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Archive for April, 2012

Unchained melodies: “The greatest love of all.”

Learning to love your self is the greatest love of all.

Beyond comparison, Whitney Houston:

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Todd Carpenter joins the Knights Who Say SMIE!

Todd Carpenter, the National Association of Realtors’ official In-House Social Media Judas Goat, has announced that he is leaving that charnel house of corruption for the slightly-less-corrupt Trulia.com. Carpenter, who almost immediately proved himself to be much too goaty for the refined nostrils of Michigan Avenue, managed to last three years with the NAR.

His new position at Trulia is entitled — I kid you not — Senior Manager of Industry Engagement (SMIE). In an earlier, more circumspect age, a job title like this would have implied carefully-honed skills in affable-cocktail-drinking, check-grabbing and barely-losing-at-golf. In the Realty.bot era of the dot.com epoch, Todd’s function will be to be well-known to thoughtless TwitBook time-wasters in the real estate business, thus to provide “social proof” that advertising on Trulia is an unbeatable waste of money.

Carpenter’s announcement is the fourth in a recent series of similar “news” stories. Todd will be following Bob Bemis, Jay Thompson and Duane Fouts into exciting, challenging leadership roles in the burgeoning Realty.bot Judas Goat industry. In light of Carpenter’s utterly implausible new job title, I have denominated all of these sellouts great guys “The Knights Who Say SMIE!” They may not actually say “SMIE!,” mind you, but you can bet they’ll say what they’re told to say. To do less would be cheating the shareholders, when the job description clearly calls for gulling the yokels.

As always, if you don’t know who is the yokel — it’s you. If you don’t believe me, check for blood in your underpants.

I have warned you about all this for many years. You didn’t listen then, and you won’t listen now. But if all the mad monkeys of the TwitBook mob “decide” to tee me up for a Two Minutes’ Hate, could y’all please go the extra mile and hate my new book and web site, too? Chapters 10 and 11 explore the mob mentality thoroughly, so there’s plenty to rant about.

But: Still: My heart goes out to Todd Carpenter, easily the most easygoing of The Knights Who Say SMIE! I always thought he was redeemable, and I still do. And look at the bright side: He may still be saying, “SMIE!” for a living, but at least the money he takes home will have been proffered by volunteers, not MLS-slaves. And unlike the other KWSS-asses, Todd is at least moving up on the ladder of moral character.

(Hat tips: Lani Rosales and Teri Lussier.)

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From Man Alive! – “The greatest love of all.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 5. The greatest love of all.

What’s the purpose of life? Scruffy, bearded teenagers of all ages have been asking that question for thousands of years, and each one of them has come up with an answer even more ludicrous than the absurd prescription put forth by the previous nitwit. But here is the full answer to that age-old question:

The purpose of human life is self-expression.

The purpose of every organism’s life is to be lived, and since your own life, most fundamentally, is the life of your self, the purpose of your life is to make your self manifest in every way you can. This is a matter of ontology – of being. It sounds like shoulding – teleology – but in fact this is what you are regardless of what you or anyone else might say about human nature. Every purposive action you take is taken first by the self upon the self, and this is the unavoidable consequence of your having come to be a self. You didn’t cause this to happen – your parents did – and you could not have stopped the process even if you had known it was happening. Only a mind already possessed of Fathertongue could even conceive of the possibility of preventing the cultivation of Fathertongue in any human mind.

You are a self as a matter of inescapable ontology. The effect was caused by volition, by choice, by an iterative shoulding process initiated by your parents. And of course it can be terminated – by your death or by a serious head injury. But the fact that you are a self is a fact of being, not a behavior to be caused or prevented by shoulding. While you are a self, you cannot not be a self. You can pretend you are not a self, albeit not as deceptively as you can pretend your house-cat is a vegan by feeding it nothing but spinach. But you are a self by no choice of your own, and you cannot stop being a self by any act of volition short of bodily self-destruction.

This is what you are, regardless of what anyone says about it. It can be worth your while to read all of those descriptions of your nature promulgated by theologians and philosophers and academics and artists and journalists. They don’t have very much to do with your true nature, do they? Why do you suppose that might be so?

Everything I have described to you is clear and obvious on its face, really just thoroughgoing elaborations on common sense. Truly, there is nothing I have to say that is not plainly obvious to any five-year-old child newly graced with the power of Fathertongue. I can express the truth of human life in greater depth than he can, with greater precision. But there is nothing I know that he did not come to understand well-enough in that scales-falling-from-the-eyes epiphany that is the birth of Fathertongue within an individual human mind.

But don’t stop reading yet. There’s much more to be covered. Take note that we have talked about nothing but being so far, even though I told you at the outset that the most important question in philosophy is “What should I do?”

So what should you do – to make the most and the best of your one, irreplaceable, finite, uniquely-human life?

That’s easy: Love your self.

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From Man Alive! – “The greatest invention in the history of humanity.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 4. The greatest invention in the history of humanity.

In the last chapter, I raised the idea of your being stranded on a desert island. That’s a hugely unlikely scenario, but it’s interesting to think about because everything that is true of you, as a type of entity, is true of you in isolation. You’re in this all alone, recall, and there is no factual statement that we can make about your nature as a human being that is not true of you even – especially! – when you are isolated from all other people.

In later chapters, we will take up the implications of your fundamental ontological solitude. For now I want to focus on the existential solitude of being stranded. Is there anyone for you to talk to? To cuddle up to? To fight against or to make love with? No. You possess everything you were able to recover from your plane crash or your shipwreck, but there is no one else with you, and anything else you might want you will have to provide for yourself – if you can – or else do without.

But cheer up, Bunkie! You don’t have a knife, but you know that knives exist, and you can apply yourself to making one. It may turn out to be a crude thing compared to the knives you can buy in a store, but close enough is good enough. You don’t have a calendar to keep track of time, but you can easily make one with stones or sticks. With but a few exceptions, you don’t have any of the artifacts we take for granted in Western Civilization, but you have owned a great many of those tools and toys in your time, and you can recreate some of them as you wait to be rescued. You are poor in practical technology, but you are infinitely rich in technological knowledge.

Why is that so? Because of Fathertongue. We stand on the shoulders of giants. To say the truth, mostly we lounge on the shoulders of giants, but even the least and the laziest of us carries within his mind vast stores of accumulated human knowledge. You may not know how to make everything you have ever owned or used or seen or heard about, but you know that those things exist, and you know what purposes they are intended to serve. Even if you are an electrical engineer by trade, you will not be able to make a computer, but you can craft a make-shift abacus with hand-spun twine and dried berries. Lo-tech don’t mean no-tech.

That’s a wondrous thing, that you know so much, at least in a general way, that you did not have to discover on your own. You may not need it every day of your isolation, but you know a ton of math, enough to keep yourself busy – and enough to triangulate on the stars, perhaps, to determine your approximate location. You know dozens of songs and poems to keep yourself amused as you pass the time, and, if you are very clever, you may be able to craft the tools needed to keep a journal. You know how to build a shelter for yourself, and how to plant a garden. You may not lead a prosperous life, stuck there all alone, but you know a lot about how to provide for yourself.

Are you gloating now at all those philosophers, theologians, academics, artists, journalists and other so-called “thought leaders” who have told you all your life how insignificant your mind is, how incompetent it is to solve the problem of survival? Gloat away, but do recall that virtually everything you know about the world outside your mind was discovered by someone else, and you know all of these amazing things not because you abstracted them yourself but because you were lucky enough to absorb them in the concentrated form of Fathertongue.

So let’s complicate the scenario just a little bit. Suppose you incurred a head injury in the catastrophe that led to your being stranded. You are alive, hale and healthy, but you have suffered a complete amnesia of everything you ever learned in Fathertongue. You know how to walk and how to eliminate bodily wastes without soiling yourself, because you mastered those skills while you were still a toddler, before you had learned to think in Fathertongue. You know how to babble in vocal signals that usually produce results – but there is no one to babble to. You know how to sit and play until you get hungry, and you know how to feed yourself – once someone has put a plate of food in front of you.

Actual amnesia does not work this way, of course, but how do you think you would you fare, as an over-sized toddler on a desert island? Would you be able to provide yourself with food and shelter and amusements? Would you be able to document your experience, either to share with others when you are rescued, or at least to leave behind you as a record if rescue should come too late? Would you be phlegmatic about your fate, meeting each new challenge with grit and determination? Or would you just bawl yourself into a state of lathered exhaustion and then perish in a few hours or a few days from dehydration or starvation?

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Unchained melodies: “When you say nothing at all.”

Today is Mothertongue day for Man Alive!, so it seems like a fine time to celebrate the best Mothertongue song ever written, When you say nothing at all, written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz and performed here by the incomparable Keith Whitley:

Here it is again, covered by Allison Krauss and Union Station:

Makes me cry every time I hear it. That’s what art is for.

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From Man Alive! – “Speaking in tongues.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 3. Speaking in tongues.

One of the things that protects humanity from all of the philosophers and academics who insist that we are nothing special is the power of speech. Not speech deployed to argue against them; for the most part we are intimidated by their pedigrees and their supercilious posturing. But the power of speech itself defends us, because each one of us can easily see that this is a power that human beings alone possess. Lab-coated academics never stop trying to convince us that chimpanzees or dolphins share the power of speech with us, but regardless of what we say – or don’t dare say – in rebuttal, most of us recognize that these claims are absurd.

That’s just more of the Dancing Bear Fallacy, of course, but it is worth listening to the people who make these arguments – and to the people who chortle their support for them. A laboratory dolphin possessed of rationally-conceptual volitionality would immediately file a lawsuit seeking manumission from the clipboard-wielding sadists holding it captive. Ten thousand chimpanzees sitting at computer keyboards cannot produce the works of Shakespeare, nor even one line of intelligible verse. Not ten thousand, not ten million, not ten billion. The purpose of making these nonsensical claims about the specious verbal abilities of trained animals is not to confer an unearned status on those animals, but to rob you of the status you earned by mastering your mind. Animals cannot make informed choices by reasoning about concepts – nor do they need to. They are perfect the way they are – and so are you.

The goal of modern philosophy – in all probability unknown to you and to the scientific researchers who make these breathless claims about the imaginary conceptual abilities of animals – is to undermine the mind. Slavishly following those knowing philosophers of mindlessness, there are vast cadres of very well paid professional butterfly collectors whose job it is to make tautologically obvious observations about animal behavior in the most exaggerated ways they can. And slavishly following them are hordes of popularizers – journalists and artists and so-called “thought leaders” – whose passion is to blow those exaggerated claims even further out of proportion. And, sad to say, at the tag end of that long slavish train, there are a great many ordinary people who hate the human mind enough to seek any bogus evidence of its impotence, its incompetence, its fundamental ugly corruption. I told you the world is at war with your mind. This is how that war is fought.

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Why do we link in the Web 2.0 world? Not because a link is a footnote, and not because a link leads to more information. Not to give link love and not to build the community. The purpose of a link is transparency: This is the truth and here is proof.

[Kicking this back to the top from May of 2008. This is foundational, a thoroughgoing elucidation of intellectual integrity in a post that is ostensibly “just” about marketing. This makes for interesting reading right now, taking account of the ideas discussed in Man Alive! — but so does everything else I have written over the years, here and elsewhere. –GSS]

 
This is a short post about a big idea: Transparency.

The word transparency has a useful cachet in business, a condition where nothing of material importance in the transaction is concealed from the consumer. When I was a kid, I worked with a print broker who led his clients to believe that he owned his own composition house, his own pre-press facility and his own printing plant. In fact, he worked out of his car and, for all I know, he rented his shoes. Why would his clients really want to know that he was a broker, not an owner? Because it affected his ability to deliver on his promises — certainly a material concern.

In real estate, we hear about that kind of transparency, and we’re one foot on the boat and one foot on the dock. We absolutely hate it, for example, when the other agent in a cross sale fails to disclose a material fact — no doubt hoping against hope that the problem will go away if no one mentions it. But we rebel against the idea of what we might see as an intrusive transparency. As an example, where one agent might disclose to the penny how a listing commission is to be spent, another might feel that this is none of the seller’s damn business. The discussion then would turn on whether such a disclosure is a material fact.

The issue is clouded because the word transparency means something very different in the Web 2.0 world — and in the world of persuasive communication in general. The fear in any advertising or marketing presentation — your own fear, too — is that you are being tricked, sold a bill of goods. That by dishonest or technically-honest-but-non-obvious means, you think you are buying a rabbit when all you’re really getting is an empty hat. The purpose of transparency in this context is to take away that fear.

So in reply to my post last night about video testimonials, John Kalinowski notes that they could be boring to watch. Indeed they could — if you were watching them for entertainment. But the people who actually watch them will be doing research about whether to do business with us. Entertainment has to be interesting, but research just has to be true. In fact, most people might stop watching after a few seconds or after sampling a few clips. Why? It won’t be because because they’re bored, but simply because they will have satisfied themselves that they are not being lied to.

In my own reply to John, I mention the idea of tricky editing. The boring head-on verisimilitude of that kind of video clip is also beneficial, since it is obvious to the viewer that I haven’t done a lot of chop-cutting to put words in people’s mouths. Again, my goal is not to be entertaining, but to take away the fear of deception. Chris Johnson is doing much the same thing by giving you obviously-unedited recordings from his own voicemail.

Transparency and verisimilitude both mean the same thing in this context: This is real. People are so used to marketing trickery that they expect it everywhere. The challenge for anyone seeking to change minds in the Web 2.0 world is to take away that expectation. Transparency doesn’t mean I am obliged to disclose to you the color of my underwear. Transparency means that if there is any possibility that you could entertain the smallest doubt that I am effecting some kind of sleight of hand to trick you into doing something you otherwise would not do, I have to give you the means of eradicating that doubt to your own satisfaction.

Why do I have to do this? Because I’m trying to sell to you! If I don’t take away every fear, doubt and objection you have to buying my product, you will not buy it — even if you end up buying the exact same thing — same terms, same price — from someone else.

How do I go about taking away your fears, doubts and objections in the world of Web 2.0 persuasion?

By linking, more than any other way. Linking is not about footnoting. Linking is not about providing resources for more information. Linking is not about sending link love to your buddies. Linking is not about building a community. Linking is not about engaging in conversations. All of these are ancillary factors, secondary consequences — but the purpose of linking is to demonstrate to your audience that you are telling the truth.

That bears repeating: The purpose of linking is to demonstrate to your audience that you are telling the truth.

By means of the link, you provide your reader with the means to check up on you, to verify your claims, to follow up on the sources you say buttress your case, to find out if they really do reinforce what you are saying. I linked to John and Chris in this post not to give them link love but to demonstrate to you that they are real people, not marketing avatars I made up to create a faux verisimilitude.

In the same way, if I start with a short clip of the video testimonial I linked to last night, and then link that to the full video, I can take away the fear that I edited away everything that wasn’t to my own advantage. Not to be mercenary about this, but proving your integrity in the face of a doubt will have more impact on people than if they had never had the doubt to begin with.

Here is the real world of shopping on the internet: My choices are effectively infinite. Fifteen years ago, I had to take what I could get from my limited ability to shop and learn to live with it. But now I have access to everything that is available, and I can research all of that everything until I have settled on the one thing that I will actually buy. Am I searching for perfection? No. Perfection is unattainable, an idealization that can exist only in the imagination. What I am searching for — and eliminating from my search — are imperfections. When I arrive at the item that has the fewest imperfections in my own unique hierarchy of values, then I will make my purchase. This is how I shop, this is how you shop, and this is how your potential clients shop.

Even if you don’t link — or if you link dishonestly — they will suss you out. They are not looking for reasons to so business with you, they are looking for reasons not to do business with you. Linking honestly and comprehensively may not swing the balance your way, but failing to demonstrate that your are an honest person who always tells the truth will alienate more and more potential clients. If you want to do business with the Web 2.0 consumer, you not only have to be prepared to defend everything you say, you have to effect that defense of your claims in advance, so they can research it all while they are shopping — long before you hear from them — if you ever do.

Do you have to do this? Absolutely not. But Web 2.0 consumers are already pretty sophisticated — and everything they do on the nets teaches them how to be more sophisticated. If you are not willing to be completely transparent in your online marketing presence, consumers will gravitate, one by one, to people who are willing to back up everything they say.

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From Man Alive! – “The nature of your nature.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 2. The nature of your nature.

The general form of the specious appeal – this seems to have certain traits in common with that, therefore this is that – is a comically obvious error when you state it plainly. The people who make these sorts of arguments can’t state anything plainly, of course, so you need to train your mind to unpack their claims. If there are significant differences in kind between the “this” and the “that” – regardless of their seemingly “uncanny” similarities – the argument is most probably deploying the Specious Analogy Fallacy.

As a sort of pocket-reference to the kinds of bogus arguments made about your mind – claims you will see everywhere if you look for them – take note of these three general categories:

1. “We now know we know nothing!” Either your mind is inherently unreliable or the world outside your mind is fundamentally incomprehensible.

2. “Your good behavior is not to your credit, but at least your bad behavior is not your fault!” The actions you think of as being morally good or evil are either causally unavoidable or are caused by something other than your free will – hormones, brain chemistry, genes, brain defects, drugs, diseases, your upbringing, your environment, your wealth or poverty, memes, etc.

3. “Dancing bears are just like us!” Either animals such as apes or dolphins (or even “artificially intelligent” computer programs) are just as smart as you, or you are just as flailingly ignorant as an animal.

Note that all three of these categories are self-consuming: To uphold them, necessarily, is to deny them. If we know we know nothing, then we must know at least that one something – begging the question of how we can know even that little bit of nonsense. If the human will is not free, I cannot will myself to persuade you of this claim – nor even simply to make it – and you cannot will yourself either to accept or reject it. And if your mind works “just like” an animal’s brain, then you cannot discover anything at all about how your mind works, nor record or communicate your findings. Do you doubt me? If so, please have your pet or your software project write a peer-reviewed paper denouncing my egregious intellectual arrogance. No one believes this hogwash. They just want for you to believe it – or at least not dare to challenge it.

But what about denigrations of your mind that are factually true? For example, can adrenaline in your bloodstream temporarily induce you to act out of proportion to your circumstances? Yes. Can pheromones goad you to dance horizontally with someone you should never even have danced with vertically? Yes. Can you make an error of perception in your apprehension of sense evidence, or can you make an error of knowledge in your reasoning about that evidence? Yes. Can you choose unwisely? Oh, yes! – especially when it comes to choosing whom to listen to about the nature of human nature.

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From Man Alive! – “You’re in this all alone.”

From: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind.

Extract from Chapter 1. You’re in this all alone.

Each individual human being is his own first and best philosopher, like it or don’t, for this simple reason: You are not born knowing how to stay alive, and, absent some sort of cosmic-injustice machine like the Big Mother welfare state, if you don’t figure out what to do – and then do it – you will die. If you do nothing in your own behalf, you will die. If you pursue errors, your own errors or the kind that come with a tony religious or academic pedigree, you will die. If you attempt to exist as an animal does, trying to steal the values you need to survive, you will live in Squalor until one of your would-be victims catches up to you, and then you will die.

What is more, you cannot live the uniquely-human life – the fully-human life – unless you think in your own behalf, in pursuit of your own values. The philosophical or theological doctrine you have followed until now has been aimed, most likely, in the opposite direction: It sought to get you to supplant your own reason with someone else’s dogma, and to pursue that person’s values rather than your own.

Why is Western Civilization collapsing? Because you defaulted on your responsibility to defend it – by defending the values that make your life possible.

But, but, but… We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Wrong. That’s just another hustle, devised to get you to give up everything you have earned so that the person making the claim does not have to earn anything at all. This is the truth of your life, which perhaps no one has ever told you before today:

You’re in this all alone.

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A celebration of me: Man Alive! is alive!

I just traded two weeks of my life for the rest of human history. That’s what it feels like. It’s funny even to me to live at that level of hubris!

I’ve always been able to work very hard when I need to, and I’ve always loved the way I feel when I finish: It’s the ultimate best kind of soaring I get to do, a tremendous sense of enormous accomplishment that leaves me feeling everything but small. I don’t know where you might sip at your best taste of Splendor, but for me it comes from working hard, working wisely, working well, working beautifully — and getting done. I am the high-D who ate up all the d’s in the alphabet. I like to finish big jobs masterfully.

But today I swim in Splendor. Today my world is all the way won — and won my way. Today I published a book of philosophy that will change the course of human history: Man Alive! A survival manual for the human mind. The subject: Your mind and how you can save Western Civilization and make your own life more perfect by rethinking your moral philosophy.

Just that topic itself is a thing of the most perfect hubris, and yet I swear I have the outlandish effrontery to insist that this one little book will — ultimately, when enough people embrace the ideas I uphold — reverse the tide of tyranny that has overrun the Earth. It’s 78 pages, total, just 32,000 words — a third of the length of a typical novel — and yet it bears within it the seeds of a brand new kind of life for billions of human beings.

Which kind of life would that be? My kind, of course.

I have taken it upon myself to lecture everyone alive — and everyone who will ever be alive in the future — on how to manage their minds. At length. In significant detail. And without much in the way of comfort or consolation.

People who already think as I do, in the large, will love it. Not only do I confirm to them how right they have been all along, I show them strategies for being more right — ever more and more right — enduringly.

People who hate the way I think will hate it, and, no matter where each one of them quits reading — and they will all storm out of this book sooner or later — wherever any one of them stops, everything up to that point will be in his head forever.

My target audience is you, and I will be in your head forever, too, if you read it. Man Alive! will be memorable and moving — and I hope motivating — for anyone who manages to read it all the way to the end. My plan is to change the world by changing lives by changing minds — one mind at a time. Your world is screwed up — not just the world crumbling around you — your personal world is screwed up because your moral philosophy is inverted — turned perfectly upside down. The task I set for myself in this book was to show you how to put it right.

Will you follow through? Your business. I want to show you what I’ve learned in my life, because I think very differently than most people. If you come to like the way I think, and if you put my ideas in practice in your life, you will move closer and closer, over time, to the state of mind I call Splendor. That’s fact, not hyperbole. No gimmicks. No gotchas. I can literally show you the math: 1 > 0 > –1. If you want it, it’s yours, a gift not from me but from your self. If you don’t, your name is legion. We care a lot.

And I do mean that. I don’t care what you do. I believe that sane human beings who want to live the best lives they can attain should read this book, internalize it and deploy its philosophy in everything they do. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done my whole life, except that I had to write this book before I could read it.

And that’s still one more reason for me to be proud of myself, this cloudless Easter morning: I wrote Man Alive! in eight days and edited and published it in seven more. You can see me dipping my quill into the ink here. But I’ve been preparing to write this one book since I was nineteen years old. I think destiny is a stupid idea, and yet this is a book I felt I had to write. My own on-going self-regard required of me that I would be the man who wrote this book, and events transpired, just at the right time, to rob of me every chance to fulfill that role at some future date. I believe that my self is the idea whose time has come, and I am proud to have documented my self at the perfect moment — perfect for the world at large, perfect for you and perfect for me. I am the first philosopher of Splendor, but I am its first poet, too, and the book I produced is a scholarly anthem. I sing the mind indomitable, and I will leave you singing — or swearing — all the way to your grave.

But there is still more: Today I accomplished a true life-long goal, the kind of thing few people dare to admit they dream about — and fewer still follow through on. And the task I set for myself was quite literally global — and eternal — in scale. I brunch today with Prometheus. I tore the lid off human joy, and no one will ever be able to imprison it again. I had one job to do in my life, a job that no one I have ever heard of or read about could do. And today I finished that job masterfully.

And there’s still more, for tonight I dine with Socrates. I have erased the white-board of Western Philosophy all the way back to him and reset our course from there. Whatever happens next, starting in five-hundred days or five-hundred years, will be mine. I could say “could be mine” but I don’t believe it. I know what I wanted to accomplish, and I’ve done it.

And you might think that by being so brutally arrogant, I am daring you to prove me wrong. But that’s not so. I’m daring you to prove me right. I’m daring you to stand up for your self the way I stand up for mine. I’m daring you to live your own life in your own behalf, pursuing your own values for your own reasons and delighting in every treasure you win that way. I’m daring you to sip for a while at my fountain of Splendor — and then go home and build your own.

All that from one tiny book! And all of that is mine. You can’t touch it. You can’t even see it. I’m not trying to withhold anything from you, it’s just the way the human mind works: Ideas can be shared, once they have been created, but the creation of any new idea is particular to an individual. Man Alive! is particular to me. I’m happy to share it with you, but you can never have the book the way I have it — the way I birthed it for three decades and two weeks more.

But I’m happy to share it with you. The book itself is offered at no cost — and it always will be. Even so, the price I ask is very high: You have to pay attention. I have a gift from antiquity for you, though, as your extra-special free bonus. If you will propagate Man Alive! — if you will share it freely with everyone you know — you will sup with Archimedes: I will give you my lever and with it you will move the earth.

Am I inverting the inverted idea of “sharing the wealth” by sharing my hubris? I think I am shedding grace. There has never been enough to go around. Give me your mind for half a day and I will show you how to make much more Splendor than you have ever dared to dream to hope to wish for.

My friend Jim Klein talks all the time about production, but this is the only kind of production that matters to humanity. Everything we have comes from Splendor, from the gushers and geysers and waterspouts of Splendor that rain down on all of us when one of us dares to think. Everyone who lives after me will be richer because of me — but that means nothing to me. My own life will be better forevermore because of the work I finished today — and that means everything to me.

Take it? Leave it? It matters not at all to me. I did the job I set about to do. And I will win — in the end — either way. And that is the kind of Splendorous drenching that I want to swim in every day.

How about you?

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In case you’ve wondered what it might be like to live with me every day…

We had mail server issues today, and I had to update some stuff on Cathleen’s Macintosh.

She uses Stickies, and this was the note at the top of her screen:

There ain’t nothin’ like sweet romance…

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ZeroHedge: “Here’s the simply math: there will be no housing bottom until the 9 million excess homes clear.”

Read it and weep. Bet wrong and weep harder.

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Sneezers wanted: Pre-release announcement for my new book, “Man alive! A survival manual for the human mind.”

One of my favorite jokes about the art of advertising copywriting is a matchbook cover reading, “Save the world from home in your spare time!” I don’t know if anyone still advertises on matchbook covers. I don’t even know if anyone still makes matchbooks. Presumably, by now, smokers can light their cigarettes with the fire of indignation in other peoples’ eyes.

Even so, I’ve always believed that ordinary people should be able to save the world from going to hell on a hand-truck. Our real problem is not a Hitler or a Mao or the Eric-Cartman-of-the-moment. The only real problem humanity has ever had is thoughtlessness — the mindless accession to the absurd demands of greater and lesser demagogues.

So: I’ve written a book about that one issue: The high cost of thoughtlessness — and how to stop paying it. The title is Man alive! A survival manual for the human mind, and it weighs in at a slim 30,000 words. I’m nobody’s matchbook copywriter, and I would have made it even shorter if I could have. But the book covers everything I know about the nature of human life on Earth — what we’ve gotten wrong, until now, and how we can do better going forward.

If you have paid attention to my writing over the years, you will have seen me cover some of these ideas on Usenet or at PresenceOfMind, BloodhoundBlog or SplendorQuest. I actually can summarize my thinking very briefly. Take your pick: “Ontologically-consonant teleology” or “Love your self.” That’s the same ethical creed expressed two different ways, and everything I have ever written develops and defends that philosophy. The proud fact of my life is that it took me thirty-three years to write a short book in eight days. You can get a taste of it, if you like, in this short extract: Stop cursing the darkness by turning on your mind!

Here’s what I need: Readers. The book itself will be free. I wrote it to save the world — no kidding. But I need for people to read it in “galleys” to let me know if I have made any bone-headed mistakes — simple typographical errors or grievous errors of logic. And I need for those early-adopters to become sneezers — to promote the book to everyone they know, if they think it is worthy of greater attention.

This is an opt-in process, and everything will happen very quickly — less than a week. If you want to be involved, email me.

How do you save the world from home in your spare time? My answer: One mind at a time.

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You’re A Master Cat Skinner – The Good News and The Bad News

Are you the ‘go to’ guy/gal? Do you list a lotta property and do it well? Are you a leader? Though I’m sure many will say charisma is required, I beg to disagree. It never hurts, but in the end, the Lord created the ultimate equalizer to charisma:

Results.

Today, let’s have a serious discussion about what combination of approaches would slaughter what’s currently goin’ on in the national brokerage community. First, here’s my perception of the major ‘schools’ I see in operation.

Variations on the Agent-Centric brokerage model

Between us we can come up with a myriad variations. Let’s limit them to very high commission splits, and the desk fee approach.

As I’ve written before, not long ago, that the agent-centric (A-C) model is failing everywhere it’s been tried. It’s ability to fail at pretty much every level is becoming legendary, regardless of the Titantic-like practicianers now lookin’ to technology to save them. Listen guys, if buying ownership positions in title companies, lenders, and starting your own escrows isn’t prima facie evidence of the desperate reach for lifejackets, I don’t know what is.

Let’s directly compare the currently popular A-C model with what I’d open in today’s — or any — housing market.

But first, a word from the Disclosures Department.

My biz model, though it pains me to admit, would indeed work exceptionally well if completely buyer oriented, listing few if any homes. However, when compared to my model — Broker-Centric — the firm primarily based upon listing homes will annihilate the buyer based company. This isn’t theory, or even bias on my part. As anyone should readily be able to discern, it’s a matter of sixth grade arithmetic.

Also, I’m loosely basing my ‘virtual’ A-C company on a brokerage I know of in a northwestern state. The size, and commission split are the perfect example of the results one can expect when using this model.

End disclosures.

Let’s first construct a virtual company built upon the A-C model.

Let’s give ’em a lotta agents, but not make it a big box setup. We’ll hire 35 full time agents. None of ’em will have less than three years full time experience. They’ll be hired due to various levels of success, but mostly cuz they don’t require major babysitting. They’ll all be paid 90% commissions, and will be responsible for a $50 per transaction fee for E&O insurance.

We’ll even stack the deck for this brokerage. They’ll have no brick ‘n mortar office. They’ll have whatever technology they wish, but no physical place to go every day. No lease payment, or all the other things that factor in to having office overhead.

We’ll grant them 250 closed sides for a calendar year. The average sales price will be $150,000 with a 3% commission/side. Yeah, I know many will likely be 2.5%, but making my math easier has higher priority. 🙂

The same number of closed sides, average price, and 3% commission/side will be used by my virtual brokerage. Wanna keep as close to a level playing field as possible. Wait — I take that back. Only gonna give my virtual brokerage 100 closed buyer sides and 36 closed listing sides. Seems I should at least appear to be makin’ this fair, right?

The numbers for our A-C brokerage guy.

This broker/owner grossed about $1.125 Million for the year. We’ll say he has no overhead for the sake of this comparison. That nets him about $112,500 in pre-tax income. On one hand he didn’t hafta show one home, or make one listing presentation. He grossed six figures for the administration duties assigned to the broker in charge, by the state. We’ll also make the assumption this broker did everything possible to generate a reliable source of leads for the company at large. Assuming a typical 2,000 hour work year with a couple weeks vacation, this broker made just over $56 an hour.

Trust me, they earned it.

Now for my virtual brokerage — using the Broker-Centric model.

I’m the owner/broker. I don’t handle buyers — ever. I set policy. Decide commission splits. List properties. Generate buyer leads.

Out of the 36 closed listing sides, my agents sold (double-ended) 10 of ’em, which are accounted for among the 100 closed buyer sides.

We have an office. I have three buyer-agents. A traffic cop for incoming leads. When the traffic cop’s busy, the buyer agents answer the phone. The overhead for office, traffic cop, phones, lead generation, and general geek expenses run me around $100,000. In point of fact, it’s probably FAR below that, but still, we’ll use it in order to increase the gloat factor when we’re finished. 🙂

Let’s look at my numbers now.

The firm’s gross income was around $612,000. Net of all overhead it quickly becomes $512,000. From that figure my buyer-agents, paid 40% commission splits, made $180,000 between them — about $60,000/yr average. With the exception of referrals or family/friends, they don’t expend any efforts on generating leads themselves.

That leaves around $332,000 — for me. Barely less than triple what my agent-centric counterpart earned.

Triple the earning for the firm’s owner/broker. Let us not conveniently forget that I gave myself a handicap. The ‘other guy’ was allotted 114 more sales than I was. What if my firm did the same? What if I listed 50 homes, while my buyer-agents racked up 200 sales?

Oops.

That’s an additional $270,000 to me from increased buyer sides.

Then, there’s the additional 14 listing sides, which add another $63,000 to the till.

That would bring my take to roughly $665,000 for the year. Let’s subtract another $65,000 in operating expenses arising from the additional sales. That would bring my total office overhead to around $165,000/yr — expenses we haven’t made my agent-centric competitor bear.

Net of all expenses my take then becomes around $600,000 for the year.

To put that in relative terms — the broker-centric model produced approximately 5.3 times more pre-tax income for the broker/owner than the agent-centric counterpart. That’s $300/hr if you’re keepin’ score.

This could be done in my own office in the San Diego area. ‘Course, if done there, it’d take just 100 closed sides of any combination of listings/sales sides to gross over $1 Million. But I digress.

The TakeAway

If you’re gonna go for the brass ring, why on the Lord’s green earth would you even consider using any version of the agent-centric model? Any way ya wanna look at it, it’s foolish to the nth degree. Teams everywhere are doing business using the broker-centric model. In many instances the team leaders are making more money than the brokers for whom they work — embarrassingly more in some cases.

If you have a team now, consider opening up your own operation. If you’re pondering the creation of your own firm? Ditto — Duh.

What I can’t figure out to save my life, is why, with all the empirical evidence of virtually guaranteed mediocrity, if not outright failure, the brokerage community at large continues taking long walks of short piers.

The Good news/Bad news joke in all this if you’re the broker/owner of an agent-centric operation.

The good news is that you made six figures for the year — major congrats!

The bad news? The guy next door, you know him, the one with less than 20% of your agents? He did exactly the same sales volume your firm did, but paid more income taxes than you made BEFORE taxes.

Bad news indeed.

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