21 HALLADAY AVENUE  by Robert J.  Flower


The Spirit of Success, A Real Estate Story
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A real estate entrepreneur reflects on the principles of his success.

Debut author Flower grew up in Yonkers in the 1950s, the eldest of four brothers. When he was only 16 years old, his father suddenly died, compelling the author to take over the family’s funeral home despite his youth and lack of any background in the business. The experience was eye-opening, especially when neighborhood thugs squeezed money from his mother, a lesson in the merciless nature of business. In 1962, at 22, Flower decided to go out on his own and bought a cheap car and rented a basement apartment, trying his hand at real estate. His first six months were an abysmal failure: He made less than $60. But he realized that he was held back by his own fears and doubts and that a reconstructed worldview could pave a path to success: “The funny thing is that people say philosophy does not make you money, but I found that not to be true. In fact, my new philosophy was not only what would make me money in the future, but it also gave me substance and character.” By 1964, he was working in his own office, constructing his first building, and taking college courses. Flower eventually built such a sterling reputation that he was asked to teach courses on real estate at Seton College and West Point Academy. The author discusses not only the business strategies that helped him creatively adapt to a volatile real estate market, but also the foundational precepts of achievement in general, what he calls the “spirit of success.”

Flower combines three genres—self-help, memoir, and business strategy—into one lucid work written in a self-assured but consistently breezy, congenial prose. His life is a genuinely memorable one, filled with both accomplishments and defeats, and the way he overcame the latter to have a surfeit of the former remains inspiring. In addition, while the book focuses on his professional activities, the author includes a candid account of more intimate challenges as well, including a bout with leukemia that nearly killed him. Still, the highlight of the volume is Flower’s expert discussion of the real estate industry and the numerous transformations it has undergone since the ’60s. His combination of practical experience in many sectors of the business and deep reflection on its historical permutations is sure to be a valuable resource to others getting started in real estate. But the self-help portion of the book largely issues vague and shopworn platitudes. The spirit of success, unsystematically presented, seems to amount to a process of self-reflection whereby fears are reinterpreted as opportunities for growth. When readers encounter a “field of tension,” the outer perimeter of their comfort zones, the author encourages them to press on and overcome the disbelief in oneself that generates hesitancy. Of course, this is inarguably good advice, but that’s largely because it’s so blandly commonplace. 

A shrewd analysis of the real estate market but a lackluster fount of “spiritual intelligence.”

Page count: 197pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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