Sep 09, 2020 by - David Serpa

War & Real Estate


War is a part of life and a natural precursor to peace. Society has to be reminded from time to time of the costs of war to truly cherish peace. Almost every war throughout history has been fought over real estate. It is often fought when an egoic King or Queen has trouble defining the borders of their own Kingdom and it always comes with a cost. This is why you should avoid frivolous wars and if you should decide to engage do so on your terms. 

As you engage in war in the private sector beware of slipping into the same mistakes many great CEOs, business owners, and Generals have made before you. War is costly for many reasons as outcry can grow quickly against an oppressive attacker, many warriors and armies defeat themselves before an enemy can land a single blow, and knowing when to fight is just as important as knowing when the fight should be avoided altogether

This may lead one to running a passive business but this is not the ideal. Passivity is an acceptance of loss before engagement. Passivity will often welcome a fight in the private sector by allowing oneself, or one’s organization, to be perceived of as weak. Zen is not a guide on how to isolate yourself from the world and spend your life meditating on a mountain. It is a way to practice life. It is understanding war so you can more intentionally engage in peace and more thoroughly enjoy peaceful times when they come. 

Zen will help you while directly engaged in a fight, a battle, or a full on war by staying present, by seeing things as they are instead of how you wish them to be, and by intellectually remaining one step removed from the violence taking place. It has been said; “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener at war.” 

Peace and War are not two separate things. They are intertwined. This awareness often comes with embracing one’s “shadow archetypes”, as Carl Jung calls them. Being in touch with darkness gives us more control of our light and brings a more thorough understanding of humanity. The body and the mind are one and the practice of Zen helps merge the two. One of the founders of Martial Arts was known as the Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen. In fact, the term “dojo means “the place where enlightenment takes place”. 

Violence and peace go hand in hand. If one is not capable of violence, they are also not capable of peace. Fearful people will forever question violence and destruction when they remain incapable of it. This leads to being consumed by fear, neurosis, and anxieties. This creates the feeling of being a “target”. Targets are incapable of striking back. 

If we have a connection with violence removed from an evolution of character we become needlessly and recklessly violent. We no longer find life sacred and are at the risk of giving way to Nihilism, the thought life is meaningless. This has been a dangerous period in American history. We are more connected to our warrior energy than ever while almost completely losing our reverence for human life. We find ourselves more and more removed from humanity. And as we have witnessed in the west, when a warrior does not have a war the warrior will often turn the war inward, destroying themselves. 

Warriors losing connection with themselves and the Creator has manifested itself in a suicide epidemic. When one loses contact with the Creator they lose contact with the Creator in themselves and they believe they are only capable of destruction. They have now defined themselves by what they can destroy instead of what they can create. There is no reason to set out to destroy anything if you do not have something better to create.  

Suggested Reading:

33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene, The Art of War by Sun-tzu, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Power vs. Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller,  The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, and Zen Business by David Serpa. 

1. Control terrain

Your clients should say “I see you everywhere.” It should be so easy for them to find you that it becomes an afterthought when it comes time. Signage is paramount. Whether it is open house signs (when the time comes), billboards, or sponsorship banners for your local school, make your brand as regular as Starbucks is for coffee and McDonalds is for a hamburger. This is the real estate game, model your business after two of the best out there at dominating terrain

In order to be “everywhere” you cannot relegate your brand to being only seen on the roadways. I have yet to meet an agent who has regretted investing in the airwaves as well. Radio remains a consistent source for marketing directly to people’s brain-housing group. Utilize Social Media but make sure this isn’t the only place people see you. The most valuable place to be seen is in the community. A strong office location near walk in traffic is wonderful but will only work well if you can give people a reason to walk in the door. 

2. Hearts & minds (Law 43)

Treat your enemy as you would your own beloved sons.  And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” -Sun tzu

This is the most important item on this list. Many wars don’t have to be fought at all if the enemy can be made into a friend, utilized as an ally, or recruited into your company. There are always bigger fights than personal grievances. How can you unite with others while offering value to attract a larger audience to defeat a greater foe or accomplish a bigger goal. 

One of my earliest office managers, Joe McGowan, told me something valuable which I continue to utilize in my business arsenal to this day; “People will appreciate you if you can do something nice for them, but they will never forget you if you can do something nice for their children.” I built my business, and my name in my community, by holding elaborate Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas events for my community. Theodore Roosevelt said; “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

3. Self-mastery is king

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” -Sun-tzu

Spend time on self-development. The best leaders are readers. Develop your craft, yes, but develop your person. Heal. The ripples will be seen in every facet of your life.  

4. Embrace flow/assume formlessness (Law #48)

In the Marine Corps we said; “Adapt or Die”. I have since learned to adapt and die. I honor the death cycle in every moment of my life. Do not spend any time trying to swim upstream. Nor should you try to paddle downstream to get to a place before you have arrived. 

My business partner, and fellow USMC machine gunner, William King says “Knowledge is king but implementation is power.” Know your job and the person’s job to the left and right of you and act in the moments you are needed. Everyone must be replaceable, even you. Do your after action reports. They may be needed in the event you are lost to your business. Do you want the mission to continue? The best leaders groom their replacement. One of the biggest mistakes we fall into is believing there is not another fight coming. Prepare your successors and empower your kingdom to run without the King. 

5. Small unit leadership

Delegate. Delegate. Delegate. Don’t ever ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do or haven’t done personally. You should first suffer the blows you are asking others to be willing to receive. The Good King leads from the front. In order to be a good servant leader you have to serve. If you want to be a King or Queen, you must be willing to work like a King and Queen. Use your energy wisely. The work will look different because you now have an  Kingdom to consider. In order to build your kingdom bigger and effectively serve more people you will need to empower other Kings and Queens. Exalt your Kings and Queens but never forget what it’s like to work the stable. 

6. Accountability 

Part of having a mission is having a mission debrief. What was the mission? Was it accomplished? How many calls did you make, what was the result, what went right? What’s your win? What’s your goal for tomorrow? It takes a unique person to make countless phone calls without losing their minds. Most of us are not wired that way. It is better to have 3 intentional phone calls than 30 while going through the motion

Get the best people in the best places. Do you want your hammers acting like anything other than hammers? Put the people in the right places and build systems around their strengths. This will increase efficiency in action. When we go through the motions because we are uninterested or incapable we become complacent. Complacency kills. Complacency will kill your call, it will kill your day, and it will kill your career

7. End the war quickly

“In war, better take a state intact than destroy it. Better take an army, a regiment, a detachment, a company intact, than to destroy them. Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating enemies without ever fighting. The highest form of warfare is to attack strategy itself. The next, is to attack alliances; the next armies. The lowest form of war is to attack cities. Siege warfare is the last resort.” -Sun-tzu

If you can make an enemy a friend, do so. If you cannot, “crush your enemy totally”. This is Law #15 in the 48 Laws of Power. Most territories, or “farms”, can be taken relatively easily because most agents don’t have anywhere close to a 5% market share in the place they feel most dominant. Consistent acts over time can win a farm but huge acts with immediacy are nearly impossible to keep up with. Overwhelm your opponents with large gestures and acts of service they cannot keep up with. 

8. Create a threatening presence

Much of war is posturing. There was a day we were under heavy attack at our patrol base in Afghanistan. We were lucky as there was a plane in the air. They did what is called a “show of force”. A plane dropped from the sky, seemingly from nowhere, and dropped a series of flares over the area we were receiving most of our contact from. All it took was some fireworks and not another shot was fired for the day.  

Many people use their faces and their bodies to make people comfortable. We waste needless energy smiling at people when we don’t feel like smiling. Use your energy on better things. You don’t have to smile to make people comfortable. You will get more done when you drop the façade and stop faking the niceties. This doesn’t mean you should be mean, just stop being fake. Inauthentic people are threatened by authenticity while authentic people are drawn to authenticity like a magnet.  

9. Amidst the Turmoil of Events, Do Not Lose Your Presence of Mind: The Counterbalance Strategy

Stay calm when those about you are losing their heads. Avoid being lost to groupthink by keeping a few trusted confidantes. These people will offer you counsel, they will sharpen you, and they will help you remain on your path. When you become successful, and chaos ensues, don’t get distracted by the critics and detractors. Not every barking dog needs to be kicked. 

Do not fight them. Instead think of them the way you think of children, or pets, not important enough to affect your mental balance.” – Robert Greene 

10. The right size element for the job

In order to decide the right size element for the job you must first determine your mission. This will decide the size of your force. A small elite team of operators can do more work than a garbage company. This being said if the mission requires a battalion or a regiment both will fall short. The fat must be trimmed either way. A team is only as strong as its “weakest” member. Different people have different strengths. The weak are the perpetually negative or unsuccessful. They create pity at worst and, at best, openly foster animosity. They are like a cancer to any successful work environment and must be removed. Your crew can be “big and brutal” or “lean and mean” but there is no room for apathy in tomorrow’s business climate.

11. The Controlled-Chaos strategy

When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up.” -Gary Keller

In the beginning of my career I did not expect order. I was comfortable in the chaos and so I thrived. So did everyone around me. I am not saying “throw caution to the wind.” I am saying “the desire for perfection is death to any business once it becomes the goal”. Perfectionism leads to procrastination which leads to paralysis. Most perfectionists can’t launch. Others find perfectionism like a cancer later in their career. It festers when one realizes failure is inevitable, or once their ego is dealt a large unexpected blow. Perfection is a coping mechanism. The belief is; if you can find fault others will too. Perfection is impossible to keep up. Be okay with failure. As long as you handle it affectively, failure is both a precursor and a successor to success, like war is to peace. Don’t keep too much confidence with either. 

“Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another — intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.” -Robert Greene. Gary Keller would called this “fat cow” your “One Thing”. 

12. You will take losses

Agents will leave your team. You will lose escrows. You will lose clients. As Daron Campbell says “Become bigger than your problems.” Losing one escrow is easier to deal with if you have five or six more open. Create the scalable systems for success and soon you may have twelve

13. Transform your war into a crusade

Big Goals are like recruiting magnets. They will not only pull you through, they’ll attract key talent to you. If there is one thing talent enjoys, it is a big vision of the future and the challenge of getting there.” -Gary Keller (Millionaire Real Estate Agent

14. Control the flow of information

Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” -Sun-tzu. Another Zen saying: “Say one third of it.” Robert Greene’s third law in the 48 Laws of Power is “Conceal your intentions”. The best way to control the flow of information is to be involved in the offering of information. If you notice all of the largest corporations and most powerful people in the world own media companies and their subsidiaries. They are able to write the narrative people are consuming. Become the go-to-person and/or place for information and entertainment and you can offer an alternative to the unreliable and untrustworthy main stream media outlets for your locality or target audience

15. Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) 

McDonalds is a real estate investment company which sells cheeseburgers. When people walk in they expect consistency. The same burger, made the same way, in every location. Real estate is a series of hackable algorithms. It’s no more complicated than ordering a cheeseburger. However, no one person or company has developed solid enough Standard Operating Procedures for this industry to hold a market share passed any one locality, or any one neighborhood. No one has made this industry scalable and sustainable without their DNA being too heavily involved in the regular day to day practice. This is 100% ego related. 

Any company which develops their systems and procedures  enough to create paths to success which become the rule, instead of the exception, will become extraordinarily wealthy. This will require thinking about real estate like a business instead of a scattering of individually led teams, individuals, and brokerages competing with one another for their small piece of the pie. The failure rate in real estate is a miserable testament to the fact we haven’t figured it out as an industry. Would 95% of real estate agents fail in the first five years if they had a place to turn for proper systems and solid Standard Operating Procedures which remained the same regardless of what state and neighborhood they were practicing in?  

16. Negotiate while advancing 

“Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting” – Sun-tzu. If you know yourself and your ranks well, knowledge of the enemy becomes less necessary for success. Much of the Persian Empire was built under the threat of the war.

17. Define your kingdom

I tell new agents “You have to be relevant somewhere to be relevant anywhere.” There are two types of Kingdoms. A Regional Kingdom which consists of a farm or territory and a Demographic Kingdom which consists of a group of people like military veterans, a minority group, members of a church, etc. and so forth. 

If you were going to start a gang, a business, or a Kingdom, you would start by defining your territory. Serve your region effectively. Expand your territory only when you are solid on the home front. Check in regularly. Rome burned from the inside. Don’t overextend yourself when the timing is wrong. Wars have been lost trying to march on Russia in Winter.   

18. Prepare for war

Si vis pacem, para bellum” translates to “if you want peace, prepare for war.” Enjoy your peace time but always prepare for war. War can happen at any minute. Watch for the warning signs of a coming war. Historically we see war in times of recessions and depressions. Which is exactly where we are headed now, despite what the stock market says. This is a natural repercussion to government hostilities directed towards, or a complete lack of understanding of, private sector business. The repercussions will be felt and it will be massive. Jobs and businesses will be lost. Do you want to be on the chopping block?

If you want to control the axe be the one holding it.  Rudy Gonzalez is a good friend of mine. He is a former Marine and fronts SERT Ministries, an operation which directly confronts human trafficking throughout the world. I love this man. He is well loved by many. Often people make the same mistake I did while parting with him; we say “Be safe.” He laughs and responds; “The world is a dangerous place. Be dangerous.” 

19. “a balanced life is a lie.” -Gary Keller

We hear about balance so much we automatically assume it’s exactly what we should be seeking. It’s not. Purpose, meaning, significance-these are what make a successful life.” -Gary Keller (The One Thing)

Stop seeking balance and stop promising it to others. No one really wants balance. No one wants to schedule their days away before they live them. Discard balance. People don’t want to look back at their lives and think “I led such a balanced life!” People want passion!

Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The Zen saying is “Eat when hungry. Sleep when tired.” We overcomplicate life. We absolutely butcher business. Don’t ever try to fit into a box you were not meant to fit into. Your soul knows. Trust it when it screams. 

20. Attack only when necessary 

Knowing how to respond, or if you should respond at all, requires awareness. Honor your path. Do not give way to drifting. Do not attack needlessly. Those who continue to go on the attack become comfortable constantly attacking. They don’t understand peace because they are not at peace. Even in victory they start to acquire the animosity of those around them. Human beings do not like attackers. Defenders are more often victorious. Try to avoid war. If all else fails refer to Law #15 of the 48 Laws of Power and “crush your enemy totally”.

21. Plan All the way to the end (Law 29)

Make your plans and your backup plans, and be ready to take every moment as they come. While the Persians were planning to meet the Greeks on the battlefield Alexander the Great had the foresight to take it one step further. His forces were able to take the Persian Mediterranean Ports and rendered the entire Persian Navy useless. By taking control of the ports the very large Persian Army was now cut off from resupply. 

A great fighter had embraced the philosophy of “no hands”. He had declared the best way to beat an enemy was with your mind. A young and boastful swordsman overconfident in his abilities declared he could defeat this man and his philosophy. He challenged the old fighter to a duel and declared he would use his sword. The old man agreed and suggested an island as the proper place for the duel. The young man arrived on the boat in his armor carrying his large sword. The old man had arrived wearing his tunic with nothing in his hands. They loaded on the boat, arrived at the island, and the young man stepped off the boat. Once the young man had stepped off, the old man simply pushed off the shore with his ore and left the young man there in his armor with his large sword, deserted on an island. 


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