They say you can never go Home...

Soldiers of Sparta were allowed to return home after lost battles, only if carried dead upon their shields. I'm convinced this is a more practical and time-saving way to go about it.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Boca Raton

Comfortable bed, no sleep has come yet, and it is 5:00 am.

Anyhow, I’m in Boca Raton.

The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Nice—that sort of thing.

I spent the vast majority of this Friday night watching television, which I never really seem to get to do while at home. As a result, I indulge in a sort of marathonesque, TV-watching regimen only while I am traveling on Friday nights. Inexplicably, at the moment I am watching a fairly heinous TNT feel-good TV-Movie. I don’t know what the hell I’m watching, but Juliette Lewis is playing a mentally challenged girl and I am RIVETED. She is spot on with her ability to pull off this role. Right now, she’s busy challenging her controlling, yet stylish, yet compassionate, emasculating bitch of mother (Diane Keaton) and her softie, historically distant, retired alcoholic, yet perpetually-understanding Dad (Tom Skerritt), into letting her go to a “real” school.

I was here primarily to attend an auction benefit for Cancer and Leukemia with several employees of a company that I represent independently. I didn’t know what to expect, but only that I was expected to meet new contacts and sell, sell, sell. Instead, I bonded briefly with the organizer of this event, who unfortunately lost his Father due to leukemia. I knew a lot more about Gleevec and other research options currently being investigated for blood-borne diseases, than the industry I was representing. It was a point of irony not completely lost on me.

I like working with this company, more or less. They’re young and hip, which is nice. Also, they’re almost exclusively Jewish. Which, according to my Mom, is good, because they will like me. Jewish and Italians get a long really well, she says. Mom’s a little crazy. I think she just wants me to be a good Mensch, and marry a nice Jewish girl.

Anyway, at some point, the evening afforded me the opportunity to speak with the owner of this company, who, truth be told, I had been a little bit afraid of. He’s a little intense, and he doesn’t seem bound to the same sort of social restrictions that the rest of us usually fall prey too. For example, he doesn’t mind peppering his speech with the F word.

Please don’t take me wrong. I have nothing against such words. I often use them. In fact, when I’m not using them, I practice using them. With some of my friends, I’ll indulge--no big deal. However, to my view, that is a shite sight different than using it at a quasi-business function with people who may or may not be busy formulating their first or (second impression) of you.
But that is the nature of this fellow. He has defined himself as a straight shooter, no-nonsense, I-Will-Tell-It-Like-It-Is guy. I do think thusly that this is the face he puts on to the rest of The World.

When I spoke with him one on one, it became an entirely different story. He’s articulate, circumspect, filled with advice, and the incidence of use of colorful language plummets. I just find that interesting.

{Update: OH, God. Juliette is now trying to convince her parents that she would like to live alone. I’m already panicked. Are we going to have to deal with something stupid here, like she accidentally burns the place down? I can’t get emotionally invested in this. I wish TV guides published something to forewarn people about any egregious depictions of sentimental themes here. Maybe though, I ought to have known. It is Lifetime, after all.}

Anyway, this guy (whom I’ll call Gabe) started giving me some really interesting advice. And, given the fact that he’s quite a bit older than me, and actually WANTED to talk about this stuff with me, I listened:

He started off as a CPA, then went into real-estate investment, then made a killing in the foreclosesures market. But he got out of it, because he says there is too much risk and activity going on right now. Everyone’s buying apparently, whether they can truly afford it or not. Foreclosure opportunities have dried up now, and the comparison between what people are making and what people owe on their houses is HUGE. Banks, he says, are in for some serious trouble.

I guess he’s predicting that the market will eventually stagnate. But that is not when it’s time to buy! he says. Wait a few years for rates and prices to normalize and come out of stagnation. We are a shiftless society; we move around a lot. Back in the day, people devoted themselves to a company and worked for many years. Now, people chase the money and people move on. The vast majority of people divorce, and therefore need more than one place of domicile. He explains that all of this activity and moving around has really increased the demand. You factor in a lackluster securities market, and you have defined Risk. A risk that appears to be, in some small part, recognizable, from the presence of EVERYONE ELSE in the market.

Gabe let me know that I am young, and there are several things that I’m going to learn as I stay in business for myself:

Firstly, that the expectation of perfection has to stop. Don’t expect it of anything, not even yourself. Don’t even give the ILLUSION of perfection. Admit it first on, don’t hide anything, and people will respect you for it. Why? Because intelligent, rational people know themselves that their own businesses are not perfect either. Owning up to the fact that nothing is perfect apparently can be an indication that one is committed to the idea of steady improvement.

Secondly, that I will fail pretty spectacularly as I continue to find and create business opportunities. This is essential for long-term success. “You can lose everything twice,” he says, “and still come out on top. The fear of failure is not unique, but how you work with it IS.”

If I screw-up enough, he explains, then I will eventually get to the point where the echoes of the Past start ringing loud enough in the Present, to prevent you from going down certain roads again.

Part of being successful is being able to predict a few steps down the road.

How to do this?

Past experience, for one. Secondly, a healthy respect for people’s abilities. There are several people you will meet out there, he says, who will strike you as complete morons. These are people who have the ability to otherwise surprise you with other strong skills. You miss out on them, because of your pre-conceived notion of who they are. Conversely, people who apparently seem With-It, skilled, and put together, require a certain amount of secret skepticism. Ultimately, it’s the yin and yang. Everyone has good abilities and skills, he says. It is vital to identify them and marshal them if one is to be a good Leader. By the same token, for every strong trait, there is usually an inadequate one that keeps the person more or less in a state of balanced equilibrium.

Naturally, this whole process of analyzing a potential business partner (especially a friend, which, as he says, is usually the nicest yet most dangerous scenario, if you’re not completely honest about things) extends to self as well.

Gabe wanted me to know that a good leader is very clear on his own skills and shortcomings. Period. He said nothing about being able to improve one’s shortcomings whatsoever. Have no illusions about them, do not deny them—and you will be successful. Instead, find people who have what you lack.

At my age, he said, I would do well to actively surround myself with other intelligent people. He feels that the vast majority of people in business are afraid to do just that, worried instead about being taken advantage of, looking stupid, etc. “Associate with intelligence in all its forms”, he said. Perhaps that’s the part that relates to self-improvement, which unfortunately his talk did not really cover.

[Heinous TV update: Juliette got her way and now has her own apartment. Apparently her sister is a lesbian. Mom isn’t happy about this!]

What else? A word on complaining. There are complainers everywhere, he says. It’s okay to complain. It’s not okay if that’s all you do. You must find solutions; you must find easier ways to do things. Changing things isn’t usually a matter of thinking big. More often, it tends to be a matter of thinking of something small, and actually using the momentum to make it happen. People may have ideas all the time, but they do nothing to implement it. So, find out what’s wrong with something, and then start thinking about how to fix it.

Try to think 6 steps ahead.

Don’t get blinded solely by the seemingly insufficient aspects of a situation, or its glowing benefits. Try to think about the scenarios that can happen, and think of a way to manage it if it comes to that. BEFORE they occur. Remember, the good and bad have a way of balancing each other out.

{Juliette and her dreamy mentally challenged studmuffin are now hooking it up. I’m afraid that the candles they lit will somehow burn down the house during their lovemaking, and she will be forced to live with her parents again. The horror. I can’t handle this. I’m going to bed.}

Thanks for tuning in to all this drivel; which I think I posted more for me than for anyone else.