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Key to success: Vision Key to success: Passion Key to success: Perseverance Key to success: Preparation Key to success: Courage Key to success: Integrity Key to success: The American Dream Keys to success homepage More quotes on Passion More quotes on Vision More quotes on Courage More quotes on Integrity More quotes on Preparation More quotes on Perseverance More quotes on The American Dream


Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

In 1984, Lehman Brothers, where I had worked for my career, had been sold to American Express. I actually was the person handling that transaction. I was 36 years old, or 35, I forget which. I had a non-competition agreement, and as part of my wanting to do that deal, I wanted to leave for a variety of reasons. I didn't like what ethically had happened with the firm. I didn't want to be with the people -- not all the people but the leadership people -- so I worked out a situation where I joined the former chairman of the firm at Lehman, who had been pushed out, which necessitated the need for the sale. He and I had always worked very closely together. So all we were trying to do by forming Blackstone was sort of re-forming our own working relationship. We didn't view it -- and on this, I'm sure I was sort of colossally naive -- as that big a step. I knew we had always been successful doing almost everything together, commercially, and I didn't understand why we wouldn't be. The fact that we had no phone, no office, no company, that small little companies like this were not successful in investment banking, in fact they didn't exist at all -- there was only one of them that existed, which was a small firm founded by a fellow named Jim Wolfenson. Jim's currently the head of the World Bank, but even Jim had never done any larger mergers until that time. We just assumed that we would be accepted as the sort of equivalent of a Salomon Brothers or a Lehman Brothers or a Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, and I guess that's the height of ridiculous hubris. Because we were too silly to understand that people might be worried about that, we went ahead, and it worked out.
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Stephen Schwarzman

Chairman and CEO, The Blackstone Group

In New York, which may be atypical in the United States, people are only happy if someone they know well is failing. Particularly when you're more vulnerable in a smaller setting, like we were at Blackstone, I know there were many former colleagues who were staying at big firms, who were looking at what we were doing, and some were hoping that we'd make it. But you know, we were somewhat of a threat if we could make it just in a small organization and end up making a good deal more financially than the people who stayed at the large one. That was, in effect, a threat to a system. We were not aware of this, of course. All we were trying to do was pay the rent. We had more modest expectations at the beginning. But we took a number of large leaps at the firm, and part of that is -- you asked a question earlier, "What makes someone successful?" and I think that another answer is sort of feeling what's going on around you, seeing what's going on around you, and taking a big step to take advantage of that. One of those steps, for us, is the second year we were formed, we decided to go forward with a plan we had when we started, to go into the leveraged buy-out business, and neither my partner or I had ever done a leveraged buy-out, which one might think would be a liability when raising money.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

The first times that I saw Greenwich Village or NYU, he and I would drive over in the car -- and you have to remember, I was 10, 11, 12 -- very impressionable; adored him. I mean, he was a good and loving father, never put any limits on me. I mean, never put any limits on his understanding of what I could do. You know, he always expected me to be able to do anything I wanted to do -- as my mother did, which was a great gift. But I remember driving over in the car and sitting in Washington Square Park, and him talking about NYU, and this university. And then we would go down to the Bowery and we would pick up somebody, at random, and bring them out to the house. And for the last three or four years of his life, we never rented upstairs. There were four beds up there, and we would bring these people from the Bowery, and bathe them and feed them and they would live with us -- he called them "handymen," and he was essentially running an occupational therapy program. So that has inbred in me an understanding that we all fall. You know, when you see your hero fall -- but that rehabilitation is possible from the lowest depths; that even a person who -- I mean, it's a very traumatic thing to have your father burst into your fifth grade classroom in the middle of the day completely drunk, and you know, you're there with your classmates; or to find him in the gutter. You know, I'd have to search for him -- sometimes he'd be gone for weeks -- with my mother. But then to see the goodness in that person -- you know, it's a lesson that carries with you -- and, I think, breeds more of a willingness to search for the good in people.
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John Sexton

Education & Law

I mean, Fordham just gave me an honorary degree. Now, I have a Bachelor's and a Master's and a Ph.D. from Fordham. And I got up in front of the students and I said, "The first thing I urge all of you to do when you leave here today -- those of you especially with summas and magnas on your diplomas -- is leave here and as quickly as you can fail at something. Just so you'll understand -- " -- now this is the son of an alcoholic, of course, talking again. "But just so that you understand that there's life after failure." Now, I said, "There's no one in the audience with a grade point average as low as mine, because my grade point average was 2.1 when I graduated from Fordham." I said, "I don't regret what I did. I followed my passions. I took risks. I wouldn't trade what I did for a higher grade point average. But at least those of you that are sitting there with the 2.8s" -- because you can't get 2.1s anymore with grade inflation -- "or the 3.2s -- you know that there's life after failure. And you know that unless you try to take risks, you're not going to really play all the octaves of the piano." So, it was a dominating thing for me to do what Charlie did. And, it affected my life. I mean, it's the reason I got my doctorate. Father Tim Healey, who had recruited me for this honors program at Fordham, but who threw me out of it at the end of my freshman year because my grades were terrible, came up to me in 1963 when I was on the quadrangle. It's May. I'm limping to graduation. And Tim said, "You've been a big disappointment to us." And he said, "But the Vatican Council has happened, and it's going to be important for lay Catholics to understand other religions. And we're starting a Ph.D. program in religion. We'll give you a second chance. We'll give you a fellowship." So, I felt very honored, until I got there in the fall and saw there were only two of us in the program, and he was looking just for somebody that probably didn't have plans, and had spotted me on the quadrangle. So, that's why I got my Ph.D.
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Neil Sheehan

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

Neil Sheehan: I got the Pentagon Papers for The New York Times. I got them and brought them to the Times. I was very proud of the paper because the executive editor -- first of all, I briefed all the editors. I spent two weeks hidden down here in the Jefferson Hotel, which was a dump at the time, with one of the assistant foreign editors, and the two of us went through all of this stuff, and I was astonished at how much they had been able to hide. It was astonishing, because I knew, obviously, Vietnam. I had lived through these events. And also, what was astonishing was here were their documents, their telegrams sending the armies in the field, the airplanes in the air, their memoranda. It wasn't some unidentified source in the Pentagon in a news story. It was their stuff, the real thing. It was the archive of the war. So we spent two weeks reading, and then we went up to New York, and I briefed the editors in New York, and I was very proud of their reaction. No one in the room said, "Should we print this stuff?" It was all classified "Top Secret: Sensitive." Unjustly, I mean. They had in there a 1945 telegram from Ho Chi Ming appealing to President Truman to help him get rid of the French, and they had these classified "Top Secret: Sensitive."
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Neil Sheehan

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

This tremendous battle occurred within The New York Times between Rosenthal and the other editors, mainly the business side, and the main legal counsel for the paper. The outside counsel was a famous establishment New York lawyer named Louis Loeb, who told the publisher that if he published this material, the government would take him into court, and he would lose against the restraining order, and Loeb would not defend him! He would refuse to defend him. It was such an arrogant, incredibly arrogant thing to tell a man who's running The New York Times and whose editors are telling him, "You've got to publish this material. This belongs in the public domain. We have a duty under the First Amendment to publish it. It doesn't matter what these people say. You've got to publish it. That's it." The publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, who also was called "Punch," the father of the current publisher, decided to go ahead and gave the editors their head. He fired the chief counsel afterwards. He fired Louie Loeb.
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Neil Sheehan

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

I wasn't afraid going to war. I almost got killed six months later in a so-called "friendly" artillery barrage. This incompetent Vietnamese general shelled his own troops. That put the fear of God into me. From that day forward, I was always afraid when I went out, but you had to go out. You just had to learn how to control your fear. That's all. Soldiers -- most soldiers who are sane -- are afraid, but they control. The professionals learn to control their fear, and that is what you had to do, because you had to go out.
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