There’s always something to howl about

Archive for June, 2010

The Evolution of a Salesman

When I graduated college in 1992, I couldn’t wait to put what little I’d learned into play.  Fortunately, I had a role model (“Who We Are”/”People”/”Ken Jones”) willing to let me shadow him like a puppy dog twelve hours a day.  Before long, I became a pretty solid “ad man”.  But it wasn’t the media planning or copywriting that inspired me.  It was consulting with our clients.  It was listening to their problems and challenges – and finding creative ways to solve them.  Problem was, the company I worked for at the time was fat and happy.  They had “enough” business to pay for our waterfront office space and their German automobiles.

I thought that mentality sucked.

At the time, I was low man on the totem pole.  Frankly, I’m not even sure my status qualified for a head on the totem pole.  This was a status I gratefully would never relinquish.  Yet, typically it was either me or Ken who opened shop every morning and the two of us would inevitably lock up every night.

After finishing the annual Port of Miami print media plan three months into the year – and by the way, you ain’t lived until you’ve duked out a 12-insertion deal with Inbound Logistics magazine – something strange happened… I ran out of things to do.  We in the real estate/mortgage profession can’t even fathom this ever happening, right?  I was getting a paycheck every two weeks and was doing absolutely nothing to earn it.

Apparently, my ass-sitting didn’t bother the owners of our ad agency very much.  But it bothered the hell out of me.  We needed some new clients – and if the owners weren’t going to get off their duffs to find some, hell… I would.  Now if you’d known me then, you’d probably be laughing right now.  I was barely old enough to buy a beer.  I’d literally just gotten my degree.  I had absolutely zero business experience.  And I was picking up the Yellow Pages and cold calling some of the largest and most prestigious advertisers in the Tampa Bay area.  I was too young, stupid and naive to know it wasn’t going to work.

Have you ever experienced that moment when you asked for the moon… and got it?  That’s what happened one day when I landed an opportunity to pitch the Bay Area Midas conglomerate of stores.  I doubt I’d ever been that nervous in my life and I doubt I’ve been that nervous since.  We didn’t win the business, but it was a quality at bat.  One of the few at bats our firm had all year.  And it was that day when I realized that I wanted to be a salesman.

Today, the ad agency I’d worked for is long gone.  Hardly a surprise, really.  But I’ve been selling ever since and I love it.  We are so lucky to have jobs where we get the absolute best of both worlds.  On one end, we get to make it rain and create revenue.  On the other, we get to consult with our clients and make critical business decisions.  If we’re really lucky, we can even mold our product into whatever we want it to be.

But the art of selling is completely different than it was back in 1992.  The days of picking up the phone and and instantly connecting with a decision maker who controls a $10 million/year advertising budget are long gone.  The days of walking into a broker’s office (note, I’m a vendorslut) with a smile and a handshake doesn’t get the warm and fuzzy reception it did back in the day.  We survivors… we’re damn busy and we don’t like being interrupted by cold calls no matter how svelte the guy’s tie is.  And it wasn’t until I started getting cold called at Top of Mind when I realized how inherently rude the practice is.

Two things have permanently changed about my business today, and I’d like to share them with you:

1)  Our Clients Have Become Our Salesforce– I’ve tried it all.  Outside salespeople.  Inside salespeople.  Celebrity Spokesmen.  Tradeshows.  The Works.  But I can honestly say that today, only 7 years in business, we get 90 to 100% of our clients via referral… and we win more new clients each month without a single salesperson than we did when we had 12 outside AE’s knocking on doors.  If you are a Realtor, you have exactly one asset in this business and one asset only – and that is your client database.  Do your clients know how much it would mean to you if they were to ever refer just one single sales opportunity your way?  If not, there are ways to convey this message without begging or sounding greedy.  That’s a different post for a different day.  But you need to let your clients know what their referrals mean to you.  What would one more at bat per month mean to your business?

2)  My First 45 Minutes with Brian Brady Provided an Epiphany – There is not a day that goes by where I’m not grateful for the lesson Brian taught me approximately two years ago.  The power in Social Media is not in our connections.  Let me repeat that for effect because it’s arguably the most important and powerful lesson anyone’s shared with me since the days of Ken Jones… THE POWER IN SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT WITH OUR CONNECTIONS.  It’s in our connections’ connections.  Your connections know you.  Hopefully they like you.  So it stands to reason they know other people who ought to get to know and like you too.  Surely you’d be willing to reciprocate for them right?

And so, my fellow cat skinners, there is no reason to ever make that scary cold call again.  As we honor and celebrate the fourth birthday of Bloodhound Blog, I’d like to thank each of you for what you’ve meant to me.  You give without asking for anything in returnYou motivateYou innovate.  And perhaps above all you make me laugh.  Thank you – it is truly a privilege and honor to contribute to this community.


Yogi Berra Wishes He Could Be This Good

From the Associated Press – This just in.

WASHINGTON — Homebuyers would get an extra three months to complete their purchases and qualify for a generous tax credit under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the House on Tuesday. The bill would give buyers until Sept. 30 to complete their purchases. The extended deadline only applies to people who signed purchase agreements by April 30. The National Association of Realtors estimates that about 180,000 homebuyers who already signed purchase agreements are likely to miss the Wednesday deadline.

“We owe this to the people who have essentially followed the rules who are caught by a closing date,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Realtors group says the tax credit has generated 1 million new home sales that wouldn’t have happened otherwise………..


Of course none of this comes as any real surprise for us.  But as Greg celebrates the inception and blossoming of Bloodhound Blog, and as I consider the many faceted Yogi Berra and what he would say concerning this about face in policy, I can only share the following video.  It’s a microcosm of Congress and NAR, much funnier, and certainly something Yogi would like.


Real Estate Declaration of Independence

I’ve been a bit quiet on BHB due to some personal issues I’ve been working through.  But, I was very happy to see Greg’s latest post on challenging everything!  I had a little holiday brainstorm today and wrote a post on my local Lake Chelan blog on a Real Estate Declaration of Independence for the consumers of services from Real Estate Professionals.

I want to share it here on BHB and get your thoughts on what I missed, should add or could have said better!  So, without further ado here is my Independence Week start to the Real Estate Declaration of Independence:

Real Estate Declaration of Independence

We, the people who buy and sell real estate, hold these truths to be obvious:

  • We the people believe that information on real estate for sale should be readily accessible without surrendering our private information.  We reject having to register on a web site in order to view listings in an area.  We value our time and will contact a real estate professional when we are good and ready for their services.
  • We the people reject all policies of the National Association of Realtors that are not in the best interest of the real estate buying and selling public.  Limiting our access to information, restricting our ability to a free and open market through regulation and limiting our market choices are all examples of policies we reject that are designed to line Realtors pockets at the expense of the public.
  • We the people reject “Dual Agency,” where a real estate agent has an inherent conflict of interest with his agency and fiduciary duties by attempting to represent both the buyer and seller in order to earn a larger commission on our transaction.  If the agent is truly delivering value, both parties of a transaction have an equal right to that value without a conflict of interest and each party deserves their own agent in the transaction.
  • We the people reject the practice of real estate agents trying to “Buy the Listing” by telling a potential seller an above market price in an attempt to secure a listing.  This practice costs sellers time and money while their home sits on the market as the agent waits for the seller to cut the price to where it should have been to start.
  • We the people reject the practice of real estate MLS systems that limit a home seller’s exposure to potential buyers in an attempt to control access to a market.  A listing agent’s responsibility is to market a property to the best of their ability and limiting the exposure of our home costs us money.

We the people are independent in a country that still allows us to make market choices.  We the people demand better service and will exercise our freedom of choice and only choose Real Estate Professionals who deliver better value.

You might want to have a look at the entire post and give me feedback on it as well.  Feel free to use it as your own if you agree to it and I would truly love suggestions to improve it.


Four years of the dog: Happy Birthday to all the hounds…

I want to challenge everything.

After four years of hammering away at this thing, the other night I finally came up with a mission-statement that best describes my own involvement here — and everywhere:

I want to challenge everything.

I love classical ideas, but not because they’re old, and I love new ideas, but not simply because they’re new. I don’t love the sound of breaking glass, but I definitely understand the appeal of iconoclasm — image-breaking. I’m pretty sure that anything I might think about is oriented 178 degrees out of true, but I also know I am at odds with the hideous sameness of everything no matter how badly it is twisted out of reason. I want things to be better — I can’t look at anything without seeing how it could be better — but even before that, I just want for things to be different. We have this incredible gift — this reasoning, recollecting, choosing, daring, defying mind — and yet all we can think of to do is the stupid, the small, the vicious and the banal.

I want to challenge all of that.

And this has been a very good home for me, for that reason among many others. Four years ago today I posted the first entry in BloodhoundBlog. The post was about disintermediation, a very common theme in my writing, and it still holds up pretty well. More than 60 people have written with us over the years, producing almost 4,400 posts as I write this. Just short of 2,300 of those posts are mine, to give you an idea of the kind of howling I’ve done, but everyone who has worked here has done exemplary work. For some of them, the best writing they’ve done anywhere has appeared under Odysseus’ nose.

I’m very proud of this thing, and it matters to me a great deal that I am able to find pride in the things I do, the things I’m involved in. I’ve always been very good at making enemies, and BloodhoundBlog has proved to be an excellent resource for making new enemies. But I’ve forged some irreplaceable friendships here, too. More importantly, I’ve had the incomparable joy of watching people I admire grow more admirable, more courageous, more independent, more impervious to the kind of mindless social control that permeates our culture, on-line and in the real world. Redemption is egoism in action — another common theme — and it is at BloodhoundBlog that I’ve learned how best to show other people the world as I see it — the world as I think it could be if it were righted back to true plumb.

Those are my reasons for celebrating today. You’ll have to choose your own. But never doubt my gratitude to all the dogs — the folks who write with us, the people who read and comment and all those raging fools who rail against us. This has always been the home of ideas in the — classical ideas, innovative ideas, iconoclastic ideas, disruptive ideas. This has always been the place where it is safe to challenge everything.

Happy birthday, Bloodhounds. I’m very proud to know you.


Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.9: Marksmanship is a perfectible praxis.

Take note: If the shit really does hit the fan — which I do not expect to happen — fortune will surely favor the well-prepared mind.

No need to get fancy. Aim for the torso and don’t waste ammo.

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Reasons to be cheerful, Part 2.5: It’s raining soup and all you can do is piss and moan that Big Mother hasn’t given you a free bowl.

Take note: If you slaved away for 152 hours at an ordinary job in 1964, you could have bought yourself this classy stereo from Radio Shack:

Put in the same 152 hours in 2010, at the same kind of job, and you can buy this much stuff instead:

This is the power of (relatively) free markets. Not only can you buy more stuff, better stuff, stuff that was completely unobtainable in 1964, at the same time very smart people have figured out how to make you much more productive than you would have been in 1964.

Chances are you had almost nothing to do with this incredible productive miracle. If you are like most Americans, your major exports are half-digested junk food and bitter lamentations about the unseemly unfairness of everything for everyone, everywhen and everywhere. But this simple example, provided by The Enterprise Blog at the American Enterprise Institute, illustrates what has really been going on in your life, while you have been so busy complaining about how horrible everything is.

We are puerile as a race, about which I will have much more to say later. But even if you are thoroughly grown up in your own thinking, it’s good odds that you have spent your entire life looking at the world upside down, concentrating with a dour dread on everything that does not matter while blithely ignoring everything that does.

Do you want a very good reason to be cheerful? The world outside your mind is all but entirely wonderful, a thing of beauty and infinite splendor. It’s only that world inside your mind that is a mess. I’m thinking it’s time you cleaned house. How about you?

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FNMA Lends a Helping Hand (to Our Moral Backside)

Two days ago, FNMA announced their new policy regarding strategic defaults; it’s a mortgage death penalty: seven years before the offender is eligible for another FNMA loan.  Finally, they got one right.  Yes, you read that correctly; if you make your profession in the business of real estate, Wednesday’s announcement is cause for celebration on more than one level.  I’ll explain why in a moment, but first let’s dispense with the two primary arguments in favor of strategic foreclosure we see over and over again from the bubble-heads on the left:

Already we’ve got Shahien Nasiripour on The Huffington Post (I know, that’s an easy target – but it’s usually wise to start slow and thoroughly warm-up one’s disdain muscles) trotting out the tired argument about how the average homeowner should be allowed to default because the corporations that hold mortgages do it themselves.  Mr. Nasiripour would apparently like to see individuals and large corporations share the same default outlook.  I wonder if he would also prefer that homeowners negotiate their own individual, custom loan contracts; pay much higher commercial insurance premiums; price home loans on the specific risk of the homeowner rather than a pooled risk; and so on.  Either he hasn’t thought this all the way through, or he’d actually like to see the cost of home ownership much higher than it is now.

The other misleading argument is neatly presented by Ezra Klein at The Washington Post.  Actually, kudos to Mr. Klein because he not only presents the other misleading argument, but he also manages to mislead us on the very definition of a strategic default.   The essence of the second argument, in his own words: “…a mortgage is a specific contract. It says that if the borrower stops paying, the bank forecloses on his or her house.”  Not quite.  The contract specifies foreclosure as one (and there may be more) remedy available to the bank if the borrower breaks the contract.  The point of the contract itself is a promise by the lender to loan money at a rate and term that will not vary from what’s specified in return for a promise by the borrower to repay the loan as specified.  That’s not such a difficult concept is it?  It’s one promise in exchange for another.  To suggest that the remedy portion of the contract is it’s main clause is a bit like saying the point of an offensive play in football is to penalize the offense if they commit a penalty.  Uh, no… that’s not quite it.  And more to the point: if the contract were simply an agreement stipulating the borrower can pay or not pay as they see fit, just so long as the consequences are spelled out; then we should have no problem with the lender maintaing freedom to raise the rates or shorten the term as they see fit, just so long as the consequences are spelled out.  Sound good?  As for his misleading definition, I’ll let you click on the link and read for yourself.  Suffice to say that if the homeowner has “…a major downward shock to income (a member of the family loses their job, for instance),” then we are not talking about a strategic default.  As a matter of fact we’re talking about the exact opposite of a strategic default aren’t we Mr. Klein?  But why should the facts matter…

Almost one year ago exactly I wrote a post On Mortgages and Moral Compunction.  It generated a thoughtful (and thorough) discussion that is well worth reading – just make sure you’ve set aside an hour or so.  The point of that post is the main reason for celebration in this one:  moral compunction has historically been priced into the model for residential lending (not true, Mr. Nasiripour, for most commercial loans – one reason for their higher cost).  Specifically:

There is no real mystery to how mortgage rates are priced.  Mathematicians create models of mortgage “behavior” based on the 4 C’s: Capacity, Capital, Collateral and Credit.  Of these four, Credit is really what we’re talking about here.  Your income, your assets and the property’s value are theoretically objective but your credit… well, it’s not really credit that’s being measured here is it?  It’s your Character; your likelihood to honor your debts, although lenders don’t like to say that because it has a snooty, superiority quality.  Make no mistake though, character is most definitely being evaluated during the loan process.   So the question seems to be: How do these mathematicians change the models to reflect a decrease (or abandonment) of moral compunction?

FNMA’s announcement should severely decrease the number of strategic defaults.  We celebrate this first, because a drop in strategic defaults (which drive rates higher to account for the lack of moral compunction) should make it less likely that we see those rate increases (though it could be argued that it’s already too late).  We also celebrate the stabilization of housing prices that accompany less foreclosed and vacant homes.  Finally, we might choose to celebrate this as the first big step toward reopening a secondary mortgage market.  As Fannie and Freddie (and to a lesser extent FHA) continue to swing toward the austerity end of the mortgage scale, the need – and accompanying profit potential – for a private secondary market increases.  A rebirth of the private secondary market benefits homeowners, lenders, agents and the economy as a whole in a myriad of ways beyond the scope of this article.  But it is reasonable to say that this last outcome, while speculative, could be the biggest reason of all for celebration of FNMA’s efforts to reinforce the nation’s ethical backbone.


This Year

Is half over.

How much money have you made?

How many people have you helped?

Do you plan to do things exactly the same way that produced the results of the first 6 months?

Or do you need to change?  If you need to change, what will you do differently?

How much will it cost you?

What will be different that makes July-Dec produce different results from Jan-June?

What excuses might you be inclined to make?

Are you dead/complacent?


There are Only Four Things Certain Since Social Progress Began

(alternatively entitled – with all due apologies)
Though I’ve Belted You and Flayed You, By the Livin’ Gawd That Made You;
You’ve Made a Worser Man of Me, Socialism


“And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke”  (from The Betrothed).  I have loved Rudyard Kipling from the very first time I read Gunga Din.  His pace and pattern appeal to me, as does his archaic sense of manhood.  I have argued before, and dare say would do so again quite successfully, that his poem If  is among the finest pieces ever written in the English language.  Of all the inspirational articles I have written and the many orations I have given, much time could have been saved had I simply gone in, recited If and walked out.  If you have never read it, stop what you are doing now and do so.  The answer to just about every event you may encounter in your life is contained in that poem.

This post, however, is not about Kipling’s great work If.  (If it were, I would certainly link to my own, real estate based homage to wisdom, and I’ve done no such thing.)  No, this post is about another poem Kipling wrote, one I am chagrined to admit I only recently discovered.  More mortifying still, I discovered it only because Glenn Beck is using a couple of lines from this poem to plug a new book of his.  (I’m not denigrating Mr. Beck, only lamenting the discovery of fine art through it’s crass commercialization.)

The poem refers to Copybook Headings and I was unsure what those were.  For the one or two of you out there as simple as I am, copybooks were primers used by school children to perfect their penmanship.  Across the top of each page was written a Biblical passage or similar lesson of moral imperative.  The children would copy the line over and over on the page below, thus improving their cursive and at the same internalizing certain truths.  Truths that, according to Mr. Kipling, are forgotten at our own peril.

Printed below in its entirety, this poem was written almost 100 years ago.  But you’d be amazed how little has changed in the theater of the absurd we call politics.  Mr. Obama and the Neo-Pros who share his religion are fairly called out in these words, but then so are we…

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!


Reasons to be cheerful, Part two: If we are wise, and if we are lucky, we won’t “meet the new boss” because there won’t be any bosses.

Watch this:

Yes, everyone knows Saturday Night Live is not funny, but that sketch is interesting, even so.

Why? What is that bit actually saying?

Actors are puppets for writers, never forget that. What are the writers of that unfunny little skit trying to say?

Imagine this: Your parents spent a ton of money to send you to Brown or Yale or Dartmouth, and now you have the thoroughly unsexy job of writing unfunny comedy bits for an unwatched variety show that can’t even sell its own advertising time.

Do you want to believe that some mouth-breather in Dubuque can get an education just as useless as yours at, say, one percent of the cost your parents paid out?

Worse, what if that guy’s education is better than yours? What if he can get a job that amounts to something, in an industry that is growing, not dying? What if people make or lose money — or even live or die — based on his academic performance?

He doesn’t have your class ring, and he doesn’t belong to your network of drunken dissipates — each one of whom is stuck in a going-nowhere job just like yours. But, but, but: He doesn’t feel himself endowed with the centuries of effete sneerpower to which you lay claim but have done nothing to deserve.

The truth you don’t dare admit is that your education distinguishes you in no way at all. You studied nothing serious, and you learned nothing of what you studied. You put in time and you made connections, but you don’t actually know anything, you can’t actually do anything, and if you are ever required to be anything more than an expert at supercilious self-pity, you will be dismissed at once. You are nothing but your vaunted pedigree, and that pedigree is based entirely on the accomplishments of other people — the vast majority of them long since deceased.

This is the naked essence of that fake advertisement, the snarling envy and resentment of an entire social class composed of nothing but empty suits.

Welcome to the disestablishment, y’all…

The question is, what if we’ve really screwed the pooch this time. What if this is not a V-shaped recession, not a U-shaped recession, not even a W-shaped recession? What if this is an L-shaped recession, like Japan’s “lost decade”, a sudden drop followed by a long span of no growth? What if this is the Second Great Depression? What then?

The answer is right in front of your face.

The answer to everything, and we don’t even know it yet, is the internet, the wired life, especially the iPad(ish) experience.

I have a client who is a content creator for The University of Phoenix. She tells me that their product is about 80% on-line by now, and they are within a year or three of being, essentially, 100% remote-delivery. I’m not interested in hearing caviling about quality. You either know how to reconcile account books or write a brief or launch a product or you don’t. If the quality of on-line education is not ideal for now, it will be, as a simple response to market pressure.

But meanwhile, we have arrived at the scalable university. That scruffy, sneering, tweedy degenerate — call him Professor Elbowpads — who held court in the classroom while courting all the co-eds, is about to be well and truly disintermediated. One inarguably excellent professor is all that will be needed to educate thousands and ultimately millions of students — and his lectures will be perfectible and therefore steadily more perfect, in exactly the same way that every other type of software becomes steadily more perfect over time.

That much is very cool: Study what you want, when you want, as much as you want, in pursuit of whatever goals may drive you. This is the university unchained, and your parents and their money, your own social skills, your delectably post-modern ass-kissing talent — none of this will make a damn bit of difference. The highest of education is suddenly available to anyone who wants it and can pay for it.

Even better: The cost of wired education is very low already, and competitive pressure will drive the price down even further, even as it drives quality ever higher.

Do you want to go one better? There are a billion Indians and many more than a billion Chinese who are at least as qualified as you are to take advantage of this revolution in higher education — in education at all levels.

So not only does the sneering, simpering Professor Elbowpads get the sack, so does the entire National (un)Education Association. We’ll save all kinds of money, and yet billions of very bright minds will flame ever brighter — a blinding renaissance of human brilliance such as the world has never seen. We are here, now, already, and you can’t even see the vast riches piled before you.

Think of this: If a genius like Shakespeare is a one-in-a-million mind, there are more than six thousand Shakespeares walking the earth right now — along with at least six million lesser minds who are nevertheless smarter than — and much harder-working than — stuffy old Professor Elbowpads. All of human wealth is consequent upon human capital, and we are on the verge of cultivating human capital as we have never done before.

There’s more than this, even. As much as I love Socrates and all of the giants of the agora of the mind, still, from the Greeks to the Romans to the English to the Americans, we have enslaved the human mind under a vicious caste system. Throughout the entire history of the West, cultivation of the mind has almost always been a monopoly of what we might call the equestrian class, the quality folks who live up in the big houses on the hill. This is the source of the enmity evident in that SNL sketch, the petulant resentment of a putative aristocracy that feels its historical privileges are being eroded away.

The unique character of American democracy was established not by philosophers like Thomas Jefferson, but, rather, by practical politicians like Andrew Jackson. In America, for a short while, ordinary people were able to tell their would-be overlords exactly where to stuff it. That kind of Jacksonian equality is long since gone, and the American university played a huge role in reestablishing the establishment in modern America.

But the days of the aristocracy are over for good — if we want them to be. The net culture itself is a near-perfect meritocracy: You either know your shit or you don’t, and, if you don’t, no one gives a ruby red rat’s ass where you got your diploma. The Web 2.0 world has introduced us all to the idea of the adhocracy — organizations composed solely of self-selected volunteers, each one of whom wields only as much authority as he has earned, this in the estimation of all the others. The next step is the agora that Socrates himself trod, only scaled up to the size of the entire globe — scaled up to the size of six billion hungry minds and more.

Who gets to be Socrates? Whoever can earn the attention of people who want to know the truth. Family connections or family money will mean nothing. Social status will mean nothing. Academic pedigree will mean nothing. You either know what you’re talking about or you don’t, and no amount of sheepskin will enable you to pull the wool over anyone else’s eyes.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Not if we don’t want to, not if we resolve to get democracy right this time. Bosses and equestrian classes and aristocracies and caste systems — these are all artifacts of poverty, of enforced ignorance, of libraries crammed with dusty, neglected books jealously hoarded behind university walls. Look at the rich feast of information that has already been set before you by the incipient internet and reflect upon how little of that vast abundance you are able to consume. Now consider this: This is but the beginning of the true Golden Age of human knowledge and human technology and, we can hope, human wisdom.

Are we headed into a “lost decade” — or worse? Possibly. But we are also aimed straight for the brightest burst of brilliance the human mind has ever yet known — and this is only the beginning of the greatest Age of Reason in the history of human life on earth.

Whatever the next few years may bring in the way of economic growth, they seem sure to bring us the first true flowering of the human mind — when all of us can at last be in league with the Greeks. And, if we are very lucky and very wise, we will emerge from this latest cluster-frolic by our so-called betters having rid ourselves forevermore of the pestilential idea of aristocracy.

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The Spartan Approach to Real Estate Brokerage

As I was admitting to Sean Purcell this morning, a few times a year I get the idea to duplicate the brokerage model Dad used so effectively in the 1960’s to early 1970’s. When this happens, I quickly grab a couch and nap ’till the idea dies a solitary, friendless death. Although surely enough of his AH genes found their way through to his first born, puttin’ up with the day to day management of a firm doing that much business with that many meat eaters would be a challenge of the first degree.

His model was built on bedrock. Know in your heart of hearts the odds are better I’ll be the Padres’ opening day pitcher next year than they are for me starting a house brokerage — but if I ever succumbed to the periodic urge, this is how I’d do it — which is the same way he did it.

1. He didn’t hire pantywaists. Put another way, he hired carnivores. Frankly, I always thought if you emerged, cajones intact, after a job interview with him, you were easily tough enough for the business itself.

2. He hired adults. Don’t just slide by that statement. Take a mental inventory of the agents you’ve known awhile and the percentage who’re adolescents at best when it comes to their job and actually, you know, working. I rest my case.

3. He filtered for strong character and profound integrity. A hint of a whiff of anything less and you were shown the door. He could smell a guy’s fear in the parking lot as he drove up.

4. All agents had three options when it came to generating/conducting business — A) His way B) His way C) All the above.

5. Non-producers were not coddled. It meant you weren’t working — period. There’s the door.

To be fair, 1 & 2 really go together, don’t they? Those afraid of their own shadows should never be real estate agents, yet they comprise a huge minority, if not the majority of the agent population, always have. Being on the front lines in real estate is somewhat analogous to umpiring. Talk is easy. Shutting up, puttin’ on the gear and callin’ balls and strikes? A different story. An umpire who hasn’t yet grown up, finds out early he’s just chum for the sharks in the dugout. Same with the new agent who thinks aloud that h/she will show the world how it’s done. Adults understand the seriousness of the subject matter — children think it’s a game. Children run from difficult tasks — adults embrace challenges. Add the personality of a true carnivore, and you have the potential for a real winner. Dad could pick those people out of a lineup with uncanny success.

Character, #3, is talked about all the time in our business. Still, go into any brokerage with 25 or more agents and you’ll quickly notice the 80/20 rule in full force — not so when you’ve hired a buncha high character/integrity white sharks to work for ya. Every freakin’ day was a feeding frenzy for those guys. I grew up thinkin’ they were the norm, so I was never scared, even at barely 18 years old.

Most brokerages today should be called PantyWaists R Us as far as I’m concerned. Buncha whiners who wouldn’t know where the bodies were buried if they were at the cemetery with corpse sniffing dogs. As I said both here and here, sellers want their damn house sold quickly for the most $$ possible, and buyers wanna, you know, buy a home. Producers make these two things happen regularly — who knew? When I was the 16-17 year old janitor/listing printer/distributor, I got to know the profile of those who were producers in the best sense of the concept. They took no prisoners — and were completely merit-based in their thinking. They knew this wasn’t a game. They were driven to succeed, and were gonna win — period. HIgh character and integrity. No excuses.

Though #4 wasn’t even an issue on the radar back then, now it would be a shit storm of force 5 magnitude. “We’re independent contractors, so you can’t tell us what to do and how to do it!” Oh really? Then why all the lame training programs? Even if they were world class, you can’t train a buncha toy poodles to be attack dogs. Multiple generations have come and gone and they still haven’t figured that one out.

Dad insisted you work his way and so would I. It’s not the only way for sure, but the only way if your license is under mine. So, what would that entail?

Much to the surprise of many, it wouldn’t be all OldSchool, not by a long shot. But you’d hafta clear your M.O. with me. The firm would be based on the public’s perception that wherever you found one of our offices, it was because we were the great white sharks in those neighborhoods. This means all agents, no exceptions, would be running old fashioned farms, but with current technology as support.

OldSchool farming backed up by a website/blog created solely for that farm. Knockin’ doors or phoning wouldn’t be required, but an all encompassing presence would be. A team approach would be required — but with assistants, not necessarily other licensees. Rookies need not apply unless heavily capitalized.

I would personally decide what neighborhoods we’d farm, and what agents would farm them — with their mutual assent. Each farm would be relatively large in terms of the number of homes. Generally speaking, nothing less than 2,000 — up to 5,000 if two or more agents wish to ‘partner up’ for larger areas. Again though, with my approval.

I know, I know, this is just Jeff goin’ off again with DinosaurThink. Not even. Let me try to explain why.

First of all, I’m not playin’ by your rules. You’re playin’ against my guys with my rules. I have you beat multiple ways before the competition even starts. Let’s count the ways together, OK?

1. My guys are simply better than yours. Oh sure, your 20% might be impressive, I’ll grant you that small victory. But 80% of my guys will be at that level — I win. I beat you at the hiring table.

2. My agents are high character adults who know what success in this business takes, and will do it ’till they’re on top. They’re not a buncha theorists, singing all 87 verses of Kumbaya to anyone who’ll listen to their pap. They’re front line people who show up every day and do what 80% of your agents spend 90% of their time avoiding, the way high school girls avoid P.E.

3. The general atmosphere in my offices would be akin to what Sean Purcell would call a law office. Competence — it’s OldSchool meaning — is the minimum standard of performance, rising from that point. There’s no debate about which way is best to market listings, or what procedure to follow. There’s the company way — though my office door and ears are always open.

The only difference between Dad’s time and now, is that Denver now has a baseball team. Otherwise, nothing’s changed. Just like then, we’re all subject to today’s economy, and all the rest of the factors coming into play in real estate brokerage as a business. The playing field was level then, as it certainly is now.

His company in it’s heyday, had 28 full timers and 8-12 part timers. But for the sake of this post, I’ll use 35 full time agents to compare numbers. Oh, and for the record, there was nothing, as in zip/zero/zilch/nada special about the San Diego real estate market in the mid-late 1960’s. We didn’t even know what a boom market was back then.

Today’s San Diego median home price is give or take, $360,000 — a figure we’ll use here, in order to better relate to what those 1960’s guys/gals accomplished.

Note: We’re gonna penalize them by reducing the sides per year by 50%! This results in about 515 sides a year for the company for four years, 1966-1969. ’69 by the way, was a recession year. 🙂

In today’s dollars, 35 full time agents produced a total dollar volume in sales of $185,400,000. At 3% per transaction, that’s $5,562,000 in gross revenue to the company. Nobody, and I mean nobody, was paid more than 40% for a sale back then. 🙂 So for kicks ‘n giggles let’s use that as their pay today in this exercise.

40% X $5,562,000 = $2,224,800 to the agents. Divide that number by the 35 agents, results in a average annual income per agent of $63,565. ‘Course agents who actually produce these days, make a minimum of 80%, so we’ll use 70%. Why? Cuz it’s a friggin’ privilege to work in this firm, that’s why. You know you’re gonna make far more money than your competition.

At the more up to date 70% split, these agents averaged $111,240 each. Recall that these numbers are based on just HALF the sides they really produced in closed escrows for four consecutive years — or until Dad got terminally bored and went golfing.

Let’s add back half of the sides we eliminated, and see the real life picture of what they’d be makin’ in today’s market. Check the math, but bottom line, the 35 agents who produced all this volume, averaged $166,860 in today’s dollars — which is post correction.

Using the same 35 agents, and the real life number of sides they sold/closed each year, they averaged 29.4 sides an agent for four straight years. No teams, not one agent with even a part time assistant. No transaction coordinators — they didn’t exist.

Not only did he consistently out produce his competition, but he did so, not just in sides per agent, but gross sides. Most of his real competition were firms with 50-200% more full time agents than he fielded. His guys ran circles around their guys year after year. Wanna know the source of most of his agent attrition? They started their own firms, and cloned his model. By my count there were eight firms started from one office alone.

His agents were the Spartans of those days. Though the only reason they stopped winning was cuz their general went golfin’. Take the Spartan approach — small numbers of superior quality people with unflinching character, integrity, and work ethic. Have them work only the company’s way, whatever that may be. Let them loose, and pretty soon the very predictable result will appear — your guys will beat their guys like day follows night.


Has anyone built a better Bluetooth headset?

I’ve burned up three Jawbone IIs in the past two years. Has anyone come up with a better Bluetooth headset that I should be looking into?


First time home-buyers tax credit, the morning after: “The government’s ‘gift’ to new home-buyers? A house immediately worth $8,000 less than they paid for it.”

From the National Review Online:

Things are looking worse on the housing front, with a severe drop-off in existing home sales following the expiration of the home-buyer tax credit. It’s hard to overstate how stupid this policy was. The government marketed it as a measure to boost residential real-estate prices by providing new home-buyers with a tax credit in the neighborhood of $8,000. Did you see the ubiquitous ads featuring the couple that gets an envelope full of cash from Uncle Sam? The idea was to convince potential home-buyers that they were the ones who would benefit from the subsidy, when in fact the opposite was true. The tax credit was a subsidy for sellers, not buyers, allowing them to increase their asking price (or avoid decreasing it) by $8,000.

The government’s “gift” to new home-buyers? A house immediately worth $8,000 less than they paid for it, and falling fast thanks to the sharp drop-off in demand that accompanied the expiration of the tax credit. Gee, thanks, Uncle Sam! I’m not sure the “predatory lenders” Obama likes to talk about ever did anything that sketchy.

This is good, but it’s still wide of the mark. As everyone here knows, the purpose of the tax credit was to churn transactions, so that realtors and their brokers could get paid. You’ll see more evidence of this later this week, as the NAR pushes you to lean on your congresscreep to support Harry Reid’s extension of the expiration deadline for the credit. There are still 180,000 unclosed transactions out there, and that means 180,000 commission checks held hostage by the demons of time. We can’t have that…


The Mirror Effect

Do you ever wonder how to deal with someone else’s opinion of you – especially if it’s negative?  Not how to handle a negative or even rude opinion; early on you should have learned that politeness is how we handle almost any situation.  No, I’m asking if you have a mechanism or coping skill for those times when you discover what someone else thinks about you and it’s painful in some way?  This is not an uncommon experience and might be especially common for real estate agents!  (I’ll leave you to find your own context on that one.)  Personally, I’ve heard a number of answers to this question and they are usually similar to the one found in The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  While not completely representative of everyone’s answer, it’s close enough. This solution seems to lie in finding ways to ignore, become indifferent to, or otherwise devalue the offending expression.  (Mr. Ruiz, for example, points out that when someone says something about us, we should remember they are limited by their own view of the world – their own prism – and realize what they say, says a lot more about them, than us.)  This is both obvious and oblivious.  May I suggest something a little different?

The Mirror Effect
Of course other people see things through their own prism; so what?  Their opinions can not – and do not – hurt me in the least. How could they?  They are only words and, depending on your philosophical bent, the person saying them may or may not even exist!  If I feel hurt or pain (or happiness for that matter), you can be sure I am the sole cause.  I hear the words, I interpret them (through my own prism Mr. Ruiz) and I create feelings in reaction to my interpretation.  I create…  That’s where the wonderful opportunity lies.  The negative or painful (or happy) feelings are created from within.  That’s not just a difference regarding who is in control (per Mr. Ruiz and the rest, I am to develop some ability that will counter the hurt caused by the words or expressions of others – thus giving them the control and me the dependent action).  It’s more than that.  It is how we evolve and become happier and more peaceful; how we become more succesful possibly, and more free definitely.

Suppose someone says to me: “Sean, you are not much of an athlete.”  I would not be stirred by this.  I know my athletic accomplishments.  I know my athletic abilities.  I am comfortable with who I am as an athlete.  I may believe this person to be mistaken or misinformed or ignorant, but I do not take their expression personally – I am not hurt by it. They could have also said: “You are not as good an athlete as Michael Jordan.”  Again, I would not be stirred by this.  Just as I know who I am as an athlete, I know who I am not and my self worth is not dimished by this comparison.  If, however, ten minutes later this exact same person said to me: “Sean, you are a bad father,” I may indeed walk away in pain.  I am divorced and a single dad; I have doubts about whether or not I am being everything my boys deserve.  So when I hear this I may feel angry or hurt; maybe I’ll want to argue and “convince” this person how wrong he is.  Why is that?  Why didn’t I want to convince him of how wrong he was ten minutes ago when he brought up my athleticism?   This is the same person after all, yet what he thought of me as an athlete had no affect and what he thought of me as a father did.  What changed?  Obviously, what changed was my interpretation; my reaction; my feelings on the subject at hand.  The problem does not lie with other people’s opinions, otherwise I would have been hurt both times.  No, the diffence in those two scenarios is… me.

When confronted by an opinion I knew to be false (or at least believed to be false), I was not bothered.  My vision of myself, athletically speaking, was in alignment with my day-to-day experience.  But that last opinion, the one about my being a bad father, that bothered me a great deal.  Why?  Because there is a truth to it – or at the very least I fear there is a truth to it – that I do not wish to face.  This is, in effect, a mirror held up to me – and I don’t like what I see.  That’s why we can’t cultivate an indifference; the indifference would be to ourselves.  That’s why Mr. Ruiz’s answer is so off track too: how do I devalue the prism when it is my own?  I cannot.  Even if I could… what an opportunity I would miss.  What a blessing upon myself I would be throwing away.

The Opportunity!
The next time someone lets you know what they think about you and it hurts, don’t argue with them or run away from the pain or try to devalue what was said.  What’s needed isn’t a coping method.  Instead, thank them!  Thank them and mean it.  (After all, they were merely the person holding the mirror and nothing more.   Besides, this has the added benefit of messing with their heads.)  Then walk away and realize you’ve just been blessed with an intimate look at yourself.  A look we don’t like, no question; we’re face to face with how badly our internal vision of ourselves does not match our external expression of ourselves.  But if we’re honest about it, that look is also a revelation – and a roadmap to greater happiness and success.

Live a Life that POPs



A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

The little boy came gamboling up to me when I was just over the ridge. He was big for three, small for four, and cute by any measure. Brown hair, blue eyes and a smile as quiet as firecrackers.

I was cutting across the park on my way to the library, and I’d come a little closer to the playground than I had wanted to. Unaccompanied adults have no business being at the playground. It spooks the parents, and it ought to. For myself, while I like kids well enough, I don’t much like what comes with them these days…

“I’m Shotterman!” said the little boy. He struck a menacing pose. He was wearing little blue shorts and a black Mickey Mouse tee shirt. He had Spiderman sneakers on his tiny feet.

“Hi, Shotterman,” I said. “What are you?”


“What are your powers, Shotterman?”

“Oh,” he said. “I can shoot.” He cocked his finger. “Pshew! Pshew pshew! Pshew!”

“Shotterman!” I announced. “Strange visitor from another planet with an uncanny aim and accuracy. Shotterman! Able to compete for marksmanship prizes on five continents.”

Shotterman laughed with delight, as I knew he would. This was entertainment he thoroughly understood.

And here’s a little something I understood: He doesn’t have a dad, not at home. Little boys don’t crave male attention when they’re getting enough of it. The nation is crawling with little boys looking for big boys to play little boy games, and I knew without being told that Shotterman was one of them.

“Who are you?” he asked.

I knew what he meant. “Nothingman,” I said.


“Nothingman! A vanishingly small amount of substance, barely here at all. Nothingman! A homeopathic quantity of humanity.”

He looked at me as if he wasn’t quite sure if I was serious in my nonsense.

“Hunter!” called a voice from the benches over by the swings. Shotterman blanched a little.


“Is that your name? Hunter?”

“No, I’m Shotterman.”

“Hunter Ryan Daniels! You get your butt over here and I mean this instant!”

I winced. I can get enough of that stuff. “C’mon,” I said. “Let’s motivate.”

We walked back over toward the playground equipment and Hunter went “Pshew!” at anything that moved and a lot of stuff that didn’t. He broke away and leapt, landing knees first in the dirt. He was surrounded by three or four plastic trucks, and he said, “C’mon, Nothingman. Let’s go get the bad guys!”

There were two thick little women sitting on the park bench. I looked over at them, to see if one or the other wanted me to clear out. They ignored me and they ignored Hunter and they ignored everything except their animated conversation. He was on his own, and I rather expected he would be.

“Okay,” I said, plopping down on the ground. Women sometimes play little boy games, but they don’t do it well. I don’t know if it’s ineptitude or condescension on the part of the women or some subtle pheromone that adults can’t sense, but little boys play little boy games with men and not with women. “Let’s go get the bad guys, Hunter.”

“You mean Shotterman,” he said solemnly.

“Right. Shotterman.”

“But I’m not Shotterman anymore.”



“Well, then, who are you?” I scrunched my shoulders and turned my palms up and Hunter laughed.

“I’m Mouseman!” he said.

“Mouseman!” I intoned. “A mysterious creature from a distant galaxy, he craves meat and vegetable scraps. Mouseman! Able to chew through walls in only several hours.”

He went “Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, gnaw!” to show me his impressive gnawing powers. His teeth were straight and white and perfect.

“Did I tell you my sister’s moving in with us?” one of the women said to the other. I knew by her voice that she was Hunter’s mom, the woman who had bellowed before.

“Isn’t your sister an alcoholic?” her friend asked.


“And didn’t you say she’s a drug addict?”

“Only sometimes.”

The friend chuckled at that.

“But the thing is,” said Hunter’s mom, “I’ve got to do something to get more money in the house.”

“What about Hunter’s daddy?” the friend asked.

“You mean Mouseman,” said Hunter, although they weren’t listening to him. He was pushing his trucks around in the dirt. This activity must have required 100% of his concentration, since he would not look up.

“Oh, sure!” spat Hunter’s mother. “He’ll help, but only if I give him joint custody!”

The friend took her time answering, a cloud of doubt on her face. “…But you sister’s a drug addict…”

“I don’t care! I’m not giving that son of a bitch joint custody!”

“Wow…,” said the friend. “You must really hate him…”

There was a ball on the ground and I picked it up and threw it hard. “Mouseman!” I said. “Go get it before the bad guys do!”

Hunter sped off and I turned to look at his mother. I said: “You hate your ex-husband. Do you hate your son?”


“That’s who you’re hurting…”

“Yeah?” she sneered. “And who are you to tell me how to raise my kid?”

I shrugged. “Me? I’m Nothingman, a vanishingly small quantity of civilization in a world turned to savagery.”

She simply looked confused, which was just as well.

Hunter came dashing back and I stood up. “I gotta go, sport.”

The sadness in his eyes was immense. When you never get enough male attention, it seems like the men in your life are always saying goodbye.

I fixed his mother with a glare and she squirmed uncomfortably. I said, “Little boys need their daddies.” She wanted to protest but I held up my hand. “Little boys need their daddies. You don’t have to like it, but that’s the way it is. Give it some thought…”

“I like my daddy,” said Hunter. “I think he’s Superman!”

“I think mine is, too, Hunter.”

“You mean Mouseman.”



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