Perception and reality

Perception and reality

  • 08 Jul Off

An interesting story, as part of National Friendship Week, has been floating around the internet.

In Scotland during the late 19th century lived a poor farmer named Fleming. One day, while working on his meager farmhouse, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired in black muck, was a terrified boy, struggling to free himself.

Farmer Fleming saved the boy from what could have been a very slow, agonizing death.

The next day, a stately carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s modest surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and, as Fleming removed his hat and bowed slightly, introduced himself as the father of the boy whom Fleming had saved.

“I want to repay you,” said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life.”

“No, m’Lord,” Fleming respectfully replied, “I can’t accept payment for what I did.”

At that moment, the farmer’s own son, attracted by the nobleman’s relative ostentation, came to the door of the family hovel to have a closer look.

“Is that your son?” the nobleman asked.

“Yes,” the farmer replied. “That’s my son, Alexander.” The nobleman looked about for a moment.

“Then let me make you a proposition,” said the nobleman. “Let me provide Alexander with the level of education my own son will have. If Alexander is anything like his father,” added the nobleman, looking directly at Fleming, “no doubt he’ll grow to be a man we’ll both be proud of.”

For his son’s sake, Fleming agreed and, subsequently, at the nobleman’s expense, Alexander Fleming attended the very best schools, in time graduating from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He then went on to become Sir Alexander Fleming – the Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Years later, the same nobleman’s son, now grown and very active politically, was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this second time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name?


Amazing, wonderful storyUntitled1

Young Winston signals for help


And, according to Fleming and Churchill biographers, a total fabrication.

However, a lot of people are buying it because reality, of course, is often perceived according to preference. Wouldn’t it be nice if the above story were really true? This is such a good story. It must be true.

But it isn’t.

“We need the story to be true because Fleming is a long-time bank customer, and if little Winston almost died there…you can see how much value will decline if that story isn’t true. Everyone believes the story is true. Make an extraordinary assumption or something. In the Subject History section, just tell the story like it’s true.”

But it isn’t.

“Consider the soils instability. Think of the regulatory implications. This bog obviously won’t be worth anywhere near what the previous appraiser concluded, based on this story which, if you get my drift, is certainly true.”

But it isn’t.

Perception and reality are germane to appraising because if everyone’s perception and treatment of reality actually aligned with reality, there might be little need for the appraisal profession.

However, there is great need, and all that implies.

It behooves us, therefore, to be very objective in our appraisal efforts, and resist pressure to compromise either our intelligence or integrity or, usually, both.

Ultimately, we want to be neither liberal nor conservative; ultimately, we want to be right. There is no record of Fleming’s father and Churchill’s father ever having met. Churchill had never been to the Fleming 800-acre farm, described as a nice place. And there is no National Friendship Week.

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