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What It Takes

Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
Written by: Stephen A. Schwarzman
Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
5 out of 5 stars (52 ratings)

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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 members say

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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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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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  • 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.

3 people found this helpful

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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.

6 people found this helpful

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-02-08

Relatable, interesting and inspiring

I love this book! I am more inspired to pursue what I want, to always be excellent, integrity and to always be intentional!

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  • niyi omojola
  • 2020-01-31

Hit the spot

As an entrepreneur, this book captures the highs and lows but gives good guidance on how to move forward, in honest detail. Inspiring.

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  • L.
  • 2020-01-30

Nice book, it reflects the personality of Mr. Schw

I learnt a lot of new thinks, not necesarily from S. S., but about economy, financial history, power, and the influence of Key people at the highest levels.

You definetly should give it a try.

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  • David
  • 2020-01-24

Best Book Ever ,

This book gives you the actual story of how Steve took a dream, held on to it & did whatever necessary for it to become a reality. An amazing well rounded life & amazing leader.

I took many notes of how to, you should too!
Enjoy it !!!

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  • Ben Brown
  • 2020-01-23

Great book!

This is a great story about perseverance and success. I always like hearing other people’s stories about how they succeeded in their field. I also learned some great lessons that I can apply in my own life. Highly recommend!

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  • Stephen Watler
  • 2020-01-20

Great book on business and giving back

Excellent book with great insight in being successful in business as well as his philanthropic initiatives