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Knowing The Difference Between The Sizzle And The Steak

Let’s begin by agreeing on the proposition saying those who try to live on sizzle, not steak, end up losing weight, till, in the end, they’re dead. Sizzle in many contexts can be fun, sexy, interesting, even impressive, but never substantive. In sports, sizzle is often lookin’ spectacular while seldom winning. The strikeout pitcher who barely wins more than he loses. The .300 hitter, 40 homer, 100+ RBI guy who hits below the Mendoza line with men in scoring position, with most of his homers and RBI coming when his team is eight runs ahead or hopelessly behind.

Sizzle ain’t results.

As a baseball purist and a lifetime member of the OldSchool in real estate, I appreciate sizzle, but get pretty damn agitated at those given more or less equal standing with big time producers, based upon a buncha glitter and multi-colored smoke.

As Exhibit A I offer Nolan Ryan

He’s a first ballot Hall of Famer. He threw the ball harder than Zeus threw lightning bolts. He struck out every third person on the planet earth. He threw eleventeen no-hitters. Then there were the stoopid number of 1-hitters. That’s what we purists call sizzle. I’ve done extensive research, and no-hitters still count as only one win. Strikeouts? Apparently they’re the same as all other outs. The winning team in any given game must get the other guys out 27 times in a nine inning game. The rules say an out’s an out. Go figure.

27 years in the major leagues, and he barely wins more games than he loses — 52.6%. He was the Dale Carnegie of pitchers, as he never met a hitter he didn’t walk. Try almost 5.25 every nine innings. If as a hitter you faced him more than five times, he walked you at least once.

His claim to fame from where I stand, is that his freak of nature body, combined with his superb work ethic and his luck with health and injuries, allowed him to pile up pretty much every stat but the one that mattered: Far more wins than losses.

Compare Ryan to Sandy Koufax. The man was cursed from Day 1. Drafted at 18, he was literally barred from the minors cuz he was paid too much of a bonus, so he never got to learn his craft the way his peers had. Most think he hurt his pitching elbow on the mound, when in fact, it was hurt while foolishly diving back head first on a pickoff attempt at second base. Doctors told him it was the catalyst for the arthritis that eventually felled him.

Let’s compare Ryan and Koufax during their best consecutive six year stretch. For Nolan is was 1972-77, while for Sandy is was 1961-66. Here’s where you can clearly see which one is the steak and which is the sizzle.

Wins: Koufax 129 Ryan 113 Win percentage: Koufax 7.33 Ryan .546 Losses: Koufax 47 Ryan 94. There was only a 12 game difference between the number of games each started. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. In their best six year stretches, Koufax’s winning percentage was almost 35% better than Ryan’s. Career vs career, Koufax’s winning percentage, including his completely fruitless years in Brooklyn, was a tick less than 25% better than Ryan’s.

You wanna win a game that makes the difference? Pick Koufax 10 times outa 10 vs Ryan. Ryan couldn’t carry Sandy’s jock, when all the sizzle is disregarded. Last time I checked, it was about winning. OK, I’ll stop pilin’ on.

For the record, I love Nolan Ryan. The guy’s the epitome of what a sports role model should be. As a man, he’s a giant. As a Hall of Fame Pitcher? Hell, most of the pitchers in the Hall were better than he was. That is if winning more while simultaneously losing less is a factor.

In real estate, you can’t bank sizzle, and there’s no Hall of Fame for those who showed the most properties, or took the most listings, or have the most prolific lead-producing website.

Unsold listings, property showings with no sales, 50 lead-a-day websites, and the best direct mail, social media, or what have you in the known universe, doesn’t impress your banker one iota. In fact it bores ‘em.

Banks are a no-sizzle zone — a fact of life of which most real estate agents appear happily ignorant.

I don’t buy the 60+ hours that most agents claim as their typical week. The difference between Nolan Ryan and top real estate agents, is that buyers and sellers insist on winning. We either sold their property or we didn’t. We found them the place they were lookin’ for or we didn’t. The closing of escrow is the only known win in the real estate universe. Anything else might as well be a rotting steak on the grill, givin’ off that great sounding sizzle. All sizzle and no steak is what failure is all about.

No win = no paycheck.

Success in baseball is ultimately measured in terms of wins. In real estate success is ultimately measured in terms of closed escrows — skinned cats if you will.

Pretty websites, hi-tech marketing, IDX magic? All are real estate’s version of strikeouts and no-hitters. If they didn’t eventually lead to more wins, you’ll still need to add about $1.95 for a Grande cuppa coffee at Starbucks.

Am I touchin’ a nerve?

5,714 is how many hitters Nolan Ryan struck out, more than anyone else who ever donned a major league uniform. Same with no-hitters. Yet with all that impressive sizzle, he still couldn’t figure out how to win even 53% of the games in which he pitched.

Think I’m being harsh? The Angels lost more games than they won in 2010. Yet, they had three starting pitchers with equal or better winning percentages than Nolan Ryan. None appear to be future candidates for the Hall.

Sandy Koufax pitched a buncha no-hitters too. He struck out WAY more than his share of hitters. But instead of barely winning more than he lost, he won nearly two of every three games in which he toed the rubber. In his six best years? He won almost three of every four. Ryan’s best six? Still couldn’t reach the 60% win level. Where’s the steak?

All this to ask you these million dollar questions.

Do buyers and sellers want sizzle, or do they want results? Would they want Koufax or Ryan to be their agent?

The Hall of Fame for producing agents is based on nothing more or less than closed escrows — cat skins on the wall. The voters are the folks who’ve benefited from the results you produced. Sizzle — it’s for those constantly in search of the mythical magic button. There’s more than enough sizzle to go around. You can have my share.

I prefer winning. Make my steak medium rare.

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  • 39 comments

    39 Comments so far

    1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Brown, Real Estate Feeds, My REALTY, Real Estate Ninja, Mark Risley and others. Mark Risley said: Knowing The Difference Between The Sizzle And The Steak: Let’s begin by agreeing on the proposition saying those… http://bit.ly/hYEZEE [...]

    2. Greg Swann December 10th, 2010 7:06 pm

      > All sizzle and no steak is what failure is all about.

      Good on ya, Jeff. I was interviewed yesterday for an industry publication regarding my projections for 2011. On the subject of technology, I said that too many agents can’t tell the difference between a fish and a picture of a fish. They spend all day catching pictures of fish, then wonder why they go hungry for dinner.

      (I put two more houses into escrow today. Huge week. I need to fall down more often!)

    3. Jeff Brown December 10th, 2010 7:12 pm

      Glad to hear you haven’t been slowed down. Have you spent less time on the road? If so, it’s interesting you still managed a couple new deals. I learned one time that being sick or injured often allowed me to see things right in front of me that I’d been missing earlier.

    4. Greg Swann December 10th, 2010 9:03 pm

      > Have you spent less time on the road?

      Way less. Out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday only, one house each time. But a lot of the time when I’m out of the office, normally, I’m previewing or working with vendors. I attend all my own inspections, for example — my Wednesday this week. I want to see the issues, I want to photograph the issues, and I want to interview the inspector on video for the client.

      > If so, it’s interesting you still managed a couple new deals.

      Coincidence. The fruition of a long time spent cultivating a lot of opportunities. I have two more set to pop Monday, then two more very close after that. And Cathy’s got her own deals, and hers pay better than mine. We’re going to have a nice December and a nice January, but the seeds for this harvest were planted as early as this past July. We’ve been progressively busier, month-by-month, for a long time, but the timeline of many closed transactions is very long, and getting to the finish line may entail failing to get there one or more times.

      I want to sell value, and we’re doing as well as we are because we sell value so well. But the checks we’ll cash in these two months are coming to us because we planted as many seeds and we could, and we nurtured as many seedlings as possible into fruit-bearing transactions. First and always, our job is to get our clients what they want, even if that means we don’t get paid. But we get paid for closed transactions, and we’re getting better at turning as many customer and client relationships as we can into closed transactions — eventually.

      I like it when other agents, from Phoenix or from other markets, come here to tell me how much I suck as a Realtor — because I know I do. But I believe that Cathleen and I, along with anyone we choose to work with us, are going to be among the very best Realtors in this town — eventually. Ain’t nothing been easy, and I can’t count the times people have told me not to reinvent the wheel. But my answer, always, is that I want a better frolicking wheel.

      Meanwhile: I’d love to tell you that the results that are going to buy our house out of hock — again — are the fruit of our having worked so much smarter than other folks. The simple truth is that we have worked harder, that’s all, and we haven’t let repeated failures to close keep us from getting to the closing table — eventually.

      Profitable on the bottom line? Everything over $10K per month is profit, so they’ll be winning months. Profitable as a use of our labor? Our per hour labor? Maybe not for now, but we’re building a business. Profitable eventually? That’s what drives us all, isn’t it?

      So: In your baseball analogy, I would be the guy who has almost finished sweeping out the stadium when Nolan Ryan and Sandy Colfax start warming up for an afternoon’s pitching duel. Very happy to have the work, thank you very much. This is a job I plan to get good at.

    5. Don Reedy December 11th, 2010 8:41 am

      Am I touchin’ a nerve?

      The answer, Jeff, is a resounding yes. And your analogy applies to everything we do; not simply to real estate.

      Thanks, Greg, as well, for taking Jeff’s analogy onto the streets. It’s obvious to me that you’d both love small ball over long ball most of the time. Fight the tough ones off at the plate. Be aggressive. Hit to the opposite field. Sacrifice. Perfect the bunt. Run hard to first. Stay alert. Watch videos of your opponents moves to first. Take what he’ll give. Head first into second. No fist pumps. Just dust in your lungs, blood on the elbows, and the adjustment of your cup. Know the score, where they’re playing the batter, who can throw, and how your teammate hits. Run when you get the chance, and run hard. Your eyes are on the prize, that piece of real estate that counts. The plate is blocked, so throw yourself at your goal without fear; or deftly toss your body out to the right, sliding your hand below the tag and onto the edge of the plate.

      Just my way of saying that both of you are already in my Hall of Fame because you play the game the way it was intended to be played, each with your own skill set, and each with the win firmly fixed in your minds. You’re the players taking extra BP or playing pepper. The sizzle players are off with the press extolling themselves with platitudes.

      As for me; I’m mostly an aspiring utility player, wanting to play every day, looking to make a difference in the W/L column.

    6. Jeff Brown December 11th, 2010 9:42 am

      Hey Don — I love small ball, but to win a ring with it, you better have Koufax AND Drysdale or no can do. :)

    7. Brad Nix December 11th, 2010 6:53 pm

      Jeff-

      I get what you’re saying and agree with the overall point of the post.

      But I’m a baseball junkie and I think your pitcher comparison is off. Wins and Losses are almost the worst way to compare pitchers. They have no control of their team’s offense (except an occasional sac bunt) and the win-loss % is more a reflection of the team’s they played for than the skills those players possessed. In fact, Nolan Ryan was a better pitcher than Sandy Koufax for several reasons but if you had to pick one statistic to prove the point, I’d suggest we go with WAR (Wins Above Replacement: http://saberlibrary.com/misc/war/).

      WAR is a far superior way to compare pitchers than W-L % and when you do so you will find Ryan as the 16th best pitcher of all time and Koufax down the list at 61: http://www.baseballprojection.com/war/top500p.htm Ryan was over 60% better than Koufax as a pitcher.

      I still agree with your point that sizzle doesn’t make the steak better. It just makes you think it’s better.

    8. Jeff Brown December 11th, 2010 8:14 pm

      Hey Brad — Only the Lord Himself coming down to tell me your claim is true would convince me to even consider it. :)

    9. Brad Nix December 12th, 2010 3:13 am

      Jeff: I respect your faith, but I’ll choose proven science when it comes to baseball.

    10. Cheryl Johnson December 12th, 2010 4:40 am

      I love Greg’s analogy of the “guy sweeping out the stadium” … And I would add that there are many paths to Splendor, and the guy with the push-broom could quite possibly have a richer, fuller life, and more money in the bank, than the superstars down on the field. :-)

    11. Sean Purcell December 12th, 2010 10:54 am

      A few random thoughts:

      -I always appreciate the idea that anyone can enjoy a rich, full life without fame and riches but “more money in the bank” than the superstar athletes? To paraphrase an old saying: I’ve been the superstar on the field and I’ve been the guy with the push-broom… being the superstar is better.

      -Best pitcher (qb, guard, etc)? I don’t know enough sports “science” (gotta love the dumbing down of that word…) to argue with Brad, but I do see one of his points: W/L is not always the best way to evaluate a player – though the longer you play the more validity it should have. I’ve always been more partial to who’s a “gamer”. For instance, pitching a perfect game in a World Series; that’s a pretty impressive list of “great” pitchers, W/L record be damned. In basketball who would be your first draft choice of all players throughout history? Some would go with Michael Jordon – probably the best I ever got to see. But my first choice? Easy: Bill Russell. That man never met a championship game he didn’t love. NCAA? Champion. Olympics? Champion. NBA? Champion, champion, champion… I don’t want the pitcher with the best science or the pitcher with the best record. I want the guy who knows how to close the deal when the deal is on the line.

      -Jeff, I could not agree with you more regarding sizzle vs steak. But, it’s not consistently evident. When the market is hot, sizzle does make money. There are plenty of athletes in the pro ranks whose earnings far outweigh their contribution to the team, but are in-line with their ability to sell their sizzle. In real estate we call the phenomenon a hot market; everyone and their idiot cousin can make money selling their unproven cult of personality. But sooner or later, the market turns or the game’s on the line… and then it’s all about steak.

      Another in a long series of great posts.

    12. Jeff Brown December 12th, 2010 11:48 am

      Hey Sean — Your point is well made. I might disagree with the definition of sizzle, especially when applied to some of the dolts who made decent money in the boom. :) Having a pulse while acquiring the skill to put a listing on the MLS, or not trip while showing a home isn’t my idea of sizzle.

      Still, you’re right.

    13. Greg Swann December 12th, 2010 3:13 pm

      > I’ve been the superstar on the field and I’ve been the guy with the push-broom… being the superstar is better.

      Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest superstar in the history of professional sports. Would you trade your 2010 for his?

      Being better is better. Being worse is worse. The penalty for being worse is misery, no matter how much money you have.

    14. Sean Purcell December 12th, 2010 4:59 pm

      Anthony Robbins once said that having lots of money doesn’t mean you no longer have problems… you just have a different class of problems.

      Tiger Woods is arguably the greatest superstar in the history of professional sports. Would you trade your 2010 for his?

      Being better is better. Being worse is worse. The penalty for being worse is misery, no matter how much money you have.

      Greg, this is a specious argument. Would I trade my 2010 for Tiger’s? Why is that even a question? Because he lost his smokin’ hot wife and now he’s only left with the 1000s of other women who want to be Mrs. Woods? Because he’s no longer the very best at what he does and now simply one of the best that’s ever lived? Because he “only” earned $90 million in 2010 instead of 2009′s $128 million?

      Listen, everyone’s problems are the most important problems for them; but one would hope that we never lose perspective of the relative impact of problems. Tiger Woods is definitely not facing the same misery as an agent wondering if he can feed his kids or keep his home.

      IOW, it’s much better to be (Tiger Woods) than (the agent worrying about putting gas in his car).

    15. Greg Swann December 12th, 2010 5:19 pm

      > Why is that even a question?

      Because Tiger Woods demonstrated in the glare of public ignominy how empty his life has been, until now, despite everything.

      > he’s only left with the 1000s of other women

      Either my argument about sex is correct, or Tiger Woods’ ostensive argument is. It cannot possibly be the case that both claims about reality are accurate — correspondent to the actual facts of human existence.

      Why is Tiger Woods’ life a living hell, in which he is never anything other than what other people happen to be saying about him at that moment? Why does Tiger Woods sleep with an array of random sluts? Both questions have the same answer.

      > Tiger Woods is definitely not facing the same misery as an agent wondering if he can feed his kids or keep his home.

      Much, much worse. Money is a solvable problem. Being void of self is a boundlessly tragic condition — not incurable, but almost always uncorrected.

    16. Jim Klein December 12th, 2010 11:09 pm

      Ha—a guy can get more philosophy in one thread here, than a whole semester at a university! Jeff, in some ways your example disproves your thesis—who made more money, in real terms? And by what orders of magnitude? I really don’t know the details, but I’m guessin’ Sandy was fizzle compared to Nolan.

      That’s not to say that making money is so important, but that standard is defensible when comparing two people in the same business. Obviously times are different, but so are teams. It is a business, isn’t it?

      Sean, I think Greg’s got it right on Tiger. Bad choices are bad choices and money, let alone gratuitous sex, doesn’t correct them. Though it is true that rich and miserable is a ton better than poor and miserable! Still, a person’s life is his own and he suffers with his own lousy choices with nothing in the world to save him. Luckily it’s the same for good choices, so we can each be (the successful) Tiger in our own way. Tiger himself didn’t feel any greater for his first green jacket than the guy who won the Heisman that year, or for that matter the high school student who won State MVP. He was just a man achieving one of his primary goals, just as any of us can do any time.

      Well, if we work just as hard, anyway. I guess I’m like Greg in that regard, except that I REALLY don’t know how to do anything else…he’s always got some skill to fall back on!

    17. Jeff Brown December 13th, 2010 9:14 am

      Hey Jim — Money had zilch to do with the pitcher comparison. It has everything to do with the real estate context, at least in the same market.

      Sandy was fizzle? Ask those who began their careers around 1965, faced Sandy a couple years, then were still in their prime when they face Nolan in 1974. Fizzle won’t be one of the words they use. :)

    18. Sean Purcell December 13th, 2010 11:08 am

      Greg, you’re take on Tiger’s “empty” life and “living hell” is your own. I don’t know the man and more to the point I have no idea what makes him happy or sad. Even assuming the validity of your contention, my point remains, as Jim ably put it: “rich and miserable is better than poor and miserable.”

      Sex has little to do with this, and making love even less. I understood your referenced post and agree with many aspects, but not with your thesis that “the most likely problem” with regard to the “pandemic sexual dysfunction” that you’ve been reading about is “only a precious few of (those afflicted) are fully committed to making love.” The impression of love may very well increase our passion and that can’t help but increase our splendor in and out of the bedroom. But good sex vs bad sex is, for the most part, a problem that lies within the most important sex organ of them all: the brain. We have lost touch with our needs, our desires and our pleasures… over-ridden by the teachings of a religious and moral charade bent more on increasing their power than counseling the splendor of man.

      Money is a solvable problem. Being void of self is a boundlessly tragic condition — not incurable, but almost always uncorrected. No arguments from me. But one can make a plausible argument that a person void of self with money is better off than someone devoid of self without money. Same can be said in comparing two people not void of self: the one with money is the better choice were you given that chance. As you said, money is a curable problem. It impacts both scenarios equally: more comfort and a “better class” of problems.

      Jim – Tiger himself didn’t feel any greater for his first green jacket than the guy who won the Heisman that year, or for that matter the high school student who won State MVP. He was just a man achieving one of his primary goals, just as any of us can do any time.

      Agreed. Nor did he necessarily feel any better than the guy pushing a broom who finally swept the entire stadium in a record time or heretofore unimagined efficiency. We can all find the joy of splendor in everything we do. But the superstar on the field hops in his private plane after winning so he can be home for his child’s birthday; the broom pusher goes to his next job so he can pay the rent. They may both know splendor, but as I said when this started, between “…the superstar on the field and … the guy with the push-broom… being the superstar is better.”

    19. Jeff Brown December 13th, 2010 11:15 am

      I address this to nobody in particular. It’s merely a personal observation.

      Most of this coffeehouse philosophy can be categorized under one of two main headings.

      1. Are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?!

      2. Duh

    20. Greg Swann December 13th, 2010 11:20 am

      > as Jim ably put it: “rich and miserable is better than poor and miserable.”

      This is a common sentiment that is not borne out by facts. When you drink yourself into a stupor to deaden the pain of your life, it makes no difference if you’re drinking Patron or Thunderbird Wine.

      > But one can make a plausible argument that a person void of self with money is better off than someone devoid of self without money.

      Zero always equals zero. Equivocation changes nothing. If anything, being broke puts you closer to admitting that you are pursuing death in your choices, which could serve to make you that much more likely to do better in the long run.

    21. Meg Hurtado December 13th, 2010 12:07 pm

      baseball analogies…… somehow they just always WORK.

    22. Teri Lussier December 14th, 2010 5:29 am

      I’m confused…. Are we talking about food, baseball, sex, or real estate…? ;-)

      I think I would take a chance on Tiger Woods to deliver a golf game. Seriously, no one gets to the top of their game with sizzle alone. They might get in the game, and they might begin to creep up a bit by luck but they aren’t going to get to the top in any highly competitive world just by having a killer smile and an elegant swing. Tiger lost tons of endorsements = $$$, and perhaps his personal life is still in the crapper, but I don’t know this for sure. I understand his game suffered when he first got married? Anyway, is he back on his game yet? If he took the past year and turned it around, well, damn! That’s some serious steak to go along with some powerful sizzle.

      >Do buyers and sellers want sizzle, or do they want results? Would they want Koufax or Ryan to be their agent?

      I guess what I’m saying is, I want both, and I’m sure I’m not alone. “Sizzle ain’t substantive.” Agreed, but it sure does add to the experience. The goal, I think, would be to find a way to deliver steak as often as humanly possible, while creating enough sizzle to get some attention and keep things, well, fun? Lively? Interesting?

    23. Jim Klein December 14th, 2010 7:04 am

      Jeff, I understood what you were saying…I even agree. I was just making the epistemic observation that it’s YOU choosing the attributes you wish to compare. “Better pitcher,” or “better anything” can only be judged by individual minds choosing individual attributes.

      The real point is Greg’s and Sean is wrong IMO. My “rich and miserable” line was just a quip and I should’ve left it out. Greg is entirely correct…it “is not borne out by facts.”

      Sean is doing the same thing, picking out the attributes he judges as superior. To the superstar, jumping on that plane to see his family is in no way better than the sweeper going home to see his kids after his third shift is over. Sean values it, and rightfully so perhaps, but it doesn’t make the other person who he is. In the end, “who he is” is HIS sole judgment and THAT is what determines both his success and his happiness.

      There is no way out of this. No private jet can replace integrity, and no mansion can replace love. As tangible objects, these are only distractions…the only thing that really matters is how we judge ourselves. The hard-working sweeper may be a zillion times prouder than Tiger, and his family may be a zillion times happier because of it. Ask the Madoffs.

      Teri asked the right question, “What are we talking about,” and had the right answer, “I want both.” The things that count aren’t green jackets or MVP trophies; they’re the things we do to gain them. And more—the things that count are OUR OWN judgment of the things we did to gain them. It is this that Greg recognizes we can never escape, for our brains are always filled with the memories, and judgments, of what we’ve done.

      Teri wants it all because she believes that she deserves it. THIS is the key to happiness, the eyes-open judgment (knowledge, really) that one is worth whatever one gains. IMO it’s very, very unlikely that Tiger shares this judgment of himself, which makes Teri far more successful–and in the end far happier–than Tiger could ever be.

      Meanwhile, I haven’t the slightest idea of whether Sandy or Nolan was more successful, but I know the answer can’t be found by judging their pitching. They were both great at that, but it doesn’t give us a clue as to whether they were happy or miserable. I understand, Jeff, that you weren’t commenting on this but even as a pitcher, Ryan had more than a drop of sizzle.

    24. Teri Lussier December 14th, 2010 7:55 am

      >IMO it’s very, very unlikely that Tiger shares this judgment of himself, which makes Teri far more successful–and in the end far happier–than Tiger could ever be.

      Assumptions, Jim. Most if not all the people I know are battling their own unique internal demons- myself included. It’s entirely possible that Tiger Woods is a total horn-dog with no clue as to what makes a marriage strong and still happy with his life. It might not be your or my choice of life, or your standards for what makes someone successful, but I wouldn’t just assume he’s not happy or successful to his own standards (and we are all allowed to create our own standards, long as they are not hurting anyone else).

      Jeff- I too, think steak is what counts, but all steak and no sizzle amounts to boiled steak and yuck. In the end it’s the sizzle that gives me the appetite. :-)

    25. Jeff Brown December 14th, 2010 9:50 am

      Teri — You’ve captured the essence of sizzle’s value when it comes to real estate brokerage and the consumer. It’s pretty much for our own entertainment, or to keep it interesting, however one wishes to put it. The buyer or seller simply wants results. It’s akin to the baseball analogy. Fans love sizzle to death, but the hate losing worse. Give them a boring pitcher who wins 20+ games a year, and they’ll bring their own sizzle.

      “Just sell my damn house” is what those currently on the market are screaming as they read this thread. :)

      To all the Socrates devotees out there, the post had nothing to do with anything but successful baseball, surely a combination of empirical evidence mixed with subjective judgment. On the other hand, I love how Michael Jordon ends arguments with his good friend Charles Barkley. He merely holds up six fingers, emblematic of his six championship rings.

      His way of saying he’s not yet found a way to eat sizzle. :)

    26. Teri Lussier December 14th, 2010 10:09 am

      > Give them a boring pitcher who wins 20+ games a year, and they’ll bring their own sizzle.

      > “Just sell my damn house”

      Oh. Right.
      Thanks for the sermon, BrotherFriend. ;-)

    27. Greg Swann December 14th, 2010 11:07 am

      > In the end it’s the sizzle that gives me the appetite.

      “Why are you making us do all this cleaning, repairing and staging, Greg?” Because, even though racing stripes don’t really make cars run faster, they definitely make them sell faster.

      > Assumptions, Jim.

      Educated guesses made from freely-available evidence. Jim is paying closer attention than most people do, but the evidence is there for anyone to see.

      > It’s entirely possible that Tiger Woods is a total horn-dog with no clue as to what makes a marriage strong and still happy with his life.

      It’s all one thing, and every normal human being understands everything that matters about human behavior by the age of five. I spent all summer making that argument, with not a single objection raised.

      > but I wouldn’t just assume he’s not happy or successful to his own standards

      We know this is untrue by the reactions he exhibited when his behavior was exposed. From me:

      Just as a general principle, anything you do that leaves you feeling ashamed or regretful or revolted or disgusted with your self is a disvalue, a thing not to be pursued but to be shunned and avoided. This is painfully obvious — and there is nothing I have to say that is not completely obvious to any normal five-year-old — but equally obvious are all the evidences of shame, regret, revulsion and disgust one can see on any Saturday or Sunday morning, just about 10 am. That’s when the boys and girls slink home in their night-club clothes, soiled just a little bit more, diminished to just a little bit less, encumbered forever with one more memory they can’t bear to look at and yet can’t ever manage to forget.

      If we are honest, we can all admit to having made self-destructive mistakes with the opposite sex. The paragraph quoted above is a painfully accurate description of the consequences of such an incident, I am completely certain. Now multiply that shame, regret, revulsion and disgust a thousand fold. A choice is always the expression of a preference. What would lead a person to live through those ugly emotions, day after day, as a matter of preference? What much-worse mental state is being masked by this obsessive self-destruction?

      Do I have first-hand, in-the-flesh evidence that Tiger Woods is miserable — along with all lotharios, sluts, drunks, drug-addicts, spouse-beaters, compulsive gamblers, etc.? Nope. Do I need it? Nope. The behavior speaks for itself. But if I had 30 minutes alone in a car with Tiger Woods, I could tell you precisely what the problem is.

    28. Teri Lussier December 14th, 2010 2:53 pm

      I knew this was coming the moment I hit publish. :)Anyway.

      I admit I haven’t been paying attention to Tiger Woods and his response. But I am also guilty of assumptions I suppose because I’m assuming that Woods is currently happily working toward his own idea of success, having moved on from his past failures.

      Jim is making assumptions about me. I could have some self-styled idea of success and never ever come close to it. Trip myself up every step of the way. Fall to call of my own Sirens. I’m not that far from disaster, I don’t think, certainly not any further than Woods is. Jim shouldn’t assume I’m happy or will be successful. Some days, yes; some days, not so much. I’ve never ever been at the top of my chosen profession and Woods has, so while he and I are similar in that we are fighting our own demons, he has reached a particular pinnacle of achievement that I’ve not reached. And once you reach a goal like that, isn’t it relatively easy to reach other big goals? I have faith in Woods to overcome his problems, but besides all that, in the end I’m a simple girl. I want to believe that the past is past, there’s always hope for redemption and a happy ending.

    29. Greg Swann December 14th, 2010 3:34 pm

      Should have saved time by linking to this with my last comment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs8nseNP4s0

      If you see Splendor in any frame of that video, I’ll be interested to hear about it.

      More later.

    30. Jim Klein December 14th, 2010 4:15 pm

      Very thoughtful, Teri…very important too IMO. Your argument is akin to the ubiquitous argument that we can convince ourselves of whatever we wish, at least ethically, and so measure our happiness against that standard. Partly, this is right…it’s the never-ending scream of altruists, collectivists and communists. They go to their death convinced of the propriety of their beliefs and the goodness of their actions. It’s for the “greater good,” after all.

      I make no assumptions about the details of your life, since I know nothing of them. And we all have demons of one variety or another. Heck, some would say life is just a constant action of overcoming them and various other challenges.

      I don’t disagree with that sentiment, but it’s still the case that our happiness–or whatever that paramount goal is called–is ultimately our own judgment of ourselves. That, and acting (which includes concluding) in accordance with the facts.

      It is this which Greg understands, and he’s right. If a person just jumps whole-hog into moral relativism–which is the belief that whatever we believe is good, is actually good–then he must deal with the cognitive dissonance of his conclusions. It is NOT good to be a slave-owner, for example, and no set of arguments can make it otherwise. It’s not good for the reason Greg says it’s not good—it is treating another human as he is not. You can convince yourself otherwise, and you can take it to your grave with you, but you will NEVER have caused another human to be anything but a human.

      This isn’t about mistakes, but about hierarchy and intention. As there can be no higher goal for a single cognitive organism than its own life, a person who acts consistently with that will necessarily be more successful than one who doesn’t. This maybe wouldn’t apply if drone bees or ants could think and judge, but it applies to humans and is unarguable. As Greg will be quick to point out, any imagined standard higher than your own life is just that…imagined. IOW it’s not correspondent with the facts of reality; it’s “made up;” it’s fantasy. The simple FACT is that you CAN’T create a higher standard than yourself; the closest you can come is to convince yourself that there is one.

      And then here comes the cognitive dissonance—the intentional holding as true, something which is false. Anyone can pretend that something else is more valuable than themselves, but they belie that belief every time they take a bite of food, let alone enjoy it.

      I wish I had more time presently and could make myself clearer; maybe another time. In modern altruist theory the answer to world hunger is for every individual to want to eat less; in reality the answer is for each to want to eat more. You strike me as being basically aware of this, and that’s all I meant to imply.

    31. Jim Klein December 14th, 2010 4:32 pm

      Also, Teri, you wrote…

      >>>I could have some self-styled idea of success and never ever come close to it. Trip myself up every step of the way.

      No you couldn’t, not with the beliefs you’ve expressed. Of course you may have in the past, and of course you may make mistakes in the future. But “redemption and happy endings” are of our own making, and COULDN’T be anything else. I’m not saying that Tiger is automatically destined to a life of misery or anything like that, not any more than I’m claiming that you’ve never made a mistake, or never will again.

      Both Tiger and you will be however you decide, and your decisions are built of your recognition of facts. I meant what I wrote, which was…

      >>>Teri wants it all because she believes that she deserves it. THIS is the key to happiness, the eyes-open judgment (knowledge, really) that one is worth whatever one gains. IMO it’s very, very unlikely that Tiger shares this judgment of himself, which makes Teri far more successful–and in the end far happier–than Tiger could ever be.

      Except for “could ever be,” this is perfectly accurate and I know this because of various beliefs of yours, that you have expressed. Tiger is plenty egoistic to be sure, which I greatly admire, but he obviously didn’t conclude that he deserved that which his wife could offer him. If you think about it carefully, there’s only one thing which could cause a man to spurn such a situation and create so much a worse one—the belief that somehow he deserved the trouble more than he deserved what he actually had. I’d be awfully surprised if you, with your current philosophy as you’ve expressed it, would make such a choice for yourself.

    32. Greg Swann December 14th, 2010 6:57 pm

      > I’m assuming that Woods is currently happily working toward his own idea of success, having moved on from his past failures.

      Hope so. I’ve always admired him on the golf course.

      > he has reached a particular pinnacle of achievement that I’ve not reached. And once you reach a goal like that, isn’t it relatively easy to reach other big goals?

      Depends on what got him there. Knowing nothing about the man as a man, I had assumed the demon was his father, and that comes through loud and clear in the video I linked to. If that’s the case, he would lack a true self-motivation, and it would be correct to say that he has not achieved any goals in his own behalf. This much is well beyond anything I can claim evidentiary support for; pure speculation.

      > there’s always hope for redemption and a happy ending.

      Time and a vector. First you have to turn around. I hope he has, but it’s not a high-probability bet.

    33. Teri Lussier December 14th, 2010 7:23 pm

      Oh lawz. In over my head on the BHB. Okay. I’ll see if I can think my way through this…

      I can’t watch the video. It’s grotesque. I’m grateful that my crap decisions don’t get posted on youtube for the world to cackle and gawk at. Not justifying his behavior in any way, just disgusted by public humiliation for private transgressions.

      >we can convince ourselves of whatever we wish, at least ethically, and so measure our happiness against that standard. Partly, this is right…it’s the never-ending scream of altruists, collectivists and communists. They go to their death convinced of the propriety of their beliefs and the goodness of their actions. It’s for the “greater good,” after all.

      Not at all clear how this pertains to anything I said.

      Let me start here:
      We all get to be who we are. Which I always think means warts and all. Includes scumbags too, right? To say to myself “Tiger Woods is a scumbag, but he delvers the steak on the golf course” is not justifying Woods behavior, just saying it is what it is and he has to deal with his own demons like I have to deal with mine. Is that moral relativity?

      If I want steak on the golf course, I’m still going with Tiger Woods. If I want steak in the ethics dept, I’ll go elsewhere, but I can separate the two. Is that moral relativity?

      >but he obviously didn’t conclude that he deserved that which his wife could offer him.

      Maybe his wife offered him nothing. Maybe she withheld all sorts of things he needed and deserved.
      Look. My saying that his personal life is NOMDB, doesn’t mean I like it, or condone the behavior, it only means that relationships are complicated and I couldn’t speculate on what goes on in other people’s bedrooms, nor do I want to, nor do I want to hear about it once it’s revealed. Stop. I don’t care about the dirty laundry.

      >happiness–or whatever that paramount goal is called–is ultimately our own judgment of ourselves.

      My point exactly. Don’t hold me up as a bastion of good behavior, Jim. I’m not a moral compass for anyone else.

      Regardless of all that, I’m way out of my league here. All sizzle and no steak, eh? ;-)

    34. Sean Purcell December 15th, 2010 12:06 am

      Travelled all day yesterday and returned to an incredible dialogue of ideas…

      I agree with Teri when she says “assumptions”.

      Jim, you said “No private jet can replace integrity, and no mansion can replace love” but that was never the point. Money is a tool, no different than a car or a gun or a hammer… or a putter. Used correctly, it enhances our lives. The better the tool, the more opportunity it provides. Thus, it’s better to be the superstar (and by extension have better tools) than be the guy with the broom. Doesn’t mean the superstar will use them to his advantage and doesn’t mean the broom pusher won’t live in day-to-day splendor; simply means the guy with the better tools has more opportunities.

      With regard to Greg’s (loaded?) example of Tiger Woods: I’ve seen that video and I don’t see splendor, but I’m not sure I see shame either. For what it’s worth (which is nothing) I see a guy doing a dog and pony show to further himself and his career. I don’t think he believes what he’s saying and choosing a path wherein one feels required to lie is not the golden path to splendor, but it’s not reflective of shame over past actions either.

      Greg, the only thing I know (and I did NOT know this when I was 5 years old), is that I am free and my freedom is inherent in my being. No one has a right to my freedom, though they may do me harm despite it. If someone finds drinking and slutting around to be splendorous… well, it’s hard for me to understand how, but not so impossible that I can preclude it.

      Jim, you said “…our happiness–or whatever that paramount goal is called–is ultimately our own judgment of ourselves. That, and acting (which includes concluding) in accordance with the facts.” I agree. But then you make an awfully big leap from the facts of self-defined happiness to the relative moralism of defining happiness in the destruction of others. Defining one’s happiness by how many women one might sleep with is not analogous to defining happiness by being a slave owner. (Unless your argument is that sleeping with others by definition does harm to the others.)

      A person may decide that the measure of a man’s happiness is seen in their self-less acts of raising money and giving it to others. I believe we would all find that to be an “imagined standard” – the self is all. Either way, however, that standard is far, far different from a person who decides the greatest goal is giving money to others… and then taxing me to accomplish it.

      As Teri alluded to when she said “Maybe his wife offered him nothing. Maybe she withheld all sorts of things he needed and deserved,” I don’t know a thing about the relationship Tiger had with his wife. It could be just the opposite of what Jim said; maybe somehow he felt he deserved more than the trouble he actually had. Maybe the marriage was the actual step of self-destruction. Maybe he entered into it for reasons far from his own splendor and found his only self-defined happiness outside the home. Is this honest and consistent behavior with one’s ego? No. But can it be part of the process leading out of the marriage? Yes. It may be (almost certainly is) a convoluted and mistaken way to get to the goal (read: basically human), but the steps to his own salvation may have begun with the cheating. I know, doing that which causes shame and destruction of the ego cannot be the path to splendor. But as Greg said “being broke (may) put you closer to admitting that you are pursuing death in your choices…” and cheating may put you closer to admitting that you were pursuing death in your choices too. We are not, as a species, very linear in our approach to splendor and celebration of the ego…

    35. Jim Klein December 15th, 2010 6:08 am

      Teri, no person can be the moral compass for anyone else. The very assertion is oxymoronic, literally taken. The best we can be in that regard is a decent example for another person. In my reading of what you’ve written, I find you to be just that. That’s all. If you’re actually a self-denigrating axe murderer, then you do a terrific job of covering it up!

      Sean, you wrote…”Defining one’s happiness by how many women one might sleep with is not analogous to defining happiness by being a slave owner.”

      Why not? I find them rather analogous, myself. Could you clarify, please? Your error IMO is to be found in your next sentence…”(Unless your argument is that sleeping with others by definition does harm to the others.)”

      This is the fundamental error IMO. It is the belief that our own morality is expressed in how our actions affect others. This is false and it’s the whole point of egoism. I don’t pay my debts because I give a hoot about the other guy. I pay my debts (when I do!) because of who I am.

      Slavery is not wrong because of what it does to the slave; it’s wrong because the slaveowner is treating something as it is not. Any other approach–meaning any approach besides correspondent identification–clears the way for slavery built on belief or opinion. This is moral relativism. If we can convince ourselves that the slave doesn’t rate living as a free man, then we have morally justified treating him any way we wish.

      This is itself a denial of what we ourselves are, and all denials of that which is, are automatically wrong in my book. The slave IS a free and intentional entity, just like me, and treating him otherwise is misidentifying his nature and by extension, misidentifying my own. And indeed, this is exactly what we see societally as everyone believes that however everyone judges everyone else is some justification for treating them that way. Most of history is just one scheme after another for figuring out who the “good” people are, and who the “bad” ones are…all of it missing the point of what distinguishes the good from the bad.

      That’s why America was different. NOBODY was subject to this on a societal level and ALL governmental actions were meant to be only in response to bad actions, not bad character. This is what “rights” were all about, and everyone had them…or at least everyone who was supposedly protected by the Rule of Law.

      This was an entirely new concept, whereby a person wasn’t born wearing a declaration of his place in society. Everyone was born the same…a free person, able to make whatever decisions he wished. This drop of self-determination, combined with the freedom to accomplish it, made this country what it was. And yet today we slip back into the madness of denying our very nature and believing that somehow, some way, we will collectively determine who deserves to have what, and who will provide the means for that to happen. Feudalism, indeed.

      Fundamentally, morality is not about how we treat others. It’s about how we treat ourselves, which means how we choose to live our own lives. The moral axiom is, “Live,” which means live as the sort of entity you are. The social corollary to this is, “Let live,” on the assumption that one wishes to live among humans.

      Back to Tiger. Even if we pretend–in the complete absence of evidence–that he was married to a horrid wife who failed to meet his needs and wants, we still have enough evidence that his actions did NOT serve his own life. This is manifestly clear and we can identify the cheating as self-destructive. There is nothing it didn’t hurt, from his game to his income to his pride to the stability of his family and on and on and on. The point is not that he is therefore a “bad person,” or that any of us have the least business in doing anything about it. He is who he is, and like most people these days he chose actions that proved to be harmful to his own life, at least these parts of his life. That’s all—there is no “therefore” to this; it’s just a simple identification. Therefore nothing…he’s still a remarkable golfer, he’s still very wealthy, he can still get pretty much whatever he wants. Absent physical coercion, HIS immorality cannot affect ANYONE else, with the possible exception of his minor kids.

      But I don’t think it does anyone any good to pretend that these are matters that cannot be identified. The important point to me is the identification that moral errors can ultimately affect only one person—the actor himself. Whatever suffering anyone else might have experienced–again, with the possible exception of the minor kids–can be traced to their own moral failings and not his.

      Sean, I guess I’m just awfully weary of the constant assertion that morality is to be found in how we treat others. While I agree that can be a huge clue, it’s not the morality itself. Morality is about the choice between alternatives and just as no person can ingest nourishment for another, so no person can choose from among another’s alternatives. Tiger is a remarkable person, and so is that broom pusher. Me, I wanna live more like the one who loves himself, the one who makes more decisions consistent with reality, the one who is able to understand what his life is and what he wishes to make of it. I haven’t the least reason to suspect that the world’s greatest golfer is any better at this, than any ol’ broom pusher anywhere in the world.

      But thanks to the modern educational system, I do have some reason to suspect that they both suck at it!

    36. Teri Lussier December 15th, 2010 8:18 am

      >Teri, no person can be the moral compass for anyone else.

      That was my point, too. Or so I thought. :-)

    37. Greg Swann December 15th, 2010 8:20 am

      > correspondent identification

      Perfect. Teleology in two words.

    38. Sean Purcell December 15th, 2010 11:12 am

      Jim,

      Why not? I find them rather analogous, myself. Could you clarify, please? Your error IMO is to be found in your next sentence…”(Unless your argument is that sleeping with others by definition does harm to the others.)”

      I see no error. I see only judgment. I define my happiness. To treat myself (and by extension others) as less than free, as less than perfectly placed among the world, as less than deserving of all we may choose, is delusional. But to define the only true goal as one’s pursuit of splendor, and then to define splendor; that is judgmental. A man may go to bed with a woman as a celebration of all that he is and a celebration of all that he is to the woman. She may or may not feel the same way (can’t know). That man may do this every day and twice on Sundays. Are you suggesting he has devalued himself? That he is not, in fact, loving himself? Based on what? Who is qualified to assess how a person chooses to celebrate him or herself, so long as they are not causing harm to others? I think I understand correspondent identification, but it’s a slippery slope from knowing man is free and identifying him as such, to knowing man’s goal is splendor expressed as defined by me (or you), and that is what I infer here.

      You said:

      “This is the fundamental error IMO. It is the belief that our own morality is expressed in how our actions affect others.”

      I agree and I was in error when I expressed it otherwise. My baseline thinking is still inundated with what I was taught rather than what is; if I am not very careful, it shows through.

      You said:

      Fundamentally, morality is not about how we treat others. It’s about how we treat ourselves, which means how we choose to live our own lives. The moral axiom is, “Live,” which means live as the sort of entity you are. The social corollary to this is, “Let live,” on the assumption that one wishes to live among humans.

      And I stand in absolute admiration. I’m still rooting out all the crap in my mind… paragraphs like this provide a powerful beam of light.

      Back to Tiger (one last time): you see evidence that his actions did NOT serve his own life. I see only results. Not being Tiger, not knowing Tiger and not witnessing any of the situation, I can only assign meaning from my own perspective and while I may be right… I may be wrong. I choose not to play that game. Greg asked if I would swap 2010 with Tiger in response to my saying it is better to be the superstar than the broom pusher. I should have pointed out the fault in the premise rather than going on and answering. I did not say it would necessarily be better to be a rich failure, as some would judge Tiger. I was merely pointing out the obvious: more tools and better tools provide more and better opportunities. This is not a disputable fact. But introducing what appears to be a very flawed man with great tools has certainly provided us an opportunity for a very enlightening discussion.

    39. Jim Klein December 16th, 2010 6:37 am

      We’re together on the most important fact, Sean, which is that morality is how a person lives his own life. Social morality is how this manifests in his interactions with others.

      You’re still arguing a sort of moral relativism though, more precisely a subjective morality. That it takes place within a subject, doesn’t make it subjective. It makes it personal.

      I’ll call Tiger “X,” since this isn’t really about him. It’s about all of us. IMO you’re overweighing “I can only assign meaning from my own perspective…” While literally true, it ignores the existence of facts, which are facts regardless of perspective.

      I don’t care to argue the hypothetical possibility of an X sleeping around and living in splendor, but we have sufficient evidence in the case at hand to know that this isn’t the story here. We have the denigration of a career, just for starters. We have immense loss of earnings. We have public shame and sorrow. Even from the perspective of X, we have the admission of errors and guilt, and a desire to do things differently. None of these are built of splendor or pride; they are explicit acknowledgments of faulty behavior.

      The relevant point is that a person CAN’T just declare that such-and-such is the good, and in so doing make it the good. The good is that which serves his own life, and we know that these actions didn’t do that. I guess that’s about all I have to say on this except to note how terribly important this is, in our modern times. Ours is a world in which people believe that if they scream it loud enough–or worse, if enough people scream it loud enough–then the bad will magically turn into the good. This is how one justifies things like slavery, or incinerating Jews in ovens. If we believe it hard enough, and if enough people can be sufficiently persuaded, then that’s it…since perspective defines the good, pretty much anything can be the good.

      While it’s correct that the good can only be recognized in the single mind of a single person, it’s not that mind which makes it the good or the bad. This is what objective morality is all about—the FACTS determine the good. X’s NATURE, completely separate and apart from X recognizing it, is what distinguishes the good from the bad.

      It’s X’s job to recognize these particular facts, just as it’s his job to recognize any other facts, like what nourishment will keep him alive. That’s what he does, which means that’s what he is…he is an “identifying machine.”

      Happiness, or glory or splendor or however you want to denote it, is the state which ensues when he does it accurately–which means correspondingly–and this is the only proper goal for a person in the ethical realm. It’s not proper because I say it’s proper; it’s proper because it’s true and not false. That it’s all accomplished through decision and perspective, doesn’t mean that it’s subject to decision and perspective. We nourish ourselves through decision as well, but we still can’t decide to make ethylene glycol nourishing. It’ll kill us no matter how we view the facts, for the facts are always controlling. “Reality is the final arbiter.”

      Never mind X’s public image—what’s X’s image of himself? This is not an unknown, available only in his personal thoughts. It’s a public declaration, and there’s a ton of evidence supporting that declaration. Many people were hurt, and there isn’t the least bit of evidence that X achieved a higher degree of Splendor for doing that hurting.

      Socially, there never is.