Dr. Peter Linneman is a Principal of Linneman Associates, KL Realty, and American Land Funds, and is the Albert Sussman Emeritus Professor of Real Estate, Finance, and Business Public Policy at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He is widely recognized as a leading strategic thinker and investor and has been cited as one of the 25 Most Influential People in Real Estate by Realtor Magazine, and one of the 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate by the New York Observer. Linneman is a highly sought-after speaker, appearing as the keynote speaker at numerous major industry conferences.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in Lima, Ohio. I was a child of a working-class family. Only one of my four siblings went to university. I played lots of sports and was a pretty good student. At age 12 I bought a paper route and grew it from 40 to 265 customers in a year. Since then I have always scrambled and worked several jobs. My newspaper route taught me about the joy of “financial independence”. I paid for my high school tuition and put myself through college. And I also began reading the newspaper every day. I continue to read three newspapers every day.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
It took me until I was about 30 to realize that it is fruitless (and counterproductive ) to worry and stress about things I do not control. Since then I only allow myself to focus on things I can control. So if a plane is canceled because of a storm, I do not stress about it but instead, focus on what I can do in light of the storm. And since I cannot influence whether the Eagles or Sixers win, just enjoy the game win or lose.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The worst advice I hear usually begins with something like “I read in The NY Times…”. Newspapers, even the best, are in business to sell advertising. They are not in the business of careful and unbiased analysis. That takes real work.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I have been blessed to not really have “dark periods” in my life. Of course, I have had setbacks and lost loved ones. But I get through them by focusing on my path going forward and the wonderful times I shared with the lost loved one.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
It turns out that I am very curious. This allows me to keep growing and learning. This is true in both my business and personal lives. Curious it’s is a very underrated asset. The other trait is that I really want people to understand what I believe and why I believe it. Thus while most in my business hide behind obscure jargon, I have tried to express very complicated ideas in very simple language. This has been a huge professional advantage.
What is your morning routine?
I get up around 5 am and exercise while reading three newspapers (WSJ, FT, and local paper), emails, and other things I need to read. This usually takes about 2.5 hours. I then walk for about 10 miles while doing business calls. Then a lunch of berries and yogurt.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
A rigorous exercise regime has allowed me to live my personal and business lives with high energy. When most tire, I am still going strong. This comes in handy on long days of business and tourism (which also include business). At age 70, I see how many others have just “tired out”.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I “move fast”. I watch how slowly most people walk. If I walk to work (and back home) in 15 minutes and it takes you 20 minutes, that is nearly an hour a week of “found time”. That is more than two days a year. Staying active is the best way
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
The most influential book in my life is probably Capitalism And Freedom by Milton Friedman. He was a professor of mine at the U of Chicago. This book, along with his Tyranny Of The Status Quo, set out the framework to think about the achievements of capitalism. This book points out the wonders of (controlled) self-interest while driving home the fact that humans can do far more harm in government due to their mistakes, hubris, lack of incentives and answerability as well as occasional evil.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
The quote I try to live by is “love, be loved and be productive.” This was said to me by my lifelong friend and mentor, Dr. Lucille G Ford (who is now 99) when I asked her what she has learned about life. It made me realized how blessed I am to have wonderful people I love and that love me. And being productive in both my personal and business lives means that I hope to make the world a little better place while here.