New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg stated in the foreword for Eli Broad’s new book, The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons In Unconventional Thinking, that we will run into unreasonable people, and that “some of us have been called unreasonable or worse.”
When I read that statement, I felt the book set the right tone for introspection when striking out on your own. Entrepreneurs are constantly told they are leaders, yet we are living in a world where cooperation is essential for success, so being too unreasonable leaves one being too isolated. What is the right balance?
How To Stand Out Instead of How To Act Out
While planning another review, I picked up an e-book version of Broad’s book from the publisher. The idea of an author addressing how to act confident but not arrogant and how to act gracefully instead of graceless caught my attention. Broad’s example may catch your attention, too, such as his retelling of his first job and how he got fired as a way to note where the fine line of grace is:
“Asking your new boss for a raise because you did something he could not do is an example of being artlessly unreasonable. It’s not a habit you want to cultivate because, frankly, it’s just another way of being willful or selfish. It won’t get you anywhere but trouble…”
How Does This Book Help Small Business Owners?
Broad speaks from his experiences mostly in this book, so if you have read several exec-penned books already, suggesting to read Unreasonable may strike you as, well, unreasonable to read another sales pitch for an exec. But I wouldn’t dismiss Broad’s penned thoughts. The expressions are helpful for business owners running relatively young companies that are still feeling their oats. Broad offers his comments on applying judgment when you should be “unreasonable” and when you’ve crossed a line:
“Research – and using what you learn from it to analyze every situation – is what separates being unreasonable from being irrational.”
I appreciated that approach, and as I read the chapters, I could see how that approach works well. His personality of respecting the game of business, as well as other people, comes across, too. Check out his quote about marketing below:
“I also learned that confidence may get you one side, but overconfidence can lead to forget to ask yourself: What do customers want and need? That’s the key to marketing. The answer we came up with – and this is always the answer – is value. No matter how much money your customer have, they still want value.”
I also appreciated his approach to work-life balance. Broad has none in mind - he writes that his wife reminds him of it. But with that classic all-in work ethic comes a healthy awareness that his happiness is the merging of both lives:
“…I’m happiest when my work and my life feel like one and the same, not like two opposites to be balanced. I am a workaholic because I consider everything I do as part of my work. It’s one reason I put our family name on buildings. I’m proud of what I do in the office and outside of it.”
Broad then gets to the heart of how that lifestyle works, avoiding mumbo jumbo. He suggests that the decisions to manage time is where the focus should be, not just what it is you are doing:
“The best way to take control of your time is to know what you must do. Thinking that everything is important, that every request from other people has to be answered with a yes, will make 24 hours seem inadequate.”
From those thoughts, I liked his notion about football – Broad enjoys watching the sport, but TiVo the broadcasts, not wasting “3 hours to watch a 1 hour game.”
Deep Thinking From A Storied Executive
Indeed some of Broad’s advice is the type you’d find in other books on personal development, but the statements come from a source of excellent leadership. Broad has lead Fortune 500 companies (KB Homes, SunAmerica) from the ground up and has extensive philanthropy in the arts, health, and education. The capacity to be productive giving to others and exhibit tenacity is evident through the text.
There are also chapters that serve well for those working with young employees as well as older employees who know how to be young at heart. Eli makes a point to address beginning careers, worklife balance, and second acts careers. For the seasoned professional, Broad muses that his biggest advice – to question things – should still be a part of personal career management:
“Too often, age and experience become an excuse for accepting the status quo. Instead of asking “why not?” you become overwhelmed with all the reasons something can’t be done….You grow fearful of making mistakes.”
Picking up The Art of Being Unreasonable is a pretty reasonable decision if you need inspiration in leadership. You’ll find plenty of golden nuggets that suggest how a business owner can be tough yet fair in decisions and in life.