WHAT’S YOUR PREDICTION?
In April 1928 a journal called “The Forum” published an interview with the famed automaker, Henry Ford, who was talking about the very apparent increase in the complexity and rapidity of life at that time. What he said in that interview has since become an oft used quote, although the quote is often misspoken. However, the meaning of the quote has never been lost despite the varied versions over the years, and the quote is this: “…there is a question in my mind whether, with all this speeding up of our everyday activities, there is any more real thinking. Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it.”
Good morning my friends, and welcome back to the show. My name is Blaine Feyen, founder of the Coaching Academy, Chief Evangelist at True Footage, and your host for this, and every episode of the always sponsor free, Real Value Podcast. Always good to be back with you all each week having these conversations.
As all of you know at this point, things have changed. The market has changed, the world has changed and is constantly changing, and it’s doing so at a fairly rapid pace. It seems each year that goes by, some things change at an exponentially faster pace while some things remain the same. One of the traits of successful people, in my opinion, is their ability to flex, pivot, change, morph, evolve, or whatever word you’d like to use to describe their ability to move with changes and adapt to the trends, while also doubling down on the things that never change. One of the aspects inherent in that success trait is the ability to see further into the future than the average person, or so it seems. It would seem that very successful people have an ability to see things coming before less successful people do.
What I’ve observed over the years, however, is not that successful people have an ability to see further into the future than everyone else, it’s that they increased their chances of success by adopting a longer view of things than the average person. When you cultivate a habit of looking further into the future than most people, you have to take into consideration more of the things that could affect that future. When you look off into the future, you start to develop what might be called a ‘forecasting’ habit, which is the habit or ability to take in information from a variety of directions, a variety of sources, and a variety of interconnected things that likely have an influence or an impact on things happening now and in the future.
If you want to be successful at anything in life or business, It’s important to develop the skill of discernment, which is the skill of good judgment and insight. How do you develop a strong discernment muscle? By doing shit! One often develops good judgment by having poor judgment previously. One often develops good insight by having poor insight previously and then learning from past experiences. I like to think I have a fairly good discernment muscle that gets stronger and stronger with each passing year, not because I’m special, but because I make a lot of mistakes. That’s right! Discernment comes out of the life experiences that didn’t kill us or ruin us, but quite possibly could have.
Some people go through life doing their best to avoid mistakes, while the rest of us go through life trying everything, making tons of mistakes, learning from those mistakes, trying some more stuff, learning some more, and then trying to apply the lessons to the next things we try. However, you acquire the gift of discernment, whether or not you use it to your advantage is the difference between surviving and perishing, in my opinion. Perishing, in the context I’m using it, doesn’t necessarily mean you die, it can simply mean that you quit, give up on something, leave an industry, or you slowly fade away from existence in a particular area.
We see lots of appraisers, real estate agents, lenders, and a bunch of other industry professionals perishing in that sense. They weren’t able to discern what was coming, they didn’t prepare well enough, maybe they didn’t have time to prepare or build up enough of a survival account or client base. Whatever the reason, we are most definitely in a mass extinction period whereby lots of people, as well as jobs, will simply disappear from the working world. No, I don’t mean the people will die, I mean that certain jobs will no longer exist, and some people will no longer be doing the thing they did last year for work. By this time next year, there will be X number fewer appraisers, or at least the demographics will have changed. By this time next year there will be half a million fewer real estate agents, and two hundred thousand fewer loan originators.
So, what’s the point? The point is discernment, my friends. For the whole of history, the gap between the winners and the losers has always been decided, at some level, by discernment. Those who were able to discern what was coming, regardless of the reasons, were more likely to prepare, to save, and to get in good financial, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual shape for the changes. Those able to discern the changes coming have always been more likely to prepare for the adaptation process, the reinvention process, and take advantage of opportunities that are caused and created by the change. When you’re able to more accurately forecast what might be coming and why, you’re simply more able to prepare for it and possibly even take advantage of any opportunities created as a result.
Please note, I did not say the gap between good and evil, or the gap between right and wrong is always decided by one’s ability to discern or predict changes. I said the gap between the winners and the losers has always been decided, at some level, by those who are able to see, to predict, to forecast, and to make some kind of decision and act on said predictions to move forward. Winner and loser, in this sense, simply means those who are able to adapt and capitalize on change and those who aren’t. Sometimes the good guy and gal win, sometimes they don’t. But the winners are usually either extremely lucky; like the guy who painted the mural in the Facebook headquarters and took stock instead of the $60,000 he quoted them and is now worth over $300,000,000, or they’re strategic and start planning ahead of time for the changes they see coming down the pike.
I’m going to share with you 6 things I’ve learned over the years about forecasting, predicting, researching, discernment, and seeing into the future a bit, which can hopefully help you make better decisions going forward. This is, after all, one of the traits I’ve witnessed time and time again from some of the most successful people I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with. For all of their differences in personality, in business models, in methods, and industries, they all seemed to share two primary traits; the trait or skill of discernment, which is the art and skill of using all available information to make the best decisions and to use that information to forecast what might be coming, and the trait of patience. Not much really needs to be said about the trait of patience, so we’re only going to focus on the art and skill of discernment in this episode.
Before we go into the 6 things that I’m going to share with you in this episode, I want to give a little context for why we’re talking about this. The reason I believe this topic is important is because we are living in an era where one of the biggest issues we all deal with is attention poverty, which leads to a bias to the short term instead of a view of the long term and a bias toward playing the ‘long game’. To paraphrase the well-known investor, Esther Dyson: ‘in politics the dominant time frame is a term of office, in fashion and culture it’s a season, for corporations it's a quarter, on the internet it's minutes, and on the financial markets, mere milliseconds.’
It's no secret we’re living in unprecedented times where massive amounts of information flow all around us. We take in something like a thousand times more information on a daily basis than our relatives did just 50 years ago. What that ends up creating is an extreme focus on what’s right in front of us, along with the current news cycle, and that leaves little energy left over to look into the future to try to discern what life looks like one month, one year, 3 years, and 5 years from now. The famous sociologist Elise Boulding once said, “If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future,” and she wrote that in 1978. Imagine what she would say today in 2023.
Part of leading a successful life, building a successful and sustainable business, and knowing what to do in certain situations comes down to having enough of the right information with which to make good decisions, and then having the right amount of discernment and guts to make tough decisions when tough decisions need to be made. I talk with a lot of people every week who simply have no real idea what’s going on around them or why. They’ve never been taught how to do research beyond what they might use for the type of work they do (this is very prevalent in the appraisal industry), they watch one primary news outlet thinking they’re somehow informed, and they have little understanding of the interconnectedness of things.
Let me be a little more direct for all my real estate, lending, and appraisal colleagues. What is happening today in the real estate markets, the economy, and around the world and has been creeping up on us for many years. The increasing of interest rates did not happen overnight. We’ve been talking about changes in the market on this podcast since I rebooted it in 2018. We’ve been teaching people how to build up survival accounts for exactly what is happening right now. I’ve been screaming from the rooftop (proverbially) for many years now to shift your appraisal business focus away from lending work just a bit so that you can build up the non-lender side of your appraisal business for the impending market shift. Those who did that are doing just fine today and quite happy they made the shift.
By the way, a little side note on that point, those who learned and honed the skillsets required to build a sustainable non-lender appraisal business often also have really good lender clients in their business as well. Here’s why that phenomena exists: when you develop the skills necessary to attract people to your business, get them into your funnel, provide value for them right from the beginning, answer all of their questions better than anyone else does, provide them multiple options to solve their problem, and then have a follow up system after you’ve solved their problem, you have also inadvertently built a system that is very attractive to local banks and credit unions who value those same things.
Local businesses typically want to do business with people just like themselves. If you’re operating with an extreme customer and client service mindset, which very few appraisers do (they tend to operate more like the DMV than a real business), you’ll likely become one of the preferred businesses of those looking for a service provider doing what you’re doing.
We see people on social media almost every day lamenting the current market situation and saying they haven’t had a lender appraisal order in over a month. While I empathize with the fear, the anxiety, and the pain of having to consider doing something else, I also have to shake my head. Not in a condescending or arrogant way but in sadness because the information is always all around us. The signs, the clues, the talking points, the signposts, and the data is available to everyone if you know where to look, how to interpret it, and what to do with the information once you understand it. And you don’t have to be a data scientist to do this.
I’ve told the story many times on this show, so I won’t bore you with it again, but what is happening right now happened to me back in 2008 during the global financial crisis, as it did for many. I was completely unaware of what was coming because I hadn’t yet learned to research, my information sources were too narrowly focused, and my head was aimed straight into whatever I was working on in that moment. My office and team of appraisers were cranking out appraisal reports every day and never bothered to look up long enough to see what was coming. Which, by the way, was kicking off clues for years prior. Rest assured, there were people who saw it coming and began preparing years before the crash. I just wasn’t one of them. It was because of that experience that I woke up to what I needed to do to make sure I was never taken by surprise in that way again.
What my hope is for you with this episode is that you too will start to utilize some of the things I’ll share with you in just a minute to be able to prepare, take advantage of, and create new opportunities based on what you learn from your research. There is lots of doom and gloom out there, friends, and I never want to be the one spreading it. I also believe there is a difference between speaking about the reality of a situation and what can be done about it, and preaching doom and gloom. The biggest difference between those two things is the ‘what to do about it’ part.
I’m a self-defense guy. I learned through my martial arts training how to take in lots of information from my surroundings in order to make better long-term decisions so that I don’t ever have to end up in a fight or a dire self-defense situation. It’s often called the paradox of self-defense, which is that you train for many years to be ready and capable of defending yourself in a variety of situations, but the act of training actually makes you less likely to ever find yourself in those scenarios (unless you go looking for them) because you become acutely aware of how those types of situations unfold over time. Very rarely does an attack occur completely out of the blue. There’s almost always what we call ‘pre-incident indicators’ that are leaving clues leading up to an event. Once you learn to spot the clues, you become that much more aware, and you start to make different choices in certain situations.
Maybe you turn around and walk the other way when you feel uneasy about a situation. Maybe you leave the party early when you sense something is off about some of the guests. You learn to look and listen for the things that are out of place, instead of getting hypnotized into complacency because of all the things that aren’t out of place.
Self-defense is not limited to the physical. Self-defense is mandatory in business as well, lest you fall victim to what might appear to you to be an unrelated, unconnected, and random event, but what has actually been potentially playing out for many days, weeks, months, and years.
You might be one of those people who hasn’t had an appraisal order in over a month. Maybe you’re the agent who hasn’t listed or sold a house in the last quarter. Maybe you’re the loan officer who hasn’t closed a deal in weeks or months, and I empathize with you. But I also come with a message and the message has two-parts. The first part is a simple ‘you’ve got this’, message. Stay away from the doom and gloom chatter on the internet and cultivate a mindset that says, if it’s out there, I can find it and I can make it happen. I coach appraisers every day who are killing it in this business, some of them having their best year ever. But those are the ones who typically did what we asked them to do and built very good relationships locally, they became the go-to authority in their markets, and they focused on building up the private side of their business.
Alright, so let’s wrap this episode with the six traits and skills of cutting through the noise and developing the muscle of discernment.
The first trait and skill is that of open mindedness. Now, I’ll warn you that some of these will seem like no brainers to you and you’ll probably acknowledge these traits as part of your own personality. Being open minded is one of those traits that, when asked, almost everyone believes they have it. Almost nobody likes to think or admit that they’re a close-minded person. However, what I would challenge you to deeply consider is how open minded are you really. The way you can be sure you’re truly open minded is if you ask yourself the question, ‘is there any fact or piece of information that could change my mind on X’. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, what matters is whether or not you remain open to having your mind changed on any subject with information or facts that may run counter to what you already believe on a subject or topic.
What we’re really talking about with this first one is intellectual integrity. If you’re committed to some level of intellectual integrity and honesty, one of your daily affirmations will be, ‘question all of my assumptions and beliefs’. One of the toughest things you might ever do is to wake up every morning and say to yourself, ‘today I’m going to question everything I think I know and believe, and I remain open to having my mind changed on any topic that might come up today’. Those who make the best decisions and have the best discernment are those who are truly open to a wide variety of information and especially information that may not make you feel good and that may run counter to what you thought you believed or knew.
The second trait and skill of discernment, which is closely tied to the first trait of being open minded, is that of having your ego under control. What is the ego? It’s essentially the I that is you. It’s the part of you that helps you recognize you as you. It’s the thinking, feeling, reacting part of you that helps you distinguish you from everyone else. The ego has also been referred to as ‘the mental organ of justification’, which means it’s the part of you that might be wrong but is willing to justify your wrongness to feel right.
One of the six traits and skills of those with the strongest ability to discern is to have an ego that is kept in check. We see lots of egos in almost every industry, but they’re especially strong in the appraisal industry since appraisers make a living giving their opinions. What often happens with strong egos is they tend to lose the ability to be humble or admit when they’re wrong. If you have trouble admitting when you’re wrong, you’ll have trouble ever seeing a different way, having a different thought, or learning a better way to do something because your ego is so deeply tied with making you be right. We all know these people and can witness their thinking patterns all over Facebook groups and forums.
The problem with our egos when it comes to business is that, although our egos often help us build things, it can also keep us from seeing or acknowledging something on the horizon that might need our attention. If you just take the appraisal industry over the last 12 or so years, the market conditions helped build up a lot of very strong egos that got confirmation every single day that you were a rockstar that could do no wrong. Business is falling from the sky and the act of turning away business because you could only strengthened that for a lot of people. Then…seemingly out of the blue, the business wasn’t there. Those who didn’t see it coming most likely didn’t for a few reasons, one of those being ego related. If you want to develop the skill of discernment, you have to keep your ego under control.
The next trait and skill of discernment is the ability to look beyond the current news cycle. Again, all of these are important and big deals, in my opinion, and this one is no different. However, this one has become more important over the last decade or so because of how the media has changed in that time. While the mainstream news has always had a bias toward the negative, since that’s what tends to sell and get attention, not only has the negativity ramped up to level 20, but the messaging has also increased due to the 24-hour news cycle.
20 years ago, you had the morning news, the mid-day news, and the evening news, along with newspapers and a few other sources to learn what might be going on in the world. Now, you can turn on any tv and there is news running 24/7 on a variety of stations. We have YouTube for news, the internet, podcasts, and infinitely more accessibility to an endless supply of information that simply wasn’t available 20 years ago.
While I actually tend to like the availability of all this information, What I see and hear all around me on a daily basis is a heavy focus on the latest news cycle. People tend to get their information in bits and bites throughout the day and, due to something called recency bias, tend to only really remember the last bit of information you heard. If you’re one of those people that likes to flip on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or whatever brand you favor to get your information, not only are you having certain biases spoon fed directly into your brain, but you’re also likely missing the bigger picture. The best way to have a view of the bigger picture is to A. have a basic understanding of history, B. look beyond the current news cycle, and C. understand the interconnectedness of certain things. The last one I just mentioned is actually the next point, which we’ll get to in just a moment.
Friends, if you want to increase your ability to foresee the future with the greatest degree of accuracy over time, you must look beyond the latest news cycle. It’s ok to get your news from wherever you like, but I’m going to also encourage you to expand your sources to include one’s that you maybe wouldn’t seek out otherwise, maybe one’s that have information that runs counter to what you already think, feel, and believe, and to cultivate a curiosity about the world so as to take in and process lots of information from a wide variety of sources. When you’re really open to being educated, you put your ego in check, and you look beyond the latest news cycle, you’ll start to get a broader view of what’s really happening, not just what somebody told you is happening.
The next skill and trait of those who have the greatest ability to discern what is going on, but more importantly, what is likely to occur in the future, is cultivating a habit of taking in a lot of information from a wide variety of sources and then looking for the connections. As appraisers, you should already have this skill down. We look for how things are connected in the market data with every single appraisal report we work on. Not only should we be looking for patterns in the data, we should, as good scientists, also be looking for the disconfirming data.
What is disconfirming data or evidence? It’s data, facts, and/or evidence that is counter to what you initially thought was certain. There are two kinds of evidence in the world of science: confirming evidence and disconfirming evidence. Which one do you think most people look for? They look for confirming evidence because they already believe something so any evidence that helps them confirm and affirm their belief makes them feel more certain and grounded about the world. This is where bias comes from. You have a belief or a hypothesis about something, you seek out information that confirms that belief (confirmation bias), and then you find all of the evidence you can to strengthen your belief.
The more honest way to live, in my opinion, is to also look for the disconfirming evidence. This is the information and evidence that disproves your hypothesis, even if it doesn’t feel good. When you develop the habit of taking in lots of information from a variety of sources, you’ll inevitably start to see where one source of information cancels out, or disconfirms, what another source says. This is good news! When you have two sources of information that say two different things, and your mind is open, you start to develop the next skill and trait of those with a strong ability to predict the future, and that’s the art of discerning motive.
The art of discerning motive can also be called filtering for propaganda. When you’re developing your skill of discernment, you’ll have to be open to recognizing the motives of those putting out the information. When you understand motive, you have greater insight in how to process information and what to do with it. The better you get at discerning motive, the better you’ll be at taking in information from sources you may not agree with but still get some valuable nuggets with which to make better decisions.
Understand that all sources of information have some sort of bias, even the ones you really like and agree with. All sources of information can be considered forms of propaganda by somebody. You think one news source is honest and transparent, while somebody else thinks it’s the most blatant propaganda ever produced. Where does that come from? It comes from what we think we already know from history, what we think we know in general, our own existing biases, what we want to be true, and our desire to be right. The better you get at discerning motive in someone’s writing, reporting, in a news source, or behind someone’s actions, the better you get at filtering for the proof and filtering for the truth. After all, proof is the foundation upon which the truth rests. You have to get good at filtering for motive if you want to improve your ability to make the most valuable guesses when it comes to decision making.
The last trait and skill of those with the ability to make the best choices and decisions with the information available, and maybe the most important trait of the six, is the willingness to change one’s mind with new information.
Many years ago, one of my mentors taught me a valuable lesson about arguing and debating with people. Of course, I didn’t listen to him or follow his advice for a long time, but I eventually came around to his thinking on this. What he told me was that the vast majority of people already have their minds made up on almost everything. We get to a certain age in life where we think we know what’s true and what’s not true. Those things become the belief systems that run our lives. If something comes along and threatens that belief system, we do what we’re supposed to do when threatened, we defend. When somebody or something threatens something you believe to be true; a foundation of your existence, you will naturally defend, attack, shut down, or flee.
I got really good at arguing and debating my points and belief systems, often to the chagrin of my friends and family. I reveled in the art of making the other person wrong and winning on my points. What often bothered me when I would argue and debate, however, was how often people would just give up and give in just to move on to something else to talk about. I didn’t realize until many years later that I wasn’t, in fact, educating anybody with my debate tactics, I was just pissing them off to the point of changing the subject or never wanting to hang out with me again. I hadn’t learned my mentor’s point yet, that almost everyone has their mind made up and, if you want to have a productive conversation with somebody, you have to first test for how open that person is to having the discussion, and then how willing or open they might be to having their mind changed, if at all.
What he taught me in this regard has definitely helped me mature a bit when it comes to arguing and debating, but it’s also helped me open my own mind more and more each year. What he taught me to do was to simply ask one question: ‘what, if anything, would change your mind on this?’ Of course, there are some variations on the question like, ‘is there anything that could change the way you see this? And, if so, what would that be? If you ask somebody that question and they say ‘no, nothing could change my mind on this’, then there is no point talking about it. Their mind is made up and they are no longer open to having it changed, no matter what the information is and even if it’s clear-cut evidence that contradicts what they think they know.
If your mind is always already made up on things, then there’s no room to take in new information that could actually help you make better decisions, even when it’s information that contradicts what you already believe. Cultivating the ability to wake up every day with the mindset and mantra, ‘today I will question all of my assumptions and be open to new information and ways of seeing things I may have previously be closed to’, is one of the best ways to open yourself to information and input that can help you be a better forecaster and make better decisions going forward.
Friends, I can’t tell you what to watch, what to listen to, who is right and who is wrong when it comes to taking in information. If I started to list out in this episode all of the informational websites I peruse each day; or listed out the sources I’ve vetted over the years that I believe are good trustworthy sources of information, I can tell you with 100% confidence what would happen. Some of you, because you have your own habitual patterns, your own belief systems, your own leanings, your own sources, and so on, as soon you come across a particular source that doesn’t agree with what you already believe, you’ll not only discount that source, but you’ll also discount all of the sources because you haven’t gone through the process yet of opening yourself to information that doesn’t agree with what you already believe, even if what you believe isn’t supported by any real facts, it’s just what you believe.
No, you will have to find for yourself the sources of information that work for you, but what I will encourage and challenge you to do is to find sources that challenge your existing assumptions about the world, about the economy, about politics, and about things you may already have a made-up mind on. The worst thing that can happen if you read or listen to something that goes against what you currently believe is that your belief becomes stronger. However, if you’re truly open to listening, taking in lots of information, able to sift through the bias that may exist with some sources and discern why they might have a particular view on something, and then looking for the patterns and connections in all of the information, the net result will inevitably be that you get better and better at predicting the future.
Of course, I’m being somewhat hyperbolic because we can’t predict the future, but we can make educated guesses about what is coming based on all the information we take in on a regular basis. The goal is to always be in a state of taking in information, sifting through the information for bits and pieces that could come into play later, remaining open to having your mind changed, and learning how to spot patterns, but maybe more importantly is to learn how certain things are connected to other things. I can’t overemphasize this point. If you don’t understand how the economy in Europe is connected to the economy in the United States, learn more about it. If you don’t understand what a yield curve is and what it can tell you about markets and the economy, learn more about it. If you don’t know what the Petro-dollar is and how it has shaped the US dollar around the world, learn more about it because when you understand how one thing is connected to the other thing, you start to see how something affecting one thing will inevitably affect the other thing.
If you have an interest in learning a little more about some of these connections I’m talking about, of course you can just start Googling some of this stuff and start looking on sites like YouTube for more information about what things affect the economy, interest rates, money supply, gold prices, you name it! The more connections you learn to identify, the more information you will become conscious of that can inform your choices and decisions going forward. One of the most basic lessons of being a good investor is having an understanding of how to analyze potential investments, understanding what may affect that investment both positively and negatively, knowing when to get in, and having a plan to get out. The rules are the same for life and business, my friends!
That’s what you can do on your own. If you have an interest in going a little deeper on how to be a better forecaster, you can jump into the Appraiser Increase Academy free for 30 days and watch some of the presentations and videos we post in there fairly regularly where we talk about this stuff. I just put a video in the academy recently talking about all of these points from this episode, but then going deeper on how to more accurately forecast what the future might hold. You can try it out at www.coachblaine.com/freemonth and see if there’s any value there for you.
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