Review: “What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence”

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Stephen Schwarzman, in addition to being the author of this book, is a billionaire, philanthropist, and business professional. He is the CEO of Blackstone Group, a large and hugely successful equity firm. He also has a plethora of experience on his way to the top, working for an investment bank and getting his education from Harvard Business School. Clearly, Schwarzman is an extremely successful man, and his book, What It Takes, is the retelling of all his accolades and achievements. Let us review some of the most important aspects involving the quality of this book.

Key Takeaways

  1. Schwarzman’s story inspires entrepreneurship.
  2. Mixes autobiography with business insights.
  3. Provides in-depth understanding of business.
  4. Motivates with Schwarzman’s success journey.
  5. Occasionally feels self-indulgent in tone.

An Autobiography

If you are looking for a guide on how to start the business of your dreams, then this is not the book for you. However, if you are looking for a book that proves the business of your dreams is possible, then you have found what you’re looking for. This book is a retelling of deals, challenges, and decisions Schwarzman has made in his rise to the top. Learn from the best and hear about the story of an esteemed businessman. This book could definitely teach you some tricks of the trade.


Stephen Schwarzman has achieved a literal wealth of success in the business field, which is definitely something to be proud of. I could see anybody bragging about the achievements they have made throughout their life. However, at times, Schwarzman may come off as a little too self-absorbed. While the book is not written in a fashion that reveals the author to be a narcissist, it would be reasonable to feel a sense of pride, which may bamboozle or insult readers to slight degrees.

In-Depth and Specific

What It Takes covers many of the experiences of Schwarzman. Some of those experiences occurred late into his successful career. Given this, you can expect some convoluted, niche, or complicated topics relating to business. If you do not have any interest in the field, or you lack much knowledge in it, then this business-building biography may be a bad choice for you. However, if you are a student of business, whether literal or not, you may be giddy to read a first-hand account of someone who truly made it business.

Mixed Between Advice and Experience

It is understandable for readers to pick up this book, expecting it to contain troves of information that will put them a couple steps closer to figuring out the blueprint of prosperity. However, this book is not a guide or educational tool in its entirety. What It Takes tends to shift between an autobiographical tale, to an educational text, and it may leave readers perplexed as to who really came for one or the other. With this in mind, this quirk is, certainly, not an enjoyment killer, unless you were looking for one of the extremes within these pages.

Everything Business

Schwarzman built a company from scratch. Any feat such as this would leave anyone with a fountain of knowledge and experience. If you are trying to find a book that could give you a preview into your life as a business-person, then What It Takes is your answer. As a business builder, you will be dealing with everything involved in the operation of your firm. From finance, to operations, to insurance, and much more, What It Takes might be a future look into what your life will be if you choose this path. Before you embark on that future, learn from Schwarzman to get as much advice and knowledge as you can.


What It Takes, ultimately, is a book about a wealthy, successful businessman who has chosen to share his experience and lessons on his rise from the bottom. Maybe he is self-absorbed and you may not be learning as efficiently as you could with other books. However, it would be hard to not find this story riveting, inspirational, and educational. By reading What It Takes, you will be learning about someone who is living your dream. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, learn from the best and get motivated by this appealing autobiography.

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