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Publisher's Summary

From Blackstone chairman, CEO and cofounder 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 organisations. Whether you are a student, entrepreneur, philanthropist, executive or simply someone looking for ways to maximise 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 cofounded 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 easily. Schwarzman focused intensely on culture, hiring great talent and establishing processes that allow the firm to systematically analyse 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 rigour 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 organisations 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 centre at Yale, to enabling the renovation of the iconic New York Public Library, to founding the Schwarzman Scholars fellowship programme at Tsinghua University in Beijing - the single largest philanthropic effort in China’s history from international donors. 

Schwarzman’s story is an empowering, entertaining and informative guide for anyone striving for greater personal impact. From deal-making to investing, leadership to entrepreneurship, philanthropy to diplomacy, Schwarzman has lessons for how to think about ambition and scale, risk and opportunities, and how to achieve success through the relentless pursuit of excellence. Schwarzman not only offers listeners a thoughtful reflection on all his own experiences but in doing so provides a practical blueprint for success.

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

Critic Reviews

"This story literally has what it takes: the anecdotes, the insights and, most of all, the values to guide the next generation of entrepreneurs." (Mark Carney)

"The real story of what it takes from a man who could turn dreams into realities." (Ray Dalio)

"Candid, funny and real, Steve offers wisdom and the gift of much-needed common sense chapter by chapter and experience by experience. A great read!" (John Kerry)

What listeners say about What It Takes

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Worst 11 hours of my life wasted on 1 mans Ego!

This is the worst book I have ever wasted my time on... everything is wrong. Is all about an egocentric guy who sel-fsuck his balls for 11 excruciating hours...

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jump to end and listen to 25 guidelines

skip the rest .... like most auto biographies you get to hear about what Schwartzman wants to talk about and what he believes his epitaph to be .... a nice story but not really interesting... the 25 ideas at end worth listening to

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Transformational knowledge on global leadership

Absolutely loved the unrestricted access to mind of a leader. Inspirational and Reference for life.

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An excellent book by all standards.

Steve shares it all. He thoughtfully sums up so well what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

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Overall ILiked it

Like some comments I saw sometimes gets really boring about all the things he did, but there are some interesting lessons in the story

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Loved it

Great insights into the success of Blackstone, the Schwarzman scholars was very insightful. Good read.

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  • M. D.
  • 09-27-19

I liked the book, but I see why others hates it

This is a very unusual book. Written in a very unusual way. Narrated in a very unusual way too. It seems that it either is poorly written or that the author tried SOO hard to tell his life story, promote himself, his ventures and disguise it in a book of advice for others that is naturally disjointed. I very well understand why other readers find it confusing. The book contains many short episodes of authors life randomly without strong closure or reason for readers to care. These stories also jumps a lot back and forth in time and it just adds to confusion. More, it also have a slightly different tone, approach and narrators. Almost like a set of favorite stories you would share with different groups like your friends, family or professional circle all put together, but told by two different people. For my personal opinion book does get a lot better throughout the second half and then nose dive again when authors attempts to cover his importance in politics and contributions to education. At the end it all depends of your expectations. Most people who are interested in this book would be interested to learn authors insights, "know-how" and competitive edge. They are ambitious, eager to learn and have no patience. If you are one of them - this book is not for you! Or just skip to the last chapter. Others would aim to just learn about the author and in my opinion there are better books about his biography. There are always readers that just want to read something and will find it fantastic. Also the older generation, especially in the US, that can relate to the crisis, cycles of economy and other similar or well known events. They would have a lot in common with the author. The latter will absolutely love this book - I have no doubt! I liked the book and hope that the author will consider to write a version of it that is striped down to the facts and learning. 100% transparent situations, how to create and deal with them and create opportunities. How exactly he was leveraging deals and economy. Maybe a naive hope, however I foresee it to be all times hit.

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  • Kennedy
  • 01-30-20

Interesting in parts, but far too narcissistic

Having read Ray Dalio’s Principles, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I came across this, which I thought might be similar. I didn’t know much about of Schwarzman himself, though I had heard of Blackstone. However, I was fairly disappointed with the book for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, some parts are quite interesting - for instance, the background to the Financial Crisis, and he does give some good advice at times. However, although he seems like a genuinely interesting, and creditworthy individual, I found the constant name dropping, ego building, and self-praise nauseating to listen to. On top of copious self-praise, he also makes asides, which don’t take directly take credit for things, but kind of indirectly imply that credit might be deserved. For instance, I gave advice to Secretary X on what he should do about the economy, the next day the market bottomed out. Also, although he deserves credit for his charity work - he has donated a lot. Reading about it, I contrasted his approach to philanthropy with Buffet’s. Buffet has donated billions to a Foundation named after someone else, while Schwarzman must have a small town’s worth of buildings named after him at the stage, some of which he only funded a small part of. Even the Schwarzman Scholarship program is only partially funded by him (Dalio alone donated at least a quarter of what Schwarzman himself did), but solely named after him in perpetuity. The detailed descriptions of all those things seemed like simply self-praise. It kind of makes you wonder how much was for charity and how much was to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Rhodes. There’s probably a principle in there on maximising marketing value through leverage. Maybe I’m not seeing the forest for the trees, but I found this more of a book which listed his achievements, interspersed with good advice and principles rather than the other way round. An abridged version would be much more valuable, at least to me. The principles themselves are valid, but summarised in a 10 minute segment at the end. Overall, expected more - a poor man’s Ray Dalio’s Principles.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-30-20

Highly recommended

I’ve never felt compelled to write a book review before, but Schwarzman’s is worth the time.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-16-20

Powerful message

Great book, very inspiring character. Schwarzman talks about $40bn dollar deals like they're ten a penny. incredibly inspiring investor with a phenomenal mental endurance. Well worth a read.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-04-20

Brilliant version of Success!

loved every moment especiallythe final 25 point summary. Highly recommend book for emerging entrepreneurs! self reflection to fix issues. Do not be the victim of your own success maintain humility. Give back to the society. Creating money should not be the only goal...objective should be to create a successful legacy a company that can shine forever

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-15-20

Well written and read - insightful

A very informative book - in parts it may be a little too self congratulatory but that does not take away from the genuine stores and experiences which have been shared

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  • Ed
  • 03-17-20

insightful business biography. Highly recommend

Fantastic book, no spoilers here. Just get a copy and be inspired in a legend of stories related to his successes and failures.

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  • A
  • 11-15-20

Not worth it

The man said Trump questioning the election results is justified (see the FT) and compared Obama’s tax plan to the Nazi assault on Poland. The book shows you why that is no surprise at all. There is no intellectual heft here whatsoever; it’s a narcissistic retelling of the life of a corporate bully in an industry that exists because corporate lobbying has meant carries interest is still given an unfair tax advantage and we are OK with looking away as companies are saddled with unsustainable debt while the author and his ilk make out like bandits. Don’t even get me started on his kowtowing to China..all these plutocrats care about is financial returns. Democracy and decency be damned!

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  • Badboy I.
  • 10-22-20

Some excellent tidbits but a lot of self sucking

Stephen Schwarzman is evidently extremely successful, driven and knowledgable in the art of business. His stories offer insight into how and more importantly why some of the largest deals in history took place. But while there is plenty to be learned from his vast experience there is just as much (if not more) aggrandising and sickly self worship. Every chapter is titled with a valuable lesson that would be important to anyone in this field. Following the title are stories from Stephens career, starting out at his “humble” beginnings to where he is today. But while the stories are vaguely interesting, they become increasingly repetitive with every deal being “the largest of all time”. With no conclusion or evaluations by the author it is often impossible to see how they relate to the chapter heading at all. Even with his extreme philanthropy, he comes across as a man only interested in inflating his own ego, often mentioning how his gifts are larger than everybody else’s. It seems he values business over the expense of a care for humanity, particularly in a story where he convinces the government to bail out the billionaires of the banking industry rather than allowing them to focus on the worst sufferers of a recession. He would make a fascinating dinner guest with many inspiring tales and I’m sure the lessons you’d take from him would be invaluable, I’m just not sure we share the same values. You certainly wouldn’t want him owning your mothers care home. If you are interested in Stephens personal journey to the very top of the business world then I’m sure you would find this fascinating. However if you are only interested in the lessons you can apply to your own life then your time would be better served just reading a summary, or even just the chapter headings.

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  • Alan Jarvie
  • 09-26-20

Excellent all round business advice

This was on track to becoming on of my favourite business books on the last 15 years and only let itself down near the end with the final chapters focusing on the politically focused work Stephen involved himself in. There are a few 'trumpet blowing moments' throughout, which are cringy. Overall a very worthwhile read though.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-30-20

WOW

What an amazing life and an amazing man. Aptly named book as Stephen did live by doing whatever it took!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-14-20

Atomic Bomb of Economic Knowledge

An incredible insite to the ways of the mega investor. An absolute brilliant listen and fabulous narrative.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark Davis
  • 01-02-20

great book recommended it to anybody in financial

great book I recommended it to anybody in financial services industry. also very good perspectives on life.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-08-19

More Boasting than Helpful Strategy for the Reader

Pretty average story, nothing stood out specifically for me. Some stories rambled on and on which left me waiting for the next chapter.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Ryan Faulkner-Hogg
  • 05-27-20

Audio self fellatio

Brilliant stories and lessons, but a bit heavy on the self relief side with forced anecdotes and reminders of how brilliant he is.

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  • mp
  • 05-08-20

Just Blown Away!!

Great Book to know about Finance world. 🌎 Lots of things to take in life from this one Book 📖