How to find hidden opportunity in uncertain times

How to find hidden opportunity in uncertain times

How many times have you heard someone say, “it’s time to fish or cut bait”? 

In situations of great uncertainty, wise advisors often remind decision makers of the old adage, “you need to fish, or cut bait.” 

In essence, it’s a not-so-gentle reminder that, when faced with difficult decisions, you really only have two compelling options: work with what you have, or use what you have to help others. 

I’m not sure how many people really know what it means. It goes back at least to the 19th century, and it usually included the third option of “go ashore.” 

I think the best example of the original phrase comes from a news report on a July 1862 meeting that President Lincoln held with congressmen from the “Border States” (those slave states that remained in the Union)… 

“…in which he endeavored to induce them to adopt his policy of gradual emancipation. […] Mr. Lincoln is said to have told the Border-state men that ‘they must either fish, cut bait, or go ashore!’”

Subtle! I’m sure the Border-state congressmen knew exactly how the President viewed their options.

According to the original usage, “go ashore” means you should get out and leave the game to the players. 

In other words, lead, follow, or get out of the way.

It’s puzzling to us that most people, in topsy-turvy times like these, are content to just “go ashore,” and put off real estate decisions until the storm subsides and the dust settles. 

That’s really not our style. Instead, we pull out Dan Sullivan’s “The Scary Times Success Manual™” and get our clients (and ourselves) ready with tackle, bait, and rod.

We wrote a post on the key lessons from Dan’s success manual almost exactly a year ago, when it was clear that there were tough times ahead for CRE. 

And here we are. Those lessons have served us well, and we know they’ll continue to do so for as long as these crazy economic conditions persist (we’re counting on at least another year or two).

Just to quickly recap, here are Dan’s 8 lessons:

  1. Forget about closing the deal; focus on creating value.
  2. Forget about your business objectives; focus on serving others.
  3. Forget about your losses; focus on your opportunities.
  4. Forget about your difficulties; focus on your progress. 
  5. Forget about the news of the day; focus on today.
  6. Forget about getting back in control; focus on your responses.
  7. Forget about what’s missing; focus on what’s available.
  8. Forget about your complaints; focus on your gratitude.

We have found that when we follow these instructions, we generate lots of great ideas and new perspectives. But even with these great insights, there is no “success” until they’re put into action. 

With that in mind, here are a few examples of HOW you can put these lessons to work for your success:

Let’s go fishing!

Yes, it’s a crazy world in commercial real estate right now. But there are also plenty of fish in that sea. You don’t have to be a legendary contrarian like GMO to know that great opportunities favor the bold. 

Take lesson Number 3: “Forget about your losses; focus on your opportunities.”

If you have a couple of projects that have flipped completely upside down, it may not be unwise to wait until the market turns in your favor.

But, if you have capital to deploy, a reasonable appetite for risk, and the patience and creativity for unconventional deal structures, this is exactly the kind of time when you’ll find once in a lifetime opportunities. Do your research, and put a line in the water. 

Let’s cut bait!

We especially like Lesson Number 2: “Forget about your business objectives; focus on serving others.” 

Why? Because nothing pays future dividends quite like a well-considered investment in someone else. Use your unique abilities, assets, and experience to connect with and assist others. 

Maybe you’re not comfortable with the risks and long hold associated with land acquisition to go fishing in those waters yourself. But what about wastewater treatment? Conservation? Smart growth objectives? 

Advocates and dealmakers who are facing difficult decisions in these fields may greatly benefit from your expertise, assets, and perspective. Get involved!

Go ashore? No, thank you.

Going ashore is not really in our playbook. But if you’re looking to get out of the game altogether, here are some non-commercial-real-estate options we find inspiring:

  • Bikepack the length of New Zealand or get an Adventure Bike and motorcycle the TransAmerica Trail!
  • Go on a mission trip to Africa or volunteer for reforestation efforts in the Amazon.
  • Learn how to dance, put on a wig, and disco dance to raise money for a worthy cause in Charlotte Ballet’s “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser!

In all seriousness, though, there are a lot of things to be excited about in this market. Yes, it’s crazy, and the indicator lights seem to be switching from green to red and back again from week to week. 

But the fundamentals still apply. And at Cardinal, it’s been our experience that fortune favors the bold—and the helpful.

So call us, drop us an email, or click the link below to contact us. Let’s grab coffee or a beer to discuss how we can help you in any way. Maybe we’ll put a line in the water together. Or maybe we’ll just cut bait. Regardless, now is not the time to go ashore.

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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