I was leaving a restaurant with my husband and youngest daughter when Steve spotted a coin on the ground. "Look, Emily, a lucky penny!" he shrieked. As my daughter bent down to reach for it, I countered with my own shriek, "No! It’s tails!" You see, being enlightened and well-studied in the rules of lucky pennies, I knew that they are lucky only if they are resting heads up. Trust me; it’s been studied. My husband, on the other hand, is less educated in this regard. One could argue he needs to get out more.
My daughter didn’t miss a beat, however. She proceeded to grasp the copper prize (OK, mostly zinc, but you get the point) and flip it over, returning it to its place on the sidewalk. Only then did she explain that she always does this, and she does this so the next guy will be lucky. Wow! That’s a loophole I had never thought of! My husband called this gaming the system, while I saw it more as a random act of kindness. In any event, this close encounter got me thinking about the underlying concept of superstition and our ongoing quests to be lucky in life.
Now, mind you, I have never considered myself enormously superstitious. While I do occasionally avert my eyes when I see a black cat — or Alan Greenspan — crossing the road, I have been known to purposely walk under a ladder just to be ornery. (At this point, I would like to apologize to Wall Street. It won’t happen again.) This is because I believe in the tired and feel-good adage that we make our own luck. On some level, I really don’t think there is any such thing as luck at all. Or, if there is, it rarely pays us a repeat visit.
If as an agent, I successfully close one transaction a year, luck may in fact have something to do with it. If I fail to do enough business consistently over time to pay my dry-cleaning bill, maybe it’s not that I am now unlucky. Maybe it’s because I didn’t work smart enough or hard enough. Maybe it’s even because I am not cut out for this business. Or, perhaps it’s because I am so busy clinging to the furry foot of some unlucky rabbit, lamenting that the good stuff isn’t happening to me, that I fail to be proactive in making it happen.
An agent recently remarked to me that he made the conscious and deliberate decision a couple of months ago to quit whining. He said he had finally stopped worrying about what other agents were and weren’t doing, he ceased feeling sorry for himself, and he eliminated the negativity from his vocabulary and his psyche. Miraculously, his business turned on a dime, or maybe it was a penny. Now he is on track to have his best year ever, in what is arguably the worst market ever. "Is this just a coincidence?" he asked. "Did I just get lucky?" I think he just got smart.
Take the production board at your broker’s office — please. The board has existed since the beginning of real estate time. Presumably, it was first used by Doorg in his cave to keep track of the leasing activities on his rental caves (and to intimidate Ock, who just got his license).
Today, the board serves many purposes. It has been rumored that it is a way to "share" office listings among all agents in the office, giving them the first glimpse into new inventory and a better chance of selling the listings in-house. I suppose the brokers also see it as a way of giving props to the "top producers" for, well, producing. And, then, there is the argument that it inspires the lower-producing, would-be mammoth hunters hanging around the cave to greatness.
Well, I will argue that the board is an idea whose time has passed. It inspires only the already inspired by allowing them to see their names in lights. For those who are struggling to close a transaction, any transaction, it serves as a big loser "L" that they will now internalize and carry with them for the rest of the day, or their career, whichever comes first.
As a new agent, I was not immune. You could find me each morning transfixed on the Board. It was inspirational for about seven seconds, as which point I became obsessed with a lot of negative notions — of inferiority, of failure, and of disco making a comeback. Ultimately, I made it my black cat, averting my eyes whenever it crossed my path. And I know it sounds crazy, but the day I adopted this mindset, it made a difference. I started getting lucky.
Now, I’m not naive enough to suggest that positive thinking alone can make us successful, but without it, failure is all but guaranteed. Our potential clients can smell fear, they can sense desperation, and they don’t generally clamor to align with downers. And, as professionals, wouldn’t it be nice if we adopted my daughter’s philosophy of sharing the luck? In my perfect real estate world we would be spending a lot less time trying to take each other down and a lot more propping each other up.
Last week, when my husband and I made the decision to become independent brokers, I received countless comments, calls and e-mails of support. And I received one, just one, notable dissenting vote. A local franchise owner took the opportunity to tell me that I was dumb, dumb and dumber, that I would surely fail, and that now, more than ever, I needed the power of a big company behind me. I will be sorry, he told me. Fail? Geez, I hadn’t really thought of the possibility. In the old days when I was allowing the board into my life, I might have stopped to consider the gravity of what I was being told. I would have carried this ominous message with me, allowing it to creep into my thoughts, my actions and ultimately my performance. The new enlightened me, however, the one accused of ignorantly forging ahead into the abyss of failure, took a different approach. I reached down and turned that bad penny over. And as I left the conversation, I gave Honest Abe a little wink. I’m feeling lucky.
Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.
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