There’s always something to howl about

Archive for November, 2010

One Lucky Son of a Bitch

What I like so much about BloodhoundBlog, is that as a general rule all points of view are welcome. However, along with that welcome mat comes a price. Those harboring contrary beliefs tend to make themselves heard, and more in ways reminiscent of the streets of 1880’s Tombstone than Mayberry. ūüôā Frankly, I prefer the Mayberry approach. Others opt for the OK Corral.

To each their own, which is also a Bloodhound policy.

It’s always fascinated me the way some insist others who are successful with a capital ‘S’ are merely beneficiaries of more bountiful injections of luck than the next guy.

It was a hard life-lesson for me coming to terms with the reality that regardless of my best efforts, there were others who could produce superior results. Realizing I was never gonna be a Hall of Fame baseball player was traumatic. There’s always a faster runner, etc.

Does luck have a part in our lives? Of course. Is it the deciding factor? Sometimes. You just won $200 Million in the lottery? I’m thinkin’ talent wasn’t part of the equation, and luck was the only factor. You’re worth eight figures, and it wasn’t inherited? It’s my contention and core belief that you earned your wealth, and that luck wasn’t a huge component.

Yet there are many, albeit a minority who will ascribe the creation of that wealth to luck. Many will go further, believing that sans luck, those who’ve succeeded on a grand scale, (however they define that) not only wouldn’t have achieved that level of success, but literally couldn’t have.

Luck, as Grandma taught me, is often the last gasp excuse for some who’re unable or unwilling to acknowledge others’ superior results. They literally cannot allow the concept of superiority through merit to become reality. She followed this up by saying that even though Sandy Koufax will always be an infinitely better pitcher than even I could even dream of, it would never mean he was a better person.

Throughout my life I’ve been exceedingly blessed by having rubbed shoulders with, and/or having direct access to, some very successful men and women. For the life of me I can’t think of one whose triumphs in life were based primarily on luck.

Though I’ve had a lifetime to get my head around it, I’ve yet to comprehend those who point to luck as the make or break catalyst for significant success.

Instead of becoming frustrated, it was more appealing to have some fun.

Some people think Henry Ford was lucky. So were Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Apple’s Steve Jobs, and John Rockefeller according to many. All of ’em — nothing but lucky bastards. If it wasn’t for luck, they woulda been just another random group of regular guys. Same with some our most revered sports icons. Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown — merely providential timing, recipients of good fortune, having been at the right places at the most opportune times. Take Carl Hubbell for example. Talk about lucky. Just cuz he knows how to throw a screwball, he lucks into 253 wins.

Who knew?

Hell, my own dad, God rest him, was the poster boy for luck. The guy went from a $100 weekly draw to $400,000 a year in just three years — in the 60’s. Luck is the only possible explanation. The arrogant bastard claimed it was his efforts and guts that built a business that supported 20-30 families at any given time. Rainmaker? He had to have been the gold standard for hubristic pomposity. What unbearable chutzpah. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to have come from his loins.

Who do these people think they are anyway?!

Then there’s the kid I coached 20 years ago in youth baseball. He was the only 10 year old drafted into the local Little League’s majors, which is populated by 11-12 year olds. His dad (I knew him) was no great shakes as a player, having played in organized ball only through his junior year in high school, and then not even for his school. In other words, the boy wasn’t inheriting any golden baseball genes. He was made a starter, hit over .300, and woulda been his league’s all-star second baseman if the rules hadn’t barred those under 11. Lookin’ back, the kid was lucky beyond belief. It must’ve been a down year for talent. They probably let him get hits out of sympathy. Makes sense in hindsight.

Frankly, I don’t know how Russell Shaw looks himself in the mirror. He Gumps his way through years of, to be kind, mediocre performance as a real estate agent in the Phoenix market. Then he totally lucks out by having worked at a local radio station, again Gumpin’ his way into a few commercials, one of which finally clicked. (Hell, do enough of ’em, and one has to work, right?) This led to more listings and sales, which led him to arrogantly assume it was due to his magnificent talent. One thing led to another and this guy has the temerity to go on freakin’ TV, hawking his average plus talent as an agent over the Phoenix airwaves. He now routinely lists, sells, and closes hundreds of home annually. He should rename himself — Mr. Lucky.

Anyone could’ve done what he’s done, they just weren’t blessed by Lady Luck.

All those team leaders-rainmakers in real estate offices around the country who’re closing 50-800 deals a year, makin’ $200,000 to over a million bucks, are, sadly, sailing through life completely oblivious to the part luck has played in their lives. It’s almost criminal the way they’ve so successfully mislead folks. One wonders, what would the American public do if they realized, once and for all, that those to whom they’ve given so much respect, aren’t really producing all those results. They’ve been blessed by luck. The maddening thing that makes it even worse? It’s pretty much random.

We’re not the masters of our own destinies.

We only imagine that’s true. It’s a fairy tale. The so-called mega-producers in American business have been randomly selected to experience their wildest dreams. There’s nothin’ whatsoever special about ’em. It’s smoke and mirrors. Nobody can possibly be that successful unless it predominantly owing to random luck. Warren Buffett just as easily coulda been Forrest Gump’s third cousin, Mortimer.

Lord knows I’m light years from being a captain of industry, but I must be one lucky son of a bitch.


The politics of dancing: Mothertongue and the art of negotiation.

I could argue that much of what goes on in the social sciences consists of pseudo-scientific “proofs” that the human mind is nothing special. Sure, volitional-conceptuality — the ability to engage in mental self-reference by means of abstraction and the ability to act upon those abstractions as a free moral agent — is unprecedented in the animal kingdom, but this dolphin has learned four of the first five letters of the Roman alphabet, and that chimp can stack three boxes on top of one another to steal a cookie. If that ain’t human, they don’t know what is!

Here’s what’s funny: They don’t know what animals are, either!

Monkeys don’t need to do a charmingly poor job at deploying human tools to survive, and cetaceans are perfectly adept at communicating with each other without a notation system — without what I would call fathertongue.

When I’m showing real estate, I’m careful to teach people, especially children, what a dog is doing with his tail. Up and wagging? Take it slow, but the dog is friendly. Straight down? Proceed with caution. Between the legs? Back off. The tail is a dog’s primary signaling device. That’s why people who want dogs to fight bob their tails.

But that wagging tail tells such a tale: “Hi, there!” the dog seems to say. “I am thrilled to make your acquaintance. As you can see by my wagging tail, I’m eager to make new friends. Might I have permission to sniff your anus? Full reciprocity, of course. Really, I’d be put out if you didn’t give mine at least a little sniff, too.”

That’s mothertongue, a complex initiation of negotiations expressed entirely in bodily signaling, with zero conceptual content — with no fathertongue. Animals are perfect the way they are. They are not somehow “better” if they master what are, to them, ontologically-useless parlor tricks. Moreover, human beings are exalted, not diminished, by dancing bears: The vast chasm between emulating human behavior and actually living it is only made more obvious when we see how pitiable that emulation actually is.

The higher animals communicate by mothertongue, and all but one species is excellent at living according to its actual ontological nature. The exception is humanity, of course. We alone possess the ability to communicate in fathertongue, as well as mothertongue, but while fathertongue can help us retain steadily more perfect truths, it is also eminently well-suited for crafting — and enshrining — lies.

But even this — our worst vice! — is an amazing testament to how different we are from mere animals. We are alike unto them in every way that does not matter, but in the one way that does, we acquire the power — the conceptual leverage — to be everything they can never be. Do you choose to be a hero or a villain? An achiever or a schlub? A leader? A follower? A rebel? Whatever choice you can name, you have it because you have mastered fathertongue, not because you are an organism.

Every aspect of organic life applies to you as well, of course, every biological process. But what makes you human is not your biology, not your genes, not your ingestion, respiration or reproduction.

What makes you human is fathertongue, and there is nothing to compare to this in any other species of organic life.

Everything I can do in discursive prose is fathertongue, of course, nothing but notation, no bodily signaling at all. And then think of all the rigorous work done by thousands and millions of brilliant minds in order to make it easy and cheap for you to read these words on glowing phosphors from thousands of miles away — years from now, for all I know. When you think of everything fathertongue does in your life, you can’t stop thinking of it.

And yet, in real-life, much of our communication consists of mothertongue. We sigh and we grumble, we grimace and scowl, we smile — sometimes in delight, sometimes out of fear — we lean, we slouch, we grovel in a sweaty silence or we glower demandingly into a silence no one dares to break. We are rational animals, so we can, if we like, communicate abstract ideas in fathertongue. But whatever else we might be doing or trying to do, we are always communicating — signaling — with our bodies. Always. Even when we’re all alone! Mothertongue is the body’s observable physical expressions of the mind’s interior state, and, in consequence, it is the perfect means of communicating irrationality — no matter how absurd the actual message might be.

But mothertongue is also how we communicate love, affection, trust, admiration, reverence, pride, satisfaction, adulation, adoration and full-blown worship. The self is an abstraction, but everything of the self that I would celebrate as a virtue is felt, also, in a physical delight, the same kind of delight my dog Shyly exhibits in her best moments. I get to experience her type of animal pleasure in my own mothertongue expressions — even though, unlike the joy Shyly feels, these are in fact the secondary consequences of fully-human, fully-abstract fathertongue accomplishments.

And just that much is so much fun to me: I think it’s wonderful to be a human being, and that outrageous integrity is the crowning glory of humanity: You need not act upon your own self as it actually is, but if you do, the reward for your conceptual integrity will be an equally enthralling bodily reward: Doing the right thing feels good. This is not the joyous mothertongue compliance of dogs — or it should not be. Rather, it is the consequence of understanding, choice and follow-through.

Doing better makes you feel good because you can forevermore remember that particular experience of having done better. You see yourself as a better person, in a better light. That one instance is a tiny increment, but your opportunities to do better abound. You do better for the right reasons, but the physical delight you feel when you recall your past successes is a nice sweetener to continue on the path to self-improvement. Not the the primary objective, but a nice reward, and a potent bit of redundant evidence that you’re on the right course.

There’s a downside, of course. If being true to your actual nature leads to bodily pleasure as a side-effect, self-deceit leads always to mental anguish, and, ultimately, to actual physical pain. The cause is fathertongue in both instances, but when fathertongue is used to pursue irrational goals — guess what? — it works. Irrational results abound, but no one wants to admit that they got what they had coming to them.

But isn’t mothertongue the language of irrationality? Mothertongue isn’t language at all. If you want to communicate abstract ideas — even bad ideas, even lies — to other people, you must do this in fathertongue. If they are remote from you in space or time, obviously, but even across the room, you can only communicate conceptual matter in concepts — in words or images or sounds. And yet, your objective is to convey mothertongue expressions: Envy, hurt, resentment, greed, spite, anger, malice. Thus, by means of the power of fathertongue, do we turn individual vice into a broadcast viciousness.

The essence of demagoguery is to induce mothertongue expressions with fathertongue. Looked at that way, the individual irrationalizer is his own demagogue first and always: He self-induces unhappy mental states in order to endure the uncomfortable or even painful corollary physical side-effects. “You make me sick!” takes on a whole new meaning!

There’s more — alas. Demagoguery is the poison of fools, but it is the food of con-men of all flavors: Actual confidence men, carneys, charlatans, politicians and many, many varieties of salespeople. If you’re selling crap that no one needs — or if you know you’re selling people a product they will never actually use to any benefit — you have to hustle them with mothertongue expressions packaged in fathertongue. Whether the scam is a true McGuffin or hair plugs or a fake real estate column to be run as advertising in the PennySaver, you’re looking to tickle the greed bone or the envy bone or the schmaltz bone. If you get anywhere near the cranium, you’re sunk, but — what the hell? — the people you think of as suckers are everywhere, aren’t they?

And now I’m making myself sick, so I’ll stop. The point is this: Every relationship among higher animals is a relationship precisely because it is a continuous negotiation. The dog wags his tail at the beginning of the relationship, but, from that point on, the dog will always express amiability and affection — unless your behavior changes radically. When you meet a new person, you “feel” each other out, and this is a process that will continue, abating slowly but never ending entirely, as you get to know each other. To know another person is to understand how that person chooses to act. Not how he or she acts — and you may not always be able to predict another person’s behavior, no matter how well you know each other — but how that person chooses to act: What thinking process precedes action?

But all of this is happening in mothertongue and fathertongue at the same time — all the time. Teasing is a good example, one that can only work among people who already know and trust each other: You say something in fathertongue that you know the other person will regard as being outrageous and wrong at the same time that you are putting the lie to that statement in mothertongue with a wink or a wry grin. The aftermath of the assertion of physical, mental or emotional coercion is also instructive: Whether you’re watching a teenager in a snit or video of a hostage, the fathertongue communicates a begrudging compliance, but the mothertongue conveys a belligerent defiance.

And let’s think about dancing again, just to illustrate how pitiable is that dancing bear. When you dance with someone you love — or hope to love — the mothertongue and fathertongue expressions are perfectly aligned: The words you are murmuring, mouth to ear, are expressed bodily in the ways you and your dance partner are touching each other. There is so much more going on here than merely moving your body in rhythm to the music: Ardor, the thrill of sexual contact, anticipation, a kind of focused attention that would do you a world of good at work, etc. The mothertongue can extend beyond the two dancers, as well. He might be engaged in display behavior, to show the other guys that he got the hot chick. She might be showing off her clothes to the other girls. There is no limit to how much communication can be going on, and yet all a bear can do is affect to dance — badly — in the hope of earning a treat.

All of these negotiations are going on constantly with everyone with whom we come into contact. We don’t think about this process of negotiation normally, because we have long since habituated the behavior that makes it all work out, in most contexts. But human beings are always negotiating their concourse in mothertongue and fathertongue. When the two forms of expression are in alignment, on both sides of the negotiation, matters can proceed quickly and to much mutual benefit. When the words say one thing but the bodies say another, on one side of the table or both, negotiations bog down.

I dealt with the manifestations of the kind of failed negotiation that we might see in a real estate transaction, without using the terms mothertongue or fathertongue, in my essay on the implied accusation:

Here’s another one, and it is everywhere: The Implied Accusation. It is communicated — if at all — by glares and sighs and harrumphs and scowls. Everyone knows what is going unsaid and nobody says anything. The Implied Accusation works beautifully, because, if you want the accusation made explicitly, you’ll have to explicate it yourself. Except you don’t explicate it yourself because you know that, even though you are without guilt here, you have too much to answer for elsewhere.

The Implied Accusation is the underground river flowing through every unhappy relationship. To address good and evil, all you have to do is bring things out into the open. But after a while, there is simply too much to go through, too much that is too shameful to be cheerfully borne and revisited. Nothing lives underground, but nothing ever really dies, either, its just rots, becoming its own graveyard. In the end, it becomes easier to destroy the relationship than to go to all the work necessary to repair it.

Here is The Implied Accusation in real estate: “Realtors are stupid.” “Realtors are corrupt.” “Realtors are lazy.” “Realtors are self-serving.” “Realtors will say anything to make a deal.” These ideas are epidemic, a cultural undercurrent.

You know these charges are untrue, but what do you do about them? To leave The Implied Accusation unnamed, unaddressed is to seem to confess to it, or at least to plead no contest. Your clients begin their relationship with you with unstated doubts about your integrity, and you hope to counter those attitudes by your behavior.

This is not enough. You have to make the issue explicit. You have to make every bit of it explicit, and not just once. At any point in your relationship with a client — possibly years after a transaction has closed — you may have to address The Implied Accusation. When, specifically? When there arises the possibility of a colorable doubt about your motives. The trouble is not that your client might complain, but, rather, that he might not complain and yet walk away from your relationship feeling aggrieved.

That’s just one example, but it’s a potent one. The fact is that there is a raucous conversation being carried out in the silence of mothertongue in every negotiation you are involved in.

Here’s what matters to salespeople: Mothertongue is everywhere, all the time, in every contact you make with every person you do business with. So: What are you doing about it?

I am not advocating using mothertongue in the service of deceptive or underhanded objectives. This is easy to do, actually, but, as above, it is a path not to Splendor but to misery and physical pain.

But if you take account of the mothertongue expressions your clients are sharing with you — continuously, by habit, and normally without guile — you can get that much closer to what they really want that much more quickly. Your clients can’t be precise in mothertongue, and they can’t express themselves rationally in the interior mental states they communicate by bodily expressions. But they know what they want, and, if you are paying attention, in short order you will know what they want, too.

As an aside, the terms mothertongue and fathertongue are not sex-role related. Henry David Thoreau used these coinages, originally, in a very different way. To him mothertongue was the kind of language Robert A. Heinlein would have called a “milk tongue” — the locally-prevalent language of casual discourse — like English or Spanish — that you learn first at your mother’s teats. Thoreau contrasted this with the fathertongue languages — Latin and Greek — you would later learn as a part of your formal education.

My own usage of these terms is different. Every notation-based system of recording, preserving and communicating human cognition — speech, poetry, prose, math, music, the visual arts, choreography, software — is fathertongue in my formulation. Fathertongue can be communicated at a distance, across time, without any direct contact between the communicants, to anyone already versed in the notation system. Every sort of communication that can be carried out without formal notation — even if a notation system is used for convenience — is mothertongue. When you sing lullabies to an infant, the words mean nothing, but the embrace and the warmth and the comfort and the caressing and the sounds of your singing mean everything.

But this is the threshold of true sales mastery, I think. You have to learn to align your own mothertongue expressions with the fathertongue ideas you are trying to convey. But you also have to learn to “listen” in mothertongue, to pick up on what your clients, vendors and other business associates are saying with their bodily expressions — even if this is very different from what they might seem to be saying in words. If you can do that, you can cut right to the bone and get down to the meat of the matter right away.

Our job, as salespeople, is not to sell the product but, rather, to deliver a satisfying experience to the client. Your buyers or sellers are not likely to be happy if you don’t deliver the goods, but they will only be fully satisfied if they are confident — in their hearts, in their guts, in their bones — that you have delivered the best attainable value in a way that permits them to feel good about the transaction, about themselves and about you.

The biggest part of your job is fathertongue, always. Just look at those huge piles of paperwork! But the most important work you do will be negotiated in mothertongue, in large measure, and the better you do at delivering the goods in mothertongue, the better you will do in sales.


The Implied Accusation in real estate: How to win the war on your attitude…

Kicking this back to the top. I wrote this years ago (urf!), but it’s one of the most important posts I’ve written here. –GSS

I had this as a comment late last night:

Your cockiness and arrogance is only matched by your incompetence

The author is Keith Brand from Housing Panic, writing under one of the half-dozen or so sock-puppet email addresses he uses. Don’t go looking for the comment. I have him blocked completely.

The comment was in response to my post last night, Stopping traffic to sell houses.

The remarks themselves are stupefyingly stupid, of course. Obviously I am arrogant and cocky — I think for good reason, but good reason or bad, I will be the first to lay the charges. “Insufferable bastard” fits me to a tee. “Incompetence” is simply comical in this context. I invented the idea of the custom real estate sign, was grasping for it through two generations of our signs before it was physically possible.

Oh, well. Who besides Keith Brand does not know that Keith Brand is an idiot? It’s very funny that he has chosen me as his poster child for a dumb Realtor, given who I am, given what we’ve done here. You could argue that this is the perfect testament to his stupidity, but there is more to be unearthed in the graveyard that is Keith Brand’s rotting soul.

Consider: Do I know I’m cocky? Do I know I’m arrogant? Do I know I am supremely competent — as a Realtor, as a real estate weblogger, as a real estate marketing innovator? I not only know that all of these things are true, they are among the very many proud facts of my life. So what could Keith Brand hope to achieve by saying,

Your cockiness and arrogance is only matched by your incompetence

Is this supposed to move me to despair? Me?

But: A different remark in a different context with a different person might have that effect. I am impervious to criticism. It’s either true or it isn’t. If it’s true, I am enriched for having learned better. If not, so what? But other people are different, and they can be hurt — and not just temporarily — by even false charges.

Suppose I were that kind of person. What would Keith Brand have gained for having insulted me? What’s in it for him? Because I am who I am, I am strengthened and improved for having understood him, but the increment is so minor it’s essentially nothing. But had he managed to subtract from my very high self-regard, how would having done so have done anything to improve his own life? If anything, the kind of behavior he exhibits can only make his life worse — and not in minor increments.

People like Keith Brand hate their own lives so much that they lash out at everything. His sole goal, motive and intention is to spread his own internal misery to as many victims as he can latch onto, thus to justify by pandemic wreckage the wreckage he has made of the incomparable gift of human life.

But here’s the fun part about the war the Keith Brands of the world would inflict upon the rest of us: It can’t happen if you won’t go along with it.

Ayn Rand wrote about an idea she called “The Sanction of the Victim,” an undeserved internalized guilt that could be used as underhanded moral leverage on otherwise happy, productive people. In another context, I wrote about the tragic contradictions that arise because the children of Cain are unwilling to denounce the evils of Abel:

If you live in Cain’s world, stop pretending to live in Abel’s.

If your life depends on capitalism, private property and free trade, stop pretending to admire collectivism. If you thrive by continuous innovation, stop enshrining tradition. If you govern your behavior by reason and conciliation, stop praising vengeance and retribution. If you want to live free from coercion by other people, stop pushing other people around by force.

Keith Brand and his ilk do not matter. The only sane solution to dealing with that kind of person is not to deal with them. Refer them out or just ignore them until they go away. You will not “reform” them or teach them that yours is the better way. The only way you can delight them is to join them, to become one more virtual vampire shedding misery from the graveyard of your own soul.

This is not a commendable business strategy.

Contradictions do not exist. They only seem to because someone, somewhere is promulgating a falsehood, and no one is actively shooting it down.

Would you like to completely destroy The Sanction of the Victim? All you have to do is acknowledge it in the open: “My wealth is not the cause of your poverty. My health is not the cause of your illness. My happiness is not the cause of your misery. My life is my own, and you have no prior claim upon it.”

Do you want to chase Abel from the temple and then raze the temple to the ground? Acknowledge in no uncertain terms that everything you have comes from living in Cain’s way, and none of it from Abel’s.

Do you want to know who makes pandemic, persistent evil possible? It’s you, by failing to stand up for justice — explicitly, audibly, undeniably — when you are falsely accused.

Here’s another one, and it is everywhere: The Implied Accusation. It is communicated — if at all — by glares and sighs and harrumphs and scowls. Everyone knows what is going unsaid and nobody says anything. The Implied Accusation works beautifully, because, if you want the accusation made explicitly, you’ll have to explicate it yourself. Except you don’t explicate it yourself because you know that, even though you are without guilt here, you have too much to answer for elsewhere.

The Implied Accusation is the underground river flowing through every unhappy relationship. To address good and evil, all you have to do is bring things out into the open. But after a while, there is simply too much to go through, too much that is too shameful to be cheerfully borne and revisited. Nothing lives underground, but nothing ever really dies, either, its just rots, becoming its own graveyard. In the end, it becomes easier to destroy the relationship than to go to all the work necessary to repair it.

Here is The Implied Accusation in real estate: “Realtors are stupid.” “Realtors are corrupt.” “Realtors are lazy.” “Realtors are self-serving.” “Realtors will say anything to make a deal.” These ideas are epidemic, a cultural undercurrent.

You know these charges are untrue, but what do you do about them? To leave The Implied Accusation unnamed, unaddressed is to seem to confess to it, or at least to plead no contest. Your clients begin their relationship with you with unstated doubts about your integrity, and you hope to counter those attitudes by your behavior.

This is not enough. You have to make the issue explicit. You have to make every bit of it explicit, and not just once. At any point in your relationship with a client — possibly years after a transaction has closed — you may have to address The Implied Accusation. When, specifically? When there arises the possibility of a colorable doubt about your motives. The trouble is not that your client might complain, but, rather, that he might not complain and yet walk away from your relationship feeling aggrieved.

“Mrs. Johnson, I need for you to understand how I work. Realtors have a pretty bad reputation right now, and, while I think this is largely undeserved, I don’t ever want to do anything to add to that bad impression. So I want to spell out exactly how we’re going to proceed, for this and any other real estate transactions we undertake.

“The most important point I want to convey to you is that I intend to work for you as if you were a member of my own family. If my mother were buying a home, if my sister were selling, if my son were getting his first condo, not one of them could expect better service from me than I plan to give to you.

“Why do I work that way? I believe in doing the right thing, no matter what, and that’s my overriding reason. But the fact is, if I treat you the way you want to be treated, you’ll bring all your future business to me, and you’ll refer all your friends and family to me. Furthermore, I incur a legal liability when I represent you in a real estate transaction. I’ve never been sued, and, god help me, I never will be. But my best protection against getting sued is to do right by you in the first place.

“So that’s something you can do for me, as we work together. I’m going to be doing everything I can to make sure you are delighted, but if for any reason you are not delighted, I need for you to tell me right away. I will do everything I can to put things right, right away.

“I really don’t think that will be an issue, but another thing you can do for me is to tell me if there is something you want me to do that I haven’t done, some piece of information you want that I haven’t gotten for you, something that I’ve promised that I haven’t followed up on. I need you to tell me about these things right away. Don’t let them fester. If you have a question, ask it. If you have a need, express it. If you have a problem or an issue or a worry or a doubt, throw it out on the table and let’s hash it out.

“I make my living effecting real estate transactions, and I don’t get paid until every step of the process is completed. But my legal and moral obligation to my clients eclipses every other interest in my life, including my own self-interest. I want for you to be happy at the end of this process — no matter how it ends. I want for you to be delighted with the work I’ve done for you, even if we end up not buying or selling a house. You are my client now, and I want you to be my client forever. I want to do everything that is right for you, first and always. And I want for you to bring me all your business — you and everyone you know. And I want for you never to feel the need to sue me. The moral is the practical, always, no matter what business we do — or don’t do — right now.

“Why am I saying all this to you? For two reasons: To make it explicit, and so you can feel comfortable holding me accountable to it. These are the terms on which I do business with everyone, and this little speech is your warranty that I will do business with you this way, as well.”

That’s about 600 words, maybe four minutes if you intoned it verbatim — and don’t intone it verbatim. But in four minutes you will have put your relationship on a professional footing. You can’t do much about the pandemic misperception of Realtors, but you can take away the fears of the people you work with face-to-face.

Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to do this? Sure. If you didn’t want to follow through on those promises. For the most part, most of us are not guilty of the charges implied by The Implied Accusation. But we are not without real guilt, and it is that real guilt that explodes into the cacophony of guilty silence when The Implied Accusation resounds silently in the room. Everybody knows what is going unsaid, and nobody says a thing.

To challenge evil, you have to dare to say its true name. In most cases, merely making the issue explicit will make it go away. If you get very lucky, making the issue explicit will flush out a Keith Brand, whom you can then shun in self-preservation. But, at a minimum, committing to words — to audible, undeniable sound — the commitment you propose to make to your clients will induce you to follow through, where it might be easier to defer, to default, to deny there was any such commitment in the first place.

I’m talking about real estate, because that’s what I do here, but this issue is really as big as all of human life: We tend to refrain from making our commitments explicit because we want to cling to a secret trap-door escape route. If you want better relationships in any part of your life, committing yourself as I demonstrated above is a very good place to begin. Obviously, nothing will stop you from betraying your commitment — but you will have to betray yourself first.

“Every action that you take in your life is first taken by your ego upon your ego.” If you commit yourself to absolute excellence as a Realtor, and if you follow-through on that commitment to the absolute best of your ability, you will be impervious to the likes of Keith Brand. When you are guiltless in your own mind, when you know by your own rational conviction that your performance is excellent beyond all doubt, there will be nothing that a graveyard-trolling wretch can do to make war on your attitude.

If you make your moral code explicit — in real estate or in your life as a whole — and then live up to that moral code, you will be unassailable. The moral is the practical. We do well by doing good. And virtue — properly understood and properly effected — is all the reward you could ever want…

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Happy Birthday, Greg!

Happy Birthday, Greg! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating your next spin around the sun!


All Things Being Equal… You’re Not Even Close

I was working with a group of agents this week on their 2011 business plan.¬† We were going through various forms of marketing and the expected returns when one spoke up and said: “The problem is, I hate calling people.¬† I can send letters and even emails, but I don’t want to call anyone.”¬† She is a very good agent as far as real estate agent activities go: she works well with clients, she shows homes well, she negotiates well and so forth.¬† She just doesn’t want to¬†call people.¬†¬†At all.¬†¬†

“Okay,” I told her, “that’s not the end of the world.¬† If you’re not willing to call clients you can still be an agent, you just need to join a team that provides the clients or partner up with someone who has more clients than they¬†can handle.”¬† That’s where the conversation got interesting.

Turns out this agent has tried my suggestion in the past and is looking for the right relationship right now.¬†¬†“But,” she says, “the agents I’ve found so far are all¬†so greedy.¬† They want a big piece of the commission.¬† All they do is hand me the name and then I do all the work.¬† I’m trying to meet an agent that understands our roles are different, but we both equally are growing the business.”

This is the problem with many self-employed people and real estate agents in particular.¬† They seem to think their value is tied to their time.¬† “All you did was give me the client’s name.¬†¬†I did all the work so I think we should split 30/70 my way.”¬† This couldn’t be further from the truth and the faster you understand “value” in an open market economy, the smoother your business life will become.¬† Your value is not tied to the time you contribute.¬† It’s tied to the value you bring.¬† Hmmm, your value is tied to your value.¬† Can I get a big “Duh” from the Jeff Brown camp?

Apparently this comes as a surprise to some agents, but you are not all equal.¬† As a matter of fact, I’d estimate that 5% to 20% of you (and I’m being generous here) are important and the rest of you are not.¬† Why?¬† Because the only important agent is the agent that makes it rain.¬† I know, I know; I can hear you through the internet: “If I don’t show the homes and negotiate and write contracts, what good are the clients your precious rain maker generates?”¬† Here’s a simple way to understand this:

If the rain maker takes time off from the business, would you¬†still be in business?¬† No.¬† Without clients you’re¬†just another agent standing around the copy machine, complaining how difficult the market is.¬† What about the reverse?¬† If you take time off from the business, would¬†the rain maker still be in business?¬† Yes.¬† She’ll just find another agent to do what you were doing.¬† There are hundreds and hundreds of them out there.¬† And there’s your understanding of value: are you replaceable?¬† If the answer is yes, you’re not the primary value in a business relationship; you’re a cost.

Last year I wrote about the owner of a local Single A baseball team and his quote: ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs hard for me to answer questions about everyone who works here as a whole.¬† I see them as two very distinct groups: there‚Äôs those who create revenue and then there‚Äôs everyone else‚Ķ¬† everyone else being a cost.‚Ä̬†¬† He was dead on; there are two personnel components to any business: those who increase the bottom line and those who are a cost to the bottom line.¬† If you bring clients through the door, you are increasing the bottom line.¬† If you take clients out the door to see¬† homes and write contracts, you are a cost to the bottom line… and you are replaceable.

Back to the workshop I was leading; I told this agent who was searching for a partner that understood her equal value that she was not equal; not even close.¬†¬†If I were an agent with too many clients and I was going into business with her, I’d probably pay her 20% – 30% of the commission and I sure wouldn’t enter into any kind of partnership.¬† Think that’s harsh?¬† Think it’s not happening?¬† Think again.¬† If you’re not a rain maker, there is definitely a place for you in the real estate industry.¬† But if you think it’s a valuable one, you’re mistaken.¬† And if you want to create wealth in the real estate industry, go take a good, long look in the mirror and remind yourself:¬† “In business, wealth is a function of value.”¬† Then get out there and make it rain.


Veteran’s Day

I was standing in line at Starbucks when I overheard a young girl (around 4 or 5, I would guess) ask her dad about a man wearing a ‘funny hat’. He responded ‘it just means he was in the navy or something’. The man in question was an elderly gentleman proudly wearing a baseball cap that said ‘Retired Marine’. As we were standing waiting for our coffee, I asked him about his military background and he said he is a 3rd generation Marine, giving 30 years to military service. We sat and I was happy to listen to his stories, some of which dated back to the Korean War.

Regardless of political affiliation, religious beliefs, profession, etc. Veteran’s Day is a day to be grateful for the sacrifices that have been made by our men and women who have donned uniform to serve our country. Not only are our service members asked to give more and more (longer, more frequent deployments), but also face a populace in which anti-military sentiments are common.

Having grown up in a third-world country in the midst of a civil war, where suspicion was given equal weight as facts, I know firsthand that freedom isn’t free. Regardless of my opinions about Obama, today, and everyday, I give thanks to those who selflessly serve for principles and values that transcend all.

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell


New Math… or An Old Game?

General Motors is preparing a public stock offering…¬†you know, because it’s primarily owned by the government and unions¬†right now.¬†¬†¬† The sale is expected to raise $10.6 billion, most of which is¬†going to¬†the government¬†against the $50 billion bailout last year.¬† Since government is literally¬†us (I mean, the $50 billion didn’t come from some savings account the Fed has¬†from working nights and weekends as a pizza delivery boy, right?), that means we are selling an asset we purchased with bail out money… back to ourselves… and then putting the money we took from our left pocket into our right and claiming to have paid ourselves back.¬†¬†Not sure, but I think there’s a nice big dollop of irony in there somewhere.¬†

This is all well and good so far as socialist, potato-passing goes.¬† I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that, while I don’t speak political gobbley-gook, I understand it just fine.

What bothers me here is the math.¬†¬† The plan is to sell about 365 million shares at between $26 and $29 each, raising an estimated $10.6 billion.¬† This will value the company at around $48 billion which, surprise, surprise, is Ford’s capitalization.¬† As a matter of fact, if the shares sell near the high end of the range, GM’s capitalization will be closer to $60 billion – which means bigger and, ostensibly,¬†better than Ford.¬† (Side note: Ford saw the problems ahead of time, made the difficult choices, accepted no public welfare, didn’t forever alter the bond market and our basic understanding of risk/reward investing, came through the worst economic times the auto industry had ever seen and recently reported record profits… but they’re market capitalization is the same as or less than GM’s? I suppose that’s the price you pay for actually thinking the rules of the market place should apply to everyone equally.¬† Makes one wonder though, how happy Ford’s stock holders would be – and how much money they might be spending right now¬†– if Ford’s efforts had been properly rewarded in the free market and they were not in competition with the US Government.)

Back to the math.¬† Most of this¬†($10 billion)¬†will be¬†given to¬†the government (us) and reduce our stake in the company from 61% to 40%.¬† Ummm… if we gave GM $50 billion in exchange for 61% of the company, that values the company at $81 billion, not $48 billion.¬† Further, I understand GM has already repaid $6.7 billion and when combined with the $10 billion from this public offering, the government’s (us) will only be owed $33.3 billion.¬† Ummm… if that’s a 40% ownership stake then the company is valued at $83.25 billion…¬†¬†Okay, so I won’t quibble about $81 billion vs $83 billion and change; I mean, what’s $2 billion at this level.¬† But $20 – $30 billion?¬† Yes, I’ve got to quibble a little here.¬† Either the market is vastly underestimating what GM is worth (and apparently it’s almost twice the company Ford is), OR our¬†40% ownership stake is only worth about $.25 on the dollar.

You know, I seriously don’t mind when others try to mislead me and I’m not much offended when I get force fed a whole bunch of obfuscation from the government¬†,¬†but when you mess with the math you insult me on a much deeper level.¬† (Note: I may hold math a little more¬†sacrosanct than most.¬† I see in math¬†the core of philosophy, music and precision; I look at math and I see poetry.)¬†¬†Listen, it’s not like this is differential calculus; it’s¬†basic multiplication and division.¬† Don’t stand there and tell me 2+2=5!¬† As Mr. Brady is fond of saying: “I am cursed with the knowledge that¬†two plus two¬†does, in fact, equal four.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not buying shares in a company run by people who think they’re so smart¬†math doesn’t apply to them.¬†¬†In the end, the math of the free market does apply, and it is¬†always right.


I’m a time-waster. How about you?

Here’s the point: My name is Greg Swann, and I am a time-waster. My next closing is Wednesday, November 17th, 2010.

It’s news that is my special poison, a quick check of major news and opinion sites several times a day. Stir that in with email, some of it work, some of it work-ish, some of it just more time-wasting. And blend all of that with lots of tiny little brief chores done for clients at various stages of “the process.”

That’s a half-productive day. I start at six, finish at six or nine or one — the next day. And if I spin in place like that all day, I can get half as much done as I should have.

It’s not that I’m working from home. I’ve worked from home for almost twenty years, and I’ve always been able to get a lot done when I need to.

And it’s not the internet as such — duh! I’ve worked on the internet for most of my life.

And I’m not even really a bad, bad boy. It’s just checking this for a minute and that other thing for a couple more, all while taking care of business, yes-sir-ee-boss. By the end of the hour, I’ve rarely wasted more than 20 minutes, so what’s the beef?

The beef would be the stuff that’s missing between these two slices of bread, as it turns out.

I don’t care for the example being set by prominent members of the on social media sites, but I also don’t care if their seemingly-constant TwitBooking helps or hurts them.

This is what I care about: Hundreds and thousands of ordinary working stiffs are mimicking those poor examples, in the mistaken belief that scrupulously documenting every burp and bowel movement will make them successful.

But, from my own corpus: “Egovangelist, motivate thyself!” It’s all one thing, and the way to help other people get good at getting things right is to get good at getting things right. I love to think of myself as a hugely productive being, and the job that matters most to me is not scolding other people for being worse than me, but simply to be better myself.

If I can set a good example, so much the better. But as hard as I work, I want to get a lot more done.

I have other things I want to talk about, but this has to come first, I think. I know not everyone can be as public as I often am — and I think my own error has been not to be public enough — but if you have it in you to make a similar confession, you might be doing some starving Realtor or lender a big favor.

Here’s my bottom line: I can describe defects in human behavior so tellingly because I have lived everything I talk about. I have never wanted to represent myself as a paragon of virtuous behavior — too much the contrary. And while I know what virtue looks like, it’s not an attribute I am always adept at embodying. I think it’s funny that I seem to be so notorious among what is actually a very small pool of people, but there is nothing I want for anyone in this business — or for anyone on earth — except health, wealth and the happiness that comes from being your best possible self.

That’s where I live — when I’m alone, and most of the time when I’m with Cathleen. The more I work, the more of my self I express, so I am twice foolish to waste any time, ever. My plan is to amend my ways, and, as I have done of late, to document my progress and observations.

What about you? If you can say it, say it. If you can’t, at least do it. I’m a time-waster, but, alas, my name is legion. As with every human vice, this is a correctable nuisance. But it demands correction.

And: So: Please excuse me. I have work to do.


Things That Make Ya Go Hmmm

I was born and raised in Southern California. Learned to swim in the ocean under the watchful eyes of local surfers we knew wouldn’t let us go permanently under. I’ve lived in the suburbs of L.A. and Orange County, and along its coast. Life in Manhattan Beach in the late 50’s to early 60’s is the closest thing to Heaven on earth we’ll ever know. From around eight years old or so, you could walk anywhere without adult supervision, sans fear of anything but not makin’ it home before Dark:30.

Just before turning 16 I opted to move from Orange County to San Diego to live with Dad. Mom wasn’t pleased, but understood the need for a boy of that age to be around his dad. It was only 100 miles down the 5, not exactly an intercontinental move. Just two months short of my 16th birthday, it wasn’t horrible timing.

A San Diegan for over 43 years now, I’ve seen it morph from a kind of citified, relatively hick free Mayberry, to what it is today, which is, I’m not sure what. If ya peer in closely, you might be able to see, as I certainly do, remnants of the barely surviving infrastructure of its Mayberry past. But honestly? It’s just for show — we can’t go back.

None of this is really the point though, as I’m taking advantage of the platform here to harken back to days when character mattered, and political correctness meant you voted.

Even a month ago, if you’d told me I’d be seriously entertaining the idea of putting 59 years of SoCal in my rearview mirror, I’d of been confused as to why you’d even think such a thing. But for the first time in my life, the thought of leaving California doesn’t seem abhorrent to me.

I’m now thinkin’ the unthinkable — moving to another state.

At first I thought it was a transitory mood, melancholy brought on by California’s childish, mostly entitled electorate. Please don’t think I’m being unkind, as my words are being chosen carefully. But after a week of thinking, letting my emotions settle, it’s become clear to me, that what I see on the horizon is my own tipping point, comin’ at me like a runaway freight train.

I’m beginning to understand Peter’s viewpoint, in Grandpa’s humorous version of a well known bit of wisdom. “Always robbin’ Peter to pay Paul ends up with a sore Peter.” In California, the robbers evidently outnumber the robbees.

Something very simple happened to me yesterday while pickin’ up coffee ‘n pastry from Starbucks, in anticipation of an office meeting. Rightly or wrongly, it clarified for me what’d been doggin’ my mood since last Wednesday morning. The cashier didn’t realize I’d ordered a large drink, and wasn’t charging me. Without thinking, I asked him if he’d forgotten the Venti pumpkin coffee concoction I’d ordered. (Ordered by the lady I was meeting. I’d never forfeit my ManCard so cavalierly.) He quickly turned to the lady getting my stuff ready, who verified I’d indeed also ordered that drink.

He smiled warmly, then said, “Integrity, much appreciated.”

It occurred to me that if I’d been in East Butt Wart, North Dakota, (Is Starbucks even there yet?) my integrity would’ve been assumed, as opposed to being so rare as to be worthy of comment. Think about that. By merely pointing out a potential, albeit very simple mistake, I was thanked for being a man of integrity.

That, my friends, is California in a nutshell.

That moment helped me understand why I’d been so down in the dumps, and the uneasy feeling the past week. In California, integrity stands out like a turd in a pail of milk. And yes, those who just voted in the majority here wouldn’t flinch at a turd representing integrity in that analogy.

As I’ve so often said, there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who wanna learn how to fish, rising and falling based upon their own merit — and those who simply wanna take my fish, rising and falling based upon my merit.

Ya can’t swing a dead cat in California without hittin’ a buncha folks who want your fish. Most of ’em are either so ignorant or stoopid, they express joy when told many who voted other than they did have been and are continuing to move out. They don’t realize they’ve bought into to the whole Golden (Goose) State propaganda, and are about to find out who’s really been skinnin’ all those cats — or better put, layin’ all those golden eggs. Furthermore, it hasn’t dawned on them that we’re takin’ our golden egg layers with us.

Another way of describing the two kinds of people is producers and takers.

I’m a proud, lifelong producer.

Are you in the 5% top wage earners nationwide? The country’s median income is under $50,000 — around $68,000 for dual income households.

Are you aware that Californians hit the second highest income tax bracket BEFORE they hit the median income?! If they make over $1 Million they pay over 10%. We’ll revisit this later.

In my city, the sales tax is 9.5%. You can’t make up something that stoopid. And that’s less than L.A.’s 9.75%. In other words, buy a new $30,000 car there, and your registration and sales tax alone would total $3,358!

Back to high wage earners. You know, the producers. The ones the takers need to survive.

Imagine someone in the top 5%, a Californian. His IRS tax rate is 35% for every penny he makes over about $373,000. In CA he pays 9.3% on every penny he earns over about $47,000 — less than the national median. Let’s do some fourth grade math.

For every dollar he earns above $47,000 his combined income tax bracket is 34.3%. He pays 42.3% combined from $172-374,000 or so. From $374-1 MIlion he owes 44.3¬Ę on each and every one of those dollars. If, God forbid, he earns more than a million bucks? His new combined tax bill will run 45.3¬Ę for every dollar he earned over that amount.

How’re those SoCal beaches lookin’ to ya now?

If our hardworking, well paid taxpayer moves to say, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, New Hampshire, or Tennessee, he’ll pay no state income tax on what he earns on the job. (New Hampshire and Tennessee tax only dividend and interest income, not job income.)

What? You thought folks were movin’ to Pig Fart, Wyoming for the weather?

Our Golden State (Now that’s ripe, isn’t it?) taxpayer will save a bit less than a dime for every buck he makes by simply calling Bekins. For blue voters in CA, that means if he makes half a mil a year, he’s saving just under $50,000 a year by moving. For those in the Bay Area, in round numbers, that’s about a million bucks in 10 short years.

What would you do with an extra million dollars in your Levis every decade?

Things that make ya go hmmm.


Realtor Prayer for Veterans

The National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics starts with this:

“Under all is the land……..”

Today, on the 235th birthday of the U.S. Marines, and in anticipation of tomorrow, Veteran’s Day, I suggest that every Realtor, every American, and every freedom loving citizen of the world stop to consider the cost of that freedom. I dedicate once again this article that is reprinted from a 2007 post. I was lucky enough then to work with a young Marine and his wife to help them buy a home here in Oceanside. Meeting them moved me. Hopefully reading about them will move you as well. I’m dedicating this post and calling it….

Under All are the Graves….

Saturday, December 8, 2007
It’s Hardly An EOD

I took a young couple out looking for homes today. First time we had met, and our initial introduction had been through my web site and a couple of emails.In the course of our meeting I engaged in my usual convivial chatter, finding out in small snippets where they were from, what they were dreaming, and of course, what they “did for a living.” Now an old philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once wrote “if you label me, you negate me”, and being not quite that old, but old enough to remember and revere the 60’s, I always ask “what do you do” hoping it creates something that really takes me to the core of that person, not just to the superficial meaning of his or her life as labeled by a job.

So today I asked “what do you both do?” She said, “I’m ex-military, and he’s still on active duty.”

“What branch?”, I asked.

“I was in the Air Force”, she said, “and he’s in the Marines.”

We’re here in Oceanside, California, home of Camp Pendleton, and some of the finest young men and women in the whole world. I myself served as a Marine many years ago, but continue to find that meeting and interacting with young service people always makes me glad I live in the San Diego area where so many opportunities arise to do so.

“What do you do in the Marines?”, I asked.

“EOD’s,”, he said.

I’m looking at him, and he’s a young guy who clearly loves his gal, his country, and is not a big talker like me. So I ask him, “EOD’s….what are they?”

“Explosive Ordinance Devices,” he says. “You know, when they set the roadside bombs, me and my unit find them and neutralize them. We make it safe for the rest of the guys.”

“Been to Iraq yet?”, I asked. “Three tours,” he says, and again he’s taking his girl’s hand and concentrating on her.

He’s not even looking straight at me, and I think I sense he’s reluctant to make it sound like anything he does is important. After all, I have my Realtor’s badge on, my head filled with facts about the market and all the homes I’m going to show them. It’s clear he’s looking at me as though I am important.

Well, for today, and to once again remind all of us, Real Estate, is NOT AN EOD!! It’s a job, and it’s a job some of us do well, love, and that can make a difference, but one that nonetheless “labels” us. I want to say that the next time someone meets me and engages in small talk, including asking “what do you do”, I’ll say something really honest, really revealing, and perhaps really dangerous. I’ll say, “I met a Marine who did EOD removal… you know what that is?”…..and then talk about this young man and young woman until the subject changes to why what THEY do make what WE do possible.

And if you’re reading this on your knees…..this veteran salutes you.


Attention Brad Inman: I don’t want your dipshit “most influential” citation again this year, either, but it is beyond obvious that I am by far the most influential voice in the on-line world of real estate.

Let’s start with some music, just to set the mood:

So: If you run in the wrong circles, these are the kind of “arguments” you can expect to hear about me:

  • Greg Swann is mean.
  • Greg Swann is rude.
  • Greg Swann is vulgar.
  • Greg Swann is angry.
  • Greg Swann is cynical.

Here is an argument you won’t hear anywhere, except possibly at BloodhoundBlog:

  • Greg Swann is wrong, and here’s why…

You won’t hear the latter argument for two reasons: I don’t take positions I can’t defend with an impervious impenetrable invulnerability. And: If I should happen to discover that I have been wrong, generally I will be the first person to figure that out and I will announce my error to the world immediately.

What explains all the ad hominem arguments cited among the first set? You figure it out.

These are the kinds of games that some folks are running while making these persuasively useless claims about my character:

  • They piss and moan to each other about me behind my back.
  • They campaign with each other to try to damage my interests.
  • They pester contributors here to try get them to abandon BloodhoundBlog.

In each of these cases, I think they’re doing me favors — which assertion will probably just piss them off more. People who run in mobs don’t like me, and I don’t like them. Anything dominating personalities can do to recruit those folks to their own side of the table can only save me time in the long run.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this song summarizes my position on this kind of behavior — along with every other kind of behavior:

Recent events have made it more than obvious that I am by far the most influential person in the wired world of real estate. People are wasting irreplaceable hours and days of their lives obsessing over me, topping each other with tales of how ardently they don’t pay any attention to me.

Why would this be so? Again, you have to figure this out on your own, but my take is that they know I’m right and yet they don’t want to be right.


What does hating Greg Swann pay? It pays just as much as every other form of TwitBook time-wasting, as it happens, but it may turn out to be even less beneficial in the long run. There’s no destruction like self-destruction.

Just so you know: All of this means this much to me: It is instructive and eye-opening to me to watch these displays of mass cowardice, and commenting in this way affords me an opportunity to help other people learn how to resist what they might think would be an intolerable social pressure but which is, in fact, about as interesting and threatening as a cloud of gnats. To that extent, at least someone is getting something out of this mishegoss.

Meanwhile, the bald-headed big baby of real estate, Brad Inman, is putting together another list of “real estate’s most influential people,” a list I have been cited on before — which citation I always renounce.

How much more rust can collect on the irony? This year’s “most influential” will consist mainly of TwitBook time-wasters — self-anointed, self-promoting “leaders” of the TwitBook time-wasting fad. In consequence, Brad Inman will be just that much closer to destroying real estate representation. This may not be his goal — what conscious goals do big babies have? — but this is the end of his road, even so.

Which is just that much more reason to denounce the list now, and to renounce any mention of me made on it later.

What does it actually mean to be “influential” in an endeavor run by a criminal cartel? Ask Frank Serpico. Ask Galileo. Ask Socrates.

Am I claiming a false grandeur for myself by comparison? Perhaps so. But it sure looks to me like I’m earning it.

But don’t ever forget the Unchained Manifesto: You never have to take shit from morons.

And just so there’s no doubt, let’s get Tom Petty to remind us, once again, what it means to be Unchained:


Mama Grizzly Knows Sumptin’: It’s Sunset For Low Mortgage Rates

One of the things I love about the internet is that links last.  For your soap-operatic pleasure, Sarah Palin asks a national author if he read his own newspaper, when he criticized her remarks about inflation:

So, imagine my dismay when I read an article by Sudeep Reddy in today‚Äôs Wall Street Journal criticizing the fact that I mentioned inflation in my comments about QE2 in a speech this morning before a trade-association. Here‚Äôs what I said: ‚Äúeveryone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher.‚ÄĚ

Mr. Reddy takes aim at this. He writes: ‚ÄúGrocery prices haven‚Äôt risen all that significantly, in fact.‚ÄĚ Really? That‚Äôs odd, because just last Thursday, November 4, I read an article in Mr. Reddy‚Äôs own Wall Street Journal titled ‚ÄúFood Sellers Grit Teeth, Raise Prices:¬†Packagers and Supermarkets Pressured to Pass Along Rising Costs, Even as Consumers Pinch Pennies.‚ÄĚ

It’s common knowledge that Sarah Palin is a vacuous bimbo, who gathers her economic news from the Wasilla Women’s Club Newsletter, right ?

Call me suspicious but I watched an amiable dunce win the Cold War, without firing a shot.¬† Let’s just say I’m less inclined to question the intelligence of country bumpkin politicians, after living through Reagan, and am more inclined to second guess the propagandists at the major dailies.

Whodathunk Mama Grizzly would face the Wall Street Journal, though?

Mama Grizzly and Mama Brady know something about inflation; they do the weekly grocery shopping.¬† When Mama Brady told me that our grocery budget had to be adjusted upwards, while I was remarking that our budgeted monthly fuel expenses had to be adjusted¬† as well, I started thinking that inflation might just be around the corner- that’s not good for mortgage rates.

CONCLUSION:  Significantly higher mortgage  rates (200-300 bp) are in the bag.  If the dollar collapses, it will happen sharply (like within a few weeks of the collapse).

You don’t have to be George Soros, Gerard Celente, or Peter Schiff to see this coming.¬† The Fed’s propaganda arm, will do its best to sell crazy to the enlightened, while the rest of the propaganda machine will assuage the public’s fear with feel-good programming.

It’s so simple, even a Mama Grizzly can figure it out…in the Wasilla Supermarket.


UPDATE:   The Huffington Post reports that Sarah was set straight:

Sudeep Reddy has responded in the WSJ to Palin’s Facebook note. He cites Labor Department data to reiterate that Palin’s argument about food prices is not grounded in fact, and he continues:

Weak demand, high unemployment and thrifty shoppers have led retailers to keep many prices from rising despite the rising cost of some commodities, including coffee and sugar. … Critics of the Fed’s quantitative easing policy are focused primarily on concerns about potential future inflation.

Palin‚Äôs mistake is that she assumed that the article, which reported that wholesale commodities prices are rising, was a measure of inflation. The WSJ ‚Äėjournalist‚Äô,¬† corrected our little hick.

Wait a minute. Aren’t rising wholesale prices the definition of the beginning of the cost-push inflationary cycle? Damn, I’m confused.


Tête-à-tête in Tombstone

A Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story

When the shadow blocked the doorway of Johnny Ringo’s, everyone in the bar looked up. The door was propped open and traffic was brisk. The glare of the late afternoon sun fought the gloom of the little taproom to a draw. But then gloom captured the turf enduringly, and we all looked up to see why.

The stranger leaning against the doorjamb was long and lean and very relaxed. He wore black wool trousers pegged at the ankles over ornately-tooled snakeskin boots. His dove-grey top coat fit him like a glove. Beneath it he wore a rich brocade waistcoat and a white linen shirt open at the collar. He had eyes the color of coal and flowing brown hair that spilled halfway down his back. His handlebar moustache was trimmed and combed and waxed to perfection. A red silk cravat finished the ensemble, that and two nickel-plated Colt 45s with carved ivory grips. The sidearms were mounted high, at his ribs, and a double-barreled shotgun, breech open, was slung across his left arm.

And even though Johnny Ringo’s is the tourist trap for the sophisticated tourist, still everyone gawked. Everyone except one man in the corner at the end of the bar, a man nearly perfectly concealed by the gloom. He looked up at the stranger in the doorway and there was genuine fear in his eyes.

The stranger was looking right at him. Looking right through him. He didn’t stare, he glared, and the room fell deathly silent — not a nervous cough, not a stolen breath. The fearful man tried to the hold the stranger’s gaze but couldn’t. He looked down at the drink before him on the table then looked up again quickly, something furtive in his eyes. The stranger nodded slowly and said, “I’m your huckleberry.”

Some moron guffawed in recognition but this didn’t relieve the tension, it added to it.

The stranger stood up straight and snapped the breech of the shotgun closed. He hefted it high in the air and the bartender snagged it with two hands. He mounted it on two pegs over the back-bar. He said, “Howdy, Doc.”

Doc nodded, saying, “Walter.” Lithe as a cat, he threaded his way past the close-packed tables to the juke box. He pulled a silver dollar out of the pocket of his waistcoat and spun it skyward. Without seeming to look for it, he grabbed it out of the air as it came down and deposited it in the machine.

While he was selecting tunes, the frightened man in the corner stood up and headed for the door. “Leaving so soon, Andrew?” Doc said without looking up. He tapped his fingertips on the grip of one of the pistols. “I thought you and me might have a talk.”

Andrew slumped back into his chair, and Doc left him there to sweat a spell.

And not everything is as it seems. It’s Tombstone, of course, but Tombstone in 1995, not 1881. Doc Holliday is indeed an expert killer allied with the forces of good, but the killings are all make-believe and the forces of good are comprised of the Historical Commission and the merchants of Allen Street. Doc and the Earps and the Clantons and McLowrys and assorted other pistoleers put on a gunfighting exhibition every afternoon at two. The rest of the time they’re just plain folks, just plain folks in very fancy Victorian garb.

And of course, it’s Doc and the Earps and the Clantons and McLowrys — the real historical figures, however embellished — who have made Tombstone a tourist mecca where other towns of the Wild West are barely of interest to historians. And on Allen Street, they know how to milk the tourists for all they’re worth. Up at the Bird Cage Theater, near where Curly Bill Brocius shot Marshall Fred White, things are pretty much undisturbed, but the sight of unmolested verity comes at a price. And down at the OK Corral, again for a price, you can stand on the actual spot where history — however embellished — was made. In between, on both sides of the street, there is nothing but hoke and smoke and filigreed forgeries of the very highest quality.

But what fun those forgeries are. The gunfighting exhibitions are run out of Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, a saloon that never was. It’s a restoration of the old Grand Hotel, where Dr. John Henry Holliday and Big Nose Kate Elder frequently stayed, so that ought to count for something. The Continental Saloon stands where the original Continental didn’t, and the Oriental, Wyatt Earp’s first toehold in Tombstone, has no Occidental presence. The saloons are as authentic as Disneyland, but somewhat pricier. They are surrounded by gift shops and antiquities emporia and flyblown little restaurants offering authentic sourdough pizza and superannuanted ice cream. At the height of Tombstone’s notoriety, it was estimated that one edifice in three was devoted to providing what might be called the sporting man’s pleasures. Things have changed, but not much: now one edifice in three is devoted to satisfying the cravings of idle voyeurs.

And alone against that tidal wave of Allen Street cant stands the lowly Johnny Ringo’s, a fragrant little bar that could be transparently transplanted into any seamy neighborhood in America. No fluff, no bluff, no souvenir stuff, just cold beer, cheap wine and all the distilled spirits a thriving ghost town can provide. The beer was three dollars for draft, to be sure, but even an anti-tourist tourist trap has to fleece the tourists. That’s what they come to Tombstone for, after all, and it’s bad for business to disappoint them.

I was standing at the bar and paying two dollars a pop for short Pepsis. I don’t much care for alcohol, but I’d lost the stomach for the more authentic places up the street. Even though soda never costs much where there’s liquor for sale, I had volunteered to pay the two bucks over Walter’s protest, because I know bar space is at a premium in a bar. And standing with my back to the bar, elbows on the brass rail, I had a good view of Doc and his victim.

The first of his tunes came up on the juke box — “Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine. Doc grabbed a chair and swung it high in the air, bringing it down across the table from Andrew, the shrinking man. He sat on the chair backwards, planted his elbows on the table and suspended his chin on his palms. He smiled soft and slow with a gentle malice. He said, “Now ain’t you a daisy?”

If Andrew said anything, I didn’t hear it, and I didn’t hear anything he said through their entire conversation. Walter came over to the table with a bottle of whiskey and a polished silver cup. He poured out a double or perhaps a triple shot. Doc gently tapped the bottle with his fingertip and Walter set it down on the table.

“I thought that was just in the movies,” I said when Walter strode back behind the bar.

“It is,” he confided. “That bottle’s filled with Earl Grey tea, room temperature.”

“So you don’t make anything on Doc at all?”

“You kidding? Nobody leaves when he’s in here. If he stays an hour, we’ll be three deep at the bar.”

I looked around and saw it was true. Every gawker in the bar — myself included — was gawking at Doc, which only added to Andrew’s monumental discomfort.

Doc said, “I heard you were in town, snooping around over there at Kate’s. Tombstone is my town, boy, and you cannot spy upon me without my finding it out. I am not and never will be a pillar of this community, but I am well acquainted with a pillar or two, and Tombstone can keep no secrets from me.”

Andrew said something I couldn’t hear but Doc replied in full voice. “Did you think I might strike you, Andrew Covington? Did you think I might shoot you with my pretty pistols?” He ran a finger sensuously along one of the ivory grips. “They’re loaded with blanks, Andrew. Just black powder and wadding, make-believe bullets in a make-believe town.”

Whatever was said made Doc Holliday rear back and laugh raucously. “Hate you? Hell, boy, I’m grateful to you. You loosed me from the tar baby and stuck yourself instead. All you took from me was a bag of nothing, and you squandered everything you had to get it!”

Andrew looked every which way at the eager faces of the gawkers and even though I couldn’t hear him, I knew every word of what he said: “Please! Keep it down, will you?!”

“Keep it down? Hell, I want to shout it from the rooftops! Listen here, boys! Andrew Covington stabbed me in the back and it saved my life. Nobody’s ever betrayed me the way he did, and nobody’s ever done me a bigger favor. Here’s a toast to Andrew Covington, liar, cheater, sniveling whiner and professional backside kisser!”

The gawkers roared and drank. However Andrew replied, he did not hit Doc, which he surely deserved, and he did not get up and walk out.

The room fell silent and from the jukebox John Prine confided, “There’s flies in the kitchen. I can hear ’em there buzzin’. And I ain’t done nothin’ since I woke up today…”

Doc chuckled and said, “Look at you, boy. You’re a mess!” This wasn’t literally true. Andrew didn’t look all that hale, but he was middling healthy for a tourist: a little flabby, a little flaccid, a little weary-looking. But he was withering under Doc’s scrutiny, and the humiliation before a crowd of strangers wasn’t doing anything good for his posture. “You know who gets hurt by a lie? The liar. The person you tell a lie to may make a little mistake based on the false information you’re handin’ out. But the liar is hurt forever. When you tell a lie, you can’t ever forget what you say, for fear you’ll slip up. You have to portray that lie every day, every which way, no coffee breaks and no vacations. You have to supervise yourself all the time, and your own spontaneity becomes your worst enemy. And you have to keep tellin’ that lie until half-past-stupid, until it’s obvious to everybody that you’re full of shit. But even then you can’t come clean, because, if you do, you’re exposed as a liar.

“That’s the burden you took on, Andrew Covington, to steal a job you’re incompetent to do…”

“Hell, yes!” some drunk shouted. “You tell him!” The juke box whirred and a new platter dropped down, Bonnie Raitt singing “Luck of the Draw”.

“You got me fired, boy, good and plenty. And for a while there I was pretty pissed about it. But do you know what I found out? I discovered that by deceit and subterfuge you’d managed to steal from me everything in my life that I hated. I can work again, Andrew, and I owe it all to you. Shelley at the gallery told me you were scoping out the paintings. They’re good, aren’t they? As good as anything I ever did, and much better than anything I did while I was doin’ that uptown tap-dance.”

Andrew said something I didn’t hear.

“Yeah, well, that’s just the way it is. These good people come to town and they expect to see cowboy paintings or wildlife paintings or landscapes, and instead they stumble across what I’m doin’. Most of ’em walk away, but a few, a precious few see what’s there, and they take a canvas home. Art is the stuff that sticks with you, art is the thing that won’t turn you loose. It would be nice to make something that would seize everyone, but maybe I can’t do that. But I can grab one or two at a time, and that’s enough.”

“These things we do to keep the flame burning,” Bonnie sang, and it’s more a hymn than a song. “And write our fire in the sky. Another day to see the wheel turning. Another avenue to try…”

Doc said, “I’m doin’ that because of you, Andrew Covington. Without your slimy little underhanded political games, I’d still be wasting my life for money I never had the time to enjoy. Now I shoot the bad guys for a few bucks, sell a painting or two for a few more, and I have all the time I need to work. What have you got to show for your treachery?”

Treachery is a word you don’t hear every day. More’s the pity.

“Bullshit!” said Doc. “Tell it to your mama, son. If you’re so satisfied, what are you doing here? You’re looking for a way out of your own, boy, but there isn’t one, not for you. You gotta keep tellin’ them lies, tellin’ ’em over and over again. You’re their prisoner boy, and they ain’t never gonna let you go. You traded your life for a bag of nothing, and ain’t nobody gonna let you trade it back. Least of all me.”

The gawkers were gulping this performance down, and Walter was pulling off beers so fast that the floor beneath his feet was slick with the stuff.

“Now that’s where you’re wrong, Andrew. I have no reason to hate you. I have no reason to hit you or shoot you or slash the tires on your car. Nature will exact every ounce of retribution I might want from you, every ounce and a thousand pounds more. Look what’s become of you already! And you have sentenced yourself to life in your prison of lies. How could I ever hope to hurt you worse than you’ve already hurt yourself?”

Andrew said something else I didn’t hear, and Doc replied, “No, sir. I am merely telling you the truth. A truth, I’ll concede, that you want very much to avoid. Betraying me was destructive of your character. Spinning your web of lies was destructive of your character. Coming to Tombstone to spy on me was destructive of your character. Permitting me to berate you in this way is destructive of your character. Your sole objective is self-destruction, and you have sought me out in order to blame me for it.” He called out over his shoulder: “Walter, jot this down for inclusion in ‘Doc Holliday’s Compendium of Pithy Aphorisms’: When committing suicide, make sure it’s someone else’s fault.”

The third of Doc’s juke box selections began to play. It was a bootleg 45 of a haunted Bob Dylan playing the piano and singing “She’s Your Lover Now”.

Doc stood up and stared down at Andrew Covington, his black eyes boring through the flaccid man like no bullet ever could. “I’m done with you, boy, but you’ll never be done with me. You’re nothing to me, but I’ll always be everything to you, always the living symbol of everything you cheated yourself out of, everything you could have had but gave up for the sake of a bag of nothing. For every day of the rest of your scab-encrusted life, you’ll think of me. Your every thought will turn to rationalization and your every rationalization will turn to self-reproach, with no relief short of death. You’re gonna make an ugly corpse, Andrew Covington, and that’s all you will make of your life.”

Doc Holliday turned and stalked away, leaving poor Andrew Covington to his shame and his misery and his liquor.

He set his authentic whiskey bottle on the bar and Walter handed him the shotgun. As he walked toward the doorway, a man stepped up to block it.

It was the real Johnny Ringo, the real authentic make-believe Johnny Ringo from the gunfighting exhibitions. He said, “Doc, tomorrow I’m gonna burn your skinny ass!”

Doc Holliday gave a courtly nod and smiled with the confidence of a man who is armed with two six-shooters and a scatter-gun, the confidence of a man who is armed with a mind like a laser and a tongue like a razor, the confidence of a man who is not disarmed by even the smallest doubt. He said: “You’re a daisy if you do.”


What is Splendor? For me it’s exuberance and indomitability.

Start here: I’m not trying to piss you off. If you don’t want to read what I have to say, don’t. There are thousands of essays on this site, many recent and eye-opening, others older but canonical. You can find what you want here — or you can seek elsewhere. You have no reason to endure something you don’t want to read. You don’t have to, and I don’t want you to.

Now then:

This is funny: I live in a state of fairly continuous delight. It’s not always the case, but I would paint my state of mind most of the time — and especially when I’m working at something I love — as exuberance. It can be hugely external, and I know I sometimes wear my wife out when I’m playing with ideas out loud. But it can also be almost searingly apollonian — as here, as it happens — and I can sustain a kind of frenzied concentration for hours on end.

Why is it funny — to me, at least? Because it’s just excellent comedy, the radical juxtaposition of two opposites — the expectation that I simply must be angry or dour or cynical and the actual experience of being, for me and for people who spend time with me. I am having fun — deeply satisfying fun — almost all of the time. So much so that I don’t even think about it, except when I consciously direct myself to think about it. And that, thinking about the way my mind functions, is a delight for me just by itself.

Delight, exuberance, searing concentration — these are mothertongue ideas, and this is the job that art does for us: Poets and painters and playwrights and novelists use abstractions in ways that induce us to see not mere words or images but the essence of being itself. We know we are complicit in an illusion — not real life, just a simulation — but we surrender ourselves to it and live it from the inside, at least in imagination.

I have written hundreds of thousands of words in my life, but I don’t think I have ever gotten even close to communicating what it feels like to be me, from the inside.

If the question in your mind right now is: “Why should I care?” — my answer is very simple:

“Why do you care?” I told you to go away a long time ago. Why did you stay? If there is another lie congealing in your mind right now, either squash that impulse or go away now. Whatever it is that might lead you to want to read what I write in order to tell yourself that you are rejecting it — while you are actually internalizing it — whatever that is, it’s not good for you.

Perhaps I can’t show you the mothertongue of Being Greg Swann except in person — or at least on the phone. But I do everything I can think of to explore the fathertongue of Being Me. I can tell you a whole lot about what it means to be me.

Like this:

I know you’ve never met anyone like me before. I know this because I never have before — and I’ve been looking hard all my life, and I know what I’m looking for. If you dismiss me with some category in your mind, it’s because you’re not paying attention. Your business. I don’t care.

But I also know that, if you are paying attention, there is a lot that you see in my expressions of exuberance that you kinda-sorta like, in a very quietly satisfying way.

Here is the other half of me, and I think it may be the key to understanding not just me as an individual but to gathering in everything I have to say on everything, the grand unifying theory of Splendor.

Are you ready? What matters most about me, in my relationships with other people, is that I am indomitable — not subject in any way to any sort of dominance. I cannot ever be caused to submit to anything against my will — and I even hate to see the “Submit” button at the bottom of web-based forms. I can’t be coerced, I can’t be threatened, I can’t be bullied, I can’t be bribed, I can’t be cajoled, I can’t be scorned or shamed or ridiculed into doing something I know I do not want to do.

Wait here: I’ve taken on a lot of dominating personalities — some malignant, some benign — at BloodhoundBlog, and I’m not inviting them back to take another run at me. None of their tricks will work this time, either, but I don’t want to waste my time swatting at flies.

And: I don’t want to portray my indomitability as some huge heroic virtue. It’s not. It’s a survival skill I developed when I was four-years-old and have perfected ever since. In fiction, you see Brother Wille teaching four-year-old Anastasia to say, “Do your worst, I will not kneel,” and you think that is cute and adorable. But from my point of view, he is teaching her the most important ethical principle in human existence:

The purpose of human life is self-expression, and to permit other people to pressure you into renouncing your own will is to squelch and smother your own expression of your one irreplaceable ego. To submit to any sort of coercion — physical, mental or emotional — is, in essence, to commit a small act of suicide — self-slaughter.

I am indomitable because I am an egoist, as the best possible expression of self-love in the company of people who would try to dominate me. Whether you say to me, “Kiss my ass or I’ll shoot you” or “Kiss my ass and I’ll give you ten million bucks,” what I am hearing is the same thing: If I kiss your ass I will have to hate this moment of my life forevermore.

That would be bad, but — what the heck? — it’s only one incident. Except it isn’t. Once you’ve let people know you can be pushed around, they will never stop trying to push you around. Ultimately, in self-defense, you’ll figure out what it takes to “fit in” and surrender everything all on your own, in advance, in abundance, all without having to be coerced.

If you want to despise your life in every possible respect, it’s a very simple thing to do: Give up, give in, give over. Nothing you have will be all the way yours, because you will know you can be met with a demand for its surrender and any moment. Nothing you do will inspire your own admiration, because you will know that you have trimmed and colored and shaded your actions to try to appease the mob — in response to the mob’s irrational demands, which is bad, or in anticipation of those demands, which is much worse. You will love your self best only in those parts of your mind you keep most jealously hidden from other people, and you will hate yourself most when you are forced to see your self bowing — again and again – to any authority but your own.

I don’t do any of that, not ever. Every time those kinds of demands come up, I shoot them down with dispatch, doing my best to expose them for what they are. People who like to dominate other people really, really hate me — ultimately to their own real-life, physical self-destruction. And, whether they see my behavior as a reproach to them or because they hope to appease their own slave-masters, people who have long-ago habituated surrender to arbitrary authority hate me, too.

This is true: I can make enemies just by walking into a room full of strangers, without doing or saying anything. Sometimes I make friends that way, too, but I always make enemies. There is some mothertongue expression in my mein or manner that dominating personalities identify — and instantly loathe.

And while it is common for me to say that I don’t care about any of that hatred, online or in real life, the truth is I do: I don’t want for people literally to eat their hearts out, and it’s stupid for them to do that, in any case. They are not making war on their minds and bodies because they think I’m wrong. They’re doing it because they know I’m right — and yet they don’t want to be right.

So let’s take a moment and think about what I am saying. If you are rebelling against me right now, even as you are internalizing everything I say, three important things are going on:

First, you are not making any difference to me whatever. I know I am right, and no amount of steaming or glaring or grumbling or scowling or acting out on your part is going to change my mind. Incidentally, it is not possible to make any sort of persuasively-valid intellectual argument in mothertongue — in attempts to communicate by bodily expression or emotional display.

Second, you are actively making war on your own mind, striving with all your might to shout me down in the silence and solitude of your own thoughts. This is the form and substance of self-destruction: You are destroying irreplaceable moments of your life, expressing nothing of your self in your desperate and futile need to destroy or at least silence my self.

Third, I’ve already won this argument. If I make a truthful claim, an honest person will agree with it. If I make a false argument, a thoughtful person can refute it. But if I make a case you know in every fiber of your being is correct, and yet you insist to yourself that you must reject it — or that you must appear to your slave-masters to have rejected it — by your own irrational behavior your are conceding my argument de facto.

And that’s all just what’s happening right now. The self-destructive actions you are taking in this moment will be with you forever in your memory. I have been thinking about exuberance and indomitability all my life, and I know exactly how to get inside your head and to stay there. I am not trying piss you off, and I am not trying to hurt you. What I want is for you to learn how to be like me, as much as you can, as much as you want to. But if you can’t run with me, you should run away from me. I do everything I can think of to help good people become better people. But I don’t have to do anything but be — nothing more than simply to walk into a room — to induce bad people to become worse people.

But: I don’t have any use or need for bad people or bad behavior. I’ve seen every dominance game there is dozens of time, and one of the things I want to do, going forward, is to illustrate how dominance-seeking behavior comes camouflaged. A true fact of my life is that, if you will not leave me alone to live my life as I choose in every possible respect, I will put my self on a total-warfare footing in half-an-instant. But, in truth, much of what looks to me like insufferable dominance is, in fact, either thoughtless error or long-standing bad habit. I want to do a better job of making finer distinctions about the motivations leading to attempted dominance.

But more than that, I want to help you learn how to do the kinds of things I do to resist other people’s dominance games — if you truly do kinda-sorta like my expressions of exuberance.

It’s been fun for me, these past two years, to watch Americans rediscovering their proud history of political liberty. But liberty is not freedom from the leviathan of state. It is not manumission from the slavery of taxes or inane paperwork. It is not even surcease from the bullying of burly cops and stout, pouting meter maids. True freedom is freedom from other people — all other people, especially the people you think you like and want so desperately to trust.

And what do you get, if you can achieve that kind of freedom? Splendor — or at least a clear path to attaining Splendor. Your mileage may vary, but for me the experience of Splendor is exuberance, an enthralling, almost-continuous, searingly apollonian delight.

I am willing to help you learn what I know, but I am not willing to disguise the nature of your choice. I can show you how to win your way back to the person you were at Anastasia’s age, the person you have always wanted to be, whose self-slaughter you have never stopped mourning. But the tuition I demand is total: You can’t live my way half-way, and I won’t have anything to do with you if you try. The rest of the world loves you when you hate your self. I love your self more than you know. But I refuse to love your self more than you do.

And if you choose to reject my truth, either in silence or with some hideous public display of self-slaughter? Dang. I’m not responsible for what you do with your mind, no matter how much I might know about how it works. I’m going to live my life my way, no matter what you do. You’re free to walk beside me, you’re free to run away, or you are free to destroy your body from the inside out trying to hurt me — or just to shut me up. But none of that will bother me in any way at all, and I’m going to live a life of exuberance and indomitability no matter what you do.

Here is a full philosophy of egoism in three short sentences: Be who you are. Do what you want. Have what you love.

We both know I’m right. I have the guts to say so out loud. I love my life, and there is nothing that you or anyone can do to get me to hate it. If that pisses you off, you’re screwed. But if you think you might kinda-sorta like it, I will be exuberantly delighted to show you what it feels like, from the inside, to live a life of indomitability — a life of total freedom.


In which I find more focus and dump the hocus pocus

Disclaimer: If your business is humming along, I doubt you will get much useful information from this post, however, please do feel free to share any productivity hints in the comment section. Thanks!

I made a public commitment, and so I thought I share where I was and where I’m going. To Jeff Brown: I have yet to do one single 6 hour prospecting day. Haven’t done one. I’ve gotten to the point where I can do 3 hours most days of the work week, but even that isn’t consistent, so that’s still a goal, and I’m still committed to hitting that goal, and I will, but it’s a tough one for me. Which brings me to my first point: Real estate is not an instant gratification business. And the church says, “Duh!” Right. Old-timers are laughing their arses off right about now and I am too. I really like instant gratification, but unfortunately, I can’t use it to pay bills, so if you are seduced by that, as I often am, be careful. Don’t lie to yourself about what is “working”.

Working requires thoughtful planning and focus. If you want to brainstorm an idea, give me a call, drop me an email. I am very very good at brainstorming. Making a goal, making a commitment to that goal, doing the basics, this focus comes less naturally to me, but that’s where the money is so that’s what I’m learning to do.¬† Know thyself: Hands down, best thing I’ve done to help me focus was to secure a private office. I had been “working” out of a desk in our family room. Oh, I know, my broker supplies a desk at the office, I could use that but my stuff is at home. Unfortunately, so are our dogs, our cats, our kids, the laundry, food, you get the point. Here’s my solution: My broker owns our office building and this being the Rust Belt circa 2010, we have a few empty suites in the building which he has been trying to lease. I’ve taken over an office on a month-by-month basis. If he finds a tenant, I get kicked out. I moved into this new office in September, and it took me about a month to weed out paper, organize for efficiency, and learn how to maximize time at the office- more about that in a bit.

Working from an office has done a few things for me. The drive to a separate building allows or forces me to make a mental shift in attitude: I’m driving to work, I’m there to work. I don’t have all day to spend there so I must stay focused on accomplishing what I’m there to do, and I am very proud to say that I’ve learned to do that. Took awhile, wasn’t easy, but I can do it. And an inexpensive office is probably easy for you to find as well. My Plan B for securing an office was to offer a nominal fee on a month-by-month basis to any number of vacant offices in town. Someone will prefer something to nothing and giving the owner the ability to continue to search for a more permanent tenant sweetens the deal.

The fact that there is an entire industry devoted to organizing calendars and To-Do lists shows how difficult it is for most people to get things done. My husband Jamie is an engineer and project manager, his boss is an off the charts D personality, they share a secretary who is amazingly organized. They all use spiral bound notebooks- you know, the kind you can buy for .10 cents during the back-to-school sales? They each use cheap spiral notebooks for their To-Do lists. As I mentioned before I’m an idea-generator which means I’m a note-maker. I write stuff down, doodle, etc, all day. Writing all this on a spiral notebook To-Do list makes for one big mess at the end of the day. If I write these bits and pieces on scraps of paper or sticky notes, they end up all over the place, which sometimes means lost. Now, I’ve taken an idea from Rands in Repose and use both a To-Do list and what he refers to as a Parking Lot. I use a steno pad for the To-Do list. Its smaller size is convenient and prevents me from writing notes all over it, keeping it clean and easy to read. The Parking Lot is a legal pad that I keep just to the right of my computer– I’m right-handed– with a pen on top. That’s the place I can make notes, doodle while on hold, write down phone numbers and names, dates, etc. Each page is dated so it’s easy to track down notes later, and at the end of the day anything useful or important gets transferred elsewhere- my To-Do list, a calendar, my files. I have yet find a calendar that is useful to me. Suggestions?

I’ve just this past week created a spreadsheet for tracking numbers. No more guess work for me, but also, there’s no way to lie to myself about what is really happening. Yes, I’ve lied to myself. I’ve got a whole bundle of bad habits to undo. Numbers can’t be improved if you don’t know them, but the added bonus of tracking numbers is that they are just numbers. I’ve removed the emotion- it’s just numbers. This is important- it’s crucial for me. So I’m tracking number of contacts and the sources, as well as work in and work out. What do you track that’s improved your productivity?

For the past year and a half I’ve been referring business out, so in one sense, I’m starting over. I’m starting from a stronger place, but it’s a very new beginning. On the other hand, I don’t think I’m any different from any one else in the business. I’ve been listening to Floyd Wickman, and he said something that really struck a chord with me: “Every day in this business, we wake up unemployed.” Once that sunk into the gray matter, it put things into perspective. I wake up every morning thinking to myself: I’ve got to find a job today. And to be honest with you, instead of a frightening thought, it’s kinda where I get my kicks. How many other jobs hold so much opportunity?

I have a favorite quote from Ohio president William Howard Taft,

‚ÄúNext to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.‚ÄĚ

Combine that with the thrill of the job hunt? I got it bad. No other career is going to do it for me. I’m going to make this work.


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