How do you read BoxThoughts?

This one is simply for my curiosity. How do you read BoxThoughts?


Sometimes the thoughts just flow freely.

It may not be obvious but December has been the single best string of writing that I have experienced since starting this blog. It feels like the thoughts are flowing, topics jump out without thinking, and the actual text flows freely. This has made me stop and think about what’s happening and how I can bottle this up for the future.

The conclusion that I’ve come to is that it’s a combination of events:

  • I’m more relaxed than I’ve been in a long time.
  • I’m working on different things than I have before.
  • Things are currently quieter but with enough activity to be moderately busy.

Peak periods in life are not usually caused by a single event. It is usually the aggregation of multiple events and situations at the same time. The power of compounding events forces us to react in new and surprising ways which can generate surprisingly productive periods.

The best thing you can do when this happens is to take advantage of it. For every peak period, there will eventually be a drought. Steady state is a long-term average, not a momentary measure.

A look back at some of the six most read posts from 2017 here at BoxThoughts.

It’s been a good year. I honestly feel like this has been one of my favorite years of blogging. Things came a bit easier and I didn’t have any multi-month stretches of writer’s block. Hopefully, you all got something from here as well. So with that, let’s take a look back at the year!

Taxis, Uber, asymmetric information and disruption

Of course the most popular post this year came from 2015! It also happens to be one of my personal favorites. Asymmetric information is a topic that exists in anything that is based on data. Those with the best data can dominate a market while keeping those with less information in a bad position. This is exactly how Google and Facebook can monetize their users so well – they know more about each of us than we do ourselves!

An update on my level of contentedness with iPhone (4 month review).

Naturally, my next most popular post was a review of the iPhone. I’m now back on a Pixel so I smirk a bit at this one. I actually was able to get used to the iPhone more than I expected but it never quite sold me. The Pixel 2 XL though…..loving it from the first moment I started using it.

Just because a document is comprehensive doesn’t mean it actually says anything.

I spent a lot of time this year thinking about how to tell stories better. This was one of my early posts on the topic and, reading it again now, I’m still on board with the conclusions. Sometimes it is hard to find good rules of thumb for how to summarize messages down and I still think these are good ones to follow.

Always be sure where you stand, don’t choose your positions based on what you think others want to hear.

Authenticity and decision making – always two good topics for discussion. Authentic leaders who make decisions are a very rare breed. I feel like more of us could do well by simply being honest and saying what’s on your mind. Putting your cards on the table clears the air and helps get everyone on the same page. But often, some will use that information against you because they feel like life is a zero-sum game and your loss is their gain.

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

This one just makes me happy. I’m at over 6 years of doing this! I honestly believe this blog has been the single biggest benefit to my experience in working. I get a chance to put my thoughts down and get reactions (sometimes even just from myself). There’s nothing like writing an opinion down on paper to see if it holds up to the scrutiny of supporting it in a few paragraphs.

The only person that can stop you from being successful is you.

One more for good luck! I don’t think I could agree with this post more. Only you can keep yourself from being successful. That doesn’t mean that you’ll make a million dollars this year if you get out of your way or you will suddenly get that big promotion. What it means is that you have an opportunity to make the best of every situation you find yourself in. It means that you can either choose to have a good attitude about what comes your way or you can believe the world is simply trying to keep you down. I know what I choose.

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.