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The traits that make Sam Zell one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs also make him one of the most surprising, enigmatic, and entertaining mavericks in American business.   Self-made billionaire Sam Zell consistently sees what others don’t. From finding a market for overpriced Playboy magazines among his junior high classmates, to buying real estate on the cheap The traits that make Sam Zell one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs also make him one of the most surprising, enigmatic, and entertaining mavericks in American business.   Self-made billionaire Sam Zell consistently sees what others don’t. From finding a market for overpriced Playboy magazines among his junior high classmates, to buying real estate on the cheap after a market crash, to investing in often unglamorous industries with long-term value, Zell acts boldly on supply and demand trends to grab the first-mover advantage. And he can find opportunity virtually anywhere—from an arcane piece of legislation to a desert meeting in Abu Dhabi. “If everyone is going left, look right,” Zell often says. To him, conventional wisdom is nothing but a reference point. Year after year, deal after deal, he shuts out the noise of the crowd, gathers as much information as possible, then trusts his own instincts. He credits much of his independent thinking to his parents, who were Jewish refugees from World War II. Talk to any two people and you might get wild swings in their descriptions of Zell. A media firestorm ensued when the Tribune Company went into bankruptcy a year after he agreed to steward the enterprise. At the same time, his razor-sharp instincts are legendary on Wall Street, and he has sponsored over a dozen IPOs.  He’s known as the Grave Dancer for his strategy of targeting troubled assets, yet he’s created thousands of jobs. Within his own organization, he has an inordinate number of employees at every level who are fiercely loyal and have worked for him for decades. Zell’s got a big personality; he is often contrarian, blunt, and irreverent, and always curious and hardworking. This is the guy who started wearing jeans to work in the 1960s, when offices were a sea of gray suits. He’s the guy who told The Wall Street Journal in 1985, “If it ain’t fun, we don’t do it.” He rides motorcycles with his friends, the Zell’s Angels, around the world and he keeps ducks on the deck outside his office. As he writes: “I simply don’t buy into many of the made-up rules of social convention. The bottom line is: If you’re really good at what you do, you have the freedom to be who you really are.” Am I Being Too Subtle?—a reference to Zell’s favorite way to underscore a point—takes readers on a ride across his business terrain, sharing with honesty and humor stories of the times he got it right, when he didn’t, and most important, what he learned in the process.  This is an indispensable guide for the next generation of disrupters, entrepreneurs, and investors. 


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The traits that make Sam Zell one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs also make him one of the most surprising, enigmatic, and entertaining mavericks in American business.   Self-made billionaire Sam Zell consistently sees what others don’t. From finding a market for overpriced Playboy magazines among his junior high classmates, to buying real estate on the cheap The traits that make Sam Zell one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs also make him one of the most surprising, enigmatic, and entertaining mavericks in American business.   Self-made billionaire Sam Zell consistently sees what others don’t. From finding a market for overpriced Playboy magazines among his junior high classmates, to buying real estate on the cheap after a market crash, to investing in often unglamorous industries with long-term value, Zell acts boldly on supply and demand trends to grab the first-mover advantage. And he can find opportunity virtually anywhere—from an arcane piece of legislation to a desert meeting in Abu Dhabi. “If everyone is going left, look right,” Zell often says. To him, conventional wisdom is nothing but a reference point. Year after year, deal after deal, he shuts out the noise of the crowd, gathers as much information as possible, then trusts his own instincts. He credits much of his independent thinking to his parents, who were Jewish refugees from World War II. Talk to any two people and you might get wild swings in their descriptions of Zell. A media firestorm ensued when the Tribune Company went into bankruptcy a year after he agreed to steward the enterprise. At the same time, his razor-sharp instincts are legendary on Wall Street, and he has sponsored over a dozen IPOs.  He’s known as the Grave Dancer for his strategy of targeting troubled assets, yet he’s created thousands of jobs. Within his own organization, he has an inordinate number of employees at every level who are fiercely loyal and have worked for him for decades. Zell’s got a big personality; he is often contrarian, blunt, and irreverent, and always curious and hardworking. This is the guy who started wearing jeans to work in the 1960s, when offices were a sea of gray suits. He’s the guy who told The Wall Street Journal in 1985, “If it ain’t fun, we don’t do it.” He rides motorcycles with his friends, the Zell’s Angels, around the world and he keeps ducks on the deck outside his office. As he writes: “I simply don’t buy into many of the made-up rules of social convention. The bottom line is: If you’re really good at what you do, you have the freedom to be who you really are.” Am I Being Too Subtle?—a reference to Zell’s favorite way to underscore a point—takes readers on a ride across his business terrain, sharing with honesty and humor stories of the times he got it right, when he didn’t, and most important, what he learned in the process.  This is an indispensable guide for the next generation of disrupters, entrepreneurs, and investors. 

30 review for Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amy Nakos

    My husband suggested that I read this book. He's an entrepreneur in real estate. He loved the story of Sam Zell's journey and his approach to business. I felt like I was listening to my grandfather telling me war stories of the business world. I didn't feel any connection to Zell and I was frankly, bored. I know I could have quit reading the book earlier, but I read most of it and quit on the last chapter. A few good takeaways: 1) give your employees the power and space to talk to you, 2) honest My husband suggested that I read this book. He's an entrepreneur in real estate. He loved the story of Sam Zell's journey and his approach to business. I felt like I was listening to my grandfather telling me war stories of the business world. I didn't feel any connection to Zell and I was frankly, bored. I know I could have quit reading the book earlier, but I read most of it and quit on the last chapter. A few good takeaways: 1) give your employees the power and space to talk to you, 2) honesty and integrity + relationships is what builds business, 3) keep a sense of humor.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Lewis Kozoriz

    "The tool kit I use to achieve my end includes the gifts I've been given. There are people who draw. There are people who can sing. And there are people who can dance. I can make money. I see opportunity and convert it into something tangible. The business of making money just comes naturally to me." (Sam Zell, Am I Being Too Subtle?, Page 209) Written by Billionaire Sam Zell. Some of it was biographical and some of it was business advice. It was cool to get to know this man. He thinks differentl "The tool kit I use to achieve my end includes the gifts I've been given. There are people who draw. There are people who can sing. And there are people who can dance. I can make money. I see opportunity and convert it into something tangible. The business of making money just comes naturally to me." (Sam Zell, Am I Being Too Subtle?, Page 209) Written by Billionaire Sam Zell. Some of it was biographical and some of it was business advice. It was cool to get to know this man. He thinks differently. He thinks out of the box. He leverages what he has and he is not as brash as I thought. He actually believes in making a difference and making a difference is what he wants his legacy to be. The business advice he shares is invaluable, not to just those in real estate, but to those in all kinds of professions and businesses. We could all learn a tidbit or two from this man, especially in the areas of being an entrepreneur and taking risks.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ex ex

    Really enjoyed this book. I had heard of Sam over 25 years ago after reading an article about him in Forbes. Later, I bought Equity Office Property's stock in my IRA over 15 years ago and enjoyed the dividend as well as the stock's performance. Sam's success has common themes among super-performers like: He understands his psychology and plays to his strengths and weaknesses. Believes that value in a company cannot be unlocked without delegation to great people. Understands that sometimes the best de Really enjoyed this book. I had heard of Sam over 25 years ago after reading an article about him in Forbes. Later, I bought Equity Office Property's stock in my IRA over 15 years ago and enjoyed the dividend as well as the stock's performance. Sam's success has common themes among super-performers like: He understands his psychology and plays to his strengths and weaknesses. Believes that value in a company cannot be unlocked without delegation to great people. Understands that sometimes the best deal is the one that you pass on. Consumes an enormous amount of information while retaining the ability to focus on the essential and discard the rest. Uses this information to develop a thesis on macro-level events and then take action when they setup according to his views. Has a fanatical drive to measure and control risk. Sam's Jewish heritage and parents have had a big influence on him. While he was the typical American son, rebellious and driven in ways that his father was not, his love for his father is as deep as his father's was for him. And, ultimately, he is his father's son returning to his heritage throughout his life feeling profoundly grateful to be blessed with his father's wisdom. I especially appreciated the fact that Sam openly discussed his business failures, not just his successes. Too many business books showcase the wins without the losses and, as anyone in business will tell you, its the failures that teach the most. Equity Office Properties was a major win but the deal with Tribune began to crater less than a year after the ink dried on the contract. He goes into detail on all of them which is a huge win for anyone running a business or thinking about running a business. I made ample use of a highlighter and post-it notes while reading this biography and highly recommend it to anyone in business.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Didn’t actually finish the book. Hated the writing style and was interested in the story but it was just so meh-ly written. Got bored after a while and wondered why I was forcing myself to read this. Might interest real estate developers a bunch more than me but all in all the sentence structures suck and made me put it down.

  5. 4 out of 5

    entire thoughts

    There are parts of Sam Zell's story and life that I found truly fascinating and was excited to learn more about, and then there were other parts that left me rather bored and underwhelmed. The Good: The beginning of the book was probably the most engaging. Sam recounts how his parents narrowly escaped Poland just before the German invasion in 1939. After a circuitous, twenty-month long journey, Sam's family landed in the United States and rebuilt a successful life. Sam seemed to inherit a healthy There are parts of Sam Zell's story and life that I found truly fascinating and was excited to learn more about, and then there were other parts that left me rather bored and underwhelmed. The Good: The beginning of the book was probably the most engaging. Sam recounts how his parents narrowly escaped Poland just before the German invasion in 1939. After a circuitous, twenty-month long journey, Sam's family landed in the United States and rebuilt a successful life. Sam seemed to inherit a healthy serving of his father's chutzpah, perspicacity and intuition, which he applied to the world of real estate investing, ultimately taking him from owning run-down apartment buildings in college towns to presiding over multi-billion dollar global companies and portfolios. The Bad: Sam Zell admits that he is a great salesman and, in a way, he tells his life story much like a masterful salesman giving a well-honed sales pitch. The "sale" here is that he wants us to view him as he views himself: a business rebel, an iconoclast, a gruff but fair leader, a shrewd opportunistic investor, etc. He is very good at highlighting his strengths, glossing over his weaknesses, and painting a very optimistic view of everything. The problem is that this book seems to lack any serious introspection or true examination of Sam's flaws as a human being. For instance, he has been married three times, but other than a few generic comments, he doesn't delve into any of these moments in his life. Sam mentions not liking to talk much about his current family or personal life. That's a shame because those are the types of details I'd be more interested in to really get a holistic picture of Sam Zell the three-dimensional human, not just Sam Zell the billionaire business magnate. Also, he keeps talking about what a rebel he is because he wears jeans to the office, rides motorcycles, sends out annual musical gifts where he changes the lyrics to popular songs, and makes irreverent t-shirts that he hands out at business meetings. Maybe times were way different then, but this all just struck me as so lame. Okay Sam, compared to a room full of bankers, you're a real James Dean.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rishabh Srivastava

    An autobiographical account of an old-school entrepreneur and property mogul. Talks a fair bit about building relationships, negotiations, audacity, and risk-management. A very different take about business than the one that tech entrepreneurs typically have. Had much food for thought (though I did zone out a bit among the details of deal-making in the final few chapters). Highly recommended. In particular, I loved this quote describing the dangers of taking on distressed assets: "Gravedancing is An autobiographical account of an old-school entrepreneur and property mogul. Talks a fair bit about building relationships, negotiations, audacity, and risk-management. A very different take about business than the one that tech entrepreneurs typically have. Had much food for thought (though I did zone out a bit among the details of deal-making in the final few chapters). Highly recommended. In particular, I loved this quote describing the dangers of taking on distressed assets: "Gravedancing is an art with many potential upsides. But one must be careful while prancing around not to fall into the open pit and join the cadavers. There’s often a thin line between the Dancer and the danced-upon."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marc Fuhrmann

    Not the most disciplined writing. A lot of repetition of "I believe" "I've always said", etc. In general the theme of the book seems to be "why am i so great". As a result not a lot of real reflection on what could have been learned from a 40 year career as an investor. That said, some very memorable stories and concise history of the equity business. Instructive for any real estate investor. Very readable -- got through it on two 2-hour train rides. Not the most disciplined writing. A lot of repetition of "I believe" "I've always said", etc. In general the theme of the book seems to be "why am i so great". As a result not a lot of real reflection on what could have been learned from a 40 year career as an investor. That said, some very memorable stories and concise history of the equity business. Instructive for any real estate investor. Very readable -- got through it on two 2-hour train rides.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eli Gray

    Excellent book. Jam packed with insights and advice to apply not only to business but one's life outlook and approach as well. Excellent book. Jam packed with insights and advice to apply not only to business but one's life outlook and approach as well.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Patrick

    Some stories that I would categorize as "okay". I enjoyed the chances he took and the way he navigated getting his first rental units off of the ground. Some stories that I would categorize as "okay". I enjoyed the chances he took and the way he navigated getting his first rental units off of the ground.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jingwei Shi

    One of the most transparent business books about an interesting and highly intellectual entrepreneur. This is one of the best autobiographies that I have read about entrepreneurship and finance.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Beigle

    I really loved this book by Sam Zell. As a student of distressed investing, it was great to hear about the stories of Sam's investments over the years. The primary focus was mostly around his real estate investments, but there was discussion of other "Grave Dancer" type investments. As someone who has taken advantage of cyclical downturns for my adult career (own 3 distressed properties, commodities investor), I ate this book up. However, I was somewhat surprised that it didn't include more focu I really loved this book by Sam Zell. As a student of distressed investing, it was great to hear about the stories of Sam's investments over the years. The primary focus was mostly around his real estate investments, but there was discussion of other "Grave Dancer" type investments. As someone who has taken advantage of cyclical downturns for my adult career (own 3 distressed properties, commodities investor), I ate this book up. However, I was somewhat surprised that it didn't include more focus on the investment side of things. It really was written mostly as an autobiography with at least 4 of the 12 chapters focused on things other than business (telling his family history, his philanthropy efforts, etc.). Overall, it was a great read, and I'd recommend it to anyone that gets excited about investing (like I do), especially when the world really looks really ugly. My favorite quotes: p. 37 - "Indifference to rejection is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur." p. 75 - "Always make sure you are getting paid for the risk you take, and never risk what you cannot afford to lose...A scenario that takes four steps instead of one means there are three additional opportunities to fail." p. 88 - "There's no substitute for limited competition. You can be a genius, but if there's a lot of competition, it won't matter." p. 108 - "Boards that don't exercise an ownership approach are complicit in poor-performing companies." p. 136 - "Every day you choose to hold an asset, you are choosing to buy it." p. 153 - "'We've just always done it that way' is the antithesis of progress." p. 220 - "Negotiation that leads to a winner and a loser rarely leads to a successful transaction, or another one down the road."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Being the big dog isn't just a business strategy it's a mindset. Zell moves in and out of investments based off his unique gut and common sense perspective. He's a front line heavy duty real estate player who tells it like it is. He's the kind of guy that will share as long as your not getting a piece of his slice and I can respect that. Pearls of Wisdom: Deal opportunities Master deal maker I don't like auctions unless I'm running them Sentimentality to an asset leads to a lack of discipline Under Being the big dog isn't just a business strategy it's a mindset. Zell moves in and out of investments based off his unique gut and common sense perspective. He's a front line heavy duty real estate player who tells it like it is. He's the kind of guy that will share as long as your not getting a piece of his slice and I can respect that. Pearls of Wisdom: Deal opportunities Master deal maker I don't like auctions unless I'm running them Sentimentality to an asset leads to a lack of discipline Under what circumstances that decision might change? It has to be a God Father offer to good to refuse It's not on the market but a bid of 47.5 would make things interesting Everyday you choose to hold an asset your also choosing to buy it Predictable cash flow from high quality assets Real estate tends to lag the general economy the full impact is years away liquidity equals value highly leveraged owners our interests don't align Don't rely on people unless you understand their motivations This has always been a fatal flaw in us real estate the volume of development has been related to the availability of funds not to demand. The industry has a long history overbuilding when there is easy money without regard for who will occupy these spaces once they are built I count my money by the bushel I've been plagued by plots and betrayal I'm amazed at the complexity of your world selling is everything in life sober..honest..ethical acutally from the wolf jb not sz lol Money transfer operation do great deals Arthur Cohn William Zecondorf

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dick

    I am aware that it’s easy to get cynical when you read someone’s autobiography, especially from billionaires. They tend to tell you they came from nothing, worked hard and smart , accomplished a great deal and list out what they have done in philanthropy. While I truly believe most of them genuinely want to share the wisdom they accumulated on their road to riches and power, a lot of them are their ego talking, which is nothing wrong. You have to be extremely lucky to find one that doesn’t come I am aware that it’s easy to get cynical when you read someone’s autobiography, especially from billionaires. They tend to tell you they came from nothing, worked hard and smart , accomplished a great deal and list out what they have done in philanthropy. While I truly believe most of them genuinely want to share the wisdom they accumulated on their road to riches and power, a lot of them are their ego talking, which is nothing wrong. You have to be extremely lucky to find one that doesn’t come across this way. Phil knight’s the shoe dog, or bob iger’s the ride of a lifetime. This book, however is not. It is a slightly compacted version of steve schwarzman’s book but not as well written. It is written more like a summary on his deals and progress over the year. I am actually a little disappointed partly because I expected Sam Zell to be a good writer and also the title “ straight talk from a busines rebel” sort of implying the story to be a little different from typical autobiography from wall street guys. Anyway, I did learn a little about how he structures his real estates business to achieve maximum leverage in the bull market and maintain liquidity in the bear market. I do wish he would elaborate a lot more about each of his deal though. Simply telling readers he manages to buy low sell high every time doesn’t help all that much isn’t it. Anyway, a fine read but it wont help a lot if you are set out to understand more about the real estates market.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stealth Journals

    I very much enjoyed all the nuggets of wisdom interspersed within all the war stories. A legend! Notes from a reading journal: P. 84: "We believed the real money in real estate came from borrowing long-term, fixed-rate debt in an inflationary scenario that ultimately depreciated the value of the loan and increased the position of the borrower." P. 94: "Don't depend on people unless you understand their motivations and you're confident that your interests align with theirs." P. 104: "A leader can' I very much enjoyed all the nuggets of wisdom interspersed within all the war stories. A legend! Notes from a reading journal: P. 84: "We believed the real money in real estate came from borrowing long-term, fixed-rate debt in an inflationary scenario that ultimately depreciated the value of the loan and increased the position of the borrower." P. 94: "Don't depend on people unless you understand their motivations and you're confident that your interests align with theirs." P. 104: "A leader can't let his emotions impact his stability. You have to have methods that keep you steady." P. 179: "I believe in the radius theory of business, where your ability to succeed is ultimately limited by the number of people between you and the decision." That's because the farther from you the decision is made, the less you control the risk. History shows that businesses get buried when they don't delegate enough - but also when they delegate too much. P. 210 - "I stay nimble, ready to pivot." P. 225 - "The minute you acknowledge that a problem is insurmountable, you fail. If you just assume there is a way through to the other side, you'll usually find it, and unleash your creativity to do so."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Noah Hakim

    Solid book. Sam Zell displays his life starting from a young age and his growth to the top. I loved how he showed his parents life starting from the Holocaust and their escape to Chicago. Zell was born into a Jewish Family and he gave us lessons he learned from his dad such as Shem Tov which is to have a good name and always to have a good reputation. Zell describes his time in the University of Michigan, then his time to his first marriage, then to his divorces, then to starting his own optimis Solid book. Sam Zell displays his life starting from a young age and his growth to the top. I loved how he showed his parents life starting from the Holocaust and their escape to Chicago. Zell was born into a Jewish Family and he gave us lessons he learned from his dad such as Shem Tov which is to have a good name and always to have a good reputation. Zell describes his time in the University of Michigan, then his time to his first marriage, then to his divorces, then to starting his own optimistic investing company - Equity Group and how they rose to the top, and his huge deal with Blackstone to sell the Equity Office, now known as EQ Office which has one of the biggest portfolios in office buildings in the US. Zell described his way of thinking, his office environment (relaxed vibe, not so corporate, jeans), and his thought processes. Zell describes himself as a very relaxed CEO, and loves to ride Motorcycles, and he seems very cool and calm. I would love to catch a drink with him. It’s a must read as it shows the way a kid born into an immigrant family rose to the top with hard work and dedication and some calculated risks.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Egbert Oostburg

    The Secret to a Deal Sam is the real deal! His take on business imitates his view of life which is full throttle but with your headlights on and an appreciation for where you're heading. The son of Jewish immigrants who left Poland and everything behind to escape persecution by Nazis, Sam's early childhood story paints a colorful picture of the tenacity, hard work, and love of family, elements which helped build the US and can still do so today. The key takeaway for me was to analyze any deal down The Secret to a Deal Sam is the real deal! His take on business imitates his view of life which is full throttle but with your headlights on and an appreciation for where you're heading. The son of Jewish immigrants who left Poland and everything behind to escape persecution by Nazis, Sam's early childhood story paints a colorful picture of the tenacity, hard work, and love of family, elements which helped build the US and can still do so today. The key takeaway for me was to analyze any deal down to its core points and determine what the main point was to making the deal happen. The framework he shared and used as a lens for every deal was Mastercard...priceless! Sam also shared personal stories of his business partners and colleagues which made his story relatable. You can learn much about business and life from a man who engenders trust and loyalty like Sam Zell, they don't call his peeps "Zellots" for nothing!!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian Worthge

    Listened on Audible- he narrates it (funny voice). Overall it was an inspiring story of a super successful real estate titan. Nothing groundbreaking in there, but it was impressive that he came up through the ranks his way. He isn't the most polished business man with the 3 piece suit, but rather the quirky, short guy wearing jeans and going on motorcycle trips. Some notes: Culture is king Delegate enough but don’t delegate too much. Be close enough to the decision. Need to be a meritocracy Open kim Listened on Audible- he narrates it (funny voice). Overall it was an inspiring story of a super successful real estate titan. Nothing groundbreaking in there, but it was impressive that he came up through the ranks his way. He isn't the most polished business man with the 3 piece suit, but rather the quirky, short guy wearing jeans and going on motorcycle trips. Some notes: Culture is king Delegate enough but don’t delegate too much. Be close enough to the decision. Need to be a meritocracy Open kimono policy Political people need to be fired. Secrets don’t work for meritocracy. Don’t let people use secrets as leverage. Never surround with sycophants “No one wants to do a second deal with me”— don’t do a deal with that person When people show you who they are, believe them. Underachievers believe successful people are crooks. Winning isn’t a zero sum game— ok to leave some money on the table at times Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make fun of yourself.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Hulbert

    This was an interesting read, but it also left me a little disappointed. I have some background on Mr. Zell, and it's certainly not a background a respectable man would want, but this book (obviously) showed him in a better light. He had a lot of interesting stories and divulged a couple interesting business tips, but seemed to leave out the real good stuff that I was hoping to get into. Glossed right over some of the most interesting parts. Also the title is sorta ironic because nothing in this This was an interesting read, but it also left me a little disappointed. I have some background on Mr. Zell, and it's certainly not a background a respectable man would want, but this book (obviously) showed him in a better light. He had a lot of interesting stories and divulged a couple interesting business tips, but seemed to leave out the real good stuff that I was hoping to get into. Glossed right over some of the most interesting parts. Also the title is sorta ironic because nothing in this book is at all dramatic or ostentatious at all (besides the terrible wordart cover). His writing is basic (which is fine since, after all, he's not a writer) but he just comes off like a genial and kinda boring old guy. Not bad! Just not what I expected from the statement title. Yes, Mr. Zell, you're being too subtle.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vitalijus Sostak

    Author has a charming, appealing personality and his (business) life story is definitely a recommendation to read. His parents escape from Poland just before WW2 - breathtaking. I also fully enjoyed many little business stories and deal anecdotes. Yes, they sound sometimes a bit one-sided, but they still had many interesting insights on how his investor's mind works. For me, this book does not provide enough of details and numbers on every deal (to get the context better), but that's my complaint Author has a charming, appealing personality and his (business) life story is definitely a recommendation to read. His parents escape from Poland just before WW2 - breathtaking. I also fully enjoyed many little business stories and deal anecdotes. Yes, they sound sometimes a bit one-sided, but they still had many interesting insights on how his investor's mind works. For me, this book does not provide enough of details and numbers on every deal (to get the context better), but that's my complaint with every book on investing :] At the end of the book - a list of basic business tenets with short elaboration, loved it. It's really a must for every autobiography, imo. Overall, a solid business book. One star gets subtracted because from time to time there are long passages where author sounds a bit too full of himself or promoting his business too hard.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The Skinny: A fast, fun read that summarizes the story of an investing legend and his dispositions and beliefs. Disclosure: I am a real estate professional so I have a huge interest in the subject so I may love it more than most. The Good: This was just straight up entertaining to read because he has had so many big wins in his career, and he covers all of the big ones in decent detail and in a fun way. He clearly explains his overall rationale on investing and it becomes ingrained in your mind b The Skinny: A fast, fun read that summarizes the story of an investing legend and his dispositions and beliefs. Disclosure: I am a real estate professional so I have a huge interest in the subject so I may love it more than most. The Good: This was just straight up entertaining to read because he has had so many big wins in his career, and he covers all of the big ones in decent detail and in a fun way. He clearly explains his overall rationale on investing and it becomes ingrained in your mind by the end of the book. Often leaves you nodding in agreement with his philosophy. Lots of great little anecdotes throughout the way. A true page turner as well since it just keeps flowing. The Bad: I honestly do not have much to complain about. May have been a little high level and random at times but that is really it. May not be as compelling to non RE folk.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Allan

    Far too much of "look at me and see how great I am". Tries to imply he came from a poor immigrant upbringing to become a multi-billionaire real estate mogul. Somehow this poor immigrant is able to accumulate ownership of student rental buildings in his early 20's while attending top colleges. Here's a man who wants us to believe that everything he touches turns to gold and the very few mistakes he ever made turned into triumphs. I don't believe we are getting the true life story of Sam Zell, but Far too much of "look at me and see how great I am". Tries to imply he came from a poor immigrant upbringing to become a multi-billionaire real estate mogul. Somehow this poor immigrant is able to accumulate ownership of student rental buildings in his early 20's while attending top colleges. Here's a man who wants us to believe that everything he touches turns to gold and the very few mistakes he ever made turned into triumphs. I don't believe we are getting the true life story of Sam Zell, but the story of an overbearing ego. if I wanted to read stories like this I would have read Trump's books

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joe Conley

    I devoured this one from start to finish. Written in very plainspoken language, Zell gives a great overview of his business principles and brings them to life with very colorful stories. I saw many parallels to the way he thinks and the way Buffett/Munger tend to think, including: - work with strong and smart local operators and get out of their way - look for situations with big upside/small downside - finding the root cause of an issue and using that to simplify things (more Munger than Buffett, I devoured this one from start to finish. Written in very plainspoken language, Zell gives a great overview of his business principles and brings them to life with very colorful stories. I saw many parallels to the way he thinks and the way Buffett/Munger tend to think, including: - work with strong and smart local operators and get out of their way - look for situations with big upside/small downside - finding the root cause of an issue and using that to simplify things (more Munger than Buffett, perhaps). Would definitely encourage anyone starting out their career to give this a read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tirath

    Great autobiography-ish book. Took tons of notes on a very interesting character - Integrity, forthrightness, Jewish culture, breaking away from the imposed values, zigging when other zag; The 70s US RE boom and bust The 80s boom and 90s bust The changing nature of things - - how technology and demographics can shape entire industries How the 09 bust was very different Whether complicated transactions are worth the time and legal spent 3 marriages aint too bad - life still finds a way Culture and values Great autobiography-ish book. Took tons of notes on a very interesting character - Integrity, forthrightness, Jewish culture, breaking away from the imposed values, zigging when other zag; The 70s US RE boom and bust The 80s boom and 90s bust The changing nature of things - - how technology and demographics can shape entire industries How the 09 bust was very different Whether complicated transactions are worth the time and legal spent 3 marriages aint too bad - life still finds a way Culture and values lay the foundation of a good business - and really separate the men from the boys

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trung Nguyen Dang

    The first 9 chapters were so so. Beside the great childhood story where his family avoided the Nazi and made it from Poland to the US, the rest are full of Sam Zell did this did that. It starts to get insightful from Chapter 10 (Titled Behind the Deals) onwards as Sam reflects and shares his thoughts, his views, and cultures of his firm. Sam is also too private and does not talk much about his family, his 2 divorces...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zhang Tao

    Did not know him before this book, but this is a great read. The name of the introduction is "No BS" and he certainly did just that. He talked a lot about his business success by looking at simple thing like supplies and demand, also the importance of keeping the interest of all the parties involved aligned. It is clear that you can be trained to be better at most things, but Entrepreneurship is not one of those, you either born with this gift or not. Did not know him before this book, but this is a great read. The name of the introduction is "No BS" and he certainly did just that. He talked a lot about his business success by looking at simple thing like supplies and demand, also the importance of keeping the interest of all the parties involved aligned. It is clear that you can be trained to be better at most things, but Entrepreneurship is not one of those, you either born with this gift or not.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    This is a classic, rags to riches, American Dream in real life. I enjoyed getting into his head and seeing how he viewed the world and his many deals. Some highlights: It was interesting to see a leader who focused on being the owner/chairman rather than the CEO/manager. His focus on extravagant and themed gifts was inspiring. The comments on understanding the downside of each deal first was strong. And it was entertaining for sure. He's a real character. This is a classic, rags to riches, American Dream in real life. I enjoyed getting into his head and seeing how he viewed the world and his many deals. Some highlights: It was interesting to see a leader who focused on being the owner/chairman rather than the CEO/manager. His focus on extravagant and themed gifts was inspiring. The comments on understanding the downside of each deal first was strong. And it was entertaining for sure. He's a real character.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marco

    The central part of the book (the one talking about the business deals) was interesting to me. The other parts not so much. He praises himself to be a joker and tells about his jokes/parties/t-shirts, etc... Ok, it's peculiar but not relevant and couldn't quite connect to him. It seemed more like he tried too hard looking funny. The leadership lessons are good but not particularly new. Worth the read imho The central part of the book (the one talking about the business deals) was interesting to me. The other parts not so much. He praises himself to be a joker and tells about his jokes/parties/t-shirts, etc... Ok, it's peculiar but not relevant and couldn't quite connect to him. It seemed more like he tried too hard looking funny. The leadership lessons are good but not particularly new. Worth the read imho

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Arora

    A poorly written autobiography of one man's ego and how great he thinks of himself. Sam Zell might be good at business deals but clearly fails at forming good sentences. The books is filled with "I believe..", "I did this.." , "I'm good at this.." kind of short sentences and gets boring real fast. The book is about how he sees himself. A rebel, an iconoclast, a good businessman etc. Wasn't worth my time. A poorly written autobiography of one man's ego and how great he thinks of himself. Sam Zell might be good at business deals but clearly fails at forming good sentences. The books is filled with "I believe..", "I did this.." , "I'm good at this.." kind of short sentences and gets boring real fast. The book is about how he sees himself. A rebel, an iconoclast, a good businessman etc. Wasn't worth my time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bunch

    One of the best real estate books I have ever read. Sam Zell explains the traits that made him great. Simply a great book from a knowledgeable real estate investor. read a about the REIT industry - the maturing of mobile home communities, office building ownership in every major market, international real estate , companies in a variety of industry. Become a fan of Zells Angels The best part understand real estate economics from the master.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Franta

    I did not know much about Sam Zell before starting reading this book, but I was positively surprised. Apparently Sam Zell has a great entrepreneurial character and there are many similarities with Ray Dalio, whose autobiography was published recently. I learned quite a lot and got inspired to do more good!

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