The Building

Lately I’ve been considering why it is that I find it fairly easy to understand President Trump’s actions. Today I realized that we are both builders who are the sons of builders.

My dad, Benson Eschenbach, was an architect, a developer, and a builder. After WWII, he moved the family out to San Diego, California. There, he and a couple of partners developed one of the first architect-designed subdivisions where the houses were not just cookie-cutter boxes. He was instrumental in developing what was called the “San Diego Style” of architecture. Not all architects are builders, but he loved to work with his hands.

Of his five sons and three daughters, my two younger brothers and I have all made our living as builders. But every one of Dad’s kids can build at some level. We learned the game as Dads private workforce, brothers and sisters alike. He’d buy some old building, and then go to work fixing it up with us kids pitching in depending on our skill levels. We also helped him build two houses that he then lived in and eventually sold. In the process we all learned to build houses from the ground up. And I mean we learned everything, from architectural concept, reading blueprints, staking out the foundation, mixing and pouring and finishing concrete, through the framing, the plumbing and electrical and the services, the finishes, the flooring, shingling the roof, and ending up by ticking everything off the final punch list of items. What I mostly learned was how you get a building built. Want to know the secret? It’s simple.

Once you start out on the path to the finished building, you stay focused on the finished building, ignoring everything else, and you do whatever it takes to get the building done. In other words, it’s all about the building first, the building second, and everything else is a distant third.

One of the most recent buildings I built was a villa in Fiji. I was the Construction Manager for a multi-million dollar resort project. This was the model villa, 4,000 square feet (400 square metres) of luxury.

fiji-model-villa

I was in charge of all phases of construction, from ordering the materials, to hiring the subcontractors, to settling labor disputes, to sourcing materials from Fijian villages for the thatch roofing and local stones, to quality control of all aspects of the project, to hand-holding the architect and the investors and the interior decorators. Everything to do with the building landed on my desk.

So … care to know what I thought about the Fijian building trades unions? Was I in favor of unions, or was I opposed to them?

If and when the union leaders helped get the building finished they were my best mates. If and when they got in the way of the building, I hated them.

Care to know what I thought about some unpleasant materials suppliers in Suva? I loved them when they sold me building supplies, and I hated them when they got in the way of me finishing the building, and I never let my personal dislike for them affect my business dealings with them.

Care to know what I thought about the project architect? When he’d allow me to build a part of the villa the way it should be build, he was the man. When he proposed unbuildable things, as architects who are not also builders do from time to time, or when he put “TBD” for “To Be Detailed” all over the plans and then was slow providing the details, I hated him.

Now, nobody was in any mystery about where I stood at any instant. You might have noted that I’m not exactly shy about revealing my thoughts about a situation. Nor am I a man to suffer fools in silence. But it was business, and businessmen understand other businessmen. I might have gotten angry when the load of supplies didn’t show up on time, and I might have hollered at the contractor.

But builders are eminently practical men, we’d work it out. Builders can’t afford to get stuck in arguments or disagreement. We have them, no doubt. We might even lose our cool at times … well, actually we’re pretty much guaranteed to lose our cool at times.

But at the end of the day, we don’t burn bridges, because everything revolves around the center, the axis of the spin, the reason we’re there, what pays the bills—the building.

Builders can’t afford to get all butt-hurt because somebody said something mean to us, for one reason—the building. We can’t give up on anyone, for one reason—the building. Yes, someone might oppose us today and we might get angry at them … but tomorrow they might just be able to help.

Not help us, of course, but help the building get finished. And for that, there are no absolutes. There are no limits. There are no permanent enemies and no eternal friends. If Vladimir Putin can help the building get built then he would be my friend, but if he stood in the way of the building I would oppose him with all I’ve got. The media folks find this mystifying, but it’s how builders get things built.

Short version. There is only the building. What helps the building today may hurt it tomorrow; and if so, I as a builder will support it today and oppose it tomorrow without even considering that to be the slightest contradiction.

And to circle back to where I started, after I’d fully developed this idea and had it half-written I turned on the TV. After watching a while, there was the Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, discussing the now-infamous Southern Wall. Sean was asked if the President intended to stay involved with the project … clearly the person asking was never a builder. A builder is incapable of NOT being involved in a project that they’ve started. If you don’t get so obsessed that you consider every detail and can’t let the project go even after someone else is in charge, you’re not a builder.

In any case, what the Press Secretary said was:

On the wall, I mean, the president’s a builder. He understands and I think he’s gonna make sure that as this project moves forward he’s gonna stay in touch with Secretary Kelly to make sure that it fits his specs. But he takes enormous attention to detail and he wants to make sure it gets done right. So I would expect that a project of this magnitude and one that is this high in his priority list will get the necessary attention from the president.

I cracked up.

So if it’s not clear why the President is doing something at some point, consider just what it is that he is building at that given moment … and then look at his actions through the right lens—not the lens of the builder, but the lens of the building. You’ll see that he does what he does because he thinks it will move the building forwards. Now, he may be wrong, it might not help, it might hurt … but that’s why he’s doing it.

Finally, this mindset of a builder may lead to some curious consequences. Consider that the President is now in essence building a dozen or more buildings at once … and that some of what is good for Building A will assuredly be bad for Building B …

I’m sure you can see the problem.

However, having said that, the President is a builder, and that’s the kind of puzzle that builders live for.

Will he make mistakes? Assuredly. Will there be a million issues? You bet. Will the President blow hot one day and cold the next? If the building requires it, sure, and the media will assuredly excoriate him for being “wishy-washy” or for “flip-flopping” … flip-flopping? No problem, he’d do handstands if it helps get the building over the finish line.

But none of those is the important question. The important question is, will the building get finished?

In most cases, assuredly, and maybe even on time and under budget. Buildings. It’s what builders do.

Best to everyone,

w.

My Usual Request: If you are commenting please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS THAT YOU ARE DISCUSSING, so we can all understand your subject.

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63 thoughts on “The Building

  1. the difference in mindset between people who are judged on the results vs people who are judged on the amount of effort they make.

    it’s not “the ends justify the means” but more “good intentions + $5 will get you a cup of coffee”. Efforts that don’t generate results have almost no value.

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  2. W….Really enjoyed your article on building and Architecture and hearing that your thoughts about that. Did not know that your Dad was an Architect and from what you said a very creative and talented oneat that.

    Enjoyed reading also how he taught you and your siblings how to build from the ground up as you were all growing up and what this taught you. I did that with my sons also.

    Loved seeing your building project in Figi. Very beautifully designed buildings. I would love to see them first hand someday as I plan to travel to Fiji in the next few years.

    You continue to amaze me with all that you have done and are doing W. 🙂

    Loved reading also how all of this background in building helps you understant as I do also more about President Trump and how he is getting things done…after all he is a builder.

    My older son Haven is also an Architect in Korea along with working as a Professor of Architecture there. Another son is also an Architect and one is an Engineer. Each one owning and operating their own firms.

    About Haven Knight
    http://www.tracearch.com/about

    Haven Work Examples
    http://www.tracearch.com/work

    Our President is by training a builder of very large buildings and a very good one at that like my son Haven. He is all about getting things done from start to finish and that is exactly what he is doing….like it or not….he is going to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

    Cheers and as always blessings to you and yours W.

    Your high school friend….Jim

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  3. This is a fascinating insight and far better at explaining Trump than some of the cod-psychology that I’ve seen lately.

    I think it actually explains some of the weaknesses as well as his strengths. Consider these points (I hope these do not stretch the analogy too far)

    Your builder is concerned with completing the building. He does not care about the people who will live in the building in ten years time, or the investors who put up the money. DJT has certainly shown that he doesn’t worry about losing his investors’ money.

    Your builder is working in a short-term game where everyone is working to the same rules, and no-one carries offence beyond the current deal. What happens when the builder goes into a world where people do take offence? Where people might spend generations vandalising the building over a perceived insult?

    Your builder does not care about whether his supplier is screwing over his fellow builders, or even trying to put some of them out of business. Even if these other builders have been long term partners and helped him in many difficult occasions in the past, if the supplier is helping solve a current difficulty he can do what he wants to these former partners.

    All in all, your analogy is great, but it shows clearly that Trump needs to learn new skills in addition to the ones he already has. The world is more complex and multi-dimensional than a building project.

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    • I think you are a little off when you start wandering into having to be concerned about a complex and multi-dimensional world. Starting and finishing a project, be it peace or a wall, justifies its attention and shouldn’t require worrying about stepped on toes. This attitude, the one you are suggesting, is exactly what is wrong with this world at this time – pretending everyone has to be happy.

      No, do it. Get it done and when it is over, let those who will whine about it whine. They’ll stop in time if you were right. Look at the green blob. Exactly how much have they been concerned about stepping on toes? And you think that the President should when the opposition doesn’t? The world is complex and multi-dimensional only to people that are hung up in psychological distractions. To doers, the world isn’t that difficult. To PC people, it is complex to the point of gridlock. I hope the Trump bulldozer continues until “PC” is ground back into the ground where it belongs, and personal responsibility comes back in fashion.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Tom O February 10, 2017 at 5:37 am

        I think you are a little off when you start wandering into having to be concerned about a complex and multi-dimensional world. Starting and finishing a project, be it peace or a wall, justifies its attention and shouldn’t require worrying about stepped on toes. This attitude, the one you are suggesting, is exactly what is wrong with this world at this time – pretending everyone has to be happy.

        Thanks, Tom. Remind me to never hire you to build a building. Sometimes to get a building built, you need to step on toes, just as you correctly point out.

        But other times, to get it built, you absolutely need to avoid stepping on toes … and at those times your “don’t worry about stepped on toes” will doom the building.

        You seem to think there are rules in building, like your rule that a building shouldn’t require worrying about stepping on toes.

        But in truth the only rule is, get it built.

        w.

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    • AndyL February 10, 2017 at 2:29 am

      This is a fascinating insight and far better at explaining Trump than some of the cod-psychology that I’ve seen lately.

      I think it actually explains some of the weaknesses as well as his strengths. Consider these points (I hope these do not stretch the analogy too far)

      All in all, your analogy is great, but it shows clearly that Trump needs to learn new skills in addition to the ones he already has. The world is more complex and multi-dimensional than a building project.

      Andy, while I agree, I’m not sure building the Mexican Wall is a whole lot more complex than building Trump Tower. Your points, however, are well taken—it does explain some of his weaknesses. There are a whole lot of special interests connected with any building project, and their desires are often in conflict with each other. And while this is true of Trump Tower, the number of special interests and the complexity of the game just went up by a couple of orders of magnituds.

      But that’s the kind of a challenge that a builder lives for … it will be interesting to see him develop his skill set in this new situation.

      Many thanks,

      w.

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      • Thanks Willis

        I think good tests of whether Trump really is a single minded builder will be what happens next about the wall and the EO.

        If he really cares about the building, he will drop the current EO and quickly produce another one that is carefully drafted. After all, controlling immigration is the key thing, not winning a court case.

        For the wall, he will introduce legislation to get it built and not be distracted by trying to make someone else pay for it.

        In both these cases, single minded focus should bring results. Other situations, such as dealing with Putin, are a lot more complex. How do you balance fighting ISIS with defending the Ukraine and the Baltic states and resisting interference in democratic elections?

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        • The courts have turned this EO into an attack on the power of the office of the president, claiming that their judgement on matters of National Security (with no security clearances or briefings) superceeds the President.

          That’s something Trump needs to fight for the health of the Republic more than any wording of the particular EO

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          • I seem to recall in ConLaw back at lawr school in the early part of 1960, that there were certain cases that the judiciary was ill-prepared to handle. Foreign policy was one of them. The Courts useta have enough sense to leave it to a correlative branch (the Executive) which had not only the expertise but also the information needed to make good decisions. And which was accountable for bad ones. The Courts are accountable to no one.

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  4. “you do whatever it takes to get the building done.” No you don’t; I’ll bet you wouldn’t have committed murder, for example, to get it done. So what constraints did you honour, which ignore?

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        • dearieme February 11, 2017 at 2:23 pm

          Really? You’d divorce your wife to get a job done? Expel the children? Anything legal? I don’t believe you.

          Dear heavens, you’re like the media. During the election Salena Zito famously said “The media took Trump literally but not seriously, while his followers took him seriously but not literally.

          Yes, dearieme, as everyone but apparently you seems to know already, “do anything” is metaphorical. And like every metaphor it has its limits.

          For example, and apparently this might come as a surprise to you, it does not mean I would take a knife, cut open my stomach, pull out my intestines, and set them on fire to get the building done.

          Happy now?

          w.

          PS—Surely there are more important fights out there for you than this one …

          Liked by 2 people

          • It’s you that’s making it a fight. I simply asked what you meant by “do whatever it takes”. Apparently you don’t want to answer.

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          • dearieme February 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm

            It’s you that’s making it a fight. I simply asked what you meant by “do whatever it takes”. Apparently you don’t want to answer.

            I and others have answered more than once. To begin with, it was obviously a metaphor. I pointed out that you were taking it literally when it was said figuratively. I agreed with you that in fact there are limits. I gave examples. Someone else said that OBVIOUSLY it didn’t mean illegal things, duh. You’ve gotten lots of answers, you just don’t like them.

            Now it seems you want something else. In addition to trying to fool people by claiming that you have not been answered, now it seems that in response to the question “what would I do to get a building done”, you want a list of actual actions.

            What, I’m supposed to say “I will commit misprision but not mopery to get some imaginary building built”? … are you really that naive?

            I would refer you to use your common sense, but I fear that ship has sailed … although I am always open to being proven wrong.

            Finally, when I said “pick another fight”, THAT WAS A METAPHOR TOO!! It doesn’t mean a literal fight. It means you are wasting your time, my time, and everyone’s time by rabbiting on and on about this pissant triviality, when you should be using your brain for more interesting things. You strike me as a smart guy, is this what you want on your obituary?

            “Here lies dearieme, he strongly and decisively made meaningless points.”

            …. me, I think you can do much better than that.

            My best to you,

            w.

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      • it says quite something that “will do everything” needs the qualifier “that’s legal” when talking about a category of people as broad as “builders”

        If we were only talking about one person who had a horrible reputation, it may be neccessary to add the qualifier, or if we were talking about a category of people known for lawbreaking (drug dealers, illegal immigrants, in other words people who have already broken the law)

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  5. I built my own house 33 years ago with minimal experience and with the help of family and many friends. I made a few decisions I wish I could take back, but it’s a livable structure and I had no money at the time. Looking back I understand completely what you mean about building and a focus on the goal.

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  6. I wonder why the Democrats are not helping with the building. They still do not understand that President Trump has been elected by the working class. They are too busy extending a safety net to people who don’t work. Once you are in that safety net, there is no escape.

    I did not vote for Trump, but he is my President. Almost half of the Congress can not even formulate that thought. His style is surely brash, but .. try to better his “See you in court.”

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    • CG,
      They do not care about building anything. they care about being in power over everyone else. The only reason politicians get busy “extending the safety net” is to keep people trapped (as you said) and convince them they must depend on the elected to survive. Votes, votes and more votes.
      Trump has upended the gravy train of diplomacy where it’s all talk and no action while the diplomats and politicians adorn themselves in posh life styles at the peoples expense. I believe the new President spoke to that in his inauguration speech. And make no mistake about it, the Democrats will do everything in their power to make sure Trump does not succeed for if he does the people just may open their eyes to what has been done to them for decades.

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  7. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.

    A person needs a strategic vision of where they are going.
    Builders have the vision of the “building”: complete and used.

    As we drift here on life boat earth,
    how many folk have the “vision”
    …….of having their kids get “out of the nest”?
    …..the moon, Mars, Alpha Centauri,…..

    and now many want to “just do their thing” of eating, procreating, having stuff”
    to use up the “limited pie” until it is all gone and their kids die?

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  8. I am not a builder, though I like making things and having them made right. I came to a similar view of (now) President Trump back in August. At the time I was fairly disgusted with his boorish and take-no-prisoners style of campaigning, but then someone on a PowerLine comment thread linked to a video of Donald the Builder testifying before a Senate Committee in 2005, about the UN-building boondoggle. I realized then that we were confronted with a man of great expertise in his own field—real-estate and building—and one of unusual aptitudes and abilities, notwithstanding his sharp New York elbows and sharper tongue. It’s a little dated now, I guess, but I wrote about it here, “Trumped by the Trump”:

    https://walkingcreekworld.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/trumped-by-the-trump/

    “What Donald Trump’s 2005 Senate testimony tells us about the man and his potential to serve as President.”

    /Mr Lynn

    Liked by 1 person

    • LEJ, I really enjoyed reading that article. I was completely unaware of his testimony before Congress.

      Your article and WE’s essay above have been far more illuminating than anything else I’ve read or heard about Trump. I guess I never really considered the idea that being a builder brought such a unique mindset and perspective to the table. It explains a lot… like how he can work with folks that insulted him in the most vicious terms. It’s all about the building… or by extension, whatever project becomes “the building” in his mind.

      The man is clearly a little out of his league and comfort zone right now, but he’s such a fast learner that I know he’ll do fine… and I actually feel sorry (almost) for the opposition that is making a huge mistake by underestimating him.

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  9. If you are building something, you also have to have good line management who can then build trust with their suppliers.

    Trump also has to have good managers at all levels and he is being held up by the Ds in Congress. And once you have the various Secretaries in place,they can get the people they trust into the organization. Eventually, you hope to get the people who are actively working against you out of the picture. It takes time.

    What frustrates me right now are those people who expect things to be done RIGHT NOW! We all might like closing some federal departments, but it will take a while. I’m sure that some regulations may be easy to turn back, but they also have to trace back to the law and get that reversed. Otherwise, the next time the Ds are in power, it will be too easy to restart the programs & regulations. And there may be some parts that do have to kept, but at least clean up the program and then figure out where to place it. Hopefully, wherever the program goes, that Secretary will have cleaned house and can take on a new section.

    Also remember that if functions are returned to the states, they need to have time to organize to pick up the workload. And there may need to have some funds flow to the states for the work.

    My hope is that once there is a contraction in the federal workforce, they burn all of the regulation books, sell the buildings with everything in it. If they can’t sit down, then they can’t be working against us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I agree, Willis, that President Trump’s personality is as you describe it. The moment it clicked for me was when Trump gave his acceptance speech and I realized the campaign bluster was just that – campaign bluster (including the Billy Bush tape, though that was a different campaign). Perhaps one thing that helps me “get” Trump is that as a teenager I worked for an ambitious and hard-driving spud farmer, and was occasionally the object of a profanity-laced dressing down (teenagers can be hard on expensive equipment). When the “flamethrower” was directed my way, I knew he had to do it, I knew I deserved it, and I learned to take it like a man because I also knew that the guy would take a bullet for me (and I for him). There are so many people who have lived such sheltered lives that they don’t seem capable of understanding Trump, nor the absurdity of their criticism and even hate of the straw-man caricature they think is the real Trump.

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  11. Seems like a rather silly and terribly costly endeavor. I understand the meaning and all but g-wiz. I would hope all the costing is put to paper and not just on the back of a napkin. You would be better off using technology (ie drones etc) and man power to patrol the one thousand mile border (at a substantially reduced cost). And after all it would create jobs. Notwithstanding you can’t really build on that Rio Grande. John Oliver showed some of the issues that BHO encountered and did not really mitigate. But hey, I guess making America great again include the optics of making America great again. I just hope in 4 years they are not saying in Regan’s voice “Mr Trump tear down this wall…”

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    • Frankly, for a project this large, I would expect that instead of needing an army of masons, instead there would be a machine designed and built that was something along the lines of a tunnel boring machine, it would creep along the ground, digging a foundation, taking the raw materials for concrete, and extruding a wall as it went along

      Also, remember this is not a new idea, there was a law passed years ago authorizing a barrier along the border adn 700 some odd miles of it were built. This is just extending it across the rest of the border and updating it.

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    • jimmy_jimmy February 10, 2017 at 8:03 pm Edit

      Seems like a rather silly and terribly costly endeavor. I understand the meaning and all but g-wiz. I would hope all the costing is put to paper and not just on the back of a napkin. You would be better off using technology (ie drones etc) and man power to patrol the one thousand mile border (at a substantially reduced cost).

      Thanks, Jimmy. You’re thinking too literally. Trump’s “wall” will include physical barriers, drones, perhaps AWACS at times, electronic sensors, concrete, barbed wire, the entire gamut. It’s a game of time.

      You see, in the cities, if someone can get into the US, they’ll disappear within a couple blocks. You have literally a few minutes to catch them.

      But if they cross in some godforsaken desert spot, it’ll take days for them to disappear.

      So in the cities, you need the tall double wall. Yes, they can get over. As someone said, if they build a 20 foot wall you can be sure Mexicans will make 21 foot ladders. They’re no fools. But you’re not trying to stop them. You’re only trying to slow them down so you can get them before they disappear.

      In the desert, on the other hand, you don’t need that. There you need drones and sensors, and a mostly symbolic fence so people know when they are committing a crime. You have hours to catch them.

      Now remember that Trump and General Kelly are in charge of this project, and Trump hates spending money … they won’t be building giant concrete walls in the desert.

      Notwithstanding you can’t really build on that Rio Grande. John Oliver showed some of the issues that BHO encountered and did not really mitigate.

      You’re telling us it’s impossible because Obama couldn’t do it and besides John Oliver said so?

      Really? Those are your authorities?

      Since neither of them ever built as much as a doghouse, you’ll excuse me if I don’t pay much attention.

      But hey, I guess making America great again include the optics of making America great again.

      You are right that it does include the optics … however, the wall will be built and it will be effective. It’s part of the future reality, not the optics.

      I just hope in 4 years they are not saying in Regan’s voice “Mr Trump tear down this wall…”

      Who would “they” be in this scenario? The Mexicans? They’re saying it now. The Americans? They’ll never say it. Too much violence coming across the border, too much drugs, too much cartels, too much crime, too much future welfare cases.

      Regards,

      w.

      Liked by 1 person

      • defense is always a matter of slowing down the attacker. The thickest bank vault will be defeated by an attacker with unlimited time and a cutting torch.

        Out in the desert areas, something that blocks vehicles and people with heavily loaded packs will make drastic inroads against a lot of what is crossing now.

        Even if it’s a matter of 21′ ladders, how easy do you think it is to carry those across the wilds?

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  12. Thanks, Willis. I find it fascinating how little some folks “get” Trump. Some news and political types are utterly confused and haven’t done a lick of useful work since about 3 A.M. on November 9th.

    All the “building” stuff reminds me of things I need to do, while the weather says “Not this week.” But, a friend has 18 acres of wine grapes that need pruned (down hill there’s a different climate) so my mind will be on canes and shoots while winter lingers here.

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  13. Trump is a business man and for me the first rule of business is, “You always start from where you are now”. Politicians cannot do this because trying something different is an admission that they got something wrong. The media always look on U turns as errors that must be analysed, explained and punished. Wrong.

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    • Well said, Robin. You are right that a businessman knows that the first step is to take stock and see exactly where you are. Many wrong decisions flow, not from bad plans about the future, but a poor assessment of the present.

      You make a second point that is important. When a businessman makes a mistake, she says something like “Boys, we screwed up on the Atlanta project, so we’ll have to redo the projections and the timeline in order to succeed”.

      But as you point out, in politics redoing the projections and the timelines, an activity which is essential to eventual success, is seen as a failure, one which must be explained to the public and atoned for.

      Gonna be a fascinating four years …

      Regards,

      w.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Willis, nice reading thanks. Would you care to do another story about this house? I’d be very much interested in seeing some plans (timeline and blueprints), pictures of construction progress,
    I’m somewhat of a builder myself. Learnt it by watching and helping my father and my elder brothers. Did some concrete pouring and windows installations myself. The most complicated thing for me is the planning. What has to be done first? How much of rebar? How deep the foundation?
    Btw do you know the Toproc fixing screws (http://www.toproc.ch/e/produkte/produkte_liste.html?katid=3) ?
    Regards, Lorenz

    Like

  15. …But none of those is the important question. The important question is, will the building get finished?
    In most cases, assuredly, and maybe even on time and under budget. Buildings. It’s what builders do….

    Builders certainly make things. But I’m not so sure that that’s what politicians do. Their job is to create the best environment for builders (or countries) to perform well. In wartime, they need to be leaders, and that’s fairly easy, because everyone gets behind them. In peacetime (especially when it’s been peaceful for many years) the politicians job can get hard, because there is no threat, and everyone is pulling every which way for themselves.

    I wish Trump well and hope he succeeds. But I’m not sure that building is the right analogy. I think that being a top businessman with experience of running a multi-national organisation is more the sort of skill that you need…

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    • Dodgy Geezer February 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Builders certainly make things. But I’m not so sure that that’s what politicians do.

      Dodgy, always good to hear from you. Let me say in front you’re making a straw man. I did NOT say that building is what politicians do. I said building is what PRESIDENT TRUMP does.

      However, much of what politicians do is also part of modern building at the Trump scale.

      So, let’s take the proposed border wall. To get it built, politicians will have to do a bunch of stuff. President Trump and the Congress will have to forge alliances, find funding, get people onside, acquire land for the project, fend off opposition, decide on plans, put up with protest, make sure regulations are followed, and all the rest.

      How is this different from the building of Trump Tower in New York City? To get Trump Tower built, Donald Trump had to forge alliances, find funding, get people onside, acquire land for the project, fend off opposition, decide on plans, put up with protest, make sure regulations are followed, and all the rest.

      Building in the 21st century is a whole lot more than swinging a hammer …

      Their job is to create the best environment for builders (or countries) to perform well. In wartime, they need to be leaders, and that’s fairly easy, because everyone gets behind them. In peacetime (especially when it’s been peaceful for many years) the politicians job can get hard, because there is no threat, and everyone is pulling every which way for themselves.

      How is that not building? For example, to “create the best environment for builders”, look at the infrastructure plan supported (in theory) by both Democrats and Republicans. Congress is an integral part of getting that built. So yes, many of the problems politicians face are the exact same problems faced by builders.

      I wish Trump well and hope he succeeds. But I’m not sure that building is the right analogy. I think that being a top businessman with experience of running a multi-national organisation is more the sort of skill that you need…

      You mean a skill like inheriting a million bucks and parlaying it into running the multi-billion dollar multi-national Trump organization? An organization doing business in so many countries that the Democrats went ape over the potential conflicts of interest? Is that the kind of top businessman skill you’re talking about?

      It seems to me the part you are missing in that is, major builders ARE businessmen. They are all about delivering the product on time and under budget, which is the core of any business. Now, not all builders are as good at business as President Trump. But non-businessmen don’t build multimillion-dollar buildings.

      Thanks and regards,

      w.

      Like

      • …Let me say in front you’re making a straw man. I did NOT say that building is what politicians do. I said building is what PRESIDENT TRUMP does….

        Hmm… not a strawman, I hope, though I am guilty of presenting my argument poorly.. Let me try to rephrase things.

        You are using a ‘building’ simile – stating that for both builders and businessmen the key aim is to deliver a completed article. And that problems may arise along the way, but the finished article is what is most important, and delivering that is more important than any of the disagreements which may arise.

        Of course, politicians also would like to deliver something. But, in a typical bicameral government, there are also a number of people whose aim is to stop the delivery, come what may. They are not on the side of the builder – they are opponent, and could be seen as being saboteurs.

        For a typical building, all the workers want to get paid, so they want to complete it to spec. Inside a business, there may be disagreements, but no one wants the company to go bankrupt, so people will generally work together. But the world of a politician includes people who would cheerfully see everything he stands for eradicated.

        A good politician has to work inside this environment. You may say that good businessmen also work in stark competition, and are happy to see a competitor go to the wall. But I think the equivalent metaphor here is not an individual business, but the entire economic system. How many businessmen do you know who would start a new Wall Street Crash and Depression to get at a competitor? That is what political opponents do – indeed, that is what Trump has done to his political opponents so far.

        As I say, I wish him well, and agree that great businessmen have the ability to build great business empires. I’m just not sure that the game of politics as it is played nowadays is that closely comparable to the game of business.

        Perhaps it should be. One major problem with modern politics is the existence of professional politicians, and I believe that the world would be better, and the swamp closer to being drained, if we had more businessmen, artisans, artists and philosophers in politics instead of political dynasts. One can but dream…

        Like

        • FWIW, an interviewee on Fox News Channel this evening, one Philip Bump from the Washington Post, suggested that while President Trump was accustomed to being CEO of his own enterprise, as President he will be forced to share ultimate responsibility with two other ‘CEOs’, the Congress and the Judiciary. Mr Bump does have a point. Unlike Captain Picard (of another Enterprise) President Trump cannot say simply, “Make it so,” and have it done. As he’s found with that recent Executive Order, he can say “Make it so,” and have some obstreperous leftwing judge say, “Not so fast.”

          Mr Bump’s point is well-taken, but, apropos of Willis’s lead post, Donald Trump was more than a CEO, more than an executive. He was a builder, comfortable in hard hat and work boots, and accustomed to dealing with, and overcoming obstacles that others throw in his way: bad contractors, competing real-estate interests, obstinate trade unions, building inspectors wagging fingers with one hand and holding out the other, corrupt or stupid local officials and regulatory boards, etc., etc. My guess is that this experience will stand him in good stead. There may be ‘three CEOs’ in the American system of government, but in matters that most concern this President (war and peace, border security, trade) the President is first among equals. I suspect he’ll do fine.

          /Mr Lynn

          Like

      • > How is that not building? For example, to “create the best environment for > builders”, look at the infrastructure plan supported (in theory) by both > Democrats and Republicans.

        I haven’t seen what the Republicans are proposing, but the Democrat’s bill is similar to what Obama did (the federal government hires a bunch of companies to do things), while what Trump has talked about seems to be different (local governemnts hire companies to build things and get tax credits)

        these seem very different to me. The first involves a lot of federal people involved in planning, contractor selection, and oversight with a direct outlay of funds, while the second plan involves the federal government much less (very little) and instead of direct outlays, involves reduced taxes collected.

        We’ll see if he can pull this off, but if he can, it seems like it’s likely to generate a lot less red-tape and a lot more bang for the buck.

        Like

  16. I don’t explain myself very well. In personal relationships everything that went before matters. In business it means nothing. You discover you have bought the wrong machine tool, leased the wrong software, fired the only man who could do the job, but then you have to make a decision and all that becomes irrelevant. It doesn’t seem irrelevant until you remind yourself that In business you always start from where you are now.

    The British prime minister was challenged in the courts over whether she could trigger the process that starts the UK leaving the European Union. She appealed, lost, had to accept the courts decision and allow the legislature to vote on it.

    Trump is in a similar situation, but he is already saying he may simply issue a replacement executive order. Bet his opposition did not see that coming. What will he change? Anything he likes. He is constrained by his promise to the American electorate, not by his failed attempt to keep that promise in short order.

    I do not know if Trump is a good thing, but I do think his presidency is going to be fun.

    Like

    • Robin February 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      The British prime minister was challenged in the courts over whether she could trigger the process that starts the UK leaving the European Union. She appealed, lost, had to accept the courts decision and allow the legislature to vote on it.

      Trump is in a similar situation, but he is already saying he may simply issue a replacement executive order. Bet his opposition did not see that coming. What will he change? Anything he likes. He is constrained by his promise to the American electorate, not by his failed attempt to keep that promise in short order.

      My prediction of a couple days ago is that he’ll re-issue a new order, identical to the first except he clarifies the part about green card and visa holders.

      I do not know if Trump is a good thing, but I do think his presidency is going to be fun.

      Got that right, pilgrim …

      w.

      Like

  17. Willis: I enjoy this blog a great deal, but am confused by your extensive and varied personal history. In this writing you describe your family as being raised in San Diego, but in your blog about Black History, you tell of an upbringing on an isolated ranch in deep woods. Can you reconciile this for me, as I may be the only one missing something here?

    Like

    • My folks moved to San Diego when I was very young. Then when I was about five we moved to the ranch. After a few years my folks divorced, a whole story on its own I should write up just for the 1950’s angst.

      After that I lived on the ranch and spent summers in the San Francisco Bay Area with my dad.

      w.

      Like

  18. I’m an engineer so I make and engineer plastic, metal enclosures for electronic modules for Ford, GM, Chrysler and BMW along with brackets for those modules to attach to vehicles. The company I work for makes DC to AC inverters, fuel pump controllers, all wheel drive controllers, drive line controllers and other electronic modules. They have to last for 10 to 15 years. I don’t so much build but I design and suppliers build the parts. At home I’ve done remodeling and also make things.

    For me, as much as I get satisfaction when I am done with a project, I get more pleasure going through the process of making the things I make either at work or home. The goal is the end result but it’s the process of getting there, whether ahead of schedule or under budget as Trump strives for that is the reason for living and doing these things. It’s the challenge of it all.

    I understand Donald Trump. In some ways I may even think like him. I have a little Scottish in me. I tend to jump into things like a bull in a china shop with what I do. It gets things done even if I make a mistake on the way but I can fix those. I have some impatience in wanting to see progress and things move along at a good pace. Sitting around thinking about doing things doesn’t get anything done so you get the ball rolling and with experience, you can work out details as you go along. You don’t necessarily need to have every little step planned in advance mainly because things always come along to mess up the plan so you need to be able to change direction on the spot and solve the many road blocks than come up in the process. Nothing ever just goes anyway. You just strive to get to that point ‘B’.

    Like

  19. Dodgy Geezer February 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    …Let me say in front you’re making a straw man. I did NOT say that building is what politicians do. I said building is what PRESIDENT TRUMP does….

    Hmm… not a strawman, I hope, though I am guilty of presenting my argument poorly.. Let me try to rephrase things.

    You are using a ‘building’ simile – stating that for both builders and businessmen the key aim is to deliver a completed article. And that problems may arise along the way, but the finished article is what is most important, and delivering that is more important than any of the disagreements which may arise.

    Of course, politicians also would like to deliver something. But, in a typical bicameral government, there are also a number of people whose aim is to stop the delivery, come what may. They are not on the side of the builder – they are opponent, and could be seen as being saboteurs.

    For a typical building, all the workers want to get paid, so they want to complete it to spec. Inside a business, there may be disagreements, but no one wants the company to go bankrupt, so people will generally work together. But the world of a politician includes people who would cheerfully see everything he stands for eradicated.

    True … if you’re building a doghouse.

    But in the world of Donald Trump? Sorry, amigo … from the NYT in 1998:

    Donald J. Trump’s plan to build what he calls the tallest residential tower in the world across the street from the United Nations is arousing the kind of opposition unknown since the great real estate wars of the 1980’s.

    Residents of the area have complained that the slim bronze-glass monolith would overwhelm the neighborhood and its most distinctive landmark — the United Nations. But the hue and cry raised by Seymour Flug, the former chairman of Diners’ Club, and Walter Cronkite, the former television news anchor, has spread from their exclusive Beekman Place neighborhood near the United Nations to the Upper West Side, Yorkville and the halls of the Municipal Art Society.

    They have formed a coalition, hired a trio of lawyers, raised more than $125,000 in a week and hired a public relations outfit to fight the most media-conscious developer in the city.

    Joining Mr. Flug, Mr. Cronkite and Ms. Freud on the ramparts are Genie Rice, president of Civitas, an East Side planning group that won a five-year battle to force a developer to lop 12 floors from his newly built 31-story tower on East 96th Street because it failed to conform to local zoning regulations.

    Madeleine Polayes, president of the Coalition for a Livable West Side, which has tangled with Mr. Trump over his Trump Place project between 59th and 72d Streets near the Hudson River, has also joined the fray.

    In other words, you were not just wrong. You were 100% wrong, totally and completely wrong. Three lawyers and $125,000 wrong. Stack of organized opposition wrong.

    You seem to be totally unaware of the hassles, hoops to jump through, organized opposition, building permits, organized GOVERNMENT opposition, airspace concerns, viewshed and building shadow fights, opposing lawsuits on a dozen frivolous grounds, competing claims, and the hundreds of other general dogfights that it takes to build a skyscraper in a city.

    Not that I’d expect you to, because most people have no clue about this arcane stuff like the rights to the air above the ground. I’m lucky in this arena. Like with Donald Trumps father, my dad built skyscrapers in cities, so I learned about all of this stuff as a kid.

    So please don’t take this the wrong way. I like your ideas and contributions to this site. But you really should pick another fight … your knowledge in this particular narrow arena is not adequate to your claims.

    My best to you,

    w.

    Like

  20. L. E. Joiner February 11, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    FWIW, an interviewee on Fox News Channel this evening, one Philip Bump from the Washington Post, suggested that while President Trump was accustomed to being CEO of his own enterprise, as President he will be forced to share ultimate responsibility with two other ‘CEOs’, the Congress and the Judiciary. Mr Bump does have a point. Unlike Captain Picard (of another Enterprise) President Trump cannot say simply, “Make it so,” and have it done. As he’s found with that recent Executive Order, he can say “Make it so,” and have some obstreperous leftwing judge say, “Not so fast.”

    I love all these folks who claim that the Donald is so clueless and that he’s learning new things. This is a perfect example.

    L. E., you are seriously claiming that this is the first time in Donald Trump’s life that some project of his has been stopped by some judge.

    Really?

    Let me suggest that this is not the first or even the tenth time his plans have been thwarted by a legal challenge. Maybe not even the hundredth. He didn’t find out that he can’t just say “make it so” with the EO, he’s known it for decades and more.

    People seem to think that Washington and government are some alien world where the President is some clueless noob. Not true. Trump is far from ignorant of the ability of judges to stop him, as you and Philip Bump seem to believe. That’s wishful thinking.

    w.

    Like

    • Willis, you apparently failed to read the second paragraph of the comment you cited:

      Mr Bump’s point is well-taken, but, apropos of Willis’s lead post, Donald Trump was more than a CEO, more than an executive. He was a builder, comfortable in hard hat and work boots, and accustomed to dealing with, and overcoming obstacles that others throw in his way: bad contractors, competing real-estate interests, obstinate trade unions, building inspectors wagging fingers with one hand and holding out the other, corrupt or stupid local officials and regulatory boards, etc., etc. My guess is that this experience will stand him in good stead. There may be ‘three CEOs’ in the American system of government, but in matters that most concern this President (war and peace, border security, trade) the President is first among equals. I suspect he’ll do fine.

      As I also said in the post I wrote back in August:

      https://walkingcreekworld.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/trumped-by-the-trump/

      I think we agree.

      /Mr Lynn

      Like

  21. Late catching upon this one but found it insightful. Like you, my dad was an architect who built 3 houses, which his sons helped to build. We lived in each, then he was able to sell without being clobbered with capital gains tax. I learned the work and later the technical requirements when becoming an architect too. I built my own house aged 25, then lost it in a divorce. Back then, the council and a few others thought it was out of keeping and I just ignored stupid regulations and got away with it. Now it is described on a sales site as ‘iconic’. Recognition from afar at last.

    I also worked on a housebuilding site with Irish labourers, as I was good at shifting stuff and had a car which I used to ferry them to work and to the Conservative Club in town where they got pissed every lunchtime. Once, when snagging a bathroom, the buyer’s son came in. They were charming but he was a factory boss and a bit of a jumped up piece of something. He saw me in the bathroom flushing the toilet and thought I had come in for a pee, then as, I left, he put his foot in my back and tried to push me down the stairs. When I told the Irish team, who had come back from their lunchtime recreation, they rushed out saying that they would put the c…t down the trench. Fortunately, the site agent intervened, but I always liked Irish builders after this incident.

    After 20 years of increasing regulation, I found I was not doing the job any more and earning about £2 an hour on the last jobs, so I bought property, refurbishing and rentals. It was not as interesting but I made about 20 x as much as I would have dealing with planners and build control. I had contact with old colleagues and architect name the best things to leave behind when they retire as councils, bad clients and most of all builders and their claims departments. My friend, who now makes model boats instead said of builders, “Why is it that whatever you specify or draw, they always do something else?”

    Like

  22. one other thing that came to mind

    Builders accept that they will make mistakes. They are more interested in making sure the results are good, even if it means that they have to correct mistakes..

    Hiding mistakes may seem like a winning strategy in the short term, but the longer between when a mistake was make and when it was corrected, the more expensive it is to correct.

    Like

  23. Pingback: The Difference Between Ideals, Goals, And Plans | Skating Under The Ice

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