People know who Stephen Schwarzman is – at least they think they do. He’s the man who took $400,000 and co-founded The Blackstone Group, the private equity firm that now manages over $434 billion. He's the CEO heads of state the world over rely on to help them solve problems and think about the future. He’s the billionaire philanthropist who founded the Schwarzman Scholars program in Beijing, this century's version of the Rhodes Scholarship program. But underneath these achievements and this success is a man who has spent on his life learning and reflecting on what it takes to achieve excellence and to make an impact in the world.
For Schwarzman, the most influential figure in his life wasn’t a business school professor, Wall Street banker or foreign world leader; it was his high school track coach, who pushed him far beyond what he thought was his breaking point. Folding laundry in his father’s linen shop throughout school, Schwarzman dreamed of a larger life, filled with adventure and interesting people. Schwarzman’s grades and running ability got him into Yale, where he began to meet those people. He spent one summer working as an engine room wiper aboard a cargo ship, travelling through the Caribbean and South America, seeing a sliver of that larger world he wanted to join.
After a six-month stint in Army basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana, Schwarzman returned to New York and began working at Lehman Brothers. Schwarzman recounts the cast of characters he met as he worked his way up the company and throughout the industry. He recalls teaching finance to a young General Electric employee named Jack Welch. He tells the story of how he singlehandedly engineered the sale of Tropicana for $400 million on behalf of Lehman. He was promoted, and became a Managing Director at the age of 31. From there, he continued this ascent, eventually partnering with his mentor and good friend Pete Peterson, to travel the world seeking financing for their joint venture called “Blackstone," a combination of the roots of each of their last names.
Schwarzman's work at Blackstone ultimately helped define the world we know today. He ushered in innovative management techniques and deal structures for the private equity industry. He helped Blackstone become the biggest holder of real estate in the world. He took the company public, earning praise for his decision to manage "a different kind of company" (words made famous in the offering statement). He has gone on to change the world through his philanthropic endeavors, ranging from the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing to the New York Public Library to the "Schwarzman Scholars," a program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the single largest philanthropic effort in China's history.
A book filled with practical wisdom, Schwarzman’s story is an empowering, entertaining, and informative guide for anyone looking to strive for more. Schwarzman not only offers thoughtful reflection on all he’s achieved, but provides a blueprint for readers, giving them access to one of the most extraordinary minds of our time.
About the Author
Stephen A. Schwarzman is Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone, one of the world’s leading investment firms. Mr. Schwarzman is an active philanthropist with a history of supporting education, culture, and the arts, among other areas. Mr. Schwarzman holds a BA from Yale University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives in New York City with his wife and three dogs.
'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, Governor of the Bank of England
'The real story of what it takes from a man who could turn dreams into realities.' -- Ray Dalio, bestselling author of Principles
'Steve Schwarzman has lived the American dream: a self-made icon in his field, turned philanthropist, who has long worked with creativity and vision to deepen relationships between individuals and countries. Steve shares the full measure of his personal journey with us in What It Takes - part memoir, part playbook for success in any field. Humble, 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, Secretary of State 2013-17
'What It Takes is a must-read book, filled with the experiences of one of the great business success stories of the last 30 years - Blackstone. In this book, Steve Schwarzman chronicles his and Blackstone's journey to the top of global business. The book is filled with fresh insights and personal experiences that everyone - from students to CEOs - will relate to and learn from.' -- Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of GE
'A series of thoughtful reflections derived from the author's extraordinary life, which has already left its mark on the worlds of finance, politics and education and made each the better for it. In this brief and insightful volume, Schwarzman has identified several key qualities required for excellence in any field, including a tireless sense of curiosity, a tolerance for risk and an eye for the humble detail.' -- Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State 1973-77
'What It Takes is a must-read, inspirational account of how Stephen A. Schwarzman built Blackstone into one of the world's top global asset management companies and leveraged his resources, know-how and vision to spearhead bold philanthropic programmes and provide trusted advice to a generation of political leaders around the globe.' -- Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve 2014-18
'Steve's life lessons challenge me to think bigger and move even faster. His insights apply to both our work and personal lives, and his leadership has always embodied the principle of doing what is right, even when it is hard. Steve challenges us all to be better leaders, better citizens, better people.' -- Mary Barra, Chairwoman and CEO of General Motors
'From his start as an entrepreneur working in his family's linen store in 1950s Philadelphia, Steve Schwarzman has made towering contributions to finance, relations between the US and China, and computing, including a seminal investment in AI research that will help establish the age of intelligence. Steve always takes the long view and then helps move us in the direction that will pay the greatest dividends. This book reveals how he has achieved the rarest kind of leverage in multiple fields.' -- Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google