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What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  558 ratings  ·  63 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From Blackstone chairman, CEO, and co-founder Stephen A. Schwarzman, a long-awaited book that uses impactful episodes from Schwarzman's life to show readers 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
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Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
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Sanford Chee
The Economist review
https://www.economist.com/business/20...

25 rules for work & life:
1. It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.

2. The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.

3. Write or call the people you admire,
...more
Jørgen
Despite several insightful reflections on sound principles and values on building a healthy company culture, it was hard to interpret the remaining parts of the book as more than continuous self-promotion that didn’t really provide much value. I learned a lot about Schwarzman though - so I guess it’s as always about what you are seeking.
William Krasne
Did you know that Steve Schwarzman is perfect and has never failed and everyone should listen to him? If you didn’t, this book will tell you!
May Ling
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Summary: A lot of great take aways that are then fully summarized in the list in the back. I would read the book though for the same reason one reads the underlying story behind a parable, i.e. to gain more meaningful insight into the wisdom of the advice.

When I give a book five stars, I typically read the views of those that do not agree. This is to get a sense for whether this book is just reconfirming my biases. What I gathered is that those that hate this book would likely have a tough time
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Jonathan Birnbaum
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
SS has had an unimaginably successful career as a financier, and now political powerbroker and philanthropist. The story is fairly engaging, going over big moments chronologically in his rise from college to the helm of Blackstone. His rise is just so epic, I enjoyed the narrative more than I expected going in. Main takeaways are go big (raising a small fund and investing is similar levels of work to raising a big fund), work hard, and relationships/reputation are critical. Bit crazy some of his ...more
Matthew
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Working in the commercial real estate industry, you can't go long without hearing about Blackstone. During grad school I remember constantly hearing about the "the biggest transaction in (somewhere)" or "the worlds most (something) in real estate"... and nine times out of ten, Blackstone was at the heart of it. For that reason alone, I wish I had read this book years ago. But since it only came out a few months ago, here we are, and I guess late is better than never.

I don't know what to make of
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Anthony Hughes
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good color on some of the deals (Equity Office Properties, Hilton) but zero introspection about extreme wealth and not much on the criticisms of private equity, plus a heap of humble-bragging and name-dropping. Of course, this all comes with the territory (in a business ‘memoir’ you must mention at least once the names of all your friends so they can look themselves up in the index - except a billionaire can never be sure whether his ‘friends’ are really friends or just business associates).

As
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Joseph Pepe
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed Schwarzman's incredibly successful journey through life. I had general knowledge of his business success (read Kings of Capital) but did not realize how much of an impact he has had in the political arena and through his charitable endeavors. A true exemplar of someone who thought big, was an opportunist during the nascent days of PE, and never found a challenge he wasn't confident he could overcome. From calling the dean of admissions at Harvard as a high school student ...more
Alok Kejriwal
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When the Founder of Blackstone writes a book about his life story, you have to read it! He turned $400,000 of start-up capital in 1985 into over $500 billion of assets under management in 2019—a growth of 50 % p.a since start.

Read to learn:

- That getting to the top takes RELENTLESSNESS.

- The POWER of Mistakes. Examples when Schwarzman uses principles to make decisions, that turn out to be massive missed opportunities. So, the moral dilemma - what matters? Principles or Opportunity OR a
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Gaurav Juneja
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read

Absolutely gripping read. Loved the book from start to finish, which I accomplished in 3 sittings. I thought Sam Zell wrote a great autobiography, this completely blew my mind!

Key highlights for me:
1. Schwarzman’s philosophy towards life, esp. that of setting magnificent goals and doing whatever one can to accomplish them

2. How Schwarzman built Blackstone into the world’s biggest alternative asset manager - raising capital, dealing with failure, hiring right people, maintaining
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D H
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Steve Schwarzman’s “Art of the Deal”. A regularly cringe inducing autobiography built around chapters with self help inspired titles and the occasional, borderline cliche life advice aside. Passages regularly include name drops, superlatives, and not so subtle ranking (10s, firsts, richest). It’s eye opening that someone who’s achieved such extraordinary things can have such shallow motivations (money and prestige) and still seek so much external validation. That said, it was an overall ...more
Simone Cimminelli
This is by far the best book about leadership and business I have ever read. I am so grateful to the author for sharing his life. This is my 2019 Book award. I already know I will come back to it endlessly times in my life and carrer
Steven Ritchie
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Don’t waste your time or money.

Stephen Schwarzman is one of the richest men in the world but he couldn’t pay an editor to tell him the truth: this is a bad book.

Lots of back patting and no substance. I’m sure Blackstone has a very interesting story, it’s just not in this book.
Chandrashekar
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
More about self

I found the book more as a statement of self than lessons learnt. I expected to learn more on lessons learnt in building a strong firm. I was not that impressed but learnt more about the man for sure.
Karl-O
The Economist | The lessons of Stephen Schwarzman https://www.economist.com/node/217718...
Conor Murphy
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Schwarzman offers readers an open and honest look into the challenges, failures, and successes that have defined his life. Schwarzman offers invaluable insight into investing, business, and leadership. Those interested in such topics will takeaway useful perspectives for thinking about business and investment after receiving an inside look into some of the greatest deals made at Blackstone. Personally I find it quite fascinating that Schwarzman found so much success in the financial ...more
Fahim Sachedina
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an inspirational story in the life of a remarkable individual - from his time at Lehman and the early stages of Blackstone, to being a close confidant of President Obama and many other influential people.

The stories are interesting and I gained a lot from reading the various parables and nuances to do with Private Equity and how deals were and have been structured.

At the end, he also summarises his list of 25 rules for work and life - which I've copied below:


25 rules for work &
...more
Bulgan Batsaikhan
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blackstone Chairman, CEO and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman is a legend in the finance world. He turned $400,000 of seed money into an asset management company that is currently managing over $500 billion - a growth rate of about 50 percent a year! Finally, his long-awaited book is out.

In his book he shares with us his life lessons - lessons of success and life in general. These lessons are so enlightening that every young individual who is striving to succeed in the business world should take a
...more
Robert Ditrych
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great takeaways from the book.
Good read about the remarkable rise of Schwarzman and Blackstone.

His 25 rules for work and life:

1) It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.

2) The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.

3)
...more
Marc
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Schwarzman, Iger, Randolph. In September this year three American businessmen published their memoirs. One a financier, one a corporate executive and one an entrepreneur, they added their contribution to the canon that is the business memoir.

You know the genre. Businessman becomes successful, retires, writes about it. It’s an easy genre to critique. Not only are these books born out of selection bias, because who wants to read the memoir of an unsuccessful businessman, but they layer in all the
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Kes
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How much you enjoy this book is going to depend on why you're reading this book and what you hope to get out of it.

Halfway through, I stopped and said "this book is definitely ghostwritten" - there was something about the way anecdotes were related or drawn out; especially when he talks about going through dusty shelves with his slide rule. I was pleased to finish the book and find out that I was correct.

Anyway, plus points:

1. The start of this book is about hustling and the amount of pressure
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Adam
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lifetime overnight success story. He's more a connector of people and deal maker then investor as his background isn't financial. Stephen is a moonshot enthusiast who keeps punching no matter the odds.

Things my ear picked up on & mind collected:


You are never more vulnerable then at the moment you think you have succeeded
It's a matter of tactics not principle
Reading is the mind what exercise is to the body
Allow them the opportunity to respond from a deep place not just a sense of
...more
Helen Xue
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books where, after I had finished reading it, wondered out loud (with a sense of rising panic and exasperation)... "What am I doing with my life?! I should get a MBA." I wish 16 year old me had access to Schwarzman's lessons, who pull no punches in his delivery of said lessons. "If you’re going to commit yourself to something,"writes Schwarzman, "it’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small. Both will consume your time and energy, so make sure your fantasy ...more
Dick
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love autobiography because it’s like sitting down with the person and listen to him/her recounting their whole life ( provided that it’s not too poorly written). It’s a great way to learn. I have always been fascinated by schwarzman’s life. I have read the blackstone story in “ king of capital”. It wasn't very well written and it’s not too flattering to the man’s personality. While I don’t doubt he has a big ego (in fact i don’t think he tried to hide it the way he wrote about his life), he ...more
Nick
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To my surprise, Schwarzman is self made. This book shares a lot of his management/career philosophies, about taking the initiatives, setting big goals, learning from mistakes, and etc. A lot of practical tips, too. For instance, he shared two methods of relaxing under stressful situations: 1) focus on breathing and 2) take a moment to slow down. Logical but not so obvious. The democratization of Blackstone’s investment process is innovative - letting people collectively making a decision ...more
Valerie Dennis
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: znonfiction
I listened to this book and can honestly say I do not think I could have read a book. Having said this, I must say it was an exciting read. Mr. Schwarzman gave us his heart while giving us a huge does of "don't ever give up". He comes from the world of big finance. Many of the things he talked about in his business were over my head. What was not over my head was how tenacity can pull you through. His experience is trying one that epitomizes the phrase, no only means not now.

There is much hard
...more
Ragnar Leknes
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caroline
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal autobiography on the tremendous amount of hardwork, integrity, intelligence, and persistence required to succeed in finance (through guiding principles that can be applied to any industry!). Steve’s indepth review and interconnectedness of his business deals, the stock markets, and Global economies provide readers with knowledge and insight into what it takes to achieve excellence and grow a hugely successful, imprecably managed firm.

Spoiler Alert: You will be inspired!
Yanal
Schwarzman is a relentless in pursuing his goals. He came from humble beginnings and has been able to become a finance icon with all his accomplishments. There is plenty of lessons to learn from his life and he is still going full speed to live his mark on the world. Some may say he is just another financier who is full of ego, but he is still definitely admirable in regards to all the philanthropy he contributes to society.
Shivakumar Srinivasan
A tour de force of Schwarzman’s philosophy, which offers great insights into his professional and personal life, it’s remarkable that he used his previlaged upbringing to make his life and contribution more meaningful instead of squandering it away. While he doesn’t hide the fact that his connections and reach helped him a great deal, the insights into his building the firm from scratch and scaling it up to the giant it has become is fascinating. Great book on leadership and culture building.
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