“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” –Lorenzo Anello in “A Bronx Tale“
“A Bronx Tale” is an emotive coming-of-age saga that pits a young boy, Calogero, in a conflict between two paternal role models — his working-class father, Lorenzo, played by Robert DeNiro, and his Mafioso patron, Sonny, played by Chazz Palminteri.
Calogero, a good boy by nature, is drawn in by the glamour of his pontificating gangster friend. He takes to heart the lessons he imparts. Slowly, Calogero drifts away from the sound advice of his real father.
Misguided, charmed, drawn in by fast money, power and influence, and protected by a false bubble placed around him, Calogero enters young adulthood with a warped perspective on life and is dim to the consequences surrounding his actions.
In the end, all that seemed right falls apart. Calogero’s friends perish in their enflamed car. Sonny gets taken out by the son of a man he whacked eight years prior.
A Real Estate Tale
As I lay in bed two Friday nights ago — the day many in real estate got burned for deeds performed years earlier — this story unfolds on my TV screen:
A buyer, a faceless voice on the phone, barks epithets at her agent.
“I don’t $#@!ing care what the $#@! you have to do … stick to your word and take care of the $#@!ing situation. I want this house and I want those defects fixed by the seller.”
The agent pulls her hair back into a bun. She displays no concern. Frankly, there seems to be little she can do. The home in question is riddled with defects. Defects that neither the listing agent nor the seller feel obliged to repair. But the buyer wants the home. And in the bubble in which this agent has lived for the past eight years, the home would sell — defects and all.
Then comes the radon test. The results aren’t so good. The buyer needs to be informed. The sellers need to be counseled. The agents need to get their acts in sync.
Cut to the selling agent: male, mid-30s. I think I actually recognize him. He’s the guy I ran into a few years back selling iPods out of a car trunk in Brooklyn. Today, he’s parked in front of a home. These were his thoughts on the situation, shared with all of America:
“We’ll fix the radon issue,” he explains to the camera. “It’s not a big deal. All I care about is getting this home sold so I can get my check. It’s all about the check.”
Realty TV. They dredge the river of experience for the most fetid of human sediments. They’ve dug deep into our industry and pulled out some choice material. Hollywood is rich from its real estate payload. Greed drawn in by fast money. Blithe disregard for customers. Conflict driven by a collective swirl of unreality.
Three lessons from “A Bronx Tale” resonated for me as I clicked off this program and surfed as far away from it as possible.
They are: availability, values and wasted talent.
When you’re just starting out in business, clients root for you. They want to be part of your success story. But too often, we forget that as we grow. We get too big, forgo our availability and distance ourselves from “the trenches.”
We disengage from what’s important. We forget the values with which we began and our promise to the customer.
Our talent is wasted.
Many enter this industry as Calogero did: pure, innocent and surrounded by caring paternal or maternal figures, most often their brokers or mentor agents. But something happens. They cross paths with charismatic pontificators that inflate their egos and seduce the darker facets of their character.
They begin believing that consumers are leads, not people. That they are to be captured, not engaged. Dripped instead of conversed with. Herded instead of helped.
They forget that judgment day is never that far away.
Movies begin and they end. The lights come up. You brush off the popcorn pieces, watch the credits and leave the theater.
Real life is different. We get to roll new tape every day, edit out yesterday’s errors, replace some of the actors, retrain the others and close off the set. And we get to retell our story again.
Real estate has a great tale to tell. I believe the plot has something to do with the customer. Not a check. Not the numbers. Not your IT department. Not the suits.
Script it and get going!