Our good friend, Abe Schear, Chairman of the Leasing Practice Group at Arnall Golden Gregory in Atlanta, pens a newsletter called Baseball Digest(able). Abe’s January issue is a powerful piece of insightful writing which merits all of our attention. Since many of the deals in the real estate industry occur as a result of the reputation and faith we all have in each other based upon mutual experience, we are all put in the position of being an "enabler" at some time or another. Therefor, it is in all of our best interest to head the lessons which Abe so aptly points out. Abe has graciously given us permission to reprint the newsletter below. Thank you Abe.
New Year’s Musings
Having just returned from Berlin where Linda and I spent four nights over the year end holidays, numerous reflections come to mind. First, and somewhat surprising to me, there is so much to see I’d like to go back in the summer when the weather is more temperate and there is more than eight hours of day light. Second, what is it about us Americans that wholly rejects timely and clean bus and train service? The public transportation in Berlin was beyond wonderful – clean, efficient, affordable and it went most everywhere we wanted to go. Third, most of Berlin appears to have come to grips with its history, good and bad, and the city is full of contemplative art and youthful energy.
There is, in fact, a sculpture in a small park near the original site of an old synagogue where Jewish men were separated from their mostly non-Jewish wives and children near the end of World War II. Their wives and their families protested night after night, blocking streets and creating a stir the Nazis neither expected nor wished to see gather wider support. While these courageous women were not successful in completely stemming the tragic transport of these men and others to the concentration camps, their voices were heard, and the transport was slowed. The part of the sculpture which comes to mind sits directly across the park from the memorial to these heroic women. It depicts a man sitting idly on a park bench looking away from the other pieces, a man who wants to appear to know nothing, will do nothing, feels nothing, and cares for nothing and no one but himself. Our guide referred to him as the “ambivalent stranger”.
This “know nothing – do nothing” concern affects all of us around the world. As we look at the tabloid-friendly Tiger Woods situation (or the never-ending baseball steroid matter for that regard), regardless of what Tiger did, what Tiger took, where Tiger took it and who he got it from, does anyone seriously believe that there was not a bevy of enablers, people as self serving and cold as the statue, who knew better but said nothing and did less?
For instance, is it remotely possible that Tiger’s caddy, his agent, his so called friends and representatives of his sponsors, did not know what was going on which led to this very sad fall from grace? Under what pretense did they think that they were being Tiger’s friend? Were these people simply protecting their own meal ticket? Is there no circumstance when doing right is more important than making money?
Business, naturally enough, raises this quandary every day in the ethics and morals of our work. What is right and what is not? When do we lend a hand and when do we turn our backs? When do we take a moment to comfort and when do we fail to be a friend?
These issues are particularly important as we enter a new year. Sport is, of course, a daily lesson about rules and teamwork and fair play. Sport is a reflection on our society and on us – we follow sports that we care about and, as we do, we often learn a lot about ourselves. As we set our goals for the new year, we routinely look at our productivity – hours worked, time billed, money earned – or whatever our productivity measures may be. We set goals to be better parents and better children, to go to our houses of worship more often, to do more volunteer work. Perhaps we should ask ourselves what we would have done had we been in Tiger’s inner circle. Would we have had the courage to try to correct the situation? Would we have lied about not knowing anything? Would we have done all we could to save our paycheck?
I have some idea how I would have reacted had I been in that inner circle, but there is no doubt that many of these people wish or will wish that they had taken the nobler path and will ask themselves why they didn’t act when there was opportunity. I know that none of us want to be memorialized as a “know nothing, do nothing” person – not for ourselves nor for our families.