During business school, I found myself drawn to the great thinkers and achievers in history, from politics to the arts, from science to literature. I was always interested in good foundations, which I'd learned about from my father, a successful builder and developer. So I wanted my educational foundation to be as solid and well rounded as possible.
Believing that you have to draw on great people in history, not only for perspective but for inspiration, I read biographies of Churchill, Lincoln, Picasso, Einstein, and many other renowned thinkers, from the Greek philosophers to the present.
My first book, which came out in 1987, was called The Art of the Deal. I had realized, back in school, that business could be an art. I think one reason I've been successful is that the realization made me work with the same kind of dedication and sense of purpose that most artists possess. I'd had a comprehensive approach to my education, and I'd had very good company in the kind of people I chose to study in my spare time.
When I was building what has become my most famous building, Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue in New York City, I was an absolute stickler when it came to the kind of marble we would use for the lobby. I saw hundreds of samples, and even visited the quarry in Italy. Every piece had to be perfect. I was reminded of my school days, when I read about Michelangelo and how particular he was about his materials. I also recalled that he had to deal with a lot of major power players, from a variety of popes to the Medici to the half-mad reformer Savonarola. Despite his overwhelming talent, his was not an easy path, yet he managed to remain true to his artistic ethics. His dedication and tenacity were monumental. I realized that businesspeople and artists can share the same qualities, and sometimes face the same difficulties.
To this day, I enjoy reading about the greats. It's still a part of my daily curriculum, and I'll always be glad I added it to my life as a student. There's nothing like learning a lesson from the masters. Robert Browning once wrote that "a man's reach should exceed his grasp," and I agree. That's one way to avoid complacency, and by applying that concept while still in school, I got a significant push in the right direction.