Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman shares his rules for work and life

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and co-founder of the largest alternative investment firm in the world Blackstone, knows what it's like to try to make your way into an industry.

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He divulged some of his rules for work and life with FOX Business:

Write or call people you admire and ask for advice

Schwarzman said when someone is thinking about changing careers, they might not know how to go about it.

"In my life, from time to time, I've contacted people who were very important doing something, and sort of tried to get an audience with them and learn from them," Schwarzman told FOX Business.

He said he was always eager to learn, so he decided to reach out to Averell Harriman who had been governor of New York and also helped handle the Vietnam peace talks on behalf of the U.S. government.

"I just wrote him a letter and told him I admired what he had done with his life, and could I talk to him and get some advice," Schwarzman recalled. "It really surprised me but he said, 'please come to my house in New York for lunch' and I spent about two-and-a-half to three hours with him and learned the story of his life and got some advice which I still remember."

He said that showed him how important it was to take that leap of faith when it came to reaching out to people.

"None of us become successful alone. That is a myth."

- Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone CEO

"I don't know who writes those books or magazine articles," Schwarzman said. "It doesn't work that way. We're either parts of teams that are good or weak or people who are older than us teach us and support us."

Time wounds all deals

Schwarzman has this turn of phrase because it's so difficult to get all the right people around the right table at the perfect time.

"You know, it's not unlike trying to meet somebody that you end up marrying."

- Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone CEO

"I mean, they have to be free," Schwarzman said. "They have to want to meet somebody, but if they've met somebody else in the interim, then whatever moment you thought was going to happen for you is not going to happen."

That personal analogy, he said, is similar to when you are trying to make a significant decision and are having trouble getting everyone in the same room in order to make that decision.

Only make decisions when you are ready and not under pressure

Schwarzman said there's an intersection between being completely uncertain while going ahead with something versus being comfortable while moving forward.

"Sometimes people you work with, no matter what the setting, want to pressure you if you happen to be the senior person to make a decision right away to help them move something along," Schwarzman said.


Schwarzman reminded people that their decisions, whether positive or negative, could be irreversible, so it's important to take them seriously and not rush to make one.

People tend to focus on their own problems instead of fixing someone else's

Schwarzman said he's still amazed to this day how true this phrase is, but the key is to not just listen but to anticipate the problems and have proposed solutions for them.

"I was in my young 40s at the White House for some event and the president was standing [close by], and I knew some stuff was going on in the news because you could figure it out just by reading," Schwarzman recalled.

"And it was clear that particular president didn't have the answer yet."

- Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone CEO

So what did Schwarzman do? He waltzed over to the Commander in Chief and spoke with him for about five minutes and was able to voice his suggested alternatives to a solution.

He said he's done this sort of thing his whole life.


Schwarzman recently wrote a book called "What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence" which covers this subject matter as well as many others.