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#269 Sam Zell
September 29th, 2022 | E269

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


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[6:37] I have an embedded sense of urgency. What I can’t figure out is why so many other people don’t have it.

[6:50] I was willing to trade conformity for authenticity.

[8:26] Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.  —Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West by Mark Foster. (Founders #66)

[9:36] Once I have formed my opinion, I have to trust my perspective enough to act on it. That means putting my own money behind it. My level of commitment is usually high. And I stay with my decision even when everyone is telling me I’m wrong, which happens a lot.

[10:37] 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. A good name. Reputation is your most important asset.

[11:10] When I was younger my career competed with my role as a husband and father and my career often won.

[11:37] Childhood does not allow itself to reconquered. — Leading By Design: The Ikea Story (Founders #104)

[12:20] The personality types that stay in the game for as long as Sam has —and he's been in the game for 50 years — usually describe entrepreneurship as a calling and an obsession.

[12:35] The great thing about entreprenuership is that you get to spend your time building something you enjoy. Most people don’t get to do this. They are stuck in jobs they hate. I had the time of my life. —Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton. (Founders #234)

[13:29] Business is not a battle to be waged — it’s a puzzle to be solved.

[14:33] Optimize for irreverence.

[16:54] Swimming Across by Andy S. Grove (Founders #159)

[18:11] His family narrowly escapes the Holocaust: His train arrived at 2:00 p.m. It was a ten minute walk home and when he got there he told my mother to pack what she could carry; they were boarding the 4:00 train out that afternoon.

[19:21] Every year for the rest of their lives they celebrated the date of their arrival with the toast to America. My sister and I grew up keenly aware of how fortunate we were to be in this country.

[15:58] You've got to understand that the world is a hard place.

[19:13] My tendency to go against conventional wisdom would later end up defining my career.

[26:55] Sam Zell — Strategies for Investing, Dealmaking, and Grave Dancing on The Tim Ferriss Show

[27:25] It just never occurred to me that I couldn't do it.

[28:42] Indifference to rejection is a fundamental part of being an entrepreneur.

[31:59] It was at this point in my career that I fully realized the value of tenacity. I just had to assume there was a way through any obstacle, and that I’d find it. This is perhaps my most fundamental principle of entrepreneurship, and to success in general.

[33:44] Difference for the sake of it. —James Dyson Against The Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #200)

[35:58] I was going to do what I love doing and I wasn't going to be encumbered by anyone else's rules.

[40:35] What I find fascinating is just how many of these ideas that he got from a older, more experienced entrepreneur, that he used for the rest of his life.

[41:36] Larry Ellison episodes:

Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle by Matthew Symonds (Founders #124)

The Billionaire and the Mechanic: How Larry Ellison and a Car Mechanic Teamed up to Win Sailing's Greatest Race, the America’s Cup, Twice by Julian Guthrie (Founders #126)

The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn't Think He's Larry Ellisonby Mike Wilson (Founders #127)

[41:59] Like most oracles, Wasserman gave an opinion that was simple and sensible (but unambiguously presented, thank goodness). “It is not prudent,” replied Wasserman, “to ask people to change their nightly viewing habits. Once they are used to tuning in a given channel, they find it hard to make the move, no matter how good an alternative is being provided elsewhere.” Was that it? All of our thinking and talking and arguing and agonizing came down to the belief that Americans won’t change the dial? Wasserman’s advice sealed our decision.

Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin. (Founders #183)

[43:55] Zeckendorf: The autobiograpy of the man who played a real-life game of Monopoly and won the largest real estate empire in history by William Zeckendorf.

[47:27] The captain of a Ludwig ship made the extravagant mistake of mailing in a report of several pages held together by a paper clip. He received a sharp rebuke: "We do not pay to send ironmongery by air mail!" — The Invisible Billionaire: Daniel Ludwig by Jerry Shields.

[51:32] There’s no substitute for limited competition. You can be a genius, but if there’s a lot of competition, it won’t matter. I’ve spent my career trying to avoid its destructive consequences.

[52:32] Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business by Mark Robichaux (Founders #268)

[55:20] What do you do? I'm a professional opportunist.

[59:31] A mantra that I would repeat regularly for decades to come: Liquidity equals value.

[1:07:59] I have always believed that every day you choose to hold an asset, you are also choosing to buy it. Would I buy our buildings at the price Blackstone was quoting? Nope.

[1:12:29] Fast decision making and autonomy had become like oxygen to him.

I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested so my poor wallet suffers. ” — Gareth

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