Allen Morris Book

Allen Morris Lets It All Out in His Book “All In” 

The audience of some 100 people included a who’s who of prominent citizens, especially those in real estate, investing, and banking. Ad- dressing them in a dark blue suit and pin-striped shirt, W. Allen Morris was a portrait of affability, in contrast to some of the darker moments described in his book. He was at Books & Books to talk about “All In,” his autobiography of transformation. 

For many residents of Coral Gables, Morris may be known for the roster of his community involvement, including positions at the Rotary Club, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, the Orange Bowl Committee, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Miami Board of Realtors. But for most, he will be remembered as the man behind Alhambra Towers, a building that has become as much an icon for the Gables as the Biltmore Hotel. Construction of Alhambra Towers, created in the style of the great cathedrals of Spain, began during a turbulent time in Morris’ life, the three years starting in 2000 when he took a sabbatical from his career as a developer. 

Allen Morris Book
W. Allen Morris, signing his Book “all in.”

After assembling more than 80 projects for his eponymous company, Morris was drained. “I was just burned out,” he says. “I felt like if I had to build one more efficient office box, I would die. I’d rather close the company.” He was suffering from constant migraines that his doctors were sure had to be caused by a brain tumor — only there was no evidence of one. He was also among the 46 percent of American adults who feel extremely lonely, according to a study he references in his book. 

So, armed with a need to redefine himself, he took a three-month break that became a three-year sabbatical from the company and all the boards and committees he chaired – not exactly great advice for the average American worker. But, jokes Morris, “You don’t have to take a three-year sabbatical… you can just read the book!” 

In it, he describes his journey through myriad travels, retreats, and forums, including survival training in the desert mountains of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico (“This wasn’t like going to Disney World,” he quips). During that time, he also attended scores of AA meetings, not because he is an alcoholic (he is not) but because “nobody [there] was maintaining their persona of success. They talked about their screwups, and it rocked my world to listen to people who were being so real,” he says. During this journey of self-discovery, the Alhambra Towers rose. “I had this dream of a building that would pay homage to George Merrick’s vision of castles in the sky, which is how he described the Gables,” says Morris. “We [the towers and I] were both being built at the same time.” 

Morris with his wife June and Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books
Allen Morris Book

In “All In,” Morris writes about this struggle for his mental well-being and the risks he had to take. “The journey of looking into my own life scared the hell out of me,” he told his audience at Books & Books. “I did not want to go there. [But] I have come to discover I’ve only learned the really important things from pain. Pain can be… the greatest opportunity. But it feels like risking everything to step into this unknown.” 

To risk everything for what really matters is certainly an ambitious goal for anyone, perhaps even more so for a man considered to be one of our most successful business leaders. To find out more, read “All In: How to risk everything for everything that matters,” found at most major retailers, but especially at Books & Books.