Many moons ago, before Google was a verb, the powerful search engine’s co-founder, Larry Page, spoke at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco. At the time, I overheard a wary, old-school real estate broker in the back of the room grumble, “Who is this guy?”
When Connect was in its formative phase, as was real estate technology, our mission was to connect two distinct crowds: the vested traditional industry and young entrepreneurs who wanted to change the world. The divide was visible. Both tribes were suspicious of each other and awkward when speaking to one another or, forbid, doing deals together.
We put both sides on the stage and let it rip. We also went out of our way, and still do, to protect and encourage the young innovators and to prod the established industry folks. We also welcomed the mavericks, who wanted to completely toss out the old ways.
Connect became the stage for a CBS “60 Minutes” piece on the 6 percent commission issue and a place for the Department of Justice to figure out the industry in its investigation of constraint of trade over listings syndication. Most important, thousands of partnerships have been formed, companies have been launched and sold, people have been hired, romances have begun and lasting memories have taken shape.
Today, the two sides still exist, but technology and real estate are converging in ways we could never have imagined. However, our work is not done: The consumer experience, our mission in connecting everyone, is at best halfway there. Buying and selling a home remains a gnarly transaction; too many unqualified agents are running around, and the cost of housing and the transaction are out of reach for too many.
One trend that has gotten our attention is the third wave: A new generation of agents, brokers and technologists who wear their suits lighter (if at all) take technology for granted, will try anything, judge less, act swiftly and are quickly dumping old practices. They represent our core readers and attendees at Connect. Once our babies, they are now the future — the ones who are taking over.
This year’s Connect is challenged by a major snow storm. It has resulted in flight cancellations and other problems for travelers. But the show will go on for the hundreds of people who are here already and others who are making their way to New York City throughout the week. For updates, go to the Connect Facebook page or look for #ICNY.
I received this message from Zach Schabot, who attended Connect NYC in 2014.
Last year, I had the privilege of sitting in the front row at a conference to listen to the keynote speaker, Arianna Huffington, one of the most powerful women of our time. In a possible moment of divine intervention, I snapped a quick photo then put down my phone. I closed my iPad. Closed my laptop. And I listened. I sat on the edge of my seat and listened.
She delivered a beautiful message. She talked about the need for us to adopt healthier behaviors. About the power of meditation and focus. About the illusion of multitasking. She spoke about leaders who lack sleep and how they are prone to making bad decisions — and when leaders make bad decisions, the fallout has far-reaching implications.
As Arianna spoke, I thought of myself. My health. My well-being. I was stressed out because I was in the middle of launching a new company. I was not taking care of myself, and I was being a mediocre father and husband. I had to change something.
When I got home, I went to see a doctor. I was having trouble breathing. Every five minutes I had to take a deep breath, gasping to fill my lungs. I tried to push through it, but I knew it wasn’t good. I figured I was on the verge of a heart attack. Or I had cancer. The more stress I carried, the worse it got. I remembered what Arianna said on stage: “Take care of yourself; you are no good to anyone when you are sick.”
The doctor ran a bunch of tests on my heart and lungs: blood tests, MRI, etc. They found nothing. I was relieved, yet shocked.
“But why can’t I breathe like a normal person?” I asked.
“You are not taking care of yourself,” he said. “You are making bad decisions when it comes to your health and wellness. You don’t sleep, you don’t exercise. And you are carrying 25 pounds more than you should. If you don’t make changes now, you will get worse and you will die early.”
If I hadn’t listened to Arianna Huffington that day in New York … if I didn’t hear her story about collapsing into a glass coffee table … if I didn’t call Imran Poladi (who I met through Agent Reboot), I would never have made that doctor appointment. I would have tried to battle through my stress and failed.
One year later, I am down 25 pounds and I feel amazing! I have energy. I sleep great. I have clarity in my thinking. I am a better dad and a better husband. I am writing this letter to you, instead of you writing a story about a 35-year-old man who dies of a heart attack.