Thursday, December 29, 2011

Special Edition! New Year's Resolution

It's been a while since I have written an overtly Real Estate related blog. This is only sort of one.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about my job, my work, my source of income. This is the time of year to evaluate performance over the last year and to plan and strategize for next year. I've done some of that, identifying markets I want to be in, planning some new marketing strategies, etc. One thing has been bugging me though and I finally made a little headway (so to speak) today in pinpointing it. The phrase, "work as ministry" has been in my head. After several days of this thought, I've decided to work it out by writing it down. I also decided to share that writing with you in hopes that you can implement the same kind of strategy.

Work as Ministry

For most of my more mature Christian life I have heard various people espouse the virtues of treating your work as ministry. Be a witness wherever you go. Treat people as you want to be treated. What would Jesus do. All those phrases that we all know and have used to the point that they are almost cliche. The problem is that they are not very specific and don't give a guy like me some concrete things to DO to accomplish those noble goals. What I am writing now is my gameplan on how to put those cliches into practice as a Realtor. I hope that you will read these and be inspired to do the same wherever you work. I believe God expects it of us and I know that our coworkers/clients/customers/employees/employers (Christian and non-Christian) need it from us. So here goes:

How can I make my job as a Realtor into ministry?
  • Implement the golden rule--I know it is one of the cliches but it is a good one. I truly need to treat others as I would want to be treated. Even more, I need to treat people as God would want me to treat them. This means I just naturally go the extra mile. I provide more than they expect, all the time, without them asking. EVEN moreso, I need to do it with a really joyous, thankful, genuine disposition. Do it because I love them as people.
  • Understand that I am helping them with something far more important and noble than just buying some product. A house is (for the VAST majority of people) the largest single investment they will ever make. A house is something they dream about, somewhere to raise their family, somewhere to build memories and somewhere to turn into HOME--a concept almost everyone longs for. It can be a complicated task and I am honored when someone trusts me to help.
  • Delight in the small points of this process. People make decisions about their home based on ALL KINDS of reasons. For some it is simply the schools, the square footage, the condition and the overall layout of the house. Others go by "the feeling" the home gives. I need to be open to all of those deciding factors. I need to tune into those factors. I need to fight the urge to become frustrated when someone takes a long time to decide and seems to be too picky. I need to delight in the meticulousness some people exercise--after all, this is where they will call home.
  • I need to be 100% honest and up front with people. I am an honest person but even so, I will sometimes sugar coat things. No one benefits from that in the long run. This policy may cost me some listings but in the long run, it will help. More Realtors need to do this. You help no one if you have a listing for 6 months with no showings. If the house smells, tell them. If the house needs work, tell them. If their price is WAY out of line, tell them. Set the expectations. I know there are some reasons for listing an overpriced property but don't give false hope that it will actually sell
  • Humility, honor, integrity and thankfulness--These are the words that should govern my actions.
    • I can only do so much and God does the rest--this gives humility.
    • Honor is a 2 way street--I am honored that my clients trust me and I honor them, my family and my God by treating people well
    • Integrity--goes without saying
    • Thankfulness--again, thankful for my clients' trust and thankful for God's blessings. Also thankful that I live in a place where I can help people in this fashion.
  • NEVER give less than my full effort. Again, this is someone's home that I am being trusted with. Less than 100% is not acceptable--even if I am tired or grouchy or whatever. Remember that this is a SERVICE job. It is my opportunity to serve my fellow man. This is a super important point of emphasis for me.
  • Focus on the family--including my own. I cannot do this without my family and I need to keep telling myself that, no matter how busy I am, I owe it to Cindy, Jonas and Maggie to put them first. When I do this and still get the "job" done with efficiency, I set a great example for my clients.
  • Value the relationship that is being forged. When people step into my path and we work on their largest asset, there is a natural relationship planted. There are no accidents and I HAVE to put value on the relationship that results from helping with a business transaction. It is an emotional process to buy and sell the home. Don't be closed off and just get to know people on a superficial level. If they are open to it, take the opportunity to actually build a relationship--even if the person is a little weird.
  • Finally, to really see this as ministry, I need to keep God in it. So many people are afraid to talk about God because it might offend someone. I don't need to preach but I don't see any reason why it can't be woven into the conversation. If that conversation is rejected, then leave it alone but I should always try.
These bullet points are my outline for treating my "job" as ministry. This is real, rubber hits the road kind of stuff. I would love to see your thoughts on this. I would also challenge my brothers and sisters out there to think about this goal and set specific objectives on how you might do the same. Let me know if I can be of service to you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Lie--Music and Media Have No Lasting Effect on Me

I love music. I love all kinds of music. I love country, rock, hip hop, rap, oldies, classic rock, bluegrass, classical, and everything in between. I do NOT love all the songs within each genre. There are some that have some redeeming qualities and some that are just plain bad (talent wise) or vile (content wise). I would like to see us (all of us) be a little more conscientious about our consumption of media.

I always like to ask the youth that I work with about their media consumption. What kind of music they listen to, what shows they watch, who their favorite artists are, what books they are reading or have read recently. I believe that the media we take in shapes the words we put out--even if it is only barely noticeable. My favorite thing is when a young person, when presented with the question "why do you listen to that garbage", responds with "I don't listen to the words, I just like the beats." I usually then proceed to askt hem questions about the song and ask them to "hum a few bars." 100% of the time, if they are honest, they have a good portion of the lyrics embedded in their minds. It will almost always come out in their language also. If you never take bad words in, there is no way you can spit them back out.

Understand that I like all kinds of music. I listen to all kinds of music. I even listen to some music that is "not good for me". I really do like the beats. The difference is, I KNOW that those words and thoughts are being preached at me in a really catchy sermon of beats and words. I am a conscious consumer. I am not someone that says that an 18 year old should completely hide from the world he or she lives in. I would also say that it is a parent's job to know what their kids listen to and to shield them as much as possible. It is important to listen to the stuff your kids listen to so YOU can be a conscious consumer for your kids and help them develop the skills necessary to be that conscious consumer themselves.

This goes both ways, by the way. A lot of parents believe that if their kids listen only to certain types of music, there is no problem. For example, if a song mentions God, it is probably ok to consume. This is so very dangerous. Kids like to dig into the music and the artists. Here is an example of why this can be dangerous. The band Evanesence did a song called "Bring Me To Life." It is a really good song. If you listen on the surface, and even if you dig into the lyrics, it can easily be passed off as a Christian song. In fact, when it first came out, CCM radio stations played it and Christian bookstores sold it. After the song got popular and sold a ton of albums, band members said things like "Can we get over the whole Christian music thing. It is so lame." and "What the f*** are we doing there" in reference to being on the Christian music charts.

The take away from this blog is this, be aware of what goes into your brain. Don't assume that if it is on the radio it is ok. Also don't mindlessly consume media and expect it NOT to affect you. Music and television and movies change you. They add vocabulary to your arsenal, the beats get stuck in your head (I call that an earworm), the ideas cause you to pause and think. Over time, your whole personality is shaped by the media you consume. Just be aware of it and make sure you like the person you become.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Truth--Small Business is THE Fabric of Our Culture

This series has been focused on lies in our culture. This blog is going to change it up a little and focus on a truth that many people know. They just might not know HOW truthful it really is. All of this blog is going to focus on small business. Specifically, it is going to focus on my life experience with a particular small business, Crosslin Supply. Many of the people that read this blog know that Crosslin's sold to national company, ProBuild a few years ago. ProBuild closed its doors in Smyrna on Friday of last week. This morning I was "inspired" by a dream to write about Crosslin's and what it has meant to my life. My story is not unlike countless others who have been impacted by family run, small businesses across the country.

We moved to Tennessee from Texas when I was almost 5 years old. My dad worked for my grandfather in his auto repair garage in Smyrna. My mom worked for Kroger for a short time and then went to work for a lumber yard in Smyrna, Crosslin Supply. A few years later, my grandfather closed his shop and my dad also went to work for Crosslin's. You could say I basically grew up at Crosslin Supply. It certainly helped shape my life. Below are some of my memories and the lessons I learned because of Crosslin Supply:

Lesson 1--people want to be treated well and will pay a little more if they are. Time and time again I would wonder how Crosslin's could compete with the big stores like Lowes. The answer was always the same--people go to who they know and who they know will treat them well. Everyone wants to be treated like they are important (even if they are not). That deck that the DIYer is building is the most important thing in that guy's mind right now. It may only be $1,000 worth of lumber but it is his crowning achievement. He may not be as important to your bottom line as the customer that builds 100 homes a year but it IS important to that customer that he is treated like you couldn't survive without his business. If he gets that treatment, he will be a fan of your business and will even pay a little more for the same product. If you slip up, even once, he will go to the big box store where he doesn't expect good treatment but will get a cheaper product. In other words, if I get crappy service at both places, why would I pay more for it?

Lesson 2--Go the extra mile--period. I learned that no matter what, give all that you can to your clients or customers. It makes you feel good and you never know what else that will bring you. I remember when the Kingdom Hall in Smyrna was being built. They wanted to build it in just a few days. They requested, and Crosslin's agreed, to have 24 hour access to building materials. My dad stayed at the store through the night and delivered stuff to them in the dark and at all kinds of times. It was cool in its own sort of way. Only a small business would do that.

Lesson 3--When the employee takes pride in the job and are rewarded for it, you will be successful as an owner. There are countless examples of this at Crosslin's. From the doors that were built on site for customers to the organization system and the racks that the employees built to the times when special cuts were requested and the employees took pride in helping someone out. My dad and others helped build many of the sheds and other buildings on that property. They took pride in that place and were often rewarded with bonus checks or lunches or even just pats on the back. Either way, the employees were part, if not most, of the success of the day to day operations. Combine that pride with the relationships built by Mr. Crosslin, Mr. Victory and all the sales staff and you had a great place.

Lesson 4--Weave yourself into the community. There are so many examples of this one from Crosslin's. The company sponsored all kinds of athletics in the community. "Crosslin Supply" was on thousands of little league shirts and school shirts and signs at ball parks and everywhere else. Kids grew up with that name on their backs and then got a job there after high school. They learned to work hard and work harder at college so they wouldn't have to keep working hard in the lumber yard. I heard that one a million times.

There was also the old man's coffee club in the break room. There is a really cool table up there with all kinds of bits, blades, nuts, bolds, etc. carved in. There was a group of old men that would congregate there regularly to drink coffee, tell lies and solve the world's problems. They didn't buy lumber, they didn't work there, they just met and talked. It was part of the community.

The Fish Fry--once a year Mr. Lee Victory would host a fish fry at his home (that is now Ms. Imogene Bolin's law office). My dad and several other Crosslin employees would help set up the event. I always got to go before it got dark and the party really kicked in. That was the first time I met a political leader. I met and had a picture made with Governor McWherter. At that age, it didn't matter what party he was or what his politics were, he was the Governor!

Lesson 5--Your life is shaped by your upbringing and you never know when that will become evident. I grew up in the construction industry because my parents worked at Crosslin Supply. It was the topic of discussion at the dinner table. It was our weekends (driving to look at new homes being built). It was my first job--dad got Mr. Parker to hire me. All of that led me to have a keen interest in homes, their construction and the artistry involved. It also gave me a pretty good working knowledge of the builders, different methods, problems and "the right way" to do things. This body of knowledge has made me, at least I think, a pretty good Realtor. Whats really weird about that is that I NEVER would have said, prior to about 4 years ago, that I would want to be a Realtor. I was a teacher and I enjoyed teaching. It was stable. Then it wasn't. I learned that stability in the job is in the eye of the beholder. Businesses close. Good employees get fired. I can be successful as an independent person and that is more stable than any "job". 

In addition to "life lessons" (and those were just a few of them), I have so many memories that involve Crosslin Supply. This is the part that I dreamed about. It was a sort of montage of all kinds of memories. These are going to be kind of unorganized, quick shots of memories. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me.
  • Mr. Victory's hats. Coon Victory's office was outlined by hats. There were all different varieties. I will never forget coming into the office at about age 8. The fire truck had been at school and we all got those plastic fireman hats. I gave mine to Mr. Victory and he hung it on his wall. It was there until he left. I was so proud to have a hat on his wall.
  • Crosslin picnics--So many memories here. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
    • we always had the kid shoe races. All the kids would take their shoes off and throw them into a pile. We would then race to put them back on. Epic fun.
    • Softball game--wow, that was fun to watch the old people play
    • BINGO--Mr. Victory would call Bingo and it was, by far, the highlight of the night.
    • Kamikazee Kelly--I believe it was Mr. Victory's 50th birthday (correct me if I am wrong) and the employees hired Kamikazee Kelly to come visit during the picnic. It was hilarious
  • Riding Bicycles--I don't know if Mr. Crosslin or Mr. Victory knew it but Jeremy and I were up there all the time. Dad would go service the trucks or build new racks or during inventory, or any number of other times. We would bring our bicycles and ride all over the place. It was an awesome place to ride with all the ramps and jumps and cool things to do. When they first built the drywall warehouse, the floors were incredibly slick and with a little speed, you could lock the brakes and slide forever. There was this little yellow plastic wedge thing that we used as a jump. One time I was riding super fast and hit that jump. I was too close to the stack of drywall and crashed into it. I thought I broke my wrist and my bike. It was scary.
  • The intercom system--when mom and dad first started at Crosslin's there was a back counter and a front counter. The back counter had an intercom that went to the warehouse where my dad worked. He thought it was hilarious to take the high power nail gun and shoot the speaker/microphone so that it made a terrible noise in the store.
  • The burn pit--ok greenies, this one is not for you. The coolest burn pit in Smyrna was at Crosslin's. As a 10 year old boy, I was infatuated with fire. It was humongous.
  • Friday morning donuts--There was a company wide Friday morning meeting every week. It was early. Jeremy and I had to go to Crosslin's because it was too early for us to be dropped off at school. the upside was that there was always donuts at the meeting!
  • Paint calibration--My Aunt Jo was the paint mixer person who first got the computerized color matching system. She taught me how to use it and I looked forward to Fridays booting up the computer. You used a green slide, a white slide and a black tube to calibrate it.
  • Clayton--this guy was awesome! He was one of the nicest men I ever knew. Crosslin's sold Holland Grilles for a while and Clayton was the man on this grille. He cooked all kinds of things. Everyone's favorite was when he would cook tenderloin and biscuits on the grille (bake the biscuits on it--awesome).
  • Building all the additions--Crosslin Supply changed A LOT in the time that my parents were there. Dad helped build a ton of the additions. The little office wing, the expansion of the office wing, several warehouses, the remodel inside from two counters to one big one, so much more.
  • Other community involvement--furniture building for local teachers, building things for the community--gazebo at the rock school park, deck at the rec park, and much more
  • Not all times were good. When you are family you have sad times too. I think Crosslin's was a family.  Here are some of the sad or scary times I remember (I know there were tons more)
    • Larry Gilliland (probably misspelled) passing away
    • Mr. Crosslin dying
    • Mrs. Mullins falling off the upstairs dock
    • Brian Craig (son of one of the employees) drowning
    • Clayton dying
  • In addition to this very small sampling of stories, there were countless "characters" that have places in my memories of Crosslin's. Here is a very short list of the ones that come to mind right away: Mr. Crosslin or "Frank Jr." (I don't think I ever met Frank Sr.), Mr. Coon Victory and his dad, Mr. Victory, Willie Collier, Ms. Betty, Ron, "Tallboy", Sam, Sandra, Leigh Ann, Joanna, Izzy, Mary Elizabeth, Eddy, Terry Medders, Shorty, Bubba, Mr. Irvin, Elaine, Randy Horn, Brian, Rick, Gene, Sharon, Eugene, Mrs. Eugene (Catherine), Ray, Chris Wray, Kelly, Dean, and literally hundreds more.
I always try to have a take away from my blogs. This one is very long. Even with this abnormal length, I have not done justice to the role one small business played in my childhood, youth, young adulthood and even adulthood. The takeaway is this, small business is the most important "cause" in capitalism. Go, support businesses like Crosslin's. Someone is depending on it. These types of businesses are so incredibly important to our culture. Check out for a list of small businesses in Smyrna. Look them up and go support them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Lie--Kids Shouldn't Argue

When I was growing up, I argued--a lot. I argued with my brother, mom, dad, teachers, relative and anyone else that would argue. Pretty much every time, an authority figure would tell me not to argue. Parents would tell me "because I said so" when I asked why I should do something. Teachers and other authority figures would see an argument as a challenge to their authority and would quash it immediately. What I learned from this was that I was less than those people--even if I had a valid argument and was able to articulate it.

I believe this to have been a disservice. Now, remember, I am a parent, I was a teacher and I have said "because I said so". On more occasions though, I have listened to the argument and made a decision stand or be reversed after the argument was presented. I believe this is a valuable skill to be taught. I believe it is important for kids to learn how to properly disagree and discuss the differences (argue if you will) in a safe environment. I also believe that they learn submission to authority in enough places.

Let me qualify this point of view with a few caveats--some things are not up for discussion. Some things are not important enough to discuss and some are too important to be lenient. If my son wanted to play in the interstate, I would say no and it would not matter how convincing of an argument he presented, the answer would stay no.

Some things, however, are ripe for discussion. If he wants to do something else and can present a good reason, I will, even at 5 years old let him have his way. I am objective enough to know that some of the things I tell him to do are completely arbitrary. There is no good reason for him to do it this way or that. If he wants to do it a different way, fine. I think this lets him develop his logic and reasoning skills and helps him develop his communication skills.

I was the same way in my classroom. I would give parameters for a project. If a student came and said they would rather do it a different way and could give me a good reason why, I was flexible. It created a bit more work but it helped them learn the concept and learn to communicate with authority well. It also gave me a great opportunity to teach the soft skill of debate (argument). I would even help them argue with me sometimes.

That may sound weird but it is invaluable to the developing mind. Teach them how to argue. Teach them and give them opportunities to think on their own, form a plan, present the plan and try to be persuasive. Teach them how to resolve conflict. All the while, coaching them on being respectful, being open minded and being creative. Too many kids give up at the first "no". Still other kids don't give up, they get beligerent or equate a "no" with a rejection of THEM.

Bottom line, kids should be given the opportunity to argue with you. Help them decide which topics are open for discussion and which ones are not. Let them formulate an argument and even let them win sometimes. If everyone did this, I think we would have a much less frustrated, depressed, unable to deal with rejection, unable to cope with "no" society.

Who wants to argue with me?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

School Uniforms

Ok, so this isn't so much a lie as it is an age old debate in public schools. I have a bit of a different perspective on uniforms and want to share it. See what you think.

I used to have my students debate on this issue to practice debating. It was an easy enough topic to debate, did not require too much hard core research and gave them all the chance to work on the process of putting together coherent arguments and speaking intelligently. Here is the topic as I see it:

Why you wouldn't have uniforms in public high schools: The main reasons people are opposed to uniforms include the perceived "added cost" and the limitations of expression.

Some think that the student would have to have, essentially, 2 complete wardrobes--one wardrobe of uniforms and one wardrobe of "normal" clothes. My argument to this is to keep it simple. Most uniform policies would call for something along the lines of khaki pants (a wardrobe staple anyway) and a specific color, solid polo type shirt. Since the uniform would call for consistency in the color of shirt, it would be simple to purchase 2-3 pairs of pants and 3-5 shirts. This purchase would cover the uniform for the whole year (assuming wear and tear was not severe). Additionally, there are tons of ways to purchase the shirts in bulk and further reduce the cost.

I am going to address some of the benefits before I address the second major argument.

Uniforms greatly reduce the stress on the teachers caused by enforcement of an arbitrary dress code. Dress codes typically have things in them like "can't be too revealing" and "can't have offensive imagery". Both of these are, at best, uncomfortable to enforce. Imagine being a male teacher and being charged with approaching a 16 year old girl to send her to the office for a dress code violation for being "too revealing." How many times would this have to happen before the teacher is in trouble for gawking at students. It's not a stretch at all. On the other item, what is offensive? I am offended by far less than some people and far more than other people. Who decides?

Another benefit is the reduction of stress on parents and on students. There is no "what am I going to wear today" discussion. There is no "what if ___________ doesn't like this outfit." There is no "OH NO! __________ has the same shirt on as me, my life is ruined!" There is no, "oh look at this guy, he is such a thug/nerd/jock/hick/etc." This brings me to the second argument against uniforms--they limit freedom of expression. I would contend that uniforms actually do the opposite--they FOSTER freedom of expression. If you can't hide behind your clothes, you have to learn how to present yourself verbally. How many youth do you know that dress a certain way to either elicit some kind of reaction or to keep people from talking to them. I know LOTS. You have the kid that wears black makeup, chains, studs, all black, etc. just so the "popular kids" won't mess with them. That same kid will probably never speak with the kid that wears baggy pants and a huge tshirt.

We judge people on a whim based solely on their dress. This is magnified in high schools as kids are trying to find their identities and place an even greater emphasis on clothing. How much better would it be if students started out on a level playing field without pre-judgement based on clothes? This would mean they would have to talk. They would have to discuss their identities and have to express themselves. They could no longer hide behind their clothes.

I know this isn't a "hot topic" or anything that will change the world. It is a topic though that comes up periodically. I don't think it will turn around the school system nationwide or anything. I do think it is an easy change that will promote respect, promote learning and will minimize distractions and minimize some other outside influences, allowing everyone to focus on learning instead of what Suzy or Billy Bob is wearing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Lie--You MUST Go to College

Ok, parents and teachers don't kill me over this one. I know it may not be popular. I have fought against this lie for many years--including the 4 years I taught high school. I met some opposition sometimes! This one is pretty simple though. College is NOT for everyone. Young people need to hear that. Our society--from the president all the way down to individual parents--puts an intense amount of pressure on the youth. There is this pervasive mindset that college is THE ticket to success, wealth and happiness. This is a LIE. Plain and simple. College will not make you happy, wealthy or successful.

First, lets address the idea that college is necessary for success. College will not guarantee your earning potential. It does help (to some extent) give you an edge. There are some jobs that will require a college degree. Many of those jobs do pay more than jobs that don't require a degree. That said, there is an endless supply of exceptions to this rule. Compare the salaries of a diesel mechanic and an elementary school teacher. The other flaw here is the definition of success. I have discussed this on several occasions but it is always worth reiterating. Success should NEVER be measured by salary--NEVER.

So what does impact your earning potential? I think it is a combination of several things. One, you need a marketable skill set. For some, this comes with college. For others this comes from a technical school. Still other acquire this skill set from experience and experimentation. All are viable options as long as you can market them. Two, you need the drive to leverage your strengths. If you can't sell your skills, they get wasted. Be proud of your abilities--they are gifts from God. Three, you have to be able to differentiate yourself from others with the same skills. Maybe this means you connect to groups of people that are underserved, maybe you tweak your product to make it different or better. I don't know. But you should. Next, you have to find your calling. If you are doing the work God put you here to do, you will be successful, period. Finally, you go DO IT. You can make plans and scheme all you want but if you never put any action behind the plan, it is a waste.

Don't misunderstand me, I think college is valuable. I think many, many people benefit from it (even those that don't graduate). I think if you don't know what you want to do, college is a good place to "find yourself" (sometimes). Just remember, college is not for everyone. It's ok if you want to go to a tech school. It's ok if you want to go to Nashville Auto Diesel. It's ok if you want to join the military. There are lots more options out there. This country needs people at every level of the employment chain. The important thing is that you develop some kind of marketable skill and put it to work.

Real Life Episode of "The Office"

This is not a "Great American Lies" post. I just have a funny story to share. From time to time I help my Aunt Jo with catering jobs. It pays a little extra spending money and is typically quite entertaining. People are fun to watch when they don't think they are being watched and usually, they don't consider "the help" as watching.

Yesterday I helped Jo cater a corporate lunch. It doesn't matter what company or where because I'm sure this kind of thing happens all over the place. Apparently this company has integrated a new manufacturing process and improved their efficiency enough to win a bronze award. To celebrate, they bought everyone a steak lunch (60 people, over $3,000--must be nice award--can't wait to help with the silver and gold award dinners!!). The whole time I was there I just kept thinking that it was a real life "The Office" episode.

When I came in they were already eating. There were engineer type people all the way down to the worker bees. There was the one incredibly LOUD guy that was telling off color jokes. There was the older lady that didn't eat her steak but instead went and got a paper towel, wrapped up the steak and stuffed it in her pocket (no lie). I spent the next 30 minutes or so refilling tea and water. Then the "program" started. Up first-- a really lousy PA system playing some obscure AC/DC song repeatedly screaming "Are YOU READYYYY!!!". Then comes the faux enthusiastic manager doing a really poor job imitating a boxer entering the ring. Remember, all of this is in a cafeteria type room... At this point I glance around the room. There is a middle aged woman who has taken the table decorations and stuck the fake poinsettas in her hair. Then the manager grabs the microphone and says, "Ok, all right, are you ready! Are you ready to work toward SILVER!!!!! (remember they won bronze). I almost choked on my laughter at this point but I kept composed because I didn't want to miss anything.

The manager then spends 10 minutes recapping their long journey (this word was used ad nauseum) to this point. He thanked people by name with each one giving the requisite head nod at the recognition. Then he introduced his boss (who must not be actually at that plant on a regular basis). The boss comes up and has a VERY thick foreign accent. I don't have a problem with that and I understood most of what he said. However, I saw a LOT of the workers whispering to each other and laughing. Obviously very effective. Then came the representative from a customer company giving them accolades and telling them how much more business they will get. Then came the corporate lady that helped implement the system. She actually started her speech with "I didn't want to cry but I knew I would. I am so proud of you all!" Then she took out a folded piece of paper and read her speech that was more like a sonnet--complete with some rhymed couplets. No lie. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing.

The next part solidified "The Office" feel. Another member of management that had a striking resemblance to the Lewis Black character in "Accepted" reminds the group of the song he wrote. I nearly got giddy at this point. After a lot of technical difficulty, the song started playing. He had written and recorded a song about lean manufacturing. The song had a very 80s feel to it with a TON of synthesizers and distorted voices and the like. It had a definite Thomas Dolby and The Cars feel to it. To make matters worse (or maybe better) he stood in front of these 60 people and lip synced/air guitared the song. He even had a few back up dancers come join him up front. Again, no lie. I couldn't believe what I was watching. Looking around the room it appeared that the workers had actually invented a dance to go with the song as there were probably 15 people doing a nearly perfectly synchronized dance. I wanted to take video so badly but I figured that would be illegal or at least unethical.

The conclusion of the presentation was to hand out awards and a token of appreciation to each person. The token was a really nice looking wind breaker type pull over jacket. The first manager got up and made this presentation and felt it necessary to try and remember each person's nickname. My favorite was the guy called "Big Show" who made a guttaral, barbaric yawp of a "YEAHHHH" when he got up. Funniest part of it, he was probably 5'6" and about 140 pounds--"Big Show".

Anyway, I know it is important to motivate workers however you can. I get that. I know that putting a little cheese in the work place is good for morale. For an outsider though, it is pure comic fodder. God bless these people for their efforts. I love the USA.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Lie--You Should "Do Better" than Your Parents

This is one of my "pet lies". I have a hard time not subscribing to this one myself, probably because I am very competitive. Many people, across all generations, believe this lie. It basically says that, because your parents accomplished this certain level of success, you should accomplish a higher level. Parents perpetuate the lie when they say things like "I just want better for you than I had." On the surface, this seems logical and seems like a noble goal. The problem in this lie stems from the common perception of "success" and what exactly it means to "do better."

First, know that I applaud parents for providing for their kids and I believe it is the parents' responsibility to provide opportunities and to give the kids a chance to accomplish great things. Thats not at all what this is about. I also believe that kids should strive to be the best they can be at everything they endeavor--sports, education, music, whatever. Again, thats not what this is about. I also believe that children should learn from their parents' mistakes. As the generations accumulate wisdom, children should be smarter, more wise and less mistake prone (theoretically). By that definition, kids COULD do better than their parents (though, most of those "life mistakes" have to actually be lived to be learned). I am focusing on the drive that many people feel starting in their early 20s. The want, and even need in some, to be at the same place their parents are currently. The inner push to have a higher salary, bigger house, nicer car, etc.

Where does this come from? I would say it starts with the parents themselves. As they raise the children they say things like, "I don't want you to struggle" and "You should do better than I did." Both are seemingly innocuous statements but, without proper explanation, they can be misguiding. Most parents mean that they don't want their kids to have to deal with the hard times. Parents forget, however, that the hard times make them appreciate the good times and the hard times build the character necessary to face future hard times. They also forget the simplicity that exists in the hard times (my life was so much simpler when I had 3 sticks of furniture, a rented apartment and a whole lotta love for my wife).

The next source of this problem is our own tendency to become acclimated to a certain lifestyle. Stick with me on this. If I am raised in a certain lifestyle, I get used to it. When I try to strike out on my own, it will be difficult to dial down my lifestyle. Parents need to do a better job of allowing their kids to see, touch, and feel a lesser lifestyle sometimes. Don't give them everything under the sun. Make them earn things. Make them make choices and sacrifices. Make them understand the concept of tradeoffs. Also, reassure them that it is ok to be in want sometimes. Its ok to live on lower means. Tell them the stories of how good for you it was to struggle with money.

So, whats the real problem with this lie? I think this lie is one of the MAIN causes for our growing dependence on debt. 18, 19, 20 year old kids are getting in tremendous debt as they feel they are entitled to nice cars, nice possessions and the same lifestyle their 50 year old parents have. These kids feel the pressure to live up to their parents, forgetting that their parents have 30 years on them building their wealth. This lie has contributed to the housing bust. You had first time home buyers completely exhausting their home buying power as they felt they should buy the biggest, nicest home they could possibly afford (instead of buying a true "starter home"). This lie contributes to students going thousands and thousands of dollars in debt to their schools as they feel this is the only way to get the education that will get them the job that will give them the salary higher than their parents. Another problem is that all to often this becomes an obsession for people. Parents obsess over their kids accomplishments. They push and push and push until the kid breaks. Kids obsess as well. When the parents push too hard, the kids feel the pressure. This can lead to all sorts of issues.

Whats the alternative? Should parents make their kids poor on purpose just to build character? Should parents discourage their kids from doing their best? Of course not. The answer is in the mindset. Number one, parents should let the kids know that sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down but, first, God never leaves and, second, you can always find contentment. Then, the parents should teach that contentment is not complacency. Just because I am content, I don't quit improving myself. Then the parents can teach kids to delay pleasure and the idea behind the tortoise and the hare. Its ok, even preferable, to build wealth slowly, methodically and incrementally. I believe God treats us the same way. He entrusts us with a little, then adds more as we prove our worth. Bottom line is this, be careful what message you give your kids about material things. Teach them contentment and allow them to learn how to build slowly.

Finally, help them define "success". Success is not measured in salary or stuff. It is measured in your ability and willingness to serve God. I know several that make half as much money as I do but I would call them more successful because they serve God with all they have. I am still trying to learn this lesson. It is HARD to reprogram myself in this regard. Hard, but worth it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Lie--"Fair Treatment" is "Same Treatment"

Having been a teacher and now a dad, I hear all the time about how "that's not fair. Billy Bob got __________ and you gave me ________." It is my opinion that the concept of "fairness" has been muddled with "sameness".  Many people think that the only way for some decision to be fair is for it to be the same decision you gave someone else. This takes away the opportunity to look at circumstances and to make a decision based on the entire body of information. This viewpoint means that I must pay equal amounts of attention to each kid, each day. So, if I am teaching a difficult concept to a class of 20 and 15 truly understand the concept and need no further instruction it would be fair to reteach the concept to everyone just so the 5 can get it.

This is the point where I disagree. Not every person, in every circumstance needs to be treated fairly. In the above illustration, it may not be "fair" to keep my attention from the 15 but it is the right thing to do. I should challenge those 15 with some other concept while trying to reteach the 5, even though that is not "fair".

Another illustration, If fairness is sameness and a kid has a heart attack, do I need to make sure to perform CPR on each kid? Of course, that is absurd but look at the illustration. In many parts of society, especially education, we feel that whatever on person gets, the other should as well. This completely eliminates the concept of specific needs, different learning styles, ability, maturity, life circumstances, etc. It also eliminates the need for the adminstrator to pass judgement. There in lies the motivation. If I can just administer the same treatment to all of my charges all the time, it is fair and it removes the possibility of someone calling "favoritism". Boy aren't we afraid of being accused of playing favorites!! 

When you look up the term "Fair" you get this definition--"Free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice". Nowhere in that definition is the concept of equality. Free from bias means that you don't have any leanings toward one or the other party. Dishonesty means just that, you are honest in your attempts and injustice means you didn't "do anyone wrong". If we were to utilize this concept of fairness in our daily lives, what would change? One, we would be encouraged to remove the jealousy bug that creeps in because it isn't "fair". In other words, the Occupiers would look at the situation they are protesting and determine how much of what they are protesting is "sameness" and how much is "fairness". In other words, are they jealous that they don't have the same wealth or is there actually some "bias, dishonesty or injustice?" I think there probably is some of that but not as much as they want us to believe. I think the majority of what the occupiers protest is jealousy that there is not enough sameness. I think it is time for the occupiers to get a little more specific about the injustices they are protesting. If they cannot get specific, then they are just upset about the lack of sameness (aka jealousy). Its sort of like they are saying, " I know you cheated to get there, I just can't prove it." How do they "know"? Because they have not achieved the same level and that is not fair. See the absurdity here too?

What else would change if we as a society rejected the concept that "Fair" is "Same"? We could cut a tremendous amount of money out of social welfare programs. People would be served only what they truly needed, not what they can get because it is fair. Just think about that for a second. I know that there is a benefit to most social programs and none should just plain go away. There is a legit need for many of them. I also know there is a ton of abuse that people get away with because the administrators are afraid of being unfair. What if the administrators were able to look at each specific circumstance and provide the service that is truly needed? Many people clamor for people being drug tested before given welfare. This is a backlash to abuses of the system. What if instead, people are drug tested and instead of being denied welfare, they are enrolled in a treatment facility. In other words, they are given what they actually need. Its the same concept as the kid having the heart attack in your class. He needs CPR, the other kids do not.

Why won't this work? People are addicted to sameness and jealousy. If I see that person get a certain treatment, I feel slighted if I don't get the same (even if I don't need, or even really want, that treatment). Can it change? Sure. People have to be honest with themselves and have to (ultimately) find contentment in their circumstances. Contentment does not mean they don't strive for more, it just means that they aren't eaten up with jealousy when a peer has more. I challenge you to work on this. Before you utter the words "thats not fair", think about it. Has that person worked harder than you? Has that person earned it? Has there really been an injustice, bias or dishonesty? If not, then you are just jealous. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Lie--Discipline Will Damage a Kid

Ok parents, this one is for you. This lie is not overtly spoken in our culture. It is more of a lie that is OBVIOUSLY present when I interact with or see you and your kids in public. I don't know if all of the perpetrators of this lie believe it exactly as I have written it, but there is SOME reason they don't discipline their children. I don't know if they think they will damage the kid or if they think it is better to spoil the child or if they are too tired or lazy to discipline or if they are purposely creating kids with no discipline as a means of retaliating against a society they feel has given them a raw deal. Either way, I would challenge that parent by saying that discipline of your children is actually HOW you love them and not disciplining them is actually hurting them and may even be a form of neglect.

The first time your kid throws a fit in the cereal aisle because he or she wants the super sugar fruity yum yums, that child is testing your reaction. If you bend to their will because you don't want to make a scene, they won. They now know that anytime they want something (and they will ALWAYS want something), they just have to make enough of a scene to make you cave in. This habit will stick with them for a very long time. This will be crippling to them later in life. Children crave discipline and order and routine. They are still trying to figure out how things work. As babies, they cried, you fed them (or changed them, or rocked them or burped them). As kids, they will try the same tactics because they think it will work. It is our job as parents to help them grow past this stage.

Kids are not pleasure delay-ers. They want something and they want it now. One vital skill that parents should teach is that life does not always bend in your direction. If you want something, you have to plan for it, save for it, budget for it. NOT doing so leads to overspending, debt and financial hardship. Many adults would have greatly benefited from this lesson early in life (including me). This is where my theory that discipline is a form of love comes in. As a parent, I want my child to be happy, healthy and successful. I see my most important job (after being a strong Christian and a great husband) to be raising my kids with integrity, work ethic, compassion, and discipline. That discipline is what will get them through their studies when they would rather party. That discipline is what will give them the strength to turn down the drugs when someone offers them (and someone will). That discipline is what will help them excel at whatever extra pursuits they choose (music, athletics, academics, etc.). That discipline is what will allow them to focus at their work and excel there. It is essential. God views discipline as a form of love. He disciplines his followers when they don't obey (look at the Israelites). Discipline in the Bible is what sharpens God's people to be better Christians. Not giving them the discipline, is, therefore, neglect.

So what kind of discipline am I talking about.
NUMBER 1 is the word "NO." Kids MUST hear the word "no". They absolutely must not get everything their heart desires. I don't care how rich you are. You must not give your kid everything--period. Being able to deal with "No" is the hardest lesson to learn. It is also the most important. Kids that never hear "No" do not deal with rejection in relationships well. They will, at some point in their lives, be turned down. If you want to make that first rejection absolutely devastating, never tell your kid no.
NUMBER 2 is teach your kid to prioritize and to make "either/or" choices. Life is full of trade offs. I can either go here or here, not both. I can either have the Super Sugar Fruity Yum Yums or the pack of Tic Tacs. Not both. Learning to make a choice and stick with it very early (like 1 year old) is so important. They learn to be decisive. They learn to be who they are. They learn to prioritize. They, by the nature of choice, learn "NO".
NUMBER 3 is to have REAL consequences for bad choices. Jonas has learned real early that life is nothing but a series of choices. Sometimes he makes good choices, sometimes he makes bad choices. Good choices are pleasurable. Bad choices have unpleasurable repercussions. If he jumps off something too high, it hurts--bad choice. If I tell him not to do something and he does it, he gets spanked. It hurts--bad choice. One time he tore a book at the baby sitter's house. He had been saving his little commission for many weeks so he could go to Toys R Us and pick something out. He had to spend all of his money on a new book. It hurt that he could not get what he wanted--bad choice. He has thrown a fit in the middle of restaurants. He knows that the result of a fit is a spanking--period. In the middle of dinner, he throws a fit, I take him immediately to the restroom and give him the consequence of his bad choice. I tell him that I am not giving him the spanking, he chose the action that led to it.
NUMBER 4 is to model the discipline. This can't be left out. If you don't act with discipline, how in the world can you expect them to. If you don't want them to cuss, then YOU shouldn't cuss. If you don't want them to throw fits when they don't get what they want, then YOU can't throw fits if you don't get what you want.
NUMBER 5--and this is probably the most important part to counter the lie--You MUST reassure them that no matter what, no matter what they do, you still love them. I know my discipline does not damage my child because I know that they know that I love them. I tell him every single day, several times a day, that he is important, he is smart, he is good, and I love him. After I discipline him, I ask him to tell my why he got in trouble and then I spend a good bit of time hugging him and telling him I love him no matter what. This reinforces the idea that discipline is love. I tell him that his actions have consequences but those consequences will never be that I don't love him.

Listen, I am not the worlds greatest dad. I'm probably not even in the top 100 greatest dads. But, I love my kids. I want them to be productive, contributing members of society and I am trying to equip them with the core principles to help them succeed at whatever they choose. Will they always be successful, no. I actually pray that every now and then (rarely), they fall on their face. It builds character and makes the successes that much more sweet. This ability to succeed starts with discipline. Don't be afraid to do it. Your kids will thank you for it later. I know I am thankful for my parents having the guts and the intestinal fortitude to discipline me.

One last thing, I DO NOT think that spanking is the only, or even the best, form of discipline. You have to figure out what works for your kids with each situation. For example, grounding Jonas from the TV or IPad sometimes works MUCH better than spanking because he is reminded of it every single time he wants to watch something. Other times, spanking is the better choice. Some people don't spank. Ok, fine. They still MUST discipline and it MUST be meaningful to the kid.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Lie: Fathers are not important if a strong mother is present...

Ok, this one could get a little dicey. Remember the rules--debate and discuss but do not belittle or swear or be mean to each other. Let's start by saying this, I am pointing the above statement out as a lie in the general sense. There are DEFINITELY exceptions to the rule. Those exceptions (the minority) are most likely what caused the lie to be propagated. That said, if you are an exception to the rule, then I applaud you. Even so, there is overwhelming evidence that it is a lie to think that an active father (papa, dad or daddy) is not important.  Oh yeah, I do tend to write in a sort of stream of consciousness style. It all makes sense to me though.

Let's start with how I know this is a pervasive thought. Turn on any modern sitcom that features a father figure. There is a really good chance that the father is the comic relief in the show. He is portrayed as insensitive, bumbling, weak and a buffoon. I can not think of one show in over 10 years where there was a strong, intelligent, active, true father figure. Now think of the modern women's movement. There are countless shirts, pinterest sayings, facebook posts, etc that espouse the virtues of kicking out the dad and going with mom only. Let me stop here and say that, unfortunately, the lion's share of the blame rides on the so called "fathers." I know that. I know that many, many, many males in our culture are deadbeats. They create a child and then squander their opportunity to be a father. I also know there are many that are or become abusive--whether it is chemically induced or some latent defect in that male's upbringing finally coming to the surface. My blog is not meant to chastise the moms for protecting themselves and their families. My intent is to try to discuss why it is important for a good father to be present instead of bowing to the cultural viewpoint that says, "well he was an idiot, oh well, dads aren't that important anyway."

I understand that this is a common direction to take if your dad/husband/father of your child ditches you. It is normal to say that it is their loss and they don't really matter. It is a defense mechanism to try to talk you out of any guilt, depression, fear, etc.

Now, I would of course adopt the view that you should never create the baby outside of a strong marriage covenant relationship. The most important things a child gains from its parents is the model of relationship. The child needs to see healthy spousal interaction, healthy conflict resolution (yes, healthy spouses still disagree), healthy relationships with friends and healthy leadership out of the father. I do realize that babies are created outside of these relationships. So, if you help create a baby, it is your responsibility to care for that child. It is your responsibility to provide direction, support and love for that child. The child needs you, no matter what the mom says, the child needs you. You have a different viewpoint from the mother. You provide balance in that child's life.

My parents are still married to each other. They got married at 19 years old and have been married for 32 years now. When they married each other, they made a covenant and have not broken it. I believe I am who I am now because of this. I learned from my father how to be a husband, how to be a father, how to be a man. WAY too many kids grow up without these lessons. Was he perfect--far from it. Am I perfect--far from it. Did he do things I swore I would never do--of course. Part of the lesson was to see how not to do things. Its a constant evolution. That said, he was present, supportive, and loved my mom. Those are the most important things. Those are what I am imploring my fellow males to become--men.

Here are just a very few statistics (collected on to drive my point home:

1) 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census] 2) 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
3) 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. [Criminal Justice & Behaviour, Vol 14, pp. 403-26, 1978]
4) 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
5) 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
6) 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. [Center for Disease Control]
7) 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only their mother. [Wray Herbert, “Dousing the Kindlers,” Psychology Today, January, 1985, p. 28]
8) 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. [National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools]
9) 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. [Rainbows f for all God’s Children]
10) 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions have no father. [US Department of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988]
11) 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992]
12) Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail; four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral problems. [US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999]

If these don't speak to you, I don't know what will. Dads, do whatever you can to be present in your child's life. Moms, allow the dad to be present. If this is just not possible, purposely find a positive male figure for your child--grandfather, uncle, youth minister, someone that can show the child that not every man is a buffoon. EVERYONE--think before you create that child. Don't do it if you aren't serious about being with each other for the rest of your lives. Marriage and parenting is HARD WORK. It is NOT something to be taken lightly. It is NOT something for the frivolous and flighty. Remember what is at stake--read these statistics again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Great American Lies--Labels

So, I have decided to start a blog series. I realize that there are about 3270598709387509 different blogs out there and that mine will just be one of them. I also realize that most of the topics I am writing on in this series are not "new" or "groundbreaking". I am writing this blog for a few reasons:

1) I like to write. I am not the best writer, but I am not terrible either. Writing about debatable topics helps me to really home in on what I think. It also provides some level of therapy.
2) I love to debate. I think debate is one thing we don't have enough of. We have plenty of argument but not enough debate. I am writing on some topics that will inevitably inspire discussion and debate. I really look forward to that. I just ask that you keep it civil and intelligent.
3) I think more people should voice their opinions on these topics. I think that putting your opinions in words will make you think about the topic and will help you when friends or politicians start in on these topics.

The subject of this series is "Great American Lies." As you can probably glean from the title, I am going to address some things that I feel are lies in our country. Some are societal, "common sense" or "collective wisdom" that are just plain wrong. Some are lies that politicians want you to believe. Some are lies that we tell ourselves in order to block out some painful or uncomfortable situation. Still others are what I would call "lies of convenience". These lies exist to make our lives easier. They streamline our thoughts and allow us to ignore debate and ignore things that may take a little time to work through. All posts in this series will be titled by the lie. I plan on trying to post every Wednesday morning. I would love feedback on the blog or on Facebook where I post them. I really, really want you to keep it civil and free from mean spirited name calling and profanity.

The first lie I am going to address is one of these "Lies of convenience". It has to do with labels. To sum the lie up in one sentence would be something like this: When you have this opinion/stance on an issue/background, you are a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/etc. Because you are a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/etc., it is safe to assume you also believe this ______.

This is a lie of convenience because once we label someone, we feel like we know what they are going to say before they say it. It helps us tune out their arguments and allows us to prepare our counters while they are talking. For example, if you were in a discussion with someone that stated "abortion is murder", what would you assume they think about the size and role of government? Most would assume this person is a Republican of some kind and would therefore think that small government, strict constitutionalism, states rights were coming in the discussion. This is an incredibly lazy and dangerous way to approach thoughtful debate. It is actually counter to the whole point of debate. Why even discuss things if you are not going to listen and reply? How can we move forward with new thought and new ideas if we automatically pigeon-hole someone because of one of their opinions?

Unfortunately, these labels don't just attach themselves to stated opinion. If you met someone wearing a UAW t-shirt, what party would you assume they belong to? Why is it shocking to people how conservative Herman Cain is? Why do people automatically assume a Tea Party member is white? If I oppose abortion, why do people automatically assume it is on religious grounds? The labels are EVERYWHERE. They are completely ingrained in our society because it is comfortable to us. If you share some opinion with me and it makes me uncomfortable, it is much easier to say, "Oh, he is just a ____________ and they always think that way." It allows me to ignore your argument and assume that because you are a whatever, I just won't agree with you. And it KILLS intelligent conversation/debate.

And the labels don't stop in discussing political or social topics--look at schools. Schools, especially public schools, are probably the most heinous perpetrators of labelling. If a kid acts up in class repeatedly, he is "assessed". Most of the time, the psychologist is going to attach some kind of label to the kid. It could be ADD, ADHD, ED, LD, or any number of other labels. That kid will have that label for the rest of his school years. Every teacher will get his IEP before they meet the kid. If a teacher sees "ED (emotional disturbance)" on the IEP, they will start having thoughts about that kid  before ever meeting him. The teacher will think he or she understands the kid before ever so much as shaking his hand. I think it is ok for a kid with a real problem to have this information precede them. It is fair to the teacher to see the history of that kid and it is only natural that the teacher will have preconceived notions about the kid. My point is that kid will have ALWAYS be fighting this label (if they chose to overcome their issue) or, even worse, the kid will succumb to the label. Sometimes the kid will say things like, "yeah I punched the kid but it wasn't my fault. I have emotional disturbance." Sounds far-fetched but I have seen it happen more than once. Now, extrapolate that argument into society. "Yeah I (insert crime here) but it wasn't my fault, I am a (insert socio-economic or racial or other label here).

My point is simple, we need to lower the influence of the labels. There is absolutely no government program that will help with this. There is no "group" or "club" to help with this. There is no non-profit. It is something that I ask each of you, individually, to work on. Fight the urge to jump to a label conclusion within the first 30 seconds of a discussion. Fight the instinct to hear the label and assume you know all there is to know about a person or group. LISTEN to what they say on each topic and debate intelligently. We do not have enough intelligent debate nowadays because of labels. This can only change with each individual.

What labels are you guilty of using? What labels have you succumb to (you may not even realize it)? Do you think this is even a problem?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Two Observations

So, this is a blog I wrote several weeks ago and never published for some reason. I will go ahead and publish because I think these are some thoughts we should consider. Please, read and respond.

Ok, I have two observations to share. One is deeply spiritual, the other is work related.

1) Work related--I was thinking about some of the Realtors that I have met through my experiences so far. Many of them are hard working people. Some are not all that hard working but are good folks that just don't have a ton of motivation. Some, are in a different boat altogether. Those are the ones I am focusing on in this posting.

Today Marty Reuter spoke to our sales meeting. He is the top dog in charge of franchises for the entire Weichert Company. One thing he said was that it is extremely important to put the client ahead of the commission. When he said this, it really hit home because I know that I do this. Often I have encouraged buyers to look at a lower priced home because it is a better home and a better fit for their budget. I have heard stories, however of my colleagues pressing the higher priced home no matter what. Then I thought about the ones that complain constantly about the state of the housing market. It occured to me that these are probably the same people. You see, it takes roughly the same amount of work to sell a $100,000 house as it does to sell a $300,000 house. There is, of course, some variation to this rule but, basically, if you have a home priced right and you do a great job of presenting the home, you can sell either home with virtually the same budget and virtually the same amount of effort. I work hard on my lower priced listings and I work hard on my higher end homes. Obviously, the payoff is higher on the higher end homes. I think the Realtors that constantly complain forget that they are also allowed to sell lower priced homes. I think they may have forgotten this because they feel that if they expend the energy, they should get a higher payoff. Just a thought. In other words, I am willing to go for the quantity, even if it means I work twice as hard to earn the same amount of commission (two houses to one).

2) My second observation occurred on Friday at the In Tents Worship weekend with the teens and college kids from Church. I watched Doug and Hunter playing in the river. They were trying to get to this rock that was upstream. In order to get to this rock, they had to fight against a pretty hard current. I thought about how the Bible frequently speaks of God and God's love as water (pouring out on us, etc.). Then I thought about how the river was like God's love. It just keeps flowing and is pleasant but extremely powerful. Then I thought about how we set arbitrary goals that pit us against God's love and plans (like reaching the rock in the river). We fight and fight and fight to get to our destination. All the while the love is around us, flowing over us and trying to sweep us away and we just keep fighting and expending energy. When we finally get to our goal, we feel pleased but tired and realize that we fought for no real reason. All the while, if we had just "gone with the flow", life would have been much more pleasing. Not only would it have been pleasing but we would have been blessed because the flow would have had us see things we would have missed like the random rope swing. I challenge us to go with the flow and be careful about setting arbitrary goals, especially if they pit us against what we know God would have us to do.

Weichert Realtors, The Andrews Group is the Brokerage to Beat!

So, I know I have told you that I work for the best real estate brokerage in the area. They just keep proving it! First, if you are an agent at The Andrews Group already and have been using Vision, I know I am behind. I just got started on it today (my brokerage is fantastic because they provide this tool to all of their agents). Vision is a fantastic website tool that allows me to bring valuable information to my clients and friends. There is a section on the site called "market insider" that has all kinds of info about whatever community you might be interested in. It includes schools info, shopping info, homes sold info, inventory, median pricing, all kinds of stuff. I posted a link on Facebook a little bit ago that showed how Smyrna schools stack up. It was cool because it wasn't all of Rutherford County, it was specifically Smyrna. If you want to check out this fantastic resource, click here We are also rolling out a REALLY cool system called kwkly (pronounced quickly). It will allow you to get information about any home for sale by simply texting a code. If you want information about this (and to get signed up to use it), let me know. It is absolutely perfect for someone who is "just looking" but wants to get more info on a home as you drive by (without going through the hassle of talking with an agent).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pet Peeves

So I have some pet peeves. I know most everyone does. Here is a list of my top pet peeves. If you do these things, know that it gets on my nerves. I will probably not EVER tell you that you are getting on my nerves (because I know that I just need to get over it). Feel free to share your biggest pet peeves

1) Redundancy--It drives me nuts when people say something like "VIN number" or "PIN number" or "ACT Test" or "3 AM in the morning". VIN stands for vehicle identification number so VIN number is "vehicle identification number number". And "3 AM in the morning", oh really, as opposed to 3 AM in the afternoon?

2) Left lane loafers--seriously, if you are doing the speed limit or less, get out of the left lane. It is called the passing lane, not the lane to be passed in. I know a lot of people don't like this but it REALLY gets on my nerves. A close derivative of this is the two people riding next to each other on a two lane road where you can't pass on either side. See, I am not a speed demon (anymore) but at the same time, if I need to go, I want to GO.

3) Ignorance coupled with arrogance--I know a lot of stuff. I also DON'T know a lot of stuff. I will be the first one to tell you that I don't know some particular piece of information. Then I go look it up. One thing I am good at is finding information. There is nothing more annoying than someone who is misinformed (or sometimes just plain making some info up) and is arrogant when you correct him or her. Another version of this is someone who WILL NOT listen to reason, no matter what.

4) Media devotees--I strongly value the ability to think on your own. I do place some value on the media (in general) for disseminating current events. I don't put a lot of value in much of the opinion that is in the media. I definitely don't care what some goofball celebrity thinks about his or her pet cause. I also don't care to listen to the "national media" spout numbers about the "national housing market" and the "national economy". We live in states, counties and municipalities. There is no such thing as a national housing market. Every submarket and every submarket of the submarkets is different. Many people see these national numbers as gospel and it is so hard to get through to them that we, in the Nashville area (for the most part), have NOT been hit nearly as hard. There just plain isn't an over abundance of decent condition homes for 50cents on the dollar here! Some people just won't hear it.

5) Time wasters--I work in a service industry--period. I talk to people about their (typically) most valuable asset. I spend time with people. I get to know them. I put them in my life and put their lives into mine. All this is what makes my job awesome. That said, there are some people out there--and you know who you are--who have 0 intention of ever doing anything real estate related, whether it is referring me, listing with me, buying through me, anything but still find it ok to waste my work time. I had a guy one time that called me about every other day to make offers on my listings. His formula was to offer $20,000 per bedroom. This means that the 3 bedroom, all brick, on almost an acre, over 1400 s.f. home was only worth $60,000 to him. I am fairly polite and I humored him for a moment because I didn't want to be rude. Eventually I told him that it wasn't going to happen and had to hang up on him. He called me a few days later from a different number. This person was a time waster. I also encounter (only occasionally) this scenario--phone call,
"Hello this is Jonathan"
"Hi, we would like to see 0000 Elm Street"
"Ok, are you currently working with a real estate agent"
"Yes but they said they didn't have time to show it to us"
"Oookaaayy, well I guess I can show it to you (because I still want to sell it). I just need to let your agent know so they don't get angry"
"Well, they won't care because we can't buy for a while"
"Why is that"
"We just filed bankruptcy and the lender said there is nothing they can do"
"So why are you looking now"
"Well we just want to see the inside of the house"
This is either a time waster or they are thieves. Either way, it floors me that someone would actually think this was ok.

Would love to hear your opinions on my pet peeves. Would also love to read about your pet peeves.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June Blog

So, it is now June. WOW! We had a great vacation at the end of May to the House of Mouse. Jonas almost drowned, we all spent too much money and ate too much but a ton of memories were made and it was well worth it. For more info, read Cindy's blog.

I am organizing a community yard sale this weekend. I sent out a postcard to over 300 of my closest neighbors inviting them to host a yard sale and I would do the marketing. Not a single one responded. Oh well. I am doing it anyway and they can benefit from it. It should be a pretty good sale so come by if you can Friday and Saturday from 8 AM till about 4 PM.

I have decided to sell my motorcycle. I want the money (and remodelling on the house) more than I want my bike. I will probably buy a cheaper Japanese type bike. Its going to be fine. I keep telling myself that.

I have assumed the position of the college ministry leader at church. Its pretty cool so far. I am assembling a great team to help with that ministry. It is a fantastic group of college "kids." I love being around them. JP (the youth minister) is helping with a "transition" class right now where we are introducing the newly graduated high schoolers to the college class. We have been covering Romans 12 one verse at a time (started with verse 9). We relate it to college life. So far the conversations have been awesome. If you have not read these verses in a while (or ever) you should, right now. Stop reading my blog and go read Romans 12:9-21. Extremely powerful, relevant verses about how to live.

As for real estate, it is going very well. I have closed 6 deals so far and have 3 pending right now. We got my oldest listing under contract this weekend. I have also picked up several new listings in the past few weeks. I need to get some of them sold. Check out my website for a list of my listings. I would love to work with someone I know on these. All of my listings are pretty nice. None of them really need much TLC. I just listed a home over in The Foothills subdivision in Murfreesboro. It is awesome! One owner (built in 1989) and in pristine condition.

One more thing, in about 2 weeks my fireworks tent will open. I am excited about it. I hope to do better than last year. I know the calendar is in our favor. Tracey Rinehart will be my partner on this again. We work well together. I know last year I got busy with real estate at the same time. I am sure this will happen again. The good news is, however, I have more help this year on both real estate and on fireworks. Cindy is getting her license for real estate and my new friend "big sister" Ann Rupp is here from New Jersey. It's good to have people to lean on!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Upcoming Events

This summer is already starting to get busy!! We are going on vacation this Friday through Wednesday. This will be little man's first trip to Disney World. We have not told him where we are going. We just keep telling him we are going to Lowes. He hates Lowes. It's going to be awesome because we are going with my mom and dad, my little brother and his wife and Jonas' little cousin. They just love each other and will have a BLAST in the house of mouse.

I am also working on organizing a community yard sale in my new neighborhood. Cards were mailed out yesterday or today to about 300 homes here around me. If 1/4 of them participate, it will be huge! If I get a great level of participation, it will probably be a yearly event. I am pretty excited about the possibilities here! If anyone wants to sell some stuff, I will be happy to let you use my yard. The sale will be June 10 and 11.

We have some kind of critter in our attic. Jim the pest guy is coming to check it out today. I think it is probably just a mouse but it moves very slowly. Kinda weird.

Finally, I have completely torn down the fence around my back yard, pulled up the posts and am going to spread some dirt around to level it out. I have a tree guy coming on Saturday and should get a new fence mid next week. That is really exciting as it will make the wife feel a little more secure. Also, it's weird but the yard feels smaller with the fence gone.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Professional Courtesy Part 2

So the last time I vented about providing feedback. This time I am venting about something that is a little more obvious of a courtesy. Here in the last couple of weeks I have had 4 "no shows" for showings that were scheduled. The other realtor took the time to schedule the appointment and then just plain didn't show up, didn't call to cancel, nothing. This strikes me as pretty rude. All of my listings are occupied which means that the owners (sellers), potentially, had to clean up, get the family out and find somewhere to go for an hour. Some of them are at work when the showing is scheduled so they use their lunch break to come home and make sure the home is clean. Then the realtor does not show or call. A couple of the no shows even provided feedback (miraculously since they didn't see the house!). I understand if an emergency comes up while on the road. On one of the showings, the feedback said "we did not show because we had an offer accepted the day before". Are you kidding? You knew a day in advance that you weren't going to show up? That's just plain rude.

I am not perfect, but I am professional. I view showings as appointments. I don't know what each seller's situation is but I know that sometimes its a big deal to get ready for a showing. You wouldn't just not show up for a doctor's visit or some other appointment. Why would you do that to someone that prepared their home for you to visit.

Thanks for reading my vent.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ok, so I am not always reliable...

I haven't written a blog in a while. I have a ton of excuses but none of them are really good. I need to do it. It is somewhat therapeutic. Real estate is going well. I have had 5 closings already this year. I have another one at the end of this month and a possible one in early May (pray for that one). I have 7 listings right now which may not sound like a lot, but believe me, it is for a single person with no assistant!! We are expecting our second (and last) child, the house remodel is going well--kitchen almost done. Jonas is so freakin smart it is scary. College ministry is changing form a little and apparently, I am the guy that is sort of leading that. I am excited and reluctant at the same time. I know that might sound weird but I bet some of you can relate. I am reluctant to have anything else that takes up my time (even though I am already fairly involved) but excited because I can impact some really cool kids even more than I already was.

As for the nugget of wisdom, I don't have much to impart today. I will drone a little about time. Here lately, I have complained about not having much time. The funny thing is, the days have not changed away from a 24 hour period. I still have the same amount of time. I just don't always choose to maximize it. I am starting to see that a lot of my "lack of time" is because I don't prioritize for myself. I let others dictate my time. Now, in this industry, this is sometimes necessary. I have to be flexible and allow for people to take my time. I also can control HOW MUCH they control. 99% of people are understanding if I don't answer the phone at 8 PM because I am giving my son a bath. If they aren't understanding, I probably need to question how important it is to maintain that relationship! I was always one of those, yeah right, easier said than done when it came to this philosophy. I am now starting to see the absolute importance of it. Some folks take it to extremes. I just need to acknowledge it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Been a Long Time Since Last I Wrote (sang in tune to Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll)

I just realized that the last time I blogged it was still 2010. Since then I have sold 4 houses, closed three of them and have several clients getting close to their perfect home. Its been a good start to the year in real estate!! Also, we got our kitchen functional. We are almost done but still lack the backsplash and some new paint. It looks awesome!!

On a completely different note, I have a great story for you. Last Tuesday I was out with some clients discussing new construction in Woodmont. The meeting went a little later than I expected.

Around 8 PM Cindy calls and says, "are you ever coming home?"

I tell her it may be a few more minutes and she is obviously frustrated with me. I finish up what I am doing and call her back (it was around 8:20). She says that she has prepared a special dinner for me.

So I get home and she sets a bowl of raw carrots on the table. I start munching (I love raw carrots). Then she sets a rack of ribs on the table (from Chili's). I think to myself, man, what a great meal. What have I done to deserve this!!!!

Then she sits down and says, "Ok, what is the theme?"
I say, "uhhhhh, foods I love?"
She says, "nope, try again."
"Uhhhhh, finger foods?" (I am so dumb)
She says, "BABY back ribs and BABY carrots."
I say, "WHOA, REALLY!!!"
She says, "yep."

I have the coolest wife and Jonas is going to be a big brother.