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Publisher's Summary

Wall Street Journal best seller

From Michael Dell, renowned founder and chief executive of one of America’s largest technology companies, the inside story of the battles that defined him as a leader

In 1984, soon-to-be college dropout Michael Dell hid signs of his fledgling PC business in the bathroom of his University of Texas dorm room. Almost 30 years later, at the pinnacle of his success as founder and leader of Dell Technologies, he found himself embroiled in a battle for his company’s survival. What he’d do next could ensure its legacy — or destroy it completely.

Play Nice But Win is a riveting account of the three battles waged for Dell Technologies: one to launch it, one to keep it, and one to transform it. For the first time, Dell reveals the highs and lows of the company's evolution amidst a rapidly changing industry — and his own, as he matured into the CEO it needed. With humor and humility, he recalls the mentors who showed him how to turn his passion into a business; the competitors who became friends, foes, or both; and the sharks that circled, looking for weakness. What emerges is the long-term vision underpinning his success: that technology is ultimately about people and their potential.

More than an honest portrait of a leader at a crossroads, Play Nice But Win is a survival story proving that while anyone with technological insight and entrepreneurial zeal might build something great — it takes a leader to build something that lasts.

©2021 Michael Della, James Kaplan (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

 “The book is acidly funny, nail-biting and fast-paced. It is also blessed with a villain from central casting: Carl Icahn, activist investor and publicity hound, whose sparring with Mr. Dell gives the story its bite.” (The Economist)

“In this super-candid book filled with revealing stories, Michael Dell shows how his development as a person was tightly intertwined with building the company he founded in his college dorm room. It’s a fast-paced tale of launching a public company, taking it private, and then taking it public again, all while wrestling with colorful characters such as Carl Icahn. Dell provides a wealth of business insights but also something more important: how curiosity and good values are essential to success both in life and in business. It’s a lesson he learned from his strong parents and shares with his wife in the work of their foundation to give kids better opportunities. The result is a book that is exciting, insightful, and valuable.” (Walter Isaacson, best-selling author of The Code Breaker)

“Michael Dell takes you into the real world of building and transforming an empire, vividly describing conversations and deals with key players so you see the whole picture. It’s a great gift for those on a similar journey.” (Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and author of Principles: Life and Work)

What listeners say about Play Nice but Win

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Not perfect, but worth a listen

I disagree with the negative reviews that say Dell is self-aggrandizing in this book. He's just telling the story from his perspective, and he ends up throwing some apparently well-deserved public shade on the Icahn couple.

It was great to hear of Dell's beginnings, and of his outsized successes starting at such an early age.

I did not enjoy the prospectus-toned sections of the book that seem to have been written by Dell, Inc. attorneys.

Dell does a great job at narrating his own book, despite an apparent speech impediment (he can't say some words properly, e.g. Massachusetts, to save his life! [and I had to look up how to spell Massachusetts just now!]). I mention the speech impediment because maybe it was one of the main reasons he worked so hard to get to where he is - but he says nothing of it.

Overall an entertaining, informative, and worthwhile listen-read.

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A window into the mind of a CEO

how often do you see a CEO of one of the biggest companies there are, tell their story, explain their personal values and take the time to record the 10 hour long voice over?

2 people found this helpful

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A must have

I have a greater respect to Michael Dell after listening to this book! He is really such an amazing leader and pioneer!

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Well Read, Inspirational - Compelling - Unfiltered

Extremely well-read, with passion and a tone that makes it an easy listen. Confession, I'm an audiobook snob who consumes 150+ hours a year and this was excellent!

Inspirational - Bragers never do! You will learn that Michale Dell does not self-promote he's getting it done and is way more than a right-time right place success story, For example understanding and making a profit at 17 because he understood and took advantage of supply and demand explains why he has built one of the leading logistics operations.

Compelling, even if you know the story the details are amazing. Unfiltered, he is not afraid to put his feeling and thoughts into this book.

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Cringeworthy self-glorification

It was a little painful hearing the constant, smug self-glorifying accounts of Dell's triumphs in the face of countless "doubters," and how he "stuck it" to everyone and "showed everyone" his brilliance. Yet when he started to tell the story of Carl Icahn, it became gut-wrenchingly cringe-worthy. His openly personal insults: his wife's cooking, Icahn as a terrible husband and father, how he immeditely outwitted him with his brash forwardness, revealing how he had no plan apart from greed as a corporate raider... and so on... it wasn't professional, it wasn't dignified, and it showed Michael Dell's true character. I found it tough to listen to before this point, but after, I started to loath the book and every double-edged vindictive statement made. This should never have been published.

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Such a great book!

This was a fun journey through a business that has been a standard for so long. Hearing the stories of the early beginnings as well as the battles in between was fun. I binged on this. I’m sure there are so many more but this book will leave it fulfilled. This is a must read/listen!

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Great listen/read

This book takes readers/listeners through Michael Dell’s journey of building and re-building Dell into the company that it is today. Definitely insightful and there is a lot you can learn. He does a great job summarizing the traits / qualities that helped him in the epilogue. He comes across as someone smart, gritty and yet humble. Wish there were more leaders like him. Definitely worth a read.

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Excellent

One single word for Michael Dell’s almost 40yrs in business and this honest book: Excellent!

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new perspective

story from behind the scenes that gives new insights from the context of the past, thank you mr dell

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Case study for navigating a technology revolution

Having joined the company in 2010 after working at a PR agency supporting Dell, this is a fascinating chronicle of what was going on behind closed doors! I enjoyed hearing Michael's personal opinions on the situations that we knew he was required to be tight-lipped about at the time. We truly shared in his joy during triumphs and felt his frustrations during others. Proud to be a part of this family and to work for such a heartfelt founder who is committed to seeing this company's success for many years to come!