Lessons in Unconventional Thinking

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 12.54.40 PMI need a vacation in LA.

I realize that sounds ridiculous coming from someone who lives in the middle of Europe; but I have just read a book about someone, and his projects, and dedication to Modern Art, and dedication to the city of Los Angeles, and now I need to go.

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I found this book because I was looking for something to read about art. It was surprising to me when this book popped up in the library search. I recognized the Jeff Koon’s Balloon Dog on the cover, but what is the story of a successful business man going to have to do with art? The obvious answer is that a billionaire is going to need something to spend his money on. The less obvious details of the answer are about learning what an important role art and architecture play in our lives, and also about an attraction to a hobby that is the complete opposite of your job but still requires knowledge and hard work.

In the book Broad traces the major events of his life, and uses them to exemplify his principles and insights. He’s over 70 years old and has been uniquely successful. In addition to great life advice, this book also shares an impressive rags-to-RICHES-to-riches-put-to-great-use tale. There are a handful of accomplishments in Broad’s life that he is proud of. The first is becoming the youngest certified public account in Michigan. It was 1954 and he was 20. The second is his creation of two Fortune 500 companies. (In two completely different fields) The third is using his wealth to create and support philanthropic efforts. His list of philanthropic accomplishments is 27 items long, but in particular I’d like to highlight his Art Foundation, his Medical Research Foundation, and his efforts in the reform of public education. His final, and he’ll say most important, acomplishment has been his marriage to his wife of 60 years. I just couldn’t help but be charmed with Broad’s closing line of advice.

“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.”

How can you not be enchanted by a man who buys art and ends books with quotes like that? The book also outlines a few other (I’ll call them) Broad-Mantras.

Life is richer when you live among dreamers.

You don’t have to be rich to give, and what you give can change the world.

If there’s a crisis, get involved and make a change.

These are the soft-hearted principals to which I was more drawn, which are in stark comparison to other mantras like…

Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Don’t waste time on shortcuts. They lead to dead ends.

History is scattered with clues to the future, but you won’t find them if you don’t look.

As you can see, this book provided plenty of conventional wisdom, as well as unconventional insight; wrapped up in amusing anecdotes like I remember the time that Richard Serra installed that massive steel sculpture in my yard and forgot to give it a name…hahahahaha.

It may seem odd, but I picked up many tips in this book on how to be a better businesswoman, and craft entrepreneur. In addition, I also read many a complimentary word for artists. I am delighted to have found a book that highlights the life of someone that says I’ve worn a suit everyday for over 50 years, I’m so influential that the mayor of New York wrote the forward to my book, and one time Basquiat smoked pot in the bathroom of my house.

I’ll leave you with one last quote by Eli Broad on comtemporary art.

“I enjoy meeting artists and watching them work. They’re unlike anyone I meet in business. By definition, artists are “Why not?” thinkers. They do what no one else would think to do. They often work very hard without seeing great returns or receiving any particular acknowledgement in their lifetimes. They tackle, with brutal honesty, the politics and social issues of their times. They follow their vision no matter how strange it seems according to the conventional wisdom. I can relate to that. I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to meet them and see them work for all the Van Goghs in the world.”

The Art of Being Unreasonable by Eli Broad