Jan 17, 2020
Fifty years ago, as a senior at Abington High School in suburban Philadelphia, Stephen Schwarzman got waitlisted Harvard College. So he found the number for Harvard’s dean of admissions and called him up to plead his case directly. When told by the dean that no one would be admitted from the waiting list that fall, Schwarzman told him that he was making a mistake. It was all for naught, but this chutzpah was a bit of a hallmark: A year earlier, Schwarzman spearheaded a successful effort to get Anthony and the Imperials—then one of the most popular musical acts in the country—to play at Abington High School.
Today, Schwarzman is chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone, and the founder of the Schwarzman Scholars, a graduate fellowship program housed at the new Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University in Beijing. He has just written a new book, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, and in this episode of Skydeck, Schwarzman and I discuss the origins of his audacity, his path to success, and what he’s learned from the low points.