This is an excerpt from my book, ” Shouldering the Cost” Available on Amazon as Kindle or paperback.
“First, things are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticized.”
— Ulysses S. Grant
This was not the first real estate crisis in Florida, and it will not be the last. Swampland and hucksters have been in Florida for 150 years. Persons that repeatedly took cash out, or bought too much house with nothing down, found themselves “upside down”. We called it “jingle mail” as we received the keys to the abandoned houses in the mail when the owner walked away from their legal and moral obligation.
The number of homeowners allowed to purchase more house than they could afford with little or nothing down has been under reported. If you want to know what fueled this housing crisis, and why your home’s value dropped with it, just look out your kitchen window at your neighbor’s home. They financed it via “liar loans” with nothing down, no income verification, no verified capacity to repay the debt, and did so with an adjustable rate mortgage that benefitted the mortgage broker.
When they walked away, the resulting foreclosure or short sale reduced your property value, too. You get to look at knee-high grass, a green swimming pool and vandalism of the property by the departing owners, or persons that steal whatever they can. It is common that the owners destroy the interior as they leave. That is especially so when renters, who may be current in their obligation, learn they are being evicted because their property owner, who accepted the rent each month did not pay the mortgage company. That happened to my son.
Homeowners were allowed to default on their mortgage payments for years while remaining in the house, and the larger mortgages were the last to be foreclosed upon because the smaller mortgage balances were easier to sell. Big banks and lenders were swamped with workouts and the backlog of volume created apathy with the mortgage holders. Frequently, they would not even take a call from the debtors until the mortgage was in arrears over 90 days. I knew people who remained in their home for 18 months without making any payments. The mortgage holders could not produce proof that they own the mortgage, as the mortgages were packaged with others and sold to the secondary market.
All these factors combined to create unstable economic conditions of historic proportions and adversely affected almost all industries. Businesses were forced to close their doors and lay off staff in numbers not witnessed in many generations. Ultimately, my employer succumbed to the pressure and did likewise.
I felt with the real estate market in full implosion, and more than 50% of our equity vaporized, the best decision was to move to the least costly place. Doing so was predicated on the expectation that I was an experienced, respected CEO in my industry and would land another position shortly.
I said to my loving, supportive wife that the experience caused me to lose my faith in God, and regretfully, I did so for a while.
We could have stayed in the Florida home. My wife had a 20 year job she loved and I had accepted the position of interim-CEO, Sarasota Habitat for Humanity. I could have stayed there at a 66% of my previous salary, but I could not secure another position remotely equal to one I had lost.
An unintended consequence of this experience was that my wife…the redhead…resigned her 20 year position with a dental practice, left all her friends, workout buddies, executive home, familiar surroundings and followed me to rural NE Georgia. The redhead is resistant to change and was depressed for the better part of three years and the only jobs she could secure in the small mountain town were barista at Starbucks for eight months and then three years in the optical department of our Walmart.
Both honorable jobs and she enjoyed both. Still, it was a blow to my male psyche to sit at home conducting job searches while my wife was working at Walmart. It is worth noting here, that post-merger the displaced staff in almost all cases never finds a job anywhere the salary they lost. Lifetime earnings, retirement and health care insurance are all affected.
In his book Win at Losing, author Sam Weinman makes the case that failure can be used as fuel. The question, “did you fail, or just lose?” is uncomfortable. The author suggests that one implies fault; the other may be beyond your control. Chances are that you did not fail…rather, you lost to someone better prepared or who had information you did not.
After 25 years as a CEO, I can speak to feelings of failure. The great recession ended my career. The economic tsunami rolled over the organization due to mortgage losses created by big banks and mortgage lenders. In spite of the examiner stating that this was an economic crisis, and not a management event, I felt I was a failure. After these many years, I accept that it was a loss beyond my control.
I disagree with Mr. Weinman that “no pain, no gain” is anything other than a cliché. Calling that phrase science based and using terms like “post-traumatic growth” is dishonorable to anyone who suffers from PTSD and emboldens the society of persons who seek safe places because their feelings are hurt.
An unbroken routine of losing is debilitating. Growing from your losses is an opportunity for personal and professional growth, but do not assign a positive to losing. If you are consistently losing jobs, promotions, relationships or your health, then its time you did something very differently.
Not failing, or losing, will alleviate stress and improve your well-being. Research has proven that. I had a director who said stress was good. He was wrong. Unless you are an athlete who can channel stress for a few minutes to sharpen your focus and improve performance, stress can kill, literally.
Acknowledging your past is an important step. Being discontented due to losing or failing is often blamed on others. That is not productive. The problem is never external. Your answer always lies within. You may have allowed outside influences and circumstances to crush your enthusiasm and motivation. Positive conditioning is important.
There is value in mistakes, on that I agree, just do not continue to criticize yourself for past errors or you perpetuate the very behavior you want to change. Take responsibility for your failures, and do not shift blame to other people or to circumstances.
Failure is a state of mind. Unsuccessful people allow life’s setbacks to discourage and defeat them. Successful people view setbacks as learning experiences and bounce back even stronger…every time.
After more than 40 years of practiced experiences, it is my opinion that people fail to achieve their dreams of an abundant, satisfying life and career because their arrogance got in the way…not that they would admit it.
Leadership traits and aptitudes are learned…leaders are not born. Everything you demonstrate and possess, with the exception of intelligence, were acquired after birth. We are not born in God’s image as arrogant or devoid of integrity and ethics. Being a product of our past is something all humans have in common. That does not have to limit or define who or what we can become.
Separately from 25 years as a CEO in the credit union industry, I have military experience and leadership roles in both for-profit and not-for-profit worlds, have served on numerous boards of directors as a volunteer, and continue to do so.
Nothing you have not done also, it just adds some background to my argument that pride and self-conceit can become a limitation and frame how we are perceived by others. Arrogance grows unchecked and becomes hubris, which stifles the qualities that we admire most such as empathy, passion, heart, feelings, admiration, reverence and wonder. Name one leader that you admire that does not now, or did when they were alive, possess those endearing qualities?
Like you, I have former friends, business associates and others with whom I crossed paths that I would have liked to slap silly…and they are their own worst enemies. In fact I heard the word ‘hubris’ first from a friend and when our relationship went bad, it was because his arrogance could not allow him to accept or offer an apology.
As a certified business coach, I work exclusively with ethical, successful leaders who are prepared to make positive behavioral changes in themselves, their teams and their organizations. All my clients have come to a crossroad and acknowledge that in order to achieve work-life balance something must change. It wakes them up at 2 am.
Whether it is mental, social, spiritual or family development depends on the individual; however, it always has an influence on their family and career development.
Google shows almost 6 million references to the word arrogance and another 3 million to the word hubris. We see both in our daily lives and in ourselves. There are consequences felt by those on the receiving end. The terms self-important and arrogant are uncomplimentary. Those that display those traits find it offensive when others remind them that they are; but few have the courage to make a positive change.
All men and women that left their mark on the world possessed courage. They faced the challenges in their life; they spoke out and had the courage of their convictions. Like all the other character traits that you observe and learn, courage is one that is not inherited. You develop it by believing in yourself and adhering to your values and goals. Courage attracts others to follow, respect and support you.
Courage, Sir Winston Churchill said, “is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.” “Courage is the first of human qualities….because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Your courage and confidence will grow as you face challenges, set goals and strive to achieve them. A positive attitude makes it almost impossible to feel frustrated with the results. Persons that have courage are often afraid. They saddle up anyway and in doing so, inspire others. Honor and integrity are more deeply ingrained.
I was one of the leaders who shouldered the costs, and it is my duty to share my story to help facilitate the return of honor to my former profession and to my life.