Monday, April 9, 2012

I Have Met The Enemy

I Have Met The Enemy; It is Conventional Wisdom
And Conventional Wisdom Won Round #1
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, April 9, 2012

“One of the things that most of us learn as children is the danger of being different, of standing out.  If we choose a path of our own and have different interests and values than others,
 we run the risk of being ridiculed or avoided.”
  Wes Hopper, Gratitude email April 9, 2012

Hopper began that email with:
"Until you're ready to look foolish, you'll never have the possibility of being great."

The year was 1982 and the television series was Dallas was the rage of everyone’s late night television watching.  Who did not either love or hate JR Ewing played by Larry Hagman?  That was over 30 years ago and I can still see “JR” with the sly grin and wearing the bigger than life white Texas style cowboy hat.  JR was a national celebrity; it was an image he created, an anti-hero.  Before that Hagman played the bumbling Air Force Pilot on I Dream of Jeanie.  Two polar opposite parts that Hagman flawlessly performed. 

Again, it is 1982, everyone knows JR.  I was a two-year “veteran” of the real estate wars in New Orleans where most of your real estate education (at least mine) was learned by trial and error and on the streets.  Seminars where a new endeavor for the most part.  There were books available but who read books; certainly not the real estate agents I knew in the early 80’s.  If you were fortunate to have an “old timer” take you under his or her wing, you at least had someone to help guide you even though that guidance was limited to what the “old timer” knew, or not. 

The clothes people wear changes over time.  In the early 80’s men did not wear hats, at least in the New Orleans area.  At that same time, I knew of not one real estate agent who had their photograph on their business card.  The term “self-promotion” was yet to be coined.  One more thing, probably the most important fact of all, my name:  Jim Brown.  Really?  Does anyone know how many James “Jim” Browns there are in the world?  Why would anyone go out of his or her way to remember a name like Jim Brown?  Unless you have the moves on the football field like #32 Jimmy Brown, or sing soul like James “I Feel Good” Brown – No one!  Superior service?  I would like to think so but … 

The stage was set for an idea of a lifetime.  This was my plan. 

  1. Change my name with the Real Estate Commission to “JR”; nothing more, nothing less.  Take advantage of the popularity of JR Ewing on Dallas.  You have to admit, it would have been novel.
  2. Take a color photograph of yours truly wearing a big white cowboy hat, tan western style leather jacket with a western style string tie with flashy silver pin.  Place the photo on my business card, remember, no one did that in the early 80’s in real estate; no one!
  3. The name on my business card would read simply “JR”.  By the way my middle name is Richard so it was not a stretch to be called JR.
  4. Even had a vision of owning a Cadillac Convertible (white with red interior) with Long Horns across the hood as my “real estate car” of choice.  My kids probably would not have ridden with me but the public would sure remember me.
In 2012 that might not be all that unusual, but in 1982 – I would have been either an immediate success or had a permanent place in a mental ward.  My inexperience told me it would be successfull; but what did I know?  I was more than ready to “look foolish” as Cher suggests above.  My downfall came through the “experienced” eyes of my contemporaries in the office all of whom quickly pointed out just haw tacky that would have appeared and would certainly cast a horrible light on our real estate office and the industry if I were to go forward with the idea. 

I obviously succumbed to the supposed tackiness of becoming the JR of real estate and instead settled for a much less famously Jim Brown, REALTOR®.  Personal photographs did not appear on business cards for another 5 years.  People would tell me, “Jim Brown – that’s an easy name to remember.”  In reality it was obviously an easy name to forget unless you were an all-pro football player, a Hall of Fame Soul Singer or a politician who had gone to jail. 

Look at what Cher said again:  "Until you're ready to look foolish (I was ready), you'll never have the possibility of being great (something I wanted)."   

Cher is correct.  But something is missing from her brief but poignant statement.  I believe, 

Until you’re ready to COMMIT to the possibility of looking foolish,
you’ll never have the COURAGE to take the ACTIONS required
to become GREAT!”

I am living proof.  I lacked the commitment and to some degree the courage. 

Jim Collins wrote a great book entitled “Good to Great!” where he identified the types of businesses that would not settle for good when they could be great.  The sequel of that book might be entitled “Great to Mediocre.”  He could select from a much larger sample of “could-have-made-it” companies had they just demonstrated the COMMITMENT and then have the COURAGE to take the ACTIONS to follow their dreams.  This in spite of all the “resident experts” who stand at the ready and who are so eager to tell them why their idea(s) won’t work. 

Would have becoming the "JR" of Real Estate in New Orleans given me a “lock” on success within my local market?  Of course not but as it turned out, without trying I had no chance at all by giving up on at least attempting to work the plan.   

Not all ideas fail; nor do all ideas lead to success.  An idea pursued will at least provide you with a better direction of which way you need to go other than just standing still. 

When you think that your idea is really stupid – you are probably onto something!  I don’t know why people are so ready to discourage others from following a dream.  It seems they want to protect you from yourself or they are personally afraid of your potential success.  Frankly I think it is more the later than the former. 


When an idea strikes you as being viable, test it out on your three best friends.  The odds of it being a successful idea increase dramatically with each “Are you crazy?” comment you receive.  I am sure people like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Gary Keller and David Herdman were all thought to be crazy.  Who is David Herdman?  Exactly!