The EXPRESS
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​Have you ever been to a place where you thought to yourself, “Wow this is a cool place! I like it here.” If so, have you asked yourself, why you had this impression?

What was it that you liked so much about that particular city or town?

Well, as a real estate investor and hedge fund manager, I have always paid attention to what I like and what other people find alluring in a specific city.

In the past, I had the privilege to live in a variety of places around the world like Egypt, the Middle East, France and Switzerland, throughout Europe, various cities in the U.S. (mainly California), Cancun, Mexico and also Old San Juan Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean. I have had many residences for over a decade now and have enjoyed the beauty and uniqueness of all these different places. But I have come to realize that there is a set of criteria, when met, any city becomes attractive to its locals and most of its visitors.

Here is a short list I developed after 3 decades of travels, while always keeping an eye on beauty of architecture and attitude of locals that impact the overall lifestyle in a particular location.

To feel like a great place a city or a town must have:

  1. Order: Balance, symmetry and a variety in forms and colors. Its layout must be organized in a way that flows well with nature even in its complexity.
  2. Visible life: The streets should be alive with activities, full of life, energy and excitement. It must give you a sense that a lot is going on and you don’t want to miss out on something. You want people walking, talking, sitting in restaurants and cafes enjoying life; not just cars or people hustling and bustling for work. It has to be as much on display as possible.
  3. Compact: While you want space, you also want decent density. Having the balancing, moderating influence of living close to other people in an uplifting surroundings. Tightly packed well-ordered cities, with lots of squares, plazas and places where we can hang out. The art of the square is a having good size, symmetry and height of buildings. Having great statues and maybe a water fountain in the center. You want to have a place that is private within the public space, surrounded by cool places to hang out.
  4. Orientation and Mystery: You want to get a bit lost in the back streets that are cozy and and quaint. A place that is both cool and warm. Anonymous and mysterious yet personable and familiar. Where you get the sense of the old respected history and the new modern energy. You want to sense the newness of the place as well as some intimate old familiar surrounding.
  5. Scale: You don’t want it packed with commercial interest posted on high rises. You want a variety of places of worship, museums, culinary places and shops. No more than 5 stories high buildings are always more welcoming. Sizes and spaces with density that does not make you feel too small or too big.
  6. Local influence: You want to immediately feel that there is a uniqueness to the character and feel of the place. You want to see people and architecture that reflect the local customs, way of life and history.
  7. Climate: An inviting climate that makes you feel you are at the right place, no matter the time.
  8. Safety: You want to feel that you can go venture on your own and discover without having to worry about your own security or well being.
  9. Friendly and happy: You want to feel that everyone around you is happy to see you there. Making you feel welcome, appreciated and wanted. I like places where people take time to share their stories and carve time out of their schedules to involve you in what is happening in their surrounding. It is great to feel open and connected. Especially when look you in the eye, smile and greet you and each other which gives you a sense of warmth and welcome.
  10. Educational: You want to learn something new to be able to share with you friends back at home. Museums, local customs etc.

In the early 2000’s I found such a city--- and it is called Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is the oldest historic zone under a U.S. flag. This area features all of the criteria I wrote above and more. It has hotels, museums, churches, restaurants, art galleries and great shopping. This enchanting city is all nestled into some unique and colorful colonial buildings with narrow streets covered by blue stone-casts that were brought over as ballast on Spanish ships in the 1500 and 1600s.

This area is very charming and I have worked hard and invested millions into the area to restore the beauty and integrity of its colonial buildings. My goal has been to make everyone enjoy the history and charm of this Old City. That city offers everyone, locals, tourists, first time visitors (coming off the cruise ships) to returning guests an opportunity to connect with each other and with the historic architecture and the story that is very much part of nature in its design and creation.

Come and visit Old San Juan, PR and you may just fall in love with it as I did back a decade and a half ago.

     

​Do you know what causes lawsuits, divorce and even wars? The main cause is NO Communication. When people cut off communication with each other the only remedy becomes fighting. 

I think if two people communicate long enough, eventually they will find some points of agreement on reality and when they do, they will start to build affinity for each other. More communication is always a better solution in comparison to less or no communication. 

Just don’t wait too long, because once a lawsuit is filed and attorneys are in motion, no direct communication should take place, otherwise it could complicate matters. 

​As a personal policy, I have never cut off communication with anyone. But I have had my fair share of people who get either scared or their big ego gets in the way of their better judgment and so, they shut down when something goes wrong. Instead of communicating more openly and respectfully so we could brainstorm some solutions to the issues at hand, and find a reasonable compromise, they become too sensitive and withdraw, then out of fear they go complaining to a lawyer. 

​As the saying goes, “never ask a barber if you need a hair cut”. The lawyer usually verifies if there is “merit” to the case and usually finds one and persuades his/her new client to go on a retainer plus a percentage of the settlement to start the process of litigation. (This seems to be most prevalent way to pay attorneys in today’s market).  And that’s when things go from bad to worse.

​I have always tried to take responsibility for the problems I get involved in. I usually quickly apologize instead of argue and offer to make amends or I find a reasonable settlement based on what I think is fair and just between the parties. If the other side becomes an opponent and postures as if they want to fight, I quickly shift my position and turn the heat way up high. I go all the way and tie up the matter in court for as long as legally possible to drain their energy, bank account and frustrate their very existence. 

​This process itself should be looked at as if it was a game. Just like any other game, the sooner you know the rules and conditions, the better off you will be so you could play by the rules and win. The goal is to keep a certain distance though, so as to not get too engulfed or overwhelmed by the process.

​The highest form of the game of business is cooperation. It is having a team that communicates and works well together for a common purpose that contributes to the greater good.

​The lowest form of the game of business is competition. It is having a form of a business war where even if one side wins, they end up weaker. You can almost always trace such behavior back to bad or no communication between the parties.

You always have a choice, especially in the beginning of any conflict:
a) You can communicate more and find some points of agreements to play the game at the highest level where everyone wins.

Like in the real estate investing game, where you can structure business models for everyone to come out ahead and business growth becomes synergistic between the parties and eventually society in general.

 Or

 b) You can shut off communication and play the game at its lowest level where everyone loses. ​​​​​​​​

Like in the litigation game, where there are only degrees of losses. And over time, the demise of those involved becomes assured as no substantive recovery could make up for the time, money or effort spent on fighting.

In conclusion: Every now and then, you may achieve harmony through conflict. But yet again, when that happens, it is because the parties decided to communicate directly, openly and respectfully. Otherwise, it becomes a game of self destruction even if you think you won. Communication is the ultimate panacea, so you must make every effort to communicate better, more often and with everyone’s interest in mind. I hope you believe when I say: “Communicate or else”!