The Machine

The Machine

Saturday was spent driving to Columbus and visiting my wife’s dad.

His wife T.J. is in Florida and knowing he’ d be alone, Theresa thought it would be good to check in on him.

Our visit could not have been more interesting.

We entered his condo, performed the obligatory hugs, and settled into our seats. Theresa sat next to him on the couch to his left as I found a very comfortable lazy boy to his right.

Barely into our visit, he began to recount a story from his youth.

“I started driving when I was 13 years old”, he begins. “My family inherited a 1937 Studebaker and my grandma didn’t drive, so I was given instructions to drive it occasionally to keep it from falling apart. My grandma called it The Machine.”

The next 30 minutes went by almost uninterrupted as he carefully crafted a story about growing up in a small Indiana river town.

As we sat mesmerized, we learned a great deal about my wife’s father.

John “Jack” Ludwig was born in 1943 and raised in Rising Sun, Indiana.

His working career began at ten years old where he sold newspapers. In later years he stocked shelves at the local grocer, and served popcorn for 10 cents at the local movie theater where his mother was the manager and movie tickets sold for 25 cents a piece.

Then at 13 he began driving the aforementioned machine. We learned about it’s manual transmission and fancy column shifter, commonly known as three on a tree.

His story he took us on a journey to the town square when Rising Sun installed their first traffic light.

We learned about the buckshot of salt young Jack took in the rear end as he and his buddies sped the scene of a watermelon heist.

We learned about the coal used to heat most homes and how it was delivered to the shores of Rising Sun from barges along the mighty Ohio River.

We learned how he grew up 1 block from the river on the corner of 4th and Poplar and how his bedroom was upstairs where he had full attic access.

We learned details about some of the pain he experienced as a child.

We learned how he adored his mother. How he left Rising Sun and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and how he was able to pay for his college with the G.I. Bill.

Although our Saturday journey was 7 hours from Mason to Columbus and back, we felt as if we travelled 7 decades.

Reflecting on this weekend, I realize how powerful stories can be.

After our visit I want to visit Rising Sun, because stories provide interesting settings.

After our visit I want to see a 1937 Studebaker in real life, because stories provide details.

After our visit I appreciate how Jack overcame life’s obstacles, because stories give us context.

After our visit I feel closer to Jack, because stories connect.

Wonder whatever happened to The Machine?

Buying a House, The Worst Investment Ever

Buying a House, The Worst Investment Ever

Everyday I see ads from real estate agents. “It’s a great time to buy!”

Stable economy. Low interest rates. Why rent, when you can buy? It’s a great investment!

I’ve seen the same ads for my entire 17 year real estate career.

Over the last 17 years was it ALWAYS a great time to buy? As an investment?

The argument could be made that investing during the 1930’s, or from 2009 – 2014 would have been a great time to invest in housing. Prices were depressed and growth was just around the corner. That’s easy to say when you’re looking back, but there’s no way to know where housing prices will go in the future.

Is real estate really a great investment?

Actually, I think it may be the worst investment. Or at least a close second to the worst investment, a car.

Seriously. I’m in the business, I see the horror stories. People buy a house, sink loads of money into it and almost never, even in good times, do people recover the money they put in.

So, I’m here to tell you, with great confidence, now IS NOT the best time to buy.

Recently, I closed on a property for a client who purchased their home ten years ago. They paid $400,000 for the house and recently sold it for $365,000.

Quick math tells you that they lost some money, only it’s worse than that. Over that ten year period, they have easily spent $50,000 in improvements.

Last year I showed condominiums built only 8 years ago that are selling today for $200,000 less. Not exactly a great return on their money.

Year after year, regardless of economic conditions, I can show you folks who have lost major amounts money when purchasing, and investing in a house.

What’s a person to do? Should you rent the rest of your life?

Maybe. If finances were the only factor, yes, renting in most situations is a better decision.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t make money buying and selling houses. Professionals do it all the time. Builders and investors make money every single day remodeling homes and selling or renting for profit. However, they work in much shorter time frames which are much more predictable. And they’re PROFESSIONALS.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy a house. In fact, I would argue that despite the financial risk, you should buy a house, but for a different reason.

The only metric that matters when you’re considering a purchase is QOL.

Quality of life.

Quality of life, with respect to real estate, looks something like this:

Do you love coming home to your house? Are you near the ones you love? Are you near the park that puts you at peace? Are you near your favorite coffee shop? Are you in the school district where your kids will get the best education? Is it convenient to your work? Is your truck inside the garage, or out on the street?

No, the best time to buy is not now. Or, maybe it is. Nobody knows.

My advice is to avoid trying to time the market. Instead, buy a house because it will make your life a better life to live.

Bil Keane, an American cartoonist most notable for his work on the newspaper comic The Family Circus, is famous for this quote: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

When it comes to real estate, and most decisions in life, quality of life, as a guide, will never let you down.

Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

In 2012 Theresa and I bought a distressed house in Reading, rehabbed it, and moved in.

Our goal was to stay for a few years, find another distressed house and do the same.

So, in 2014, we did just that.

A house came on the market on a street in Loveland for which I’d never heard.

Although I grew up in Loveland and raised my kids in Miami Township, I’d never, to my knowledge, been on Bridge Street.

Built in 1900, 384 Bridge Street was in relatively good condition. At the corner of Bridge and Russell street in Branch Hill and two doors down from Kirby’s, it had everything we wanted in a house. It was cheap, near Loveland, and had great potential.

It had one major problem–traffic! Thousands and thousands of cars daily.

Now, as a real estate agent, I can tell you that houses on busy streets can be hard to sell, which was our ultimate goal.

As we contemplated buying this house my wheels started turning. I had been considering renting some office space for the real estate practice, but if we bought this house we could live here and have an office. Win. Win.

So, we sold our Reading house, and made an offer.

384 Bridge Street, Loveland, Ohio became our new home and Bastion World Headquarters.

We stripped the interior down to the studs, rewired, new plumbing, updated insulation, roof, porch, kitchen, two baths, laundry, added a fence and before you know it, we had a really nice place.

Last fall we moved out, and had a decision to make. Do we sell it and cash out, or do we keep it?

I love the idea of having an office, but in today’s digital world agents truly only a laptop and a cell phone.

“Let’s try to rent it and if the building can pay for itself we’ll keep it.” I told Theresa. “Worse case we can always sell.”

So, we had my cousin Ricky modify the podcast studio, add a hallway, and do some drywall work to make the building good for renting.

AirBnb is a win/win situation. As the owner, I get to keep my building, my personal office, have my podcast studio, and still have rental income from the two bedrooms. Renters get full access to the entire house on evenings and weekends along with the kitchen, common space and two full baths. Not to mention a great location next to the bike trail.

We have the rooms fully rented and the guests could not be nicer.

One of the characters is a business guy from out of town who loves to talk business with me. Last night I stayed late discussing with him marketing, sales, and life.

He’s a sales manager and he really gave me encouragement and a boost of confidence. He also lent me a book which I promptly started reading. The name of the book is Mindset – The New Psychology of Success.

It’s kind of funny that the right book is delivered at the right time for me.

The book breaks down our mindset into two categories–fixed mindset or growth mindset.

Fixed mindset is when we limit our thinking to very narrow possibilities. For instance, we might think our natural gifts cannot be improved. That our lot in life is not controllable.

Growth mindset, however, believes we can expand our skills, intelligence, and our capacity by continual learning.

One mindset reflects scarcity. The other abundance.

One focuses on what can’t be done. The other gets you into the hotel business.

The Lesser Self

The Lesser Self

My good friend Ryan Fletcher runs an amazing company called Impact Club.

Impact Club’s premise is that storytelling is paramount to growing any enterprise.

Wanna grow a business? Tell effective stories.

Wanna grow a non-profit? Tell effective stories.

Wanna grow a chess club? Tell effective stories.

There are three ways that humans consume stories. They read, they listen, and they watch.

Without readers, listeners, or viewers stories are worthless.

To be effective, stories require an audience.

Fletch, as I like to call him, is right. Telling stories and building an audience is paramount. Sounds simple, but there’s more to it than just putting words on a blog.

Although I didn’t meet Fletch until I was in my late 40’s, I would consider him one of my most influential mentors in life. He’s the character who is most responsible for me becoming a storyteller.

It was his storytelling that brought me into his realm. I started reading his blog. Listening to his podcast. I ordered his book. I became a fan.

Over time I joined his community of entrepreneurs and storytellers and I grew. I started writing with the encouragement of the community. Eighteen months later I published my book and started my podcast. Ultimately I opened my own Impact Club, a charity based storytelling club.

As Fletch’s community grew, he took the company in a different direction. He understood that in order to be successful entrepreneurs we needed to be strong in mind, body, business, and relationships. To address that need he started Story Athlete and GRIT which were challenged based groups that strive for transformation.

The goal of those groups is simple–Lead a challenged based life and grow together by improving daily and overcoming our lesser self.

At first I loved being a part of Story Athlete as I am obsessed with personal development. We pushed ourselves to write everyday, to eat right, and to workout twice a week, which he dubbed “the 12 minutes of death”.

During a 30 day stretch, I found the workouts to be more and more difficult. Not because they were, but because something was going on with my body–something was wrong.

I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

I tried to write but I couldn’t focus. I stopped writing. I stopped doing my podcast. I was letting my community down.

As I watched the others doing their daily writing, and their regular workouts it only made me feel worse.

Physical challenges had morphed into mental challenges. I began to feel like I was going to fail. I didn’t trust myself to commit to anything because I didn’t know how I was going to feel from day to day.

Ultimately, I left the group because I wasn’t getting benefit and I wasn’t contributing. My health, or lack thereof, only caused doubt.

Since I left, I haven’t totally figured out my health issue. At first I thought it was possibly mold exposure. Or diet. I thought maybe I had fibromyalgia.

I made some changes and for a while I felt better.

Until three weeks ago.

After the holidays, I committed to getting back on track. After three weeks of regular gym visits, writing regularly and getting back to normal, I hit a wall.

I feel worse than ever.

It’s like I have massive headache only it’s over my entire body. Literally.

Hands, feet, joints, back. Every major muscle.

Each morning, I don’t want to move. When I do get moving, I can’t focus. Constant, chronic fatigue. By early evening, I only want to go to bed.

Friday night, on Valentines Day, it was the worst. I went to bed at 7:00PM.

Now what?

It’s time to solve the problem.

When I rebooted my blog, I was in the midst of dealing this pain. Going to doctors, getting blood work, trying to figure it out.

I decided to write about Mind, Body, Spirit, because I know that health in these three categories is essential to fully realize our potential.

I sincerely believe God wants for us to experience peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, and tranquility–also known as shalom.

With this in mind, as I search for answers, I’ll keep you posted.

Fletch would be proud of me today. The lesser self didn’t want to write.


Disaster In the Making

Disaster In the Making

Friday morning was quite dramatic. A profanity filled, epic drama.

The characters in this play? A wash cloth, running water, a missing shirt, and yours truly.

It’s 6:00 AM in Mason, Ohio, a middle aged (yet quite virile) man prepares for work. Our protagonist has to meet his dad at 8:00 AM so he starts to get dressed. Today it’s blue jeans, boots, undershirt and Bastion Polo, the official uniform of Bastion Realty.

Our hero gets fully dressed with the exception of the polo. Seems like he’s a little behind with the laundry and his shirt is no where to be found.

Must be downstairs in the laundry room.

As is his custom, our dedicated businessman starts the morning ritual. Shave, brush teeth, and wash face.

While waiting for the water to get hot and distraught by the missing work shirt, our leading man decides to venture down to the laundry room and find the shirt.

Nothing hanging on the rack. Nothing in the dryer. Nothing in the washer. Weird. Our lead has a handful of these shirts, where in the world could they be?

While heading back upstairs our main character decides to stop in the living room to read before he gets the writing done for the day.

The reading begins, only there’s something on his mind. Seems like he’s forgetting something.

“Oh my God! The water! It’s still running!”

He throws the book, sprints upstairs, rushes into the bathroom and to his horror finds 3″ of water on the bathroom floor. He rushes to the linen closet and grabs every single towel in the house. The cursing begins.

Frantically he turns off the water, pulls out the wash cloth, opens all of the doors and drawers in the deluged vanity and begins the cleanup.

The curse words continue. The ugly inner dialogue begins.

“What is wrong with me? How could I be so stupid?”

Twenty minutes later he begins the journey back downstairs to the laundry room to begin washing and drying these water logged towels. Still cursing at himself.

Only this nightmare is not over. While transporting his baskets of shame to the laundry, he hears a steady drip coming from the ceiling fan in the family room.

Did you ever wonder what happens to water in the bathroom once it starts to accumulate? That’s right, it finds its way into the cavity between the floor and the ceiling below.

Almost crying, our desperate victim is starting to panic. “What do I do now? Should I tear it out now and let the water run out? Will it turn to mold? How much is our insurance deductible?”

Our sad, pathetic, excuse for a human, begins to question his fitness for life. Does he even have the basic common sense to avoid ruining his house? And he thinks he can run a business? And care for clients? How in the world did he raise his kids? What an idiot.

Now this story might seem a little exaggerated. I assure you it’s not. This character was me on Friday morning.

No joke, the dialogue and the cursing were real, only the cursing was too graphic for this blog. All because of a simple mistake.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of inner dialogue that goes on regularly. Not only with me, but with most people.

My entire life has been one of dealing with this inner voice.

Reflecting on the Friday Fiasco, I realize how destructive our thoughts can be. After a day or two I realized that this is a subject I need to address in my personal and professional life.

My mind needs a reset.

Yesterday’s blog, Spiritual Warfare, gives us a glimpse of how important it is to protect our minds.

The dialogue with myself on Friday was not pretty, or something that I’m proud of, but ultimately it was not initiated by me. It was initiated by my lesser self influenced by the The Evil One.

As I continue to practice the craft of storytelling, I am more and more convinced of the power of words. Not just the written word, but the ones I hear inside my head.

The choice is clear, listen to the enemy, or listen to The One who loves me.

One thinks I’m an incompetent fool. The other thinks I’m so special he sacrificed Everything for me.