25 Rules for Work & Life with Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman

From Stephen A. Schwarzman’s New York Times bestseller, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence. To read his full story, check out his book!

Blackstone Co-founder & CEO, Stephen A. Schwarzman manages the largest private equity firm in the United States with $571 Billion in assets under management at the time of this publishing. In his book, Stephen talks about his difficult road from being denied by six hundred investors to being so successful in his field that even the president requests his expertise on how to grow the economy. Here are his 25 rules for work and life:

Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP, left, speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a Strategic and Policy Forum meeting in the State Dining room of the White House. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
  1. It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small. Reach for a fantasy that is worthy of your pursuit which will reward you for your efforts.
  2. The best executives are made not born, they never stop learning. Study people in organizations who have had great success. They provide a free course from the real world which will help you improve.
  3. Write or call the people you admire and ask for advice or a meeting. You actually never know who is willing to meet with you and you will be surprised. This could result in important or life-changing advice or even a connection that you can leverage for the rest of your life! The earlier you can meet them in life, the stronger the bond may be.
  4. There is nothing more interesting to people than their own 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 new ideas provided they are thoughtful.
  5. Every business is a closed, integrated system with a set of distinct, interrelated parts. Great managers understand how each part works on its own and in relation to all the others.
  6. Information is the most important asset in business. The more you know the more perspective you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. Hence, always be open to new people, experiences, or knowledge.
  7. When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. This is because first jobs are foundational. Don’t take a job just because it seems prestigious.
  8. When presenting yourself, remember that impressions matter. The whole picture has to be right. Others will be watching for all sorts of clues and cues that tell who you are. Be on time. Be authentic. Be prepared.
  9. No one person, however smart, can solve every problem. But an army of smart people talking openly with one another will.
  10. People in a tough spot often focus on their own problems when the answer usually lies in fixing someone else’s.
  11. Believe in something greater than yourself, and your personal needs can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge that you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it – regardless of if you succeed or fail.
  12. Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It’s easy to do what is right when you don’t have to suffer consequences, it’s harder when you have to give something up or write a check as a result. Always do what you say you will and never mislead anyone for your own advantage.
  13. Be bold. Successful entrepreneurs, managers, and individuals have the confidence and courage to act when the moment seems right. They accept risk when others are cautious and take action when others are frozen. But they do so smartly.
  14. Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Your competition will defeat you if you’re not constantly seeking to improve yourself or your business. Organizations especially are more fragile than you think.
  15. Sales rarely get made on the first pitch. Just because you believe in something, doesn’t mean everyone else will. You must learn to sell your business with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you’ll need to be able to convince them why they should accept it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
  16. If you see a huge transformative opportunity, don’t worry that no one else is pursuing it, you might be seeing something that others don’t. “The harder the problem, the more limited the competition. If something’s easy, there will always be plenty of people willing to help solve it. But find a real mess, and no one will be around. If you can clean it up, you will find yourself in rare company. People with tough problems will seek you out and pay you handsomely to solve them. You will earn a reputation for doing what others cannot.”
  17. Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources and commit. If you’re not prepared to apply that kind of effort, either the opportunity isn’t as compelling as you think, or you are not the right person to pursue it.
  18. Time wounds all deals, sometimes even fatally. Often the longer you wait, the more surprises await you. In tough negotiations especially, keep everyone at the table long enough to reach an agreement.
  19. Don’t lose money. Objectively assess the risks of every opportunity.
  20. Make decisions when you are ready, not under pressure. Others will always push you to make a decision for their own purposes, internal politics, or some other external need. But you can almost always say “I need a little more time to think about this, I’ll get back to you.” This tactic is very effective at diffusing even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations.
  21. Worrying is an active, liberating activity. If channeled appropriately, it allows you to articulate the downside in any situation and drives you to take action to avoid it.
  22. Failure is the best teacher in an organization. Talk about failures openly and objectively, analyze what went wrong, and you will learn new rules for decision-making and organizational behavior. If evaluated well, failures have the potential to change the course of any organization and make it more successful in the future.
  23. Hire 10s whenever you can. They are proactive about sensing problems, designing solutions, and taking a business in new directions. They also attract and hire other 10s. You can always build something around a 10.
  24. Be there for the people you know to be good, even when everyone else is walking away. Anyone can end up in a tough situation. A random act of kindness in someone’s time of need can change the course of a life and create an unexpected friendship or loyalty.
  25. Everyone has dreams. Do what you can to help others achieve theirs.

Excerpt From: Stephen A. Schwarzman. “What It Takes.”