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My Dad’s Advice…Take It Or Leave It

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog or if you follow me on social media, then you know this: As self-deprecating as I can be, I’m truly a pretty confident guy - *I think/hope*. I bring this up because as I was drafting this blog, I had a “great minds think alike” moment.

As I was putting my thoughts together on what I consider to be the key essential skill for success – the ability to sell – I also came across a recent article on CNBC highlighting the same theory, via Mark Cuban.

Am I in the same league? Absolutely not. But, like him, I can rightfully claim to have built a multi-billion-dollar enterprise and I got there through the same principle belief: That if you can sell, you will be successful. It’s a lesson he taught himself, according to the article, and one that I learned early on from my dad, who’d say this about success,

“Kid, there are only two jobs: Either you’re manufacturing or you’re selling.”

It’s important to note that he didn’t mean that in the strictest, most literal sense, really (or, at least, I didn’t take it that way) but rather, that to be successful you either have to know how to produce something that people need or want (whether a good or service) or you have to know how to sell.

And, in my opinion, the key thing to know how to sell is yourself.

It doesn’t matter what your professional or personal circumstances or goals are: If you’re a stay-at-home parent, then you’re constantly negotiating with, strategizing around and selling to your kids. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re selling yourself and your business ideas to gain brand ambassadors and loyalty as much as you’re generating revenue. If you’re an artist, you’re not just selling a painting: You’re selling your vision, your skills, your inspiration. If you’re a bartender, your charisma is as much a part of the attraction of your bar or restaurant as anything else – and, often, more.

Before you sell yourself, get to know yourself

I wholeheartedly believe that if you know yourself – your strengths and shortcomings, your experiences and skills, the way people perceive you and the impact you have on their thoughts and actions – then you can achieve a higher level of success.

It’s about your own “secret sauce” or what I like to refer to as your “inner genius.” It’s about embracing your own charisma, the unique package that you are. It’s not about being the best looking or the smartest person in the room: It’s about knowing what actions you want people to take – or, rather, what actions they want to take, if they’re shown an opportunity – and how to help them get there.

It’s also about finding people who support you on your path to success and keeping them close, even when what they have to say is painful in its honesty. These are the people in your life who aren’t threatened by your success or envious of it: Instead, they’re your personal advisory board, challenging you to be your best and supporting you when you fall or fail.

A key difference between most people and the Mark Cubans of the world may include luck, to be sure, but more importantly, it’s about creating your own good fortune: Finding ways to be in the right place at the right time by making a situation the right place, by making now the right time.

Successful politicians, CEOs, inventors, entrepreneurs and babysitters all know this. Those who feel stuck in their work or personal lives, though, may not.

Getting to the next level

My dad’s advice has served me well throughout my life – it’s helped me to take risks when others around me thought the business moves I made were bonkers. A key example is when I bought a majority stake in a floundering real estate brokerage in 2008, just as the housing market was imploding. Ninety-percent of the people around me thought it was the worst move I could make. The few that supported my decision while also asking the hard questions are the team members that I keep closest now.

I bring this up now because over the last several years, it seemed as though if you could get out of bed in the morning, you could enjoy some level of success – the economy was cranking, assets in every class were reaching unprecedented growth, businesses were thriving, unemployment was low. It felt like the sun would never set on the upswing. Even a global pandemic only made a temporary dent in our exuberance, not to be insensitive to the devastation that many faced including some very close friends and family.

After several months of economic uncertainty and a bit of a roller-coaster ride in just about every asset class, now is the time that a lot of people are looking for a bit of a breather. But for you, I say that now’s the time to push yourself to the next level.

To do that, though, you have to be willing to work smart, take risks and, most importantly, to get really honest with yourself.

For example, do your personal and/or professional brands need polishing? Confidence is key to selling yourself and it’s inherently tied to how others perceive you. What are you putting out there? Along with this, I recommend doing some soul-searching about how you relate to others. Most importantly on this front, you need to understand human behaviors – and how those behaviors are impacted by you. Never discount the role of the storyteller in swaying a decision: A good narrative that helps us see ourselves in whatever it is we want is enormously influential.

In years of coaching other professionals, I’ve found that people who are struggling haven’t really identified their narrative capabilities – their own inner genius. But once you do, a higher level of success is almost inevitable, because everything you approach will have a deeper sense of authenticity, personally and professionally.

Then, fine tune that with a narrative story that people can relate to, even if they don’t like it – or even if they don’t like you. There are plenty of successful people who we wouldn’t want to count among our friends, but who we’re happy to support through buying their products or giving them our vote. For example, professionally speaking, I tend to gravitate to characters like Elon Musk – larger-than-life personalities whose tweets can move markets. But would I trust him as a friend? Not likely.

I encourage you – no, I implore you – to find your value, play up your special sauce and sell that to the world. It’s simplistic, sure, but it can change your life.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask Mark Cuban.

Market wrap-up

So many mixed signals!

In my opinion, after some crushing losses, there are signs of things returning to something near normal in just about all asset classes – and by normal, I don’t mean the craziness of the last few years but, rather, I anticipate that we’ll see more normalized returns, along the lines of 5-10 year moving averages.

Inflation is still a challenge, but its power is diffusing due to interest-rate hikes, and unemployment remains low, which are positives. And although consumer-sentiment polls show a general queasiness thanks in part to the 24/7 news cycles, people are still spending.

Probably one of the biggest challenges right now is getting supply and demand back into balance – while pandemic-related supply-chain shortages and massive liquidity resulted in inventory shortages in just about all sectors of the economy, we’re now seeing overages in inventory for retailers, some car dealers and others. I think this will challenge some sectors for the rest of the year, but I believe that we’ll get this in better balance relatively soon.

We’re also seeing more homes on the market now and they’re lingering a bit longer, which means that the red-hot sellers’ market is finally cooling a bit. According to St. Louis Federal Reserve data, average home prices rose a mind-boggling 49% in certain markets during the pandemic.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think we’ll see a return to pricing that we saw pre-pandemic in most markets, but I do expect some continued easing in both pricing and competition.

Mitigating this somewhat is that developers are slowing new-home builds and, according to some reports, even offering incentives to buyers. This is a 180-degree shift from just a year or two ago. Foreign investment in US housing seems to be strong – in times of geopolitical unrest or uncertainty, this is a tried-and-true trendline.

Economically speaking, it seems that we’re all taking a bit of a breather now and I don’t see any major shifts up or down in any asset class, barring some major and unpredictable disruptive behaviors. Even the pandemic has settled in as a way of life, rather than a life-altering event.

Given this, it seems that there’s an air of cautious optimism all around, from housing to crypto (much to my chagrin on that last point).

Thanks for checking in with the blog – now, go check in with yourself, find your inner genius, sell yourself with all your heart and enjoy doing some good in this world for yourself and others.

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