Change. Part 2.

Chicago is an incredible city. Calm and stunningly beautiful. A rare combination.

In summer, Lake Michigan stretches as far as the eye can see, a cooling influence on hot, hazy days. In winter, I have seen steam rise from its frozen surface, the ice warmer than the ambient air that surrounds it. A reminder of the power of context.

I’ve lived here for more than half my life. I love London. It’s where I grew up. But Chicago defined me in a different way. I was once described as a Midwestern boy with an English accent. There’s some truth to that.

When, in the summer of 2007 we decided to take our house off the market and stay in Chicago, we did so because the present was much clearer to us than the future.

When it came time to make that decision, leaving looked like loss. Of the known, the comfortable, the easy. Without an anchor against which to pull yourself forward, it’s easy to hold the future at arm’s length. Some people add a long pole to that equation, pushing hard against the unknown.

The truth, of course, is that the future is coming regardless. And the decisions we make today for ease and lowered stress charge high interest rates. There’s no thirty year fixed option on the price of reality. It’s a balloon note which always come due when you’re least able to pay.

We passed a long, lazy summer, relieved that we could stop worrying about what came next. Faced with a difficult decision, I have come to realize this is how many people operate. The pot gets stirred, the debate engaged, the alternatives analyzed and then, with careful justification, the status quo maintained.

If it walks like a decision and talks like a decision, it must be a decision. Except of course, it isn’t. It’s rationalized fear and the support of inertia. And neither business nor life are well served by their influence.

Seven months later, we realized our original instinct to shake things up had been right, and in January of 2008 we re-listed the house. I started to commute to Manhattan each week, a practice that got old by the second trip.

We were thrilled and fully engaged in self congratulation when we received an offer on the house in late March. For more than we had turned down a year earlier.

The buyer by all accounts had money, taste and style. He shared values that are important to us. He owned a dog, was a supporter of PAWS Chicago and, importantly, was in love with our house.

We did the deal quickly. There was only one issue. He wanted to close sooner than we had a place to move to. And though he had a condo to sell, we were told by everyone involved he could do so at any time. His building was prestigious. His apartment stunning. His views of Lake Michigan mesmerizing. It was our need to delay the closing by sixty days that was the problem.

As good negotiators, we found a compromise, the contract was signed, and we went about preparing for our move.

The trick to a negotiation is keeping your eye on all the possibilities. Not just the outcomes you want.

Sometimes, as we were to soon to be reminded, the best lessons are the most expensive.