Saturday, September 17, 2016

Edward Albee / My commitment to you / Behavioral Presentation Coaching & Women's Leadership Workshops

Edward Albee, playwright (1928-2016)
I woke up early this Saturday morning and as part of my daily routine, looked at the headlines of the New York Times digital edition.  I don’t generally read too many news articles, especially about politics – you can get enough of a sense what's going on simply from the headlines. I have always liked reading obituaries – feeling there is a wonderful art in writing them – and I learn about people’s lives – those that I’ve heard of and those that I’m reading about for the first time.

This morning, a front-page story announced the death of playwright Edward Albee.  Here is an excerpt from the obituary and also some notes I took while watching a never-before-seen The Last Word video interview produced by Eric Olsen, Patrick Flynn and Ben Brantley:

Edward Albee, widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, whose psychologically astute and piercing dramas explored the contentiousness of intimacy, the gap between self-delusion and truth and the roiling desperation beneath the facade of contemporary life, died Friday at his home in Montauk, N.Y. He was 88.

From a never before seen The Last Word video interview by The New York Times:

“I like to hold a mirror up to people and say, hey, this is the way you behave, this is who you are.  If you don’t like what you see, maybe you should change.”

“I don’t like movie music much.  I don’t like being told how I’m supposed to react to things.”

Q. What do you want to be remembered as?
A. “A useful playwright.  I think that are being merely decorative is insufficient. It’s to hold a mirror up to ourselves and to point out when we’re being useful and when we’re not, when we’re moving forward and when we’re not.  I can think of nothing worse than getting to the end of your life and figuring out that you haven’t participated in it; that you haven’t really lived it. And I think people should live dangerously.  I think they should live at the precipice, all the time, and fully.  Somebody said, I think it was in one of my plays, ‘When is the happiest time?  Now. Always, yeah, now…Always.”

Some of you may remember that the motivation when I recorded my first album of original music in 2006 was the death of a long-time friend, Dave Florendo (lead singer in Arcade Love Machine). I thought about recording my own stuff for many years and finally said to myself, “What am I waiting for?” 

I got serious about publishing Driving With Your Knees, the business memoir I am currently working on while at the funeral of industry friend Erwin Stouthamer in Amsterdam this past spring.  Again, “What am I waiting for?” Today, while writing the book, I’ve also just recently started recording the tunes for my next album, as yet unnamed.  I was going to wait until after the book was completed but a few weeks ago again thought, “Why wait?”

A thought: If you have a project of any sort in mind and keep saying, “I just don’t have time”, make the time.  Get up an hour earlier. Start with just one day a week. Stay up an hour later if that time of day is best / easiest for you.  But do it – don’t wait.

None of us knows what tomorrow (or even later today) will bring and wouldn’t it be a shame if our legacy was, “She/he was going to do this that or the other thing but, sadly ran out of time.”

My commitment to you
Since starting my own consultancy in January 2012 I have attended fewer conferences for various reasons.

Over the next 5 months I will be attending (or at least being in the same city at the same time) events sponsored by INREV*, NAREIM*, PREA*, PERE* and IMN* (I'll also be attending, for the first time, the International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN) in a couple of weeks. As I've always felt is my obligation, I will do my best to give you some of my observations and comments from these events.  If you attend an event, and afterwards have a few minutes, it’d be great if you could send me a one or more  of your takeaways / unattributable quotes so I can share them with the readers of this column – it’ll be a win/win for us all.

INREV: European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles
NAREIM: National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers
PREA: Pension Real Estate Association
PERE: Private Equity Real Estate
IMN: Information Management Network
Shameless Self-Promotion: Felix / Weiner Workshops
Here's the link to the workshops that my partner Liz Weiner and I are conducting this fall.  It lists our Women's Leadership Workshops - our first 16 of these sessions have attracted women from more than 70 commercial / institutional real estate industry related firms.

Also listed, are our just launched (Chicago this past Wednesday) Open-Enrollment Behavioral Presentation Coaching Workshop.  Modeled after the workshops we have conducted in-house for such firms as Hines, Clarion, PGIM, Guggenhiem, Forum Partners, American Realty Advisors, MesaWest, Pearlmark, RCA (Real Capital Analytics), Square Mile, USAA, Waterton this workshop has people from different firms attending.  Our pilot program this past Wednesday was a huge success (based on the feedback from participants).  

See if there's a workshop and city that makes sense to you (or maybe you have friends in these cities that would be interested):
A piece from 2006
Here is a piece I published during the summer/fall of 2006 and found it recently.  I received 35 emails from readers, commenting on this piece, telling me it resonated with them.  This week I read it and while I’m in a different place in my life, both physically (North Carolina) and personally, I thought I’d share it with you once again.

Warning: This has nothing to do with real estate. Or maybe it does.
Earlier this week I got to spend a lot of time by myself when I drove from California to Chicago to deliver a car that we had sold to my son and daughter-in-law. Covering 1,700 miles in two days gave me a chance to think about things such as the meaning of success, the really important things in life and other lifestyle issues that I had ignored while pursuing whatever business goals I had set for myself. And I just wanted to share a few of those thoughts with you.

What is success? To many people it means achieving measurable financial goals or accumulating things. I had had that idea as well. Each year I thought that if I made more money than the last year, I’d consider myself more successful. As I sit here this week and type this to you, I think I have been very, very wrong. You see, success has a price to it. You may not realize it when you start out on that path but there is a price to be paid. The question is: Is it worth it?

What are the really important things in life anyway? If you’re lucky enough to have your health (knock on wood), you’re ahead of the game. After that it’s a question of deciding what is important and where you’re going to put your energy.

For the past eight years, I’ve worked hard at building my employers’ business and, as a result, my own business within that company. Consequently, I’ve made a little more money each year. This has allowed us to be less worried than we were when moved with virtually nothing to California from N.J., pay the bills and have a little left over each week to eat out and drink some good wine.

But the success I’ve had in my business career has required me to travel a lot. Three years ago when I started doing the due diligence to determine whether the company could make a go of it in Europe, my travel intensified. Have I traveled more than I need to? Those of you who have been reading this column for a while know my travel schedule. So, yes. There’s a price to be paid for all the time away from home, for all the time focusing on my job, my clients, my colleagues. But when you are making progress, it tends to feed on itself, and it’s very hard to pull back and slow down. 

Some of the things that I realized on my drive this week were that the material gain is not really that important if other parts of your life are suffering. Even if you think that you’re paying enough attention to those at home, chances are you’re not. And when you are only home long enough to do your laundry, mow the grass and walk the dogs, it doesn’t get better; it gets worse.

I pass these thoughts on to you, as I know that many of you are “road warriors” just like me, and maybe you have had thoughts of your own about achieving the balance between work and personal lives and how to make sure that one does not suffer at the expense of the other. If I can pass along any advice it’s this: Make sure you pay attention, close attention, to your life (not your job) for as important as your job is to you, your life is even more.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back To School / Back To Business

When I was growing up in Forest Hills (Queens), New York I recall looking forward to going back to school.  It was always the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day.  Starting in about the 3rd grade (maybe 4th) we started bringing loose-leaf notebooks with us to class.  I believe my mother took me to buy school supplies before school actually started, knowing that different teachers would ask us add certain things – which mean another trip (happily) to The Center, the store we bought our school supplies at on the corner of 108th Street and 64th Drive.

In those days we didn’t carry backpacks.  We had these rubber strap type things that fastened over our books.  It was the loose-leaf book at the bottom and then several textbooks on top of that carried under our arms.  Pretty simple eh?

Other than my first day at first grade, going back to school was a pleasant thing for me.  What happened in you may ask?  My mother escorted me to school and when we got there, waiting in the schoolyard with all the other students for the bell (or whistle) that would signal time to go into the building, I noticed that I was the only boy wearing short pants.  I may have cried but I certainly tugged at my mother and made her take me home to change into long pants. 

P.S. 175 (Annandale Park School) was just two blocks from our apartment.  Pretty early on, I was allowed to walk to school myself.  I didn’t know until many years later that my mother stood in the window of our apartment with binoculars to make sure I had crossed 64th Avenue and then, the more dangerous Yellowstone Boulevard safely.

Actually, I was grazed by a large black car one day when irresponsibly crossing 64th Avenue but no real injury.  I’m sure, had the roles been reversed I would have watched my child walk across the street, across the Safeway parking lot, across 64th Road, across Yellowstone Blvd. (where I believe there may have been a crossing guard) on to the block where the school was located – it was a full city block and included the school itself, the ball field (asphalt) and basketball courts and a playground that included the staples: a sandbox, jungle gym and fountain that sprayed water during the summer.  Btw, these amenities still exist in NYC playgrounds albeit, thanks to the generosity of donors, some have more elaborate equipment

I’ve considered the time after Labor Day in the U.S. as ‘Back to School’ for the real estate industry as well.  Even though things have changed over the years from sort of nothing going on to ‘business sort of as usual’ over the summer, this coming weekend is one of those that at least mentally has change connected to it.

The fashionistas say that after Labor Day you’re no longer allowed to wear white clothes, for example (Hey, what about those nice white jeans I bought over the summer and have only wore once?).  Especially, if the weather starts getting a little cooler than the hot and humid August days (or, as my brother Jay in Tucson experiences the hot-hot-hot dry days), then it seems like fall is in the air.  I haven’t consulted The Farmers Almanac so don’t know what to expect but at some point this fall, it’ll be come fall for real.

Over the past two summers, we have worked hard to get new presentation coaching business on our calendars for the fall and early winter.  While many firms are interested in bringing us in, due to the fact that in many/most of these firms some participants in those workshops will be coming into a central location, coordination is sometimes a challenge.

This summer, we approached it differently: take some time off to recharge and not stress about things.  Why?  It doesn’t help to keep pushing for things to happen when they aren’t.  Sometimes pushing to get a decision simply doesn’t work.  If someone is interested in what you’re doing, have patience and let him or her come back to you – often they will.

Of course, with folks in our industry having so much on their plates at one time and some firms hiring fewer people and expecting more of those that work there already, there is a lot of stress and people, rightly so, are focused on their most important thing each day.

The ‘don’t push’ philosophy can work well not just for service providers like us.  It can also hold true in many facets of the commercial real estate industry.  Witness over the years, how many firms won deals by bidding high (sometimes crazy high in the opinion of myself and others) and then not being able to close and the runner-up, the tortoise if you will, wins the prize – the coveted deal.

In the Type-A world of global capital raising and commercial real estate it may be difficult to consider trying a change of approach to your job.  If you look back in history, it’s not always the most aggressive firm that has done best for its investors / clients. 

When institutional investors (pension funds, endowments, foundations, sovereign wealth funds, family office and rich people) look under the hood of your investment management firm, seeking to check those 5 most important boxes, do they see a firm that has a track record of being smart or being fast and pushy?  What type of firm do you want to work for?  What type of firm do you want to invest with?  What are the three most important characteristics you are seeking in an investment management firm or service provider?

Yes, I know this may be radical thinking and not everyone is introspective and open to thinking differently but in this vein you may want to read a new book called, “Think Simple – How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity.”  The author is Ken Segall, New York Times bestselling author of Insanely Simple.  Ken worked directly with Steve Jobs at Apple as his ad agency creative director for 12 years.  He led the team behind Apple’s legendary Think different campaign (remember those huge posters of ‘thinkers’ like Einstein unveiled overnight on pubic buildings in the U.S. and Europe?). 

Kenny has been a friend since high school and was the drummer in the first rock and roll band I ever played in ‘The Better Half’ in Livingston, NJ.  Think Simple has great examples of how simplicity benefited a number of companies of different sizes and in different industries.  While it’s ‘deep’ it’s an easy read.  After all, wouldn’t you like to find a way to simplify your life?

Those of you in the U.S., enjoy this long weekend and use some of your time to how your approach to developing new business works best or what you may want to consider modifying.  My partner Liz and I are doing just that and are excited about getting back on the road to conduct Behavioral Presentation Coaching workshops, Women’s Leadership Workshops and our new open-enrollment Presentation Coaching workshop.

Look forward to seeing you somewhere on the circuit this fall!

Bumper sticker I saw this week:
“Women Who Behave Rarely Make History.”

Photo: One of the amazing LEGO sculptures on display at the North Carolina Arboretum (a 5-minute drive from my apartment).  This one, Kneeling Gardener, uses 43,340 LEGO pieces and is the work of artist Sean Kenney.  If you are in the neighborhood definitely stop by and check it out!

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Sassy Goose / CRE Tech Intersect / Brevard Music Center / Toots Thielemans (1922 – 2016) / Felix / Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshops

The Sassy Goose
Recently I met the owner of The Sassy Goose, a beautiful piece of real estate in North Carolina.  Then went to visit on a scouting trip for the location of our next family reunion.  When I was there, I realized it could also be the location of a special executive coaching retreat that my partner Liz Weiner and I have been talking about.  

From their website:

The Sassy Goose is located on 57 acres central to some of the best hiking and biking in all of Western North Carolina — DuPont State Forest, Caesar’s Head State Park and Pisgah Forest. The views here at 3,000 feet above sea level are spectacular.

The beauty and privacy of the property is enhanced by a lovely six-acre lake that is great for swimming and fishing. Three canoes, a pontoon boat, and a separate, well stocked, catch and release trout pond are located on the property and available to guests at no additional charge.

Whether you're a couple looking for a fantastic weekend getaway in the mountains or a group of family and friends looking for a place to hold a great reunion, you can find both at the Sassy Goose.

Check The Sassy Goose out here.
CRE Tech Intersect
CRE Tech Intersect is a grassroots organization founded by Pierce Neiken.  Their events are a fabulous way to get an immersion into what is happening in the world of commercial real estate technology.

I was able to attend one of these events in NYC (they’re now conducting them in San Francisco, Austin and London).  Walking from table to table, simply asking people to tell me what their company was doing was fascinating. 

It took me back to the first commercial real estate technology event held in NYC in about 1997 and hosted by Peter Pike, one of the very early bloggers in commercial real estate.  For CREOL, the startup I was with, it was our first exposure after coming out of the garage.  There were only 6 exhibitors!

At CRE Tech Intersect there will probably be 35 exhibitors – some established CRE Tech and data firms, like RCA, who are sponsors of the event, but more early stage firms and true start-ups with new ideas on how technology can make our industry more efficient.  Here’s the information and a link to register. 

Brevard Music Center
This summer, I’ve been able to spend four weeks in my new ‘home’ of Western North Carolina.  It’s given me the opportunity to discover the mountains, the forests, waterfalls and cultural centers – all within a 30-minute drive! 

The Brevard Music Center has a summer program for college and high school students.  During the final weekend of the ‘semester’ I was privileged to see a classical music concert.  The venue is very cool – has a roof but no sidewalls.  A small number of people sit on the lawn and picnic.  The real, unexpected treat was when I went down early for the show.  I parked and heard some music coming from the venue.  Walking in I saw a full orchestra and what appeared to be a 200-voice choir playing a piece. They were rehearsing, I learned, for the final show of the season the next day.  As with rehearsals, there were stops along the way where the conductor coached the orchestra.  I love classical music but don’t know or remember the names of pieces.  This piece sounded incredible.  I shot an 8 second video clip and texted it to my son Brian, assistant professor of music at the University of North Carolina – Asheville.  He wrote back, “Dad, they’re playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – one of the greatest pieces ever written!  Shortly after getting the text, the orchestra started up again and this time played the entire piece from start to finish.  I’m getting chills writing this to you now.  It was absolutely incredible.  The show I had bought a ticket for that night was very good but this rehearsal session, during which there were only about 30 people in the audience – probably parents of the students and some faculty – was the highlight.

Then, last Friday night I went back to the same venue and caught a show by Gillian Welch.  She is one of my son Kevin’s favorites. I had not seen her before but Gillian and her husband, who perform as a duo, were great.  They play what is probably referred to as bluegrass but it was more diverse than that.

The final cultural experience, an unexpected one was when I was walking aimlessly and came upon Flat Rock Playhouse.  I had heard of it before and saw that cars in front of me were pulling into the parking lot.  I followed and asked a very nice parking attendant, “Is there a show this afternoon?”  Yes, he said.  “Do you think there are tickets left? Yes, he said.  “By the way, what show is it? “  9 – 5 he said. It was the play based on the movie for which Dolly Parton wrote all the music.  I was able to secure a very good seat.  The show was great. The acting, staging and singing was Broadway quality. I later learned that many of the actors at this theatre are members of the Actors’ Equity Association – the primary trade group for actors in America. 

My explorations and getting lost (one of my very favorite things to do) is opening my eyes to some great stuff.  It’s no wonder Western North Carolina has become a magnet. It’s very cool and I’m starting to meet some very nice people!

Toots Thielemans (1922 – 2016)
From the New York Times obituary.

Toots Thielemans was one of the only musicians to have a successful career as a jazz harmonica player, died on Monday in Brussels. He was 94.

That Mr. Thielemans played jazz on the harmonica was unusual enough. Even more unusual was how he first gained international attention: by playing guitar and whistling in unison.

It can be heard on the soundtracks of movies including “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Getaway.” It was featured in television commercials and on records by, among many others, Ms. Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, who once called Mr. Thielemans “one of the greatest musicians of our time.” For more than four decades, it has been heard in the opening theme music of “Sesame Street.”

Here’s my Toots Thielemans story. In college, I managed the varsity basketball team.  We were on a flight back to New York from a game in Virginia and I randomly met Peter Duchin.  Peter is the son of Eddie Duchin, a famous bandleader and Peter is a celebrity bandleader and recording artist himself.  He liked me and invited me to visit him in his Madison Avenue office the following week.  Peter was looking for someone to work with, as an intern, to help him and learn about the music business.  I jumped at the opportunity and started hanging around his office and helping out as asked.  One day he invited me to attend his recording session.  I went into the studio – it was my first time in a professional recording studio - and found a seat in the corner.  As the session evolved, gentlemen joined the group and one pulled out a harmonica.  Then, over multiple takes, the group performed the song.  I can’t remember the names of the other musicians but trust me; they were heavy hitting New York City session men.  The gentleman with the harmonica was Toots Thielemans – whom I had never heard of.  He was amazing. I had never heard anything like that come out of a harmonica.  This was truly one of those very special musical moments in my life.

Felix / Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshops

As we continue to do our part to improve gender diversity in the industry, Liz and I are pleased to announce the upcoming schedule for our Women’s Leadership Workshops – exclusively for women in the commercial / institutional real estate community.  Developing and enhancing the professional presence of women is the foundation of our 4-hour interactive professional development program.

Women from over 70 firms have already attended our programs across the country! Here’s what a few participants have said:

·       “… left with great takeaways, as well as motivation to implement them.”
·       “Great program – I would recommend to all the women in my network”
·       “Very eye-opening and fun at the same time.”
·       “Brought to the surface all the issues I felt were stopping me from moving ahead and learning I wasn’t alone”
·        “I learned a lot about myself. I am able to identify things I do that I want to change for the better.”
·       “Very empowering, stimulating”
·       “Appreciated the casual, collaborative atmosphere”
·       “Fascinating and eye-opening discussions!”
·       “Interactive sessions were great and also learning that I am not the only one struggling with social / gender bias”
·       “The concrete tips and advice were most valuable as well as perspective on things like personal brand, first impressions, etc.”

*Please reach out if you would like to sponsor a program in your city or if your firm would be interested in discussing an internal women’s leadership workshop.

Here’s the link where you can learn more and register.

Triple Falls at Dupont Forest, NC

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