Billionaire Sam Zell’s Advice To Entrepreneurs


I like this.


An eternal optimist, Liu-Yue built two social enterprises to help make the world a better place. Liu-Yue co-founded Oxstones Investment Club a searchable content platform and business tools for knowledge sharing and financial education. also provides investors with direct access to U.S. commercial real estate opportunities and other alternative investments. In addition, Liu-Yue also co-founded Cute Brands a cause-oriented character brand management and brand licensing company that creates social awareness on global issues and societal challenges through character creations. Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Liu-Yue worked as an Executive Associate at M&T Bank in the Structured Real Estate Finance Group where he worked with senior management on multiple bank-wide risk management projects. He also had a dual role as a commercial banker advising UHNWIs and family offices on investments, credit, and banking needs while focused on residential CRE, infrastructure development, and affordable housing projects. Prior to M&T, he held a number of positions in Latin American equities and bonds investment groups at SBC Warburg Dillon Read (Swiss Bank), OFFITBANK (the wealth management division of Wachovia Bank), and in small cap equities at Steinberg Priest Capital Management (family office). Liu-Yue has an MBA specializing in investment management and strategy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Marketing from Stern School of Business at NYU. He also completed graduate studies in international management at the University of Oxford, Trinity College.

From Forbes website,

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with real estate mogul Sam Zell at his Chicago-based office to talk real estate (see the resulting story on Zell’s foray into the emerging markets here).

Zell, nicknamed “the grave dancer,” is a notoriously aggressive businessman who enjoys the thrill of riding his motorcycles in risky places like Caracas. That snowy afternoon, however, Zell was cozy in his red baseball cap and peach sweater. With a bowl of M&Ms within reach (he did not partake) and his legendary music boxes displayed behind us, Zell told me about his investments in real estate, his business strategy and his advice to fledgling entrepreneurs.

From the cutting room floor, following is a snippet of his advice:

I’ll tell you a story that I think is probably the most significant advice that I give young entrepreneurs. It’s the story about a Jewish man who lived in New York who started an appliance store in Brooklyn. [He was] very successful, very observant. He went to the synagogue every week, and life went on.

And then one day he went to the synagogue and after he finished his regular praying, he reached out to God and said ‘God, I’ve never asked you for anything, I’ve always been traditional, I’ve always been observant, but I’ve really got a problem. And the problem is that the neighborhood is changing, the business is tanking, and God, I need to win the lottery.’

The next morning he gets up, checks the newspaper and he didn’t win. So the following Saturday he gets up, goes to the synagogue again and now business is worse. And he’s really getting worried again. He finishes regular prayers, reaches out to God again and says the whole bit: ‘Business is worse, the creditors are calling every hour instead of once a week … I need to win the lottery, please. I’ve never asked you for anything.’

The next morning he gets up, looks at the newspaper… he didn’t win. So now it’s the third Saturday and now as he finishes his regular prayers he’s on his knees and he’s crying and [his business is] entering Chapter 11 proceedings. And he says ‘God, I’ve got to win the lottery.’ And at that point, from up high, comes a voice — and it’s the voice of God — and He says ‘Moishe, you’ve got to buy a ticket!’

I literally had a young entrepreneur in here ten days ago and I told him this story. And I said: ‘You’ve got to find a direction, you’ve got to find where you can excel. […] What’s your skill set, how do you react to things, and how do you identify an opinion, a view?’

So I told him this story and he sent me a thank you note and stapled to that thank you note was a lottery ticket. We checked, but I didn’t win.


Think about the Forbes 400. How many lemons are there in the Forbes 400? None. Other than the people who inherited the money, nobody else in your list are people who just went with it — whether it be Fred Smith or Sam Zell or Steve Roth or Bill Gates or I can go on and on — all of them have at one point or another turned right when somebody else turned left. And it was the decision to turn right that ultimately transformed their world and gave them an opportunity to excel.

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