Chicken Coffee

I’ve been selling residential real estate for sixteen years. It is generally interesting, always an adventure, sometimes even fun. People invest a lot of emotion and excitement in the experience of buying their dream home – it is their dream, after all. But over the years I have managed to avoid selling commercial real estate. I rationalized it was a different field (it is) using a completely different knowledge base (it does) and would require some more training in order to be good at it (also true). But I am open to a new challenge, and maybe it will help keep me fresh until retirement.

A long-time client referred her sister to me to sell her little home and shop, zoned commercial. At first, I gave my standard pitch and said I would refer it to a commercial agent, but I would help market the property. After having second thoughts I decided to investigate – it was, after all, really just a house and small building and I have sold many hundreds of those. So, I paid another enormous fee to gain access to the commercial MLS and ordered up some courses to fast-track a knowledge base. And that’s when I found out that commercial real estate was a match made in heaven for me.

Let me explain.

As a child I had a thirst for knowledge. I was in second grade when my dad bought a set of Collier’s Encyclopedias and I thought I was in heaven. Right there at my fingertips, encased in twenty-six black leatherette volumes, resided all the knowledge in the world. I routinely curled up with a volume to read random entries – I couldn’t believe everyone didn’t do the same! In school I was the kid others asked questions of. They knew if I didn’t know something I would likely soon find out. I guess I was the Google of my childhood, many decades before the internet. And on through middle and high school into adulthood it was the same. I wasn’t a jerk about it either, always willing to contribute my knowledge base without smugness. After all, anybody with a Collier’s could do the same.

Mr. Spock, the Vulcan character on Star Trek, had a deep knowledge base that was enhanced with a zero-emotion base. Emotions are not facts, they are feelings, and cannot be relied on. I understood completely and in high school I had one friend who called me Spock without being derogatory at all. He enjoyed our conversations because they stayed close to facts and rational thought.

Fast forward to today and property zoned C2 and M1 and such.

Turns out, commercial real estate is not about dream homes. As a matter of fact (pun intended) it is about data. Facts matter – traffic count, road frontage, zoning and, most importantly, return on investment (ROI) rule the day. Commercial investors don’t squeal over granite countertops or worry about which elementary school little Johnny will be zoned for. They deal in black and white, and when the data is correct they are ready to deal. I may have found my true calling, or at least a nice diversion to ride out my remaining work life.

Enter chicken coffee.

We host our nearly-three-year-old grandson one full day each week plus some other times as needed. Since babyhood he has been the inquisitive type, always investigating how things work. When he handles a new toy his first order of business is to see what makes the thing move, how the parts fit together, and exactly what it is capable of. As he has grown he has developed a rich vocabulary, so he can express much of what he is experiencing. I am thrilled at all this because, of course, I figure he is a genius and headed to an engineering field, or maybe a brain surgeon. We keep a good supply of toys on hand to give Arthur ample creative play time and it is amazing to watch as he engineers scenarios with his toys. Of course, he has the little workbench with power tools but that is balanced with a kitchen set. And that’s not because we are trendy, gender-neutral people (I do all the cooking at my house) but because it offers up a whole ‘nother area of play.

One day Arthur brings me a cup of play coffee in one of his little mugs. There is a tiny rubber chicken hanging out of the mug and he proudly proclaims, “Grandpa I made you chicken coffee!” After I nearly died laughing I dutifully “drank” the strange brew and made sure he understood that I love chicken coffee.

I’ve said all that to say this. As much as I love data, facts and information, I have to ask myself some questions. At the end of the day where does joy come from? Is it from information or is it from fun? Are facts what drive me forward or is it passion? Does data cause me to marvel at the world or is it my imagination? Could it be that, as smart as he was, was Mr. Spock a sad, lost soul because he couldn’t enjoy buying a dream home?

One of the big problems Jesus had while on this earth was dealing with Pharisees and lawyers and government officials who claimed to have all the facts. Yet not one of them could see the kingdom of God right in front of them. Here was a man selling dream homes, but they were too busy parsing data to grasp the wonder of it all. He shared this little nugget with them:

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”Luke 18:15-17

Snap. Chicken coffee, indeed.

If I have worked with you on residential real estate in the past, no worries. I will not be abandoning the world of dreams, a business filled with passion and fun and imagination. I will be venturing into the world of data and facts a little, but even there I hope to bring some of that passion with me. Because I learned it from a two-year-old – you can make your morning coffee by dripping hot water through ground Arabica beans. But nothing beats a cup of chicken coffee, fresh from the fertile imagination of a child.

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