Susan Arledge: Drinking from the Information Firehose


Susan Arledge

I am an information junkie … I admit it. There appears to be no treatment (I Googled “treatment for information junkies” and it linked me to a blog) and apparently no foreseeable cure, which is greatly troubling, as the information just keeps on coming. I’m really having a hard time keeping up.

Because it appears that I have used most of my available brain cells storing ridiculous bits of information (like knowing why Melba Toast is called Melba Toast or how many times a hummingbird flaps its wings per second), I have now decided that I am only going to retain what’s vitally important and accept the fact that some things are just not worth remembering.

I don’t need to remember it all anyway, because the information is available … everywhere. When someone calls me and I see the name on caller ID, I can click on LinkedIn, find the caller’s profile and know everything about the person by the time I say “Hello”.

My personal conflict is that I believe that there is no such thing as too much information. Data itself can be interesting; especially when you can turn it into interpreted knowledge, which results in clearer decision-making.

Bill Gates once said, “Being maniacal about something is very helpful.” If his words are true, then I’m totally fine. If not, well then, you let him know.

So, you ask, with all this information available and so many articles, blogs, posts and Tweets to read, why do we feel the continued need to blog? Here are some thoughts:

1. We are addicted to drinking from the information fire hose. When I started in real estate, I would have loved to have the ability to steal ideas, information about market conditions, and comparable lease and sales data to impress my clients, but that information wasn’t readily available. We had to continually bug our competitors to share their data and then find some random way to compile it, which usually involved 3 x 5 index cards.

We paid big money for Dale Carnegie sales seminars, products, and other, “How to earn $1 million your first year as a real estate broker” courses that really should be titled, “How I failed as a real estate broker, so now I’m writing books about how to make $1 million in your first year”.

I can remember land brokers going to the city to get plat maps and then handwriting and color-coding all the ownership names for an area on the plat. The pages were dog-eared, taped together, and rolled up like architectural drawings to take to the next meeting to show how much knowledge the broker controlled in that color -coded roll of paper. Controlling information and market data was what was sold prospects. Good luck with trying that today.

2. The overwhelming need to feel relevant. Vanity Fair magazine last month divided the populace into three categories: a) those who like to record and share every aspect of their lives, no matter how inconsequential (e.g., posting the photo of that filet of mahi mahi you had for dinner); b) those who have lives that are actually worth recording, but don’t; c) the vast sweep of humanity who neither record their lives nor have lives particularly worth recording.

3. To be able to write about really cool things you wish you had said yourself. Forbes recently ran an article by William Baldwin titled, “Do You Live in a Death Spiral State?” In the article, he calls states with declining economies “death spiral states.” He included California among them (and apparently Governor Perry agrees). According to Forbes, the 11 death spiral states are California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina, Maine, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Hawaii. Death Spiral States—what a cool expression. Darn, I really wish I’d come up that term.

4. To be able to say “I told you so.” I tried to tell my clients, if you need to lease office or industrial space in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, you should have done it yesterday. Better yet—last year. We had been in a tenant’s market for so long, rising rents today have shocked some tenants. In some areas, office rents are up $4 to $10 per square foot. Many of my clients put projects on hold or delayed expansion because of the downturn in the economy, but can no longer wait to accommodate their growth.

Now there are few options to choose from, and that means fewer concessions and rising rents. Except for the space that is vacant for obvious reasons, or would only lease in the event of famine or pestilence (whatever the heck pestilence is … Note to self: Google that. Next note to self: It’s probably not the Dutch death metal group), there is little quality space available to accommodate larger users. I told you so.

5. To be able to pass on true (albeit, somewhat lame) advice. This is one practice that seems almost too simple to work, but one study showed that if you do this for two weeks, you will be measurably happier for three months afterwards. Before you leave work, make a list of three things that made you happy at work today. It doesn’t matter how big or small, just list three things that you enjoyed about work today. The reason why this works so well is that it helps us to actually remember the good things that happen to us during the work day.

Normally our brains are subject to the phenomenon called “negativity bias,” which means that we’re better at remembering bad experiences. Stephen Colbert’s satirical “March to Keep Fear Alive” is a timely illustration: Humans evolved to be fearful, so if you’ve had 10 good experiences at work and one bad one, there’s a good chance that you’ll go home thinking about that one bad experience, which will make the day feel bad, though it was actually mostly a good day.

6. To find out if anyone really cares about what you have to say. As one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to make more cold calls, I decided to spend last week in Beaver Creek. While riding a really long and cold lift, I learned from a snowboarder (or “rider” as he liked to be called, but then again, he was 12), I could download an app called EpicMix which, from my ski pass, tracked the vertical feet I skied, every lift that I rode, the trails I took and provided an overview of my ski day on the mountain. (Does anyone but me find that somewhat creepy?) I use that information, much like I use the data from my Nike FuelBand, which daily tracks my steps and calculates Fuel Points—for absolutely nothing. I quickly found out that no one cared how many vertical feet I had skied that day. (See No. 2a above). I want those brain cells back.

Susan Arledge is the president of Arledge Partners Real Estate. She has just returned from a brief vacation, having read the entire 83-page Congressional Sequestration document. Her intervention is scheduled for next week.