Legacy of the Rental Crisis

Many thanks to all who expressed support and encouragement after my last post—this community continues to amaze me with its welcoming and generous spirit! Now that I’ve had time to reflect some more on the events of last week, I have clarity that I lacked before. Funny how crises lead to growth.

First, I regret that I resorted to name-calling when describing the previous tenant. ‘Renter from Hell’ and ‘Lucifer’ certainly represent how I felt about him, and still feel, from my judging self. But really, I don’t know him. I can’t say that he is truly evil. I can judge his actions as rude and inconsiderate, to say the least, but making sweeping claims about his character and shaming him publicly, even if anonymously, does not reflect my highest values. It would be fair to say that I was emotionally hijacked for a few days, fuming over how he desecrated my home. And we all know that we should not hit ‘Send,’ or ‘Publish,’ in that state of mind. Lesson learned.

If you have not watched Simon Sinek’s TED talks on leadership, or read his books, Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, I highly recommend them. He is my new author-hero, sharing the golden bookshelf with Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander, authors of my first favorite book, The Art of Possibility. Briefly, Sinek posits that leaders attract followers, and companies attract customers, when they are clear about their ‘why.’ In other words, they discern and exude their central purpose, their raison d’etre. When this is the case, the things they do, their whats, extend directly from the center where their core values live, and serve as tangible evidence for their why. He uses Apple as an example. We may think of Apple as a computer company, but Sinek asserts Apple’s why as ‘challenging the status quo.’ They revolutionized the computer industry with the graphic user interface, the music industry with ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ on your iPod, and the phone industry by dictating to the mobile phone carriers what the iPhone could do, rather than accepting the conventional, opposite practice. Computers, music devices, and phones, Sinek says, are Apple’s whats. They are the outputs of their why, and though disparate products, all align with Apple’s core values. Making great computers and phones is not an inspiring why. Challenging the status quo is. And people for whom that message resonates are the ones who will camp out overnight to be the first to get the next Apple product. They feel connected to the company and show loyalty.

For years now, I have used the phrase, “Live your best life every day” as a mantra in my work. This is what I aim to help people do, however they define it, and however they can achieve it. It’s my job to support them in their personal journeys. I try hard to apply it to myself, as well—what does my best life look like today? Best workdays in Chicago look very different from best vacation days in Colorado, and each day can be affected by myriad external and internal variables. But I find that when I can approach life in this way, newly open to possibility each morning, I feel liberated. I am free to redefine my best self, best day, best life, over and again. [You should know, however, that it is a constant struggle and I fall miserably short of this potential most days. But it’s a good practice to continue, and I think I’m getting better over time.] I started my career in a conventional primary care office. I spent five years in an integrative medicine practice, and now I do executive physicals and some concierge medicine. For a while I had a hard time reconciling this last step—it feels a little elitist and contrary to my usual liberal sensibilities. After digesting the Start With Why philosophy, though, I can confidently say that what I do now is entirely consistent with my core values.

Today I stand decisively at the intersection of Leadership and Health. My patients are leaders of their organizations, and it is my job to help them take care of themselves. Why? So they can better care for those they lead. By helping them live their best lives every day, they will role model this to their colleagues and staff, and empower those around them to do the same. How do I do this? By taking the time to know each patient as an individual, understanding their personal goals and aspirations. I collect objective data about their health and offer personalized recommendations, based on what I know aligns with their values. Today I happen to do it through executive physicals, but it’s what I have always done. I give presentations to colleagues on physician resilience, and I lead educational initiatives aimed at advancing professionalism and collaboration. This is my why—live my best life every day, and help others do the same, through our relationships.

Now I know how I must approach my rental property. It cannot be just another way to make money. It must be another what to my why. My reasons for keeping it must be consistent with my values and goals as a person, which must be the same as my goals as a physician, friend, spouse, parent, and landlord. Renting my home to a tenant is my contribution to their journey of self-actualization! Go ahead, laugh–it sounds completely whacky! And yet, approaching it this way clarifies all of my decisions and actions. As a landlord with the tenants’ best interests at heart, rather than simply calculating costs versus income, I will move swiftly and easily to repair or replace degenerating appliances and fixtures. I will take an interest in the tenants’ lives and check in with them frequently. I will monitor the upkeep of my property not just for myself, but for them. I will build the kind of trusting relationship that fulfills me in every other aspect of my life. The yield, I hope, will come in the form of respect and appreciation from the tenants, expressed in loving care of my home. You could see it as a manipulation, guilting them into cleaning up after themselves, I suppose. But it doesn’t feel like that. I know now that I want honestly to connect with my renters, to feel good about our relationship. Actions taken out of true caring are very different from mere transactions, and everybody feels it.

Before this last tenant, I never experienced this kind of drama and anguish over the apartment. But looking back, something about my relationships with renters felt distant and awkward, not like my other relationships. Now I know why, and it has to change. I have to be me in everything I do, including this. Some people will not want it. They will feel uncomfortable and see me as nosy and prying. Some patients don’t want a personal relationship with their doctor, either—they just want to have their cholesterol tested and their medications prescribed on time. I would not be a good fit for either of these groups, and the good news is they are free to not rent my home or choose me as their doctor. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” Simon Sinek says over and over. “The goal is to do business with the people who believe what you believe, not just the people who need what you have.” This sounds familiar: Seek the fellow lone nuts, the early adopters, the ones with whom my why resonates. If I can do that, no matter what happens, I can make a positive difference in the world, and attain peace for myself.

27 thoughts on “Legacy of the Rental Crisis

  1. I also thought that you were not your usual self when you published that post 🙂

    Such phases come into our leaves and go. I am glad you are feeling calm now.
    I like this post and your style is always reader-friendly as well as intellectual.

    I would have loved to see couple of pictures. I am an image freak you know 😛

    I wish you very best Catherine 🙂

    Anand 🙂

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  2. I so appreciate the honesty of your writing Catherine. I resonate too with your mention of feeling distant or disconnected (as you shared you had felt with previous renters when you didn’t have a relationship with them). I have spent a lifetime as an accidental administrative assistant. It was a career choice that was first chosen for me during my stint in the military because I tested highly in the aptitude tests for admin. Through the years I’ve detoured occasionally trying other means to earn an income, sales (which I liked very much and was good at) and service type jobs, but I have always returned and thrived most in a supportive administrative role (most recently to executives in a corporate setting). It takes time for me to settle into an assignment. There are certain things I have learned about myself that I generally apply to each position. I need to be creative, artistically so that in everything I do to feel as though I am contributing something worthwhile. Because I am creative I have learned to find satisfaction in a memo esthetically formatted as well as concisely written. I also always assign myself small projects that enhance communication between staff through newsletters, creating digital media content for our communication boards, developing basic software skills training and event planning. By being more than “just a secretary” I have found my niche and am able to bring a little extra to the table to my employers, and in the process I am also feeding my soul’s need to be a creative outside of the box person. My path is very different from yours but the applicable principles are similar. The very first relationship for me and the one I must continually work on is my honest personal appraisal and nurturing relationship with myself. When I am honest with myself it makes my interactions with the world much easier and ultimately more rewarding to navigate. Thank you for your words that have a way of triggering thoughtful reflection. I value your writing immensely. ☺️

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  3. Lots of great stuff in this post, it could probably be a couple separate ones! But I love the way you describe your inner struggle, the reckoning and the growth that came from this. Look forward to reading more.

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  4. Kudos for another great article! I love how you’re taking philosophy about relationships and applying it in the real world and using the results to adjust yourself. Being authentic and true to your own values and vision takes work. You’re on the right path. Keep at it!

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  5. Leadership has been a theme for me this year, Cathy (I have been facilitating a leadership program at the college where I work, and also running a discussion series for all supervisors there), and it’s challenged me to refine and define my definitions and understandings. I’m going to be looking up Simek and the Zanders! And I love ‘the intersection of leadership and health’….

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    • Thanks you, Pam–I’m so curious to know what you have learned and discovered from this experience–would you be willing to share, or maybe I’ll see it on your blog soon? 🙂
      Please tell me what you think of these authors–Ben Zander has a TED talk, also. Have a great weekend!

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      • Cathy, this would be a great opportunity for me to organize my thoughts on paper, so you’ll be sorry you asked! Do you feel comfortable sharing your email address, so I don’t bore all your readers with my leadership ravings? I am especially interested in leadership and personality styles–I believe, more and more, that introverts , for instance, can be tremendously effective as leaders–but it doesn’t look the same as their extroverted colleagues’ styles look! I want to look at the TEDtalk and track down the books, and then I will get my wandering thoughts in a semblance of ‘organized’!

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  6. Personally, I very much liked the names you chose for the people in your story. I thought they were perfect, precisely because of the metaphorical freight they carried. Just as a picture can be worth a thousand words, a good story can be worth tomes of philosophy.

    In any event, we do learn from the events of our lives, don’t we? One lesson I learned from Apple came this past weekend. I was doing a little sightseeing with a friend, and we landed in a spot where an attempt to take a photo with an iPhone brought up this message: “Photographs and videos are not allowed.” It was impossible to take a photo.

    After I came home and began investigating, I found that, in 2012, Apple patented a technology that allows phones, iPads, and so on, to be shut down remotely: by individuals, at functions, or by governments. That’s the sort of thing that only reinforces my distaste for the company.

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  7. Hi, Catherine, I have a friend who describes it as amygdala hijack when that part of our brain takes over and we lash out or suit-up for combat. It happens to all of us, and as we grow, we just get better at recognizing it and taking back our brain control sooner. She says it’s all part of being human….
    I love the idea Sinek posits about being clear on our “why.” I suspect that even when we’re not clear on it, being able to examine the question and think about what that “why” might be is a huge step toward self-realization. Your own “why” and the type of medicine you practice (I’m so intrigued by the concept of concierge practice) is at the forefront of so many things—medical, social, entrepreneurial, and corporate. I really like how you follow the why with the whats. Thanks for another post that gave me lots to think about!

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    • Donna, your friend is wise, and I imagine that if she keeps this perspective in mind often, that she is also peaceful. Human, indeed. We are such complex creatures!
      Regarding following the why with whats, did I explain it clearly enough? Was it easy or hard to understand? I want to do justice to these great writers–paraphrasing without diluting… Thanks!

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