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How to Move Forward in An Age of Uncertainty

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I was surprised to see my picture on the cover of Coral Gables Magazine this month; a picture of me taken pre-Covid when I still wore a suit and went into the office each day, had a decent haircut, and appeared in public without a mask covering my nose and mouth.

 

The image felt tinged with sadness. To me it was a reminder of how our world continues to change, while at the same time it feels like we are standing still as we ‘shelter in place’ and wait for the ethereal curve to flatten. The byword I hear most during these times: “uncertainty”.

 

We are uncertain about our health and how to protect ourselves. 

We are uncertain about our investments as the stock market bounces radically. 

We are uncertain about how to navigate the social unrest and political conflicts.

We are uncertain about our economy, our businesses, our jobs and our futures.

 

So, how do we move forward in an age of uncertainty?

 

We Are In This Together

Remember that we are all in this whirlwind of uncertainty together fighting fear and conflict without a weapon or clear understanding of how to protect ourselves and our families. My wife says she feels like she is stuck watching a really bad movie, the kind she would never go see intentionally, and she can’t find a way out of the theater. (I hope it’s not from living with me as I work from home now!)

 

Sometimes the change we experience hits us hard and personally with terrible losses. Right before the financial meltdown of 2008, I took a huge risk and committed to launching a major office building, only to have my committed tenants, partners and my bank all default on me in rapid succession. I faced massive losses. It was one of those shocking changes that was out of my control. I didn’t know how it would end, and so I prayed a lot and received good advice, and rode it out. As it turned out, because I didn’t panic and held steady, our company survived and thrived, and I am grateful for it.

 

I am sometimes asked how I am able to move forward amid the stress of our current uncertainty with major real estate projects under construction, and new apartment buildings in Orlando (see 15 sec. video) and Atlanta (see 60 sec. video) opening to the public in the midst of the coronavirus this month.  

 

I have stress and worry just like everyone else, and yet as a person of faith, at my core I believe that God is there and that he is good. Our big developments, as beautiful and as perfect as we can make them, will never answer the deeper questions of the purpose of our lives. God’s love does.

 

The Vaccine for Anxiety

As a young man, lying paralyzed in my hospital bed following a plane crash and awaiting surgery, I memorized a promise from the Bible: “Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and supplication, and with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7.           

 

That’s my vaccine for anxiety. You might try something similar. If not a prayer, then a few moments of quiet contemplation before making any rash decisions. You might even want to spend a day in solitude and fasting. Some of my greatest insights have come when I stop the train of life and just sit in quietude without judgment, and instead with openness to new thoughts and creative solutions.

 

Some might say our usual certainty is just an illusion anyway. We make ourselves comfortable by telling ourselves that tomorrow will be like today. My father was fond of repeating his adage, “The only thing certain is change.” My father grew up in the Great Depression, experienced rationing, the Spanish flu pandemic, World War I, and fighting in World War II. I grew up in a business world experiencing repeated recessions and cycles in the real estate business, AND living in Miami which is a test tube for change.

 

If we know that change is constant and inevitable, why are we then so stressed and surprised by it? In times of peace and rapid economic prosperity, it is too easy to comfort ourselves by putting our faith in an irrational certainty that feeds our desire for control. When times are good, it is easy to feel like a genius and take credit for all of our achievements. It is when times are not good that we realize how little credit we deserve. It is humbling, to say the least, to realize how little of what life throws at us has anything to do with us at all.

 

I am writing this in front of the fireplace in my log cabin in Black Mountain, North Carolina. This little town has been part of our family for 50 years, and because so little changes here, except the restaurants that go out of business every year or two, it is a blessed relief for my family that lives and works in Miami, Orlando and Atlanta – cities famous for their explosive growth and change.

 

How The Allen Morris Company Deals with an Uncertain Environment

Growth and change is the fuel for the real estate business, but it can often be treacherous, because change doesn’t ask for permission to go slower or faster, or in the direction you expect. So, how do we navigate this uncertain environment at The Allen Morris Company?

 

    1. We accept change and uncertainty as normal…And possibly, a great personal and business opportunity. Nobody, certainly not I, is guaranteed a straight and smooth path.
    2. We assume reasonable guideposts along the way. For instance, we are assuming that some Covid vaccine will be available in the next 4 to 12 months.
    3. We rely on reasonable human behavior. People want to get back to their normal lives and habits, and businesses want to operate to make a profit. People will want to rent apartments and businesses will need office space.
    4. We plan and act on what we think “will be.” As the hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been”.
    5. We have faith. A rational faith. We celebrate how our fears and worries drive us to the Lord as our only source of certainty.

In keeping with that, we are actively planning new projects right now and processing plans and approvals for 6-7 new office buildings, apartments, and hotels to launch in 2021. 

 

Nothing is stopping us, yet we proceed with caution and flexibility, because, the only thing certain is change.

 

To read the entire Coral Gables Magazine story, please visit: https://coralgablesmagazine.com/the-magazine/

 

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