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Archive for September, 2010

At What Point Does an Agent Become a Criminal?

I wrote an offer for a young couple who wished to purchase the home they were renting.  The buyer and seller had already discussed a price of $400,000 before agents got involved.  (The seller thought it wise that both parties be represented, which is when I came into the picture along with an agent for the seller.)  I comp’d the home and the area: $400,000 was a stretch. But the buyers liked the property, wanted an extra large master bedroom (which this home had) and wanted to avoid the cost and hassle of moving.  Fair enough; I’ve fulfilled my responsibility of providing accurate and professional counsel regarding value and the buyers have made an informed and justifiable decision.

We wrote the offer for $400,000 with 3% seller concessions for the repairs that the seller had already acknowledged.  The listing agent scoffed.  It seems she had advised her client the property, with a little cosmetic improvement, would sell for the mid $400s.  Brilliant.  Real Estate is by no means rocket science, but the ability to properly value a property and understand comparables is a skill and not every agent is adept.  I sent along a 3 page analysis of comparables and pricing to buttress our offer.  Seller came back at $410,000 with $10,000 in concessions.  Once again I advised my clients that, in my professional opinion, the price was greater than the value, but the mitigating factors were enough for them to justify accepting the contract.  Which they did.  I agreed to a 2% commission as my work load was less and the listing agent admitted to me that she was working for only 1% as her work load was greatly diminished.  And we all lived happily ever after, right?  No…

In California, the standard contract calls for the loan contingency to be removed in 17 days.  (This bit of paint-by-numbers idiocy came about during the hey-day of real estate when anyone with a pulse could get a loan.  In the current economic market, it’s only purpose is to expose which agents are inexperienced and clueless enough to put their clients at risk.)  The buyers needed roughly three weeks for their funds to fully season so we countered on that point while accepting the net price of $400,000.  Seller (relying, I assume, on her agent’s advice) declined to extend the loan contingency.  My buyers are logical people and chose not to put their earnest money at risk.  Offer was dropped and we began a search of near-by homes.

Cut to the present: my clients are closing today on a home in much nicer condition, with a pool and a quieter street.  They paid $410,000 and their financing worked out just fine.  The home they were living in and wanted to buy?  The seller took the listing agent’s advice and dropped a few thousand dollars into cosmetic improvements, then listed the place at $450,000.  It’s been over six weeks and here’s a snap shot of the MLS listing as of yesterday:

(The buyer to whom this agent refers in the Remarks section made an offer, did the inspection, saw the problems my client was already intimately aware of and had accepted… and walked away.)

So, let’s tally the damage in relation to the offer my clients made: I’ll estimate $2000 out of pocket in updates, selling agent commission of 2.5% is $2000 more than I accepted, estimated listing agent commission of 2% (and 2.5% is more likely) means another $4000 cost to the seller, and of course the asking price is now lower than our actual offer… with no buyer in hand.  Let’s be generous and assume an eventual buyer will pay only slightly less than list price (but still more than my original valuation) on a property that’s been Active for twice as long as the average, accurately priced property in this neighborhood.  Final price of $390,000 is a final hit to the seller of $10,000.  We won’t count “cost of carry” or the “opportunity cost” caused by delaying whatever plans the owner had.  Total thus far: $18,000… and the house is still on the market.  I’ll reiterate the question from this article’s title:

At what point does this agent stop being simply an incredibly incompetent agent and start being a criminal?

11 comments

Marketing is what you communicate, not what you say.

I’m sorry if I seem to be neglecting folks here, but I’m sure you can guess why. Plus which, at Day 13 of our goal-questing, I’m five for five most days, and days without appointments are the only holes on the calendar. But I’m done for the day, and I’m bound for bed, and I lay me down with a will. Meanwhile, I’m having lots of ideas as I work — ideas both global and granular. This is one I’m gnawing on pretty hard:

Marketing is what you communicate, not what you say.

That’s working two ways for me, but the second — call it Actions Sell Louder Than Salespitches — I can think of a zillion ways to work with an idea like that.

Comments are off for this post

9/2/2001 and 9/11/2001

How quickly our lives can change in just a short time. May you live in Splendor every minute.

9/2/2001


H/T our own Ira Serkes

9/11/2001

2 comments

Google Instant – Does it REALLY change anything SEO-wise?

For those who want the Campbell’s Soup version of this post:

Not Really. It actually makes keyword research a little EASIER. 😉

For those inquiring minds who want to know why I am saying that, here’s my take. Google Instant does one thing and does it pretty well. As a person enters in a keyword phrase into Google, it suggests possible phrases based on the most common searches that have been done to date AND it shows the relevant results for that search on the fly. Here’s a screen shot or two of what I am talking about.

and then this one:

Okayfine. Let’s look at the finer details. I asked more than a few people to go to a search engine and start looking for a home in the Louisville area. Here are some things that I found out that they typically do. Mind you, I told these folks IN ADVANCE that Google had made a change and was suggesting phrases (and providing results) as they typed them in…

The results? The main behavior difference among them was that they would stop after a WORD and look to see what Google had suggested. NOT after a letter. That makes sense to me. So when someone starts typing “Louisville r “into the search bar in pursuit of Louisville real estate, they see Louisville Riverbats (our AAA team). When they type in the complete word Louisville real, it shows them the search results (and they REMARKABLY similar to Louisville Real Estates’ results)

So this would tend to suggest the effect that Chris Johnson indicated in his comment on John’s post…heading for shorter, more expensive KWs for those doing PPC. For those optimizing their site this is WAY too micro of a thing to worry about. The one percent of folks that truncate their search isn’t going to make or break more than a few clicks at most and CERTAINLY nothing in my opinion to sweat.

Let the dogs bark, the caravan moves on.

Another observation leading to this conclusion. Try typing in your city followed by homes. IF you hit the space bar AFTER homes, you will likely see the suggestion of city homes for sale. If you you do not hit the space bar, the wizards at G! realize that you are likely satisfied with the search and are preparing to hit ENTER and get their famously relevant results…so they provide them to you without the click. Nice for the user.

And I could not agree with John Rowles’ assessment of the technology more…it is impressive. REALLY impressive.

Now for using this for a little quick longtail KW phrase research. (I mentioned that it makes this easier, correct?) I have been spending a LOT of time looking at subdivision level traffic on search recently (more on that later). Check this out:

Lake Forest is a subdivision in Louisville. (also there are others in Illinois, Texas and Florida, if memory serves, so the person who indicated in the post that the results are geo-targeted gets a gold star ;-). They are right IMO.) Want a quick way to see which phrases to include in the titles of your blog posts?

Enter the subdivision name and your should see several likely ways to title your post. Happy hunting! (grin)

And for those who think this is the end of the SEO world and almost wetting themselves…put your big boy pants on and adapt. When Google does something for the user that helps maintain Google’s traffic levels for everyone who optimizes sites. Search Engine Marketing pros are the LAST people who should be sniveling about this.

They are in the adapting business not in the whining business. To quote Tom Hanks “There’s no crying in Search Engine Marketing!” (grin) Just my thoughts.

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A Moment of Remembrance

On the fateful morning of September 11, 2001, I was a student at New York University commuting to class (hungover, but well, tuition is too expensive to actually miss class). When we heard something was happening at the World Trade Center, a friend and I started jogging down Broadway to see what was going on. We were a few blocks away when the first tower started crumbling down. We didn’t know what to do, how to help, or even what was really happening. We just wanted to do SOMETHING. We ended up helping a local store owner as he was distributing water to emergency workers and met a number of heroes that day. It was a day that changed how we, as Americans, felt. For a while, there was a sense of patriotism that had been missing for far too long. Sure, with time, that sense of unity has faded (whether as a result of our foreign policy or leftist agendas or our fickle nature, it could be a million different reasons).  This anniversary, take a moment to remember where you were when you heard, how you felt, what you did. I know I will.

Sorry, this post isn’t about NAR politics or how to better convert leads or the future of SEO, it is merely a random rambling from a Bloodhound. Mahalo.

4 comments

So you thought your listing Search Function sucked yesterday?

Say hello to Google Instant, launched overnight.

Go to Google. Type the letter “R” and Realtor.com appears in the search result list.No button click required. Keep typing and the search results change on the fly.

My first impression as a user is positive.  It is just neat.  As a geek, I marvel at the engineering and infrastructure required to pull this off for millions of simultaneous users. As a guy who helps real estate companies with SEO and SEM — I’m still figuring it out.

What is clear is that Google has fundamentally changed search, and quite possibly has raised the bar for search user experience — unless the novelty wears off and it becomes annoying.

What is far less clear is what this means for SEO and SEM.

TechCrunch has one of the more level and least speculative write ups on that….

SearchEngineLand, on the other hand, seem to be trying  not to wet its pants…

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Learning the art of selling consciously

I do not contribute much mostly due to my fears of my writing not holding up well next to so many of the great writers here. However, the only way my writing can improve is by writing and submitting so with that in mind.

I sell real estate. Those four words do a great job of describing me as a professional. Of course there are other things I do with my life but the engine that powers the other areas is selling real estate. I have been on a path to living more consciously for the past few years.  One of the take aways from living consciously is that I need to be focused on whatever task I am working on when I am working on it. I cannot be thinking or worrying about anything else but the task at hand. I have found putting this into practice to be more challenging than I would have ever thought. It is a constant effort to be present in the moment and not be thinking about something completely different. While this has been a struggle it has had success too. When I find myself in the moment I often do not realize it until later when I realize that I just knocked several things off my to-do list and I did not even realize it. It is in that moment that I know I am growing and beginning to master being conscious.

Taking this concept and applying it to sales and prospecting is currently on the top of my to-do list daily. Learning how to sell consciously will allow me to grow my business and my professional abilities to levels that in months past I had only dreamed/wished of. When I committed publicly to prospecting six or more hours a day for the next 120 days I was really pulling out the last of the excuses I had so carefully crafted to keep myself from succeeding  at levels that frightened me. Now I have nowhere to hide. I have opened myself up to accountability and critique if I do not do what it is that I say is so important to me.  The key here is that it is important to me. This is my goal and my dream. It does not have to be anyone else’s it is mine.  I need to find ways to be in the moment when I am prospecting and selling. I often times find myself running a completely different dialog in my head when it comes to prospecting. Operating from fear and intimidation that I am not good enough to be offering my services etc. etc. Yet, when I look back on my client interactions my clients speak very highly of me when it comes to my service, professionalism, and knowledge. Something in my self talk is getting in the way when it comes to selling. It is my responsibility to find the root cause and remove it from my thoughts.

Prospecting can be daunting. Some people simply take to it without what appears to be any fears. Others simply sit on their hands hoping someone will do it for them. I was one of the later. Sitting on the edge of the pool while it seemed like everyone but me was in the water and having a grand time. Finally, I got so tired of sitting on the edge that I went to the high dive and did a cannon ball into the pool. One of the things I love about BHB is that there are so many people here who are willing to teach any of us how to sell. Sort of a variation on “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Many of the statements and articles here are very simple in concept it is in the implementation that we get in our way. By being more conscious of my selling I have made progress in implementing some of the sales practices that lead to skinning cats or to not breaking the chain. In my own way I am now mastering the practice of prospecting. Finding what others need and helping them obtain it repeat and continue.  I can be my own toughest critic. I am on track to close 16 sides this year. Not groundbreaking I know; but it will be my best year with regards to transactions. This will be accomplished in 8 months of work and not 12. I took several months off in late 09 and early 10 to be with my father as he was battling an ailment that took several months to diagnose. Once my dad was back on his feet I felt that I could get back to the business of real estate.  Still 16 sides are not enough to make me feel like I am living up to my abilities. I had wished out loud that I wanted to do 48 sides in 2010. I then promptly took my eye off the ball and ended up in the weeds. Now to keep the pipeline filled with leads I must simply prospect every day.

Consciously prospecting and selling it’s what’s for dinner. Actually it is what generates the money to buy the dinner.

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How do you make the praxis of continuous goal-pursuit work in practice? It’s not a matter of avoiding the negative consequences of failure, but of celebrating the steady accumulation of successes.

I think Jeff Brown and I are both thinking out loud, by this point, and I want to emphasize that I am not quarreling with him. It’s his hammering away on the topic of goal-achievement that induced me to think about the subject in a systematic way, and I am by his discourse and by his good example much enriched.

So here’s where I am tonight: You have to make the commitment, yes. Without a sincere resolution to do something different, you don’t have a goal, you just have a wish, a whim, a will-‘o-the-wisp wheedle issued for any reason or for no reason to a benignly indifferent universe.

But: Even so: Just having a specific plan is still not enough. You have to follow through. You have to do what it is that you have planned to do. But when we talk about the process of following through, too often we do it in a language that is inherently dis-motivating.

Like this: No pain, no gain. There is a truth to that cliche, obviously, and that’s why it’s such an easy sentiment to express. But by emphasizing the pain entailed by, in this case, exercise, the expression throws a formidable barrier in the way of actually digging in and doing the work required by the goal.

I keep thinking that for a serious resolution to change one’s behavior to be effective in the long run — to get fit or to lose weight or to learn to speak Spanish or to master a seven-figure state of mind in your career — you have to rethink the incentives. The reward — to yourself, in your own mind — for having made incremental progress toward your goal has to exceed both the cost of achieving that small success and the putative benefit of doing the opposite, instead.

Do you see? Eating is easy. It can be very satisfying, fun even. Not-eating is hard, and it’s hard to think of not-eating as being any fun. But if you cannot find a way to celebrate the victory of not eating the wrong foods, of not eating as much or as often, you probably will not lose weight. The reward for indulging your appetite is much too obvious. But if you try to motivate a program of weight loss by self-denial or self-denigration or self-loathing, you are likely not just to fail but to fail in a way that makes future efforts at any sort of goal-pursuit that much more difficult — and that much more likely to fail.

What would work better? How about digging deep into the idea that eating better, in smaller portions even if at greater intervals, is something to be celebrated. You will have to think more about food than ever you did when you were simply stuffing it into your face, but, by thinking about it, and by actively observing yourself doing precisely what you have said you would do, you will have earned the right to celebrate your success at living up to your goal.

Any goal you can name has built-in incentives, and so the failure to attain that goal will have corresponding disincentives. But everything that actually matters in human life — every value — is to be found to the right of the zero on the number line. The zero and that endless string of negative numbers to its left are just ciphers for failure. The benefits to be realized from the pursuit and achievement of your goals are what matter in your life. This is what you need to focus on to sustain your motivation to succeed.

Here’s one from me. I have always worked very hard, since I began to have conscious memories. But I have never been a creature of steady routines. I work until I’m exhausted, often falling asleep sitting up at my desk, and then I get up at dawn. This seems weird to other people, but it has always worked well for me, and — as you may have noticed — I don’t care very much about how other people organize their lives or what they think about how I organize mine.

But I have put myself in a small bind by resolving with Scott Cowan and Teri Lussier to pursue five demanding goals every day for at least a month. The problem is not getting the work done, it’s getting it done in a time-efficient way. If I haven’t worked out before ten in the morning, it’s good odds I’ll be doing it after eight at night. A nod’s as good as a wink, but the later I push things, the greater my risk of failure.

So my goals need a meta-goal: I need to accomplish as much as I can of these five goals as early in the day as I can get them done. If I can wake up no later than six a.m., I can deal with the overnight email, work out and then walk the dogs with Cathleen all by 7:30. I can eat breakfast, shower and shave and maybe even knock out my half-hour of web work, all before nine a.m. That’s 60% of the day’s goals taken care of before I make my first phone call. Surely this is worth doing.

So what’s the problem? Getting up — reliably — at six. I’ve never lived the alarm clock life, and now I have to. And we all know what a self-defeating curse the alarm clock — and the snooze alarm — can be. So here’s what I did: I’m using my iPhone as my alarm clock, of course, and I gave this name to my daily alarm: Make money.

We live by symbols, and that’s a powerful motivation for me: If I respond to that alarm — if I don’t turn it off and if I don’t take a snooze cruise — I am expressing my commitment to making money. And if I don’t? That’s a commitment, too, isn’t it? But doing the right thing — getting my ass out of bed — is a small success at the very dawning of a new day. I’ve already started the day a winner. All I have to do is keep winning.

I think working out the incentives has to be a part of your action plan for the pursuit of your goal, and accounting for those incentives — tallying up your incremental successes — must be a part of your active goal-pursuit. This is what makes the unbroken chain of red X’s on a calendar so valuable, and this is why sharing your plan with people who like you and support your ambitions can be valuable. Your objective is not to avoid the ignominy of failure but, rather, to rejoice in the experience — ultimately the habit — of success.

A praxis is a perfectible practice, and I believe in living the idea of praxis in everything I do. This is really what I’m doing right now, making a praxis of goal-achievement. I’ve always done everything I wanted to do, and I never thought twice about how I was getting things done. That was a mistake. As with everything else, working out the theory is how you discover how to perfect the practice.

I’ve always loved to work, and I’ve never cared about money, and I want for the second half of that policy to change by precisely 180 degrees. That’s a big change. It amounts to reprogramming my entire way of thinking. How will I do it? I’m going to start by getting up every day at exactly six o’clock with my mind already focused on making money. After that, all I have to do is follow through.

The big reward is baked in the cake, and the path to that cake is clearly marked by dozens of smaller incentives — with all of them aligned with the big incentive. I have no reason to fear financial failure: I’ve lived with that all my life, sometimes more, sometimes less. What I have to do is motivate my actions toward making more money. And said that way, my course of action is not only obvious but simple. All I have to do is follow through — and celebrate my successes at following through.

4 comments

The Goal of Achieving…Goals

“But a deed cannot be both wise and unintended.” Greg Swann

Substitute goal for deed, and it’s still a profoundly affecting thought. In the context of Greg’s post, one could reasonably assume deed could be construed as goal.

The thrust of the post talks about the tactic of exposing your goals to the ‘public’, or at least a person(s) you know. The thinking is that you will tend to be more motivated by the fear of others knowing you not only failed, but failed by lack of commitment or best effort.

Clearly their are two schools of thought on this.

One is the unstated but obvious conclusion that using fear in a positive manner, as a motivator, will keep some folks on track to achieve the announced goal. Others go farther than a mere announcement — they set up fiercely painful penalties for failure. One such case was the woman who’d failed spectacularly time after time to lose weight which was life threatening.

Apparently she gathered her closest friends together to tell them the penalty for failure — running naked down the street in front of her neighbors. In other words, she established a penalty so severe, that would cause so much pain, her motivation to avoid the pain superseded her motivation to extend her life by losin’ the damn weight.

Though not my approach, whatever works, right?

As I commented in Greg’s post, I am in some ways, almost, but not quite against my will, my father’s son. I’m a pretty private guy, but he was extremely so. When he set goals his wife was fortunate to be in the know. Not kidding.

It was his preference, and now mine too, that if one doesn’t have a strong enough desire to bring about what the achievement of any particular goal brings, they shouldn’t set the goal in the first place. It’s not a value judgment on others. It’s like losing weight, gettin’ in shape, and eating a healthy, well rounded diet. There’s no one correct way.

I believe in keepin’ my personal and business goals to myself because I don’t set goals for which I don’t have a very strong desire to accomplish. It’s that simple. Again, I understand different M.O.s work for different folks. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the next guy.

Frankly, I’ve shared goals when I was younger. We all understand the whole accountability thing. But if I want something strongly enough to set a specific goal in writing, including the detailed strategy to get me there, I know when I’m not following the plan. Settin’ goals is a huge pain in the ass, at least from where I sit. It’s painstaking work. What began as, “I wanna make $X amount this year”, becomes real work when details of how it’s gonna be executed must be put down in real words, on real paper. For me, it begs the real question.

How badly do I want it?

I respect those who feel they benefit from having the world know what their goals are — and what they must do to make them reality. Again, whatever works. But those same folks don’t need a buddy callin’ periodically to make sure they drink enough water and consume enough calories to live another week. They’re motivated strongly enough to do that without goading. It’s a goal they reach every week. Furthermore, they don’t try to survive, they do it.

Yet they need to be goaded into making an extra six figures a year.

In my personal experience, I’ve achieved no ambitious goal for which I wasn’t massively motivated — from within. It’s a core belief with me. Before I set pen to paper, or put fingers to keyboard, I give intense thought and scrutiny to the strength of my desire. If I’m unwilling to do every single thing, big or small in it’s conquest, I don’t put it in writing. I like the way Greg said it even better.

“…the simple act of making an explicit, objective, undeniable commitment to your goals is the first step to achieving them. It’s doing that — or not doing it — that is the decisive factor.”

For me it comes down to a simple concept — words mean things.

Things we truly want to do, we do — we don’t try. As Greg puts it, we don’t play mind games when it matters to us greatly. Frankly, I’m a little more uncouth on that subject.

Failures and losers are always trying their best or, more cunningly deceptive, doing their best. I call BS. Whiny crap like that is why the vast majority of goals are stillborn. Do or don’t do — but stop sayin’ ‘try your best’ or worse, ‘do your best’, cuz you’re embarrassing yourself. Worst of all, those hearin’ that manure are embarrassed for you. I know, cuz I’ve been guilty more than once myself. Lookin’ back I still become a bit red-faced.

Not clear enough?

A core belief dictates I must believe I will accomplish any goal put into writing — before I start down the road to making it reality. It also dictates trying isn’t an option. I believe that’s a mind game played by those who need an excuse for failure. Again, I speak from a platform of sad experience.

It’s taken me from ‘that chubby blonde guy’ to a marathon runner. From the scrawny high school kid to competitive bodybuilder. From umpiring Little League games in shorts, to Division I college ball. From scrappin’ along in real estate to doing business in multiple states.

Even those with good intent will sometimes heap discouragement on your goals.

Dad had a 10 year business goal that was, to put it mildly, uncommonly ambitious. He barely had two quarters to rub together when he wrote it down. He told nobody. One day, while at the 19th hole, enjoying gin rummy and drinks with close friends, the topic of discussion turned to goals. Everyone spoke of their business goals except Dad. He finally relented, telling them of his 10 year plan. They were, according to Dad, stunned. As true friends they attempted to gently advise him of the virtual impossibility of achieving it in 15 years, much less 10.

He thanked them for their concern. It had been almost seven years since he’d written that goal down. He didn’t have the heart to tell them he’d exceeded it almost two years earlier — just half the time his plan allowed.

People mean well. Dad’s friends meant the best for him. Their advice reflected what they believed was possible. If he’d told them of his plan and objective in the beginning, they’d have given the same advice. They were his close buds — they meant the best for him.

That’s exactly why I don’t tell others about my own goals, with the exception of The Boss. And only then when I’m serious as a heart attack. My friends? There a a select few I use as critical sounding boards — those I trust implicitly. But I still don’t tell them the bottom line goals.

It’s my belief goals are more easily achieved by studiously avoiding telling others what they are. But that’s a personal belief, which obviously isn’t true for some. It’s a real paradox, isn’t it?

Greg eschews the psychology of the whole thing, but it interests me to the extent folks need others to goad them on to do the very things that will make their dreams morph into reality. “Hey, George, this is Mike, I’m making $35,000 a year now, but if I do A-Z for the next 12 months, I’ll make $150,000! Would you please keep me motivated to do those things, so I won’t be living paycheck to paycheck? Please?”

Yet if I”m to be consistent, what do I care how Mike attained his goal? A cat skin is a cat skin is a cat skin. Talk about mind games. I get into a circular argument with myself about why, if I’m super motivated to achieve a particular goal, I’d need outside prodding to do what it takes to make it happen. I get it that I don’t need to understand it. Heck, all I need to know is that for many it’s what works — and that’s enough.

A possible answer has occurred to me. As human nature so often demonstrates, we want what we want, but we don’t necessarily wanna do the grunt work required. I understand it intellectually, but not in my gut. The high school baseball star who gets a coupon for two free meals at Taco Bell and a bus ticket to East Toilet Seat Iowa to begin his quest for Major League status, puts up with horrid conditions for many years, with equally horrid pay. He knows his chance for success is very small, probably less than 2%.

Yet we, and that includes me at one time, need outside motivation to achieve a monetary goal we know in our hearts is attainable, assuming we actually, you know, do the work?

I know it works for some, but I’ll never understand it.

8 comments

Mad Men for Labor Day: Your compensation for doing your job comes in the form of — wait for it — compensation.

6 comments

Do you want to actually achieve your goals? Then make your commitment real by making specific, explicit, objective, detailed plans.

Teri Lussier turned me on to this TED talk on goal-achievement. The video makes the seemingly confounding claim that announcing your goals to other people makes you less likely to achieve them. As with every other seemingly confounding “argument,” the matter turns on the conflation of unlike things. What the speaker, Derek Sivers, is talking about are not actual goals but casual whims. What a huge surprise: Eating cotton-candy spoils your appetite for real food! Who knew?

I once worked with a woman who would issue random statements of desires completely unconnected to her real life. Like this: “I think it would be fun to be a flight attendant.” This is actually an easy goal to attain, but it requires a process of thought and effort and a significant amount of focused action taken over time. The same criteria would apply to any sort of meaningful goal.

Simply announcing to another person that you might like to lose weight, or you might like to see the pyramids, or you might like to be a better Realtor — these are all equally meaningless expressions of whims. They are the verbal equivalent of cotton-candy, a big pile of sugary nothing whipped up by your mind to confound itself into believing that it has been nourished — when you know without any possible doubt that it has not.

The TED talk turns on psychology, which should be warning enough that it’s pure bullshit. The “science” of psychology exists to “persuade” you to be “satisfied” with a lifetime of dull dissatisfaction. “Come on, now, you know that expressing your goals only makes them harder to achieve. Now take another pill and go back to sleep.”

No, thank you. And don’t make me say it again.

The problem is not expressing goals, but expressing empty whims and then doing nothing. Yes, that is self-destructive, but this is not something anyone needs to be told.

Here is what needs to be explored in detail:

Expressing your goals requires a very strong commitment. A true goal is detailed and specific, explicit and objective. It includes a list of serious actions that must be taken through time, and it entails specific performance targets to be achieved by specific dates. A goal is a plan, not just a notion.

Do you need to make your goals public? If you have expressed your goals in the way I just described — you already have. You may not have shared them with other people, but you have made your goals objectively real — and therefore undeniable.

And that’s the problem: The game we play, each one of us inside his own mind, is the game of deniability: If I merely think that I might someday like to learn to speak Spanish, I haven’t really made a commitment. When I see myself, day after day, failing to learn to speak Spanish, I’m not really failing, I just haven’t started to succeed yet. If I tell a stranger about my desire to learn to speak Spanish someday, I can be a hero in that person’s eyes — and in my own — without actually having to do anything. Hurray for me! And the best part is, that other person will probably never even hold me accountable for failing to make any effort to learn to speak Spanish. Cotton-candy is great for every meal!

That much is stupid, obviously. But once you have made your goals real — specific, explicit, objective, detailed, with clear performance targets — making them public can help to keep you motivated. You will be accountable to your own public pronouncement, and other people will feel themselves justified in holding you accountable. To fail to act as you have said you would will make the self-destruction that is always inherent in failing to pursue your goals obvious and undeniable — to the people you have made your commitment to, yes, but especially to yourself.

This is how every great thing gets done. Nothing is easy, that’s a given. The easiest thing to do — always — is nothing. But you cannot achieve anything without making a serious, explicit, detailed commitment, and you cannot make a real commitment without making your commitments objectively real — by giving them an undeniable reality outside of your imagination.

Do you want to see how it’s done? Take a look at this commitment to goal-achievement from Tacoma Realtor Scott Cowan. His expression of the desire to achieve his goal is open, naked, achingly vulnerable. But it is also detailed, explicit, objective and specific — and it openly seeks a public accountability. Growing in any way from your comfortable old self takes guts, and Scott is showing us all what that kind of courage looks like.

Of course, his ordeal just got that much tougher by me drawing attention to it, but, in compensation, his reward will be that much richer for daring to strive — daring to soar — and for daring to do it in public.

Don’t share our goals with other people? Nonsense. What you do about your cotton-candy whims matters nothing at all. But to achieve your goals, you must make them real. If sharing your action plan with others motivates you to work that much harder, so much the better. But the simple act of making an explicit, objective, undeniable commitment to your goals is the first step to achieving them. It’s doing that — or not doing it — that is the decisive factor. And if you won’t make that commitment, you might as well tell the world you want to be an astronaut. You’re not going anywhere anyway.

But the most interesting benefit of taking the other course — making every one of your goals real and explicit and then pursuing those goals relentlessly — is that this is itself the best possible expression of your goals. It’s all one thing, always. Living as a human being is self-expression. Living as your best self is the best possible way of illustrating the value of living up to the ideal of being your best self. Intentions are not deeds — that’s always the problem. But a deed cannot be both wise and unintended. Live your dreams. That is egoism in action. Live your dreams — period — and the world can take care of itself.

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Your Right to Say Nothing

I’m going to give everyone a little unsolicited information. It’s a free gift from me to you, partly paying you all back for all the great advice I receive on Bloodhound Blog.

Call it educational. Let’s just say I’m in a patriotic mood. Labor Day and all that. And when I get into a patriotic mood, I start thinking about all those rights that Americans have that they routinely throw away as if the Founders never existed.

If you are ever in a position where police officers are talking to you about your conduct, whether it be speeding, drunk driving, or something more serious, always be polite, but never speak to the police without an attorney present. You would be shocked at how, by showing restraint, you can dramatically improve your chances for a better outcome in your case.

You could be stopped on the side of a road and a police officer asks you if you know how fast you were driving. Instead of saying “I know I was speeding,” how about you just say, “Thank you, Officer, I appreciate your job.” And when the police officer asks, “How fast were you driving?” Maybe a good response might be: “I really appreciate the job you do, but I’d prefer not to answer any questions.”

Most police officers will respect you, and most police officers would do the same in your position. The ones who don’t respect you for asserting your rights weren’t going to let you off with a warning anyway.

I don’t handle traffic tickets, but I do handle everything from a DWI up to violent crimes. And – I know this is going to shock you – some defendants are innocent. Still more are innocent of the crime for which they’ve been charged. And still more would be found not guilty, but for statements they made to police.

It’s not your job as an individual to give to the government all the evidence it needs to convict you of a crime. And given that in the United States we’re all guilty of something, it makes sense to be a little guarded about what rights we do have not to incriminate ourselves.

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“Hi, My Name Is Jeff, and I’m a TechTard” – “Hi Jeff!”

Back in the day I was in a perpetual state of frustration when it came to pretty much anything hi-tech. Not only because I couldn’t use it, or that it almost always failed to deliver anything close to the multiple miracles promised, but because I simply couldn’t understand — at almost any level. Outside of the computer in general, obviously the all-time best hi-tech tool for real estate agents, most of the so-called technological breakthroughs have been anything but.

I first used a computer effectively on the job back in 1987 or so. Leased an IBM 286 with a proprietary program installed. It allowed me to download property files via DataQuik using a phone connection. The only other task for which it had any value whatsoever was writing, and printing for mass direct mailings. The printer was a tractor feed. More fun than a hayride. 🙂

Lookin’ back, that piece a crap ‘puter was the best bang for the buck with which technology ever blessed me ’till about a decade later. You know the chronology after that.

What’s really happened though in the last 15 years or so? Sure, a buncha software has made our jobs incrementally easier. Don’t mistake that last sentence to mean I’m downplaying the value of a lotta those ‘incremental’ timesavers — I’m not. But real bona fide breakthroughs? Show me.

Agreed, getting leads online at the astounding rate some do, is indeed magnificent.

I guess what I’m tryin’ to say, and poorly at that, is if we look back at technology’s so-called breakthroughs, they pretty much, with the obviously rare exceptions, mimic the invention of the backhoe. Shovels could be engineered to the nth degree. Digging techniques could be honed to efficient perfection. Backhoes did the work of many men, more quickly, and uniformly. Though the backhoe isn’t nearly as versatile as the computer, you get the idea.

Here’s a technological game changer for me. My first set of hearing aids, bought five or six years ago, were digital, and pretty much state of the art back then. They reopened a world I’d almost forgotten. It was magnificent, especially for business. Recently though, they were goin’ downhill, evidenced by my family’s insistence I’ve been sayin’ ‘what’ WAY too much lately. 🙂

So I made an appointment with my trusted audiologist. She said there was such a leap in technology, I’d be overwhelmed with what’s possible now. “Right” I said. “Just like all the web-geeks keep sayin’ about whatever new miracle they’ve created.” She just smirked, and told me to ‘put these on’.

Oh my freakin’ God in Heaven!!

Won’t bore ya here with all the specifics, but the dang things are intuitive — really. They figure out what I probably wanna hear, then aim most of their power that way. Crowded restaurant? If I’m talkin’ with you across the table, the crowd noise is buffered while your voice is amplified. How cool is that?

Wait! There’s more!

I’ve always used a low tech $15 earbud directly plugged into my cell phone, so as to increase the chances of hearing you better. What a gigantic pain in the ass that is, what with hearing aids already stuffed in my ear. They move around, or sometimes even fall out.

The new aids have bluetooth!! Phone rings, I push a button on the small device hangin’ from its cloth ‘chain’ under my shirt, and voila! I’m hearin’ ya in perfectly clear stereo. The phone stays in my pants pocket, on my desk, or wherever else I have it. That, my friends, is what I call a game changer — at least from where I sit. But it gets better.

It’s now connected to the TV too. The sound comes through like it’s from God’s lips to my ears. The Boss is thrilled, to say the least. 🙂 They’ll pretty much connect to any device equipped with bluetooth capability — which includes my computer. Haven’t figured that one out yet, but I will, and soon. Remember, I’m a TechTard.

For the record, this massive improvement in hearing aid technology costs about 12% less than I paid for the aids I first had. Their cost/benefit ratio seems to have improved much like most hi-tech stuff has.

What real life game changers has technology brought to your life/job?

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I can do better than this

A year ago last week I had just passed the bar. Today: some 90 clients later with some excellent results for those clients, and some excellent results for me not only in building a law practice, but in learning what I need to represent my clients effectively.

I started last year with a WordPress, a domain, and a dream. My wife was freaking out: you need to go “network”, by which she meant go to mixer-type bar events to meet other lawyers. I’m not the “networking” type.

I spent later September and all of October and much of November building out my website, and figuring out how to get it to the top of Google. I took to heart some of the concepts here – you should get people to your website, and get them to stick on your website by writing decent content.

That website, as I’ve written elsewhere, has produced more than 90 percent of my businesses. In a way, that worries me to be so heavily dependent on the web. In another way, it doesn’t given that the web isn’t going anywhere and other lawyers aren’t really cognizant of how important it is from a retail law perspective.

So atop (or close to atop) Google I sit, dominating keywords like criminal lawyer raleigh and raleigh criminal lawyer and on and on.

I’ve done it by brute force. Creating content and creating links to that content. I’m limited in what I can do in terms of soliciting – meaning, I’m not allowed to “solicit” – but I’m not limited in what I can do to try to build up my reputation online.

But now I want to make it better. I want the right people – people in need of a lawyer – to be compelled to call me. I also want the website to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, so that people who have questions, but don’t want to hire a lawyer, can find their answers without picking up the phone.

I need new ideas on what to try.

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Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Let’s stay away from the #RTB(tab) crowd as industry lifeguard comparison, shall we?

Have a safe and relaxing weekend.

h/t Phil Martin

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