Peter & The Wolf
In 2021, I wrote 49 blog posts. Looking back, I clearly had a lot to say about a lot of things. But actually, much of it was really about the same thing - how estate agency could better serve the needs of its customers.
At the end of that year, I decided that I’d write half as much in 2022.
And I did pretty well at that until the summer. But after a couple of weeks away with the family, and having become progressively more busy, it fell by the wayside a little. I’ve been absent without leave since the 18th of November.
But despite the fact that only my mother seems to have missed my musings, there’s a reason I’m sharing these numerical trivialities.
The last book I read in 2022 was Zero to One by Peter Thiel. Peter was one of the co-founders at PayPal (and the first external investor in Facebook).
In the first few pages, I found this.
“Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”
I liked this. A lot. Aside from anything else, the wording is brilliant. Because whilst truth has become something which is harder than ever to define, most people agree with most important truths.
Like that human beings have been pretty bad for the planet’s ecosystem, or that Tottenham and England will always let you down.
After thinking about it for a while, I came up with my own important truth.
“Taken as whole, the internet has been bad for society”
Before I go on, a caveat. I am fully aware that my knowledge is imperfect and limited. There’s probably a lot I should be considering, which I’m not.
But here’s the funny thing. I asked some smart people what their important truth was, and in turn told them my mine. I expected some robust objections. But instead, I got a lot of agreement.
So much for me being a brilliant, contrarian thinker.
It’s pretty easy to think of the bad things that the internet has delivered to us (at speed).
Google tells us that its purpose is to organise the world’s information. And to make it both universally accessible and useful.
But the reality is that 37% of the planet’s population, or nearly 3 billion people, don’t even have access to the internet.
Over at Meta, they’re on a mission to give people the power to build community, and bring the world closer together. Except for when they’re being fined for unfairly influencing democratic elections.
I digress. What both companies have ultimately gravitated towards is money. And lots of it. They’ve sold our personal data to advertisers, and in 2022 alone that earned them a combined $326,000,000,000 (that’s billion).
Social media has irrevocably damaged the concept of communicating with respect, and holding space for opposing views. And don’t even get me started on its effects on our mental health, and more importantly, our children’s.
But of course the internet has brought us many good things too. I can think of lots. Mostly ones that involve spending money and then having things delivered to you, instead of having to leave the house to get them. So more stuff we don’t really need, and more sitting down too.
But it's also given me the ability to work as an independent estate agent. I don’t need an office with pictures of properties in the windows, or a suit and tie. Attracting customers doesn’t need to happen via adverts in glossy magazines.
Instead, amongst other digital activities, I can write blogs.
Whilst listening to John Williams film scores in the café at Kenwood House, if I am so inclined.
And from a house hunter's perspective, the internet’s been a game changer. Instead of having to waste time walking up and down the high street, you can go online instead.
In some areas, there’s greater transparency, and more information too. And when people are looking to make life changing decisions for eye watering amounts of money, knowing how much your neighbour-to-be paid for their home can be really helpful.
But in estate agency, like in so many other areas of life, the internet has arguably become a time consuming distraction.
We now seem to live in the age of estate agency delivered as performance art.
As an industry, we’ve been very busy traversing down a wormhole of content marketing, social media and even blogging. But in doing so, maybe we’ve started to forget the core component of this business.
Personal relationships, acted out in real life.
It doesn't really matter if those relationships are with clients, co-workers or collaborators. At its heart estate agency is still, and always will be, a people business.
Actually, I’d like to refine that. Life is a people business. And no one's highlight of 2022 was the amount of likes they got on social media.
“Face-to-face conversation is the most human, and humanising, thing we do.
Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It's where we develop the capacity for empathy. It's where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood.”
- Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
So this year, maybe a little less blogging. Sorry Mum, I guess we’ll have to go out for dinner more often.
I regularly read your blog and enjoy it immensely, as it is always very insightful. I want to buy an apartment in London, in a new and upcoming area.
I am on a very short whirlwind trip to London and have some free time tomorrow and Saturday. I know it’s extremely short notice but hopefully you can help me.
*Two months later
Ignore everything I said. The internet is great.
Things I’ve been paying attention to
My favourite book of 2022 was Atomic Habits, by James Clear.
You can buy it here, sign up for Jame’s weekly email newsletter here, or listen to his recent interview with Tim Ferriss here.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become"