Seriously… Why Should You Even Listen to Me About Real Estate?

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I am a musician.  I spent the early years of my life and into adulthood trying to perfect the un-perfectible craft.  I made it as far as college before fortune liberated me from having to chase the impossible when the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis made it impractical to continue to pursue a career in performance arts – saved by the bell, so to speak.

And yet, the notion of chasing that which can not be caught, as well as the attitude of an unhealthy commitment to excellence survived within me in my post-musician years.  Luckily, as difficult as Real Estate is, it is truly nothing in comparison to the art and science of violin. Real Estate I can actually wrap my brain around, and it follows that I tend to be happier and more content now days…

I have to confess – I am writing this article more for my benefit than yours, though I trust you will find some amount of value in it for yourself.  People often ask me how I find time to write as much as I do, and why I bother – Leo Kingston, whom you might have heard of and if you haven’t you should, asked me this very question last Friday.  The truth is that as much as anything, writing is healing; putting my thoughts and experiences on paper for the benefit of readers is healing for me, and here’s why:

As any thinking individual, I ponder the question of self-worth.  At a certain point in one’s life, defining the extent to which one’s being here impacts others in a positive way becomes a potent perspective.  Sharing of ideas and passing on the skills is an essential element defining Ben Leybovich – the human being.  This is why I love to talk about real estate, and this is why I write…it’s good for my soul!

But – Why Should Anyone Listen?

Which is essentially the same as asking – What does it take to be perceived as someone to be listened to?

Well, this is an interesting turn of events, isn’t it?

One minute I tell you that I write mostly for my own benefit, which would seem to imply that I really don’t care much if you or anyone wants to listen.  And the next minute I show concern for the notion of having an audience and regard for what you think of me.

Being that I spent many years on stage as a performer, and still do from time to time, I am very aware of several realities which are equally applicable to playing the violin as they are to financial blogging, and they are this:

  1. If you have nothing to say, then get the hell off the stage.  And,
  2. If you do not absolutely relish the attention; if you do not just love being the “hot s*$t”, then why are you there…?

Yes indeed – I enjoy the spotlight.  Joshua Dorkin, a man who sees through the bull quicker than anyone I’ve ever met (aside for my wife), never misses an opportunity to remind me that I am a blogging prima donna – so help me God if I am lying, I’ve actually heard him speak these exact words…

Sure I am – you bet.  I love the stage.  I love the nervous energy right before I play the first note (either figuratively-speaking or in reality), and I love the process that goes into converting nervous lemons into heavenly lemonade.  Yes – I love the exchange, I crave the attention, I “live” in the spotlight…(felt good to get that off my chest).

But, and this is kind of a big caveat, the audience are never stupid.  The audience want honest and intellectually compelling substance, and thusly I circle back to the core concern:

What does it take in order for you to want to listen to me?

The Accepted Norm

There are two obvious conditions that come to mind relative an audience’s expectations:

  • Presenter      must know what he/she is talking about,
  • Presenter      must be able to express himself in an intelligent and easy to follow fashion.

Sure enough, the above are two of the pre-conditions to being afforded the privilege of public expression of thought.  But, I’d like to share one other, which while less talked about is also profoundly true…

The Strad

The Strad Magazine is the go-to definitive publication in the world of classical music; specifically stringed instruments.  Though I no longer subscribe, I still have a collection from back in the day and I like to skim through the pages from time to time – takes me back…

One of the articles in the December 1997 issue was an interview with a man named Charles Beare.  In 1997 Beare was 60 years-old, and by then had established himself as the world’s per-eminent authenticator of fine stringed instruments.  Let me paint a picture for you:

Let’s say you go to a garage sale and for $30 pick up what looks like an old violin.  You’ve heard stories that this things could be worth a fortune, so you take the violin to a local dealer.  He tells you that it is indeed an instrument of considerable pedigree.  But, there is no label inside and while obviously it possesses some value, he just can not definitively say exactly who made it and what it’s worth – it’s above his pay-grade, so to speak.  This is a job for Beare in London.

Well, should Charles Beare see the violin and issue a certificate of authenticity (which is essentially nothing more than his opinion) stating that the violin in question is a Guarneri Del Gesu, then any insurance company in the land, any trader, any collector, and dealer, and any buyer will take his world, in which case you, my friend, will be an instant millionaire, many times over!

Now – how does a man arrive at a place in life whereby the world at large equates his opinion with fact, which is exactly the case?  How does one become so knowledgeable and revered?

His Answer:

In so many words Beare was asked this exact question by the interviewer Anne Inglis, and this is an excerpt of his answer:

“…When I asked my father how long it would be before I really knew anything, he answered 10 years.  For a 20-year-old this was quite depressing.  Now, if somebody asked me how long it would be before anybody knows if you know anything, I would say 20 years because you need to be of a certain age before people will believe you…”

I trust you find this as profound as I do.  Perception is key. It is not what I know, but what you believe that I know which will keep me in the arena of blogging…

Question: 

I turned 39 on March 2nd.  I don’t like birthdays.  I don’t like to make a “deal” out of birthdays – no parties here please. You see, no matter how I try to dress it up, it’s still about getting older. Yep – I have the grey up-top.  I no longer look the part of a baby, like my dear friend Brandon Turner.  Stuff aches that I didn’t know existed – aches are how I know I’m living…

About the only conciliation is that I’ve managed to learn some stuff, and that you just might take me seriously enough to learn from me.  This will keep me on stage, and I love it!

So, tell me – am I old enough at 39 to know anything?  Do I look the part of someone who can be listened to and trusted?

P.S.   I wrote near the opening that this article was to be mostly for my benefit, and it was.  However, if you’ve ever wondered why I can come up with $100,000 for my next deal with one phone call and you can not, I just gave you the answer…dwell on it!

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About Author

Ben Leybovich has been investing in multifamily residential real estate since 2006. His area of expertise is creative finance. Ben works extensively with private as well as institutional financing. Ben is a licensed Realtor with YOCUM Realty in Lima, Ohio. He is also the author of Cash Flow Freedom University and creator of a cash flow analysis software CFFU Cash Flow Analyzer.

22 Comments

  1. Although it has been said it’s not a question of age, since e.g. Mozart was a child prodigy, others pointed out that Mozart’s earlier works were not really noteworthy and the his classical legacy began when he was around twenty. That said, he was “in business” then about fifteen years. That seems a good yardstick. Recent research continuously points at 10,000 hourse that one needs to master anything, be it an instrument or programming (like Bill Gates who began early in junior high because his school was given access to computers that other schools “back then” could not have provided). Now 10,000 hours, that would be five years, working 2,000 hrs a year, wouldn’t it? Well, yes, but you can’t learn all year, or else you’d starve. Unless you live on independent means right away, you have to train on a job, where up to 80% could be menial tasks. So, yes, at about 39 you should now have reached the status of an authority surely if you kept learning, as your publications attest to.

  2. Experience, Results and Attitude are the things I look at when taking advice from others, certainly not age. You have all three in spades when it comes to REI. But then, I also have to couple it with my experiences as well, which means every once in a while, we won’t see eye to eye, but it’s all good :)

    I was a blogger for a few years in Beilze on the subject of expat relocation, and whenever you put yourself out there like that, you will draw critics or those who think they know more or can do better. It just goes with the territory, and I’m sure your experience is similar. You can only help those that want to be helped. The rest must learn their lessons on their own terms.

    Enjoyed the philosophical blog today, Ben (and happy belated bday lol!).

  3. Jorge Caicedo on

    Excellent article! As a working musician and guitar/bass instructor and one who’s trying to pursue real estate as a part time income, I understand Ben’s talk about presentation and knowledge..One of the best articles yet..

  4. Getting people to listen to me is what drives me crazy about being a real estate broker! Everybody who has ever lived in a structure think’s they’re an expert on real estate. Back when I worked with DNA nobody outside the laboratory told me how to do my job. I’ve decided that when people waste my time by not listening to me, they can find a new broker. I’m too busy finding my own deals. “Cast not your pearls to the swine”.
    Turning 40 didn’t help me much, so stay 39!

  5. Karin DiMauro on

    Very philosophical today, professor!

    “Perception is key. It is not what I know, but what you believe that I know which will keep me in the arena of blogging…”

    I believe you could write many more blogs that spin off of that nugget alone. And it’s a good reminder as I endeavor to be more creative and raise more money myself … others’ perception of me will make the difference between my success and failure in that arena.

    Thanks for a good mind-bender today! Reminds me of Yoda. ;-)

  6. “Seriously… Why Should You Even Listen to Me About Real Estate?”

    Because you have something to say about it :D That’s cool thing about listening, you don’t actually have to acknowledge their opinion as fact. But you can learn something from everyone’s opinion, and that’s why it’s awesome to have people like you blogging about things :D Because there’s always something I can learn from it.

  7. I am 28 and started “landlording” in 2007. As I have become quite competent in the legal side and repair construction side of the business I have noticed it is much easier to have respect from step one. I still get thrown being called sir by someone twice my age. Some of it was fake it until you make it in the begining which worked well enough because I made sure I knew the answer next time. So much is second nature to me now that just speaking about some past experiences gets that realization across to the other party that I know what I am doing. I enjoy it when parents come along for a showing of their first child’s apartment hunt. Your can just see their comfort level switch from first handshake to the final…

  8. Sara Cunningham on

    There is no magic age where you suddenly become an expert or a mentor or someone that people even pay attention to let alone actually take your advice. It’s different for everyone and some people never get there. For me if I don’t personally connect to someone then I don’t care who they are, or what they know. My mind just blocks their chatter out.

    As for listening to you Ben well I do like the way you write, you have a good argument and even better answers for anything that comes your way. You know what you want in life and how you are going to get there and no one is going to stop you. That’s worth listening to IMHO and bedsides that I find your blogs very entertaining. Oh and yes I’ve learnt some stuff too.

  9. If someone is doing what they are passionate about AND making money/building wealth my ears go up. That’s why I listen to you and others here at BP. As far as terms, when I think “expert” I personally associate that with someone who has attained major success in their field (results based, not trajectory based). I would say that anyone living on passive REI’s as their main income has achieved a level of success that says, “I did something right, listen to me”.

    • Well – nothing is truly 100% passive Dave. Besides, now that I have entered the syndication arena, I am literally gone on the road 2 days out of a week looking at projects. I do love it, though – I am right there with you. And, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think that I can get paid well.

      Thank you indeed for paying attention to anything I say. I am in midst of a gigantean growth spurt in my RE evolution and those of you who pay attention will learn a lot riding my coat tails. Thank you!

  10. Ben, are you trying to scare off the newbies again so you don’t get more competitors by telling them how long it takes to get to a point of being accepted and recognized? In your usual way, you said much more below the surface than many will see, and true words of wisdom. I have not read any of your blogs without coming away with something to think about.

    And if you think 39 brings aches …. At 55+ like I am your aches stop being distinct and just blend together.

  11. Beneath the surface is how life works Walt – everything that’s important is beneath the surface. Thank you for calling me out on it :)

    As to pains, thank you for giving me something to look forward to and ponder…

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