Book Reviews

Am I being too Subtle by Sam Zell

October 27, 2017

In this memoir- Am I Being Too Subtle?  Sam Zell shares the story of how a restless, curious boy who grew up in Chicago made it to the Forbes 400. He describes the risks that paid off and those that didn’t—and tell you what I learned in the process. He takes you inside his world of companies, where culture is king. That is, he takes great care with the way he does things—with transparency, alignment, and trust. He has shared deep personal motto and mantras to stand out of the crowd. There are many experiences and stories shared in this book which tell you to get free from the shackles of thinking in a limited set.

Sam Zell is Self-made billionaire but worth of his book is much than his net worth.  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.He is one of the most successful entrepreneurs.His outspoken clever take on the economy and politics have always impressed and entertained everyone.

The title of the book is actually the motto of Sam Zell because he always makes sure that no one should ever leave the meeting, wondering what he meant. He is always clear, candid and often blunt. The message has to be understood even if he has to speak slower to convey it.Here are some lines from the book:

“I can seem gruff. I know that. And I can be impatient. I have an embedded sense of urgency. What I can’t figure out is why so many other people don’t have it. But from an early age, I realised that I had a fundamentally different perspective from my peers. And I was willing to trade conformity for authenticity—even when that meant being an outlier, which it usually did, and even if it meant being on my own”

This book contains many valuable aspect lessons about life like “An impossible Life”, the first chapter in the book tells the story of his father and how he was the first person he knew who had done something “impossible.” At thirty-four, his father escaped his hometown in Poland on the last train out, just hours before the Luftwaffe bombed the tracks, and then led his mother and two-year-old sister on a twenty-one-month trek across two continents to safety and How this incident help him grow up believing that anything is possible. And when you’re not aware there are any limitations, nothing stops you from trying. He also tells us how by selling PlayBoy magazines, he learned his lessons on the topic of supply and demand and how it is most important knowledge used in his success.

My personal favourite quote from the book was “I make a point of shutting out the noise—doing what makes sense to me. I want everyone’s opinion because there is tremendous value in being a good listener. But then I determine my own path. I look for clarity, and if something’s not clear, I get more information. That could mean reading various sources of news, understanding new legislation, or meeting with someone halfway across the world. The point is, I don’t make assumptions. But determining my position is the easy part. Once I have formed my opinion, I have to trust my perspective enough to act on it. That the fans putting my own money behind it. My level of commitment is usually high.”-Sam Zell

This mainstream trend and obsession of being unique stop us from believing that if we copy someone or take someone advice we are not being original. But what is being original is that we grab all the ideas we like from all sources and become a combined mixture of all those ideas. There is nothing in the world like ‘what we are’. It is all about what we want to be and when we know, what we want to be, Nothing should stop us from achieving that self. Sam Zell teach us all in this book. This was a brief review of the book Am I too Subtle?. Hope you learn lessons  tied together and gems of wisdom along the way with Sam Zell.It is a must read.


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