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The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking

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Unorthodox success principles from a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad's embrace of "unreasonable thinking" has helped him build two Fortune 500 companies, amass personal billions, and use his wealth to create a new approach to philanthropy. He has helped to fund scientific research institutes, K-12 education reform, and some of the world's greatest cont Unorthodox success principles from a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad's embrace of "unreasonable thinking" has helped him build two Fortune 500 companies, amass personal billions, and use his wealth to create a new approach to philanthropy. He has helped to fund scientific research institutes, K-12 education reform, and some of the world's greatest contemporary art museums. By contrast, "reasonable" people come up with all the reasons something new and different can't be done, because, after all, no one else has done it that way. This book shares the "unreasonable" principles—from negotiating to risk-taking, from investing to hiring—that have made Eli Broad such a success. Broad helped to create the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Broad, a new museum being built in downtown Los Angeles His investing approach to philanthropy has led to the creation of scientific and medical research centers in the fields of genomic medicine and stem cell research At his alma mater, Michigan State University, he endowed a full-time M.B.A. program, and he and his wife have funded a new contemporary art museum on campus to serve the broader region Eli Broad is the founder of two Fortune 500 companies: KB Home and SunAmerica If you're stuck doing what reasonable people do—and not getting anywhere—let Eli Broad show you how to be unreasonable, and see how far your next endeavor can go.


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Unorthodox success principles from a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad's embrace of "unreasonable thinking" has helped him build two Fortune 500 companies, amass personal billions, and use his wealth to create a new approach to philanthropy. He has helped to fund scientific research institutes, K-12 education reform, and some of the world's greatest cont Unorthodox success principles from a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad's embrace of "unreasonable thinking" has helped him build two Fortune 500 companies, amass personal billions, and use his wealth to create a new approach to philanthropy. He has helped to fund scientific research institutes, K-12 education reform, and some of the world's greatest contemporary art museums. By contrast, "reasonable" people come up with all the reasons something new and different can't be done, because, after all, no one else has done it that way. This book shares the "unreasonable" principles—from negotiating to risk-taking, from investing to hiring—that have made Eli Broad such a success. Broad helped to create the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Broad, a new museum being built in downtown Los Angeles His investing approach to philanthropy has led to the creation of scientific and medical research centers in the fields of genomic medicine and stem cell research At his alma mater, Michigan State University, he endowed a full-time M.B.A. program, and he and his wife have funded a new contemporary art museum on campus to serve the broader region Eli Broad is the founder of two Fortune 500 companies: KB Home and SunAmerica If you're stuck doing what reasonable people do—and not getting anywhere—let Eli Broad show you how to be unreasonable, and see how far your next endeavor can go.

30 review for The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    Before reading this book, I had never heard of Eli Broad. Now that I read the book, I wonder how I could ever have missed him! He four careers; accounting, homebuilding, retirement savings, and philanthropy. He is the first person to build two Fortune-500 companies, in completely different industries. He is now helping to reform public education, he has assembled world-class art collections and put them into publicly accessible museums, and he contributed $600 million to start a large biomedical Before reading this book, I had never heard of Eli Broad. Now that I read the book, I wonder how I could ever have missed him! He four careers; accounting, homebuilding, retirement savings, and philanthropy. He is the first person to build two Fortune-500 companies, in completely different industries. He is now helping to reform public education, he has assembled world-class art collections and put them into publicly accessible museums, and he contributed $600 million to start a large biomedical research institution. This book contains the advice of Eli Broad; lessons that can be applied to business as well as personal life. For example, he shows how unreasonable persistence can produce "big payoffs", although it is also important to "know when to quit". He advises the reader to forget conventional wisdom, because it strangles innovation. For example, his goal was to build single-family houses that were more affordable than any others on the market. So, he built houses without basements, which at the time was contrary to conventional wisdom. That, and other no-frills cost-savings allowed him to charge about 8% less than any other homebuilder. He describes many other innovations that made his business prosper. Eli Broad shows how hard work and research can help the planning of any innovation. He shows how being first with an innovation is not necessary; being second can sometimes be preferable. He describes the value of delegating work to others. He describes how he hired the best people for the job, and how to keep them from leaving. He discusses the value of leverage--sometimes leverage is monetary, but at other times it is possible to leverage people, too. He has excellent advice for marketing and investing, and how to motivate people. At the end of the book there is a long appendix. It lists the highlights of Eli Broad's career. It lists all of his business ventures, civic activities, educational activities, art activities, government and political activities, philanthropic activities, and honors. The list is 35 pages long! In the very last paragraph of the book, Eli Broad mentions the most important decision of your life; to choose the right person to marry, and spend your life together. In my opinion, that is absolutely good advice. I highly recommend this book. It is entertaining, engaging, and contains a wealth of excellent advice.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roy Klein

    I got to about 50% when I realized that the book contains no more useful information. It's not a bad book, but it's a misleading one. While it is dressed as a sort of business oriented decision making adviser, it's actually a biography with sprinkles of simplistic, retrospective do's and don'ts. If you're looking for a non-life changing, but an interesting and short-term inspirational life story, this is the exact effect I got from the book. At around 50% it stopped being inspirational and grew I got to about 50% when I realized that the book contains no more useful information. It's not a bad book, but it's a misleading one. While it is dressed as a sort of business oriented decision making adviser, it's actually a biography with sprinkles of simplistic, retrospective do's and don'ts. If you're looking for a non-life changing, but an interesting and short-term inspirational life story, this is the exact effect I got from the book. At around 50% it stopped being inspirational and grew tedious, but up until that point it was a light, interesting read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Fanie Oosthuysen

    Nice insight into Broads history and thinking and what factors he self attributes to his success. Great shuttle insight into the psychological universe of philanthropy and at the same time provides great and old ideas.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Full disclosure: this book was written by Broad with my friend Swati Pandey, so I'm hardly a neutral observer. That said, I found the book an enjoyable and well-constructed story of Broad's varied career. This type of book is not normally one I read, but Broad has done work in a lot of different areas and he and Swati do a good job of organizing what he has learned into some key life lessons. Full disclosure: this book was written by Broad with my friend Swati Pandey, so I'm hardly a neutral observer. That said, I found the book an enjoyable and well-constructed story of Broad's varied career. This type of book is not normally one I read, but Broad has done work in a lot of different areas and he and Swati do a good job of organizing what he has learned into some key life lessons.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David

    Terrible book...egotistical without providing much useful knowledge

  6. 5 out of 5

    InvestingByTheBooks.com

    Here’s the scenario: Exactly one decade into a successful, industry-transforming journey as a housebuilder of the future – in the booming housing market of the U.S. in the 1960s – the company suddenly decides to acquire a sleepy, family-owned life insurer, using up a considerable chunk of the balance sheet. Motive? To diversify ahead of a “looming housing market correction”. All in favour of buying/holding onto the stock, please raise your hand! Well, you should have. The housebuilder was KB Hom Here’s the scenario: Exactly one decade into a successful, industry-transforming journey as a housebuilder of the future – in the booming housing market of the U.S. in the 1960s – the company suddenly decides to acquire a sleepy, family-owned life insurer, using up a considerable chunk of the balance sheet. Motive? To diversify ahead of a “looming housing market correction”. All in favour of buying/holding onto the stock, please raise your hand! Well, you should have. The housebuilder was KB Homes and the life insurer was SunLife. The transaction was made with impeccable timing by the founder Eli Broad, leading to a 25 per cent share price CAGR over 37 years, handily beating Berkshire Hathaway over the time period. In 1998 the renamed SunAmerica was acquired by AIG for $18bn, whereas KB Homes is still traded, slowly recouping from the latest housing correction. The Art of Being Unreasonable is the leadership and life lessons of Eli Broad, the only entrepreneur to have founded two Fortune 500 companies in two different sectors. As accomplished as that is, it could have been even better – more on that later. Whereas the perfect 20/20 vision of hindsight, delivered in a brilliant to-the-point format of a book, might make the answer to the question seem obvious (of course I would have backed him, he was a genius!), the here and now is always infinitely more difficult. And that’s the beauty of the success of The Outsiders, William Thorndike’s masterpiece; waved around today as a blueprint for capital allocation prowess and corporate stewardship, at different points in time all eight CEOs portrayed in the book have been considered to be utterly insane, with share-prices lingering at Graham-type valuations. KB Homes and Eli Broad, while not one of the eight Outsiders, were no exception. Unconventionality is not offered up alongside low volatility and steadily quarterly progress! The structure of the book is loosely aligned with Mr. Broad’s reasons for success occupying the first half of the book, with chapters such as “Forget Conventional Wisdom” and “The Value of Being Second”. They are all well researched, applicable and wonderfully prosed. I enjoyed this part of the book as much as Morton Mandel’s It’s All About Who and Jack Welch’s Straight From The Gut. The latter half of the book takes it into more detail and also mixes business lessons with Broad’s considerable accomplishments in philanthropy and art collection. This is where the plot gets a little thin in my opinion, at least for the business- minded reader. But, the book-title conveys more than a figurative reference to “art”; it is actually covered almost with the same detail and gusto as his other three “careers”. Although neatly interwoven with business and life, it is a subject matter somewhat narrower in scope to copy-and- learn from. As a reader, you can choose to breeze through these pages. But dinner would be a poorer meal without enjoying dessert. Getting back to the “it could have been even better”-comment. Hidden in a paragraph towards the end, Mr. Broad talks about an investment KB Homes made in 1966, founding Nation Wide Cablevision, one of the earliest entrants into this field. Receiving a bid for the business in 1972 from TCI, KB Homes – strapped for cash from heavy investing into home building, cable and insurance – decided to sell. After bemoaning the fact that the $23mn could have been worth much more today, merely from holding onto TCI stock, but perhaps even more so by consolidating the industry themselves, Mr. Broad merely drops the subject. As an avid student of business leaders and entrepreneurship, I wished he spent more pages on how capital allocations were made, the importance (or not) of a “corporate DNA” and how this experience affected the AIG takeover of SunAmerica. Inasmuch as I enjoyed a full-length book on his career and massive accomplishments (the CV runs 11 pages), the spirit Mr Broad shares with the other Outsiders would have made for fascinating reading under Thorndike’s tutelage.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Mutsonziwa

    A very pleasant surprise. His philosophy of being "artfully unreasonable" is very inspiring for any entrepreneur looking to establish their own successful business. One intriguing insight was that the life insurance/retirement annuities sector is one of the few industries that was relatively unscathed by the great depression hence his decision to invest in SunAmerica to hedge against the business cycle. It's worth keeping in mind if one is looking to invest defensively so as to preserve wealth f A very pleasant surprise. His philosophy of being "artfully unreasonable" is very inspiring for any entrepreneur looking to establish their own successful business. One intriguing insight was that the life insurance/retirement annuities sector is one of the few industries that was relatively unscathed by the great depression hence his decision to invest in SunAmerica to hedge against the business cycle. It's worth keeping in mind if one is looking to invest defensively so as to preserve wealth for the long term. He also apparently has a fantastic marriage which has lasted over six decades. Makes a strong case for marriage in this era of marital disenchantment and celebrity divorces.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike Shelton

    Mostly boring. I wanted to like it but I just couldn't get into. There are a few tidbits of wisdom but nothing that you could really practice. It's mostly an autobiography detailing everything he did to succeed. It jumped all over the place. It didn't have anything I could say to myself, "Oh, I should totally do that" or "hey, that's a great idea, I'm going to try that." Other than accepting that it's okay to be unreasonable at times I didn't really get much more out of it. There are much better Mostly boring. I wanted to like it but I just couldn't get into. There are a few tidbits of wisdom but nothing that you could really practice. It's mostly an autobiography detailing everything he did to succeed. It jumped all over the place. It didn't have anything I could say to myself, "Oh, I should totally do that" or "hey, that's a great idea, I'm going to try that." Other than accepting that it's okay to be unreasonable at times I didn't really get much more out of it. There are much better books out there that are more worth your time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J

    Audiobook said narrated by Eli Broad but he just read a prologue. The rest of the audiobook was narrated by a boring generic voice that made it difficult to connect with the content. Disappointing. A few takeaways but a bit lackluster. The book doesnt capture the enormity of what Eli Broad really achieved.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bec

    a light read and slightly inspirational but nothing that really stands out or sticks with me as very striking or life changing I really enjoyed where he talked about collecting art but he does not go into much detail about it or details about his business by the end it felt like he kind of just gave an overview of all the things he had done and a few principles he holds

  11. 4 out of 5

    George Atuan

    Usually I don’t write reviews but this book was a waste of time. I finished it anyways because I cannot not finish reading a book once I start it - I need to work on that. Book is a self loathing book about a billionaire and how he is trying to make the world a better place....save your time and don’t read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sy. C

    Excellent, candid and succinct treatise on commonsensical business principles. I gleaned this book recommendation from Mohnish Pabrai's talk at Google and wasn't disappointed. Tried the audiobook and the narration wasn't for me - much easier to read in print. Excellent, candid and succinct treatise on commonsensical business principles. I gleaned this book recommendation from Mohnish Pabrai's talk at Google and wasn't disappointed. Tried the audiobook and the narration wasn't for me - much easier to read in print.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tim Traver

    Autobiography of KB Homes founder, who started the business in his early 20s. Big art collector and philanthropist. Provided some practical insight from his career which can be applied to others. Regrets section was interesting for a multibillionaire.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Wally Bock

    The Art of Being Unreasonable is a book chock-full of practical advice from someone who has been dramatically successful. It’s a book you’ll read through and return to several times. See my full review at https://www.threestarleadership.com/b... The Art of Being Unreasonable is a book chock-full of practical advice from someone who has been dramatically successful. It’s a book you’ll read through and return to several times. See my full review at https://www.threestarleadership.com/b...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    Straight forward nose to the grindstone stuff

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Kuznetsov

    Very impressive investment and philanthropic track record... Did not like the style so much

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ted Alling

    Eli is a legend. I really connected with this story. I so enjoy hearing entrepreneurs stories

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Lewis Kozoriz

    "Who you spend your life with-much more so than how you choose to spend it-is the most important decision you can make. Do it right. That's the best advice I can give you." ~ Eli Broadi Currently the 189th richest person in the world according to Forbes. In his book he shares how he became a billionaire and the lessons of success and failure. The title of the book, "The Art of Being Unreasonable" comes from a quote his wife gave him for his desk from Bernard Shaw, "The reasonable man adapts himsel "Who you spend your life with-much more so than how you choose to spend it-is the most important decision you can make. Do it right. That's the best advice I can give you." ~ Eli Broadi Currently the 189th richest person in the world according to Forbes. In his book he shares how he became a billionaire and the lessons of success and failure. The title of the book, "The Art of Being Unreasonable" comes from a quote his wife gave him for his desk from Bernard Shaw, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." To Eli "unreasonable" means to "think unconventionally". He likes to prove people wrong who say "that it can't be done." He usually finds a way that things can be done by thinking unconventionally. There are also many lessons on philanthropy in this book that we would be wise to follow.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mishna Wolff

    I don't usually like books like this and now with all the hullabaloo about MOCHA it seems he may be the 800 pound gorilla. I also think he made tons of really ugly houses -- but, hey, people gotta live somewhere. Everyone can't live in a built to last turn of the century home. And maybe that's why he's so obsessed with art and architecture today. That being said, I downloaded this for my husband and wound up reading the whole thing myself. He still hasn't even read it. And he's a charming storyt I don't usually like books like this and now with all the hullabaloo about MOCHA it seems he may be the 800 pound gorilla. I also think he made tons of really ugly houses -- but, hey, people gotta live somewhere. Everyone can't live in a built to last turn of the century home. And maybe that's why he's so obsessed with art and architecture today. That being said, I downloaded this for my husband and wound up reading the whole thing myself. He still hasn't even read it. And he's a charming storyteller and a very entertaining guy. I couldn't stop turning the pages. Now, I don't remember almost anything I read, but at the time I really felt like I was learning. Money well spent.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rich Baker

    Overall I liked it. It's not just an educational book. It reads more to me like an autobiography with lessons peppered in. For me, that sums up most autobiographies. He's got a clear friendly writing style and isn't afraid to criticize himself or others as long as it comes with a lesson. Basically, this guy is one of the great businessmen/philanthropers of the 20th century. He built Fortune 500 companies and ran them into major success. He also spearheaded the effort that built Disney Concert Ha Overall I liked it. It's not just an educational book. It reads more to me like an autobiography with lessons peppered in. For me, that sums up most autobiographies. He's got a clear friendly writing style and isn't afraid to criticize himself or others as long as it comes with a lesson. Basically, this guy is one of the great businessmen/philanthropers of the 20th century. He built Fortune 500 companies and ran them into major success. He also spearheaded the effort that built Disney Concert Hall, the Broad Museum and many other philanthropic projects.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David DeBacco

    I've always admired Mr. Broad for his passion for art and his generous want to share with the community. It's always enjoyable and informative to read about the journey successful people take in life. My goal is not to be a billionaire, but I guess it doesn't suck! The book gives Broad's mantra - never give up, if it's something you believe in. I've always admired Mr. Broad for his passion for art and his generous want to share with the community. It's always enjoyable and informative to read about the journey successful people take in life. My goal is not to be a billionaire, but I guess it doesn't suck! The book gives Broad's mantra - never give up, if it's something you believe in.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Great to hear more insight from my mentor and business school founder at Michigan State Business School! Very thoughtfully laid out book with wisdoms on many areas of life and business. Quick and easy read for all ages. Amazing what success in this world can allow you to do both for the economy and as a philanthropic leader. He is a true version of a life well lived!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Watt

    A very quick read on Eli Broad, a man who amassed massive amounts of money and then power. But, the book never gives up any specific detail on how he really accomplished it. The book reads more like a pat on the back for being a good business man and doing things his way.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Xavier Shay

    Generally inspiring but didn't take anything novel out of it. I'm more interested in a philosophy that supports splashing $23M on a piece of contemporary art, which he doesn't dive into in any satisfactory depth. Generally inspiring but didn't take anything novel out of it. I'm more interested in a philosophy that supports splashing $23M on a piece of contemporary art, which he doesn't dive into in any satisfactory depth.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gamaleldin Soliman

    "reasonable" people come up with all the reasons something new and different can't be done, because, after all, no one else has done it that way. This book shares the "unreasonable" principles—from negotiating to risk-taking, from investing to hiring—that have made Eli Broad such a success. "reasonable" people come up with all the reasons something new and different can't be done, because, after all, no one else has done it that way. This book shares the "unreasonable" principles—from negotiating to risk-taking, from investing to hiring—that have made Eli Broad such a success.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anandh Sundar

    Really excellent book which also focusses on the HOW to be unreasonable-do the groundwork needed for an opinion/view before deserving to hold it. Also, the stream of fields where Eli has achieved, makes this book a unique one to read

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ahmed Y.

    The book is to the point, almost there is no Blaa Blaa statements, It is good if you looking for something like that. Not sophisticated wording Very Practical, and inspiring. You can implement some of advice straight away. I did try that, it went so good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Rising

    It was a solid book, interesting for Los Angelenos. It lacked graciousness but had some more revealing chapters at the end, I liked it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dustin

    Interesting combo of a memoir and sharing advice from a driven businessman's life. Interesting combo of a memoir and sharing advice from a driven businessman's life.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Modesty is not at the top of this authors list. There is good advice in the first couple of chapters and he has been incredibly successful. but after chapter 4 its just bragging.

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