What It Takes | Stephen A. Schwarzman

Summary of: What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
By: Stephen A. Schwarzman


Dive into the captivating world of Stephen A. Schwarzman, the co-founder of Blackstone, one of history’s most successful international investment companies. In his autobiography ‘What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence’, Schwarzman details his meteoric rise in Wall Street finance and shares the principles of success and leadership that shaped his journey. Through his remarkable story, you can expect to uncover his commitment to philanthropy, reflections on his early years, and experiences at renowned institutions such as Yale University and Lehman Brothers. Moreover, explore the secrets of Blackstone’s success, built on a foundation of excellence, integrity, innovation, and collaboration.

Principles of Success and Philanthropy

Stephen A. Schwarzman shares his life and business principles and his unwavering commitment to philanthropy, in this inspiring and engaging autobiography.

In his autobiography, Stephen A. Schwarzman shares his life’s story and how he built an internationally recognized investment company – Blackstone Group, Inc. Schwarzman’s determination, hard work, and analytical abilities enabled him to succeed, and he attributes his success to his willingness to make rapid, tough decisions.
Schwarzman highlights his profound commitment to philanthropy, and his principles of success and leadership are valuable lessons for readers. He believes that success is about taking advantage of those rare moments of opportunity that come unexpectedly, provided one is alert and open to change.
The autobiography offers insightful and inspiring readings for individuals who seek to learn from Schwarzman’s journey. Ray Dalio, co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, and Janet Yellen, former head of the Federal Reserve, highly recommend this book as an inspirational and motivational read.
One can also explore similar readings from Schwarzman’s peers, such as The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger and Invent and Wander by Jeff Bezos. Overall, Schwarzman’s autobiography is an engaging, inspiring, and fascinating read that highlights both his success and his commitment to making the world a better place.

Schwarzman’s Journey

The book talks about how Stephen Schwarzman’s journey began at Yale and how he went on to achieve remarkable things in the business world. During his time at Yale, he started a ballet appreciation society and brought a female presence to the otherwise all-male campus; he also initiated a program to attract minority students. After seeking career guidance from a Skull and Bones alumnus, he started his first job at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette but left after only six months to train in the Army Reserves. This was followed by a stint at Harvard Business School where he discovered his potential to spot patterns, sense problems, and suggest potential solutions. Schwarzman joined Lehman Brothers after Harvard where he made partner in six years, orchestrated a multimillion-dollar acquisition of Tropicana, and oversaw the company’s sale to American Express. After a coup ousted CEO Pete Peterson, Schwarzman left and went into business with Peterson. This book tells the story of a man who started small but went on to achieve great success through perseverance and hard work.

Big Goals for Big Success

When Stephen Schwarzman and Peter Peterson founded Blackstone in 1985, they focused on “going big” and staying decisive. The name Blackstone, a combination of the German word “Schwarz” meaning black and the Greek word “petros” meaning stone, reflects their mission to invest in “alternative assets” such as private-equity funds, mortgage securities, and hedge funds. Schwarzman set an initial goal of $1 billion for the investment fund, and although their first fund raised $800 million, Schwarzman’s approach of setting grand targets has fueled Blackstone’s success. By focusing on mergers and acquisitions, Blackstone became the leading firm in alternative asset management.

Schwarzman’s Strategic Business Insights

In his memoir, Blackstone CEO, Schwarzman, emphasizes the importance of information in business and using it to anticipate issues and seek unique opportunities. He shares his strategic psychological insight, advising investors not to invest too early and wait until prices recover at least 10% from the bottom. Schwarzman’s success in applying these tactics proves the merit of his counsel.

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