What It Takes

Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (1,452 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

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What listeners say about What It Takes

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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.

10 people found this helpful

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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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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.

13 people found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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excellent Book

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

1 person found this helpful

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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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Inspirational

It's a great story. Explaining clearly how business are perform and guidelines for entrepreneurs! Is a must to read for anyone in the Financial Industry.

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A little bragging goes a long way.

The amount of bragging in this book was a little too much for me. some interesting stories and great insights. probably worth the listen overall, but definitely an ego trip.

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A great learning opportunity.

Wow! This book is a great learning opportunity. It is worth every second of your time. A great lesson in entrepreneurship, economics and management. It also gives a sneak peak into the working of Washington, DC. The book is very well narrated. I highly recommend it.

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Reads Honest and Clear

There is a cool twist on narration - this is a mix of author and narrator reading. This is not a problem. Shows ownership by the author. The book itself shows how immense success is possible when a guy is relentless and committed. Nobody gave Steve his fortune, he could have just taken a severance from Lehmann brothers or taken a comfortable job without starting Blackstone. In fact Blackstone was a personal risk, he took the risk. Fortune favors the bold! Also, you see that success was not linear. He took lumps and bruises but kept moving forward. It was also cool to understand what Steve considers to be a "10" rated talent.