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Summary

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 listeners 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.

©2017 Sam Zell (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • David K. Robbins
  • 06-08-17

Excellent story, but ....

If you could sum up Am I Being Too Subtle? in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating
Inspiring
Insightful

What was one of the most memorable moments of Am I Being Too Subtle??

The early chapters on Mr. Zell's parents, including their escape from Poland, are important and fascinating.

What didn’t you like about Sam Zell’s performance?

Mr. Zell has many fine qualities. A good, or even mediocre, speaking voice is not one of them. He should have chosen someone else - anyone else - to narrate the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Many fine moments. Hard to pick one.

Any additional comments?

I recommend you buy the book in other than audible form.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Evan
  • 30-08-17

Differently Decent

The author has a bit of an unconventional approach to business and life that I really enjoyed. I got a lot of practical information out of this and thought it was useful and inspirational.

Wasn't a big fan of the author's voice at first, but you get used to it rather quickly. Excellent use of stories to illustrate points.

Cheers!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Radek
  • 19-07-17

Favorite book of 2017 so far

Great story and performance by the author. Thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is full of valuable insights on dealmaking and business.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack
  • 15-10-18

What was the point of the story?

Not a terrible book but wasn’t sure what the point of it was. Wouldn’t recommend.

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  • Recession Proof Holdings, LLC (RPH)
  • 16-09-18

A good book discusses that positives and negatives

Highly recommended. Very detailed and focused on the topic at hand. Well worth the read!

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  • Douglas Thompson
  • 10-09-18

Great Horacio Alger story

Loved the overall story but listening to Sam narrate it was at times painful but at the same time his unique voice made the story his.

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  • Jeff Hauptman
  • 05-08-18

Required reading for all business adventurers

I’ve followed Sam Zell for almost thirty years - he was one of the people that inspired my adventures in real estate. His book is a gift to anyone that doesn’t find themselves fitting in to corporate society, to anyone who loves business and simply to everyone who has difficulty understanding that opportunity is everywhere.
Am I biased? Sure. But the fact is that this book doesn’t disappoint and I only wish I had it when I got started on my real estate journey.

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  • Sven Wen
  • 27-07-18

#1FAN of Sam Zell

Chances are you’ve heard of the businessman Sam Zell. Chances are you want to know more. This is a fascinating read. Highly recommend!

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  • S. Hutto
  • 20-07-18

read the book and listened; simply one of the best

read the book and listened to audible book; simply some of the best wisdom for business and life and how they merge ever written. thank you Sam Zell!

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  • Tim
  • 28-06-18

Great read

Well defined outlook with business and life. We can take 76 years of knowledge and run with it..