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  • Writer's pictureSimon Deen

The Year of The Duck (a 2023 review)

As the kids like to say, “it’s been a minute”.

Actually, it’s been more like three hundred and forty one thousand, two hundred and eighty minutes.

But it doesn’t matter how much time has passed, you never forget how to ride a bike. Or write a blog.  That’s what I told myself anyway, as I dusted off my keyboard and saw in the new year with a bit of writing.

So much has happened since my last blog, both professionally and personally, that it was hard to know where to start.  Or what the people might want.  And by the people, I mean the odd person who has politely enquired as to where my blogs have disappeared to.

Some of my more paranoid subscribers asked if I’d removed them from my mailing list.  Others kindly told me it was a shame I’d stopped, as they enjoyed my writing.

During a recent coffee with a friend, I described writing a blog as a type of open source therapy.  Sometimes you’re talking, sometimes you’re processing.

When I first began writing towards the end of September 2020, it was largely about the ways I thought estate agency wasn’t working, together with a few thoughts about how to fix it.

Although, like most good ideas, they weren’t original.  I just took a handful of things that resonated with me, and tried to apply them as best as possible.

A lot of them ended up feeling something like this. It’s about as close to a mission statement as I’ve got;

“You want to deliver to the world what you would buy if you were on the other end. There is no ethos that is better for a person to have. The people who have this win the deserved trust of the people they deal with, and there is huge pleasure in life to be obtained from getting deserved trust”
Charlie Munger

But enough of that.  I promised you a review of 2023.

Originally I had planned to write a retrospective of how the property market performed last year.  But there’s enough forced dryness in January. So instead, here’s a summary;

In 2023 the BoE increased interest rates from 3.5% to 5.25%, having raised them from 0.25% to 3.5% in 2022. The property market responded accordingly.  Fewer buyers, fewer transactions, and a greater number of price reductions and abortive deals.

You probably don’t need much more analysis than that.  Apart from to say that the outlook for 2024 is better.

Against that backdrop, 2023 was actually a pretty good year for me professionally.  Just over twice the number of deals concluded compared to 2022.  A new office in Marylebone, and a new team member too.  A new charity endeavour planned for 2024, as well as a website refresh.

So really, lots to be excited about.  And of course, I could just leave it there.

But instead, I wanted today’s blog to be a bit more authentic.  A bit less, “yay me”, followed by a highlight reel of the past twelve months, and finished off with a self congratulatory pat on the back.

Back in May 2023, I wrote about Fred.  How his sudden and untimely death left me reflecting on my own mortality, and trying hard to focus on what really mattered.  More than anything, his passing left me feeling a bit sideways.

A month later, Richard died.

Richard and I spent an inordinate amount of time together from the ages of about 11 to 18. And then less time together through our 20s.  And then almost no time together since we turned 30. In the last twelve years of his life, I probably saw him twice.  We never fell out, and we didn’t grow apart either.  

We just drifted.  The kind of drift that’s all too easy to explain with busy lives, competing priorities and the promise of time for “that kind of stuff” later.

Coming so soon after Fred’s passing, I found myself struggling.

And then the 7th October happened, and everything that’s ensued since.   “A bit sideways” started to feel more like being buffeted by a category five hurricane.

Seven weeks later, on November 26th, I celebrated my 43rd Birthday. 100,000 people showed up.

Together we marched against anti-Semitism through central London.  By my side were my 78 year old Father, and one of my closest friends, Lee.

My Father was fighting the fascists on Ridley Road in the ‘60s.  My Grandfather was fighting the fascists on Cable Street in the ‘30s.  Lee’s grandfather was thirteen years old when he boarded the Kindertransport, to flee Vienna and the Nazis.  He would never see his parents again.

The second six months of 2023 were unrelenting. Buyers, sellers, tenants and solicitors. Offers, exchanges and completions. And punctuating almost every moment, feelings of helplessness, anger, sadness, emotion and grief.

As the year approached its end, I realised something.   Actually, that's not true.  I remembered something.

"Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human freedoms.  To choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances"
Victor Frankl (Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor)

Clearly, there’s no comparison between what Frankl endured in Auschwitz and the experiences of a navel gazing estate agent. But with the greatest of respect for one of the most influential psychiatrists to ever live, I’d still like to offer my own, more basic, internal mantra;

Be like the duck.

The duck doesn’t make a fuss.

The duck goes about his daily business, the water falling off his back. He cuts through with ease, he’s built for this kind of thing.

Underneath the surface, where you and I can’t see, the duck is giving the water hell.  Kicking furiously, but making it seem easy and graceful.

Like the water, he’s in a state of flow.  Always, resolutely, determinedly, imperturbable.

My clients need me to be calm, measured, empathetic and understanding.

My family needs me to be not just present, but in the moment.

And me?  Well I need balance.  To spend time in nature, preferably walking the dog. To exercise regularly, to be fed often and on time.  And all the while feeling like I’m working towards something meaningful, both personally and professionally.

I had to work hard to find my inner duck in the second half of 2023.  I was sometimes left wondering where the ducking hell he’d disappeared to (sorry, impossible to resist).

It was a year of challenges and triumphs.  And although the forecast is in some parts brighter, 2024 will almost certainly bring its own difficulties.

I just feel better prepared to face them.

Wishing everyone a healthy, happy and successful 2024.

Property News

A quick recap of 2023…

Things I’ve been paying attention to

“…the pace of innovation has now slowed to a crawl as Apple seeks to take profits instead of following the path that the Mac started down two generations ago - to not just sell a product, but to change the culture.
Even if they’ve lost the instinct to make something insanely great, they taught people all over the world to want to do so.
The change we make is at the heart of the work we’re able to do”


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