Saturday, March 16, 2013

PREA / David Brooks Speaks / A Formula for Living Longer / Byron Wien: Life Lessons

PREA Spring Conference

The institutional real estate industry descended on Washington, DC this week for the annual PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) spring conference. If you’re looking for a quick immersion into the pension real estate world, consider attending the next PREA meeting in the fall.
Judging by conversations in the hallways, the commercial real estate industry is HOT. “It feels like time to sell,” suggested the CEO of a nimble private equity real estate firm.  Overall, the energy level inside was reflective of the industry climate outside. Recruiters told me they are busy, as hiring is on an upswing.  Investment managers suggested that those who have remained true to their strategy and delivered consistent solid returns are being rewarded with capital - both from existing investors and those hoping to get in on a good thing. One apartment company executive told me they have 27 new projects in various stages of the development process!  “It’s too pricey to buy properties today.” 

In some ways being in the presence of this energy is stimulating.  But the exuberance feels a little too familiar and possibly suggests we take a deep breath and pinch ourselves to see if this may not be the beginning of another estate bubble.

David Brooks Speaks
New York Times Columnist David Brooks treated PREA attendees to a thought-provoking talk. His beat is Washington, DC so he included enough anecdotes to keep those political junkies in the audience satisfied.  But, of most interest to me, as you might imagine, were his comments about society and the human condition.

He talked about how American society has evolved.  “One of the biggest transformational changes in American society relates to the decline of generational consciousness.”  Brooks added, American society is becoming more self-focused.  We have lost the sense of modesty and humility.”  Perhaps he was referring to the “Me” generation (aka Baby Boomers born between 1946-1964).  “One feature of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before.” (Source: Wikipedia). And, as a Boomer it got me thinking:  was or is that me?

On another topic, he referred to the Mount Holyoke College Freshman Handbook of 1945, which suggested to their all-female student body, “Go where nobody else wants to go and do what nobody else wants to do?”  David then added the question, “What had life assigned to you?”  No, this was not a sermon, or maybe it was.
One last quote from the social scientist David Brooks relating to his concept of generational differences. “Do we trust ourselves and distrust those outside or the reverse?  In the 1940’s people distrusted their desires, today it’s more the reverse.”  If you have never seen him speak in person please try to.  No matter what side of the aisle you gravitate towards I am fairly certain you will enjoy him. 

A Formula for Living Longer

Given that many of us are working on healthy eating, I felt you’d enjoy a portion (no pun intended!) of Chef /Author Rozanne Gold’s February 27, 2013 Huffington Post blog:

“The Mediterranean plan is not so much about weight loss as it is a formula for living longer. It is also so much easier and enjoyable to maintain than many other diet plans, which eliminate large swaths of fresh food groups. It is ‘inclusive’ rather than extreme and faddish. This cuisine naturally exists in areas whose coastlines hug the Mediterranean, including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, parts of Italy and France, and many Middle Eastern countries. And it would behoove us all to take a look at Nancy Harmon Jenkins seminal book called The Mediterranean Diet, written almost 20 years ago. It is as valid as ever and the most sensual way I know to take charge of your health every single day.”
This piece is a good healthy reminder as I’ve been paying more attention to my own food intake. I even made plans to eat at a great Mediterranean / Greek restaurant this weekend!

Byron Wien:  Life Lessons

In February, The Blackstone Group’s Byron Wien published a supplement to his monthly commentary in which he reflects on his first 80 years.  Thanks to those of you who brought this to my attention - it was ‘right up my alley!’  Please allow me to share some points that Byron makes:

·      “Network intensely.  Luck plays a big role in life and there is no better way to increase your luck than by knowing as many people as possible.
·      When you meet someone new, treat that person as a friend.
·      Read all the time.
·      Get enough sleep.
·      Evolve.  Try to think of your life in phases so you can avoid a burn out.
·      Travel extensively. 
·      Take the time to give those who work for you a pat on the back when they do good work.
·      When someone extends a kindness to you take the time to write a hand-written note, not an email.
·      Never retire. If you work forever you can live forever.”

While I’ve embraced many of Byron’s hints, I will add one lesson from my own life that continues to pay dividends:  there is so much to learn from someone who has been around the block a few times. 

Restaurant of the week
Macy’s Department Store, Sixth Floor
Herald Square, New York.

Stella offers a delightfully authentic Neapolitan menu and skilled, welcoming service.  A friend and I had lunch there on Monday, just two days after the grand opening.  The food more than satisfied our cravings and the view of the Empire State Building, and très cool interior, provided visual delight.

Trivia:  In Latin and Italian, Stella means ‘star.’  Since 1858, when R.H. Macy opened his first store in New York, their logo has been a star.  The star comes from a tattoo that Mr. Macy got as a teenager when he worked on a Nantucket whaling ship.

On The Road…

Mar. 17 -19:  NAREIM (National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers) Spring Executive Officers Meeting, Santa Monica, CA

April 1 – 2:  Client meetings, Chicago, IL

Apr. 9 -10:  PERE (Private Equity Real Estate Magazine) Global Investor Forum, Los Angeles, CA

May 29 – 30:  IMN (Information Management Network) U.S. Real Estate Opportunity Fund and Private Fund Investing Forum, New York, NY

June 4 – 5:  PERE Summit (Private Equity Real Estate Magazine), London, UK


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