5 Take Home Lessons from the Financial Crisis of 2008.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how young America really is.  Our nation is so vibrant and full of promise that optimism sometimes hinders a mature grasp of reality.  America is the land of the Free and the Brave, the nation in which cowboys ride into the sun speckled range and the Rocky, though bruised and bloodied, always manages to win the sparring match in the end. 

It is that irrepressible enthusiasm that gives us the strength to recover in spite of horrifying setbacks and defeats and to will things to go our way even when the deck of cards is stacked against us. 

The fact that America has been able to do this so successfully is a testament to her relative youthful vigor amongst the sisterhood of nation states. 

When you look at ancient civilizations in Africa, the Middle East and the Far East, you appreciate the fact that a few hundred years is youthful against a backdrop of many centuries.

In some ways we’re like teenagers; not really believing that certain types of mistakes have the capacity to change us on a fundamental level.  A teenager may experiment with drugs and sex not realizing that the wrong needle or partner could fundamentally cost him or her their life.  Teenagers are young and naive enough to be willing to roll the dice and hope that they can get away with it.

However, the dice of life is unpredictable.  And youth rarely calculates the odds of a catastrophe.  The recklessness which has precipitated the crisis on Wall Street is a reminder of the fact that our collective actions can have ramifications far beyond our limited perspective.  The thing about experience is that it forces you to grow up.  A kid who impregnates his girlfriend becomes a father by default…readiness for the responsibility is not the criteria…the ability to have sex is.

In recent years, our ability to access easy and abundantly available credit has been about Availability, not Responsibility.  Through every crisis, our country has learned something and we’ll learn some lessons this time too.  That’s guaranteed.  The real issue is if we’ll learn the lessons which we need to learn to help us to mature and grow up.

Here are 5 Lessons Which I hope that this crisis will force us to grapple with.

1.  Using Credit for Disposable Items Never Makes Sense

I’ll never forget the exact moment I saw someone whip out a credit card to pay for a grocery purchase!  It was about 15 years ago and prior to that time, most stores in my area only allowed cash or checks.  I remember wondering WHY someone would be buying groceries which would be gone in a week with a credit card on which the balance could last for years.

I remember discussing this with an associate who told me that it was merely a matter of convenience; most people would pay off their card at the end of the month and furthermore this action could accrue points to be used towards the gain of free stuff.  That was such a crock.  Whether it was groceries or meals in a restaurant, the vast majority of us are still paying for meals we ate a long, long, time ago.  Meals which have long exited our systems.

2.  If you can’t Pay For it…A Credit Card does not change that fact

There’s a type of security which comes with having a plastic magic wand in ones wallet.  I didn’t know how strong this power was until I tore up my credit cards in my early twenties.  As I prepared to walk out the door, I realized that I was nervous and shaky…I didn’t have the security of my cards.  That was a huge wake up call for me and it changed my life.  I realized that I had believed a lie in thinking that just because I could charge something meant that I could afford it.  So, not true.

3.  Creative Accounting does not make a big Fat Zero disappear

Asset valuation became a game of pretense that was so extraordinary that in the last stages of our demise, we began to totally imagine it.  Just imagine you make…X Dollars.  Just imagine you’re worth X amount.  If you say so, we’ll believe you.  In fact our bankers started imagining with us and giving us money which we could not prove that we could repay.  Imagining things is a great childhood game.  Grown ups deal with reality.  Less fun, but far safer when it comes to financial well being.

4.  Consequences are Real and Don’t go away Quickly

The thing about a Consequence is that it tends to stick around.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing if one understands that the reason that Consequences exist is to teach us the Lessons of Life.  Since youth tends to gloss over important lessons, the message that Consequences are sent to teach us almost always require time and repetition. 

5.  Being Mature requires having the Courage to take Responsibility for your Mistakes

This one may be the hardest lesson to swallow.  Watching or listening to any news or media right now is to watch the ‘Blame Game’ in full swing.  Everybody is blaming someone else and pointing fingers.  No one seems willing to take responsibility. 

Witness the specter of a government which refuses to focus on solutions for fear of being blamed for taking action.  Immaturity plays out in the world of nations in much the same way that it does in our personal life.  We ignore stuff that we need to pay attention to, we hope that it goes away, we continue doing things that we know are not healthy and then try to find anyone to blame but ourselves. 

The sad truth is that until we come to terms with our actions, we can’t move on; we remain mired in the sticky mess as we wallow in self pity.  True Maturity means having the courage to say, ” I was Wrong, I made a mistake and I will do what I need to do to take care of it.” No blame, no finger pointing, no accusing, no hiding…just plain old fashioned transparency. 

picture is courtesy of respres photostream on flickr

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

One Saturday Morning at the Fulton Street Farmers Market…

I didn’t plan on visiting the Farmers Market on Fulton Street today.  In fact, we were on our way to tour the F.L.O.W. Landscaping Project organized by the Women’s Council of Realtors; an extraordinary community event in which 10 homes in Grand Rapids were outfitted with new landscaping. 

The project was envisioned by Michelle Gordon, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Grand Rapids, MI.  The vision of Michelle and the Women’s Council of Realtors chapter of Grand Rapids, focused on beautifying the yards of some moderate to low income neighborhoods around the city courtesy of the generosity of area landscapers, donors and sponsors. In addition to the gift of Free Landscaping, participants also attended workshops to teach them how to care for their new yards!

Entrance of Fulton Street Farmers Market, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Entrance of Fulton Street Farmers Market, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

So, it was the tour of homes which had me driving past the market and unable to resist, we decided to pop in to see what was going on.  When we arrived at noon, the place was packed!  We were lucky to find a parking spot.  It had been a very long time since I had visited, and the market has certainly grown in popularity.

The stands had a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, fresh bread, some select meats, arts and crafts, spices, health and beauty products and fresh flowers.  Talking to local farmers was great.  On more than one occasion, I heard merchants say they were selling out of products. 

The appeal of the fresh market has grown as more people become concerned about environmental issues and supporting the local economy.  Did you know that the average product in your grocery store travels over 1000+ miles to get to your table?  In addition, several area restaurants, including popular sites like Marie Catribs, the Green Well , GRAM Cafe and Restaurant Bloom also highlight the fact that they strive to serve locally grown produce and food items on their menus.

Farmers Market ~ Fall Mums

Farmers Market ~ Fall Mums

The Fulton Street Farmers Market is located at 1145 E. Fulton Street, in Grand Rapids, MI.  49503.  The Market is the oldest of it’s kind in West Michigan, having started in 1922. 

Permanent stands have been set up in the middle of a parking lot which allows local farmers to back their trucks in and unload their wares.  Visitors to the market walk through the middle. 

What I found especially delightful was the diversity of people…old, young kids and babies, moms and dads, foreigners, black & white…everyone was enjoying the sights, smells and sounds of the market. 

We were even serenaded by a young guitarist who set up shop jjust outside the display area which made an interesting experience even more enjoyable.

Fulton Street Farmers Market website…

Michelle Gordon’s blog…F.L.O.W. Project Coordinator

 

Additional Pictures of the Fulton Street Farmers Market on Flickr…

GRAM CAFE in the Grand Rapids Art Museum, GR, MI

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I’ve been to visit many restaurants which offer a Sunday Brunch. But, I must say that I was very impressed with the Value and Quality provided at the GRAM Cafe located within the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

If you’re in Grand Rapids, MI on a visit or if you live here and haven’t ventured downtown recently…put this on your Fall Schedule. Visit the Museum while you’re at it; the Gordon Parks photography exhibit is stunning!

To Read more…http://www.flickr.com/…880673824/

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Sandy Dunes on the Big Lake…

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My job often allows me to meet people from other parts of the country. In talking with a recent visitor to Grand Rapids, MI, this remark was made (refering to West Michigan):

"This area is a hidden jewel!"

I’d agree. There is so much natural beauty in Michigan. Grand Rapids provides the benefits of urban sophistication with small town charm. You really have to experience it to understand…

See more pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/…872377937/

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Iskape Audiobooks…West Michigan’s Talking Book Store

It was a small sign that caught my eye on my way to the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, MI.  I wondered what it meant…Talking Books?  Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me, and I pulled my car into the parking lot of the small strip mall.  Although I was an avid lover of books, I had never seen anything like this. Row upon row of audio books on every subject imaginable filled the racks of the store. Iskape Audiobooks

was initially a part of another franchise called Talking Book World.  The first store opened in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1999.  The Grand Rapids, MI location opened a few years later.

During my first visit, I was amazed by the selection of audio books that they had available.  This was well before most major bookstores had any sort of significant inventory of books that you could listen to on cassette tape or DVD.

But in addition to regular books, the store carried an extraordinary selection of business training materials for sales professionals.

I was in the early stages of my real estate career and this was like discovering a gold mine!  I loved the fact that you could pay a yearly membership fee and keep books as long as you needed to.,

The staff are wonderful.

On several occasions, conversations with the owners or fellow customers led me to discover books which I would not have been exposed to.

Over the years, we have listened to hundreds of hours of books on tape.  Many long family vacation trips have flown by as the family became immersed in another John Girsham tale.The name ,

Iskape Audiobooks

was adopted after the store moved to its’ new location on 3070 28th St. SE in Kentwood, MI 49512.  Today, Steve & Dyan Moore manage both locations in Kalamazoo and the Grand Rapids, Mi areas.

I recently sat down with Steve Moore, the owner of Iskape to talk about his passion for books and his audiobook business.

The business was a natural fit for Steve because he loves people and he loves books!  Today, the store has developed a very loyal following of customers.  They are able to buy audio books in many locations, but visit Iskape Audiobooks because of the personal service.

During our conversation, I shared with Steve my extraordinary experience with blogging and the way in which it can expand the outreach of a small business. Steve was intrigued with the potential to enhance his service to his clients.

Iskape customers are welcomed like friends.  It’s not unusual to hear individuals greeted by name.  Conversations often develop about book recommendations and client business cards for a variety of services occupy space on the front desk.

Iskape Audiobooks is not just about renting or purchasing audiobooks, it’s about being a part of a community of readers.  To encourage listeners to dialog about books and other topics of interest, Steve has launched a website which includes a blog.  He’s excited to explore how blogging can assist him in his efforts.

You can browse, rent or buy audiobook titles from Iskape Audiobooks online or by visiting one of their stores.

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

Beyond the Open Door…a 9-11 Remembrance

"Beyond the Open Door"

An open door speaks of an invitation to enter, an opportunity to explore.

The expectancy of discovery always carries a risk that the adventure may entail more

than we bargained for.

A shut door on the other hand speaks of barred access, denied entry, and limited opportunity.

It may also provide a shield of safety against dangers yet unseen.

Often both options present a dilemma of sorts.

Walking through the access and possible opportunity of the Open Door,

Or being denied welcome and access in the unyielding nature of the Closed Door

May prove to be more than anticipated.

The journey over the threshold can make retreat difficult or impossible.

In the ancient text of Revelation, a message from Christ to the early Christian Community in the city of Philadelphia speaks of a door which "no man can shut…for thou hast a little strength and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name". Revelation 3:8.

The events of September 11, the day of 9-1-1 opened a doorway in our hearts.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the horrific events begin to unfold.

So do you.

It seemed as though that week lasted an eternity, a bizarre pause in a lifestyle stuck on

fast-forward.

The wounds struck at the heart of a nation totally unprepared for the horror and evil that unraveled itself within the framework of our "normal routine".

One Doorway Opened…And Another Door Shut.

Nothing will ever be quite the same as it was before America stepped into the threshold of September 11.

And perhaps nothing should be.

In an instant, the doorway of eternity was opened for thousands of unsuspecting individuals,

And we were all reminded that the grace of life is not guaranteed, even through one more day.

A door of Compassion also opened that day.

As one after another selflessly gave hope, help and some ultimately their lives…

And a Door Also Slammed Shut!

The people of New York shut the Door of Cynicism with a sound as loud as a clap of thunder,

A sound so loud, the entire world paused to look, listen, weep and then

Began to regain hope,

As bravery and courage rose and walked the streets of the devastated city.

For in the midst of the torment and despair, the Door of Love Opened to reveal a force that cannot Fail

From the piles of ashes and debris, smoke and torment,

A cry of prayer ascended from our nation and unity and heroism emerged resplendent and undamaged by the ruins.

This is a door that no man can shut.

I have an anticipation and expectation that these trials and emergent challenges will strengthen weak knees.

My hope arises not merely on the basis of optimism, but on the sure knowledge that God is not willing that anyone should perish.

For whatever is purified through fire has only two options, either to burn to ashes or be refined.

Although her ruins continue to smolder, America did not burn on 9-1-1.

We are in the process of being refined

Copyright 2001 Audu Real Estate All Rights Reserved

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