Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence
The book What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence is for entrepreneurs. It’s written by Stephen A. Schwarzman. Schwarzman is a successful billionaire and American philanthropist who built an investment empire.
He uses a straightforward tone around goals for building a business. It’s focused on how he created Blackstone, a multi-billion dollar investment firm. It also outlines what he did to achieve his success. Schwarzman doesn’t dwell on his struggles or barriers.
Con this summary, see what you can do to achieve success. Continue reading to learn the top 10 takeaways from What It Takes.
StoryShot #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Be Ambitious and Go for Gold
As an American philanthropist and businessman, Schwarzman has achieved great success. He points out that he did not settle for mediocrity. He emphasizes the difference between small goals and big goals.
It’s important not to shy away from making ambitious goals for the future. Both small and big goals take effort, time, and commitment. Why work towards the small goal when you can put as much effort into the big ones?
But remember that there are consequences to having these grand ambitions too. Business ideas can fail and might fail more than once, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
There’s a good way to look at this. Imagine spending one week working towards something. It’s part of your regular, everyday tasks. Your coworker shares that they’ve been working on something, too. It’s out of the box. But, they have no reassurance they’d succeed.
Your coworker ends up getting promoted for being creative. It’s a lesson in being ambitious and standing out.
StoryShot #2: Be the Best at Everything You Do
The steps to success include having confidence in yourself as a leader and as part of a team. There’s no reason people shouldn’t be proud of what they’ve achieved. If you think there’s room for improvement, learn what you need to do to get there.
Don’t be modest when you explain your accomplishments and skills to others. It can kill your confidence to downplay your skillset. People will only remember what you tell them.
A first impression can make or break connections with people. There are countless opportunities to meet new people. Through networking events or regular everyday meetings, there are many new faces. Standing out is crucial. It’s achievable if you do it right.
Another key point that Schwarzman mentions is that you should always try to be better. Think about the next step you could take to build up that portfolio and the skills you already have. What is it about the conversation you had last night that didn’t impress the CEO?
Look to add things to your business profile that you think you can’t achieve. If you reach one goal, start thinking about the next one. Nothing is too hard for you to get. In most cases, it is your lack of confidence causing barriers.
StoryShot #3: Stick to Your Morals and Work Ethic
A good piece of business advice from Schwarzman is to uphold company missions and values. This is about keeping yourself on track with the morals and values of a business.
There is a lot of relationship-building within companies that can support its foundation. These relationships are the ones you create with your team and others.
Remember to uphold the same morals and work ethic you would have as an employee as you do as a CEO. Always treat people as if they are an asset to you – everyone has something to learn from new people.
As representatives, it’s important to uphold values. The general morals and ethics of a business are important. As a brand grows, they should continue this practice.
StoryShot #4: Negotiation Involves a Win-Win for Both Sides
This next piece of advice is important for people who want to achieve excellence. Schwarzman explains that it’s crucial to learn how to listen. This is an exchange of information with new contacts. If you’re trying to make business partnerships, listen to what people need.
A lot can be said in one conversation that can help both yourself and someone else achieve goals. Trying to connect with potential partners involves fruitful conversation.
When you chat with others, seek opportunities to make personal connections. Find common ground between you and them. If this is a direct connection to something you can provide, seek out possible solutions. What have they pointed out? Is it something you can help with?
Keep others’ goals in mind in every new discussion you have. If it’s a business deal, negotiation comes into play. A negotiation cannot only benefit you but also the other person in the conversation. If you can help them see a solution, you both win.
Be honest about your skills and what you can do. Try not to overpromise and underdeliver. This is when listening becomes important. You need to understand exactly what they need and where can you help. If you can’t, refer them to someone else.
StoryShot #5: Find the Best People to Build an Unstoppable Team
This piece of advice is a bit more catered towards those who manage a team. A big part of a successful business is a successful team. What are some ways someone can ensure they are working with the best of the best?
Well, do your best to work with people who don’t only do the job but go one step further. The type of person you want on your team works to find solutions. The type that takes pride in being creative and has a positive impact on the rest of the group.
A great team includes those who are available to take on more opportunities. They strive to go above and beyond the basics of a task. Schwarzman refers to these people as “10’s.”
It might be a grind to find the best of the best, especially if you’re a small start-up. Highly-skilled and passionate staff can focus on achieving bigger and better things.
Look out for the ones who can solve small problems. This means they can pay more attention to solving hard problems. This is the team you want to be a part of.
There is a difference between the value of high-quality workers and mediocre workers. Avoid those you think you can improve over time. It will be much more rewarding to find the best of the best rather than taking what you can get.
StoryShot #6: Rejection Can Make You Stronger
Do not quit and don’t get discouraged. Use failures as teaching moments. Learn what you could do better next time and what to avoid doing going forward.
There is a great tip that includes a popular saying: the higher the risk the greater the reward. Schwarzman notes that it might be hard to see the potential and value at the moment. But risks can end up being the better choice.
With risks comes the possibility of failure and rejection. This shouldn’t stop you from pushing forward. Remember to take rejection as inspiration. If you believe in something don’t let it go. Practice persistence when you make those big goals.
StoryShot #7: Making Tough Decisions for the Better
Schwarzman mentions the tough parts of the business. It includes entrepreneurship and making business deals as well. There will be moments where difficult decisions need to be made even when you don’t want to.
To keep yourself successful and growing, you need to recognize your weaknesses. This could be with staff or partnerships. They may have once been supportive of your business goals but aren’t any longer.
Another negative to business and negotiation is what Schwarzman calls dismantling emotional relationships. This can be true for people in any profession who make business decisions. There needs to be a separation between being nice and being smart.
Business ethics, values, and needs can change over time on either side of a deal. In some cases, you might no longer see value in a business relationship. Cutting ties with a small start-up might hit you in the gut, but it might be the best decision for growth.
StoryShot #8: Collaboration and Networking Builds Relationships
Schwarzman highlights the importance of networking. It is vital in the field of business and entrepreneurship. This can be true across many fields of work. Building relationships opens up opportunities for collaboration and learning.
Learning from others with more knowledge than you is always a good idea. There is never a shortage of other businesspeople who can teach you a thing or two. The more people you know, the more connections you have. Someday you might need their support.
For example, Schwarzman did this in several ways. One was making his mark in politics. He was building relationships with members of politics through his management experience. A businessman with his toe dipped in the political pool is never a negative.
StoryShot #9: Learn from Others and Take In All the Information You Can
Schwarzman points out that he’s met many important people. He mentions that learning by doing and learning from others is best. It could be anybody from your boss to a coworker.
The best learning comes from watching the people you aspire to be. It can include opportunities for training through your workplace. Go to networking events and make new relationships. Soak up all the information you can from successful peers.
It can also be reciprocated. Share your knowledge and skills with others. Your work experiences or your education can be helpful. This relationship can benefit both parties. Supporting fellow business owners will foster long-term relationships.
Partnerships and relationships that can benefit both sides are the best. Schwarzman touches on the fact that these conversations hold the most value.
StoryShot #10: Make a Personal Impact through Your Success
Schwarzman emphasizes the ability to use knowledge for the better. Use your skills and resources to strive toward philanthropic achievements. A great point he makes is that achieving success should also come with using it to create an impact on the world.
Schwarzman follows his own advice by performing his own philanthropic activities. He has donated millions of dollars to funding programs for students. For example, he created many scholarship opportunities for students. He also took the initiative to support new shifts in business and education.
Schwarzman places importance on using your success to influence future generations. With success, you can help benefit the people who strive to achieve the same. Use your skills and knowledge to make your mark on the world.
Final Summary of Stephen A. Schwarzman’s What It Takes
Let’s review some key takeaways from this book summary:
- Be relentless
- Have confidence
- Build your network
- Make changes
There are many points throughout the book where Schwarzman emphasizes having self-confidence. The importance of being proud of what you have accomplished is high. Share your skills with others. It can bring about opportunities that could skyrocket your success.
Remember to make connections with others. Always look to build relationships within your field. Also, recognize problems in the industry and find solutions. Listen to people who share issues that exist for them and look for ones you can resolve.
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