Principles; What Are Your Main Governing Principles in Navigating Life and Your Career

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Always good to reflect and share the collective wisdom gained on this site. Really just looking for what people feel like their main takeaways and principles to abide by are, while navigating this jungle. Try and keep it to your top 3 in bullet point format for a user-friendly read. Threads on this site have a tendency of going down the rabbit whole to the extent that there's so many long paragraphs that a casual lurker gets lost in the sauce.

For me,

  1. Always Make Decisions Based on Strength, Never Weakness: Probably the main deterrence in people's personal/professional progression that I notice time and time again is that they talk themselves out of aiming high and taking well-calculated leaps of faith due to anxieties and stress of working through logistics and lifestyle changes. Don't not take that Quant Finance course you're interested in because you're afraid that the work involved might be too much. Take it as a challenge and power through it. Don't not accept a better opportunity because you're complacent in your current role, apprehensive of what a lifestyle change entails and/or are afraid to move to a new city. Be a steamroller, straight ahead. Always. Don't turn down the opportunity to lead a seminar or take on a major part in a presentation because you're nervous of public speaking. Always rise to the occasion and the next time you face that adversity you're going to breeze through it.
  2. Look Out For Number One: Do not let the sentimental distract you from doing what is best for yours. Sometimes it feels bad, but you have to realize that if you don't look out for yourself, everyone else will look out for themselves and you will ultimately get the short end of the stick. This might mean reneging on a job offer for a better offer, this might mean terminating your employment with a botique shop two weeks in because a headhunter found you a better gig. This might mean not falling on every sword your staffing manager throws your way, for the sake of preserving your own sanity and not letting other coworkers take advantage of your willing to sacrifice more than other employees.
  3. Everything is Bullshit Until Proven Otherwise. Demand an explicit promise, in writing: That company that's offering you a title "promotion" but is vague and unclear about your role at the firm and the firm's operations - they're probably trying to fuck you. Make them write you a list of your job descriptions, a compensation range and your 12 month path to progression immediately. They will be impressed with your diligence if they're not full of shit. Same thing when it comes to working on deals. You get an LOI from a local investment group with an intended PP way higher than the other firms? Get their ass on a call, make them submit you a detailed list of every LOI they've sent out in the past 24 months and the outcome of each. What did they retrade on? What deals did they flake on? When did they require extended diligence to secure financing? Again, if your counter-party isn't full of shit, they should be happy to supply you with this information to confirm their status as a strong buyer. Always, always, always be weary of vagueness, half-answers, perpetual delayers and changes of subject.

Those are my big three, excited to read through what the rest of yall got for me!

Comments (39)

Apr 19, 2019

I like this idea, I'll chime in:
1. Most importantly, stay uncomfortable. Nothing hinders personal development like
complacency. Challenge yourself to develop new skills and take risks when others aren't. Push this mode of thinking into overdrive if you are not married and have no kids and manageable or no debt--you have nothing to lose but your ego.

  1. Focus on learning, not money, early in your career. The more you focus on honing your skill set and fine tuning your personal value proposition, the better your long-term career success is going to be. Don't be afraid to take a big pay cut if you see an opportunity to get solid experience with a reputable company.
  2. Historical performance is a good barometer for future success. Before you move to a new shop, make sure you do your due diligence on the principals and their sources of funding. Brokerage, development, doesn't matter--how many lease/development deals are they running per year? Is this landlord rep coming off a huge lease deal, but only has one listing? Do the principals have access to legit equity--how many equity partners? Do they have good relationships with banks? Dig into the history to get a better feel for the future.
    • 8
Apr 19, 2019

Per #1, what kind of skills/risks are you talking about?

Apr 19, 2019
  • learn how to work fast and accurate; I try not to recreate the wheel; I blow through the routine and dedicate more time for the creative or complex (high value) tasks; trust in work and character are earned; always bring something different to the table so think different (sometimes real estate folk are conformists)
  • I do things that further my passions (1 or 2 things) and only work on things that help me do that either directly or indirectly; things seem to fall in place and a track record / story forms. I seek hard trends. Some call my way having a vision, others might wish for more conformity from me. I'm jet fuel for a growth engine. I've worked for large brands but thrive in growing small teams.
  • going beyond myself to help others; it gives me a voice and call to action since I'm not naturally an attention seeker or materialistic person (experiences and some ego or impact seeking yes), and once motivated I'm tenacious. I repeatedly tell people my plans to do projects that are just enormous and I have a personal life interest in (not just money), and chip away at this for years. Power of believing.
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Apr 21, 2019
  1. Health is number 1 always.
  2. Figure out what is important to you and never compromise. I set myself up for my perception of greatness over nominal paycheck and living in paradise. Never regretted it.
  3. Embrace the grind and small victories and pleasures.
  4. Don't waste time on small or unimportant people.

Vision and self-discipline will take you where ever and make whatever world you want.

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Apr 21, 2019

What do you do career wise?

Apr 26, 2019

Brokerage, development, and politics.

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Apr 21, 2019

Great thread. Big fan of the idea of making decisions based on strength (vs weakness) and of focusing on learning early in a career (over pay). A few of my own...

  1. Find a way of managing your emotions: This one cuts both ways - both in terms of finding a healthy outlet, and in terms of making sure emotions don't drive your decision making. Going to the gym is a great (and time tested) stress-reliever - I'd also advocate simply having a hobby, something you are interested in, can dedicate your time to, and that you do solely because you want to. For some, this is the gym: for others, Lego models, knitting, horticulture, etc. The benefit of having an outlet if that you don't keep emotions bottled inside, making you a more stable personality in the office. It's also hugely important simply to talk to people - no matter how reticent a personality you may be. This can be a parent, a sibling, a partner, a childhood friend, whoever. As long as they're able to sympathise and you feel better at the end of the process, they're a valid choice. Simply "getting something out there" will make you feel better. In terms of your emotions not taking control of your decision making, this is less mechanical - and a weakness you may not even be aware of. On a basic level, hold your tongue until you've had a chance to properly assess your options (office outbursts are generally ill-advised and less cathartic than they at first seem). On a more complex / intimate level, be aware of your insecurities. There's no easy way of countering emotional biases (e.g. revenge, peacocking, over-aggression) without a degree of introspection. My best advice would be to question your motives: why exactly are you making certain key decisions? If it's not sincerely because its the most logical course of action (believe me, you'll likely know), re-evaluate what it is you really want to accomplish over the longer-term and attempt to realign your strategy with this aim.
  2. Try and understand what it is that motivates other people: This can be over both the short term (i.e. day-to-day) and over the long term (i.e. entire career). If you can get even a vague inkling of what it is that's causing someone to behave in a certain way, not only will it likely make you more empathetic (and so less frustrated and less likely to initiate unnecessary conflict), but will also help inform how you approach that individual. As manipulative as it sounds, taking 5-10mins solely to consider why a person acts the way they do can hugely improve the way you interact with them to your advantage. This may mean that placating them 80% of the time is energy better expended than calling them out and escalating the problem at hand; alternatively, it may mean that delivering brutal, up-front honesty best accomplishes your ends. This, I've found, is particularly useful when dealing with superiors. Often they're operating under pressure that isn't immediately apparent to juniors - after all, often it's long term, slow-burning pressure that only occasionally comes to a head. Having a nose for when things are likely to boil over can keep you out of trouble and, more importantly, in your boss' good books. As an aside, ask people how they are and be willing to listen for 5-10mins. Not only will this help inform your above intel, but will also earn you significant social credit will almost anyone - credit that's not readily forgotten (people tend to remember instances of candid emotion, even if low-key, in a professional environment) and can help you curry favour.
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Apr 23, 2019
  1. is an awesome point and one I had to learn the hard way. Sometimes the best strategy is to stroke people's ego or tell them what they want to hear even if you substantially disagree, especially if it is not your role to challenge or question it. A strong leader would want critical outside examination of an issue but corporate America is ripe with weak leaders.
Apr 22, 2019
  1. Pay very close attention to the morals/culture/reputation of those you go to work for. Life is way too short to work for sociopathic assholes who view you solely as a commodity. How many marriages have they had? Do they love and talk about their kids? Is work the only source of fulfillment for them, or do they lead fulfilling lives outside of the office? Seek out bosses who you believe will mentor and reward you if you bust ass and perform. Once hired, always focus on making your manager look good.
  2. If you don't want to eat what you kill, you have to become an expert, the most skilled person in the room at certain tasks. I've been able to increase my earning power pretty quickly by diving headfirst into complicated waterfall modeling, tax incentive financing structures, multi-phase redevelopments, and legal analysis of reciprocal easement agreements, environmental reports, development agreements, JV agreements, etc... Learn to take on and dominate what other people are scared off by.
  3. There are way too many people in CRE finance that are targeting Director of Acquisition roles without understanding candidate saturation. I've talked to buddies who say they can't believe how many qualified applications they get even for analyst roles.
  4. Focus heavily on building technical skills and getting broad exposure to a wide variety of development/transactions early on. Become the go to quantitative person when first coming out because you won't add any value elsewhere on the finance side. Read, read, read. Stop skimming the abstracts and actually read through leases, REA's, venture agreements, development agreements, management agreements, etc... At a high-level thorough knowledge of the contract structuring process is immensely important.
  5. Stop emailing and pick up the phone and call people. Set up lunch meetings, after work drinks. Build a network early.
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Apr 22, 2019

Adding one thing on to this - the real estate world is completely full of nepotism. In many cases you will see how complete idiots are able to make serious $ solely due to family connections, network, relationships, etc... Understand that at the highest level relationships become more valuable than anything else. Instead of bitching about it, accept that if you don't have these built-in advantages you may need to work twice as hard. Become smarter than that person, hungrier and more aggressive. Network with others who are succeeding on merit and forge your own network circles. Always be trying to do these people favors and don't hesitate to ask for reciprocation.

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Apr 22, 2019

Any tips for working on the skills you mentioned in point 2? Like recommended reading, things you did outside of work to get better at those things specifically, etc

Most Helpful
Apr 22, 2019
Apr 23, 2019

regarding your point #4, what have you gleaned from reading the full docs over the abstracts/summaries? count me in the camp that has opted to read abstracts/summaries in an effort to save time.

awesome thread, have really enjoyed reading these

Apr 23, 2019

It's critical to understand subtle nuances in language, definitions, covenants, etc... For example, "pro rata" and "pari passu" could be synonymous or could vary widely in terms of capital account balances.

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May 16, 2019

any resources you suggest to brush up on the skills mentioned in bullet 2?

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May 20, 2019

DM

Apr 22, 2019

One for me is from JFK's famous Moon speech from Sep 12, 1962 meant to stir in interest in the space program:

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.

Not trying to say what I do is literal rocket science, but when things get hard I find it important to remember not to find workarounds but to embrace the difficulty of it and use the project to "organize and measure the best of our energies and skills."

    • 1
Apr 22, 2019

1) You can generally feel it in your gut when things aren't working. Cut ties before they cut you. (Relates to ditching jobs and girls - mostly just girls in my case, fuck did I pass up on some nice ass in college to stay on a sinking ship.)

2) ALWAYS be too aggressive rather than vice versa. Sack it the fuck up, worse come to worst audacity takes a lot of practice.

3) Guilt stays with you longer than indignation. It's alright to fight back but don't cut too deep.

4) Pick your battles. As an analyst you're mostly getting paid to be a glorified computer, not be a shot caller. Thus 99% of the time you gotta grit your teeth and go with it. Build your reputation as a good direction follower and loyal worker. If you do this then the 1% of the time where you do feel like you have to put your foot down or genuinely disagree with something you'll be taken seriously and not just looked at as a whiney insubordinate.

    • 4
Apr 23, 2019

You only have one reputation. If you give your word, keep it. It's never worth it to strive for the extra dollar if you're picking someone else's pocket for it. If everyone does well, that gets around, and you see more deal flow and friendlier counterparties. More trust. If you nickel and dime people, or obey the letter but not the spirit of agreements, you can expect other people to do the same to you.

    • 4
Apr 24, 2019

(1) Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out - Robert Collier
(2) Always remember your "Why"
(3) Never be afraid to fail

Apr 24, 2019

Character - at the end of the day this (and/or your reputation) is what you are judged on. Anyone can calculate numbers or fiddle with models, but determining what kind of man you want to be will dictate who you will do business with and what business you will be involved in. You have to be true to yourself otherwise you lose any sense of a moral compass and will feel dissatisfied with your life choices.

Respect - listen to the elders. Their advice could be good or bad, both are useful. Always respect an old man that has lasted in a young man's game.

Risk - be comfortable with taking chances and risks. That's not to say to always take the risk, but understand it.

Trust yourself - self explanatory. If you know you are right or can contribute, say something.

    • 1
Apr 27, 2019

Two others I'd like to add;

1) Numbers ALWAYS win Get as many people on your side as possible, from the jump. Even if your boss hates you, he's going to have to treat you with respect if you have the full backing of the rank and file or else he knows he gains disdain from his rank and file. Same thing when it comes to your personal/social life. Be good to people and sometimes keep your tongue bitten instead of being the contrarian and turning the room against you.

2) Impress the RIGHT people Numbers does always win, but at the same time, if there's at least ONE direct supervisor at your company that you kill it for, you only need one recommendation from your prior company for that B-school app. Per rule #1, you're going to be fighting an uphill battle without consensus support, but if you can't gain consensus at the very lease identify the key people who can provide you with something in your future and make an extra good effort to be good to them.

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May 2, 2019

1. Know yourself well & your values

2. Live a value-oriented life, rather than a goal-oriented one

3. Live passionately, and capitalize on your strengths

May 4, 2019

(1) Your boss/principal/colleagues care about their children first and foremost in this world. By comparison, you are not even on the totem pole of caring. Understand that making money, earning an excellent living for their family, creating a legacy for posterity, and creating a company that she/he can pass on to the next generation is what drives people - and drives people to make tough decisions. Everyone is acting in his or her own best interest - and that is totally fine.

(2) Echoing what others have said...Go out of your way to make friends with your coworkers and genuinely take interest in their lives. Make just a few good, real friends here and there and before you know it you're 7 years in and have best friends in the industry who will open up their contacts book for you.

(3) I'm copying what @InVinoVeritas said because I think it's really important. "Once hired, always focus on making your manager look good."

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May 7, 2019
Lady_Developer:

(1) Your boss/principal/colleagues care about their children first and foremost in this world. By comparison, you are not even on the totem pole of caring. Understand that making money, earning an excellent living for their family, creating a legacy for posterity, and creating a company that she/he can pass on to the next generation is what drives people - and drives people to make tough decisions. Everyone is acting in his or her own best interest - and that is totally fine.

I'm not sure this is true. I mean, obviously your manager/boss cares more about their kids than you. That doesn't mean you don't register. Nor does it mean that you'll be cut loose or screwed over for the first advantage possible, which is what you're implying. I know a fair number of principals who have created companies without the expectation that their children will carry it on. And in the vast majority of those cases, the kids didn't.

May 10, 2019

There is the game and then there is the game within the game...

Funniest
May 10, 2019

^ This guy balls

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May 11, 2019
  1. The best time to correct mistakes is before they've been made. Actively checking for mistakes in deliverables and/or flaws in your own logic generally is one of the most beneficial things that you can do for yourself. For one, you mitigate the number and scope of your blindspots which won't just save you from embarrassment at some point, it'll make you sound well thought out and smart (even if you're not especially smart) and ppl will perceive you as such. Second, the damage caused by a mistake and the complexity/difficulty in reversing the mistake are almost 1:1 directly proportional to how long the mistake goes unnoticed. This can range from having a model busted by one input that is impossible to go back and find once you've completed the model w/out noticing the mistake to making a mistake in interpreting a clause in a lease/PSA/JVA and losing both face and money as a result.
  2. It's better to be excellent at one specific thing than to be relatively competent in a great many things. I turned down a job out of UG, at a time when I had no other offers, which had good exit ops & good comp for an A1, and I turned it down specifically because it was a generalist role. The "well-rounded" route to success is a myth - the only way that you're going to separate yourself is by being a killer at a specific thing and being competent enough to manage the things that are tangentially related to your specific thing.
  3. A few general workplace rules that I think are important as a junior employee (which I currently am). (i) Never ask a question that you could have found the answer to for yourself. Your job is to reduce the workload for senior ppl, not to add to it by asking unnecessary questions. You will be perceived as the guy who is too dumb or lazy to figure things out for yourself and you won't be tasked w/ any important deliverables because you'll be perceived as a guy who creates work rather than gets it done. The best thing that you can possibly be perceived as when you're starting out is as a resource for senior folks to use in order to get things done quickly and correctly (ii) when you're asked to do something, regardless of how big or small a task it is, do what was asked, in the way that was asked to be done, nothing more and nothing less. The reasons not to do less are obvious, and the reason not to do more is because folks generally know what they want when they ask you to do it and that's what they'll ask you. Doing more increases your chances of making a mistake, not doing what was asked, and making whatever the deliverable was more complex than needed, which is a time-drag for whoever has to make sense of it. You've opened yourself up to a bunch of downside in exchange for no upside because ppl are never going to be upset w/ someone who consistently does what was asked, how it was asked to be done. All of this can be tied back to the idea that, until you don't have one, you job is to make your boss' job easier. If you do this unerringly, your boss(es) are going to like you and either give you internal advancement or recommend you highly to others when you decide to exit.

I come from down in the Valley, where Mr. when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done.

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May 16, 2019
BBA18:

(ii) when you're asked to do something, regardless of how big or small a task it is, do what was asked, in the way that was asked to be done, nothing more and nothing less. The reasons not to do less are obvious, and the reason not to do more is because folks generally know what they want when they ask you to do it and that's what they'll ask you. Doing more increases your chances of making a mistake, not doing what was asked, and making whatever the deliverable was more complex than needed, which is a time-drag for whoever has to make sense of it. You've opened yourself up to a bunch of downside in exchange for no upside because ppl are never going to be upset w/ someone who consistently does what was asked, how it was asked to be done. All of this can be tied back to the idea that, until you don't have one, you job is to make your boss' job easier. If you do this unerringly, your boss(es) are going to like you and either give you internal advancement or recommend you highly to others when you decide to exit.

I was about to jump all over this, but a second read made me think it just wasn't worded the best way. I challenge the notion that you shouldn't do more than asked. Yes, while there are risks in doing so (i.e. completely blowing a model because you thought it would be good to include something that is completely irrelevant), I would urge all junior employees to do more than asked. Even if the model did blow up, I would still appreciate the effort and desire to go above and beyond. Turn this into a teaching moment. I digress though, if by making something so complex you miss a deliverable, that wouldn't be acceptable.

More than one MD has told me: "A good analyst will give me the number I asked for ("X"). A great analyst will give me "X" and then tell me why because of [insert list of arbitrary reasons]." Don't constantly make the MD ask you for things when he/she wants them - anticipate what they're really asking and then by performing great, thoughtful, analysis you make their job inherently easier by answering 4-5 more questions not yet asked.

Again, might not be worded the best, but I would argue that someone who only meets the status quo is not growing personally, professionally, or internally at any given firm. Someone who pushes the boundaries and consistently gives me more is someone I would want to hire/keep on the payroll/promote vs. a sheep who only does what's asked and doesn't put themselves out there.

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May 16, 2019

Hm. I don't agree. I think if you're asked to provide "X" you should provide that, certainly not less and probably not more.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't privately go above and beyond. Continuing your own education on "X" on your own time is extremely valuable, and will help with providing an explanation for how you came up with "X" should you be asked.

You also may not know what the end use/user is for whatever you are providing. You may be asked for a simple cash flow analysis for a property; if you show way more than that, you might risk your boss not doing his/her homework and sending on inappropriate, extraneous material to a third party like a lender.

    • 1
May 16, 2019

1) You do disagree w/ me in your first paragraph. As Ozy said, it is valuable to go above and beyond on your own time when you don't have a deliverable to work on. If you're working at a development shop, you should be reading all of the contracts w/ 3rd parties, reviewing current iterations of lease negotiations, and looking over previous deals to get a better feel for costs and rents in different areas, etc. But, if you have a deliverable, especially if it's consequential, I find that ppl want what they asked for and you can look like a fool who's trying to impress rather than a guy who gets things done. A personal example; I was at a private debt fund as an intern and we were looking at purchasing a bank. I had underwritten several potential target acquisitions and the VP spearheading the effort asked me for some info on a ban that we hadn't looked at previously. Rather than email him back and ask what information he wanted specifically, I sent him a full-blown acquisition model. He responded w/ something like "this is nice, but I just wanted some LTM ratios." I was trying to impress and ended up sending the guy something that he had no use for, which delayed the delivery of what he actually wanted.

2) I agree w/ your second paragraph 100% and should've included that in my OP as it's as important or more than anything I did include. Being a guy who generates answers (well-reasoned ones) instead of generating questions is super important for juniors, IMO.

3) Agree to disagree, I guess. If the status quo is a mistake-free deliverable, which is precisely as the person you're delivering wanted it to be, I think that's a good status quo. This assumes that the senior asking for the deliverable is competent and is asking you for the right thing, which is the case more often than not.

I come from down in the Valley, where Mr. when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done.

May 21, 2019

1) The times when you say "no" will be the most important decisions of your career. You have limited time, attention, and resources. Say "no" to bad or borderline deals. Say "no" to bad partners. Say "no" to bad uses of your time. Say "no" to fads and unproven tech. Paradoxically, the more you say "no", the more success you will have, and the more you will be able to say "no".

2) You are wrong, pretty much all of the time. This is an incredibly useful thing to know. Doesn't matter if it's true (...but it is). If you integrate this belief deeply into your personality, you will make far fewer mistakes than other people. When you know you're wrong, you are more likely to check your basic assumptions, more likely to listen to others, more likely to spot risk, and therefore more likely to ultimately be successful in your personal development, your career, and your relationships.

3) "...every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him." - Emerson.

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Jun 6, 2019
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