Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

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)

What listeners say about What It Takes

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    254
  • 4 Stars
    70
  • 3 Stars
    26
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    5
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    217
  • 4 Stars
    64
  • 3 Stars
    17
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    204
  • 4 Stars
    66
  • 3 Stars
    21
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    4

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting in parts, but far too narcissistic

Having read Ray Dalio’s Principles, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I came across this, which I thought might be similar. I didn’t know much about of Schwarzman himself, though I had heard of Blackstone. However, I was fairly disappointed with the book for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, some parts are quite interesting - for instance, the background to the Financial Crisis, and he does give some good advice at times. However, although he seems like a genuinely interesting, and creditworthy individual, I found the constant name dropping, ego building, and self-praise nauseating to listen to. On top of copious self-praise, he also makes asides, which don’t take directly take credit for things, but kind of indirectly imply that credit might be deserved. For instance, I gave advice to Secretary X on what he should do about the economy, the next day the market bottomed out. Also, although he deserves credit for his charity work - he has donated a lot. Reading about it, I contrasted his approach to philanthropy with Buffet’s. Buffet has donated billions to a Foundation named after someone else, while Schwarzman must have a small town’s worth of buildings named after him at the stage, some of which he only funded a small part of. Even the Schwarzman Scholarship program is only partially funded by him (Dalio alone donated at least a quarter of what Schwarzman himself did), but solely named after him in perpetuity. The detailed descriptions of all those things seemed like simply self-praise. It kind of makes you wonder how much was for charity and how much was to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Rhodes. There’s probably a principle in there on maximising marketing value through leverage. Maybe I’m not seeing the forest for the trees, but I found this more of a book which listed his achievements, interspersed with good advice and principles rather than the other way round. An abridged version would be much more valuable, at least to me. The principles themselves are valid, but summarised in a 10 minute segment at the end. Overall, expected more - a poor man’s Ray Dalio’s Principles.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Highly recommended

I’ve never felt compelled to write a book review before, but Schwarzman’s is worth the time.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful message

Great book, very inspiring character. Schwarzman talks about $40bn dollar deals like they're ten a penny. incredibly inspiring investor with a phenomenal mental endurance. Well worth a read.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant version of Success!

loved every moment especiallythe final 25 point summary. Highly recommend book for emerging entrepreneurs! self reflection to fix issues. Do not be the victim of your own success maintain humility. Give back to the society. Creating money should not be the only goal...objective should be to create a successful legacy a company that can shine forever

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Well written and read - insightful

A very informative book - in parts it may be a little too self congratulatory but that does not take away from the genuine stores and experiences which have been shared

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ed
  • 17-03-20

insightful business biography. Highly recommend

Fantastic book, no spoilers here. Just get a copy and be inspired in a legend of stories related to his successes and failures.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent

Amazing book. Highly recommended for people in the asset management industry but also for those interested in how big companies are built from scratch and how such companies are involved in shaping the world through their power - charities and donations that will shape the future as well as meetings with the people that run the world. The global influence they have is astonishing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A principled story of huge success

I enjoyed this book. A clear high achiever right from his student years, Schwarzman's story was well written and well narrated. Lots of business and a bit of politics, including some very tactful observations about his dealings with Donald Trump!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

WOW! What a journey!

Story of a man with unique integrity and passion. great example of constant transformation!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Brian Kinny
  • Brian Kinny
  • 13-02-20

Worst 11 hours of my life wasted on 1 mans Ego!

This is the worst book I have ever wasted my time on... everything is wrong. Is all about an egocentric guy who sel-fsuck his balls for 11 excruciating hours...

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-02-20

jump to end and listen to 25 guidelines

skip the rest .... like most auto biographies you get to hear about what Schwartzman wants to talk about and what he believes his epitaph to be .... a nice story but not really interesting... the 25 ideas at end worth listening to

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Suchindra K C
  • Suchindra K C
  • 14-11-20

Transformational knowledge on global leadership

Absolutely loved the unrestricted access to mind of a leader. Inspirational and Reference for life.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alexander Adjei Bram
  • Alexander Adjei Bram
  • 29-09-20

An excellent book by all standards.

Steve shares it all. He thoughtfully sums up so well what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alessandro Orlandi
  • Alessandro Orlandi
  • 01-07-20

Overall ILiked it

Like some comments I saw sometimes gets really boring about all the things he did, but there are some interesting lessons in the story

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Srikanth
  • Srikanth
  • 24-01-20

Loved it

Great insights into the success of Blackstone, the Schwarzman scholars was very insightful. Good read.