Read an excerpt from "Make Your Own Rules" below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.
I always wanted to make my own way; maybe you feel the same way. The freedom to be your own person, to seize personal opportunity, to explore what works for you—these are the things that appealed to me, so I was destined to make my own way. But today, the volatility of the banking system, the byzantine contradiction of government regulation, and the relentless reorganization of the economy from the top down have made the business terrain far more treacherous for the individual. In this economic climate, I have found that learning to be creative, challenging convention, and seizing unexpected opportunities not only are liberating but also can make all the difference in whether you are successful.
Over the past four decades, I have been a founding shareholder in six banks, produced movies and Broadway plays, managed the finances and investments of others, and served on the boards of several companies. I have developed residential, commercial, and office real estate in five states. I have co-owned a convenience store chain, a film distribution company, a vineyard, a restaurant, and a hotel or two. I have helped turn around numerous distressed businesses, notably Kleinfeld, the largest bridal retailer in the country. Somehow, I even ended up owning a minority interest in a Major League Baseball team. And, yes, I have also acted in numerous films, television shows and series, and stage plays.
This will surprise you, but the common thread to the various businesses in which I have been involved is that I had never previously been in them. Most people would think that the lack of previous experience in a particular business would be a sure formula for failure. For example, would you hire a salesman who had never sold anything before, or, for that matter, would you retain a teacher for your school who had never before taught school? Previous experience can be valuable to someone who has chosen a career on the basis of his or her education and desire to work in a particular field. Because I didn't have a specific educational background—for example, a degree in medicine or law—I was not predisposed to make choices based on that criterion. In fact, it was an advantage in that I had no rules to follow, no premade decisions, no "books" to tell me how to find success. This allowed me to take a creative approach rather than an administrative one.
I have also tried to avoid being part of the system, which is not the same thing as trying to change it. You don't have to be "against the system" to succeed; you just don't want the system to systematize you, as it were. You don't always have to be a rebel, but, at the same time, you don't want the system to turn you into an automaton. The goal is to maintain your individuality while functioning within the system.