The Donald Rumsfeld Market

For the last two years, I have been misquoting Donald Rumsfeld when sellers ask about selling their home. This is what I have told them: “There are the things we know. There are the things we don’t know. And then then there are the things we do not know, that we do not know.”

I actually oversimplified what Slate Magazine called “The Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.” They even correlated it to William Carlos Williams, one of my favorites on the American Canon. They are responsible for the title, Mr. Rumsfeld for the flowing music of the words.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

It’s much more beautiful and impactful then my simplification. But part of my Lentern Observation has been to simplify my usual complexity, so perhaps I was breaking new ground when I shared Mr. Rumsfeld’s immortal musings with sellers.

I point these words out for apolitical reasons, reasons that are strictly focused around marketing.

Year to date: Best first quarter ever. Business partnership is rocking. Laughing more. Loving life. My wife just scheduled a date for us Wednesday night. Feeling something like, freedom? My business and personal world are good. And I see the market picking up.

But then again, there are the unknown unknowns. Could there be a better description of 2011? How post-modern was Rumsfeld, who muttered these words a full 8 years ago? How perfectly do they describe buyers hesitations to offer? How perfectly do they describe Case and Schiller who no longer agree on which direction the market is heading, with Case thinking that the bottom has been reached and Schiller going out of his way to forecast more doom? How perfectly do they describe individuals preference to stay in dead-end jobs rather than risk new and exciting ventures, and how perfectly do these words describe people who are experiencing success and pushing the envelope and enjoying an improving market… and yet still prefer to not expand, put cash in envelopes, and enjoy the cool comfort of the small pocket of which they know, and by that, I mean “the known knowns?”

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