Books,  Excerpts

Excerpts from “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” by Stephen A. Schwarzman

During my stay in Bengaluru in Dec 2021, I visited Landmark in Koramangala Forum Mall. As always, went through many books including the one on Tim Cook, stumbled on this hard cover “What It Takes”, was intrigued, read the cover page, got more intrigued, never knew about a company called Blackstone. Flipped through the book a bit, including the pics of Steve with multiple Presidents of the US, and other influential people in the world. Got hooked to the book, bought the book. Possibly completed the book in first 2 weeks of Jan (384 pages); my 1st book of the year. Some ideas / thoughts / experiences mentioned in the book were thought provoking, especially, how we as individuals (in this case, business) can have impact on the society through anything we do. I literally highlighted a lot of text and pages in the book, sharing some of the most interesting ones below.

[Page 1] Most people said it was impossible. But I’ve always believed that it’s just as hard to achieve big goals as it is small ones. The only difference is that bigger goals have much more significant consequences.

[2] But what I lacked in basic economics, I made up for with my ability to see patterns and develop new solutions and paradigms, and with the sheer will to turn my ideas into reality.

[25] if you’re going to commit yourself to something it’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small.

[43] The lesson was that everything in business relates to everything else. For a business to succeed , each part has to work on its own and with all the other parts.

[53] When I interview the Black stone,I’m looking to understand whether an individual will fit our culture. At a minimum, this includes the airport test: Would I want to be stuck waiting at the airport with you if our flight were delayed?


[87] Coach Armstrong taught me the value of persistence, of running those extra miles and making the those deposits of hard work, so they were there when I needed a withdrawal. And I figured to to invest them to advance my career.

[149] Failures are often the best teachers in any organisation. You must not bury your failures but talk about then openly and analyse what went wrong so you can learn new rules for decision-making

[164] If you ever felt overwhelmed by work, I said, pass on some of your work to others. It might not feel natural. High achievers tend to want to volunteer for more responsibility, not give up on some of what they have taken on. But all that anyone higher up in the firm cares about is that the work is done well. There is nothing heroic or commendable about taking on too much and then screwing it up. Far better to focus on what you can, do do it well, and share the rest.

[165] Be true to those middle class values of honesty, hard-work, respect for others,  and always doing what you say you will.

[180] When you enter a market, you send signals with every choice you make, from the people you hire to the offices. They are an important piece of your brand.

[182]The best way to get what you want is to figure out what’s on the mind of the people who can give it to you.

[99] Firstly your idea has to be big enough. Second it should be unique.
Third your timing must be right.

[201] You are never more vulnerable than at the moment you think you have succeeded.

[249] If you’re faced with the problem, you don’t panic and declare immediate catastrophe. You call for quiet and give everyone time.

[265] Life is long, and helping people when they need it often comes back to you in ways you least expect it. You never forget the friends who came to your aid in tough situations.

[297]  If you want to get anything done, the strength of your relationships means everything.

[307] If you talk about what’s on their mind and have something to offer, they will listen. Democrats, Republicans, princes, or prime ministers.


[334] The trick, I told her, was finding fantastic people and giving them the chance to be the best at what they do. We keep our edge by reinventing everything we do to make it better.



Comments Off on Excerpts from “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence” by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Professor @ IIIT Hyderabad