Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Uncle... Uncle... I Give... I Give"

Remember when you were a kid - and some other kid would get you in a headlock and give you a "noogie?" If he was mean enough, he wouldn't let you go until you said, "Uncle." To this day, I don't know why that was the ticket out of the headlock, but it usually worked. Except with Johnny Calahan, that is, which was particularly yucky, because the guy drooled... a lot... I'm talkin' "need to change your shirt" drooling. Well, my blog reading friend, this real estate market is Johnny Calahan on steroids. We've been in his drool-enhanced headlock for nearly two years, screaming "Uncle... Uncle... I give... I give" - but Johnny doesn't seem to want to let us go just yet. I've been in Tampa this week and, according to their media over there - they are hurting more than most. The mystifying part of all this is the behavior of buyers. In Tampa... and Palm Coast... and San Diego... and New York... and Nebraska, etc., etc. It's a "Buyer's Market," but - There Are No Buyers. Nope. Nowhere to be found. Just a few bottom fishers. "Let's see, you bought it for $350,000 in 2003. It's worth $310,000 today. So, I'll offer you $195,000. Cash."
I read about a lady in Ormond Beach who is offering a 1998 Honda CR-V to convey with her house. "They can even have the dog," she said. Believe me, it sounds bizarre, but it's nothing much. I was selling real estate in Great Falls and McLean, Virginia, when the market crashed in 1989. One day everything was over $1,000,000. Then the next day it was "so not over $1M." I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that a scenario like this was not a stretch: "Beautiful 7,500 sq.ft. custom on 5 wooded acres. Price slashed from $4,500,000 to $3,950,000. Realtor bonus of $25,000 at closing with broker's permission. Two weeks in Maui at seller's condo free to purchaser. New Mercedes SL-350 to buyer for acceptable contract and closing before 12/31/1989." Now that was a crazy market... Then I get back to Palm Coast yesterday and the News-Journal ( )Business Section headline blares: "Area Target For Foreclosures." Great. Just great. It seems that we are in the prestigious "Top 500 Foreclosure Club." ( Check out this interesting YouTube video: ) That can't be good for marketing. Eric Estrada and Garfield the Cat would be shocked. It sounds sooo different from all that "We're the #1 Fastest Growing County in the Country" stuff we got to say for a couple of years. Want some good news? It's usually this bad... right before we hit bottom... and things start to turn around. I'm thinkin' we're in the "Pre-Rebound" stage. Maybe not today, but I smell change coming. Soon. You'll know it's happening when you see real estate agents sniffing around SUV dealerships again... and going out to dinner more than once a month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"If You Shoot For The Moon - You Better Not Miss!"

It's been said that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Now I'm assuming that step should be in the right direction. If I'm in New York - and want to go to California - that first step should be heading West. Going East would obviously lead to frustration, in the form of the Atlantic Ocean. How about that "first step" for NASA on a moon launch? Accuracy really counts here. Aim "just a smidge off," say... one degree, and you miss the moon by thousands of miles. One of the silliest sayings I've heard goes like this: "When you shoot for the moon - it's OK if you miss - because at least you'll be among the stars." Are you kidding me? How about: "If you shoot for the moon - you better hit it - or you'll wander aimlessly in space til' you die:-)" Recently, a popular self-help book, by Richard Carlson, told us: "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff -- and it's all small stuff." The premise was "don't get caught up in things that don't matter, if you want to reduce stress and live a happier, more care-free life." The trick, however, is to determine what's important and what's not. Sometimes, you see, "the small stuff" is exceedingly important. My entire generation should be hung by our toes for the legacy of "The 60's." That's when being "laid back" became cool. It became a "catch-all" to defend all sorts of negative behavior. As difficult as it is to accept... and then act upon... the small stuff can be a real big deal. The Army taught me about details. I fought it, but The Green Machine would always win. Success really is in the details. As a new Captain, assuming my duties as a Company Commander at Fort Carson, Colorado in early 1974, I was told: "The commanding officer is ultimately responsible for everything his unit does... or fails to do." Now there's a load to bear. With a Divisional IG (Inspector General) Inspection coming your way, you'd never gather the troops around and say, "OK, men, don't sweat the small stuff. Let's be laid back and not get caught up in the details... Don't worry - be happy." This - in the face of some motor sergeant about to probe your jeep's tailpipe with a white glove, looking for exhaust soot? Don't think so. Want to know why I'm claiming to be some sort of expert on this topic? Because I've failed so many times, that's why. Submit yourself to a little scrutiny here. Have you enjoyed massive success in your relationships and career? If you have, let's meet, so you can teach me. If you've struggled, like most of us, read on. A new book, by John Trent, really hits home. Wish I'd seen it a long time ago. But you know that "the teacher appears, when the student is ready." Trent is on target with "The 2-Degree Difference." ( see: ) Have you watched TV lately? There are several prime time shows that deal with obesity. Not in a clinical way, but with morbid, intrusive curiosity. The "subjects" are filmed every which-way and it seems like fun, when the fork lift comes to lift "The 1,000 Pound Man" onto the flat-bed truck for his trip to the gastric by-pass clinic. This phenomenon exists because we know how hard it is to lose weight. When we see these folks, we figure we're doing ok. Big Problems require Big Solutions - right? We need to make 180 degree changes in our lives - right? The problem is that most of us aren't wired that way. The author of "The 2-Degree Difference" has a lot to say about this. ( Also see: ) He tells of the obese fellow he met who followed the "2 degrees at a time method"... (like the old question, "How do you eat an elephant?" Ans: "One bite at a time.") The heavy man merely changed from eating two deserts a night - to one. Then only every other night. Then only weekends. Then he started walking a bit. Then more. You see where this is heading? At the end of one year, after making small, incremental changes, the guy had dropped 100 pounds... and to celebrate, he ran The Marine Corps Marathon, in Washington, DC. Back when New York City was "The Murder Capitol of the World," police started an initiative for "2-degree like" changes. Small things, like fixing broken windows, stopping the "squeegee guys" at red lights, and prosecuting subway "turnstile jumpers" had a huge effect on the communities, as a whole. Just like in banking and investing, it's a "compounding effect," where "small stuff" can lead to "big stuff." It works at home, too, guys (and gals). Try just opening the car door for her. It's so much better than, "Come on - get in - is your arm broken?" Or do the dishes. Or take her to a fancy restaurant... and hold her hand. Just those little changes can lead to better things. 180 Degree changes? No... they're often just too hard. 2 Degree changes? Easy...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Crime Watch: The Evil of Open House Signs"

Darkness had fallen and only the darting insects could be heard above the wind in the palms.
I found myself being thankful for the combat experience I'd gained, as a Platoon Leader with the 196th Infantry Brigade in Viet Nam, all those years ago. When you need it, it comes rushing back. "Stay calm," I told myself, "others are counting on me." Black pants, shirt, shoes? Check. Dog tags taped for silence? Check. Camouflage sticks for my face and the back of my hands? Check. Cell phone, red lens flashlight, water? Check. OPEN HOUSE SIGN? Again, Check. In a nutshell... I was ready to engage my tormentor... in a reckless act of lawless disregard.
The Palm Coast city manager ( see: ), you see, had told us Realtors of his vow to "go to battle" with those of us brazen and hardened enough to run rough-shod over the law... and wantonly post OPEN HOUSE SIGNS... flying in the face of the safety and welfare of the Flagler County citizenry. Jim Landon, it seems, doesn't have enough to do in his new job. So he is riding his pony into town from Texas, six-shooters blasting holes in OPEN HOUSE SIGNS. He went so far as to say, "It's something I'm passionate about!" Let me ask you this: "How, in the name of all that is good and holy, can anyone actually conjure up "Passion" over OPEN HOUSE SIGNS?" This fellow actually said he chose to accept a job in Palm Coast... partly because it didn't have a lot of "those little signs." Holy Lone Star State, Batman!
Anyway, my sellers needed me and I wasn't about to let them down. Twenty years as an Army Officer ingrains a "sense of mission." I crawled slowly out of the thick growth, watching and listening for signs of police patrols. It was time and I sprang into action. My breath came in short bursts and my senses were on high alert. Adrenalin coursed through my veins, giving me superhuman strength. Everything unfolded in slow motion and surreal imagery. But I did it. I really did it. I jammed an OPEN HOUSE SIGN into the ground at the corner of my seller's street. Then, feeling triumphant, I disappeared back into the darkness from which I had come.
The open house came on Sunday and we were successful in drawing several potential buyers... an offer may be coming in this week. But as for me? The Big House beckons. They took me down. "CSI: Palm Coast" found DNA at the crime scene, pointing to me as the perpetrator. Yeah, I admit it. I put that sign in... and I'd do it again.
For a petition to get this contentious sign issue resolved, see:

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"Father's Day Reflections"

I sure wish I could sit and talk with my Dad a few more times. I'll bet a lot of guys in their sixties say that. But the actuarial tables show that fewer and fewer of us will ever have that privilege again. My Dad was born in 1911, the third of seven children, and the first one born in America. They came from politically ravaged Slovenia. Too many border and name changes to list, but in short it was the Austrian-Hungarian Empire... and then Yugoslavia... and most recently independent sovereignty for the Alpine country, South of Austria and around the tip of Northern Italy.
These guys were tough. They came to Ellis Island, had their names "Americanized," and settled in Pennsylvania as coal miners and farmers. They got to experience The Great Depression first-hand. Dad dropped out of school after seventh grade and went to work in the mines. No wonder he was such a hard drinker. No wonder he was not a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy). He was hard-scrabble and often withdrawn. He treated me OK, but the "Life Lessons" were often way off base. If the waitress at the diner undercharged us, his attitude was, "Let's go, it's not my fault if she's that bad at math." Somehow I knew better... and I'm glad. Must have been the nuns at school. I sure did love him, though... Warts and all. Treated my friends nice. And both my brother and I (good or bad) unwittingly inherited his sense of humor... "Can you say, "The sun the sun, but not the moon"?" "Sure... "The sun the sun, but not the moon"." "Nope... I told you not to say the moon."
He and my Mom had the most confusing relationship imaginable. They stayed together, but I don't know how... or why. The times were different, I guess, and divorces were rare. I have lots of "not so happy " memories of them screaming at each other (never beyond that, thank God)... most always fueled by alcohol. And the rides home after a day at the old farm were terrible. Weaving and swerving... and the loud bickering... while I sunk deep into the back seat, wondering if we'd make it home. I swore I'd be better at all of these things than he was when I grew up.
Now I've got four of my own... (Andrea -39, Susan-36, Chelsea-26, and Zachary-20)... All grown up and moved away. Each of them is missed in a uniquely personal way. Nearly every night, before sleep comes, I toss them around the caverns of my mind. Each one - separate and distinct - in their own special ways. I know how much I love them... and I am made whole by their love in return. I wonder what they think about on Father's Day? Did I do any better than my Dad? What flaws of mine eat away at my three girls and lone son? Perfect, I have not been. But I love each of them, beyond the capability of my words to describe. I look for the cards for a week in advance... and I'm like a little kid when the mail yields one. Today the calls will come... and as they do, I'll be a happy man. Life is a challenge - with so many twists and turns. But on Father's Day, my prayer is that I've been up to the challenge. I pray that I've put a major, positive stamp on their lives... and that they both recognize and appreciate it. I hope they've picked up my "good stuff" and learned from my "not so good stuff."
When bad things popped up in life, my Dad would say, "It's always something, Franky... It's always something." He was right, of course. Did I handle most of the "somethings" well? As parents themselves, will my kids see decent lessons from my example? Sure hope so...

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Stormy Weather," by John Mica, R- Winter Park

Yes, I know, U.S. Rep. Mica ( ) didn't write the lyrics to "Stormy Weather." But his recent comments, concerning Flagler Beach and its vulnerability to "as yet un-named" hurricanes, sure got me tapping my toes. The original was sung by Billie Holliday: "Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky; Stormy weather. Life is bare; Gloom and misrey' everywhere; Stormy Weather." I thought her version was wonderful, as was Ella Fitzgerald's and Frank Sinatra's. But the best? Willie Nelson. Hands down.
The other day, it was reported that Mr. Mica was calling attention to Flagler County's "particular vulnerability" to storms... and to the "precarious position" of the area's beaches and beachfront structures. I have to laugh every time I see that pandering ad for State Farm Insurance, when they sing their jingle: "Like a good neighbor... State Farm is there." Really? And just where might "there" be? Because "there" sure isn't "here." So let me get the "property insurance business model" down here. I think it goes something like this: "We will only insure those who will probably never need it. But if they do, we'll cancel them and leave town." Want to hear the bomb? He said, "We are going to lose A1A into the ocean as soon as we get another storm." Holy Moly (whatever a "moly" is). He mentioned that erosion is already threatening the shore road in Flagler Beach and other areas of Flagler County. Remember all the hub-bub around 13th Street, South after the last volley of storms? Detours down the back streets (which soon could be valuable ocean front property) as they bolstered the road with rocks? I've seen lots of photos from the Carolinas after these storms... Not pretty. Picture the cut from the Intracoastal to the ocean we've always wanted, gratis, from Mother Nature. Let's face it - over time - the ocean always wins. But don't pack and run just yet (unless, of course, you'd like me to help you sell your beach house)... Today, at least, we are safe. The website for the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service: , says, "There are no tropical cyclones at this time." Whew... Mica's comments came as he was touring Ponte Vedra Beach and assessing their storm-related problems. It seems that the Army Corps of Engineers (Jacksonville District):, is considering adding Flagler County to the list of areas it restores. Although a five-year process, evidence suggests that restored beaches fare better against erosion in storm situations. On their home page, click the tab at the top that reads "Shore Protection." Then click the tab for "Flagler County Coastal Projects" if you'd like to email the POC, or just monitor progress. Well, bye for now. I'm heading over to Wally World for 50 loaves of bread, 100 gallons of water, and 10 cases of toilet paper. You can't be "too prepared."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Put That In Your Pipe And Smoke It"

When I first visited Palm Coast, about ten years ago (I stayed at The Topaz in Flagler Beach... for a wedding in St. Augustine???), things sure were different. I know, I know... those of you that were here twenty-five years ago remember watching herds of wild black bears and huge rattlesnakes scamper and slither among the alligators... right on Palm Coast Parkway... which, of course, was a dirt road with no lights or stop signs. Ferry boats took you to Flagler Beach and a trip to Orlando for Disney World's opening in 1973 was two days by covered wagon. That reminds me of what I always told my kids: "Yep, back when I was a kid, we didn't have electricity... We had to watch TV by candle light." They'd laugh and ask me to tell them again about "dialing" a telephone and playing a "record" on the "hi-fi."

Big news here ten years ago, read something like this: "Faye Rosenblatt and her husband, Harold, recently returned from a two week stay with her daughter, Anne Marie, in Monmouth, NJ. They enjoyed playing with their grand children and eating real, honest-to-goodness, hot pizza pie at Fuccarelli's Bistro in Red Bank. Harold told us he loves to visit them, but he's glad to be back in Palm Coast, in his ITT house, where he can relax and fish at the Flagler Beach Pier."

But today? Here's a goodie from Tuesday's News-Journal: "Pot 'grow house' ignites in Palm Coast"... "Rule No. 1 when you're running a super-secret marijuana grow house in a residential neighborhood: Don't let the place go up in flames; you might draw attention to yourself. That's apparently what happened Sunday night when firefighters were called to a rented house at 8 Wheeling Lane in Palm Coast (Whoa... I thought Pine Lakes was high-falutin'...). While fighting the fire, they "discovered a large amount of marijuana plants growing in the garage," the Flagler Sheriff's Office said. (So that's why the car was always in the driveway)... "The occupants fled the scene when the fire started" and have not yet been arrested, spokeswoman Debra Johnson said Monday."

My, my, my, my, my... Back in the day, when I was in high school (1959-1963), we were considered "bad boys" if we smoked a Camel in the bathroom and/or had some beer in the trunk of our car. And sex? At a Catholic school? Are you kidding? Sister Mary Elizabeth would not allow it. In the locker room some guy would say that he and Betty Lou "did it" Friday night. We'd say, "Wow... how'd you do it?" He'd say, "You know... the regular way." Then we'd all look at each other and nod, knowingly.

On a serious note, Palm Coast and Flagler Beach have a challenging drug problem these days. A spin-off of our hyper-rapid growth over the past five years. It's a big deal. Lot's of pot 'grow houses' have been busted. Meth labs, too. Pills are easy to 'score' at the high schools. Palm Coast is right off I-95... "The Cocaine Highway" between NY City and Miami. The police are being kept very busy with all of this. And you can bet that the majority of their calls are in some way related to alcohol or drugs. If you have a kid in school, stay on top of this. No kid... and I mean no kid... is immune from this tantalizing invitation to at least "experiment." Sobering thought?... Of the 170,000 deaths in Florida in 2006, over 7,700 had alcohol and/or drugs in their systems, as shown by autopsy... (Draw your own statistical conclusion, regarding the other 162,300 not examined). Want to help... or get help? Check out the local Stewart Marchman Center For Chemical Independence. Ask how you can contribute... or what you need to do to help your kid - or yourself. Florida has the "Stewart Marchman Act" in place to help drug offenders and those addicted to drugs. It's one of the best laws of its kind in the US. If you or someone you care about is affected by drugs, see: or call: 386-586-2313. It might be the smartest call you ever made. (A future Blog post will be dedicated to this organization)...

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Real Estate Econ 101"

An agent in our office called me over the weekend to ask me "a Broker question." Over the past 21 years of doing this real estate thing, I've come to learn this type of inquiry is really a "please advise me correctly, so as to keep me out of jail" question. Brokers are always thankful when they get asked. Errors and Omissions Insurance is nice to have when they are not. Anyway (Are you ready for this?) the question was regarding proper protocol for multiple offers! Yes - multiple offers - like the ones we got in that incredible run from 2000 to 2005. It seems that the agent's seller/customer was very motivated... understood market dynamics... and priced the home to sell quickly. Voila - three offers in two days... all close to full price. My goodness, what's happening? Is Palm Coast real estate booming again?
Not really. Capitalism, you see, relies on "market forces" (i.e. not the government) to sell goods and services. Human nature, it seems, is greedy. Want proof? Ever have to teach a baby how to be selfish? Sellers always want a profit, yet those pesky buyers... they want bargains. It's all about "Supply and Demand."
For demand to be "real," it must possess three elements: 1- The Desire to buy. 2- The Ability to pay... and 3- The Willingness to pay. If you haven't noticed, #3 has been sorely missing for the past year and a half. In simple terms, The Law of Demand says: Higher Prices = Lower Demand... and... Lower Prices = Higher Demand.
Conversely, The Law of Supply says: As prices increase, supply will also tend to increase. That is... until supply gets "too big" and then the whole thing spins out of control... like we are experiencing now in real estate. Then, the way this works, supply exceeds demand - and prices fall. In this Supply and Demand language, there is a Nirvana-like "sweet spot," called "Equilibrium." This magic place is the price buyers are willing to pay... and sellers are willing to accept. Hint: We aren't there yet.
The example I started with addresses a multiple offer scenario. It happened when one seller decided to get to Equilibrium. Then, just like in Emeril's kitchen... Bam - it got "kicked up a notch" for both the seller and the buyer... and a sale happened. Our challenge is this: Nearly every seller we meet with says something like this to us - "Yes, we know the market is bad... we understand what's going on... BUT, we don't want to give our house away. So, why don't we list it at $________ (insert a number here that is about 20% higher than the market value) and just try it for a while???" Please... Until sellers step up and accept the realities of the situation, inventory will continue to increase. It's a "Race to the Bottom" and those who get there first will be the winners.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Arizona Softball is "Nice", Indeed"

A few days ago, I posted an entry about "being nice" (see 06/03/07: "It's Nice To Be Nice") and I hope you don't mind if I go there again so soon. It's just that it's been on my mind a lot lately. And I'd bet, if you read the paper... or watch the news... or subscribe to a CNN podcast... you think about it a lot too. I'd wager that at least once this year you've either said - or at least thought - that "there's a lot of mean spirited people out there these days." Just in the past two days, I've seen it in spades, and it's unsettling. This morning, we came up the back stairs to our office and Sha-zam... our deck furniture was stolen during the night. One of our RE/MAX offices is blessed to be in Flagler Beach - upper level - with a deck and a great view of the ocean. We had some nice tables and chairs and benches. No more. Some folks think that's "OK"... that it's "No Big Deal." I disagree. Then, yesterday, two teenagers were out in the street screaming at each other and close to slugging it out. Both were shirtless and adorned in that adorable "My Swimsuit Is Halfway Down My Butt For All To See" style. Their language was hideous and both were letting the ethnic slurs fly. I wonder what their Mothers would think? I pick up the paper this morning and I see that a 24 year old nearly killed another fellow right in front of the Flagler Beach pier yesterday afternoon... in broad daylight. Apparently he knocked him out... and not being satisfied with that, he continued to kick and beat him while he was down. Not good. In my day, if the guy went down, you stopped. Today? You take your cues from the Ultimate Cage Fights and you just keep wailin' away. The clincher? A lady we had never met walked into our real estate office Tuesday morning and started giving the receptionist a hard time... demanding to see me. Maritssa (my partner) and I went downstairs to see what was going on and were confronted by this very large (maybe 250?), very hostile woman. It seems that she had purchased one of our listings, over a year ago, and was now making a stink over some "condition" issues. The seller had moved to Orlando and washed their hands of it all. (Please note that the house was purchased with an "As Is" contract... and this angry buyer had both a thorough pre-purchase home inspection, as well as a pre-occupancy "walk-through" inspection... all of which met with her approval.) So now a year has passed and she wants to fight. She's yelling and fuming and wagging her finger in Maritssa's face - Fun, yes indeedy. We finally got her to leave, but it sure got the office in a buzz for a while. Then we get home and decide to watch the NCAA Women's College Softball World Series. I'd seen a couple of the pre-lims, but the championship was between the Tennessee Lady Vols and the reigning Arizona Wildcats. It was an amazingly entertaining three game series, with Tennessee taking the first and Arizona winning the next two for the title. Why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with all the "nasty" stuff, above? Easy... In the heat of battle, under immense pressure, facing intense competition, on National TV... these girls were really... well... NICE. (And guys, by the way, half these girls could be in the Miss America pageant). The losers patiently waited while the winners had their "pile on the pitcher" celebration, then they all high-fived... actually chatted some with each other... and shared a few hugs. Good stuff. Guys need to take a lesson here. Watch the NBA. When a series is won, the winners ignore the losers and the losers stomp off sullenly with a "screw you" look on their face. Sad, sad, sad stuff. Anyway, congratulations to Arizona on their 8th softball title - and to both them and Tennessee - for showing us how to do things right...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"$100 for Gas... Dear God, Help Me"

Back in December of 2002, I purchased a sweet new '03 Suburban Z1. Being a twenty-year Army guy, I of course got it with 4x4 and the "off road package." Leather interior and rear passenger DVD entertainment center, Bose sound system and 0% financing completed the deal. My reasoning for buying this behemoth? My high school son, I envisioned, would always be packing his compadres in there for trips to games and school outings. Dad would be at the wheel and deeply immersed in son's "high school experience." Dads don't always get it right, do we? Man, how naive could I have been? Same reasoning for buying the billiards table and the house with the pool and the dock and the little center console fishing boat. There I would be, so went the dream, cooking dogs & burgers for "the gang," as they laughed and swam, fished and water skied... all under my watchful eye. That's just how it unfolded for all of you... right?
Well, yesterday brought this parenting concept full-circle. My "low fuel light" went on and I pulled into the Kangaroo/Chevron station at I-95 and Rt. 100. The Beast has a 35 gal. tank and it drank 32.583 gallons @ $3.069 per gallon. Yes, indeed, the photo at the top is of my recent $100.00 tab. I knew this day was coming, yet it was still tough to accept. When I'm willing to share my age (61 yrs., 9 mos. & counting) I can tell stories of the "gas wars" when I was a kid: "Esso $0.19/gal"... "Sinclair $0.185/gal"... "Atlantic $0.17/gal." Yeah, yeah, I know, "People made a lot less money back in The Olden Days." But, believe me, gas was an infinitely smaller percentage of average income than it is today. And guess what? It's going higher... and I'm not liking it.
To tie this together, what happened was that my son got a job and his license and a jeep - every kid's dream. He and his pals did their best to overcome the old: "Man, Palm Coast is so boring" routine. They did it in Daytona and Orlando and St. Augustine and Jacksonville... but they did NOT do it in my Suburban or in my pool or in my boat (ok, a couple of times, but you could count them on one hand, over four years... and they didn't ask me to drive or cook).
So now he's gone - off to Tampa for school - and I've still got the Suburban. This baby gets 14.7 mpg (averaged by the on board computer). I've had it for 4.5 years and accumulated 98,000 miles of driving pleasure. Shocker?... At $3 bucks a pop, that's over $20,000 worth of gas... Dear God. Throw in routine maintenance, washes & wax (I'm in real estate and need it clean), parking and two sets of huge, expensive tires, etc... and you're pushing $30,000. It should take a full year's average "Florida salary" to operate a vehicle? Aaagghhhh.
The Democrats say it's Bush's fault. The Republicans say it's the long term effect of Clinton's policies. The Greenies say it's poor resource management. Some combination is more like it. Other than some moderate expansion of current US oil refineries, we haven't built a new one since the 1970's... Ouch. Remember when the US was at the top of the world steel market? Then we helped rebuild the industries in Europe and Japan after WWII with modern technology. Result? We died on the vine and are pretty much at the mercy of foreign steel vendors today. Do you smell gas?
Oh, well, it's time for me to change my mindset. Anyone want to buy a very well maintained Suburban? I'm thinkin' smaller these days. Is this the correct spelling of P-r-i-u-s?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

"It's Nice to be Nice"

(I took a week's breather... Nice to be back)
"How about you, Mr. Zedar... Can you render an educated guess, as to why this is true?" asked my appropriately bearded and tweedy professor (complete with suede patches at the elbows). It was 1977... Applied Psychology class in the Business School at Georgia Tech. We in the Master's program liked it when they called Tech "The MIT of the South." Over coffee in the student lounge, we'd say it was really the other way around. MIT, said we, was "The Georgia Tech of the North." Anyway, the professor, it seems, had been methodically and purposely creating an interesting dynamic in our class. When at his left, he'd take on a serious demeanor. He'd frown, avoid eye contact, and speak in a monotone. Then, when addressing those of us on his right, he'd walk over with a smile, look us in the eye, and "play" his voice like a Stradivarius. In other words, he played all of us like a violin. The question he had asked was, "Why do half of you, when you discuss things outside of class, think I'm a good guy... and half of you think I'm not?" My answer guessed at differing interests within the class. My answer was wrong.
"The answer is that half of you think I'm "nice" and half of you perceive me to be "grumpy."" Then he explained his lab experiment with us. "It's all a matter of communication," said the Prof, "whether it's purposeful, or not." "But if you learn today's lesson, it could mean the difference between success and failure for you, both in business and in life." Man, that was a mouthful. A synopsis of his lesson was this: When communicating, only 7% of the true meaning comes from the "words" we choose. Another 30% comes from our "tonality"... the "sound" of our voice, including accents, volume, and inflection. The mind-blower? An astounding 63% of what we "say"... is communicated through our "body language." Think about it... If you're trying to tell someone something and they say, "Go ahead, I'm listening," but their eyes are rolled back in their head, their lips are pursed, and they're tapping their pencil... What is really being communicated, their very precise words, or their obstinate body language? I'm sorry, but the 63% beats the 7%, hands down.
How about those three little words that effect all of us throughout our lives? Just for fun here, how many ways can you say, "I LOVE YOU?" Try it with your arms folded tightly and with a scowl. Then try it three different ways, putting the accent first on "I," then on "LOVE," then on "YOU." When you try those three, always say it as a question. Or isn't it fun, when you say, "I love you" and you get "Me, too" back? How watered down is "Luv ya," compared to the real thing? You get my drift.
The next thing my professor impressed upon us is that our communication "style" is always a personal choice. If we smile or prefer a sour look? Our choice. Eye contact or eyes down and away? Our choice. Always loud and aggressive, as opposed to soft-spoken and gentle? Again, our choice. I'll go on record here to say that millions of $ollars have been made... or lost... based upon whether receptionists have been "nice" or not. If you have a receptionist at your business, do everything you can to train them on these concepts. You know what I'm talking about. Ever walk into an establishment and been "greeted" by someone squinting over the top of their glasses at you, as though you were not a potential "customer," but an "irritating disruption?" Then when she says, "Yes, can I help you?" it feels more like, "God, I'm busy and I wish you'd just go away." The same thing applies to your answering machine message. Does it communicate a "warm welcome," or a "cold rebuff?" Once more, with feeling... It's a choice.
It's true that attitudes and communication styles reflect our choices. But... and it's a BIG BUT (no pun intended), our culture is steering us in the wrong direction. The challenge for younger people is that they weren't around when things were "kinder and gentler." If you never saw TV in the 1950's or early 60's, you don't remember how "nice" it was. If there is a central theme that runs through society today, as presented and reflected on TV... it's that we have become a "nation of nasty and a culture of crass." The shows may be "funny," but the pervasive brand of humor is that of "the put-down." Popular shows like "America's Next Top Model," or "The Bachelor," "The Jerry Springer Show," or the "Survivor" type genres... all rely on trickery, deception, sarcasm, revenge, violence, and general mean-spiritedness as the communication style. And the music? I sure don't want to sound like "grandpa" here, yet current lyrics and videos reflect a different mindset, than did those of The Beachboys or The Supremes.
Bottom line? It's nice to be nice. Just take some reflective time and look inside yourself. Where are you on this? You can change. On purpose. Go ahead, your friends will wonder what happened. And you? You'll feel soooo much better. Oh, and before I forget, Have a "nice" day:-)

Why read "Palm Coast Unplugged?"

"Palm Coast Unplugged" gives a "backstage pass" to locally focused Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Ormond Beach, Florida... Real Estate and other useful information:
Please feel free to share your comments at the end of any blog post!