Book Review: The Art of Being Unreasonable

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I bought The Art of Being Unreasonable soon after it came out in 2012. I wanted to learn from the only person who has created two Fortune 500 companies in different industries. I read the book and liked it. Since that first reading, I’ve dipped back into the book several times to read an individual chapter or two. In other words, for me, this is a book that has legs.

Eli Broad is well-known for his philanthropy, for creating both KB Homes and SunAmerica, and for being unreasonable. I wanted to learn what I could about this unreasonable stuff. In chapter one, Broad tells you why he wrote the book.

“In this book, I want to show you how applying unreasonable thinking can help you achieve goals others may tell you are out of reach, just as it has for me.”

If that was it, this wouldn’t be a helpful book. You can be wildly unreasonable and successful if you’re lucky. You can also be wildly unreasonable and unsuccessful. The key to Broad’s success is more than being unreasonable. Here’s another quote from chapter one.

“Research – and using what you learn from it to analyze every situation – is what separates being unreasonable from being irrational.”

There are 22 chapters in The Art of Being Unreasonable. The first time I read the book, I enjoyed them all. But over the years, there are only a few that I’ve gone back to again and again. Here are some of them.

Chapter two is “Why Not? The Powerful Question.” Broad thinks that it’s the first step to success and it seems that way to me. Sometimes, I need to be reminded.

Chapter four is “Do Your Homework No Matter How Much Time It Takes.” This may be the most important chapter in the book because it’s what makes unreasonable work. Broad advises you to pay attention to history and watch out for creeping complacency. He also suggests that you can’t do it all yourself. You need to ask questions and delegate.

There are plenty of other good things in the book. There’s a lot about negotiation, and motivating people, and the best way to assess risk. I love all those things, but they’re not where the big value is for me. The only other chapter I’ve returned to several times is chapter 21: “The Unreasonableness of Art and Artists.” Whether or not you are a collector and philanthropist, like Broad, there’s a lot in this chapter to get you thinking.

By now, you may be asking yourself, “If this is such a great book, why didn’t you review it years ago?” The answer to that one is, “I don’t know.” Probably something else claimed my attention and I went off in another direction.

In A Nutshell

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.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


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