Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel by Sam Zell.

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In Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel, American Billionaire, and Real Estate Entrepreneur Sam Zell shares his 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 what he learned in the process. Sam is best known for building several commercial real estate companies with investments also in other industries such as energy, manufacturing, retail, travel, logistics, and health care.

Sam is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland to escape the Holocaust and come to the United States. A former lawyer, he is the founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm, founded in 1968.  According to Forbes, Sam has an estimated net worth of USD $5.2 billion as of March 2023.


I am the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland to escape the Holocaust and come to the United States. My entire life is dedicated to the idea that I am part of the great American dream, an entrepreneurial movement like none other in the world.

“Some might see buying and creating value from others’ mistakes as a form of exploitation, but I see it as giving neglected or devalued assets, in any industry, new life. ”

The Entrepreneur

Allocator of capital. Focuses less on specific industries and more on seeing opportunity in anomalies or trends that catches his attention. Reads risk for a living. Focused on understanding the downside.

Someone who doesn’t just see the problems but also sees the solutions—the opportunities. A fundamental part of being an entrepreneur aligns with my tendency to walk out of step with the norm.

If everyone is going left, look right.

“For me, business is not a battle to be waged—it’s a puzzle to be solved. And the end goal isn’t to accumulate a lot of toys and then kick back.”

If it ain’t fun, we don’t do it

Back in 1985, the Wall Street Journal did a front-page story on me and quoted me saying “If it ain’t fun, we don’t do it.” The next day I walked into the office and all the mailroom guys were wearing T-shirts with that quote. I loved the fact that they thought to do it, that they felt they could, and that they made it happen. That epitomizes the culture at my investment firm, Equity Group Investments (EGI).

The bottom line is if you’re really good at what you do, you have the freedom to be who you really are.

Reputation is more important than money

“These long-term relationships reflect the most important lesson imparted to me by my father. He taught me simply how to be. He often told me that nothing was more important than a man’s honor—shem tov in the Jewish community: a good name. Reputation is your most important asset. Everything you do, everything you say, is part of the permanent record. Your name reflects your character. No matter how successful I got, I never forgot that lesson. I’ve always strived to be known as a man of my word.”

Work Ethic

“I’m seventy-five; I work out every morning at 4:45, I’m at the office by 6:30 a.m., and I don’t get home from work until 7:00 at night. I have plenty more to do and a lot more to say. Every day is an adventure.”

I grew up believing that anything is possible. And when you’re not aware there are any limitations, nothing stops you from trying.”

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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