June 16, 2022

The River of Real Estate

Daniel Jakubisin

Every month, I go on my Doorward Think Day.

Regular days are so full and I’m often moving from meeting to meeting or task to task. Notes pile up - from those meetings, comments from the team, our board, investors, collaborators and friends. My own observations too. So as the pace of growth ramps up faster and faster, I have seen the need to invest more in these Doorward Think Days. And obviously I invest in them because they pay off.

I am always amazed at an insight that will be staring me right in the face that I hadn’t seen before and the more distant dots that you can connect to make a new breakthrough. I also find them refreshing, and I come back even more energetic, focused, at peace with the ever fluctuating gap between where we are and where I want us to be. Of course that gap is a good thing - so long as you stay focused on the immediate tasks at hand.

One of this year’s favorites was to the Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest on a 17 degree day. But this past month’s was a special one.

I had protected that Wednesday, ie. keeping it clear of meetings.. The goal on Doorward Think days is to go no-tech, clear the mind and move from left brain to right brain thinking. After all, It is only there where you can have new insights. If you knew what you were going to see, then you wouldn’t need to do it!

For this, especially breaking out of the rigid boxes, I am a firm believer in exercise and tapping into the great outdoors. So when I saw a newsletter from Patty Hagen, the Executive Director of T-REX, a technology innovation center we are a part of, I realized that I had found the destination. She spoke about the Audubon Center at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary that she helped create working with the Army Corps of Engineers.

This met all my criteria.

1. Just far enough away to get into a different frame of mind

2. Enough nature to tap into with some brisk exercise

3. Something new or different that I have never experienced

So that day, I pack my stuff, a lunch, all my notes, and off I went.

Sanctuary

I was amazed at the quietness of the place when I stepped out of the truck. Totally quiet.

Behind the visitor center it’s just as quiet, except now the many birds are calling, chirping, cawing etc.

It’s a pretty amazing place. Tons of different species on different migration patterns. The volunteers were enthusiastic and I started to understand why.

Turns out many of the migration patterns of North American birds converge on St. Louis.

It’s super important to have this stopping point for the birds. Unfortunately all the wetlands in that area had been drained and developed decades ago when industrial land was needed. Overtime, without a rest area, the birds slowly disappeared. To some extent, they were just starting to see the effects of recreating that wetland. The birds were returning. Apparently the pelicans had been gone for years and that day I saw hundreds.

The Far-sighted See Better Things

Unexpectedly I learned the big picture of the development of that sanctuary. The old lock 26 just north of there on the river was failing. It had been built on wooden pylons which - obviously - had rotted over the years.

These dams and locks are important. The river becomes unnavigable without them. There is a 1000 foot elevation change on the upper Mississippi and without deep enough water in many places, thousands of boats were getting destroyed. Before the locks and damns were build, the average lifespan of a steamboat was about 2 years.

So they needed to rebuild lock 26 - at this point it was just about commerce. It was about protecting the flow of goods, especially the grain of the Great Plains - the majority of our country’s grain export by which we help feed the world flows down the Mississippi. Just for the sake of commerce it had to be done!

So the Army Corps of Engineers studied the situation, but took the time to do it in a holistic way.

By creating the dam where they did they were able to create some backwater areas like Ellis Bay where the Sanctuary was located and flood these former wetlands. They were intentional and set aside this formerly drained land to be a sanctuary for these birds passing through on their migrations.

It all Locks in Place

After some hours reviewing notes, I went over to the new dam and it’s incredible - a massive imposing structure - the largest, and the crown jewel, of the Mississippi. From St. Louis they manage the whole river and give instructions on what water levels to maintain.

So I was thinking - after all it was a Doorward Think day, that we at Doorward must be like this dam. Keep in mind it is not a dam which blocks the flow of the river but rather precisely the opposite. It is facilitating movement on the river for river travelers of all types. They explained to me that even if one regular citizen paddles up to the lock on a log they are obligated - and willing! - to enact the whole series of operations to conduct that one person safely up the river. It’s a water highway, built for Americans!

So Doorward must be like this dam - facilitating commerce on the River of Real Estate, making it easier for boat owners to take them up river and down river. But because we are being careful and intentional - if we do it right - we can recreate the “sanctuaries”.

For all types! For all folks whose lives are touched by the real estate industry (which, I hope I don’t have to point out, is everyone!)

In the midst of furious development the wetlands were destroyed because they forgot that these creatures were important to the overall ecosystem. And here in real estate, so many have been forgotten in the midst of furious activity driven by corporations, the hedge funds and the institutional investors.

It is outside the scope of this post to enumerate all those who have been forgotten and how, but herein lies the why. We believe in the underdogs, in level playing fields, and the right to reap the rewards of your own labor. Despite everything, we still believe in the American Dream.

It’s not too late, we can still recreate the wetlands.

I think we have one of two choices. Either you can choose quick solutions which ultimately fail (like wooden pylons) and cost more money, time and effort to fix or you can do things the right way, with holistic solutions that take into consideration, as best as practically possible, the bigger picture.

And that to me is the beauty of a startup, helping create the best version of the world, while creating the best version of yourself.

If that is not creating value - yes, value you can be compensated for - I don’t know what is.

Bonus Lesson

There were these two beautiful types of birds, these blue and white ones and these darker bluish ones. Hundreds of them. As I was taking it all in, I realized that these birds almost never land. They are constantly flying around, swooping, diving, darting. Unafraid in the sanctuary, they would do this on every side you'll be around you, almost showing off. When I had the chance, after identifying the bird species (Purple Martins and Tree Swallows, respectively) I asked the volunteers what I thought sounded like a stupid question, “Uh...Why do they fly so much?”

“Insects!” came the immediate reply, “Those birds are eating!”

As understanding dawned, I realized that answer counted for those aerial acrobatics which I thought were almost showing off. If you want to eat, you have to fly. A profound truth. And I was reminded of a saying “Humans were made to work like the birds were made to fly.”

We are capable of flying, of soaring. But the work isn’t going to come to you, you have to go out there and get it.

Post Summary

Doorward Founder Daniel Jakubisin shares a bit about the insights gained about Doorward's role in Real Estate on his latest think day.

This article was written, edited and published by members or collaborators of the Doorward Team. Doorward Inc. maintains a positive outlook on the inherent dignity of each: their singular ability to reason and create, to choose and likewise be responsible for their decisions. We defend their best intentions and affirm each person’s freedom to express their own thoughts and opinions and experiences, and to engage in civil discussion regarding them.

This article is meant to be thought-provoking, and is not intended to be specific direction for the topic of this post. Please do your own research and consult the appropriate people for guidance before making a decision related to the topic of this post.

Every month, I go on my Doorward Think Day.

Regular days are so full and I’m often moving from meeting to meeting or task to task. Notes pile up - from those meetings, comments from the team, our board, investors, collaborators and friends. My own observations too. So as the pace of growth ramps up faster and faster, I have seen the need to invest more in these Doorward Think Days. And obviously I invest in them because they pay off.

I am always amazed at an insight that will be staring me right in the face that I hadn’t seen before and the more distant dots that you can connect to make a new breakthrough. I also find them refreshing, and I come back even more energetic, focused, at peace with the ever fluctuating gap between where we are and where I want us to be. Of course that gap is a good thing - so long as you stay focused on the immediate tasks at hand.

One of this year’s favorites was to the Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest on a 17 degree day. But this past month’s was a special one.

I had protected that Wednesday, ie. keeping it clear of meetings.. The goal on Doorward Think days is to go no-tech, clear the mind and move from left brain to right brain thinking. After all, It is only there where you can have new insights. If you knew what you were going to see, then you wouldn’t need to do it!

For this, especially breaking out of the rigid boxes, I am a firm believer in exercise and tapping into the great outdoors. So when I saw a newsletter from Patty Hagen, the Executive Director of T-REX, a technology innovation center we are a part of, I realized that I had found the destination. She spoke about the Audubon Center at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary that she helped create working with the Army Corps of Engineers.

This met all my criteria.

1. Just far enough away to get into a different frame of mind

2. Enough nature to tap into with some brisk exercise

3. Something new or different that I have never experienced

So that day, I pack my stuff, a lunch, all my notes, and off I went.

Sanctuary

I was amazed at the quietness of the place when I stepped out of the truck. Totally quiet.

Behind the visitor center it’s just as quiet, except now the many birds are calling, chirping, cawing etc.

It’s a pretty amazing place. Tons of different species on different migration patterns. The volunteers were enthusiastic and I started to understand why.

Turns out many of the migration patterns of North American birds converge on St. Louis.

It’s super important to have this stopping point for the birds. Unfortunately all the wetlands in that area had been drained and developed decades ago when industrial land was needed. Overtime, without a rest area, the birds slowly disappeared. To some extent, they were just starting to see the effects of recreating that wetland. The birds were returning. Apparently the pelicans had been gone for years and that day I saw hundreds.

The Far-sighted See Better Things

Unexpectedly I learned the big picture of the development of that sanctuary. The old lock 26 just north of there on the river was failing. It had been built on wooden pylons which - obviously - had rotted over the years.

These dams and locks are important. The river becomes unnavigable without them. There is a 1000 foot elevation change on the upper Mississippi and without deep enough water in many places, thousands of boats were getting destroyed. Before the locks and damns were build, the average lifespan of a steamboat was about 2 years.

So they needed to rebuild lock 26 - at this point it was just about commerce. It was about protecting the flow of goods, especially the grain of the Great Plains - the majority of our country’s grain export by which we help feed the world flows down the Mississippi. Just for the sake of commerce it had to be done!

So the Army Corps of Engineers studied the situation, but took the time to do it in a holistic way.

By creating the dam where they did they were able to create some backwater areas like Ellis Bay where the Sanctuary was located and flood these former wetlands. They were intentional and set aside this formerly drained land to be a sanctuary for these birds passing through on their migrations.

It all Locks in Place

After some hours reviewing notes, I went over to the new dam and it’s incredible - a massive imposing structure - the largest, and the crown jewel, of the Mississippi. From St. Louis they manage the whole river and give instructions on what water levels to maintain.

So I was thinking - after all it was a Doorward Think day, that we at Doorward must be like this dam. Keep in mind it is not a dam which blocks the flow of the river but rather precisely the opposite. It is facilitating movement on the river for river travelers of all types. They explained to me that even if one regular citizen paddles up to the lock on a log they are obligated - and willing! - to enact the whole series of operations to conduct that one person safely up the river. It’s a water highway, built for Americans!

So Doorward must be like this dam - facilitating commerce on the River of Real Estate, making it easier for boat owners to take them up river and down river. But because we are being careful and intentional - if we do it right - we can recreate the “sanctuaries”.

For all types! For all folks whose lives are touched by the real estate industry (which, I hope I don’t have to point out, is everyone!)

In the midst of furious development the wetlands were destroyed because they forgot that these creatures were important to the overall ecosystem. And here in real estate, so many have been forgotten in the midst of furious activity driven by corporations, the hedge funds and the institutional investors.

It is outside the scope of this post to enumerate all those who have been forgotten and how, but herein lies the why. We believe in the underdogs, in level playing fields, and the right to reap the rewards of your own labor. Despite everything, we still believe in the American Dream.

It’s not too late, we can still recreate the wetlands.

I think we have one of two choices. Either you can choose quick solutions which ultimately fail (like wooden pylons) and cost more money, time and effort to fix or you can do things the right way, with holistic solutions that take into consideration, as best as practically possible, the bigger picture.

And that to me is the beauty of a startup, helping create the best version of the world, while creating the best version of yourself.

If that is not creating value - yes, value you can be compensated for - I don’t know what is.

Bonus Lesson

There were these two beautiful types of birds, these blue and white ones and these darker bluish ones. Hundreds of them. As I was taking it all in, I realized that these birds almost never land. They are constantly flying around, swooping, diving, darting. Unafraid in the sanctuary, they would do this on every side you'll be around you, almost showing off. When I had the chance, after identifying the bird species (Purple Martins and Tree Swallows, respectively) I asked the volunteers what I thought sounded like a stupid question, “Uh...Why do they fly so much?”

“Insects!” came the immediate reply, “Those birds are eating!”

As understanding dawned, I realized that answer counted for those aerial acrobatics which I thought were almost showing off. If you want to eat, you have to fly. A profound truth. And I was reminded of a saying “Humans were made to work like the birds were made to fly.”

We are capable of flying, of soaring. But the work isn’t going to come to you, you have to go out there and get it.

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