Throughout the writing of Watch That Rat Hole, that one question persisted.
Why dig through those old files moldering in storage? Why read and reread those long-forgotten Realty Stock Review issues? Why poke into nagging questions locked into the deep recesses of my brain? Why chronicle your actions in a ringside seat witnessing the REIT Revolution?
Writing this memoir was sometimes personally painful, forcing me to fess up to mistaken judgments and spreading on the public record events and experiences previously known by only a few family members or friends.
Let sleeping dogs lie, right?
This work began in 2009 as a letter to my children to answer a comment from one of son Doug’s friends: “If I can figure out what Doug’s father does, I’m going to do it too.”
Perhaps that comment reflects the eternal divide between the parents’ occupations and their children’s perception of what parents do to put food on the table. Biographies and obituaries routinely refer to the subject’s parents as shopkeepers, businessmen, or teachers, a shorthand way to explain the home environment and life station into which the subject was born. Often these references serve to indicate how the individual being profiled rose from humble beginnings to achieve some exalted station in life.
Take it as fact that great literature can be born from the desire to explain, or justify as the case may be, an individual’s personal route from point A, his or her origins, to point B, his or her present station. In this context, that 2009 beginning was solidly within the normal desire of those of advanced years to communicate to subsequent generations roads taken or abandoned, risks assumed, and choices made, all with the unstated motive of helping those who may follow similar paths.
My effort moved from a simple letter to children when the late Bob Elfers, a longtime friend with whom it was impossible to have a brief or inconsequential conversation, wrote me a challenging note quoting Socrates’ immortal dictum, “A life unexamined is not worth living.” Somehow those words resonated and impelled me to analyze more deeply my work chronicling the REIT Revolution by editing and publishing Realty Trust Review and later Realty Stock Review, during the 1970s and 1980s. But by what standards?
I could obviously view RTR/RSR through the lens of its time or more rigorously through contemporary standards of heightened transparency to serve investors. I could use rubbery standards producing an inevitable whitewash, or I could measure my work against the eternal benchmark of innate honesty and integrity for investors.
Ultimately I reverted to my reporter’s instinct to report what I wrote or said without editorial comment. It is what it is, without embellishment. The result may feel lumpy, like a sack of potatoes, to some readers. But I believe the result is also unvarnished Ken Campbell, and I hope reveals insights into my thinking and decisions as situations unfolded.
“Who would be interested in reading about the REITs, or real es- tate investment trusts, during their unhappy decades of the 1970s and 1980s?” asked one colleague, more attuned to the vagaries of the vastly different REITs and stock market of 2015. I reply that I hope to en- lighten without preaching, to pass on to a new generation of professional strivers a few insights learned on stock market and business topics that never go out of style. My paradigms are my grandchildren and colleagues at CBRE Clarion Securities, mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings with long lives of knotty options and choices ahead. They constitute my eclectic sample of one hundred future leaders and potential readers. It’s my hope that retelling decades-ago events in the dawn of a new and vibrant REIT industry may offer guideposts to those facing today’s challenges and opportunities in whatever setting and may inspire them to take paths less trodden, to try the new and unique, the unproven and unpredictable, and even the wildcard every so often. Let serendipity reign!
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