Friday, August 14, 2009

Cutting Back

With the turbid affairs of the office having now moderately settled, I am able to surface, at least momentarily, from the torrent of what has been an exceptionally busy time in the past little while. Much of the bustling commotion was due to nothing more than the urgency of two Clients to complete transactions by tomorrow, in both instances a case of the Seller wanting to unload what has effectively become an unwelcome encumbrance, not an unusual occurrence these days especially for the aging members of the population. Like so many, these Clients were looking for ways to simplify life, and that often means shedding superfluous investments. As I have long known only too well, property management is not to be undertaken lightly. Whenever I feel the need to sanctify what has otherwise been a profligate life-style, I have but to remind myself how attentive I have been over the years to every need of my own little real estate portfolio. Indeed, while I am wont to consider that I have never saved a penny in my life, it expiates my guilt not inconsiderably to recall the amounts I have poured into the maintenance of these properties. As a result of the recent global downturn, I have the added pleasure of being able to wake up each morning to see the entire buildings still intact, rather than miraculously sliced in half and evaporated, admittedly a gloating observation on my part (but somehow delicious retribution for all those nasty things people said of my spendthrift ways).

The truth of course is that my apparent good luck in this matter has nothing whatever to do with perspicacity or foresight, rather it has everything to do with necessity. In plain terms, I needed a place to live and a place to work, places by which I could secure my tenure without fear of eviction (granted, a more compelling necessity for my business premises). In a small town, there is not always the endless opportunity one might be afforded in the city, so decisions have to be made. It is, for example, no accident that my office is across the street from the bank, steps away from the post office, and surrounded by most of the local businesses in town, including all but one of the six lawyers here.

When one thinks of it, there is a good deal to be extracted from necessity as a tool for resource management. There is no shame in responding to necessity, over preferring mere intelligence. What I said earlier about people wanting to simplify their lives is, in another sense, the rearrangement of capital for different purposes. The nomenclature "simplify" customarily implies downsizing or at least some form of economy; but it needn’t. Motivated by the desire for simplification (itself motivated by necessity), we are enabled to discover different and useful ways to manage our resources. Quite aside from the fact that one’s health no longer permits one to manage stress as effectively as when younger, there also comes a point when one welcomes the opportunity to snap one’s fingers at difficulty. By this I mean, I relish the privilege of avoiding challenges in life on the grounds of necessity. What a cunning bit of logic it is to side-step having to handle a complex matter by confessing the lack of strength to do it! Meanwhile, one catapults oneself into a far more comfortable arena of activity where one is able to do the work with your eyes closed and go home at five o’clock. Quite honestly, many (if indeed not most) of those long hours I spent historically on the resolution of difficult matters for difficult Clients were often nothing more than wasted effort. There is only so much you can stretch an elastic band before it breaks; and when it does, it is you who’ll feel the sting.

Necessity governs resources in other ways too, by forcing one to acknowledge the reality of what it takes to run and maintain a business. So often we are mistakenly guided by principles which do nothing to advance the success of the business, including at times the foolish belief that doing something for nothing is somehow good sense. Likewise, understanding the parameters of one’s business provides the opportunity to share that with prospective Clients, to avoid disappointment on both sides at a later date. It is obviously a self-fulfilling prophesy that if one is, in a word, candid about a business arrangement, the net result will be satisfaction all round. There can, after all, be nothing more than misunderstanding and deception which can contaminate an otherwise successful relationship. If the development of that relationship includes the willing injection of desired and required capital by both parties, the result is assured and predictable.

There is enormous relief to be obtained from doing only what one needs to do. Defining that need is, however, the prerequisite, involving a critical assessment of both one’s strengths and weaknesses, and the acceptance that life need not be mere work and perpetual advancement. Eventually, one should be permitted the indulgence of stewing in one’s own juices, enjoying what one has (not what one might acquire), and abandoning the youthful exuberance for constant improvement. Without even being aware of it, too often we monitor our achievements by what we do to move ourselves along, never being satisfied with what we have. Eventually, the built-in constraints will apply, and the time will come to adopt a more comfortable pace, likely more free of worry and anxiety.

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