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Archive for May, 2011

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

Steve Jobs in Forbes. One of the most hateful precepts of socialism is the idea of existential equality. We are all equal politically, but in the things we do with our lives we are very different. The world we live in is much richer because Jobs is alive now, too. We will be poorer when he shuffles off this mortal coil. The best thing we can do — for ourselves, for our businesses and in tribute to the best the human mind can achieve — is to learn to think as Steve Jobs thinks.

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  • 8 comments

    Changing Your Life – Behavior Based Changes For More Productivity

    I’ve had a string of successes lately.  May will mark the end of the 7th month of growing income.  In a row.  For a salesperson that surfs the payables (thanks, Greg for that phrase), it’s a joy to be there.   I’m also cheating: October was the most brutally bad month I’ve had- it might have been $500.00 net, and it took till January or Feb to recover from that.

    I’ve hardly “arrived,” during this time I’ve put on about 17 pounds (despite going to the gym pretty regularly – the battle at the dinner table has been met poorly by me, and that changes Wednesday with a physician supervised 90 day commitment with a variant of the Paleo diet.)   I’m on the cusp of paying the monster IRS debt that I acquired in my 20′s.  On the cusp means July to those scoring at home.

    My wife has suffered from the madness of depression during this time (something I’ve struggled with, and it’s true madness), and there are the usual excuses and resistances that exist.  But I’ve done stuff to compensate for the Resistance.  And I’m sharing this with you.

    I’m also gonna say that I’ve doubled my income and left about 25% of my “hours worked” behind.   I am working harder, when I’m working, and making a deliberate effort to refresh myself at the wellspring (more on that in a bit).

    In any case,  let’s talk about the “how” behind this.  A series of simple change that, taken together, have made for profound growth.  This year will have a higher income than last year.    These habits- below- are why.  Each could get a bigger blog post or treatment.

    Daily Read: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I read about 3-5 pages from this each day.  I’m a believer in Christ.  Still the way that this is laid out speaks to me, Scriptures for my thinking and has changed my behavior.  To the point: I don’t have prickly little testy spats with people because I leave them to most of their own bullshit.  I can ignore much, easily.  I don’t need to inform the world of my intent (and I have not, thanks to Derek Sivers).  I don’t need to have opinions on so many things.  There is so much there to think on.   Meditations is the present tool that helps me think about – and only about – what matters to me.

    Blocking Everything that’s a distraction. I stopped watching the news.  Because the narrative is already written, we bomb brown people, bankers are greedy and need to be regulated, the housing crisis, oh GOD the housing crisis. I stopped watching sports.  Because it’s the same thing.

    I want my passion and excitement to be reserved for my life, my achievements, not Kobe Bryant’s. My kids, not some reality show.

    On my mac, I mapped about 250 sites to 127.0.0.1. This idea was more important than I thought because distractions no longer just find me.  I don’t need to know what’s going on.  I have no idea, and it’s truly, truly great.  I see Fox News or CNN at the gym for a few seconds per day.  I’m well enough informed.  The Huffington Poste or Yahoo have nothing to say.  So we ignore them.

    This also goes for the libertarian friends “masturbating to Armageddon.”  Doom will either come or it won’t. I’ve got a year’s worth of food for my family in the garage. I’ve got 1,200 rounds, and 40 pieces of silver.  More importantly I’ve got 1200 rolls of toilet paper.

    End Poor Relationships: I had 4 people- all different- who I had near daily interaction with.  I ended them, cold turkey, one day.  No rancor, no explanation.  Just  ”hid” them on Gtalk, and I don’t initiate or respond anymore.  Didn’t respond when asked about things that weren’t relevant to my customers.  Responded to the “what’s happening to us” email with a “been very busy – have to focus, can’t talk, probably won’t be able to respond to anything you write, talk later.”  Life is sweet without people to make you crazy.  I recommend it. (Note: we hear that we can keep ~225 people in our tribe.  If 10 of ‘em are batty, then lose ‘em.)

    De-Face-Book Yourself I had about 2200 people on Facebook.  It was muddy and messy, and some marketers were connecting with friends of mine.  I just culled it down to a bare basic number, leaving about 40 “acquaintances” on FB.  Accumulating strangers isn’t a behavior I care to repeat.  The rest are friends I do business with, want to do business with or know some other way.   The volume on FB was turned down to people I legitimately care about.  My behavior is changed as well, and my attitude towards it is more sane.  (Note- this is something that I may change if I decide that FB needs to blossom into something else, this isn’t something I’m holding tightly to).

    Spend through obstacles: In Feb, I was stuck.  So I paid a competitor to help clear out my queue.  Thanks, Rachael.  I spent more than I would have made but, for the most part, my reputation was upheld, and I got a problem solved fast.

    Life for a standard – not chasing pleasures: Chasing a pleasure/scratching an itch is limited in its return.  Living to make stuff, to express ideas, or help others is a nice start.  Living with an indifference to anything but the work, to how you feel.  Decide with your mind, and come as close as you can to achieving the standard.

    Focus on others, not Self: I’m here to help others, to be of comfort to others, to be kind to others, to offer myself to others.  I do this and it benefits me.  Abolishing thoughts of slights to my ego, abolishing stuff that’s happened is changing me.  If you focus on yourself, you become self absorbed.  That leads to self pity, which leads to depression.  I’ve been there, I know.  How can I help someone else is a more motivating question tan “why did so and so slight me.”  I’m happier at this moment than I’ve ever been.

    Count your wins once, and only once:  Here’s what happens to sales people.  We win a lead, and say “oh, boy, got a lead.”  The lead becomes an “almost sale,” so we’re all “oh, boy got an almost sale.”  Then the lead turns into a listing, “Oh, boy, got a listing.”  Then it becomes a check. “Oh, boy, got a check.”  We count each win.  We lose a little intensity with each victory.  We take a listing, we get complacent.  We want to only count checks, and focus on driving each transaction to the ultimate goal.

    Rescue Time was another place that I went to.  I love that site.  I don’t need to spend more than a few moments on sites, and I want to be able to make it so that the time I spend on my Mac – away from my kids-  to be productive.  I needn’t watch many things (and a challenge for me is that I have to interact with Youtube, a place that burns your life in 2-3 minute chunks.)

    Ignore your creditors: I have had some tax issues with Ohio, an angry idiot customer and other things that I had to deal with.  I ignored them.  If they needed my attention, they’ll sue me.  When they call to complain, I can just hang up.   Getting sucked into dramaland is the worst place to be.  Ignore creditors, run a business that can afford to pay them.  Napoleon said, “Space we can recover, lost time never.”  Money is space to an independent business owner.  People that call to harrass you can be blocked simply and easily.   And they should be.

    Read – Daily Do the work by Stephen Pressfield.|  Willie Jackson suggested that I return to the wellspring here, so in one of my unused hipsterrific moleskines, I’ve done started copying this, by hand word for word.  2 or so paragraphs per day, clears my mind and gets me doing something simple and rote.  I’m free to think, and to be renewed.  I do this around 2pm most days when hit the wall where I can no longer think. When the copy is made, I’ll move on to something else, or I’ll continue with this.  I’m not sure yet, and i can put off the decision for few weeks.  A few minute reset works wonders.

    Write – Daily I write more, notes, evernote, Molskine stuff.  I write a lot more now.  Works for me.  Less as a percentage of my stuff shows up on line than ever before.  Fine.  It’s important that we finish things.

    Your lists are your life: I have lists – 3 of ‘em – that I mind.  One is the GTD style To Do list.  The other is my customer list. The third is my aweber list.  I pay attention to these as much as I can.

    Time Blocking: I am a maker and a manager. I need to time block both fucntions so I have enough time to do this.  This means that I need to say no to things, even things that are important because keeping the schedule is going to drive my life.  I said no to an introduction to one of my heros because I was trying to get 21 days in without quitting.

    The things I now time block – and again this is sacrosanct:

    • Reading (morning & afternoon ~ 80 pages a day)
    • Writing (morning)
    • Prayer, Meditation, Cleansing: (morning) I pray for others.  Maybe even you.  I think it’s the most mentally refreshing thing I do.
    • Hustling (calling and emailing strangers) 3x weekly for 90 minutes/session.  This is almost certainly more than you do.
    • Exercise (morning): I go with my wife.  This helps us both.
    • Family Time Fridays 2pm on, I knock off, and then dinnertime, we get that going.
    • Artist’s date: I schedule this on Sundays by finding something I can do by myself.  I don’t let anything interfere.

    The rest of the stuff competes for what’s left of my time.  I have to make stuff sometimes, and then do the books.  But I put off everything I can that doesn’t fit into those boxes.

    I have plans for the near future.  I’m not necessarily sharing with you precisely what they are, of course.    I’ll be around here occasionally in the future, but probably once or twice a year when I have something like this to add.  Nothing’s perfect, of course, and so away we go.

    Bless you all, we’ll talk soon.

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  • 11 comments

    A Bloodsucker’s Ball

    If I was going to create a soundtrack for #rppsi, (and why wouldn’t I?), it would have to include the dark and disturbing world of Mack the Knife.

    Nick Cave, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Lotte Lenya stick it to us. Enjoy the pain.

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  • 2 comments

    If There Really Were A Real Estate Agents’ Union…

    …this is how business might be done:

    You (a willing home seller) would look for a real estate agent and discover that the government mandates that you hire, its delegated agent, to market and negotiate on your behalf.  That chosen agent will be the only one who can deal with potential buyers and will select which offer you should consider, among the many offers available.  The agent presents the offer, to which you suggest a counter-offer or refusal.

    In this hypothetical example, the agent tells you that you don’t have the option to counter and reminds you that you have a binding contract with her as an exclusive agent; she says “Take the ‘reasonable’ offer or suffer the consequences”.  Obviously, you don’t think that’s fair and want to test the free market.  You might consider another real estate agent because you don’t think she’s negotiating on your behalf.

    Rather than allow you to pursue your own course of action, the real estate agent accuses you of “agent busting”.  She sets up a picket line, in front of your home, with big signs proclaiming you to be “evil” or responsible for “unfair tactics”, or “greedy”.  She turns away all potential buyers of the home by calling them “scabs” and proclaiming that a reasonable enough offer was on the table and you were just an evil, greedy agent buster.

    She might convince the power company to sever your electricity, phone and internet.  She might try to prevent the grocery store, pizza delivery guy, landscapers, and pool maintenance guy from servicing you, per your standing contract with them.  Finally, she might try to restrict your income by hampering your ability to work .

    You’re a tough cookie, though.  It’s your home.  You bought it, improved it, kept it clean, and want the best price a willing buyer might pay you. You hold out, regardless of the wacky protesters, bused in from out-of-town, screaming at you, your children, your neighbors, and anyone who might dare speak with you.  Even your priest declines your dinner invitation because he wants to stand “in solidarity” with the “fair traders”.  He dare not call you evil but his actions suggest that you are being unfair.

    The manufactured shunning, and (false) threat to eternal damnation still doesn’t work.  It’s your damned house, paid for with your hard-earned money!  You intend to sell it for the best price you can receive!

    The real estate agent brings a government board in to bind you to mediated terms, whether you’re in agreement with them or not.  If you try to walk away from the home, and let the agent deal with the bank (which will foreclose on your property), she’ll get the government board to seize your home, or have that government board order you to sell it to her hand-picked buyer, or have that government board throw you in jail.

    That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

    Of course it does but that’s the exact effect The Wagner Act of 1935 had on labor relations.   The Wagner Act assigned exclusive negotiating rights, to a designated agent, on behalf of all employees.  Whether the employee consents to that agency relationship or not, the designated agent has the power of force (the government) behind it and all employees are bound to accept that agents’ negotiated terms.

    The Wagner Act permitted the coercive tactics of picket lines, to scare away customers, potential employees, suppliers, etc.   In essence, the Wagner Act proclaimed that the labor monopoly has the “right”, under the direction of its exclusive agent, to engage in such coercion.  If the business owner complained, well then he had to deal with force (the government),,, again.

    Finally, The Wagner Act also established the National Labor Relations Board , to mediate the price of labor, if that designated agent could not convince a business owner to accept the terms offered.   The business owner could either:

    • (a) accept the mediated terms (offered by the NLRB), or
    • (b) surrender the business to the NLRB, or
    • (c) move to another jurisdiction, outside of the reach of the NLRB.

    Which option do you think private business owners chose? If you remember the outsourcing movement, in the 1980′s, you have discovered the answer.

    Labor, like land or capital, is a factor of production.  When force is introduced, to a commercial exchange of  any of those factors, it is no longer voluntary.  There will be unintended reactions to that introduction of force.

    If you wouldn’t condone my hypothetical real estate agency relationship (monopoly backed by force), why would you turn a blind eye to the very same practice in the labor movement?

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  • 8 comments

    Upping your game selling real estate implies selling enough that you can add the staff to sell even more. For me, that means concentrating on the prospects who will make it to the closing table.

    This is a response to Robert Worthington’s post on getting to the next level selling real estate.

    I don’t want to represent myself as an expert on production, this for two reasons:

    First, because I know that is untrue. I’m a good real estate agent, and I think I’m becoming a good salesman. But if I stand on my tippy-toes, I can almost see over the nap of the carpet. I’m thinking there might a be a world up there.

    And second, because I hate it when other people do it. It’s grating when they actually can ride the bull and nauseating when I find out that they can’t — that they’re all hat and no cattle.

    With that as a caveat, I have some observations.

    Here are three ways to net more income from your working hours:

    1. Close more houses at your current gross commission income.

    2. Close the same number of houses at a higher GCI.

    3. Cut your costs.

    Obviously, number 3 works great no matter what else you do, provided that cutting your costs doesn’t cut your production along with it. Marketing is what you communicate, not what you say, and half-assed marketing is worse than no marketing.

    Scott Gaertner, a long-time friend of BloodhoundBlog and one of the highest-grossing/highest-netting agents I know, has urged us to pursue plan number 2. I want to do this, and I really, really want for Cathleen to do this, but the time is not propitious for listing luxury homes. In Phoenix — as in Florida, I expect — the inventory consists of lender-owned homes, short sales and the rare, and almost always over-priced, equity sale. I’ll talk about these categories further down, but the bottom line is that, for now, we don’t have either the cash or the resources to pursue the rare motivated equity seller. We can’t afford to acquire that client, and we really can’t afford to fail to close the sale.

    I have a lot of respect for plan number 1, because I am a high-D. I like to get things done, and the more things I get done, better and faster, the happier I am in my work. I can show with one party for eight hours, but I’m happier working with four parties over ten or twelve hours. I made a ton of money in April because I have pioneered a niche in rental housing. I sell my share of move-ups and relos and first-timers, but I sell double or triple my share of low-priced tract homes as rentals — and that business is growing very quickly. My GCI per transaction can be very low, but my clients are motivated and expeditious. Most of them have a lot of D in them, too, so our mutual interest in efficiency is mutually rewarding.

    This is what I want and I still don’t have it: Someone to handle the back-end stuff that both of us are poor at. We get it done, but I know the right person could do a much better job in one-fifth the time — cutting our costs in two ways at once. That in turn would free us up to sell more, which would in itself lead to greater income. There is no end of leverage to be bought when we can get ahead of our killer monthly nut, but we’re still not doing that reliably. The house that would have been my first May closing hit another snag last night. My pipeline is full, but my cashflow is spastic.

    Back to the three major categories of inventory:

    REOs are for brutes, as far as I can tell. All those rules and all that chicken guano just makes the listers mean. I know the work pays shit, so your office becomes like a fast food joint or a low-end job-printer: Surly, underpaid staff withering under the glare of hostile management, profitable only by dint of huge volumes of transactions.

    Short sales love a good clerk, and I keep running into agents who are preeningly proud of what good clerks they have become. Okayfine. We have found heaven for the high-Cs — except for the high-income part of the job. Figure maybe 84 working hours per closing, on average. That’s your entire work week, so there is no way for one person to close more than four short sales a month. You can do a lot better with an REO-style boiler room, but then you’re back to grinding out greasy hamburgers for pennies on the pound.

    Equity sellers, especially at the high end, are a thrilling fantasy. There is no limit to the ways you can find to spend a five- or even six-figure commission check — if you ever see it. There may be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but, far too often, the rainbow never, ever ends.

    Real estate joke: What’s a better name for yesterday’s expired listing — tomorrow’s short sale or next year’s REO?

    To all of this, I say: Urf.

    I like listing appointments, because I like to sell, and I like doing marketing support, because I like marketing. But the day to day jobs that go into listing real estate are not for me. I like listing when the product is prepared and priced to move. But a long, drawn out process of finding a buyer or a tenant is not a good situation for a high-D. I’ve always liked working with buyers, and I’m digging being a property manager.

    Each man to his own saints. Cathleen loves to list, but we’ve had to learn to be scrupulously judicious about the listings we take. We lost a lot of money carrying houses we couldn’t move, but we’ve learned our lesson. If you list, you last? Not quite. You cannot last as a lister in this business if your listings do not close.

    REOs? Boy howdy!

    Short sales? Urf.

    Equity sales? Arrrgh!

    In the end, this comes down to math — which means I can talk about it, but I don’t do it reliably. But the math works like this:

    If my earnings goal per month is X and my anticipated GCI per closed transaction is Y, then I need to close X/Y transactions per month to attain that goal.

    You can refine that by working backward from net income, or net after taxes or whatever. You may have to revise your earnings goal upward to get your nets where you want them, but the math is all the same: To net more, you must gross more.

    That’s a how problem, and this pack is full of dogs who can help you with the how of closing more homes, but there is an even bigger problem here, I think:

    Is what you want to do possible?

    If you’re closing three short sales a month, doubling your production would have a profound impact on your income. But can you actually successfully accomplish that result in the working hours of your month?

    Maybe you can. But my thinking is that moving up in income implies maximizing the profitable value of your own time: First, by working more-efficiently with more-highly-motivated clients, and, second, by delegating as much non-selling work as you can to other people.

    To get to the second state — staffing — you have to get better at the first: You have to produce enough steady cash to pay an assistant or a virtual assistant. That means you have to close more transactions with the resources you have available now — meaning you. That proposition has made me very jaundiced about pots of gold: I am so close to the edge that I simply cannot afford to fail. Buyers who might be interested in making a move? Not for me. Investors who insist on making offers at 60% of list? Goodbye. Brokers or rain-makers with staff have people to waste. I don’t. My job is not as much getting prospects as it is prospect management. I close houses, when I do, because I was smart enough to work with motivated buyers and investors.

    As above, I am nobody’s expert, and I am always, always, always better at talking about what I should be doing, rather than actually doing what I’m talking about. But ultimately, this is nothing but a management problem: How do you manage the resources you have to get to the results you want. If you think about it that way, and if you act upon your thoughts, you’ll get where you want to go.

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  • 15 comments

    The goal of 1k/day, aging, and passion – Here it goes

    I’m going to turn 30 in september.  I wonder to this day, when will my real estate business take off?  I see wildy successful people like Russell Shaw.  I even see Greg Swann’s goal of 1k a day.  Truthfully, I wish I was up to $200 a day.  The game is hard in Florida, but that’s why I’m in the fight, it’s a challenge filled with some heart ache and infinite fun.  So far this year, I’ve made a decent wage, but nothing to brag about.  I have kids and a stay at home wife, so you do the math.  I’ve always said to myself, if I could just be self employed and pay the bills, I’ll have it made.

    I wake up some days and do the typical routine and think, how on Earth can I hit it big in this business.  Where’s my break going to come in.  I work literally 7 day’s a week.  Yet my fellow bloodhounder Greg Dallaire works 30 hours a week and is averaging $500 a day.  I ask myself, where has my business plan failed?  Well it hasn’t failed, but it’s not where I want to be.  I’m doing something wrong and I don’t know what it is.  I don’t want to work the rest of my life 7 days a week and make $200 a day.

    What have you done in your business to take it to the next level?  Oh I know, times are tough, but lets face it, I’m doing something wrong and not talking to enough people is what it comes down to.  I need to be better at generating leads and handling them properly.  So how can I get there.  SEO blah blah, I’m doing it everyday and yes it’s paid off.  I suck at recruiting agents.  How do I recruit agents?

    You see, I have a great wife, great kids, I sleep good at night, and I even love real estate, it’s a beautiful thing; but I want the beautiful real estate thing to be like Miss America.  I want to step it up.

    1)Can someone please help a fellow bloodhounder out?  How did you recruit agents?

    2)  Did I select a target market that is to broad?

    3) Does my website needs modification?

    4) Do I need to post sweaty collared shirt pictures of myself like Greg Swann (smile).

    I ask myself, where am I lacking to make a 1k a day?  Please help me.  I’d even pay for your time.

    Yours truly,
    The young blood
    Robert Worthington

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  • 16 comments

    Illustrating a software paradigm shift in the simplest possible way. Or possibly I’m just simple-minded.

    I have every intention of talking about the paradigm shift in software engineering that is being ushered in by the iPad. The iPhone pushed us half the way there with “apps” — dedicated client interfaces into server-based databases. The iPad pushes all that much further, with interesting implications for real estate marketing.

    Meanwhile, I’d like to use a very simple example to illustrate how a small change in the way software operates can result in big changes in the way we live our lives.

    Consider the alarm clock: Big, clunky and loud, a magnificently useless dust magnet. One alarm, one time a day, set it and regret it. The digital age brought us the snooze alarm, and micro-electronics gave us the his-’n'-hers alarm clock with a weekend override. But still very dumb technology, guaranteed to fail — partially twice a year at daylight savings time and completely every time the electricity goes out.

    Enter the iPhone:

    What you are seeing are my early-morning alarms: I get up early to deal with my email and to work out, then I get back into bed with Cathleen to snuggle for fifteen minute before we both get up to walk the dogs and get our days started.

    The point is, I can have as many alarms as I want. It’s useful for software engineers to replicate analog tools in digital form. End-users already understand the concept, and so the new software simply seems to replicate the familiar analog functionality.

    But this is not true, all appearances to the side. By enabling you to set up — say the word: to program — as many alarm clocks as you might need, the iPhone’s implementation of the alarm clock idea permits you to shift the way you have always thought about that wretched noise that greets the dawning.

    This is an extremely simple example, but a useful one, I think. Software, at a minimum, permits us to do a better job at the things we’ve always done. But if we stretch our minds and use the tool as it can be used, and not simply as we have always used it in the past, then software helps us to do things we have never done before.

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  • 5 comments

    The bad news? The NAR’s #rppsi scam passed, despite overwhelming opposition. The good news? The NAR is now a labor union, complete with forced political speech. Let the Right-to-Work lawsuits begin!

    The National Association of Realtors’ bloodsuckers’ survival initiative (#rppsi) passed this morning, even though only the bloodsucking Babbitts themselves are in favor if it.

    Now the NAR will have even more money to “protect homeownership” with bloodsucking legislation like the Community Reinvestment Act, the Government Sponsored Entities laws, the first-time home-buyer tax credit, etc.

    The NAR plans to “protect homeownership” until every last one of us is living in a cardboard box.

    That’s a bad thing — bad for the people who voted for it, since crime is always self-destructive. But bad for us, too, since we now have that much more to apologize for.

    Here’s the silver lining: The NAR is now arguably a labor union. Membership is forced for most Realtors to gain access to the MLS. And #rppsi is beyond all doubt forced political speech: You will have no control over the $40 a year that is to be extracted from you. If you don’t despise Barney Franks, there’s something wrong with you, but your money will be going to that petulant thug like it or don’t.

    If you are lucky enough to live in one of the 22 Right-to-Work states, you may have recourse in the courts. Here are some apposite links from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation:

    The NAR has been a vampire latched onto the neck of the American body politic since its founding. It does not exist to “protect homeownership.” Its sole reason for existence is to despoil American consumers to the benefit of real estate brokers: To steal money from the people who earned it, diverting it to a conspiracy of bloodsucking vampires. Today’s vote was the first step in the process of eliminating this pestilence from our lives forever.

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  • 18 comments

    The Power of Not Knowing… and Other Meaningful Ideas

    Over the past couple of articles from the POPs Program for Agents, the emphasis has been on the first, key step in creating a balanced, successful life as a real estate agent: staying in the present.  The article on Temporal Awareness showed us that the past (guilt) and the future (fear) don’t actually exist.  It also discussed the emotional response we have over words that don’t exist.  And in The Mirror Effect, one of the most powerful concepts for creating true and lasting happiness, we learn that even someone being hurtful, doesn’t exist.  Are you starting to recognize a pattern here?

    Nothing Exists!
    No, no, that’s not what I’m suggesting.  The pattern is this: We Don’t Know The Meaning… of Anything.  As a matter of fact, I will take it one step further: We Assign Meaning… to Everything.  This is especially prevalent in the Sales and Services professions, where interaction with others is so integral to what we do.  We think we know what we’re seeing; possibly a “hot” new client, for instance:

     

    Only to discover later how child-like are their expectations and decisions:

     

    Time to Celebrate
    At first, this idea that we don’t know the meaning of anything may seem a bit scary, but I suggest to you quite the opposite; this is actually cause for celebration!  Two reasons:

    • Not Knowing the Meaning = Freedom
    • Assigning Meaning = Power

    When we admit, especially to ourselves, that we don’t know the meaning of events in our world, we become free to stop labeling those events as “good” and “bad”.  There’s a terrific line in the poem IF, by Rudyard Kipling:

    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
    and treat those two Impostors just the same; 

    Realizing we don’t know, means freedom from all kinds of pressure.  The pressure to be disappointed, fearful, regretful and yes, even happy.  Sometimes the greatest pressure we know, is to put a happy face on something labeled “good” when in our hearts, we’re not feeling it at all.

    As great as the freedom of not knowing is, it pales in comparison to the power of assigning meaning.  Think about how often this power can affect your life, and how much more success you can generate with it.  When you’ve spent weeks taking a client out to look at homes – every Sunday for 3-4 hours – and they suddenly decide not to buy a home… we already know that we don’t know what this event means.  Is it “bad”? (I’m sure that’s how most of us would label it.)  What about the fact that you’re now free to attend your neighbor’s bbq this Sunday?  What about the home buyer who is going to be there; the one who has already found the home they want to buy, but doesn’t feel comfortable using the listing agent?  What about the rave recommendation your neighbor is going to give you as he personally refers his friend, the buyer, to you?  Tell me again, was it “bad” that you lost the client who was wasting your time?  Was it “good”?  You assign the meaning; why not assign one that benefits you!

    In Stephen Covey’s fabulous book: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, one of the traits he finds common to successful people is this belief: “everything happens for a reason… and it benefits me.” Well of course it does!  We assign the meaning!  Remember, in The Mirror Effect, when we find ourselves having an emotional reaction to something someone has said – we realize they’ve actually held up a mirror for us to look into and discover an incongruity that is causing us pain.  We stop right then, and instead of getting mad at the person who has done us this favor, we thank them.  What did we do there?  We assigned a new meaning, that’s all!  What an amazing power this is.

    Final Thought
    Imagine what you can accomplish today, in the next few moments even, by possessing the power to give everything in your world its meaning.  Take a moment to go through that massive catalog of recent events and upcoming activities sitting heavily in your mind, already labeled, right now.  Pick a few to start with and rip the labels off.  Give ‘em a new meaning and see what happens.  I bet you’ll be amazed how deeply happy you can be, and maybe even surprised by your new levels of success…

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  • Comments are off for this post

    Senator Rand Paul: The claim of a “right” to health care implies a belief in slavery.

    Say what you will about the Tea Party, it’s a small victory just to have words like these enunciated on the floor of Congress:

    This is Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged making the same argument:

    “I quit when medicine was placed under State control some years ago,” said Dr. Hendricks. “Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I could not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything — except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the ‘welfare’ of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, but ‘to serve.’ That a man’s willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards — never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness at which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind — yet what is it they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in the operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it — and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn’t.”

    The two arguments together make for a nice tableaux: Atlas Shrugged is fiction, but what makes it fiction is not the events in the book, but rather the fact that those events are instigated by conscious intent and are therefore accelerated. Everything we look upon in horror in the book will happen in due course, but at the slower pace of ordinary human aimlessness, the existential consequence of laziness and lies. Despite all the wild claims in its advertising, brutality produces only one thing: More brutes.

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  • 8 comments

    Dispatch from the NAR IDX Rule committee Meeting

    I’m sitting in the room @ NAR Mid-Year listening to the IDX Rules Committee trying to get its collective head around the use of IDX data on franchisor web sites, social media, and whether or not price change and days on market can be shown on IDX sites.

    Its kinda like watching fleas on a dog debating whether not the dog should go swimming as if they had a say in the matter. Don’t these people ever learn? It was precisely by trying to control listings on the Web that they created an environment that was conducive to the growth of Trulia and Zillow and thus realized what they ostensibly fear — loss of control over the distribution of listings on Web sites and and the creation of an incentive for consumers to look for information they want on third party sites.

    The Internet was designed to route around obstacles much bigger than a rules committee — like the nuclear obliteration of a network hub. Take away the ability to use IDX to sling listings to Facebook or the ability of brokers to say how long a listing has been on the market and what the price changes were and another channel will open up to provide that very information. It is the nature of the network.

    For the record, the committee decided not to decide anything w/r/t social media, unanimously voted to keep a rule that prevents DOM and price changes from appearing on IDX sites, and — saving the most interesting for last — voted to suspend the rule they adopted last fall that enabled franchisors to use IDX on franchise domains.

    Now these recommendations go before the Directors for a vote on Saturday which, as we learned in the “scraping” controversy, does not necessarily mean they will be followed. It will be interesting to see if the Directors decide to listen to their own subject matter “experts” (and I use that term very, very loosely) or choose to carry the franchisors water on their own.

    On a side note, it was a lot of fun to sit here and re-read Greg’s recent posts about NAR while sitting in a NAR committee forum…

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  • 6 comments

    More thrilling real estate math from the National Association of Realtors: How much did first-time home-buyers benefit from their $8,000 tax-funded subsidy? Can you count to negative $15,000?

    You read that right. On average, recipients of the $8,000 federal housing subsidy lost $15,000 on the homes they purchased using the subsidy as their incentive.

    From SmartMoney.com:

    The government’s recent $8,000 cash incentive for first-time home buyers has proved even more costly for recipients than for taxpayers, according to data released Monday. Typical buyers have lost twice as much to price declines as they received from the program.

    The median home value fell to about $170,000 in March from $185,000 a year earlier, according to Zillow.com. That means a buyer who closed on a house just before the tax-credit program expired in April 2010 collected $8,000 but has since lost $15,000 in value. Those who bought earlier in the program have done worse; the median price is down $20,000 from March 2009.

    This was all completely foreseeable, of course. The only person, seemingly, who cannot grasp simple economics is Barrack Obama, temporarily president of the United States. But don’t get the idea that Obama is done wrecking the housing market just yet. Even now, his minions are pushing for still more sub-prime mortgages to economically-unqualified home-buyers.

    As the great Tom Waits said, “I don’t have a drinking problem — except when I can’t get a drink.” America doesn’t have a housing problem. The problem is that, despite the state’s (mis)education monopoly, there are still too many people who can suss out a hustle, if you give them enough time.

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  • 5 comments

    What’s the long term investment value of owning your own home? Would you believe… nothing?

    Business Insider has the goods.

    Yes, I know you can tell me stories about killings made. We’ve done it, too. How are your results lately?

    Meanwhile, do you want to have a long talk with all those folks who bought their homes believing in the wealth-producing miracle of the mortgage-interest tax deduction?

    Does anyone want to chip in for some wood polish for the NAR’s nose?

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  • 11 comments

    How does the National Association of Realtors love me? They sent me an evaluation so I could count the ways.

    I appeared by videoconference at the National Association of Realtors Association Executives convention in March. At the time, I made note of my remarks in a comment to Teri Lussier’s first post on the NAR’s latest anti-consumer money-grab:

    I spoke by videoconference to the NAR Association Executives conclave on Monday. I held nothing back, patiently explaining to them that legislation is crime — using force to induce an outcome that would not have occurred without the imposition of force.

    I explained that a legislature can do nothing in a free market except harm, and that the American economy is by now essentially a vast mutual-vampirism cult: Each one of is sucking the lifeblood out of his neighbor’s neck, and each one of us is being sucked dry by his next neighbor. Taking a death-grip on the obvious, I patiently explained that this cannot but result in pandemic disaster.

    Instead, I said, if the National Association of Realtors were to come to be as zealous about private property rights as the National Rifle Association is about firearms ownership rights, I would be proud to call myself a member.

    As you might expect, the reaction was subdued.

    Bob Bemis, CEO of ARMLS, intimated to me that there is video of the presentation somewhere, but I have not seen this. But yesterday there came by snail-mail a three-page evaluation of the event.

    I think it would be fair to say that I made an impression. I knew going in that I would be telling them exactly what they did not want to hear, so I have to commend the people who made comments for their forbearance of my effrontery.

    Here’s my take: What they don’t want to hear is precisely what they need most to hear. It’s not reflected in the evaluation, but a very important idea I took up with them is this one:

    What happens if someone comes along and resolves to do real estate brokerage for free?

    I’ve pointed out many times that Zillow’s “make me move” feature is brokerage: The introduction of buyer to seller. This is not affected by the real estate regulation machine since the act of brokerage is uncompensated — and since the real estate laws are concerned not with real estate brokerage in itself, but solely with real estate brokerage for compensation. Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber can both sell all the real estate they want. The law does not forbid this. All the law is concerned with is making sure Aunt Bea and Floyd the Barber do not get paid for selling real estate.

    So if someone decides to start marrying buyers to sellers for free, there is nothing the NAR or its slavish state departments of real estate will be able to do about it. In fact, our job is representation, not mere brokerage, but the NAR has never defended the value of representation. All the National Association of Realtors has ever cared about is restricting consumer access to real estate brokerage so the NAR’s brokers will get paid above-market commissions. And the music will stop on that coy dance just as soon as someone finds another way to monetize brokerage, without taking any sales commissions.

    That one observation took the wind right out of them.

    This won’t happen, but it should: The NAR should invite me to the national convention to do ninety minutes on everything it is getting wrong.

    And since that won’t happen, I would be happy to talk to a start-up Realty.bot about how to effect real estate brokerage profitably without accepting any compensation from the principals.

    Meanwhile: Thanks for the evaluation, NAR. Me and my co-panelists only got a 4.3 out of 5 for our grade, but I’ll bet I induced some 5-star nightmares in the ensuing days.

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  • 9 comments

    Any Chance You’re Holding A Fun-House Mirror?

    So what do you see when you look in the mirror?  No doubt as a real estate agent the way you present yourself is important, but is that all you see?  In a standard mirror, maybe it is.  “Let’s see: short sleeve, button down shirt with yellow plaid design: check.  Power red necktie, wide, hanging half way down my ample belly: check.  Name tag with alphabet soup of certifications, right side up and cleaned of (most of) last night’s pasta sauce: check.  Roger Rocket – real estate superman – reporting for duty.”  But seriously, there are other kinds of mirrors you know…

    A Look Back…?
    Last week, in my article on Temporal Awareness, I talked a little about how past and present do not actually exist.  I used the example of someone saying something about us behind our backs - the visceral reaction, the anger - only to discover they never said anything!  We cause ourselves stress over things that never exist.  We create realities and emotions over events that never happen.  These responses can, however, be turned into a wonderful tool.  And by ”wonderful” I mean a gut-wrenching look at what’s inside of us that we are desperately trying to hide from both the outside world and ourselves.  That kind of wonderful.

    The Mirror Effect
    The Mirror Effect is a way to recognize what’s happening and take a peek at what’s causing our emotional response.  It also helps us stay in the present.  (Though, truth be told, you have to be present enough to engage The Mirror Effect in the first place.)  Suppose someone said something hurtful to you – an observation - that you knew in your heart to be inaccurate.  For example: “Sean, you were never the athlete you like to think you were.”  Our reaction to that would be pretty subdued; we might even chuckle a little.  Why?  In my example, because I know who I am in that realm; I know what I accomplished and even how I ranked.  I’ve accepted the changes that come with moving past one’s athletic prime, but that does not diminish the truth of my vision.  When we are secure in this regard, comment means little and garners little reaction.

    Now, let’s say another person came up to us and said something that “hit a nerve.”  Let’s use me again: “Sean, you’re not a very good father.”  One might take offense.  One might get angry with whomever said the words.  One might let that person know how wrong they are; how offensive.  (One might also wonder why one keeps volunteering to be the example!)  Our reaction would be strong and it would be emotional.

    The Big “Why”
    Now, for the big question:  WHY?  Why react to one person but not the other?  Why become emotional over the offensive words of one person, but not of another?  Let’s make it even more interesting.  Let’s say that in the first instance, the person who denigrated my athleticism was a coach I admired and respected, and in the second instance the person questioning my skills as a father was a complete stranger.  Would that change things?  I bet not.  Sure, I might be a little surprised by the coach’s comment; I might wonder what the heck that coach had been watching all those years, but I still wouldn’t react with anger toward him.  Yet the complete stranger, for whom I have no presupposed respect or admiration, would definitely garner an angry reaction from me.  Interesting…

    Once we recognize this dynamic, we must also recognize that our emotional response has nothing to do with the other person.  We may take it out on them, sure; but if it were about someone else saying something offensive, we’d expect similar responses.  No, our response is a reaction to ourselves.  To seeing, even if only a glimmer, some part of our internal truth that does not match up with our external vision.  In the case of the first comment, my external vision of who I was as an athlete matches pretty well with my internal belief about who I was.  The second comment, on the other hand – the one that got an emotional reaction – revealed a dichotomy.  I left my wife and broke up our family; no matter how justified I might feel I was, I’m still aware of the potential damage I’ve done to my boys.  The external life I am currently living does not match up with the internal vision of who I want to be as a dad.  Ah ohhh…  The brain does not like incongruity.  We hate it so much, we hide from it every chance we get.  But every now and then, someone comes along and says something that pulls back the flimsy, patch-work curtain we hide behind and reveals the mismatch between our two worlds.  This is emotionally painful and, no surprise, might very well lead us to lash out at whomever had the temerity to pull back our curtain!  But the fact is, they didn’t do anything to us.  All they did was momentarily provide an opportunity for us to recognize something about ourselves we don’t want to reveal, even to ourselves.  You might say, all they did was hold up a mirror…

    Be Thankful
    In the end, people can not hurt us with their words.  We all know this, we learned it as a nursery rhyme about sticks and stones.  You can no more hurt me with your words than you can hurt me when you don’t say any words… and I only think you did.  It is me in both circumstances; I am the only one who can create an emotional reaction because I am the only one who knows my own truth.  This may seem self-evident to you on some levels.  Good!  Now take it a step further.  If you are talking to someone: another agent, a broker, a client, a friend, even a close family member, try to stay present and remind yourself: “They are only mirrors.”  If at some point you find yourself becoming angry or hurt or afraid, STOP.  Recognize that this wonderful person has just held up a mirror for you; a mirror only you can see because it reveals only you.  Thank them.  If you didn’t like what you saw, thank them profusely!  After all, to solve a problem we must first recognize the problem; we must have the opportunity to see behind that curtain.

    The mind hates incongruity.  We are happiest and most at peace when we have congruence between our external vision of who we are (a vision based on our actions) and our vision of who we think we are (a vision based on our internal goals); in other words, our external and internal truths.  Incongruence is the reason for much of our pain, whether it manifests as anger or depression or judgment, or even fear (which really sits as the source of the rest of those emotions).  Once we recognize an incongruity, we can attempt to solve it.  We might change our actions (thus affecting our external vision) OR we might change who we think we are (change our internal vision).  Most people fixate on the former; they are forever trying to fix what they do or who they “are,” but the truth is, sometimes our internal vision is the better fix.  I’ll go into greater detail on Congruence and Continuity in another article.  The point of this one is simple: stay present and remember the Mirror Effect.  The next time you have an emotional reaction to something someone is saying, recognize what is happening and then STOP… and thank them.  Appreciate them even, for holding up a mirror and giving you yet another opportunity to bring true peace and happiness into your life.

    Besides… a great, big, genuine “Thank you!” after someone says something hurtful, really messes with ‘em…

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  • 2 comments

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