TO KNOW AND TO BE KNOWN…A PROTECTOR I AM
(Here's the Real bio....you've seen the "professional" bio in the About page...)
Now…who am I, really? I’ve said for a long time now that 99% of us in the good ole’ USA (and maybe even around the world) have never given more than 30 minutes uninterrupted time to have an honest chat with ourselves about Who we are, What we believe and Why we believe what we believe.
I'm laying out My Story...you may 'like' it, 'approve' of it, be 'disgusted' by it or maybe even 'identify' with it. Whatever your position, that's OK. But I do want to give you the opportunity to truly 'know' who it is you might be considering doing business with. Thanks for spending the time to get to know me. I look forward to getting to 'know' you, as well!
The Summary of what follows: "Seek Truth and Make A Difference"
If you've read the "About" page, then you know my "professional" Bio now….my place of birth (Yeah!!!) (P.S. even as I write this, I’m helping a young couple buy their first home and guess where it is…on Oakley St in downtown Orlando, the very same street I was born on, just a few houses away! So very Cool!), my education (a college degree ain’t what it used to be), some accolades, etc. But Who am I? And really more importantly, the bigger question: What difference does this make to you? If you’ve read this far, then it apparently does make a difference to you so I’m going to give you the essence of who I really am in this short story and as you and others visit my blog, read my cute newsletter, you’ll get an even clearer vision of my story.
Who am I? I am a Protector….persevere to the end of the Story and this will make sense.
Over the years, I’ve come to notice something very intriguing about people I’ve had opportunity to spend more than just a few minutes with whether at a get-together/party, on an airplane or over coffee somewhere. And that observation is this: Everyone has a Story! Wow….earth shattering!
But really….think about it. Underneath the easy platitudes (How ya doing? Great! How are the kids? Johnny loves 1st grade. Wonderful. Well, see you later.) is a truly compelling life story. Something or somethings that had a foundational and transformational impact on their life. Event or events that inform their nearly every response to any particular situation.
Because of these Life Events….I am what I am. It’s a hugely significant aspect of what makes me or you respond emotionally when I “hear _____....”, when I “see _____....”, when you say “_____ to me”, “treat me ______ way….”, when I “have to _____...”….just fill in the blanks. Have you ever truly pondered why you’re so afraid to “speak in public”? Wondered why you “lash out when a spouse criticizes you”? Or why you cry at a chick-flick and everyone else just laughs? These life events, in large part, are what make you and I respond in these particular ways.
Now I’m not saying that we are prisoners of our Life Events….that we’re formed in solid granite because of these things. I personally believe that a Biblical understanding of who God is in relation to who we are as needy human beings is the greatest transformational event of any person’s life and can totally transform any of us.
But for the most part, because we don’t generally consider the Who, What and Why’s, we fail to appreciate the impact of those Life Events in our everyday lives and consequently are so much less than we were meant to be.
And also so critically important: When I fail to learn your "Story", I can never really “know” you. And without “knowing” you….how can I truly serve you? Or how can you, yourself, truly help those in need…your brother, sister, best friend, work colleague, son/daughter, client?
How can I “Protect” my children, my wife, my friends and my clients if I don’t know who they are deep down. How can I help my client, Shannon, a faithful elementary school Teacher, who by no fault of her own lost her home through faulty title transfers and an unscrupulous husband….how can I truly help if I don’t care about her Story? How can I help the Entrepreneur/Business Owner without first knowing what his/her driving passions are, what their ultimate purpose is, why he/she would take the huge risks of starting a business when only 3 of 10 startups make it past 3 years? How can I provide the very best service possible to my Deputy Sheriff friend without understanding his Story? And if I’m not aware of my own "Story"…am I really equipped to help anyone? The Teacher, the Entrepreneur/Business Owner, the Law Enforcement Officer and Fire Fighter?
LIFE EVENTS….ATLAS SHRUGGED
As a young boy, I think I was very fearful. I look back on the days when my father was around and for the most part don’t recall any real connection. One of the earliest events I remember (I was around 5 yrs old) was a chilly winter afternoon standing in our utility room with my Dad and a stranger. The stranger was there to buy one of the newly born puppies of our pooch, Heidi. (Bet you can’t guess what kind of dog Heidi may have been??? Uh huh….a beautiful reddish-brown Dachshund)
I really felt grown-up being there with my Dad in this “business” transaction. We’re looking down at the puppies and I reach out with my foot and nudge one of the pups with my bare foot. I think because I was feeling really “grown up”, “important”, that I just needed to do something, anything to establish my presence and contribute to the setting.
Whatever the reason was, in my Dad’s eyes, it was the wrong thing to do. He swatted me with his hand, told me that was a stupid thing to do and sent me packing….what I heard that afternoon, and for years afterward, in my own mind was clear: “Get out of here you stupid little kid, we’re grown-ups in here and you don’t belong here.” I was embarrassed, humiliated and hurt by the only man I loved and trusted.
So is this particular Life Event what made me timid or afraid as a young boy? Was it a larger issue regarding the shallow relationship I had with my father? Is this where the need for approval came from? I don’t know for sure but as I look into my own life and seek the Who,What,Why’s, this is what I consistently come back to. Not really a big deal in the context of the horrors of this world but in my life, at that moment for that little boy, it was a really big deal. My Dad, who I worshipped, loved and needed, humiliated me in front of a total stranger and it crushed me.
But I was blessed through those next years to have some good friends and was able to live in one place long enough to get to know these friends. One of these friends became a “girl friend”, Marcia. We’re still very good friends today, many years later (she actually introduced me to my amazing wife!) Beyond the influence of an 8th grade love, Marcia was responsible for one of the most profound impacts on my life and I’m not sure she is even aware of it to this day. Let me explain….
Her aunt Betty lived not far from my house (a ten minute ride on my bike) which made it very convenient when Marcia would go visit her. They had a very close relationship and they visited often. And as often as Marcia visited, I’d ride my bike over to visit with them. I recall sitting in the little enclosed porch area and gazing over Aunt Betty’s little book shelf. I saw a book that intrigued me….not sure why. It was a very big one, well, it was a very thick one, a paperback….”Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. It may have been the picture on the cover of a very muscular statuesque man holding the world on his shoulders that grabbed my attention....I was still dreaming of having big muscles like that!
I opened it and began reading, leaving the ladies to themselves….and this Life Event began its work on me. When it was time to leave, this timid boy got the nerve to ask if I could borrow it to finish reading. Aunt Betty was so kind to let me have it as all mine. One might ask: How did I come to want to tackle such a big book at that age, a book of over 1,000 pages of small print and, literally, 2 inches thick? It began in elementary school....
My first book, the one that began my discovery of reading, was found in the Conway Elementary School library in 2nd grade…Mrs. Bigger’s class. I found a tattered yellow book with black electrical tape supporting its binding. It was a “Hardy Boys” detective series book, “The Yellow Feather Mystery”. I devoured that book sitting in the hall to my bedroom, in front of our wall furnace with its warm air blowing directly on me. Frank and Joe Hardy, the teenage sons of a famous detective, kept me company on many cold winter days. We had a blast together through countless other days as I became a hero along with Frank and Joe, solving fantastic mysteries of every kind over the next couple of years as I read through every one of their exciting stories. Side note: why was that book in such poor condition? This series was begun in 1926, so this book may have been around for quite a few years before I discovered it that day in the Conway Elementary School library! It was published in 1953 and was the 33rd in the full series of 66 stories, with the last one published in 1981.
So that’s how I came to read a 1,000+ page book by Ayn Rand in the 8th grade. Those early years, unknowingly, had prepared me for this moment. Now you might be thinking this is a bit over-stated, the impact it had on my life. Well…..no, not at all. [P.S. – Ayn Rand is a powerful author whose work eventually formed itself into an articulated philosophy called Objectivism. She valued and advocated above all else “reason, individualism and capitalism”. As a whole I subscribe to these characteristics, or virtues if you want to call them that, however, her world view is a godless philosophy which I do not subscribe to and the godlessness of her life and philosophy is a huge hole in her life and work. All works of man are flawed to some greater or lesser extent and so also in Ms. Rand’s works. Her birth was in Czarist Russia and as a young teenager lived through the so-called “glorious Revolution” of 1917, the Bolsheviks takeover of Russia under Vladimir Lenin, her family losing everything through the confiscation of her father’s business and home, the growth of the Communist dream….this was all part of her "Story" and significant Life Events]
I won’t bore you by trying to retell “Atlas Shrugged”. I’ll just tell you that it gave me an extreme sense of perspective regarding the motivations of the proponents of big, expansive government and the vastly overstated ability of the government monopoly to bring about Utopia or Peace on Earth in any form.
In my limited experience and young mind, I began forming the opinion that all government is Coercion, Force. Agreed….it is a necessary element of our human condition but nevertheless, it is Coercion by the threat of Force. That is why the Founders of this amazing nation created what they did….a constitutional form of government that sought to limit the ability of this Coercive Force to trample on Freedom and Liberty. To a significant degree, as a result, America has been the greatest force for Good in the history of our world. (Yes….I know, we have done some rotten things along the way but let’s be honest and weigh the totality of her deeds in her brief history and keeping this history in perspective and in context of the rest of mankind’s history and relationship with its leaders/rulers)
Protector: I’m passionate about Freedom, Liberty. We are a blessed people. By God’s grace we have been granted to be a part of the most unique civilization to have ever existed on Planet Earth. Our history with its roots and foundation of Freedom and Liberty is undeniably unique in the history of mankind. I want to preserve this , I want to help Protect this precious gift. Not merely for myself but for my children and grandchildren and all those that follow. We are literally just one generation away from tyranny if we should forget our roots, these foundational principles. This country, its way of life, its Constitution…It is worth protecting.
My experience was beginning to grow with respect to my Ayn Rand background. I saw first-hand how “government” works during my sophomore summer back from Florida State University. I landed a job with Orange County. It was a summer “internship” of some nature, I can’t recall the exact title. But we worked under the Clerk of the Courts. An older fellow, tall with a full head of gray hair. I was to report to the Courthouse in downtown Orlando at 8:30 on Monday morning. I had my Levis on with my shirted nicely tucked in, belt on….looking good and ready to go to work. I was to meet the “crew” in the lower levels of the Courthouse in one of the “vaults”. These vaults are scattered throughout the Courthouse and were used mainly to store the Official Records Books; large bound books of the County’s business that was the Public Records. Marriage licenses, court proceedings and cases, deeds and that sort of thing.
At 8:29 sharp I find my Crew in the vault and was very pleasantly surprised to see among the other 3 guys making up our crew, an old friend from high school, Fred Gray. I loved Fred! We’d done lots of hunting, riding the town looking for chicks and other such guy stuff years before through high school, so I was thrilled to be able to hang out together again.
The rest of the Crew was made up of Rob and Larry. Rob was an older guy (older to me!), married and not real happy about it but a nice fellow. Larry was about my age and was a self-admitted nerd. No athletic ability, kind of awkward but he certainly had a sense of adventure that lead to some great fun while we were in this gig. These guys had been on the job a few weeks before I got there, so they were the "pros".
So on this, my first day on the job, we had now been catching up and getting to know one another and I notice it’s about 9:30. We’ve been there an hour shooting the breeze and I ask “Hey guys, it’s 9:30…isn’t it time to get to work?”
I got smacked good by each of them and then severely admonished by Fred: “Whoa there, Hudson….ease up. We’re on a break.” Oh, OK….I see how this is going to go! And so began my introduction into how our tax dollars are really spent. I could fill many pages of the escapades of that summer and the waste we ourselves caused as well as the waste I saw up close and personal.
A CONSERVATIVE IS HE….
That summer’s Life Event on top of my 8th grade introduction to “Atlas Shrugged” continued to shape and mold my view of Man. It also began to work in me a hatred for hypocrisy. As I listened to politicians speak one thing and then do the opposite, and to liberal elites / progressives telling me how to live my life and yet not willing to live that same kind of life themselves…I grew a very bitter taste for that side of the world-view perspective. I didn’t know it yet….but I was a Conservative.
Conservative: adjective 1. Holding to traditional attitudes and values noun 1. a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.
Conserve: verb 1. Protect from harm
There’s that word again….Protect. I want to protect. In my home I want to "protect" my family from corrosive influences, "protect" from criminal elements wanting to break into my home, "protect" from making poor decisions that have significant adverse effects on their life and finances. In my business, I want to "protect" my clients from the bogus claims and actions of poorly educated and trained real estate “salesmen/women” or the well- educated ones that so often easily take advantage of hard working Americans just looking for the American dream of owning a home, building equity, creating long term security for themselves and their family. These thieves come in sheep’s clothing but are, in truth, wolves relentlessly seeking new victims. Real estate agents that couldn’t find their way out of the proverbial paper bag giving counsel to a home seller on the value of their home, their home which in most families is the largest, mos important asset….”I’m the expert, so listen to me.”
How many untold millions of dollars in equity are lost every year in our town by poorly informed property sellers who have listened to an “expert” and sold at prices well below true market value? And what is an “expert”? Does a real estate license from the State of Florida qualify someone as an “expert”? OK…I’m done with that little rant! Let’s move on. No...just one more thing: "protect" unsuspecting homeowners from believing that some real estate agent will really "buy your home if I can't sell it in 30 days...". So much BS. Please, take some time to read that so-called "agreement" and see if it's worth the paper it's written on. OK....Now I'm done!
Yes, I’m a conservative…(not necessarily a Republican! Let’s make that clear) I do want to conserve that which is good, that which has been proven over the ages to provide the most good to the greatest number of people. I want to protect our hard fought freedoms and liberties in whatever small ways I can. Yes, I know that in our current culture, a 'conservative' is generalized to be a 'hater' and all sorts of other pejoratives. It's not true...
PROTECT THE TRUTH…. GOD FINDS A YOUNG MAN
Truth is the most important virtue (OK…after Love for those who know their Bible!) For without Truth how can we “know” anything? Without Truth, can I truly Know anyone’s Story? Can I even know my own? Thomas Sowell recently wrote a column titled "Are Facts Obsolete?" where he laments the loss of Truth.
This part of my Story….my "Truth" Journey, began a few years after college. Having received a Business degree with a major in Real Estate and Risk Management, I had started a property management company with my very good friend, Joe Engel. We called it E&H Property Mgmt! Creative!!! Our office, if you can call it that, was in an old 1930’s home next door to Joe’s mother’s music studio on Summerlin Ave, right next door to Cherokee Junior High (where I went to 7th and 8th grade before transferring to Howard in 9th) We worked our butts off fixing that "office" up, tearing out decades old plaster walls, redoing old oak wood floors to try to turn it into something respectable. And after all that work, I don’t recall having even one actual client visit us in that “office”….we did have lots of buddies drop by for a beer though. Goodness, we didn’t know how much we “didn’t know” but that’s what you do when you’re young and idealistic. Joe was the aggressive one, I was still the timid one but I did learn a few things along the way from Joe. We were a good partnership.
But as I got out into further along in the business world and had a few dollars in my pocket, I did what so many young guys do….I spent my money on wild living. I was having a blast. I had a little house on Lake Gatlin, a tiny bungalow hidden in the woods. And I had a Cadillac DeVille in the carport! I was Something! I even owned a big old twin diesel fishing boat over in Cocoa that I picked up in a real estate deal as part of a down payment.
One of my mentors at that time was Sid Raehn. Sid was developing some property along the west shore of Lake Gatlin, just south of downtown Orlando and I was along for the ride after Joe and I had closed up the property management company. It became the subdivision of Gatlin Woods and was a real success. It was an innovative design at that time that maintained all the natural beauty of the site. Sid was the consummate salesman and had a gift of being able to think outside the box. I learned quite a bit from Sid. Well, we’d sit around in his trailer in the late afternoons, early evenings, he’d pull a bottle of Scotch out and we’d talk about Life. Those philosophical discussions began to whet my appetite again for the things I’d thought about years ago from my readings of “Atlas Shrugged”, “The Fountainhead” and many other books along the way.
Sid had a brother, Bobby. (And let’s go back a few years to complete the loop. Remember Marcia whose Aunt Betty let me have “Atlas Shrugged”? Sid and Bobby are two of Marcia’s big brothers). Bobby would occasionally show up at the same parties I was at. He was quite the man about town and lots of fun at parties. But something happened to Bobby. He would still visit our parties but he wasn’t “fun” anymore. Bobby had gone and found Jesus!
But I know today that Jesus had gone and found Bobby!!! Bobby and I were pretty good buds and I’d still hang out with him particularly since he was selling time share condos in Sanibel and Captiva at the South Seas Plantation. What a cool place that was and I was treated like a special guest, at the “right” prices when I went down with Bobby to learn more about this area of real estate and to just hang out. But it was on these trips driving down to the Plantation that Bobby challenged me to consider Truth. We had many very late night drives. And you know how the darkness of night and lonely quiet roads (no interstate that far south back then!) can spur grand thoughts beyond your own little world?
Well, we had lots of those grand thoughts. Bobby would challenge me, make me listen to tapes (no, we didn’t have CDs back then either) of preachers. Challenge me with “If you died tonight, on this road, do you know for sure that you’d go to Heaven?” I loved the give and take of those discussions and didn’t really take it all that seriously. Bobby was just being Bobby and I loved a good debate. My timidity was beginning to dissipate.
Life continued on…. During this time of my life, I was having lots of fun over on the east coast….Daytona for parties, the rest of the coast for fishing, pulling the net, boating. Take off Friday, head to the beach, come back home Sunday night.
But something was happening to me. It was a very strange feeling. I was having a grand time on the coast but when I got home on Sunday night, just before dropping off to sleep….I’d get the most awful feeling of…well, I can only describe it as “Yuk”. I felt dirty. But, by golly, I’d head off again soon after and have a great time. And yet, I’d still come home to that same Yuk.
Those conversations with Bobby began to come to mind in a profound way prompting me to consider “what is truth?”. What is Real? And what was it that was making me feel this way? What was the matter with me?
Very simple answer, yet most profound. God, Himself, was pursuing me. He was holding me up to His perfect righteousness and I wasn’t making a passing grade by a long shot. He saved me that year.
What a great year! He gave me a love for Truth. He gave me Kathy, my precious wife. He gave me my first true profession…I became a real estate appraiser which is still a part of my real estate business today.
The years that follow are a progression of that discovery of Truth. Along the way I continued to search and question my earlier beliefs and experiences in light of God’s Truth and found them to still hold strong with an even firmer foundation. The conservative principles and love of Freedom and Liberty still hold powerful sway in my life. As a Protector, I want to protect this Truth and I fight for it in whatever ways I can. I want all to have the Freedom to find out who they are, what they believe and to Know why they believe the things that they believe. Not to have someone else tell them what to believe.
As I write this Story there are protests around the country about several police killings of citizens….white police officers killing black civilians. In the past I probably, no not "probably", I definitely wouldn't have discussed this. But no more will I hide who I really am. So here you go, trusting you'll understand but if you don't, that's OK too, this is how the Real me thinks....
.....I’m heartbroken listening to explanations of what happened, so many, both black and white, recounting events that have no semblance of truth….personal opinions that are merely a regurgitation of what some so-called “leaders” are saying. Without dealing with the emotional issues involved here, my point is that Truth in America is losing its moorings. The facts don’t seem to matter anymore. (ie: the Thomas Sowell article I mentioned earlier "Are Facts Obsolete") OK…let me illustrate: An epidemic of Racism is noted by the “leaders” to be the cause of these shootings yet the Truth is that the numbers of blacks killed by police in America has decreased dramatically over the past several decades and nearly 3X more whites are killed by police than blacks. This is undeniable. So does that particular Truth fact sound like an “epidemic” of racism against our black friends and neighbors? Maybe the real issue here is over-zealous police or police militarization or poor training of police but the Truth does not show that these incidents have anything to do with pervasive racism. (PC alert: I know racism exists in the hearts of many of our citizens…this evil and all other evils will never completely go away though because of the nature of the heart of man. And, bottom line: without the Truth, we’ll never solve any of these issues...My point: Let us all strive for Truth, truth that we ourselves have discovered and not the false truths we hear from any of our "leaders". Verify, Verify, Verify)
Protecting Truth is crucial to the maintenance of the Freedom and Liberty we cherish and enjoy here in America. Will you join me in being a Protector of this most foundational virtue?
PROTECTING THE PROTECTORS
My passion is to Protect all my clients and particularly to Protect the Protectors. The Protectors in our society are the Teachers, the Police/Sheriffs/FireFighters and the Entrepreneurs/Business Owners in our local communities. I want to do all I can to help this group of beaten down, maligned, disrespected Heroes who truly make this country “work”! I believe a great way to do that is to “know” them and let our community “know” them by sharing their Stories with you so we can all hear what their dreams and passions are. As we listen to their Stories we get closer to the heart of who they are and why they do what they do. I love to share their Stories. I’ve done this in quiet ways for years but I’ve wanted to be more purposeful at this stage of my life. Check out my Blog where I talk about, talk to and celebrate these Heroes and hear their wonderful, amazing Stories. www.RossTalks.com
WHAT MY JOB IS “NOT”….
So….Why do I do this? After many years I’m discovering that my “job” is not a “real estate broker”, a “real estate appraiser” or a real estate anything. Those are my skills, my knowledge. Skills and knowledge can be used in any number of ways, they are “amoral” things, they have no innate virtue or blessing. But when applied to a larger purpose, a defined goal.... They can become very sharp tools in the Realtor’s tool box that can make people’s lives better, work to increase the Protector’s resources of security, equity, money, time so that they, in turn, can better serve those in their care. It’s a bit like that movie “Pay It Forward”. I can help make our community a better place for all of us by doing my best to be a Protector of not only our community heroes, our Protectors (Teachers, Police/Sheriffs, BusinessOwners) but a Protector of all those that I have opportunity to serve, in the hope and trust that they will continue to “pay it forward”.
I can help and sincerely want to help these Protectors and others to avoid disastrous real estate decisions made by listening to the counsel of part-time real estate “experts” or the corporate clones of the large franchise real estate companies that spend most of their “education” learning and role-playing how to “answer objections”, “close the sale and get the listing”, “be the first to knock on their door the morning after the listing expires”, “get them on the phone even if dinner is on the table”, "don't take 'no' for an answer", and so on and so on. How will this kind of “education” protect the Business Owner by providing wise counsel about how he/she can use their commercial real estate to enhance the profitability of their business? How will this assist the new homeowner to save tens of thousands of dollars on that 30 yr. mortgage? How will it make a difference in the hard life of our law enforcement community and firefighters? Really, Where is the care and concern for the interests of others in that? How will that kind of corporate-style training Protect anyone, much less protect our Protectors?
I can’t do much of any consequence on the State or National stage and likely neither can you but what if each of us could do just a little right here in our “Neighborhood”? Will you believe with me that amazing things would happen? Join me in becoming a Protector?
First and fundamentally important…..PROTECT THE TRUTH! And as we seek Truth in all areas of our lives, we will develop the courage to reach out into our communities and help those less fortunate than us. To look beyond ourselves and our own little world.
…….To reach up and encourage our Protectors. To reach down into our own "Story".
Thanks for getting to “know” me, for listening to part of my Story. May God richly bless you in the days and years to come.
Philippians 2:3-4….”Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more important than yourselves, looking not only to your own interests but to the interests of others.”
May we each start here and hope, by God’s grace, to end somewhere close!