Many have said that when L. Frank Baum first conceived the story, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” a child asked him what the name of his marvelous fairyland was. His eye happened to catch sight of his filing cabinet, which read “O-Z”.
This story, published in 1900, chronicles a young girl’s adventure in the Land of Oz. Over the years, many, including political scholars, have suggested that the story is an allegory for the political, economic and social events of America during the late 1800s. Most point to both Baum and his illustrator W.W. Denslow’s active involvement in politics.
In this formulation, Dorothy serves as a metaphor for the common man. Her trials and tribulations are lessons in the power of self-confidence and positive thinking.
Lions, Tigers and Bears … oh my
Fear grips most of us daily. The Dorothy inside us struggles with insecurities and self-imposed limitations – the lions, tigers and bears that lie hidden along our own yellow brick roads. They emerge often, conjured by imaginations that present themselves as real roadblocks before our desire to reach our personal Emerald City. They are a cyclone of circumstance.
There hardly was a real estate industry during Baum and Denslow’s time, but looking back, I suggest that their story is instructive for anyone in the business today.
The Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion
These characters are all parts of Dorothy, her insecurities, her limitations. Her scarecrow is stuck on a post at the edge of the real estate cornfield, confused over which direction to take and unaware of her greatest assets. She is unsuccessful at fending off “interlopers” — the crows swoop by her field, land on her shoulders, pick at her brain, laugh in her face and steal her straw.
Real estate’s Dorothy has a Tin Man galvanized by his own inertia. Caught in mid-chop just as the rain of innovation came down and rusted her solid. The Tin Man keeps Dorothy holding on to a traditional axe while others have moved to power tools. Dorothy’s Tin Man is stuck in processes that grind and seize her. All she can do is watch as others flourish.
Dorothy’s Cowardly Lion is a whimpering, complaining, antagonistic, sniveling creature. This once almighty King of the Jungle is now suppressed by its own reflection and fears, its lack of comprehension and distrust of outsiders, change and risk.
The Yellow Brick Road
This is our life — the paths we choose. It meanders through places and exposes us to experiences that are at times forbidding. For the Dorothys within real estate, the road is riddled with wicked witches, flying monkeys, poppy fields and scary apple trees.
Little do these Dorothys realize that everything needed to unravel every riddle lies deep within themselves.
Dissolving the bars of the mental cage
When Dorothy faces the Wizard flanked by her three fears, she soon learns that her Scarecrow always had a brain, that her Tin Man was actually the James Brown of soul, full of heart and passion. And the coward in Dorothy was really a hero after all.
Sometimes we need an adventure to dissolve the bars of our mental cages — like getting caught up in the cyclone of a housing market slump that takes us from the safe and easy comforts of our personal Kansas to a land where everything is unfamiliar.
The great and powerful Wizard of Oz presented the Scarecrow with his diploma, the Tin Man his testimonials and the Lion his medal. These are the documentations of a lifetime, the things so many Dorothys already possess.
The Dorothys of real estate don’t need a wizard to take them home. They just need to close their eyes for a moment, click their glass slippers, drop their fears and believe in themselves.
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