Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Review: Eli Broad's New Book Captures 'Art' of Success

Michigan State University doesn't have many alumni who are multi-billionaires.  But Eli Broad, who graduated cum laude in 1954 with a major in accounting and a minor in economics, is certainly among the most successful.

       "The Art of Being Unreasonable" by Eli Broad (Wiley, $24.95) is subtitled "Lessons in Unconventional Thinking."

       No, it's not going to make you a billionaire overnight, but it does offer many insights into sound financial principles for hard-working entrepreneurs.

       Broad (rhymes with road) has done a lot of things differently, from changing the pronunciation of his name to transforming the artistic and cultural world of Los Angeles.

       He's had the unusual experience of building two Fortune 500 companies, becoming exceptionally wealthy and co-ordinating major philanthropic efforts.

       After he graduated from MSU, Broad worked a bit as a certified public accountant and taught briefly.  In 1957, he co-founded Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation, which became an international leader in housing development.

       Decades later he directed the growth of SunAmerica, which became a major force in the insurance and retirement savings business.

       Broad's easy-to-read book doesn't simply dwell on his accomplishments - it also offers valuable advice on how to achieve goals through being unreasonable.

       He doesn't say that it will be easy, or that everyone will succeed, but he does offer specific ideas which may generate success.

       Broad delves into his methods of asking unreasonable questions, attempting the unexpected, revising expectations and the importance of doing research.

       He emphasizes the care that must be involved in the process and notes the challenges of staying unemotional and disciplined.  He explores the importance of philanthropy, combining efforts to make a real difference.

       The billions he's made in business are now being carefully distributed, helping to reform public education in America and providing funding for the latest advances in biomedical research.
       He's built two world-class art collections, but wants the artwork to be seen, not stored - so he's made accessibility a prime factor.

       Locally, he's endowed the Eli Broad College of Business and the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at MSU.  In the fall, the innovative $45 million Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid, is scheduled to open on campus at MSU.

       Broad's new book, with an introduction by Michael Bloomberg, is enjoyable, down-to-earth, thought provoking and exceptionally entertaining.

       Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, June 17, 2012.

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