day one and the right opportunities at the right time. Combined with a brilliant intellect, talent and ambition.

The result is phenomenal BIG success.

The reader needs a basic understanding of economics and finance to follow some of the deals Mr. Schwarzman describes. With that foundation and an interest in the subject, you will find the book informative and interesting.

Beyond sharing his knowledge, Mr. Schwarzman shares his wisdom.

Enjoyed it and learned from it. Recommend read.

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Hard work pays

One of the best books I ever read, my best points are,always reinvent yourself, work hard, never give up, be humble and don’t be complacent.

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Inspiring and Insightful

A great perspective on a leader who has lived by moral codes and achieved fantastic success. Great points on how to harness the power of yourself.

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An Outstanding Read

The best business book I’ve read in years and one of the best of all time - invaluable insights delivered in a captivating storyline.

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Strengthen my beliefs

Thank you Stephen, I appreciate it ! I am now the best manager of music artist in Canada

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Key insights into an influential figure

I’ve studied Stephen Schwarzman at a distance but this book provided even deeper insights on the creation and operation of Blackstone as they were from his perspective. I learned and was inspired by his boldness and intelligence. His involvement in international trade negotiations was very interesting to hear as well. I recommend this for anyone interested in finance and economics.

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  • E. Cullen
  • 2019-11-24

If you don’t understand yourself how much can you teach others.

I’m sure Schwarzman is very smart but he doesn’t seem to have really had to face his demons. For example he starts out the book with a story that seems to be suggesting a low point in his career and how he pushed through to success. He was already one of the most we’ll know people in finance and he went off to start a fund with his partner. Because people weren’t signing on to this fund fast enough and because it was raining we were supposed to see his strength and creativity.
In another section he describes how his ability to remember conversations and experiences extremely accurately was because of his self discipline. He doesn’t even seem to consider that he was gifted with a photographic memory.
One last point, but less about the value of lack there of, of the book is a section where he describes how he closed a big deal and now he has a responsibility to speak out on important social and political issues of the day, as if the two have anything to do with one another. He just seems insufferable.
Too bad.

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  • David A. Johnson
  • 2019-10-15

Outstanding story and lessons in business and life

An incredible story about one of the worlds most successful businessman. Themes include thinking big, hiring “10s” out of 10 to form incredible teams, establishing trust while working with people from other countries or political parties, how to be resilient after suffering a setback. How to help other people with their problems, which in turn will have a positive effect on you. How to effectively build trust in business and in government. Finally, lessons in philanthropy. If you had the money, how can you give it away and make a giant difference in the world. Steve Schwarzman is a man of integrity.

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  • 2019-10-26

A very boring self congratulatory victory lap

A very boring read. No lessons, no plot, just outright boasting. I’m pretty sure it’s in my top 5 most boring reads ever. Hopefully I can return it.

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  • cokilx
  • 2020-05-03

Just a laundry list of his achievements with no real lesson

Listened to the first 3 chapters and really couldn’t continue. The book is a laundry list of the things he did. There is no insight. His description of his early achievements offered no useful lesson in any way. For example, he got the highest salary out of school simple told the boss that he won’t take the job unless he gets what he wants while it seems he didn’t even know what he was doing during that first job. Yet everyone was so impressed of him for no apparent reason.

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  • chaitram Persaud
  • 2019-12-23

excellent Book

Very insightful book. Persistence and hard work eventually paid off for Steve Schwarzman. I thoroughly enjoy reading this book.

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  • eric chavez
  • 2019-12-03

A must read/listen to for any entrepreneur

Very impactful, I could not stop listening! A must read/listen to for any entrepreneur building an empire.

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  • imran shahzad
  • 2021-05-28

Overall an Excellent Listen

Overall an excellent listen. Fascinating achievements by Mr. Schwarzman. Lessons are very valuable in this book and title is appropriate for the contents. Some of the details of his deals are too wordy and boring for a person like me who is not in finance or business and is only getting into the game right now but nevertheless I can see how he cannot make a point without those details. On one hand, this gives me a detail and practical understanding of the (predominately White) privilege and enormous opportunities that rich American have in this society where they all go to prestige universities and know each other in their own close network of finance, business and politics etc. On the other hand, it does create a unique perspective for a minority person and an immigrant like me to make a choice between pursuing my ambitions in this land of enormous opportunities or blame the system for placing wealthy individuals at an unfair advantage and finding excuses for my own shortcomings. Choice is clear and America is a land of opportunity and nothing is beyond anyone's reach in this beautiful country if they are willing to do "what it takes" . Thanks for sharing your knowledge, perspective on life, business and beyond.

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  • ELR
  • 2021-03-26

Awesome Story From a Finance Legend

The book is captivating and contains many life lessons from one of the greatest hedge fund entrepreneurs of all time.

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  • C. Edwards
  • 2021-03-06

Vain and delusional

Self indulgent to the point of delusion. It is unclear whether he genuinely believes he has made the impact on this world he thinks he has.
The returning Messiah will apparently be waiting for his instruction.
Don’t bother.

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  • Brian Sachetta
  • 2021-03-01

A little slow for my liking

I went into this one fairly blind; I merely bought it at the recommendation of several friends and podcast hosts. I was excited to hear of Schwarzman’s approach to life and investing. In the end, I’m definitely not mad that I bought it, but I do think it missed the mark a little bit. Here’s why I felt that way.

The book itself is a little slow. Though the subtitle suggests “lessons in the pursuit of excellence,” I think a better subtitle for this one would be “a history of dealmaking in my life and companies.” That is, instead of countless digestible lessons, we get stories from Schwarzman’s career.

Some of those stories are interesting, while some of them are less so (or too long), in my opinion. Since they’re mostly from the private equity side of things, your interest in them may come down to how interested you are in PE in general.

Though there were some life lessons peppered throughout, the bulk of those lessons didn’t come until the epilogue, where they felt hastily thrown in (in the form of a 25 point list) at the last minute. I thought that list could’ve been more tactfully scattered throughout the entire book or could’ve laid the foundation for the manuscript itself. Oh well.

So, while this book definitely has its good moments, I think those in the private equity space will find it much more interesting than those who are not. And, just to be clear: this one is most certainly not a general self-help / personal development book. If you think it’s going to be, like I sort of did, you’ll likely find yourself slightly disappointed at the end of it.

-Brian Sachetta
Author of “Get Out of Your Head”