If you’ve been following this show for the last few years, then you’ll know that I had a very interesting educational experience when I was 20 years old. I packed up my life and move to Chicago to live in a Zen monastery. I went there to study the martial art of Aikido under a renowned Aikido and Zen master named Fumio Toyoda, and it changed the course my life forever and in ways that are still reverberating in my life today, some 30 years later.

Hearkening back to that experience over 30 years ago is an almost daily occurrence for me because there were so many lessons and nuggets of wisdom I was given over the 10 years I knew and studied with Mr. Toyoda before his passing. Not a perfect human being, by any means, but filled with a certain kind of life experience and timeless wisdom that is extremely rare in the world today. Being that he was our Sensei, or teacher, his reason and purpose was derived from shaping and cultivating other teachers to go out into the world and make other people better. He did that by sharing these nuggets of wisdom in a variety of ways.

His wisdom dissemination techniques were varied and strategic, if not downright masterful. Sometimes he’d drop some wisdom over beers and peanuts at the local pub, sometimes while beating the crap out of you on the Aikido mat, sometimes in impromptu meetings about something you were lacking or failing at, and sometimes you had to discern the wisdom nuggets by watching him talking to or teaching other people something. In fact, that was one of the big lessons for me from that time, awareness is everything.

 Nevertheless, over the years I have done my best through journaling and copious note taking to memorialize those nuggets of wisdom I learned so many years ago, and have been learning and developing ever since.

   The first wisdom key is:

  1. See everybody as a teacher.

Everybody and everything we come across in our lives has the power to teach us something. We all know at some level that we can learn from everybody and everything, but for some, due to a variety of reasons like; attitude, life blinders, past experiences, conceit, arrogance, world view, race, creed, sexual orientation, whatever it may be we tend to categorize people based on very limited information. Usually, this is based on quick visual information we get from judging people based on dress, gait or how they walk, how they speak or act, or maybe it’s somebody we know by their career, and we’ve judged them based on this fact alone. I can tell you from personal experience that I have an almost immediate visceral reaction to attorneys and its primarily due to seeing them up close and in action during a somewhat painful divorce experience. Up to that point I had several attorney friends and colleagues and had no issues with them. After seeing how some of them behaved in and out of court, I developed a bit of disdain for the the title alone, not to mention the profession. This is a bit at odds since I do a lot on non-lender work which entails dealing with attorneys and para-legals throughout the week. However, something I learned from Mr. Toyoda was to learn from every experience and every person I can. He said everybody is teaching you something whether they know it or not and whether you are aware of it or not. This awareness is the important part of this wisdom key.

Once you become aware of the fact that everybody you come in contact with is teaching you something you open yourself to learning and becoming aware of the signals, clues, indicators, and opportunities that are given to you literally on a daily basis. The corollary to this idea that everybody is a teacher is that once this becomes ingrained and part of your everyday natural thinking you begin to bring out the best in others because you’ll start to see talents and abilities in them that they, and others, don’t see. This is when you start to go from just listening to everybody for the lessons, they’re unconsciously teaching to observing in a way that turns you into a sometimes unintended mentor of sorts. When you can begin to see the hidden talents and abilities in others, you’ll begin attracting to you a whole host of people and opportunities to develop because of this honed skill and mindset of seeing everybody as a teacher. 

As a teacher of martial arts and defensive tactics I have had the awesome opportunity to be in the presence of tens of thousands of people of the past 30+ years in various roles, some as teacher and many as student. With that many ‘at bats’ so to speak, and so many opportunities to hone my message, my teaching methodology, make some mistakes, work on weaknesses, and develop a diagnostic capability to see what others need for growth both personally and professionally, I was also able to develop what I call my ‘teachable point of view’ and a philosophy that helped me accelerate that growth in students and that philosophy was this very wisdom key.

This philosophy is one that believes that we already have the knowledge inside of us, we just need it to be coaxed out, so to speak. I would begin verbally expressing from the very first beginners’ class that everybody is a teacher and already knows everything they need to know, and that I was just there to help them re-member, or put back together their inherent knowledge of these principles and techniques. When explained that way, students right from the beginning started to believe that they were more than just beginners who needed somebody to cram some more information into them, they were in fact masters and sensei in their own right. I would try to instill in them right away this ‘everyone is a teacher’ mentality because it forces you to think differently.

There’s a saying that, when you teach something, you’re learning it twice. The saying stems loosely from this idea that we’re all teachers, we just have to believe that there is a teacher inside of us just waiting to come out. When you view everyone as a teacher, you allow them to come to you with something to teach, even if they don’t know they’re teaching you something. It puts you in a mind frame of always being the learner, even if you’re further along on a particular path. Everyone and everything in life is there to teach us something. That’s the first wisdom key. 

The next wisdom key:

  1. Never complain about what you’re willing to permit.

This is a big one, friends!  I like to refer to this idea as ‘radical responsibility’ because it entails looking at everything in your life from the standpoint of you having allowed it to exist. If it’s in your life in any way, you’re allowing it to be there. If you don’t like something that’s in your life, you have two options: put up with it or shut up about it. 

This one was a big revelation for me back when I was going through some difficult times in my life. I was going through what is often referred to as a ‘dark night of the soul’ period where you feel completely helpless and searching for answers to solve the problem or ease your suffering a bit. I was awakened from my self pity during that time by one of my mentors who was not afraid to hurt my feelings. After sharing with him what I was going through and drowning in my own sorrow, he quite pointedly said, “great, you created this situation, so either shut up about it and accept it as is or do something about it and change it!” I was incensed! I think I said to him, ‘who’s side are you on dude?’, to which he replied, “I’m firmly on your side, which is why I’m giving you such valuable advice. Shut up about it, quit giving this thing energy, either accept your situation as unchangeable and never speak about it again, or accept it as changeable and then change it.”

Done! That one conversation was like a bomb going off inside of me because I knew he was right. I started making changes literally in that moment just with the way I was looking at the situation. I vowed shortly thereafter to never act like I wasn’t somehow part of my own experience ever again. If there is something in my life that I’m experience, whether good or bad, positive or negative, I have learned to accept that I’ve played a part in it. Without accepting that, you’re always giving up the opportunity to change your situation.

Remember, what we resist persists so when you’re complaining about something you are giving it more life than it likely deserves and you’re also making a statement to the world that you have no control over what happens to you and complaining is the most sophisticated response you could come up with. What is more likely to happen when you adopt this wisdom key and make it part of your DNA, however, is that you will start to examine your business and life with a different eye. The eye of radical responsibility and radical leadership means taking responsibility for EVERYTHING that comes in and goes out of your life. When you adopt this wisdom key as a pillar of your daily life you will stop allowing things to continue that you have been complaining about for years, maybe your whole life.

If you find yourself complaining about your husband or your wife, that’s an area that has just been revealed to you as something you’re permitting in your life. If you’re not happy with it, either change it or shut up about it. If you’re complaining about Realtors, Lenders, and AMCs, that is a revelation about something that you permit into your life. Either change it or shut up about it! If you aren’t happy with something, take some kind of action and make a change or shut up about it. It’s really that simple. “But Blaine, I can’t make the AMCs pay me more and I can’t make them stop harassing me and I can’t, and I can’t , and I can’t…”, Maybe! But complaining about it isn’t going to change it. Complaining is just wasted energy and emotion! You’re permitting it! You built that business! You allowed them into your boardroom because you didn’t have the wherewithal or care to go after any other kind of business. Fine, accept it and make some changes.

The next wisdom key:

  1. The secret of your future successes and failures is hidden in your daily routine- what you do daily determines what you become permanently.

This one is pretty easy to understand, but very difficult for many to utilize in their favor. We’re all big walking, breathing sacks of habits. Habits are just things you do consistently over a period of time to the point where they’ve become somewhat natural and habitual. You don’t have to think about them, you just do them.

 This wisdom key can really just be turned into a question. The question is this: ‘what am I doing daily that, if continued will harm me or help me?’ The secret of your future, which isn’t really a secret at all, is hidden in what you’re doing daily. Are you eating junk food and drinking soda daily? Your future doesn’t care what your choices are, it will simply deliver a fairly scientific and expected result at some unknown date in the future. If that’s the way you eat daily, nature takes over. The human body and brain aren’t designed to perform at its optimal levels on chemicals. So, take that for what it is and just know that your future will simply be a result of what you choose to do today.

 Are you making short term choices for immediate gratification? Or are you willing to sacrifice a little pleasure today for a greater amount of pleasure in the future, albeit maybe in a different form? I struggle with this one myself. I love food, plain and simple. I love Mexican food and pizza. I have gone through periods of my life when I was eating pizza and Mexican food from restaurants every single week. I did it for immediate gratification instead of thinking about the price to be paid at some point in the future. Well, the future is here and I’m overweight. I’m still very active, which is probably the main thing that has somewhat saved me from a worse future, but it’s also a bit of irony since I could’ve performed so much better all these years if I had been fueling properly instead of borrowing from my future.

 Of course, eating is just one example of this wisdom key. Look around at your daily routine and ask yourself, ‘what do I do on a regular basis, and what effect will it have on me, my health, my business, my relationships, my finances, or whatever other area you want to peer into the crystal ball on?’ The secret of your future is hidden in something you are doing today, tomorrow, and every day. 


The 4th wisdom key:

  1. Your rewards in life and business will be determined by the type of problems you choose to solve for others.   

We talk about this a lot on this podcast so this one should be a no brainer for most of you. If you’re new to the podcast than this is the perfect introduction to one of the pillars of my teachable point of view and the philosophical foundation of my life, my businesses, and the successes and failures I’ve had in both. And the reason I bring failures into is because I have had many! We learn from our failures as much, or more, than we can learn from our successes and in every case where I’ve failed, if I take radical responsibility and leadership for my failures, can most definitely say that I simply failed to solve enough problems and create enough value in that relationship.

We see this very plainly in business on a daily basis, especially in the appraisal, real estate, and mortgage industries. People are going out of business on a daily basis because they simply haven’t figured out what problem they’re solving for the market, and how to solve it better or differently than their competitors.

This is a universal law, by the way. This isn’t something that was dreamed up in a Harvard business class. This is a law like gravity. It doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, it just is. Those solving the biggest problems for the greatest number of people are given the greatest rewards. You get to decide what the definition of ‘rewards’ is for you. If the greatest rewards you can imagine are not financial in nature, but maybe personal and gratitude based, then you have to figure out how to solve big problems for people in need. If you want your rewards to be financial in nature, then you have to figure out how to solve problems in the market, and in a way that helps the greatest number of people with that need.

Appraisers, wake up! The problem you’re solving is not that great, not that important, nor is it in that much need. I’m not saying you’re not important or that your service isn’t that important, I’m saying that there are tens of thousands of others doing exactly as you are doing and for the same companies, which means you and your service are commoditized. When something is commoditized, it is sorted and chosen by the market primarily based on price. If you want to reap greater rewards, then you’ll have to figure out how to solve bigger problems or solve problems in a way that others aren’t doing. Your rewards in life and business will be determined by the type of problems you choose to solve for others.  


The 5th wisdom key:

  1. Your significance in business and life is not in your similarity to another but in your differences. 

We all do the same thing, more or less. We appraise real estate. We sell real estate. We give out money to buy real estate. We install furnaces or fix your plumbing. Your value does not lie in that similarity but in the differences between you and the next best option. This is just as true in business as it is in life and romantic relationships. Your significance is not in your similarities with your wife, husband, or romantic partner, it’s in your difference and the value you bring to the relationship.

 Your significance in business is not in providing the same boring product or service to the market, it’s in how you’re different from everyone else. The market might start off looking at your similarity to another company they’ve researched, so it’s your job to get them to see your differences and how those differences might benefit them in the short and long term. Maybe you’re the higher quality option, maybe you’re the lower priced option, and maybe you’re the ultimate experience option. Either way, it’s imperative that you recognize where your significance and value live and it’s not in your similarity.

This is one of the big issues with the appraisal industry in 2023. The vast majority of Appraisers have not grasped this idea around where your significance exists. It’s not in being the same as everyone else. I know, you think you’re different than everyone else, but, unless the market believes you’re different in some way, you’re not different. If you accept orders, do inspections, pull comps, write up appraisals, sign and send them, you’re the same as every single other person doing the exact same thing. And you wonder why your fees are slowly shrinking and your market is too.

Friends, if you want to focus on something for the rest of 2023 and into 2024, focus on how you can become different in some way. Focus on how you can add more value over and above your cost or price. Focus on what you bring to the table for your clients beyond what everyone else is bringing to the table. Don’t just say you’re the best, prove it, and in a way that actually matters to your clients.

Many of you know my stance on advanced degrees and designations in the business world and it’s that most of you who have them tend to believe they somehow make you superior to those without them. The irony is that the vast majority of the market could give 2 shakes about those letters after your name. What they care about is the same thing you and I care about from the people we do business with: how are you going to take care of me. Of course, I care that my doctor and my attorney have the designations required to be in their professions, but I could care less if they had a bunch of 3 and 4 letter designations after their names. How are you taking care of me? What advice are you giving me? How are you different from all the others with those same letters after their names? What do you bring to the table and how are you different than everyone else? That’s where your significance for me lives.

There you have it, friends, the five wisdom keys of life and business. Of course, there are more wisdom keys than just these 5. In fact, I’ve done prior podcasts on 10 wisdom keys in the past. If you want to search those up, feel free. If you want to get more in-depth coaching and instruction, not just on what the wisdom keys are, but also how to use them in your life and business to stand up, stand out, skill up, skill out, speak up, and speak out, head over and join the Appraiser Increase Academy completely free for a whole month. There’s no obligation, no cost, and no hard feelings if it’s not for you. If you want to learn how to differentiate yourself as an appraiser, the most valuable and important teachings and discussions are being had in that academy right now. to become of the most differentiated appraisers in your market, maybe in the country. 

Until I see you over there, or until next week. I’m out…

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