HUNTING FIELD MICE - 6 QUESTIONS FROM TIM FERRISS
If you’ve been listening to this show for any period of time, you know that I love questions. I love questions because, without them and without good ones, you don’t get answers to things. Everything we do, everything we create, everything we get paid for starts with a question or a series of questions. One of the greatest secrets that’s not really a secret is that the better you are at asking questions, the more successful you can become as long as you’re open to the answers.
If one of the questions you’ve been asking as an appraiser lately is, ‘how can I break into the non-lender side of the appraisal business?’, and you haven’t yet downloaded my free training on earning your first $5000 doing private, non-lender based appraisals, it’s time to stop procrastinating and head over to www.coachblaine.com/diversify and watch it today. It’s an hour and twenty minutes of a non-stop value drop. There’s no fluff, no time wasters, just me teaching you what needs to be done to start getting more non-lender appraisal work. Go get it today!
If you’ve never heard of Tim Ferriss, I would encourage you to Google him and learn a little more about him. He’s one of the most listened to podcasters in the world. He’s written several books; most famously the Four-Hour Work Week. He’s an investor in some of the most well-known companies and technologies most of use today, and he’s a wealth of information and knowledge.
Some time ago, I came across a pdf that Tim Ferriss created with 17 questions that changed his life. While the title may seem a tad hyperbolic, given how important we know questions to be in life and business, I believe the title completely and I think you will too after hearing some of the questions.
What we’re going to do in this episode is go over 6 of those 17 questions. These are the 6 best questions of the 17, in my opinion, but I will post the full download of Tim Ferriss’ 17 questions pdf in our Appraiser Increase Academy private Facebook community. So, for any of our members listening, you can find it there. If you want to try out the Increase Academy completely free for 30 days, just go to www.coachblaine.com/freemonth and you can watch a video on this topic, as well as download Tim’s pdf.
The first question from Tim Ferriss is this:
- What if I did the opposite for 48 hours?
He tells a great story in his version of this question about how he blew a sales goal out of the water and beat all of his colleagues by doing the opposite of what they did. The question isn’t designed to get you to walk backwards while everyone else is walking forward. And I actually think the question is a bit misleading because It’s not really about doing the exact opposite of something, it’s more about doing what others are not doing in your field, your industry, or a particular situation.
As an example, I’ve told our origin story many times, so I’ll just briefly recap it here to make a point about this question. After the 08’-09’ global financial meltdown and just before I was about to shut down my appraisal company, I asked a version of this question. I asked myself, ‘what isn’t everyone else in my industry doing, and what if we did something completely different?’ That isn’t exactly doing the complete opposite, but the point of the question, at least in my mind, is to take a look at what everyone else is doing, see the results they’re getting, and then fill in the blanks of what they’re NOT doing. Then do that for at least 2 or so days and check the results.
Question number 2:
- What are the worst things that could happen? Could I get back here?
This one is pretty self-explanatory, so we don’t need to go too deep. This one is a two-part question and has become a regular part of my week, my business planning, and goal setting process because human beings tend to catastrophize, or to see things as the worst thing ever and the absolute end when things go even slightly wrong. One of the easiest ways to deal with this trait is to get in the habit of asking yourself, ‘what’s the worst thing(s) that could happen?’ The second part of this question is, ‘could I get back to where I was if something went wrong?’
I came to this one quite by accident while I was going through a divorce. As many of these situations go, mine wasn’t going great and there were concerns on my part about how life would look like with my kids, how much money I was going to lose, how many of my assets I was going to lose, and what it was going to cost me on an ongoing basis with child support, spousal support, my own living costs, and so on.
I was going through a writing exercise to sort of calm myself down and pull myself out of an irrational and emotional state and back into a more rational state. I started with this question on a yellow legal pad of paper. What are the worst things that could happen? I had to be honest with myself and ask what really is the worst things that could happen. One of those things was losing custody of my kids. In fact, of all the things that could happen, like losing all my money; all my assets; all my properties; all my belongings, that was by far the worst. So, I wrote it down.
I wrote down everything that I thought would be the worst things that could happen. What I did after that was something I also learned from a Tim Ferriss exercise called Fear Setting, which is where you follow the first list with a reality check on all the worst things that could happen. You have to ask yourself with each thing on the list, what is the actual likelihood of that thing happening, and then you ask yourself, ‘what can I do if it does happen?’. As you can see, it’s something of an empowerment exercise. You first mind dump all your fears about what could happen, then you have to rationalize what kind of power you have to do something about it.
I want to emphasize this question very strongly for appraisers right now because there is a lot going on in the industry that appraisers feel completely unable to control, and they’re right. They don’t control what Fannie Mae of Freddie Mac does. You don’t control what banks and AMCs do. You don’t control any of that and never have. The only thing you’ve ever had control over was how you respond to the things those entities do. The only thing you’ve ever had control over is yourself and how you react and respond to life.
With all that’s going on in the world, the economy, the real estate world, and your own life, it’s important to frame things starting with this question. What are the worst things that could happen? What can I do about it? And then the follow up question; could I get back to where I am if the worst happens? If you lost everything, what would you have to do to get back to where you are now in business, in finances, in relationships, and in life?
Question number 3:
- If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?
I love this one and use it all the time in coaching. Sometimes I’ll ask, ‘what if you had to cut your hours down to just 2 hours per day, what would you do to make the most money in that time?’ I’ve heard this type of question posed a variety of ways, but it all comes down to a study in Parkinson’s Law, which is the principle that says work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. If you have 8 hours to complete something, you might not need or even take the whole 8 hours, but you’ll likely take way longer than you would if you only had 4 hours to complete that same task.
If you tend to work a 40, 50, or 60 hour work week, this question forces you to think deeply about what kind of things you choose to work on, why you work on those specific things, why you use up the time you do (is it because you need it, or just have it?), and what you’d have to scrap if you only had 2 hours per day instead of 8 or 10 hours. Once you work through that exercise, then you just ask yourself, ‘what if I only had 2 hours per week to get a commensurate amount of work done as what I do in 2 hours per day?’
The main point of the exercise is to help your brain reframe things and be forced into patterns of thinking it’s not used to because it’s not forced to. Again, if you have 8 hours, you’ll likely use most of them. If you don’t have that much time, you’ll tend to become more resourceful and efficient. If you take it to the extreme, like only having 2 hours per week to work, you now have to think completely different and most likely you’ll come to conclusions that lean more toward having other people do much of the stuff you did previously, and you’d only do the most important things.
Question number 4:
- What’s the least crowded channel?
This question is most appropriate as it relates to marketing, messaging, advertising, networking, go-to-market strategies, and activities designed to get you or your business the most recognition and high-quality business.
The question is pointing us to the myriad of ways we have at our disposal to get recognition, make an impact, advertise and market our products and services, and then which of those channels, or platforms, or strategies is the most crowded, and which is the least crowded. Think Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, conferences, networking events, blogging, podcasting, YouTube channel, advertising on a placemat or at a golf outing, and so on.
Each one of those is considered a channel. Think like TV channels. If you want to watch a sporting event, you choose ESPN or one of the various channels that the football game is on. If you want to watch ‘This Old House’, you turn on HGTV or some PBS channel. And if you wanted to market something to sports watchers, you wouldn’t necessarily choose HGTV as the best channel to do that, you’d choose ESPN or one of those channels.
Of course, what we know is that appraisers are horrible at marketing, branding, advertising, and networking, so this question might be super valuable for you. If you don’t like doing any of that stuff but know that you have to do something to get some recognition and new business flowing in, what is the least crowded, least used, least noisy, and maybe even the least expected channel to focus on.
The example from my own experience came from both my martial arts business and my appraisal business. I knew I had to market and promote both of those businesses in order to fill the funnel, so to speak, so I asked this question: ‘what is the best way, the least crowded and overused method (channel), and what will set me apart from everyone else doing this thing?’ The answer for both businesses was podcasting and public speaking. There was nobody else in the martial arts world with a podcast specifically about Aikido and its various principles, and there was most certainly nobody in the appraisal world at the time in my market with a real estate podcast from the appraiser’s perspective. In both of those industries, there also wasn’t anyone doing public speaking presentations. There were other martial artists doing public demonstrations, but nobody speaking eloquently on the principles and how they were tied to one’s life and business.
In essence, podcasting and public speaking were the two least crowded channels for me to focus on to get my name, my product, my services, and to build likability, trust, and rapport before anyone ever met me. By focusing on those two channels, I built up both of the businesses to the point where they were profitable, desirable, and eventually salable. If you want to sell something, and every one of us is selling every day whether you realize it or not, it’s best to not be doing only the things everyone else is. If everyone in your industry is promoting on Facebook, ok, do that too, but then choose a less crowded channel where you don’t have to jump up and down and scream into the wind to get noticed.
Question number 5:
- What if I could only subtract to solve problems?
This is a really fun one and one I highly recommend you spend some time meditating on, even if you do it as something of a game. The day is over, you’re sitting in your favorite spot with your favorite food and beverage, and you are thinking about the day, the problems you encounter, the challenges in front of you, and the business overall. What most of us do is we subconsciously ask ourselves questions like, ‘what could I do to solve that issue?’, ‘How do we need to change our processes?’, ‘what do we need to add to solve this?
A better way to solve issues is to first ask, ‘what could I simplify?’, or ‘what could I take away from the process that might make it easier, better, more efficient, more profitable…’, or whatever the goal is in solving a challenge. If the only tool you had available to you is the ability to take something away, what could you do with it.
I’ll share with you how we used this in our appraisal company, just as a small example. After we had built a fairly sizable non-lender business, and specifically a fair amount of desktop appraisals on the non-lender side of the house, we asked these questions. ‘It’s already a very easy and very lucrative business segment, how can we double down on this to make it even easier and more profitable without sacrificing any quality or value for the client?’ And while we often ask, ‘how can we add more value to this for our clients’, in this case we asked, ‘what can we take away from this without changing the value proposition in any way?’ The answer was fairly simple, take away the sales comparison grid and the adjustments.
That’s right friends, for those of you raised in the form filling world of lender-based appraisals like I was, this was sheer blasphemy! ‘You’re going to take away the one thing on this form that makes us look like we actually do something really sophisticated and important?’ Yep, that’s exactly what we did.
There isn’t anything anywhere that says to provide an opinion of value on a piece of real estate, you must present it on this form, in this way, using a grid and adjustments for differences, except when your appraisal is being done for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. We still pull comparable sales (lots of them!), we still put them in the report, we still put maps, and exhibits, and commentary, and a reconciliation and lots of things that help tell the story we’re trying to tell for the client, we just don’t put the comps in a grid, and we make zero adjustments for differences. Why? Because it’s unnecessary.
99% or more of the non-lender clients we work with have no expectation whatsoever of what an appraisal looks like or should look like. They have no expectation of receiving a report with what looks like an accounting spreadsheet, a bunch of numbers, some confusing industry jargon, and pictures. In fact, most have no idea what to expect. So, we give them a nice, clean, clear report with no spreadsheets and no confusing industry jargon. Just a nice explanation of the low, the mid, and the high-end segments of all the potential comparable sales and where their home falls with that range value wise. That, my friends, is how you subtract to solve an issue and make something better.
The last question for this episode is this:
Question number 6:
- Am I hunting antelope or field mice?
As Tim Ferriss tells it, he stole this one from a book he read by James Carville and Paul Begala, both political strategists. In their book, they recounted a story from another politician, the well-known Newt Gingrich, and it had to do with energy expenditure and focusing on the wrong things. The story is this: “A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So, a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope. The distinction is important. Are you spending all your time and exhausting all your energy catching field mice? In the short term it might give you a nice, rewarding feeling. But in the long run you’re going to die. So, ask yourself at the end of the day, “Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?”
You can apply this question to your to-do list each day. You can apply this to your weekly goals. You can apply this to anything and everything as a filter for doing the right things, not just doing things. ‘Is what I am doing, or going to do, getting me the return I want and need to get me where I need and want to go?’ In essence, is what I am doing making me feel good in the short term, but unsustainable in the long-term? Will I expend more energy chasing this thing than what catching the thing will return to me? Am I hunting antelope or field mice?
My friends, I’ll wrap up this episode with something Tim Ferriss says in that PDF with all of these questions. He says, “Reality is largely negotiable. If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles,” you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.”
Not only do I love the statement, I love the sentiment and try to remind myself of it often. Many of our limitations are self-imposed and reinforced by a collection of rules created only by society. They are things we think we need to do, but only because that’s what somebody said, or maybe even didn’t say but merely implied at some point in our lives. Our limitations are often set by what we see others doing and assume it’s what we need to be doing. We see it on the highway when the signs and traffic cones indicate a lane closure up ahead and everyone clamors to get in a single file line 2 miles before they need to. We see it when people line up behind what appears to be a locked door, only to find out nobody actually ever tried to open it.
Think for yourself, don’t follow the crowd, choose the least crowded channel whenever possible, try addition by subtraction every now and then, work less to create more, figure out what to do if the worst-case scenario were to actually happen, and start hunting some damn antelope instead of all those silly field mice you might be wasting vital and precious calories on.
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