June 12, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend,

I have a good friend whose career is in real estate. That's a pretty broad category; it doesn't give much (if, any) clarity about what he really "does." Land development? Entitlement? Brokerage? Building Contractor? Subcontractor? Mortgage professional? Residential Agent? Rehab/Remodeler? What's his niche?

His "corner" in the market is self storage. The Donald goes for glitz and gold; my buddy goes the other way. Metal roofs and roll-up doors; concrete block wall construction; security fences with actuated gates. Sounds more like a prison than a palace... but, that's by design. Give him five acres by a drainage ditch and he's a happy camper, as long as there isn't much competition in the community.

What's the secret behind his success? Two essential ingredients, really: Americans and stuff. As long as people live nearby, and there is a Wal-Mart and/or Costco within 10 miles, it's the land of opportunity. On Saturdays, Americans who have worked all week do their "errands." Dry cleaners, car wash, soccer games, family fast food, and grocery shopping: their essentials engage them. On the list: pick up some batteries for the Game Boy...

It could be batteries, or a new garden hose, or a DVD to watch on Saturday night while the kids are at the skate park, but there is some reason to head to the "big box" store, fight the parking terrorists for a space... and head into battle. Tucked into a rear corner of the 50,000 foot warehouse is what they came for, but on the way, they wheel the flatbed cart through stacks and piles of the world's best stuff, calling out their name... What was it, again, that they came for? By the time they get to the check-out line, it really doesn't matter any more; their victory is vitalized by coming home with stuff they didn't even know they needed, until it reached up and grabbed them on the way to the battery aisle.

Next problem: get home, open the rear doors on the SUV, and offload the incoming delivery of NGS (that's New Good Stuff). If they've been in their home for 24 months, odds are 80% that there's no room in the house for more stuff, which is the next domino to fall. With the arrival of NGS, some FNGS (that's Formerly New Good Stuff) has to give up its space, retiring to the garage (home of FNGS, but way too good to ditch). Don't relax yet: the garage is jammed. The cars are already overnighting in the driveway; they've relinquished their garage bays for FNGS. The newly-arrived FNGS will displace the older, archived FNGS... next in line for the designation GS/NR@H (that's Good Stuff, No Room @ Home). Garage sale? Too much hassle. Salvation Army? Too nice for the thrift store. Church? Can't let them know what good stuff you're casting-off. Solution? Glad you asked: it's down the street, behind locked gates. Self Storage, here we come...

Jesus didn't have any stuff. In fact, when he needed stuff, he borrowed it from people who had it. A donkey to ride into town? Borrow one. An upper room for a meeting? Borrowed. A weekend stay in a new tomb? Someone must have one he could borrow. As he moved around, he challenged people to come with him. The price of admission? "Leave your stuff." Some did (Peter, Andrew, James, John); some couldn't bear to part with it (Rich Young Ruler). Stuff can have a powerful hold on you, if you're not careful.

Stuff. Can't live with it; can't live without it. What's your relationship with stuff? Cheri and I know how controlling it can be, so we've developed some ground rules about it, to keep us safe. Things like:

1. Get good stuff. One way to keep your mind off stuff is to make sure it's doing what it's supposed to do. Good stuff works, so I don't have to keep workin' on my stuff. Get good stuff...
2. Take care of stuff. It's not my stuff: it's God's; so I take care of it for him. He calls it stewardship.
3. Don't pay retail for stuff. Good stuff doesn't have to be expensive stuff, if you use your head...What do you call someone who pays more for the same stuff? None of the names are ones I want...
4. Keep your heart away from stuff. A critical factoid: it's all going to burn. That's not Al Gore talking; it's Simon Peter. "Since all these things are going to burn anyway, what kind of people should we be?" (from 2 Peter 3:11). That's the $64,000 question, for Christians...

No big issues this week for my Point of View, so I thought we could just talk about this stuff....

Bob Shank

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