Mastering the art of saying nothing in 1,000 words.

Marketing and corporate blogging are the gifts that keep on giving. If you want to see people who are great at sounding really smart but not actually saying anything of value, go check out corporate blogs that talk about Big Data, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, or any of your other favorite modern buzzwords. You’ll find that for the most part these blog posts are written because the company feels the need to be seen as a “leading expert” or ensuring they have appropriate mentions for the most popular search terms.

To someone who isn’t an expert in a subject, it’s easy for these buzzwords heavy, filler posts to look and sound great. Having a corporate blog filled with posts on topics that a potential client will come across is certainly a smart business move. But there are two types of these companies: 1) those that simply spout talking points to sound smart and 2) those actually trying to educate you.

I always fall into the education camp. There’s no value in writing that isn’t intended to inform. The best marketing in the world is where the company tries to educate first. Any company that seeks informed customers is usually one that has put the same level of intelligence into its solutions and products.

Which type of company would you prefer to purchase from?


Blogging as sharing of knowledge versus higher level marketing.

There’s a constant give and take in blogging about whether you should share your full thoughts and details or hold back and let people reach out to you for more. I personally fall into the camp of share everything. If someone is smart enough to take your thoughts and use them without you, they would have anyway. Most of your prospective customers are not going to fall into that camp.

I wasn’t going to write about this topic again except that it came up in a conversation last week and then Seth Godin wrote about it on his blog today.

Ideas are very fragile things. They are notoriously difficult to implement correctly and even more difficult to gain buy-in to even get to the implementation phase. Sometimes the environment isn’t supportive, others the technology isn’t ready, sometimes the team isn’t capable of pulling it off, sometimes you just encounter pure bad luck. Stealing ideas is hard.

Putting your thoughts on the web has the benefit of showing you’re not just an expert, but a conversational expert. When you can talk about something over several posts or in a casual way you have progressed beyond just “general knowledge.” It takes you beyond the point of being someone that should be considered for hiring to being someone that is the only option to hire.

The interview process – whether to hire a person or company – is filled with pitfalls. Do you really have enough information to make an informed decision? Do you really have the time to get to that point? What questions should you ask to make sure you have covered the right ground? When a person or company has a track record written down over years on a specific topic it is much easier to understand how they can help you in your specific scenario.

This should include what kind of outputs, methods, and models would be used to get to answers. Is the fact that you have a custom Excel model really an industry secret? Is the fact that you use BI to model the scenario that unique? Is your year-long effort to create a proprietary database of data really so special as to be kept secret except for face-to-face meetings?

Knowlege seeks freedom.

If you had told me 6 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Today marks the 6th year of posts here at BoxThoughts.

  • 1,147 posts as of the time I’m drafting this.
  • 191 per year.
  • 3.67 per week.
  • Many that I go back and reference myself.

While, on the surface, this is a blog about the real estate, I’ve never made it a secret that it’s really for me. It’s where I practice my writing, put thoughts into the world before they are fully ready, aim to improve myself and ponder thoughts about what’s going on.

Along the way, I’ve met a few that have actually felt the need to express their enjoyment at reading what I put out there. I can’t express my surprise that I’ve impacted even a few people.

Four years in a row now I’ve been at number 5 on Duke Long’s annual list of Top 50 Commercial Real Estate Blogs You Must Read (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). I don’t get much love in other places but I don’t take that as a sign of anything but being outside the mainstream of CRE thinking. It’s part of why I love Duke’s blog so much, even when I disagree completely with some of his opinions. (BTW, if you love CRE, you should be reading Duke every Wednesday and Sunday.)

Six years ago, I was still new to the ways of the world. I’d never start this blog today because I know how much I don’t actually know. Displaying my ignorance would be terrifying. But because I’ve already started, there’s no reason to stop now.


How to sound smart? Write a post going against conventional wisdom.

Sounding really smart online can be quite easy at times but the single easiest way is to post an opinion going against conventional wisdom on a topic. The Bull during a Bear market will always get attention. Saying that open plan office can hurt productivity will catch the right ear. Pointing out that email can be too much of a good thing is always provocative.

Blogs are handy devices for putting ideas out into the world and honing your voice (especially if you aren’t trying to do it for a full-time job). They provide a (relatively) safe place to practice with an idea. Take 4 paragraphs and try to defend a topic that you are seemingly decided on…’s fun and interesting.

The secret to this is that there is no such thing as a black and white topic. When you get to an edge of a subject (always the most interesting place to be) you suddenly start to see all of the exceptions, unconfirmed truths, half-hidden lies, misunderstands, bad statistics, and low visibility situations. In these exist the chance to stake out new ground and explore an area that most people may think is resolved.

Conventional wisdom is never 100% right. It can’t be because it is trying to be truth to too many people applying it in too many places. Pointing out where conventional wisdom fails is both public service and good reading.

Thank you for 2016! I’m looking forward to 2017.

I have a feeling that 2016 will go down as one of the cornerstone years of my life. There are a number of people that I owe thanks to as well as some that I probably could have done more with. But life isn’t possible without having areas to improve on.

But Box Thoughts isn’t about that, this post is for those of you who have stuck with me, joined over the year or even just occasionally pop your head in for a random post. I know I say that I write for myself, and it is true. But more and more often I find myself appreciative for the audience that I am slowly building here. I am appreciative for the random words of encouragement, thanks, and recognition.

I would likely still be writing even without the acknowledgment. There is something rewarding about no longer seeing weeks with traffic of zero like I had a few years back. I do not actively promote or seek out an audience since Box Thoughts is primarily a work of personal effort. Yet somehow an audience is developing despite that.

So thank you.

Thank you for stopping in and giving me a little extra reason to do more. Hopefully, you will get even more in 2017. I’m putting together some plans that could give that little bit of extra content to push some bigger CRE ideas forward.

I hope everyone has a great New Year! Take care and I’ll maybe see you here again throughout 2o17.

8 most visited posts from Box Thoughts in 2016

2016 was a great year here at Box Thoughts. There were some ups and downs but overall I think the content was our best yet and sets a really high bar going into 2017. Here are 8 of the most read posts during the year.

Just received my @geteero (3 units for home) and set them up in ~10 total minutes.

Naturally the top post in 2016 had nothing to do with real estate although it does fall firmly into the future of technology. Earlier this year I pre-ordered and then received my home eero mesh wireless system. I have to admit to loving it still and recommend that you check it out or Google’s new competitor.

Communication is different on phone vs. email vs. text vs. IM

An older post – from back in 2013! – rising back up in 2016. Just goes to show that my fascination with the importance of communication is not misplaced. I’m happy to see some of the older posts continuing to rise to the top, especially when they are on topics so near and dear to me still!

Test your skills with’s The Riddler

The Riddler! Still the best way to test your statistical/math/logic mind every Friday at 8a Eastern. Sometimes it’s way (way (WAY)) over my head but it’s still a good reminder that I have more to learn.

If you don’t know your personal 2 year plan take some time to think through it today.

I am a big believer in planning for your future. The experiences you get today will form the basis of what you do tomorrow. It should never be explicitly about improving your resume but more around improving your ability to do different things in the future. Two years is a good window to plan within so that you can actually make the goals achievable without looking too far out.

My thoughts on the Brexit and its impact on CRE.

2016 was a crazy year and in many ways the crazy kicked off with the Brexit vote. In case you were under a rock, Brexit was the vote in the United Kingdom where they voted to begin the process of formally leaving the EU. It’s going to take some time for the impact of this decision to really be felt but the next two years will tell us a lot of the exit continues to move forward.

Why I dismiss most “Big Data” surveys out of hand.

There are few buzzwords that I hate more than “Big Data.” It’s shorthand for everything from “more data than fits in my spreadsheet” to “my really cool software does something I don’t understand” to “we process lots of data for unknown reasons” to “we actually have a metric-crapton of data and have plans to actually do something productive with it.” But really very, very few companies are effectively using actual big data yet. Most still just use “lots of” data.

Real Estate is the anti-zero sum game

I love corporate real estate. This is another older post, this time from 2012. CRE is the ultimate physical reflection of business strategy being executed. Only in real estate can you both improve top-line revenue, reduce bottom-line costs and improve employee retention and productivity. Get real estate right and business can take off. Get it wrong and you can actually hurt your future.

What is important to me – thinking through change.

2016 has been a good year for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I want to achieve and learned a lot about management and leadership along the way. Change is often status quo, knowing how to deal with it is important.

Apologies for the absence. Hopefully back to our regular scheduling (which often includes absences I suppose…)

Had some things going on the kept me from posting but should be back to a normal schedule. Thanks for sticking by…..there were several weeks that actually had more visitors than I had when actually posting regularly! Hope you stick around for the new stuff too.