Size Matters

The first step in starting this company was easy. Lloyd Trimble and I had a rock solid partnership and had been working together for a couple of years so there was no question that he was coming on board with me as an owner.

From there though, things were more complicated. 

To begin with, how do we attract and hire good people?

If you look at the Big Box Brokerages you’ll see that it’s a numbers game. Hire as many agents as you can and hope that some of them can sell houses. And even if they can’t you can still make money - desk fees, training fees, mark-ups on E&O insurance, etc.

This is the way most big outfits operate - hire anyone with a pulse and a real estate license. I remember way back when I was getting my license interviewing with all the Big Boxes in Chapel Hill. At the Coldwell Bank franchise they gave me a personality test to determine whether or not make a good broker. The results of that test indicated that I would fail miserably, but they offered me a job anyway, so long as I could cover the desk fees. 

If all you care about is numbers then this approach can certainly work. Look at the biggest Big Box in the country, they have over 150,000 agents. 

Impressive? 

To some, maybe.

But me, I look at what most of these folks are doing.

Cold calling.

Door knocking.

Begging for referrals and pestering the ever-loving hell out of their friends and family.

[Side note: Y’all, with the housing market in full swing and the surge of new folks in this business over the last 5 years it’s gotten sooooooo bad. There are literally more agents than there are houses that need to be sold. If 50% of the agents were vaporized today there would still me more than enough to serve the actual demand. 

I have a property listed right now where the owner fired her first agent two weeks into the listing agreement. That means the status of her listed changed to “withdrawn.” And when it did the telemarketers came out like rabid dogs - she got something like 15 calls in first day, starting before the sun came up.

It went on that way for a week, all with the same cheesy pick-up line, “I might have a buyer for your house.”

Maybe I should call that the "pick-up lie" as opposed to line?]

Anyway, over the last decade we’ve had as many as 10 people in the company and as few as four. Some of those people are still with us, some have moved on to other places. Some have even left for a Big Box brokerage and returned having learned they didn’t care for that culture.

But, for the most part, they’ve had one thing in common. They care more about their clients than their commissions. They have more respect for people than to telemarked them at 7:00 in the morning. They certainly would never “pop by” on Saturday morning and interrupt family time just to make a sales pitch.

That’s the way we like it here. In fact, none of that stuff is even allowed. 

And if that means we never have 150,000 agents I’m totally cool with that.

Beer Vs. Beer Belly

If I analyze my health and fitness over the last 20 years there are clear patterns. When the quality of my nutrition goes up, so does the quantity of my exercise, which sets up a positive feedback loop. Good food makes me feel better, which makes it easer to exercise more, which makes we want to eat better. 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

But there’s another pattern, one that looks like a wave. Up and down and up and down and up and down. And within that pattern - with the valley being “overweight & out of shape” me and the peak being “optimal weight and & in shape me” - there’s year another pattern. At each of valleys I’m not following any sort of diet while at each of the peaks I am. 

During every peak I’ve had some sort of prescribed protocol for eating (and drinking). 

But every time I’ve gotten to a peak I’ve dropped off the diet which has invariably led to a slow decline towards being overweight and in suboptimal fitness again. 

Every. Single. Time. 

I can trace that all the way back to the early 2000’s when I worked at Unifi Technology Group as a computer programmer. I remember riding to airport one morning for my flight and realizing that my pants were busting at the seams. Looking down, I could literally see my skin between the stitches. On the flight back from Austin I happened upon a book called Body For Life. It laid out an easy to follow diet and exercise plan that I followed. 12 weeks later those same pants were way too big for me to wear and I was in the best shape of my life. 

But as soon as I reached that peak it was all cheeseburgers and beer, all the time.

With predictable results. 

I’ve done the same thing over and over: achieve the goal, drop off the diet, get fat and out of shape again. 

So I’m once again following a diet, Tim Ferris’s “slow carb” diet which I’ve used in the past with good success. I’ve got a big red check mark on the calendar for each day I follow it including the cheat day on Saturdays, which is when I drink beer. 

This past Sunday I was knee-deep in the water at Carolina Beach with the sun beating down, the waves crashing, and the fish not biting. The desire for an frosty beer was strong. 

STRONG. 

It’s a Pavlovian response. I smell the salt in the air and I want a beer. 

I started to make excuses for why I could drink one. 

“Yesterday was cheat day, and I didn’t even eat that much.”

“I only ate one of those Twinkies.”

(Yes, I ate a Twinkie. Got it at the gas station. Y’all, those things are gross)

“Just one, what’s the harm?” I thought.

I still had a cooler full from the day before, so the struggle was on.

It was me vs. the beer and for a minute there I thought the beer was going to win, setting off a domino effect of beer, beer, beer, cheeseburger & fries. 

There would be no checkmark that day. 

Without a protocol to follow, I would have totally caved. 

But the simple act of having this protocol to follow made it easy to resist. It’s like I couldn’t let myself down - “you’re doing this, this is the way it has to be.”

Me: 1, Beer: 0. 

It’s taken me twenty-something years to learn that, nutrition-wise, I need a protocol to follow. 

I’m on my way back to the peak, now I just need to remember that when I get there.

The Best $60 I Ever Spent

“Daddy, come here I want to show you something.”

Normally when Lily says this her eyes are wide with anticipation. Despite the fact that a decade of experience tells her otherwise, she actually believes she’s going to talk me into buying whatever treasure she’s found.

On Saturday though, she looked anxious. But she’s strung higher than the fifth string of a banjo so a look of anxiety on her face is nothing new. So I didn’t think much about it as we walked from the back of the 47K Marketplace towards the front and out the door. 

On the sidewalk her bike was parked next to Lu’s. The girls have been super excited all weekend because we’ve finally allowed them to get out and ride around the neighborhood some. They feel like big girls. 

Of course they were lectured beforehand. 

With big freedom comes big responsibility. 

Stay together. Pay attention to traffic. Obey the street signs, and remember to use your hand signals. 

During our stop at the 47K Marketplace Lily showed me just what it means to be responsible. 

As we stood there on the sidewalk she pointed out a framed canvas about 12 inches wide and 18 inches tall. The canvas was nearly empty and perfectly white. Hanging from the top of the frame was a small wreath and below it a single word, “Welcome.”

It is very much an adult thing, and does not look like something and 9 year old girl would want. 

Still, I’m waiting for the sales pitch. 

Instead she kneels down and points at black scuff mark on the otherwise pristine canvas. With tears welling up she said, “Daddy, I was parking my bike and when I did I accidentally hit this with my tire and made those black marks.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess we will have to buy it.”

“No daddy!!!!”

She thought she was in trouble. The look of anxiety had shifted to fear. She clutched my hand desperately as I leaned over to pick it up. 

“Listen, you have to be careful. We talk all the time about paying attention to your surroundings and watching what you are doing. If you mess up something that belongs to someone else you have to make it right. And the way to make this right is to buy it.”

She started to cry. 

Little did she know that I was in the throes of a “proud daddy moment.” 

“Relax baby girl, you’re not in trouble. Accidents happen and you did the right thing by telling me. I’m really proud of you.”

Back inside the owner, Kay, was super nice about it. She insisted that we not buy it. “It’s my fault,” she said, “I put it to close to the sidewalk.”

“I can clean it up,” she said.

“Let me give you discount,” she said.

No, no, and no. 

The piece wasn’t just dirty. It was damaged, albeit slightly so. Perhaps not even noticeable. 

But it was damaged nonetheless, and it wasn’t Kay’s fault. Nor was it the artist’s fault. It was only Lily’s fault. 

And while I appreciated Kay’s offer, for me to not purchase it would have discounted the very quality that Lily was demonstrating. 

The next day we were out on another ride and Lily wanted to stop back in. After asking me if it was OK (which I really appreciated) Kay pulled Lily to the side and told her how much she'd been impressed by her honesty the day before. “A lot of people wouldn’t have said anything about it,” she said, “so I was really impressed that you told your dad.”

Then Kay handed her a $10 gift card for the shop. 

Lily beamed. 

As we walked out she said, “You see daddy, you should always do the right thing. Sometimes you even get rewarded for it.”

Yes baby girl, that’s right. 

Thank you, Kay Klaren, you made my little girl’s day. 

Hopefully I can convince her to spend her $10 on some more candied bacon for me.

New NAR Logo was only $250,000

$250,000 for this?

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I’m no stranger to differences of opinion with other real estate agents. I run my business differently than most and have never been shy about calling out the shady, deceptive, and down right annoying business practices that are pervasive in this industry.

But, last week, I found what is probably the most common ground I’ve ever experienced since I started selling houses in 2005. I’m annoyed as hell about it, which puts me in the same camp and just about every other Realtor in the United States.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in their infinite wisdom and unwavering mission to innovate, decided that an update to the Realtor logo was necessary.

And they paid $250,000 for it.

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One quarter of one million dollars for something I could have ordered on fivver.com and had delivered in 48 hours for under $100. Shoot, Jason Walle over at Chain Reaction Studios probably could have turned it around in an afternoon for a few hundred dollars more.

The reason? According to the NAR:

“The roll-out of this work truly enables the REALTOR® brand to better compete and thrive in the marketplace in a way that is clear, credible, and compelling, while leveraging equities that NAR has earned over the past 45 years, and evolving our brand so that we can continue to lead the real estate industry over the next 45 years.”

LEAD THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY?

Ummm, bullshit.

The NAR has a damn monopoly over the real estate industry, courtesy of the MLS.

Not a monopoly over the public, but rather a monopoly over broker access to the data in the MLS.

Quick lesson for my non-realtor friends: there are “real estate brokers” and there are “Realtors.” The former is one who holds a license to work as real estate broker, the latter is one who holds a license AND has joined the NAR.

To join the NAR you have to also join a state association as well as a local association and, of course, pay dues to all three.

So if you can work in real estate without being a member of NAR, why join? It's simple: you can’t get access to the MLS to list homes for sale without being a member. The fees vary by state and local association but in 2018 the national association dues were $120 + $35 for a Consumer Advertising Campaign special assessment.

So that’s $155 per member.

Right now there are 1,289,206 members.

So for 2018 NAR received a total of $199,826,930.  Read here to see where the money goes. 

Just shy of $200M.

Basically the NAR is a big, dumb company. And like any other big, dumb company they make big, dumb decisions.

Call me crazy but I don’t see spending $250,000 on $100 logo as an effective means to “lead the real estate industry.”

Fighting Depression

Morning Folks,

I sure wish the sun would come out. 

This morning I woke up in a thick fog of depression. I had zero desire to get out of the bed. In fact, despite waking up around 4, I didn’t get up until nearly 6. 

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I kept pulling the covers over my head and pretending the birds weren’t chirping. 

Y’all ever do that?

I struggle with depression from time to time. I come by it honestly though, it’s in my blood. Most everybody in my family has struggled with it at some point, some much worse that others. For one of my grandmothers it was so severe that she was hospitalized. Some folks in the family have even attempted suicide. 

And some succeeded. I never got the chance to meet my Uncle David, he took his own life long before I was born. 

I feel bad for people that have chronic, long term depression. I’m only rarely affected by it and it’s usually short-lived. I’ve learned, over the years, to recognize it. That alone is a huge help because I can say to myself, “look man, you’re depressed today. You know that it won’t last so you have to just go through the motions until you feel better.” 

And when I can do that things start to get easier. The next thing I’ll do is pick some small goal that I can easily achieve in order to have a sense of accomplishment. Today that goal was making the bed. And this sounds silly, I’m sure, but making the bed seemed like climbing a mountain. I really wanted to get back in it, not make it up. But when I was done, sure enough, I felt the sense of accomplishment that I was after. And from there the next thing I had to do was a little bit easier.

You know what else helps? Writing about it. The simple act of putting these words on paper is incredibly therapeutic. Even if nobody reads it I’ll still reap the benefits of having written it down. This might sound silly, too, but I already feel way better than I did when I started writing this 15 minutes ago. And the benefit is compounded. Since writing every day is a goal for me I’m now able to put another check on the to-do list. 

The bed is made.

The writing is done.

If I can do that, I can do anything.

What shortcut?

Morning Folks,

Reminder to self: there ain’t no such thing as a shortcut. 

Yesterday on Instagram I put up a video of my son playing the drums.

The caption: How do we become great?

The hashtag: #practice.

Later, on Facebook, my friend Travis posted an article about the differences between “teachers” and “gurus.” Gurus, he said, sell you a feeling. A fleeting, feel good moment disguised as motivation. When that moment is over you’re back to the drawing board looking for some other shortcut. 

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Gurus are the purveyors of of just that - shortcuts. Shortcuts to instant success, overnight riches, and a toned butt. 

A teacher, on the other hand, will tell you like it is: there are no shortcuts. It all comes down to practice. They’ll show you how to do it, but you have to put in the work. 

You play your guitar, every day. 

You go to the gym, every day. 

You shoot 200 free throws, every day.

Whatever you want to master, you practice it every day. 

Along with practice, though, you have to be vigilant because the Gurus are everywhere peddling their wares. They’ve gotten really sophisticated in their ability to make themselves look like legitimate, so if you’re not careful you’ll be the fool who is parted with his money. 

Trust me, I’ve been there. 

Many years ago, when I was getting started in real estate, I spent more that I care to discuss on all manner of snake oil promising me the shortuct to droves of new clients and instant riches. Of course, none of it worked. 

Likewise, a pill will never be a shortcut for healthy diet and exercise. Remember Hydroxycut? I tried that stuff after someone told me it was the shortcut to getting six pack abs. All I got was a lighter wallet and heart palpitations. 

And then one time, as a shortcut to get people to attend an event I was hosting, I bought a list of 10,000 email addresses from a company that sold what they said were targeted mailing lists. Along with zero attendees it got me a couple dozen responses from people I pissed off, a threatening letter from my ISP, and my MailChimp account suspended. 

It all comes back to advice we’ve heard all our lives. If it sounds too goo to be true, it probably is.

And, 99% of the time, shortcuts are too good to be true

Cold Beer, Simple Ideas, and Big Results

Morning Folks,

I got a note from Sam’s teacher last night that his behavior was dramatically improved. I knew that he’d tried his best yesterday when Julia and I picked him up from school. He was beaming and couldn’t wait to show us the smiley face on his agenda. 

Later, while he and I were at drum lessons, Julia took the other three to the library. Our lesson ran about thirty minutes long, so she took them up the street to Southern Range Brewing Co. When Sam and I walked up to join them the place was packed. 

Now I’ve been this bar a time or two, and I’ve seen it pretty busy, but last night was something else. It was slam full with people spilling out the doors. Standing room only. In fact, the children were banished outdoors to play because there was no room for them to sit inside. 

I forgot to take a picture last night, so this one of the outside will have to do. 

I forgot to take a picture last night, so this one of the outside will have to do. 

It was Trivia Night. 

(Side note, lest you think us in poor taste: we weren’t the only people who brought their children to a brewery, so they were in good company.)

Anyway the place was packed and we got our butts kicked at trivia before heading home for supper.

I woke up this morning wondering why it was so packed last night. What was different?

Was it the beer? Nope, Dustin brews it right, but it’s always there.

Was is the service? Nope, the barkeeps do a great job but they’re always there.

Was it Kiki's pimento cheese? Nope. That’s good stuff too, but you can always get it there.

The difference was the trivia. 

The trivia was the little extra, the add-on. The special touch that brought in an enormous amount of people on an otherwise mundane night. A simple idea that probably doubled or tripled their business while making a trip to the bar just a little bit better. 

It didn’t take much effort. Dustin, the owner, called out the questions as teams wrote their answers on sheets of paper. After a set of questions the papers were exchanged and graded by another team. At the end of the night, the team with the highest score wins. 

Trivia. So simple.

That got me thinking about my own business. Like Southern Range, we have add-ons that make our clients’ experiences just a little bit better. Things like including professional staging for our sellers at no additional charge and providing an up-front home inspection so there are no surprises later. We also have an in-house attorney so that folks don’t have to attend closings - they can sign right at our office. 

People love that stuff, so we’re happy to do it. But the thing the love the most came from an idea that Lloyd had years ago. 

We bought a moving van. 

Moving is a mess, and can be really stressful. By handing over the keys to our van when people stop by to sign their paperwork we save them the step of having to rent a U Haul truck. It’s a simple thing that makes their lives a little bit easier and the experience of moving a little bit better.

To be honest, I was amazed. I didn’t think it would really matter to folks, but I was wrong. I run into clients all the time who moved years ago and they still talk about how great it was to just pick up our van. 

Sometimes the simplest efforts yield the biggest results.

Don't Let Anyone Steer You Off Your Path

Morning Folks,

Wednesdays are hard.

The tough thing about having been divorced is sharing my kids with another person. It’s not so much the shared time, per se, that makes it tough. Having my kids 40% of the time isn’t easy, but let’s be honest, there is a silver lining. Kid-free weekend twice a month where I can intently focus on my wife?

Sign me up.

No, the hard part is the different households. Different rules, different schedules, and different expectations. Lily & Sam say my house is "the strict house." So when they come there’s always transition period where they have to settle in to the rules.

It’s “yes sir,” not “yeah.”

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School night? No screens.

Bedtime’s at 8:00, so y’all get your butts upstairs and into your pajamas.

It’s been that way for as long as either of them can remember but that doesn’t stop them, especially Samson, from having difficulty remembering.

“Daddy,” he’ll say, “for some odd reason, I can’t remember if you let me play games on the computer when we get home.”

Yeah right, kid.

Anyway we’re having some minor behavioral problems with Sam at school. He’s developed a hypothesis that the classroom rules don’t apply to him, and he’s been busy testing it.

Here’s part of an email I sent his teacher this morning:

“Dear Ms. Taylor

I understand that you continue to have problems with Sam’s behavior in class. . . let me know if i need come pull him out and jerk a knot in his head.”

This gets to the reason that Wednesdays are hard. There are four and a half hours between the time I pick Sam up at 3:30 until he goes to bed at 8:00.

Minus one hour of driving, usually with him asleep, leaves three and half.

Minus an hour of drum lessons leaves two and half.

Minus about thirty minutes for homework & school prep leave two hours.

Minus another hour or so for dinner and I’m left with just 60 minutes. 60 minutes that I have to split between 4 kids, so Sam’s lucky if he gets more than 15 of those with my sole & undivided attention.

In those 15 minutes I want to play. I want to hug him and love him and make sure he knows how special he is. I want to goof off and run around the house and throw him over my shoulder. I want to remind him that he’s my favorite (for the record, I tell all the kids that)

That’s the hard part. From the time I pick him up I already feel like a drill sergeant.

“Stop interrupting your sister, Sam”

“Pay attention to the instructor, Sam”

“Stop eating with your fingers, Sam”

“Hurry up and get in the bath, Sam”

And tonight, in those 15 minutes, I have to get on his butt about being disruptive in class.

That’s the last thing I want to do. Especially since the day started off with me Facetiming him to talk about his behavior. I told him I was disappointed, that always upsets him. Now I’m worried that he’ll dread me picking him up later. That he’ll feel like my house is a prison. That when I drop him off at school tomorrow he’ll only remember the discipline and not the fun.

Despite my worry I know it’s the right thing to do.

The same applies to almost everything in life, does it not? When you know deep down that you’re on the right path you can’t let other people - friends, family, or even your sweet little darling snot-nosed troublemaker kids - steer you in another direction.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Morning Folks,

For Christmas this past year we bought the kids a Nintendo Switch game system. Before we let them so much as turn it on we laid out the rules, the number one of which is not taking it outside the house. 

Last week Julia was at school where’s she volunteering as a coach for Girls On The Run. They were winding down and LuLu had already gone to join her brother and work on homework.

Suddenly she was back.

“Mom!” she said, eyes wide, “Jack has the switch!”

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The next morning Jack & I took a ride. As we drove I asked him about the Switch being at school. Predictably, he responded with excuses. 

“I only did it because. . .”

“I just thought that. . .”

“But I needed to. . .”

I pulled over and put the truck in park. He knew he was getting nowhere. 

I asked him how he’d felt the morning before as he’d left for school. 

“What do you mean?”

“I mean how did you feel about it. There came a point when you slipped the Switch into your bag. When Mom dropped you off at school you told her you loved her and wished her a good day. You closed the door and walked inside, all the while knowing what was in your backpack. Did you feel good about that or did you feel kind of. . .ehhh”

He looked down, embarrassed. “Kind of ehhh. . .”

Now we’re getting at what I wanted him to understand. See, this has been a problem for a while. It started with the phone he got for his birthday last summer. Because of being deceptive with it - like pretending he’s using the bathroom so he can surf YouTube - it was taken away. And this isn’t the first time we’ve had a problem with the Switch. In fact, as it turns out, he’s been taking it to school since January. 

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, “I’ve lied to you, I’ve lied to mom, I’ve lied to my teachers. I’m really sorry.”

“That’s good, you should be. But there’s a much larger issue here.”

I went on to explain how lying and deception are related and accomplish the same things. I reminded him how being deceptive about his iPhone had resulted in it being taken away. I told him this this behavior, sneaking the Switch out, was no different. 

“The biggest lie you’re telling is the one you’re telling yourself, that it’s OK to do things even when they don’t feel right. If you’d taken some time to think about that you’d have realized the result was predictable: you’ve lost my trust.”

He didn’t like hearing that. Nobody does. 

Last week I wrote about how how I’d been lying to myself, too. For well over a year I’ve used a shoulder injury as an excuse to avoid working out. That result of that was also predictable - I’m overweight and out of shape. 

A number of people reached out.

“Just buy new clothes,” they said.

“You look great,” they said.

I could roll with that, I suppose. Belk has a sale on sport coats this week. And it sure would be a lot easier than all the eating right and walking around I did last week. 

But wouldn’t I just be lying to myself? 

That’s the kicker. If I can’t be honest with myself I can’t possibly hope to instill a sense of self-honesty in my children.

You Can't Make It Work If You're Making Excuses

Morning Folks,

Last Saturday I was getting dressed for the daddy-daughter dance. The them was “hoe down” so I’d put on jeans, cowboy boots, & a swanky bowtie. I slipped on my sport coat and stepped in front of the mirror.

Julia gave me the look. 

I knew what was coming. 

“Baby, “ she said, “you cannot wear that coat!”

Ugh. She was right.

It wasn’t the coat itself. I’ve had it for decades and worn it countless times. Navy blue, pinstriped silk lining, dark buttons. It’s classic. I can wear it with jeans, slacks, with or without a tie, whatever. 

Regardless, I couldn’t button it. 

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So I didn’t. 

“It’s obvious that it doesn’t fit.” she said. “Not buttoning it is just making it worse.”

I sulked. Back in the closet I pulled on a pinstriped jacket I’d had let out for a recent funeral. Mustering a smile I walked back into the bedroom where LuLu, my 9 year old stepdaughter, had joined her mother. 

She just shook her head and walked off. 

“Nope, you can’t button that one either,” Julia said. 

She’s right, of course. They’re both right. 

Two years ago, as the result of a mountain bike accident, I sustained a class III-IV AC separation. In layman’s terms that means my left shoulder is all jacked up. The entire joint is separated from my collar bone which makes it appear as though that bone is sticking up. My left arm is 1/2” longer than it used to be. And it causes a lot of pain and makes certain things much harder.

Push ups and pull ups, for example. 

Not impossible, just harder. And I’ve used this as an excuse to avoid working out for the last year or so. The results are obvious; I’ve gotten over weight and out of shape. 

Yesterday on my way back from dropping the kids at school I listened to a podcast from Ryan France. He interviewed a fellow by the name ofMark Heaps who lives in Austin, Texas. Mark’s story is fascinating. The short version is that Mark was born into an incredibly wealthy family who lost it all, but he took control of his life and became wildly successful. If you’ve got 36 minutes, download the podcast from http://www.voicesofimpact.com/mark-heaps/. 

Part of his story punched me in my [oversized] gut. Living in a small town in Texas he’d lost his job. Being broke and with no place to live he called is brother in California and was invited to come. The problem was he didn’t have the money to get there.

Now ya’ll listen here - this man went to the Greyhound station. For two days he held up a cardboard sign.

WILL DRIVE TO CALIFORNIA IF YOU PAY FOR GAS.

It worked.

On the second day a woman approached. She needed to get herself and her two children to San Jose. She couldn’t afford the tickets but thought she had enough money for gas.

Mark thew his own luggage into the dumpster to make room for her and the children. 1,700 miles later and the rest history. 

That is the difference between making excuses and making it work. 

Following his hardship Mark Heaps found a way to make it work and became a success story. Following my own hardship I found an excuse and became a with an extra 20 pounds who had to go to his daughter's dance without a sport coat. 

That’s something to think about.

A Little Bit Closer

Morning Folks, 

It’s 4:45 AM and I’m sitting in my living room smiling from ear to ear. Most days I’d be at the office by now but there’s some stuff going on at school this morning, so I stayed home so we could leave extra early. 

Usually I don’t read my text messages or email until 8:30 or 9:00. Today though, with my schedule being different, I did. And I found that late last night, someone sent me the nicest compliment.

“I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know how much I enjoy your writing. I tune in weekly to see what you’re writing about. As a songwriter, I can really appreciate a good read, and you have a gift.”

So yeah, I’m smiling. I can’t help it. It’s a physiological reaction to the dopamine that’s coursing through my brain.

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“A gift”, he said. 

I don’t see it that way at all. I’m no writer. I’m just a guy who started putting his thoughts down on paper. Mostly all I can see are typos and punctuation errors and points that don’t seem quite clear enough.

Still, I’ll take the compliment. 

But that’s not why I’m smiling. I’m smiling because of what he wrote next.

Yesterday I mentioned the time that I almost drove to San Francisco with only a few hundred dollars to my name. I hinted at the fact that I regret not doing it. It’s true, I’ll always wonder how my life might have been different if I’d gone. 

The guy that wrote me though, he doesn’t have to wonder. Because he did it. In his email he told me the story of how, in his twenties, he packed up everything and headed out west to the Rockies. Six months of camping, fishing, biking, & kayaking. When the money ran out he got a job and hung around while longer. 

He sent me a picture, too. It’s thirty years old so it’s faded and worn but there he is, standing on a winding road with the snow capped Colorado mountains behind him. 

Smiling.

He’s older now and back on the East coast but still has ties to that place. He goes back every year. 

What a great story. 

Last week I talked about connection. About how my friend John always gives me grief for putting my life out there like I do. But see when you do, when you tell your story, then other people tell you their story. 

And then there’s a connection. And suddenly you’re just a little bit closer to that person than you were before. And before you know it you’re a little bit closer to another person, and another person, and another. . .

With all the insanity in the world, I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t all be better off if each of us was just a little bit closer.

Make It Count

Morning Folks,

Got 4 minutes and 37 seconds? I think I have a man-crush on Casey Neistat.

He’s the subject of a chapter in a book I’m reading this morning. I knew I was going to like the guy when I read his introduction. He ran away from home when he was 15 and became a father at 17, neither of which I advocate. But then went on welfare in order to get free milk and diapers and never asked his parents for money again.

That I totally advocate.

Not the welfare part - the never asking your parents for anything part. Often I see people dealing with an extraordinary about of pain as a result of staying overly intertwined with their parents after childhood. But that’s a story for another day.

Today is about audacity. I love this guy!

Imagine you’ve been hired by Nike to produce a video for a new product. What do you do next?

Think about it.

You’ve been to the meetings, pitched your idea, and they’ve hired you. You’ve got your studio and your cameras. All the fancy lighting, microphones, and editing equipment.

Nike signs off on the script and gives you the cash advance.

What do you do next?

If you’re Casey Neistat you take the money and run.

Literally.

In 2012 he was hired for a three commercial deal promoting Nike’s FuelBand and had produced the first two exactly as you might expect. $100-million dollar athlete endorsements, product placement - the usual stuff.

By the time the third one rolled around he was burnt out. A couple days before production was to begin he bailed. Instead he called his editor and said, “let’s do something I’ve always wanted to do. Let’s take the entire production budget and travel the world until we run out of money.”

They did it.

It took 10 days. 15 countries. 36,000 miles.

The result could have been a breach-of-contract lawsuit. 
Instead it resulted in this video which has gone viral and has over 27 million views on YouTube alone. It’s one of Nike’s most popular videos of all time.

Twenty years ago I packed up my Honda Accord with pretty much everything I owned. I was burnt out on college and desperately needed a change. My destination was San Francisco. I had a full tank of gas a maybe a few hundred dollars to my name. The details are foggy now, as is most of my college experience, but somehow my good friend  Eric talked me out of it.

I will always wonder how that might have turned out.

Some would say Casey’s stunt was reckless. Others would call it audacious. It’s fine line sometimes.

But there’s a lesson here. Casey took a big risk and reaped a huge reward. We can also take small risks that result in smaller, but cumulative, rewards. And we can do that without the specter of a complete disaster.

Small changes in our lives, our businesses, and our relationships can add up to massive improvements over time.

 

 

Is She a Bimbo? Or Is She Just a Bitch?

From the September 2017 issue of The All Right, Sally Newsletter

“She’s a bimbo,” said the buyer’s agent over the telephone. “She’s stupid. She’s a bitch. That’s really what she is, just a stupid bitch.”

I guess this is what is supposed to pass for negotiating skills in today’s real estate market. Over the years y’all have heard me talk about the problems created in this profession by having such low barriers to entry. However this conversation with a buyer’s agent about potential repairs on a house I have under contract marked a low that even I would never have expected. And we’re just getting started.

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“I saw all those pictures, she’s got a live-in boyfriend, “ she says. “And that baby must be adopted, it’s obviously a different color than either of them.”

I can hardly believe my ears. Did another real estate “professional” really just make an incredibly insulting and derogatory comment about my client’s child?

Yes. Yes she did.

When I got started in this business over a decade ago one of the first things I did was to read books about how find success in real estate. Since then I’ve read a lot of books about business, people skills, and negotiating. Maybe I missed it but I sure don’t recall any chapters on insulting children.

One of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of negotiating is the classic How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Although written over 80 years ago, the wisdom in this book is as relevant today as when the book was published. In one section, Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, the first principle is “don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.” In another, Twelve Ways to Win People To Your Way of Thinking, Carnegie suggests that negotiations should “begin in a friendly way.”

Clearly this agent and I are off on the wrong foot. Maybe I should send her a copy of the book?

The seller, my good friend Stacy, is pretty unique. I like to call her my barber even though, technically speaking, she’s a hair stylist. But that doesn't have a good masculine ring so I call her my barber. She’s been cutting my hair since 2006 and in that time we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well.

Stacy is a self-made woman. She does not live in her parent’s basement. She has a career. And a house. And a nice car. And these are things she’s acquired through hard work and smart decisions - like saving her money and making good investment choices. Nothing was given to her.

At just shy of 5’ 5” with perfect hair (of course), striking brown eyes, and brilliant

white teeth Stacy is a very attractive woman. She has a look that often makes women jealous. People look at her and see an easy target - one they can take advantage of. Whether it’s buying a car, getting homeowner’s insurance, or having a pool installed people have tried to get the upper hand. But Stacy is no dummy by a long shot. Since she’s no stranger to people trying to take advantage of her she’s developed a healthy sense of skepticism that can, on occasion, be just a little over the top.

Knowing her the way I do, I was prepared for some conflict during the inspection process. And because Stacy’s house is a manufactured home (a double-wide, but she gets mad at me if I call it that) I expected some differences of opinion as to what repairs may or may not be required.

Prior to the inspection I prepped the buyer’s agent by telling her a little bit about Stacy and preemptively requesting extra documentation should they request any repairs. When she sent me a report from a structural engineer a couple of days later it had, attached to it, an estimate for $2,300 to fix four problems: missing vapor barrier, attached trailer tongues, non-bonded piers, and lack of a wind restraint system. So, I called Stacy.

“Wait,” she said, “is a vapor barrier that big piece of plastic that’s under my house?”

“Yes, you mean you have that?” I said.

“I think so - I mean the entire underside of my house is covered in plastic. And there’s no trailer tongues here either.”

“I’m coming over,” I said, “ be there in a minute.”

When I got there we broke out the flashlights and got under her house and, sure enough, a full vapor barrier was in place. And there was no sight of any trailer tongues.

Now let me say this, for the record: I don’t know much about manufactured home construction or installation so I’m somewhat at the mercy of people like engineers to tell me if something is wrong. In this case it certainly appears that this engineer is at least partially wrong. But whereas I’m thinking that the he must have made an honest mistake, Stacy is starting to feel like someone is taking advantage of her. As she and I were talking about it I was starting to feel like her skepticism was getting out of hand. That was until she pointed out something I’d completely missed - the engineer who wrote the report also owns the construction company that provided the estimate.

Wait a second, now something does smell fishy.

As it turns out one of Stacy’s friends is an architect who happens to have a background in manufactured housing. He did her a favor and went over to check out the foundation. Folks I kid you not, all four issues raised by the engineer/contractor were, in fact, not issues at all. The house has a vapor barrier and there are no tongues, as we’d seen ourselves. But there was also a Vector Dynamics wind restraint system installed and, because of the foundation type, the piers are not required to be bonded. “You are being scammed,” he said.

Now, I’ve never shied away from talking about the deception, greed, and outright lies that are so prevalent in this industry. But I also try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. On occasion engineers, home inspectors, and other contractors have been wrong about something. I get it, we’re all human. In fact I’ll never forget the home inspector who noted that there was “some sort of contraption outside the garage with water & gas pipes running to it.” He recommended a licensed general contractor inspect it to determine what it was. We skipped that and just told the buyer what it was, a tankless hot water heater, which the

inspector had never seen. Fair enough, honest mistake. But this situation is looking to be anything but honest.

Folks, for the next two weeks I asked questions. I called the engineer, he would not return my calls. I called the buyer’s loan officer - he mostly wouldn’t return my calls and if he did he was combative and defensive of the engineer. Turns out, he’d been the one who recommended the engineer in the first place. I called the buyer’s agent a few times as well but, as you can imagine since Stacy is “just a bimbo” those calls didn’t result in much progress. Everyone just kept demanding that Stacy contribute $2,300 to the buyer.

It was during these conversations with the buyer’s agent that she saw fit to refer to Stacy as a bimbo with a live-in and a baby of a different color who is just a bitch. I tried, to the extent possible, to work around that agent rather than work with her. My thinking was that if I was going to bring Stacy out on top that I wouldn’t get there by playing the game at her level. It took a couple more weeks, two or three meetings, a few trips to the house, and two written reports by the architect but in the end the buyer’s agent and lender backed off. No foundation repairs required or performed. Stacy’s money stayed in her pocket.

If she weren’t my friend I would have never said a word to Stacy about what the buyer’s agent had said. Like The Men In Black, protecting the earth from unknown alien invasions, I’m often tending to serious issues taking place in the background that my clients never know about. But in this case I had to share. You should have seen the look on Stacy’s face.

She smiled. She’d won, and rightfully so. I guess the question now is, who’s the bimbo after all?

Assholes

[Originally posted on Facebook]

I tell ya, people sure can be assholes sometimes. 

Y’all know Lloyd. We’ve been in business together for about a decade now so we know each other pretty well. In fact I know him well enough to say, with confidence, that his heart just skipped a beat because for a split second he thought I was going to say he was an asshole. Settle down, Trimble! You’re not the asshole in this story. 

In nearly every way Lloyd is a perfect business partner. We’re like yin and yang on steroids over here. We don’t always see eye to eye but we understand each other. We have confidence in each other. Lloyd understands the vision of this company and gives me the freedom and autonomy to work towards that vision. He doesn’t always agree with my decisions. When that happens he comes and talks to me. You know, like an adult. 

jackass.jpeg

 

Other people? Not so much.

For a while now I’ve contemplated writing every day. Like so many things in life resistance took over. I got lost in the details. What should I write? Where should I write it? Should I email it? Should I print it? Should I even publish it? Will people read it?

When I pulled the trigger I decided on Facebook for the platform. I’m on Facebook every day so why not. The response has been interesting. Some things I’ve written have spawned lengthy conversations. Some of those conversations have extended beyond Facebook when people emailed, texted, or called me to talk more about it.

Mostly the response has been positive. I got a message from someone who I haven’t talked to in years who lives over in New Zealand now. It said, “I appreciate the fact that on Facebook you post thought provoking stuff about improving oneself or funny things instead of Debbie Downer political bullshit.”

That made me laugh. 

I guess some people though, they don’t like it. One guy has just been a real asshole about it. Making rude comments, that sort of thing. Of course that results in people reaching out to me, even his friends and family, wanting to know what’s wrong with this guy. 

“What the hell is his problem?”

“OMG how rude can you be?”

“Why would he do that?”

I don’t know. Some people are just bitter. Others are angry. Or scared. But whatever the reason you can’t let those folks get in your way. You can’t let them be the reason that you don’t accomplish the things you want to do. There’s always going to be some asshole trying to get in your way. Don’t let it bother you and don’t let it stop you.

Hell, it can even be helpful. Like today for instance. Julia and I have spent the last two days moving and we’re still not quite done. I’ve got a million things to do before my meetings start at 1:00 today. I’m tired and I don’t feel terribly motivated. I didn’t really feel like writing and couldn’t think of what to write. And the lo and behold there’s a message from some asshole who thinks I give a damn about his opinion and I have my topic for today.

Happy Thursday, people. 

Are you disciplined?

jocko.jpg

Yesterday I kept thinking about how Elon Musk had to be so damn pumped up watching that Tesla float through space.

Today I woke up thinking about what it is that makes him so different from me. On the surface we’re not so different. We were both born in the 70’s. We both went to boarding schools (he toughed it out, I quit after 42 days). Neither of us have a post-graduate degree. We’re both smart. 

OK, he might be just a little bit smarter than me. Still, how is it that he’s achieved mind-blowing accomplishments while I’m over here in the land of the mediocre? 

Earlier this morning I was reading some stuff from Jocko Willink. I like Jocko because, like me, he gets up really early. Unlike me, he’s a total badass who spent 20 years in the US Navy during which he commanded the most highly decorated special operations unit from the Iraq War. 

Jocko says, “Discipline equals freedom. If you want freedom in life - be that financial freedom, more free time, or even freedom from sickness and poor health - you can only achieve those things through discipline.”

That stopped me. I went to the computer and Googled “Elon Musk discipline.”

Sure enough, in the last 40 years he’s been much more disciplined than I. Compared to him I’ve essentially had zero discipline. 

One example: as an undergraduate, he gave himself a budget of $1 per day for food. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to be sure he could survive setbacks. Meanwhile I was surviving on a daily beer budget that was ten times that amount. 

Another: as a teenager he regularly read two books a day. I read only what I had to for whatever class I was taking and watched MTV the rest of the time. 

That one word, discipline, that’s the real difference between me and Elon. I have routines, but I don’t have discipline. I wonder how much more I might accomplish in the next 40 years if I did. 

Elon's Rocket

Did ya’ll see this? By now everybody’s heard about SpaceX launching the Falcon Heavy rocket Tuesday. The media was blowing up about it yesterday, and with good reason. It was badass!The most powerful rocket on earth with a Tesla Roadster strapped to it was successfully launched AND two of the three rocket boosters safely landed and can be reused. We now have a dummy named Starman driving an electric car towards Mars. But did you see this picture? It was on Elon Musk’s Instagram. 

Made on Earth by humans. 

Made on Earth by humans. 

Musk is the founder of SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company. Three companies with big ideas. Ideas that, if successful, will literally change the face of the earth. Printed on a circuit board of the Tesla are these words: Made on Earth by humans.

Yesterday I got an email from Travis Crow, a buddy out in Arizona, talking about Elon Musk and the launch. In it he said, “But when I watch an interview with Elon, I don't see a shrewd businessman. I see a Dreamer. A dreamer that the world hasn't seen since Walt Disney came along.”

True! His dream is to enable humans to live on other planets so that we have somewhere to go when something happens to the Earth. His vision is a giant rocket, codenamed BFR (Big F**king Rocket), that carries 100 people out into orbit before returning to earth to be launched again. Yesterday he proved the concept of the returning rocket. It looked so futuristic watching them land that Julia thought it was some sort of CGI promo video.

Big freakin’ rockets. Big freakin’ dreams.

Didn’t we all have big dreams at some point? When you were a kid, did you want to go to space? If not space, some other big dream? Hollywood, The Olympics, maybe The Grammys? What’s the difference between Musk and most of the rest of us? Why is he watching a car he invented float through space on a rocket he also invented while we punch a time clock?

This morning on the way to school my daughter, Lily, wanted to listen to “Laugh or Cringe” clips on YouTube from a show called X Factor. It’s one of those reality shows where people try to get discovered, in this case as singers. Y’all, it was pretty bad. I mean there were some pretty terrible singers. But you know what? They still did it! And there’s absolutely no way that, along the line, people told them they couldn’t. Friends, family, teachers, coaches, whatever - telling them it couldn’t be done. But they did it, AND, several of them actually made it to the next round despite what Lily and I thought was a horrible performance. 

Just this morning someone for whom I hold a good deal of respect told me that my writing is nothing more than “poorly framed jokes.” I don’t give a shit, I’m going to keep right on writing. People are always going to tell you something can’t be done. It can be challenging, damn near impossible, to ignore them. But watching that car float through space sure serves as a good reminder of why you should.

 

The Day My Wife Nearly Died

“Excuse me, Mr. Price? You have a phone call.”

I reached for my cell.  Did the battery die?  Why is someone calling me on the hospital’s phone?  This is odd.  As I walked with the attendant towards the reception desk the room felt much larger than it had before. I notice the sign - “Surgical Waiting Room.” There’s maybe a hundred chairs, several tables scattered with magazines, and it’s packed with people. I can hear electric doors buzz open over the sounds of someone coughing. There is a large TV screen  with the initials of folks in surgery along with their status- Preparing For Surgery, Surgery In Progress, Recovering. 

Thinking there must be some mistake I reached for the phone. “Hello?”

“It’s nothing serious,” said the voice on the other end, “but we have to operate again. We’re taking her back now and will let you know. . .” The voice seemed to trail off. 

My head is spinning. Wait, what?  Did the surgeon just say internal bleeding?  How did this happen?  Is she okay?  Can they fix it? The room feels smaller now like the walls are closing. I can’t hear all the people. I’m hot and I feel sweaty.  “Excuse me,” I said as I handed the phone back, “there is a problem and they are operating again, I think I’m gong to step outside.”

The rest of the day is blur. 

A few hours earlier my wife, Julia, and I had been driving towards the hospital. Despite the time of day traffic hadn’t been too bad and we arrived a little early. I stopped for coffee at the Starbucks in the lobby, teasing Julia because she couldn’t have anything before her surgery. 

Surgery. We were there for a routine hysterectomy, a procedure that’s performed in the United States over 600,000 times per year. In and out, and done. One overnight stay just for observation. Why the hell are they talking about nicked bladders and internal bleeding? 

Holy shit.

This was supposed to be no big deal. Routine.  Julia kept telling me.  “I’ll be  home in the morning.”  I remember thinking how pissed she would be if she found out I snuck out of the waiting room and walked down to Hawthorne's Pizza for some lunch.  I was starving and all the staff had my cell number and it was routine.  I remember the pre-op holding area and the nurses and Julia’s purple socks.

This is Annie. She’s 42 years old and was Julia’s babydoll.  Our daughter, LuLu, sent it with me to the hospital to keep Julia company.  I love the note she stuck to her. 

I remember calling Julia’s mother.  She’d kept the children the night before so that we could leave straight for the hospital that morning.  I remember putting my briefcase into the truck.  I remember it being cold in the parking lot.   I remember sending a few emails and texts, though I can’t recall to who or for what reason. I remember walking down Elizabeth Avenue.  

Now I’m back in the waiting room and it’s a strange place.  Earlier that day it had been packed with people but now it was nearly empty. The TV screen with the initials and statuses now blinked mostly empty. In fact of the dozens on the screen earlier that morning only one remained, JuP73 - In Recovery.

Recovery. Finally. I don’t really know how long this all took but we’d arrived early in the morning and it was now dark. 

After what seemed like an eternity I was called to her room where she was sleeping.  All things considered she didn’t look too bad.  Apparently her bladder had been sliced open during the first surgery and continued to bleed.  All was fixed.  All was fine.  The bleeding was stopped laparoscopically  with only two small incisions, now covered with band-aids.  As we talked it became clear that the side effects of anesthesia had not worn off  and I wasn’t convinced that Julia even knew I was in the room.  I got the final okay from the nurses and left her to rest knowing I would be back in the morning to take her home.

Driving home I felt a sense of relief. Although it was late I drove through town and past my office to see if anyone was around. When I ran into a good friend of mine we decided to have a beer together. As I told him the story of the day I began to feel incredibly exhausted. I headed home and by the time I switched out the light I’d been awake for over 20 hours. 

I didn’t need to be at the hospital until 11:00 but had set my alarm for 8:00 nonetheless. As I made a cup of coffee I realized I’d missed two phone calls during the night. The message from the first, around 1:00 AM, said that Julia had more internal bleeding and was being rushed back to the operating room for a third round of surgery. The next message, around 3:00, assured me that she was in recovery and would be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit.

I’m confused and I’m panicked and I started getting ready to run out the door but I’m not sure if this is real. I tried to run through the events from the previous day because surely these are calls from then. Surely I’m just groggy and soon I’ll be bringing Julia home. I just need to clear my head.

My phone rings. I kid y’all not I’m staring at my phone and it starts to ring. 

A nurse has Julia on the line.  “This is really scary. I’ve just woken up in the ICU. I’ve got a bunch of staples holding me together, I’m getting a blood transfusion and I’ve got a wound vac.”

“I’m on my way baby. It’s going to be all right.”

It wasn’t a pretty site to walk in her room- I found her lying on the bed with equipment all around her that blipped and murmured and buzzed.  Tubes ran from both her arms to these machines, one of which I recognized to be a blood transfusion device.  Tubes ran as well from both sides of her abdomen and bags of medicine and blood and everything else hung from racks and from the sides of the bed.  Her eyes were swollen nearly shut and she looked as though she might fade out any minute.  

“What’s up Buttercup?” I said.  She smiled with dry lips and said, “I’m fine.”  I looked at her bandages when the nurse took them off and saw the rows of staples that crossed, holding together the incisions where, during the third emergency surgery, her abdomen had been opened. 

We spent the following two days in the Intensive Care Unit and the four following that in a regular room.  Our friends and family rallied around us taking care of the details of our house and kids so that we didn’t have to worry about anything.  Six days after it all started Julia was home.  As I write this she’s in the bedroom resting.  It’s going to be a much longer recovery than we had planned and I can assure you,  Hell hath no fury like a restless woman confined to a recliner. But she’s alive.  I’ll take that.

Through all of this I didn’t have time to get the December issue of All Right, Sally to the printer.  In the end I decided not to send it out at all.  In fact, as I start the second year of this newsletter I’ve decided never to publish one in the month of December.  I will take December to remember what happened and to spend time with my kids, my family and with my wife.  To remember how much I love them.

 

Originally published in the All Right, Sally Newsletter in January 2018. 

On Becoming The Person You Want To Be

Originally posted on Facebook.  

The book that I’m reading this morning, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, recounts an experiment by Juan Pascual-Leone, a developmental neuropsychologist. He gathered people who had no prior experience playing piano and taught them each the same simple melody consisting of a short series of notes. He then split the participants into two groups who were instructed to practice over the next 5 days.

The first group practiced as you might imagine, seated at the piano playing the notes over and over. The second group, however, seated themselves at the piano and only imagined they were playing.

Using a sophisticated brain-mapping technique Pascual-Leone mapped the brain activity of each participant before, during, and after the lesson and practice sessions. What he found might surprise you - the people who had only envisioned playing the piano experienced the exact same changes in their brains as those who had physically practiced.

The experiment is one of many that suggests a quality of our brains known as neuro-plasticity That is, the ability of the brain to physically rewire itself by creating new neural loops based not only on physical activity but mental activity as well. The these neural loops are plastic in nature, meaning once they are formed they tend to hold their shape. It it in this fashion that we learn skills and create habits.

That our neural pathways can change based upon nothing more than imaginary piano practice is interesting but what practical implication does it have? Surely there are not many of us who want to imagine our way towards mastering Fur Elise. However it invites a question: to what degree can we mentally change those pathways to benefit us in a real and tangible way? Can we think ourselves into becoming the person we want to be?

One of my closest friends is constantly talking herself out of being the person she wants to be. Although she strikes many as brilliant, she complains that she’s “not all that smart.” If we discuss education she laments having not achieved a higher degree than she holds. Upon being paid a professional compliment she will often downplay the skill that has been complimented, insisting that others are much better at it. If we talk about big & audacious goals she’ll sometimes say that she could “never do that.” I often wonder how she might feel if she replaced these negative and self-deprecating thoughts with more positive & self-appreciative ones.

I’ve spent the last few days as many of you have, contemplating my goals for this year and considering my strategies to achieve them. As we go through this year perhaps we should all take more time to consider how the very way we think about our goals affects the probability of achieving them. Let’s all be aware of the way we think about ourselves and the way we talk to ourselves. After all we’re all going to form new neural pathways and loops in our brains this year. The choice is ours as to whether those pathways are positive & productive or negative & destructive.

Eggnog. Delicious, Glorious, Wonderful Eggnog

About this time of year I start getting ready to make eggnog.  Eggnog is the #1 greatest thing about the holiday season. I find that a lot of people like it but when I talk to them more about it they've never had homemade eggnog.  Let me tell you something:  If you've only ever had store-bought eggnog you are missing out. In fact I might even go so far as to say that you don't really even know what eggnog is.  As compared to the homemade version the store-bough stuff is, well, pretty much sugary slime (though, admittedly, I'd rather have it than nothing at all).

Used to be folks were scared of my eggnog.  Raw eggs?  No thanks. But over the years it's become more popular.  Now, rather than having any left, people are usually scraping the bowl to get the last of it.  Starting a couple of years ago people began asking for my recipe.  Mine comes from a recipe I found on the internet that I've modified over the years to reflect my particular tastes and opinions on ingredients.  

Eggnog recipes are pretty much all the same.  It's eggs/sugar/cream/milk/booze in various combinations.  The only real differences are whether or not to use the egg whites, exactly how much booze, and whether to garnish with the traditional nutmeg or the contemporary cinnamon or coco. I've never typed up my version until now - it was just scratched out on the paper I printed it on years ago.   This year more people than ever have asked how I make it so I've typed it up.  The recipe is below - have at it - and let me know how it turns outs.  Even better would be to bring me some!

Also - I've read over the years about aging eggnog.  This year I'm going to try it - I'm going to bottle up some and keep it until next year.  So check back next year and I'll let you know how that turns out. 

Here's my recipe. If you want a PDF you can find it here.

The RWP Eggnog

This makes right at 2 1/2 gallons if you add just a nip more of each liquor, which is what I like to do.  This is about fifty 6 oz servings. Don’t worry, you’ll drink it.  And it saves well if you don’t.  But if you don’t drink it, shame on you - invite more people to your party next year.  

Warning: this stuff is good, but’s it powerful strong. Please drink responsibly.  This is the kind of thing that will sneak up on you so make sure you have a driver if you need to get anywhere.

Ingredients

Eggs: Two Dozen - pasture raised.  DO NOT GET CHEAP EGGS!
Sugar: 3 cups, divided.
Horizon brand Whole Milk: 9 cups
Horizon brand Heavy Cream: 6 cups, divided
Nutmeg: to taste.
Bacardi White Rum: 3 Cups
Appleton Estate VX Dark Rum: 3 cups
Wild Turkey 101: 4 cups
Carriage House Apple Brandy : 2 cups 

A note on ingredients:  Get good stuff.  Now is not the time to buy cheap factory farmed eggs or store brand mass-produced milk.  Nor should you skimp on the liquor - Aristocrat Spirits have no place in eggnog.  I’m serious about this.

The Process

Remember we’re making 300 ounces here which is just shy of 2 1/2 gallons.  You’ll need a big container to mix it up - I use a large stock pot and I like to save a few milk jugs to put it in after I mix it.  

Note: be gentle. When you are serving it fresh-made a big part of the flavor comes from the texture which is light and airy.  If you’re harsh in mixing it up it will still be really good but you’ll miss that light and airy part.

1. Separate the eggs.  DO NOT get any yolk in the whites. If you have never separated eggs, Google it.  

2. Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 of the sugar.  Put that bowl aside.

3. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.  Add the other half of the sugar and beat that in.

4. Mix the egg yolks and the egg whites together with a spatula.

5. Add the milk and whisk - GENTLY.

6. Add the liquors one at a time whisking - gently - in between.

7. Add half the cream and whisk gently.

8. Whip the other half of the cream and fold it into the mixture with a spatula. If you have never folded, Google it. 

Serving It

When you first mix it up in your large container you’ll have a fairly homogeneous mixture.  It separates quickly - which is fine - but if you’re putting it into smaller containers do it pretty quick after you mix it and whisk it in between pours.  Serve it in a punch bowl only slightly chilled.  If you make it early and store it in the fridge then remember to take it out a little while before you serve.

It will also separate in the punch bowl as it sits. The cream will rise to the top so you’ll want to stir it every 15 minutes or so. This is about how often I fill my cup so it works out well.  Ladle it into a cup pulling up from the bottom and through the frothy stuff on the top. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on the top and enjoy!

F.A.Q

Is it good?
Yes

Is it strong?
Yes

Will I get sick?
No.  

Seriously, willI get sick from the raw eggs?
I’ve been making this stuff 15 years or so and I’ve never had anyone get sick so I doubt it.  But I make no promises.  

Can I used pasteurized eggs?
I wouldn’t, but if you do make sure to read up on beating pasteurized eggs - they don’t work so well and you have to use Cream of Tarter.  

How long does it last?
I don’t know.  I’ve held on to it for as much as a month.  I’ve read about folks making it in the summertime and aging it until Christmas.  It changes in flavor and consistency as it ages.  

2017 Healthquest Amazing Charity Challenge

In the early hours before sunrise on a Saturday morning in September four people met in the dark parking lot at the R.W. Price Realty Associates World Headquarters. Dressed head-to-toe in black metallic armor we loaded into our vehicle and headed towards Wingate. The ride was silent with each of us focused with laser-like precision on our mission. Our objective was nothing less than total annihilation of our enemy.

OK, so it wasn’t exactly like that. Our team of four consisted of Stacy (ya’ll remember her, the bitchy bimbo from September’s newsletter), Heather (our office manager), and Hannah (Stacy’s kinda-sorta daughter). Our battle armor was really running shoes & gym shorts, and our objective was winning the 2017 HealthQuest Amazing Charity Challenge.  Loaded on a school bus with the other teams we didn’t know exactly what to expect but soon found ourselves building bridges, playing long-distance corn hole, and wading in murky, chest-deep pond water in pursuit of the prize: bragging rights and a $2,000 donation to the charity of our choice. We’ve sponsored the event in the past but this is the first year we’ve participated. 

Spoiler alert: We didn’t win.

In fact we didn’t even come close to winning. On the bus, headed back to the Union County Ag Center for a post-competition meal and awards ceremony, we felt pretty good about our performance. We’d done very well at several of the events including obstacle course, bike races, and paintball target shooting.  Others, like the tennis ball slingshot and blind horseshoes, presented more of a challenge. But overall we felt like we had a real shot at winning. I was especially proud of our time in the floating picnic table race where Stacy pretty much dumped me in the water and insisted that I pull her around the pond while she sat on the picnic table and parade-waved to the crowd. About halfway through the day Heather and Stacy had me convinced that we were going to win. As Hannah swallowed a bug in the food challenge, the last of 21 events, I was nearly certain  that we’d at least place in the top three.  

The awards ceremony began with an announcement of the total funds that had been raised, just over $70,000. But there’s more. Thanks to HealthQuests’ incredibly efficient operation, for each dollar they raise they are able to provide $18 in prescription medications to folks who would be otherwise unable to afford them. So the $70,000 is compounded to a total of $1,260,000 in prescriptions provided. Given the rising costs of prescription medications I think this is pretty amazing.

Then the winners were announced.  First place went to. . .not us. Second place went to. . .not us. Third place went to. . .also not us.  You get the picture. 

We’ll be back next year.  And my prediction is first place.