Perry Sanders and shrewd dealing

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The latest J.P. Morgan debacle concerns the loss of $2 billion thanks to ill-conceived trades that were intended to hedge risk.

It’s the tip of an iceberg of similar activity that many consider to be shrewd entrepreneurial dealing — but it is not.

Any kind of arbitrage, despite however Wall Street might justify it, ends up adding no value to the marketplace.

Arbitrage is defined as “the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset in order to profit from a difference in the price. It is a trade that profits by exploiting price differences of identical or similar financial instruments, on different markets or in different forms.”

Wall Street insiders argue about “market inefficiencies” that ought to be exploited to the fullest. But as long as the very concept of “fair value” is itself under greater scrutiny in light of Facebook’s Initial Public Offering, valuing the company at $100 billion, one must pause with incredulity.

Remember the dot.com bubble?

There is nothing courageous about betting against one’s own stock, finding minimal deviations in prices — with the aid of sophisticated computer algorithms — in order to squeeze a daily profit. It’s not even risk-taking, unless you are clueless.

And then there are real entrepreneurs, like my friend Perry R. Sanders, Jr., who recently opened the Mining Exchange hotel, the first new full-service Springs hotel in 27 years.

I had a small part to play in this downtown saga, so I know what it took to make this dream come true. It was a labor of love that required a vision; and yes, it was and still is as risky as it gets, but he’s not betting someone else’s money.

Having gotten out of the toxic relationship with LandCo , Perry was free from their original plans to turn the Mining Exchange into apartments. For him, a hotel was the best use of an existing building, because of parking concerns for residential units.

Perry’s hotel vision was contagious, and I was swept up by it.

His enthusiasm and rhetorical skills, his salesmanship and conviction, honed for years as one of the most successful trial attorneys in the country, came in handy in this project.

We started small with Il Postino — now Springs Orleans — and were gratified to see immediate positive response from the local community.

The “bones” of these structures are so magnificent that they provide an aesthetic experience unlike anything else in this town — they take us back to the days of gold prosperity that endowed our city with great legacies.

When we parted ways as partners, we didn’t part ways as close friends. The rule of thumb in partnerships is that most fall apart because of rancor or personality conflict. This was not our case. I have been asked, since the hotel opened last week, if I have any regrets no longer being part of this success story.

There are three emotions that are wasteful, and definitely have no room in a rational business world: anger, jealousy, and regret. I recommend you train yourself to excise them from your emotional repertoire.

Anger is wasteful because, as Spinoza already noted in the 1600s, it merely expresses your own feelings. It’s not a response to someone else’s actions, because you have no control over them. When you yell or scream, you are simply emoting irrationally and finding an excuse to blame someone else for how you feel. Instead of “anger management” try anger elimination.

Jealousy is wasteful as well because it can’t change anything; no good comes out of eating your heart out trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. You should be happy that your friend succeeds, that you bear witness to this success, and that you were helpful in its achievement. There is plenty of room at the top — it’s not a zero-sum game.

Regret is similar to guilt insofar that it’s about what could or should have happened but didn’t. Unlike guilt which is justified if you willfully hurt someone (acted immorally), regret is victimless (you think you hurt yourself in some ways). Heraclitus said, “you can’t step twice in the same river” — what’s gone is forever gone (“water under the bridge”). It’s more productive to focus on the present. Buddhists call it mindfulness. Westerners call it intentionality.

As an entrepreneur, Perry teaches us to focuses on the tasks at hand and get them done. No obstacle is too large for him to circumvent: from bank loans to design and remodeling. His positive outlook and ready smile, his outpour of friendly chatter and tales from across the country, his love of music and people, all contributed to accomplish his dream of bringing a classy boutique hotel to downtown.

As fortunate recipients of his hard work, we should support his dream and make it our own. And whenever tempted, refuse to waste our emotional capital.

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com See previous articles at sassower.blogspot.com