Sixty is the new forty. Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself as I head into my new venture. I decided to write this for those of you who may be wrestling with the same reality check that I have been, whether you are in the second half, or resting in between quarters, in the big game of life.
Transparency alert – This isn’t about pursuing my passion. if I was truly pursuing my passion, I would be writing humorous commercials for Geico, or hosting the Today Show. The train has probably left the station for both, so I decided to go with what I know best – taking care of people, something I am passionate about.
Let’s start by defining real estate sales. Sales is a misnomer. I’m in the client service business. In Philly, I’d be called a fixer. I’m a psychologist, marketer, marriage counselor, mediator, resource provider, and most importantly a giver. I give my time freely without any promise of reward. I give my experience and knowledge to those who have never, and may never do business with me. I give my support and empathy to anyone who needs it, because I believe that is God’s will. I’ve never been promised, nor have I known great riches, but if friends had a monetary value, I would be the envy of Warren Buffet. To me, that’s the payoff.
After sixty years, I think I’ve finally figured it out. For the last 20 years of my 30-year real estate career, I’ve wrestled with the decision to either manage a brokerage, or run a successful real estate team. Brokerage management seemed safe, and as a single father of three great kids, that was important. It also didn’t hurt that I had the perfect skill set for the job. What I have learned is that being good at something can sometimes be a curse, and that “Safe” is personal growth’s greatest enemy. Although it took a long time, with what appeared to be proper justification, I learned that there will never be a “good” time to make the transition to what you truly want to do. (Unless it’s hosting the Today Show.)
After several years of trying to wear two hats, I’ve put away the brokerage management fedora, for the no-salary, knee-shaking, unpredictable, ego-bruising, self-employed, business owner Stetson. This is appropriate considering real estate sales now resembles the wild west, with more changes in technology, marketing and communication in the last five years than the previous twenty-five. Whether it’s real estate, another business venture, or a new life’s pursuit, there are certain characteristics that will help ensure the transition will be a positive one. Here are my six. Let me know if you agree, disagree, or have additional ingredients to a successful transition.
The first is Gratitude. When I wake up and remember what I am grateful for, my day is exponentially more positive, and my outlook is more optimistic. With practice Gratitude learns to show up at the right time. The other day I was sitting in my car suffering from a recent disc problem and feeling quite uncomfortable. A few business challenges that day seemed to make things worse until I was drawn to the image of a gentleman with a disability getting off the bus in his business clothes, and struggling to walk home in the heat. What would have been a short walk for me, was considerably longer for him as he shuffled home, but I watched, amazed, as he walked with headphones on, singing and smiling the entire time. My situation paled to what he must struggle with every day, twisting and turning just to take a step, yet there he was smiling and singing. It’s easy to forget all that we should be grateful for, if we let the problems of the day overshadow them. Gratitude is the foundation on which everything else is built.
My second ingredient is Confidence. This is a little easier for me because I have been in the real estate business for 30 years. I’ve been fortunate to sell homes in nine different counties in Maryland as well as the District and Northern Virginia. My experience and knowledge give me a distinct advantage, but I’ve also mentored many newer agents, and I always reminded them that confidence grows by knowing you are always doing the best for yourself, while doing the best for your clients. Yes, they are compatible, and yes, I believe in Win-Win.
The third is the hallmark of a fraternity brother of mine, president Calvin Coolidge, who said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” I wish I could say it better, but I can’t, so I just hang it on my bathroom mirror to remind me every day to never give up.
Each of these is worthless in the hands of a man of bad character. The boy scouts laid the groundwork for me with Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. If you use that as your checklist, you’re in pretty good shape. I learned early on that Character is how you behave when no one is watching. If you say you are going to do something, do it, because promises are worthless unless kept. These are the guidelines I have set for myself, and I take pride in knowing that I have the respect of my fellow real estate professionals. My reputation in the real estate community is a personal badge of honor that I wear proudly.
Faith. In oneself. In others. In a higher being. Someone once told me that God will never give me more than I can handle. That doesn’t mean God and I haven’t had discussions about this topic, and the degree to which I must be tested, but I have found that having faith in a positive outcome, is a better way to live than the alternative. I have also found that the older I am, the greater my faith has grown, which leads me to number six.
A Sense of Mortality. It seems that those who fail to live to their fullest potential, act as if they have a thousand years to do so. Do I see life different at sixty than I did when I first entered the business at twenty-nine? Of course, I do. Suddenly, it has an expiration date, so I take the words of Mark Twain to heart as I begin this new venture. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Fitting words in which to launch the new Beltway to the Bay Group.
I would love to hear what you think. Please leave a comment.