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  • hughjwade

EGO: IT OFTEN KIND OF SUCKS - September 2023


A lot of people say commercial real estate is “just business”. That it’s rational, logical, devoid of emotion, passion, anger, joy. That it is all “nothing personal.”

This is a false assumption. There is a ton of ego tied up for everyone involved. We are talking about pricey, life-altering assets and our professions.

Money, net worth, creditworthiness, our life’s work, compensation. Our businesses. Our individual roles where money, opportunity, and the future are at stake. Buildings where will make our own personal sausage every day, for years running. Or an investment play, not occupied by the owner, but relationships with tenants and an asset managed for cash flow, to build wealth over time, and sell at a gain,and pay or defer the IRS its share (Yay! When I hear people rail against the IRS about how much the government “takes”, I often want to say, yes, but that means you found success in this great country, and how about a little gratitude!)

These are all subjects which are right up there with sex, religion, politics, strongly held opinions, and death. It’s consistently a highly charged environment, just in our own heads, and in the mix of competing self-interests. It’s like banking, but instead of money, it’s dirt and improvements, and toggling back and forth between dirt and cash.

Here’s the rub: the best route to achieving our objectives (“success”) is to first understand that our own egos, and that of everyone involved, are in play, and then to tamp down our own ego or self. Translation: often, the best way to achieve success is to let go of our egos and our grasping selves.

How does this compute? Ok, well, first understand that we are always overly focused on what we want, and this prevents us from focusing (listening, studying, investigating) on what the person on the other side of the equation wants.

However, if we stop thinking about ourselves and what we want, it means being open to discovering what the other side is saying, even if they aren’t necessarily verbalizing it, and then somehow trying to give them a winning amount of what they want, while still getting a winning portion of what we want.

So the focus should not be so much on ourselves, but on the person on the other side of the table, and figuring out how to give to them, instead of figuring out how to take from them.

Ego-driven and dominant people (which is everyone, but some more than others) tend to focus only on what they want, not compromise, and not listen. It is hard to get anywhere with this perspective coming from ourselves or the person on the other side. The primary tool of ego-dominant people is leverage, trapping people, forcing them to choose between bad options. “Getting over on them.” However, true negotiation, and dealing in good faith, means listening and, to a degree, understanding and empathizing with the other side. And, it is often the best, most-often forgotten route for getting to where we want to go.

Don’t get me wrong. First of all, I know this all seems idealistic, and it is. And, leverage, positioning, alternatives are paramount, always. Fulcrums, pressure points. Having more than one option, preferably always, from both the seller and the buyer position. What I am really saying here is that there is another way, and another perspective, and it isn’t either/ or. Both can be used, and if all a person has is their ego, and strategizing to take and to force the other side, it’s limiting. Might as well have both perspectives and both sets of tools. Your likelihood of success goes way up.

The toxicity of ego and self-focus has always been underestimated. As has the option of letting it go. And it’s often in our own self-interest to forget about own self-interest a little bit.



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