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Kapos: Sam Zell on what really makes America great

Sam Zell was interviewed by Brad Keywell at the “Entrepreneurship: Turning Points” talk at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. | Chicago Ideas Week

Sam Zell was interviewed by Brad Keywell at the “Entrepreneurship: Turning Points” talk at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. | Chicago Ideas Week

When Sam Zell was asked last week what habits led to his success, he said, “If I had the answer to that, I’d be rich.”

That prompted a burst of laughter from the crowd at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, where he spoke as part of Chicago Ideas Week.

He’s a billionaire after all.

Despite Zell’s shrug, he doled out plenty of pearls of wisdom during the half-hour Q&A with Brad Keywell, a Chicago entrepreneur and Zell protege. Here are the highlights.

On entrepreneurship: “It’s very lonely. You’re operating alone, and you have to have the self-confidence to believe in what you’re doing.”

“I doubt anyone can be a successful entrepreneur if they haven’t experienced rejection. The more you deal with it, the better you get.”

On mentors: “Jay Pritzker (the late Hyatt founder) was one of the greatest entrepreneurs who ever lived. He had this truly unique ability to listen to a very complex story and understand where the fulcrum of risk was.”

On government: “The reason that America is exceptional is the fact that we are a country of immigrants and, by definition, are self-selected and have taken an enormous risk to leave wherever they left to start anew. We may be the oldest operating democracy, but what we really are is the oldest operating entrepreneurship opportunity the world has ever seen.”

On success: “It’s motivation that plays a much more important role in the definition of success than raw intelligence.”

Diwali Ball guests cheer for Cubs, too

The Diwali Ball was co-chaired by (from left) Prabha and Anita Sinha and Diane and Richard Weinberg.

The Diwali Ball was co-chaired by (from left) Prabha and Anita Sinha and Diane and Richard Weinberg. | The Art Institute

Guests at the Diwali Ball at the Art Institute of Chicago felt transported to India amid palm tree centerpieces, floral rangoli designs and south Indian temples superimposed on the walls around them.

But make no mistake, this was Chicago. And when the Cubs clinched a spot in the World Series, the crowd erupted into hoots and applause.

The victory seemed timed with the evening’s entertainment. After the cheers, dancers in colorful costumes performed in the aisles and then pulled guests to the dance floor for a party that continued until midnight.

Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights. The celebration signifies the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. It has nothing to do with politics or sports — though for Cubs fans, the celebration was especially sweet.

The evening began with a fashion show in the museum’s foyer before moving through the Alsdorf Galleries featuring the museum’s Indian and Himalayan collections.

Griffin Court, the Modern Wing’s entrance, morphed into a square in India with musicians seated on the floor, colorful dancers moving in the aisles and an aromatic menu of coconut beet chops, chettinad chicken and tarts with curry caramel and cardamom.

The inspiration for the evening was thanks to Diane Weinberg, who’s regularly traveled to India for 40 years with her husband, Chicago arts entrepreneur Richard Weinberg.

They co-chaired the event with Anita and Prabha Sinha, collectors of Indian art and supporters of the museum. “We wanted to celebrate and expand both those spaces,” says Prabha Sinha, a museum trustee and co-founder of ZS Associates consulting firm.

Scott Turow talks about his new novel

Scott Turow

Scott Turow

Acclaimed author and Chicago attorney Scott Turow is dishing for the first time some details about his next book.

“Testimony” is the fictional story of a murder of 400 gypsies and the U.S. prosecutor assigned to investigate. American soldiers serving with NATO are the primary suspects.

It’s tension-fueled and “all fiction,” says Turow, who traveled to Bosnia and the Hague to research the novel, his 11th work of fiction. “There were never any atrocity allegations against the United States or NATO forces.”

The book’s characters are made up, too, he says, though the bad guy does bear “a striking resemblance” to Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian-Serb political leader convicted of war crimes. And don’t read anything into the main character’s divorce, either. Turow went through his own, but so have a lot of middle-aged folks.

He’s since remarried to Adriane Glazier, a philanthropic adviser to Bank of America.

Turow will be honored Oct. 26 with the Chicago Library Foundation’s Carl Sandburg Literary Awards. Erik Larson, who wrote, “The Devil in the White City,” also will receive honors.

Howard Tullman’s bird’s eye view

Howard Tullman was included in a mural painted along the 606 Trail

Howard Tullman’s face is among a half dozen or so featured on a new mural by Jeff Zimmermann along The 606. | Courtesy of Howard Tullman.

That’s Howard Tullman peering at you from a building alongside the 606 Trail.

His face is among a half dozen or so featured on a new mural by Jeff Zimmermann, who was struck by how “annoying” the blank wall looked when he first saw it on the building at 1813 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The artist talked to property owner Mark Fishman, whose M. Fishman and Co. property-management company had been considering billboards for the empty space. “When Zimmermann approached him, it was a no-brainer and he donated the wall,” said a spokesman for Fishman.

After some months looking for a sponsor to cover costs, Zimmermann got help from Tullman, who connected him to ConAgra. The company recently opened headquarters in the Merchandise Mart and liked the idea of sponsoring the wall.

Tullman is a fan of Zimmermann’s work and is CEO of 1871, a hub for entrepreneurs that’s also headquartered in the Mart.

Zimmermann says it was “good timing” that Tullman’s face would be included on the wall. “I ran into him when I had my camera and was out taking pictures of people on the street,” he says.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.