“Keep constant guard over your perceptions, for it is no small thing you are protecting, but your respect, trustworthiness and steadiness, peace of mind, freedom from pain and fear, in a word; your freedom. For what would you sell these things?”- EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 188.8.131.52-8
I’ve often said that my purpose in life is to enhance perspectives and empower perceptions that ultimately enrich lives. Said differently; to look beyond face value and see things for what they really are. Live and interact in truth over deception. Value individual thought and common sense over notions of the status quo. And to inspire others to do the same.
Why? Because ultimately, how we see and perceive the world around us shapes the very lives we live.
Just look at the reality of modern life, where Technological and systematic progress- as much as they’ve enhanced our lives—have also made them increasingly complex. Our fast-paced and information-laden environment constantly presents the task of deciphering speculation from logic, hype from truth.
We’re littered with impressions from the world left and right, day in and day out. When these impressions are true and reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with taking them at face value. But the fact is; sometimes they’re not. While there are more than enough reasons to be optimistic and lighthearted in our daily lives, it turns out, things aren’t always what they seem and not everyone is on your side. But no need to be overly cynical about it. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to think and question over relying on superficial cues.
To better illustrate this, I want to quickly share something with you.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the story of a man named Nicholas Cosmo or not, but it was profiled by the CNBC show American Greed and also appeared on the cover of publications like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The media dubbed him “mini Madoff”, because just like Bernie Madoff, he was found guilty of operating a Ponzi scheme. But unlike Madoff who worked the well-to-do Manhattan residents and big corporations, Cosmo’s victims were working class families and everyday people. They didn’t have millions but they did have one thing that he could exploit: Trust.
Those people– they trusted Cosmo.
He promoted and sold shares of his company, claiming that profits would come through commercial bridge lending. And since his proposal fit the status quo of the investment world, his pitch appeared legitimate and accredited on the surface. So his victims; they took it at face value. But his scheme, in traditional Ponzi form, took advantage of the investors’ lack of knowledge and competence in the matter.
Over a five year period, Cosmo stole close to $400 million of investor money, diverting funds for personal use and trading as well as using it to pay hefty broker commissions who were out there recruiting even more investors. Or should I say victims. Eventually, it all came crashing down, but not without affecting the lives of four thousand people.
I tell you this as a reminder of something we often forget— that some people will do just about anything for money, especially during tough times or “booming” opportunity. And I’m sure you’re well aware of how greed can run rampant in commission-driven industries. The word alone, commission makes that pretty clear, right? Remember – No sale, no commission, hence the mantra “anything for the sale” which is what can drive otherwise good people to lie and deceive.
Take Real estate for example; it’s a 100% commission driven industry. Often times hefty commissions at that. You already know this.
But that’s not my point here and why I tell you the story of Nicholas Cosmo. The point is much larger.
You see, a few folks grew suspicious to the situation, started asking questions and demanding answers. When Cosmo couldn’t answer those questions, a detective was hired. Within days, that detective’s perceptive assessment discovered something that Cosmo’s 4,000 victims hadn’t noticed in five years of working with him. That detective discovered Nicholas Cosmo was in fact a fraud. How was he able to do this so quickly? Because he knew what to look for and he knew what to listen for.
After the investigation, one of Cosmo’s victims said something not to be forgotten. He said “we investors need to take some responsibility too. We wouldn’t be victims if we had done our homework, learned how to spot a scam, a lie, learned what to look out for and ways to protect ourselves.”
To reiterate; YOU WONT BE A VICTIM IF YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Of course, deception isn’t always so easy to decode. It’s not unusual for people to be unaware of the fact that they were fleeced, as all fraud is not readily visible or evident. It’s not uncommon to be either uninformed or to not understand how a game is played by those behind closed doors. The status quo of various industries, much like politicians, paint a picture to the public that they’re on your side, but at the end of the day, it’s often their own interests that come first.
Take real estate, where the industry promotes rhetoric to agents that success is a numbers game; that you must constantly prospect for business, and that somehow, people benefit from a sales culture mentality, rooted in self-promotion and superficial interactions.
And to be clear, all that “works” just fine for some people. Nobody is denying it. You CAN make money as a salesman.
But that’s just not how I’m wired. And after a few years in the industry, studying and learning more about how the conventional real estate game is played by many, I felt disillusioned by it all. There was this element of corruption in the very occupation I intended to serve. Sure, we all need to make money, but to me, it became a matter of principles over sales. It became something far beyond just being a real estate agent.
Please, don’t get me wrong; not all real estate agents are corrupt or negligent. However, the overall negative reputation of the industry often speaks for itself.
I say this because sometimes people are surprised by what I write publish about the industry. But taking action against greed and deceit by exposing truths isn’t some form of propaganda or slander against my peers. Everything brought to light in our studies and publications are simply facts with seemingly endless source of examples and proof.
In the words of Marcus Aurelius
If anyone can refute me—show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective – I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.
One of my great fascinations in life is the art and discipline of perception. Inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman world of the Stoics nearly two millennia ago, The Stoics embraced life’s uncertainty and believed that the key to it all lies within the ability to control our perceptions and that by consistently working to do so, we can act with better clarity. The stoics also believed that by strengthening themselves and their fellow citizens in the disciplines of perception, action, and will; that they could cultivate resilience, purpose, and even joy.
Holding that same belief to my core is why the monthly articles and publications I write, My book, this website, this message, all exist. Culminating into Perceptive Profits Media & Strategy.
This is something far beyond just real estate. And the profits —they’re not always money. They could be opportunities, connections, relationships, skill, and time.
I know our community can work on a stronger foundation because of it.
Where there is profit because our effort is productive, because it advances in step with our nature, there we have nothing to fear- Marcus Aurelius
But it would be rather hypocritical for me to expect you to just take my word for it. So dive in. Go explore the website. See what the heart and soul of our community is about with a free monthly subscription to The High Country Crux. Take it all in, make of it what you will.
I look forward to hearing from you. Take care