How Donald Trump sees himself

Updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri April 1, 2016
DE PERE, WI - MARCH 30:  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign rally at St. Norbert College on March 30, 2016 in De Pere, Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters go to the polls for the state's primary on April 5.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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DE PERE, WI - MARCH 30: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to guests during a campaign rally at St. Norbert College on March 30, 2016 in De Pere, Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters go to the polls for the state's primary on April 5. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

CNN looked at Trump's writing, speeches and interviews over 30 years

His outlook: 'I always get even'

(CNN) —  

He considers himself a member of “the lucky sperm club.”

He trusts no one, and places a premium on revenge. (“If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck!”)

He treats every decision he makes “like a lover,” sometimes thinking with his head, other times with other parts of his body, because it reminds him to “keep in touch with my basic impulses.”

And to make creative choices, he writes: “I try to step back and remember my first shallow reaction. The day I realized it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience.”

This is Donald J. Trump as he sees himself and the world.

CNN scoured thousands of pages of books, speeches, profiles and television interview transcripts from the past three decades to stitch together a portrait based entirely on the Republican presidential front-runner’s own words.

Taken together, his words offer further insight into the leadership style of the billionaire-turned-politician, whose extraordinary candidacy has simultaneously electrified and repulsed large swaths of the electorate.

The GOP candidate has relentlessly mocked his opponents, lashed out at reporters and scorned the status quo. He has trusted his instincts, refused to apologize amid controversy, stood by his allies and sought to destroy his foes. He has focused on the big picture (“Make America Great Again”) rather than on details such as abortion policy.

Trump authored more than a dozen books about his experiences in the business world that shaped this outlook – most of them self-help treatises with titles including the 1987 best-seller “The Art of the Deal,” 2004’s “Think Like a Billionaire: Everything You Need to Know About Success, Real Estate, and Life,” and 2007’s “Think Big.”

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On the campaign trail, Trump has brushed off questions about his temperament, his leadership style and how he would govern. He has derided the press as being “among the most dishonest people ever created by God” — insisting that reporters have gotten his story wrong time and again.

Trump himself has shared his story in detail. Some recurrent themes in his writings include strength, success, self-confidence, distrust and revenge. He has often written and spoken about what he sees as the decline of the United States, a bedrock theme of his presidential campaign.

“The world is a vicious and brutal place, he wrote in “Think Big.” “Even your friends are out to get you: They want your job, they want your house, they want your money, they want your wife, and they even want your dog.”

“When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it,” he writes. “I always get even.”

’If I had been the son of a coal miner’

Trump’s life story, in the broadest of brush strokes, goes like this:

He was born the son of wealthy New York real-estate developer Fred C. Trump. He went to a private military academy in high school, attended Fordham for two years, then the Wharton School of Finance from which he graduated.

While his father did business in Brooklyn and Queens, Trump set off to make his mark in Manhattan. He became fabulously wealthy (think penthouse, helicopter, yacht, private plane) in the real estate boom of the ‘80s, then nearly lost it all when the boom went bust. He has since rebounded to the tune — he says — of a personal fortune of $10 billion. (Forbes estimates his net worth at $4.5 billion).

CNN Money investigation: What Trump was like as a landlord in the ‘80s

As he has run his empire and ascended as a mega star on reality TV, Trump has often been accused of being a bully, which he denies.

He does, however, acknowledge being a “very assertive, aggressive kid.”

When he was in elementary school he formed the opinion that his music teacher didn’t know much about music.

So, Trump punched him in the face, he wrote in 1987’s “The Art of the Deal.”

“In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye,” he wrote. “I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I like to use my brain instead of my fists.” (He adds that he “almost got expelled” over the incident.)

Another time, while playing with building blocks with his younger brother Robert, Trump ran out of blocks in the middle of a creation.

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He asked his little brother if he could borrow some of his. Yes, the brother said, as long as you give them back when you’re done.

The elder Trump completed his project and liked it so much that he glued the blocks together.

It was a self-admiration that would carry over into his real life as a builder.

In “Think Big,” he writes of the emotional reaction he has when arriving to work at Trump Tower.

“I love to see the crowds of people oohing and aahing at the stunning marble and the breathtaking 80-foot waterfall,” he wrote. “In truth I am dazzled as much by my own creations as are the tourists and glamour hounds that flock to Trump Tower … or any of my other properties.”

The mutual admiration of his work, Trump wrote, makes him feel “a little closer to them even though we’ve never met.”

The billionaire developer has long felt a kinship with blue-collar workers – and he believes the feeling is reciprocated. There is without question an aspirational nature to his candidacy, and blue-collar workers have shown up at the polls in droves to support his bid for the Republican nomination — often expressing admiration for his success and a belief that his financial wealth will free him from the influence of special interests if he makes it to the White House.

Playboy

“Rich men are less likely to like me,” Trump told Playboy in a 1990 interview, “but the working man likes me because he knows I worked hard and didn’t inherit what I’ve built.”

Trump acknowledges he was born wealthy — he grew up in a 23-room house in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens — and that his father loaned him money to begin his own business. But he stresses that he set himself apart when he headed to Manhattan and began building skyscrapers instead of affordable rental units.

“I often say that I’m a member of the lucky sperm club,” he wrote in 2009’s “Think Like A Champion.”