Anti-Fragility – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Some of the greatest “thinkers” are often not afraid to get ideas from other people – and so it is for The Real Estate Philosopher.  My thinking in this article comes from Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his new book called Antifragile.

I just finished his book and it is quite a read.  He is so arrogant that you start out reading his book and are almost offended by the condescension, but soon (halfway through) you feel like a teammate – kind of like he is a pompous arrogant intellectual, but he is “my” pompous arrogant intellectual.  Anyway, I have become a major fan of his iconoclastic thinking.  And I think it is one of the “best” books to read for one running a business of any kind.

I guess I might say that he is just a “better” Philosopher than me…

In a nutshell, his theme is that organizations are either:

  • Fragile – where an outside adverse event – such a financial crisis – could wipe the organization out

  • Robust – where an outside adverse event – will hurt but the organization will recover

  • Antifragile (his word) – where the organization will actually be enhanced by an adverse outside event

He devotes a fair amount of space on:

  • The folly of trying to predict the future.  Indeed – he points out that possibly the best “prediction” is that those who are “predicting” will eventually be very wrong and blow up, although of course you cannot predict when or how.

  • The equally great folly of centralized management, which often masks trouble until it is too late.

  • The safety of being a small organization and the dangers of being a large organization.

  • And the benefits of optionality.  As a quickie aside, he mentions that over centuries the real estate business has been one of the best for creating wealth due to the implied optionality that the real estate player has and the lack of optionality that the banks and lenders have.  An interesting point to be sure for this readership.

So what can one do with this thinking?

Well, for me, as I always do, I apply it to my law firm.  Is my firm fragile, robust or antifragile?

I know I spend a lot of time “predicting” and using these predictions to “manage” my law firm.  But – being very honest with myself – as I evaluate my predictions — few have gone as predicted.  Certainly, less than half of my predictions have come to pass.  And centralized management of lawyers has almost never worked out.  The more I “manage” my lawyers, the more the friction it creates, and in the end, I have learned that the best thing is to hire and grow talent, set firm values and principles, and then just get out of the way and hope for the best.

Over the years this has really upended my thinking about the optimal way to run a law firm.

So, how would this apply to your real estate business?  Here are some thoughts:

Certainly don’t try to predict the future or what the markets will do.  Set things up so you benefit as much as possible from “good” surprises and aren’t hurt that much by “bad” surprises.  See my prior article on this.

Center your organization around attracting and retaining and inspiring talent.  Give your talent the tools they need and try your best to get out of the way and let them achieve.  This is outlined in another article I wrote, which was largely based on Jim Collins’ book Built to Last.

Set up some values and general principles about what your organization should be about at heart, i.e. the inspiration and “why” you are in business.  See my prior article on this concept based on Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why.

Keep your overhead low – high overhead pressures an organization to make poor business decisions and certainly increases fragility.  Anything that can be outsourced should be.

Be brutally honest with yourself – on a consistent basis – about what has worked and why, and what has not worked and why, and then act accordingly.

Keep as much optionality as possible in all matters.  This is as simple as evaluating all decisions with the goal that they should be low risk and high reward.

Buy some insurance.  I have always wondered why investment funds don’t sacrifice – say 1% of their returns – in order to buy puts/calls and other financial products that will multiply upside in the event of a major adverse event that harms their investment thesis.  Sooner or later something bad will happen and it would be “nice” to be able to say “whew” after that wouldn’t it?

Whatever you do, don’t ever put the company’s franchise at risk, i.e. never take a risk that you cannot recover from if the outcome goes the wrong way.  Although, I guess the exception to that rule would be if your company is going down and the end is in sight, then perhaps a so-called Hail Mary might make sense.

Marketing Yourself: How To Create A Powerful Résumé (Part III)

A résumé is one of the top ways that you market yourself in any industry and most likely the first impression you give to a potential employer — and, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Aside from the usual items that you need to look out for (grammatical errors, typos, formatting issues, etc.) you have to be acutely aware of what message you want to deliver.

So, here is how I would put together a great résumé:

  1. Get Creative. Your résumé is your chance to STAND OUT. As long as it remains professional, try to make your résumé “look” different than those of other candidates.  For example, use pops of color and different designs to differentiate yourself.
  1. This is the most important part of the résumé. If you are an expert in a field or if you have a developing/developed Power Niche, that should be highlighted right at the top. If you have a lot of work experience or if you’re just starting off in your field and have many extracurricular activities, its fine to list those, but don’t bury your best assets.  It is crucial that you grab the reader’s attention and spark interest right at the top of your résumé.
  1. Choose Your message. As I have written in previous articles, it is important that you leave the employer with one message. People are more likely to remember you have expertise in one field rather than all of them.  And it bears repeating, this message should be highlighted at the top of your résumé.  Read #2 again! 
  1. Give Facts. If you have proof about your Power Niche (e.g., deals you have worked on, articles you have written, cool clients, etc.), then you should include that in your résumé.
  1. Make It Easy. Make sure your contact information and your name is clear and right at the top, so that employers can easily reach you.  Fancy font that is basically illegible is unhelpful and annoying to the reader.
  1. Keep It short. No employer has the time to read a 10-page résumé. Make sure you are concise and that you haven’t gone over two pages.  In fact, it can work to your advantage if the résumé merely hints at intriguing aspects of your career or life, which make the reader want to meet you to find out more.

Using these tools, you should be able to land any job in your industry!  Also, if you need help developing a Power Niche, look out for my new book being published early next year.


My book is about the Power Niche — and also contains my other marketing secrets and ideas.  It is called:

If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche

It is being published by Morgan James Publishing with a target publishing date of April 2019, with advance copies available in the next few months.

If your job is selling or marketing a product or service and it seems like every day you do the same thing and just aren’t succeeding, If You Want to Get Rich, Build a Power Niche is for you. In my book, I show readers exactly how to transform themselves from a disastrous salesperson or marketer into a superstar, whether they are just starting their career, just sick and tired of failing, an entrepreneur starting a business, or are super-successful and simply recognize they can always learn more.

My ideas and insights come from actual day-to-day experiences as one of the most successful real estate lawyers in the toughest market for legal services in the world: New York City. As a veteran of hundreds of ideas and thousands of pitches, I share what I have learned about what shouldn’t work but somehow does, what should work but somehow doesn’t, and everything in between.

If you want to grow your sales and increase revenues while becoming a valued resource in your industry and professional circles, stop losing valuable chances to get rich and build your Power Niche!

My proposition is that I can help “anyone” who has the desire to become a great salesman and/or a great marketer if she/he just follows the steps outlined in my book.

Click Here to see a preview of the book’s content.

  • To stay apprised of information about the Power Niche book and its release date, go to and sign up for the newsletter there.
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Marketing Yourself: How To Create A Powerful Résumé (Part II)

In my last article, I spoke about how to write a strong cover letter to tee up your résumé.  In the next article, I will talk about the résumé itself, but before that, let me explain how to use the cover letter.

Let’s start out with a hypothetical.  You want to get a job as a real estate lawyer, ideally in-house.  You love real estate and have learned a ton about it in your current job.  In addition, you have a particular expertise in joint ventures and particularly international joint ventures.  You have a friend — named Toby, of course — who has a ton of contacts in the real estate world.  He could really help you out.

What do most people do?

They meet with Toby or talk to him.  Toby agrees to help and asks them to send him their résumé and he says he will help.

What does this do?

It makes it a real pain in the (neck) for Toby to help you.  He now has to effectively write the cover letter for you and tell the other person all about you.  And Toby — who maybe loves you like a sister — maybe he is your sister — is super busy.  He has a day job still and finding you a job has to take second place.

Wouldn’t it be “nice” if you did all the work for Toby so that all he has to do is basically forward it with the following note:

“Hey Jenny — I wonder if you want someone in international real estate joint ventures?  If so, my friend Tobina seems perfect.  She says it all in the email I am forwarding.  Happy to connect you or reach out yourself.  Best, Toby”

Toby can do this in about 90 seconds — actually I typed it in about 45 seconds just now.  Better yet, Toby can easily forward this same email to 100 of his best friends.

Bottom line is you are making it really easy for Toby to help you.  You are being respectful of his time.

Also — and this is “really” important — if you just got bumped from your current job or perhaps you are getting desperate to find “a job” — resist the urge to go to your buddy/sister Toby and say, “Hey Toby, I really ‘need’ a job — can you help me — I am getting desperate!”

Think what this implies?  You are a sad sack seeking help.  What in the heck is Toby supposed to do now?  Call his most critical business contact and stick his neck out and say, “You would be nuts not to hire Tobina.  She is the best person on the planet!”

Even if Toby is your sister, she will be a bit scared to stick her neck out.

So instead of the sad sack meeting — figure out ahead of time exactly the job you want.  Dress up sharp.  And when you meet with Toby, project confidence, excitement, determination and a specific game plan.

Now think what this implies.  You are not a sad sack any more — instead, you really are someone that Toby’s friend would be crazy not to hire, and Toby will be eager to say so.

Once again, you are making it easy for Toby to help you out.  Now when he gets your cover letter and résumé — see above — he is eagerly selling you and forwarding your email.

Finally, when Toby gets a nibble, where his friend Toboggan says that he doesn’t have a job but would talk to you, by all means absolutely take the meeting.  Treat it like an interview.  Worst case, it is a waste of time.  Medium case, it results in networking and Toboggan sends you to someone else who might be more useful.  And best case, Toboggan falls in love with you and offers you a job.

A funny story — one of my star associates came here just this way.  I reluctantly agreed to meet with someone I would never consider hiring, but here she is and kicking serious butt.  These things do happen.

Okay — enough for here — I hope this is helpful.  In the final article in this series, I will talk about the résumé itself.