Steve Schwarzman is the billionaire co-founder of Blackstone. His private equity firm owns everything from hotels and apartment buildings to SeaWorld and yes, Crocs. In other words, he owns a lot of things you probably use (not unlike another billionaire, Warren Buffett).
That's made him one of the wealthiest individuals in the world and a big philanthropist (an entire wing of the New York Public Library is named after him). It's also made him an expert on money: how to earn it, how to give it away and...how to reject it.
That's exactly what Schwarzman told one man recently who came into his office. As he describes it: "He had gone to Harvard, was super bright, had started a financial company in one area and he's very successful and people were offering him massive amounts of money to go into different types of businesses because he was successful at one. And the advice I gave him was, as tempting as it was to take huge amounts of money, don't do it."
Schwarzman was recounting this story for my podcast, Radiate (You can listen to our conversation here on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also download the RSS feed). What Schwarzman was referring to is something called "the success disease"-just because you're successful in one area doesn't mean it spreads to others. Often that doesn't matter for people who are willing to blindly pile lots of money into people they believe are proven (ahem, Silicon Valley).
People say "here's like a half a billion dollars for this and a half a billion dollars for that and I said, `When you get older, you'll know what you could truly handle. And there'll always be money...but don't stray to things you really don't intuitively understand.'" Schwarzman said.
Is it ego that makes you do it?
"I don't know that it's ego, I think it's more, I want to be more important, I want to have a more important-scaled business, I want to be able to earn more money, I want to show I can do something," he replied.
In the end, the young man decided not to do it. Schwarzman said the man walked out of the office "cheerful" about the decision.
"He's going to be very successful anyhow. I mean life is long. And as long as you're excellent, things work out for you."