Published December 2020 on Spotfiy

447: Stephen Schwarzman | Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence

1. Introduction

Stephen shares his insights on the current state of US-China relations and how it affects the global system. He also talks about his success in leveraged buyouts and the importance of research and reading in business.

2. Strange Roommate

Strange Roommate:Stephen shares a story about his bizarre college roommate who had a Nazi flag and played Hitler's marching army every night. He talks about how his mother and grandmother reacted when they saw the flag and how he struggled to respond to the situation. The conversation also touches on the difficulty of achieving small goals versus larger ones and the impact and reward that come with them.
Scaling for Success:Stephen shares his insights on entrepreneurship, risk, and success. He believes that finding something that is a sure success at a large scale is where you should spend your time. Entrepreneurship is overrated as a concept, and entrepreneurs don't like risk. The most important part of being successful is going through all evaluations and controlling the downside.

3. Lessons and Insights

Lessons from the Merchant Marine:Stephen shares his experience working in the Merchant Marine and how it taught him the importance of starting from the bottom and working your way up. He also talks about the fascinating experiences and people he encountered while working on a ship.
Cultivating Positive Culture:Stephen shares his approach to cultivating a positive culture in an organization by encouraging open communication and inclusiveness. He emphasizes the importance of giving everyone a voice and creating a culture where people feel respected and responsible as members of the organization.
Assessing Talent:Stephen shares his insights on what he looks for when recruiting talent. He emphasizes the importance of finding someone who is smart, curious, creative, and can handle stress. He also values people who are comfortable in a setting like an interview and can deal with inherent stress.

4. Interview and Negotiation Tips

Interview Tips:Stephen shares valuable tips on how to network and interview effectively. He emphasizes the importance of being clear about your relationships and only dropping names of people you genuinely like and respect.
Negotiating Deals:Stephen shares his insights on negotiating deals, emphasizing the importance of focusing on the top few important points for each side and not getting bogged down by every possible risk. He also advises always asking to find out what those key crux takeaways are for each side.

5. Sponsors

Jordan talks about the Ember mug, a device that keeps your tea or coffee at the perfect temperature for hours and hours, and how it has made his life easier. Use code Jordan for 10% off at

6. Negotiation Insights

Negotiation Strategies:Stephen shares his insights on negotiation strategies, emphasizing the importance of understanding the other party's perspective and finding the zone of fairness where both sides can transact.
Negotiation Strategies:Stephen shares his negotiation strategies and emphasizes the importance of effective communication in reaching a successful outcome. He advises being upfront about expectations and finding common ground early on to avoid wasting time.
Negotiation Insights:Stephen shares his approach to negotiation, emphasizing the importance of transparency and understanding both sides' wants. He also discusses the futility of psychological manipulation tactics and the benefits of candid communication.

7. Negotiation Insights

Negotiation Tips:Stephen shares insights on how to negotiate with difficult people and the importance of sensing the other party's behavior. He also talks about Blackstone's compensation arrangements and how they grade employees using 360-degree reviews.
Fairness and Long-Term Relationships:Stephen emphasizes the importance of fairness and long-term relationships in Blackstone's dealings with banks and financial institutions. He explains that they prioritize being fair and generous to those they work with, and that they take responsibility for any mistakes that occur.

8. Playing the Long Game

Stephen emphasizes the importance of playing the long game when it comes to contracts and business relationships. He shares insights on how to select people or institutions for the long term and how to handle situations where trust is violated.

9. Sponsors

Jordan Harbinger discusses the importance of self-defense and HR solutions with sponsors Axon and Bambee. Axon's Taser provides non-lethal self-protection devices while Bambee offers dedicated HR managers for small businesses.

10. US-China Relations

US-China Relations:Stephen discusses the uncertain future of US-China relations amidst the pandemic, social justice issues, and odd behavior leading up to the US elections. The two countries dominate the global economy and have different political and economic systems, making it difficult to predict how they will navigate their overlap on issues such as trade, climate, military, and computer science.
US-China Relations:Stephen discusses how US-China relations will take time to normalize due to the pandemic and internal politics within each country. He also touches on the advantages and disadvantages of China's form of government in dealing with the pandemic, and how it compares to the democratic system in the US and Europe.

11. US-China Relations & Industry Opportunities

Understanding US-China Relations:Stephen shares his insights on the complicated relationship between China and the US, highlighting the differences in perspectives on wealth and values. He emphasizes the need to find common ground in areas like climate for a productive long-term relationship and notes that both countries will need to accommodate each other's systems.
Future Industry Opportunities:Stephen discusses how he identifies trends and invests in industries that align with those trends. He explains how his company invested in warehouses instead of shopping malls due to the growth of online shopping and how they are now positioned well in the life science industry. He emphasizes the importance of being in the right neighborhood and adapting to change in order to be successful.

12. Philanthropy and Legacy

Stephen shares his journey from being a middle-class person to becoming a successful businessman and his perspective on giving back to society through philanthropy. He emphasizes the importance of leaving a positive legacy and being thoughtful about making sure that the things that happen to us financially benefit others in society.