Twenty Men walk the streets of Har Nof, Jerusalem. There are no cars on the road, there is only laughter and genuine joy about life. This Shabbos in Jerusalem was extra meaningful. My Rabbi Jack and his sister (my close friend), Sarah, had suddenly lost their mother weeks before this highly anticipated trip and thus everything about this trip would be dedicated to her memory. Ten days in the holy land to focus on building ourselves up. I could have gone to Cabo and drank on a beach, I could have gone snowboarding in Tahoe - I chose Jerusalem. I chose to work on myself, devoutly interested in “Mussar.” Memorable, meaningful, spiritual - 2017 ended with passion and divine inspiration, diametrically opposed to how it began. 2018 though, buckle up!
It’s 4am, we had just been re-routed mid-flight path from New York City to Dulles airport in Washington DC. What else could possibly go wrong on a trip that I had already endured a full day layover in Moscow, Russia from Tel Aviv…One airline attendee fending questions from a hundred furious and befuddled passengers. An entire airport devoid of workers as the Bomb Cyclone pummeled the east coast with snow. Dulles Airport, 4am, unable to retrieve luggage and told to fend for ourselves to get back to New York. A 5am train and we roll into New York City, sleepless, luggage-less, 48 hours from initial takeoff. Welcome to 2018 - it’s going to be a year to remember!
Jan 4th, 2018 - The countdown begins. I’m a month away from picking up my life in New York and moving to Los Angeles - a reinvention of sorts. My friend’s write my succession plan, I sublease my place to a Colombian entrepreneur and I embark on my farewell tour of New York. A full month of goodbye’s is in order. Steak dinner with the boss, company brunch circled around roasting my oddities, loose romantic ties screeching to a halt and a final NYC night out with all my best friends resulting in Karaoke and endless smiles. I knew I would miss New York, but I knew I had to go.
LECH LECHA (GO, GO FOR YOU)
Two duffel bags packed and a friend’s couch awaiting, I moved to Los Angeles - reflecting on what my life might become. I had one agenda and one agenda only, meet as many people as possible with no expectations and see what happens. When asked why I moved to Los Angeles, I gave three main reasons:
1) I was 27 and single, I was yearning for change. I didn’t want to wake up at 30 knowing I had only ever lived in New York - I wanted to act now and LA felt rational given my experience in October.
2) My business was West Coast based and I was intrigued by the West Coast real estate markets. If I was going to thrive in West Coast real estate, I had to live on the West Coast, Naturally.
3) I wanted to double down on the outdoorsy lifestyle of Southern California. Bike more. Hike more. Eliminate the cold and live by the beach.
The following eleven months ensued in a whirlwind of acclimation and adjustment. I ditched the subways for the highways, got a Jeep, got a girl, built new friend groups and refused to slow down. I experienced some extreme HIGHs, like meeting Laurelle and discovering my professional future, and some transitionary lows, like intermittent and intense loneliness, two hour crawls on the 405 and battles with my own self-esteem. The city of Angels had given me a chance - it was my opportunity to take it.
FEAR: WAKING UP AT 30 HAVING NEVER MADE A CHANGE (Reason #1)
I have the wanderlust gene, thanks Dad. I have the lust for adventure of my Dad but the discipline and desire for structure from my Mom. It’s a very conflicting paradigm! As I’ve often done, I’ve looked at what the crowd thinks and the obvious inertia in a situation and I’ve done the complete opposite! All my friends were staying local or moving back home to Philadelphia, all my comforts and familiarities were in New York and I thought: “Gosh what a great challenge it would be to live elsewhere and see where life takes me!” I was single and had no financial ties, if there was ever a time to move around, now was the time. Having learned a lot from past relationships and learned a tremendous amount about myself and what I value in life - I knew that a new chapter would yield incredibly high results and maybe I would even find someone REALLY special.
WORKING REMOTELY & FALLING DOWN (Reason #2)
In 2018, I battled intense loneliness, feelings of unworthiness, lack of self-confidence and desires to move back to New York. In 2018, I also felt incredible accomplishment, feelings of invincibility, super-natural confidence and a love for Los Angeles I couldn’t possibly trade in. When I made the decision to work remotely and leave NYC to work in the markets in which I served, I thought it would be easy. My thinking was that I would be around my clients and the brokerage community at CBRE, feeding off their energy and super charging my business to the next level. In reality, I found myself lost, confused and generally out of place professionally as I had no other team members around me. There was a sense of belonging, stemming from a cohesive team, that I was simply lacking - something special that I had in New York with my team at Floored. While I maintained devout confidence in front of people, when I was alone to my own thoughts, I felt a stinging pain that I just was not in the right place. I heard the calling: This was not the work environment in which I would belonged.
As Dwayne Wade put it, “fall down seven, stand up eight.” In 2018, I had some bloodied snafus by falling off a Lime Scooter and flying over my bike’s handlebars in Malibu but just like the remote work feeling of obsoleteness, I got back up and made adjustments and vowed never again…
DOUBLE DOWN ON FITNESS AND GET OUTSIDE! (Reason #3)
I admit, LA makes you grow soft a bit. 50 degrees feels like the tundra to the body that’s accustomed to consistent 80 degree days. Regardless, I reminded myself that in New York, I would run the Williamsburg bridge in 20 degree weather with snow on the ground. In New York, I would wear wool socks and a ski mask and bike to work. No excuses in LA! With the incredibly unique work situation that allowed me to work anywhere and general LA sprawl, I had a mixologists solution for exercise. In 2018, I got my fix through Beach workouts, Bike Rides in the Malibu Hills, My office gym and a rotating slew of Classpass. My workouts ranged from high intensity tabata in Hermosa Beach to Crossfit in the Arts District to morning bike rides from Venice to Malibu. In 2018, I did my second annual century ride (100 miles from Venice to Santa Barbara) and did a few mental exercises such as Sound Baths at Ceremony Meditation to quell my busy mind.
In 2018, Laurelle (to be introduced) and I took to the hills to get some authentic California camping under our belts. We hiked and explored Sequoia National Park while sleeping under the stars next to an over-active chicken coup. We also camped along a heavy trafficked bear and coyote path in Big Bear California with no humans in sight, way scarier then expected.
On the down side of my fitness cravings, I was hampered this year by my own anatomy. For the last five years I’ve been battling a deteriorating arthritic hip. 2018 I was cautious not to over-extend myself but it’s come to the point where I must address it. In 2019, I look to finally solve some of those issues with surgery.
THE SIREN’S SONG
The Sirens were dangerous creatures. These mythical creatures lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and seductive voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Well, I must have been a sailor because I landed right on the shores of South Africa… Only a month into moving to Los Angeles, employing my millennial matchmaking app, Hinge, I was smitten by a girl with an accent (and look) of an angel and the mental fortitude to match me one for one. She’s different this one - I knew it immediately. Both of us, having learned from our past, found each other when we were least expecting it. Neither of us were looking for something serious but we just couldn’t resist each other! Nine months later, after enduring a five day perpetual rain shower in Mexico, a few intense camping excursions and many other challenges, we find ourselves embarking on the trip of a life time to Australia and New Zealand for two weeks. I found my equally ambitious, curious, thoughtful, adventurous, daring and spontaneous other half. Laurelle Charne, I love you.
While writing this comfortably from my high ceiling spacious apartment in Venice, just five blocks from the beach, it was the path to getting here that’s most intriguing. From living out of a suitcase for a week while traveling the coast and staying in hotels to Airbnb’ing from an OCD fax machine salesman for a month in Mar Vista, I was relieved when I finally found stability in Venice Beach. Unlike New York where the city is your backyard and a subway is just a walk away, Los Angeles poses different location quandaries - notably highway confusion, traffic gluts and near zero walkability. Fortunately, after a friend of mine (and former boss) moved out to LA from NYC, he was in search of a roommate to fill a second bedroom five blocks from the beach. It took me 90 minutes from touring the apartment to signing the paperwork for the lease.
JEWISH LIFE IN LA
One of the hardest things about leaving New York was leaving my Jewish Community. I was beginning to engrain myself in a group of equally curious young professionals who were trying to live a wholesome and balanced Jewish life. I wanted to create that in Los Angeles and continue my Jewish education. It’s been a constant struggle to find consistency but I’m glad to have met and begun learning and observing with important Rabbis in my life like R’Quinn, R’Botnick, R’Elephante and R’Melul. At times it’s felt like I have been on a constant “Restaurant Week” of Judiasm - trying all the tasting menus at reduced prices to see what I really like in hopes of returning as a regular diner. I’ve prayed at the Ocean’s toes at Shul on The Beach, I’ve sung along to an eight piece band at Mishkon Tephilo, I’ve done Taco Torah Tuesdays in the Pico Robertson Area, I’ve consulted with the head Rabbinic scholar in all of LA, I’ve had vivacious gemorah discussions in a lawyers office, I’ve been the only ashkenazi person at a sephardic shabbat and best of all I’ve had the blessing of dating someone who equally values their Jewish heritage and prioritizes the importance of Shabbos.
While I’m still searching for MY community out here, my mind drifts to the field of dreams, “If you build it they will come.”
HELP OTHERS AND IN TURN YOU WILL HELP YOURSELF
I often times find that when I’m out to get more for myself, I fall short. When I recalibrate and focus on helping others, good fortune finds its way to me. Helping others can be selfish at times but if it’s bettering your community, then it feels like a double win. Since arriving in Los Angeles, I made it a goal to get involved to help others and give back with both my time and money. Dating back to my years as a camp counselor and recognizing my unfamiliarity of the city of LA, I identified Jewish Big Brothers Big Sister’s Foundation as a great way to mentor a young kid while exploring the city alongside him to build a special bond. Financially, I knew I wanted to give back to a cause that interested me so I joined a funding circle called Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund (JVPF) where a group of established business professionals pooled their money, evaluated grants and made “non-profit” investments using the lens of the Venture Capital model of growth. We ended up funding two organizations - One focused on improving at-risk behavior for youths in Israel called Nochah and the second focused on graceful aging in Los Angeles communities by assisting in programming efforts called Chai Village. the members of JVPF also showed me how incredibly important giving back could be to a group of highly successful established business leaders (myself not included in that moniker). In addition to JBBBS and JVPF, I had a chance to volunteer my time to a very LA-centric problem right now - Homelessness. I spent a day at the Rescue Mission on Skid Row spending quality time with a few homeless families and their kids - boy was it eye opening to see the sadness.
Besides voluntary work this year in helping others, I was the lead plaintiff in a Fair Labor Standards Act Class Action law suit. After five years of litigation, we finally settled the case at a very advantageous number for the 1200 members of the class. This brought justice to these employees for years of financial mistreatment and I enjoyed the process of leading those efforts. It was wonderful to get calls and random messages from ex-coworkers thanking me for what the settlement did for them and their families.
TAKE THAT TRIP
I never hesitate to prioritize travel. It’s the thing that many say is the biggest regret later in life (“I wish I traveled more when I was younger” -Most People). Travel done right broadens your perspective and refines your sense of understanding. From a professional point of view, it can cultivate one of the largest predictors of success, numerous open networks - clusters of networks seemingly unrelated to each other. In 2018, I let it fly - over 30 times!
Israel (1x), London (1x), Hawaii (1x), Tulum, Mexico (1x) East Coast (NYC / Philly) - 7x, Miami (1x), Portland Oregon (2x), Portland Maine (1x), Dallas (1x), San Diego (3x), Seattle (3x), Sacramento (1x), San Francisco (3x), Soon Coming by End of Year: Australia (1x), New Zealand (1x).
From a week in Honolulu meeting with every real estate developer on the big island for CBRE, to studying torah in the country side of England, I had quite the year of experiences. My brother and I had our annual Brother’s trip to Portland Maine for The Guster Festival and Laurelle and I prevailed a five day monsoon in Tulum Mexico - a true relationship exam. As I’m publishing this before departure, Laurelle and I are closing out the year heading on a trip to go sail the Harbor in Sydney, Australia, bask on the beaches of Bondi and hike the cascades of Queenstown New Zealand.
AMIDST THE CHANGE, THE CONSTANT REMAINS
Philly is my home and New York bred me. While I moved away from New York, it’s the people that remain back east that are my comfort zone. It’s the mentality that New York gave me that I refuse to shed. Having visited the east coast seven (7) times after moving west, it was always reassuring to see my people again. While logistically more difficult, I would never miss important events like my best friend Stevie’s wedding or my nephews 1st birthday. From my immediate family in Philly, to my Day 1 LM crew, to my Floored squad in the Hamptons, a significant portion of my heart remains out east. My nephew continues to grow and gain independence (20 months old), my friends continue to excel in their respective industries, my parents, sibling(s) and grandparents continue to chug along and the east remains as my safety blanket for eternal warmth. Even coming home for my high school 10 year reunion, it made me realize how little has drifted away from the core.
My mission statement also remains intact: "To lead by example, constantly be learning, instill Jewish wisdom into myself, my family and life, and experience the world to build empathy and understanding to share with others."
THE CHANGES ARE A’COMIN:
With my agenda firmly in place (“Meet as many people as possible with no expectations and see what happens.”), I took to the streets of Los Angeles to meet everyone. Luckily my job was to educate the market on real estate technology and promote CBRE’s digital technology platform. In doing so, I had tremendous exposure to real estate investors and visionaries who have shaped the sky line of Los Angeles. Having evaluated my career options, I knew I was at a fork in the road - I could either go into CBRE’s marquee business, real estate brokerage (Got my brokers license anyway), go work at another tech startup to attempt to repeat the success we had at Floored, or merge my knowledge of technology and real estate to play a hybrid role for a real estate investor and developer. I ultimately turned my decision fork on it’s head and said - let me find the right mentor in any of those directions - and the role will present itself.
Fast forward to August, I met two leaders whose values and leadership styles really resonated with me. After numerous conversations and sniff testing each other, it became clear, I had to hitch my wagon to these guys. They are highly respected, family men, patient and long term thinking leaders with a passion to build a company and culture with lasting impact. I don’t know what next year will have in store for me but I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone and embark on this new journey.
“A Ship in Harbor Is Safe, But that Is Not What Ships Are Built For”
Separately, this year I also closed on my first personal real estate transaction with my business partner Cliff as we’re building a small mixed-use apartment project in an emerging part of Philadelphia called Pennsport. With over ten years of construction and development experience, I couldn’t be more excited to partner up with a very trustworthy friend as we aim to break ground early/mid 2019.
EXPLORE YOUR BACKYARD (AND THEIRS)
I love maps. I’m a total map guy; I had a big map of the world on my college dorm room wall. The world is a big place and so is Los Angeles. New York might have five boroughs but Los Angeles can be broken into 10-15 segments. As a newcomer to town and with the perpetual chip on my shoulder, I made it a passion project to see as much of Los Angeles as I could. I built an extensive and off-the-beaten Bucket List (of which I’m not nearly complete) and started chipping them off. From a midnight bike ride through Baldwin Hills to Driving Uber on a weekend to Meditating at The Lake Shrine in the Palisades, to biking with a real estate exec in Santa Ana, I made sure to get to know the city in my own way. I did have my awesome sidekick for many of these activities though as “LoLo” and I explored the breweries in Frogtown, saw a boutique concert in a Brentwood backyard, and found the coffee gem of Bakersfield.
DRINK FROM THE WELL OF INSPIRATION + NEW FRIENDS
2018 was a year of growing up - in a big way. This year I was inspired by so many different voices and influences in my life. I had the usual sources of inspiration from my family members, close friends, and personal “board members” but there were some fresh springs of inspiration this year in which I drank. To highlight a few: My Grandmother, Marilyn, for her resiliency to all the difficulties she’s been through with her (our) family and health. Laurelle’s sister, Rijon Charne for her toughness and bravato to kick Cancer in the face attitude toward career domination. Steve Feder in his philanthropic ways, Rocky Binswanger for her intense discipline and perseverance through difficult life situations. David Binswanger and Rob Kane for a leadership style that is the right combination of professional strength, impeccable gracefulness, and the utmost human care for their team.
2018 also introduced me to some incredible new friends. Not only are they terrific people I’ve learned so much from but they have helped me get comfortable in my new life in LA. Big shout outs to Herschel Bender, Dan Mason, Jeremy Basloe, Adam Wnuk, Jordan Istrin, Adam Liebman (roomie), Ryan Neman, Taylor Watson, Matt Johnson, Sean Spears, Blake Fol, Drew Pion, David Freitag, Sam Devorris, Oliver Gabay and Justin Hackman
SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE IN 2019?
There is no way I can outrun my 2018 in 2019. They say it takes about 18 months to get fully engrained in Los Angeles; to get comfortable. I’m already close to comfortable and it feels like I just ran a mile in four minutes flat. Although, what if next year I break four…
Close your ears Mom and Dad but I think 2019 I start to lay down some serious seeds in Los Angeles. I have the most amazing woman in Laurelle who is by my side for the ride and so to that end I feel grateful and invincible, for the things that are of highest importance are set up in line and feeling good - everything else is a cherry on top. That cherry will be sweet though.
2019 will be a year of celebration. Celebration of other’s accomplishments and life milestones. I’ll be officiating a wedding in Tuscany and watching as many of my close friends marry up. 2019 will be a humbling year for me as I’ll turn my efforts to putting my head down and working harder then I’ve ever worked before to take my career to the next level. This year I will live by the ways of the medical organism, CYTOKINES.
“Cytokines are small proteins released by cells in your body that have a specific effect on the interactions between cells. They communicate between cells on the best way to adapt and change - sharing the lessons learned from previously affected cells.”
In an essence, a Cytokine is a change agent. As my mother and my girlfriend frequently quote, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” A Cytokine has seen the bad and the ugly and vows, “never again.” I’m inspired by that and will take that concept into the new year. I have learned a lot the last few years about myself and what matters most in my life and I refuse to fall into the same traps or mistakes I’ve made before. In 2019, I plan to share some of those mistakes and educate those around me. It will come by ways of mentorship, voluntary advice sharing and teaching opportunities.
2019, my final year in my 20’s, will be a bit of a foundation digging year for my career. It will be a blossoming year for my relationships, an exploratory year for peace of mind, a rehabbing year for health, and a critical year for value testing. I leave these two messages to myself:
1) “You WILL unapologetically be YOURSELF.”
2) “To LIVE is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”