“What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” is a book I enjoyed in the last two flights. It’s a classic entrepreneurship story and half of the book is talking about his path in starting, building and expanding Blackstone. The other half is composed of stories in his life.
Who is Stephen Schwarzman?
Well, he manages over $500 billion as the co-founder/CEO of Blackstone.
He also wants to teach readers “how to grow organizations, and do positive things, and how to help their careers”.
I felt through the book that there are some good lessons.
One lesson is around the same (more or less) rules that Buffet coined around:
- Don’t lose money.
- Go back to confirm you are executing rule #1
A few little details make the book fun to read. For example, when he explained how Angela Merkel raised her hands to imitate a locust and how he mimics her. Another good one is when he tells of why he earned the nickname “Farmer Blackstone” in China. It is because he promised that the company’s stock price was like a seed that would grow in time.
I also liked this suggestion:
“There is nothing more interesting to people than their problems. Think about what others are dealing with, and try to come up with ideas to help them. Almost anyone, however senior or important, is receptive to good ideas provided you are thoughtful.”
Another good one is to ‘go big’:
“ If you’re going to commit yourself to something, 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 fantasy is worthy of your pursuit.”
He also talks about ‘never stop learning’ and how it’s critical at this time to keep improving your knowledge and thinking.
He puts it this way:
“Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know, the more perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.”
For young people that are starting their way:
“When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and good/deep training. First jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.”
For entrepreneurs who think their startup is ‘killing it’:
“Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. Organizations, especially, are more fragile than you think.”
On hiring A players (which he call them ’10’):
“Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around 10.”
Overall, fun and easy book to read with good stories and lessons.