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Am I Being Too Subtle?

The Adventures of a Business Maverick
By: Sam Zell
Narrated by: Sam Zell
Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (65 ratings)

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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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This is best book I've read...

Must read for anyone that wants to learn how select property investment and manage risk

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Profile Image for David K. Robbins
  • 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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • dwshorowitz
  • 11-08-19

Gave me a new, actionable perspective

Mr. Zell's contrarian, gritty, creative, high EQ way of doing business has changed the way I think about existing and prospective ventures. From strategy through execution and culture building. Everyone should read this book, multiple times.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jordan M. Mackey
  • 31-05-19

Adventure into the mind of a jeans wearing Mogal.

Finally a book from a business mogal that isn't going to tell you,"It's the suite, that makes a man." Or one of the other many parables that's so stuffy and uniform. - To be at the top of your game you must be 100% and Sam Zell helps guide you through how he discovered himself.

2 people found this helpful

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  • zack
  • 11-05-19

one of my favorites

absolutely love this book, one of my favorites. have listened to it several times, & will certainly listen to it more.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Philo
  • 12-09-19

Awesome. Clear as day.

I had read a bit on Sam Zell's exploits in a favorite print book, The Vulture Investors by Hillary Rosenberg. But his own voice here marks him as a lucid explainer, a natural teacher. In situation after situation his thinking (as it translated into deals) is laid out with bracing simplicity and clarity. I was never raised to be aware at the crucial age of this sort of thinking, and I'm not sure I would have had the courage to commit the capital .But these deals each bring a huge smile to my face. There was SO much low-hanging fruit in the 70s, 80s and beyond, at least in retrospect. The trick of course and the mark of genius was in figuring it out prospectively, back then. The telling is great here, as he holds up the angles that were attractive (and that multitudes of others were not seeing). People were just handing him value at amazing discounts. My family (and I later) sort of semi-lucked into some fairly good real estate buys at good times. But the scale of this is amazing. He is lighthearted in his tales too. I can't recommend this one enough.

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  • Adnan Khan
  • 08-05-19

some good lessons to be learned.

Some good lessons but stuffed with personal stories which are and relevant. Over all I enjoyed it

1 person found this helpful

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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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  • 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!

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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.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-04-20

Great bio read by man himself

lots of nuggets and war stories in here.
last 4 chapters are more a record of his philosophy and not as enjoyable