25 life lessons from What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman

712C-vuWojL._AC_UY218_I’ve just finished reading What It Takes by Stephen A. Schwarzman. Stephen is one of the co-founders of Blackstone which is one of the biggest investment companies in the world. I got a lot of lessons from the book but I would like to share with you his 25 lessons for life. I am sharing the lessons exactly how they were written in the book and I do hope you gain one or two things from them.

Here they are:

 

  1. It’s as easy to do something big as it is to do something small, so reach for a fantasy worthy of your pursuit, with rewards commensurate to your effort.
  2. The best executives are made, not born. They never stop learning. Study the people and organizations in your life that have had enormous success. They offer a free course from the real world to help you improve.
  3. Write or call the people you admire, and ask for advice or a meeting. You never know who will be willing to meet with you. You may end up learning something important or form a connection you can leverage for the rest of your life. Meeting people early in life creates an unusual bond.
  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 but 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 perspectives you have, and the more likely you are to spot patterns and anomalies before your competition. So always be open to new inputs, whether they are people, experiences, or knowledge.
  7.  When you’re young, only take a job that provides you with a steep learning curve and strong training. 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. It can be your company, your country, or a duty for service. Any challenge you tackle that is inspired by your beliefs and core values will be worth it, regardless of whether you succeed or fail.
  12. Never deviate from your sense of right and wrong. Your integrity must be unquestionable. It is easy to do what’s right when you don’t have to write a check or suffer any consequences. It’s harder when you have to give something up. 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 everyone else is frozen, but they do so smartly. This trait is the mark of a leader.
  14. Never get complacent. Nothing is forever. Whether it is an individual or a business, your competition will defeat you if you are not constantly seeking ways to reinvent and improve yourself. 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 need to be able to sell your vision with conviction over and over again. Most people don’t like change, so you 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 others don’t. The harder the problem is, the more limited the competition, and the greater the reward for whomever can solve it.
  17. Success comes down to rare moments of opportunity. Be open, alert, and ready to seize them. Gather the right people and resources; then 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 defusing 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. 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.

 

Book Review: Life Entrepreneur by Christopher Bergen & Gregg Vanourek

life-entrepreneurThere are books you read and you power through them while others you slug through. This is one of those I powered through. What attracted me to this book was the ‘entrepreneur’ in the title, and to be honest I didn’t expect much from it. But once I started reading it,  I couldn’t drop the book. This is not your typical entrepreneurial book as it’s not so much about ‘how to create a business’ or ‘the secret of startups’. Rather it is about seeing entrepreneurship as a way of thinking, an attitude, a mindset. In other words it is more about entrepreneurial leadership.

The authors use stories from interviews with 55 entrepreneurs and other thought leaders to discuss a view of entrepreneurship that is holistic. One that doesn’t just look at the business aspect, but also the social, relational and emotional aspect of a person’s life. Each of the short stories used are quite inspiring, but at the same time thought provoking and give a more balanced perspective on the entrepreneur, a word which has attained celebrity status in our days.

The book is divided into 3 parts, each consisting of 3 chapters, making it 9 chapters altogether. While the book has just 185 pages of reading content (you can read it in 3 days), it has 3 appendices. Following is a brief overview of each chapter. Continue reading

Book Review – Start Something That Matters By Blake Mycoskie

Start something that mattersSometimes you read a book where you grow to like the author and what he/she stands for. This is one of such books. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie is the story of how Blake started the shoe company, TOMS, but it’s not a business biography. Blake’s intention is to teach and encourage people to start a business using his own experience. This is an endearing book which shows that you can create a company that does good and at the same time make money, and you don’t have to be a mean or bad guy to run a successful company.
Over 8 chapters Blake relates how he got the idea for his business, started iT and built it into a sustainable and successful company which continues to have a positive effect on people’s lives. Continue reading

Book Review – Poke That Box By Seth Godin

Poke the boxThere are books that you read which end up leaving an indelible impression on you, for me this is one of those books. Poke the box, is a very small book which you can go through in one sitting.To me it almost doesn’t feel  like a book, because it has no chapters or sections. It’s a bunch of the author’s thoughts collected together, but they are inspiring and challenging. This is not an intellectually challenging book, you are not going to learn anything new from reading it, but you will be called to act.

The author, Seth Godin, uses this as a manifesto to encourage people to become initiators, he believes we should all start things.
Continue reading

Book Review – Innocent, our story & somethings we’ve learned.

InnocentIntroduction

I have read a couple of business biographies and this is one of the most enjoyable ones. Written by the founders of the healthy food company, Innocent, it is all about the business,how it started, grew and what it stands for. And no, you won’t learn about their mum, dad, how much sport they played or their dog called Andy. More to the point this book is all about Innocent as a business and perhaps you will learn one or two lessons about starting a business. If I were to recommend books about learning to start a business, this one would definitely make the list. The book itself is an easy one to read because it is very attractive and easy on the eyes, littered with very interesting images and pictures. Also it’s not a bulky book with just 201 pages. It is structured into ten chapters, each one focusing on a key aspect of the company. I checked Amazon uk for views about the book. After 25 reviews it had a 4.5 rating, not bad. Some criticism aimed at the book is it does not contain enough details about the operations of the business. Others also felt the book was just a marketing spin. But all that in no way takes away from the quality of the book.

Following is a review of each chapter in the book. Continue reading