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What It Takes

Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
Categories: Business, Management
4.5 out of 5 stars (23 ratings)

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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)

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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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  • Seb
  • 10-26-19

Loved it.

What a story. Stirring stuff for anyone aspiring to greatness. Given a couple more years, feels like he might have persuaded some minor country to name itself after him.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-23-19

Every ambitious young person should read this book

Schwarzman is smart, ambitious and very thoughtful. This book is both a gripping & inspiring read and an amazing insight into the mind of a man who has achieved extraordinary things in his lifetime.

He addresses a number of questions as well such as creating firm culture, hiring and promotions, economic cycles and philanthropy with depth and insight.