An agent wrote recently on his blog, "If you are not ahead of the technology curve, you are behind and I mean WAY BEHIND!"
These words were penned by someone I know and respect — a very smart dude — so I have no doubt he intended to inspire and deliver us all unto 21st-century greatness. But, I also suspect that the vast majority of agents who happened to read these words have long since assumed the fetal position, fully prepared to let their licenses lapse.
I wanted to smack him (in a friendly sort of way, of course). What am I "behind" in? I agree that agents have to know about the changing technological landscape, much like we had to get a well-rounded education in school.
But like school, you don’t have to major in any one discipline to succeed. Once again, I think it boils down to one’s interpretation of the term "technology," or let’s just call it "science."
Years ago my daughter decided to enter her school science fair. She decided this at precisely the same moment her science teacher told her, "You must enter the science fair to pass my class."
Much like we were all told we had to get a Facebook fan page sometime this year (or was it last year?), my child, no dummy, decided to play along.
Now, if you have ever done hard time as a parent, you are no doubt familiar with the first rule of the school project: It becomes your project. Whether it involves constructing a diorama of the solar system or designing an "all about me" poster, it is indeed all about you.
Your child is in a competitive situation and, gosh darn it, failure is not an option. So, while your child is off planning her outfits for the next lunar cycle, having already forgotten about the looming deadline, you are returning from the garage foxhole looking like the newest Special Forces recruit, entangled in cobwebs and armed with random scraps of balsa wood, a power drill, a glue gun, and any substances clearly marked toxic.
Science fairs keep parents in business. Without them, our children would soon discover that we have no discernable purpose. It’s not all that dissimilar to the relationship between agent and technology vendor, but I digress.
By the time this particular assignment reared its ugly head, "we" were in middle school, and I was all "scienced out." I had successfully constructed a rubber band-powered car, a soda rocket and a scale replica of a Mount Rushmore. Call it world-weary, or call it lazy, but there comes a point when logic and reason take over.
"We can make this hard, or we can make it easy," I announced. I was all about the end game at this point. And the point of the project I knew wasn’t to win a Nobel Prize; it was to demonstrate an understanding of scientific method. More simply stated: The point was to pass the class.
So, while her classmates’ parents were busy testing things like "the effect of biotite content and ventilation on radioactive emissions from granite" (and let me assure you I am not capable of making that up), we borrowed a radar gun. …CONTINUED
It wasn’t even a real radar gun — it was the kind you use to measure the speed of Billy’s pitches at the T-ball games. It cost me a $10 Starbucks gift card and a thank-you note, which I can only imagine is a heck of a lot cheaper than biotite and chemotherapy.
Back on the blog, the agent went on to read from yesterday’s technology newspaper, citing has-beens like blogging and Twitter.
"If you are just now getting into these cool technologies, you are BEHIND! The best and brightest amongst us have already mastered them and have left you in the dust!" he wrote.
"Behind what?" I thought again. Behind the guy in the soup line? I began to fear that it was too late for me. You see, I readily admit that I am not the best and the brightest where technology is concerned. I am just trying to pass.
I try to keep up with emerging technological trends, but I don’t major in geek. I will always be "behind," if you consider that all of my best ideas are those I cherry-picked from others. Sometimes, behind can be a position of strength.
I’m comfortable to let others go about the business of "Predicting the R50 of high-energy electron beams produced by a medical linear accelerator." If they get out of beta and can prove it, I might try it myself.
It turns out that, like me, heavy science was not Daughter No. 2’s "BFF" (text-messaging shorthand for "best friend forever"), so she went with something she could get her head around.
(And, bear with me here, because I am oh so close to making a point.) We happened to have a proliferation of "Children at Play" signs littering our community at the time. Our city council office was in fact handing them out. Do they help slow traffic, she wondered? It was that simple.
So she sat on different sidewalks at different times of day. Sometimes, the signs would be present. Other times, she would remove them. And she measured traffic speeds. There is elegance in simplicity.
Our radar gun had a margin of error of 100 percent, so I’m not sure about the reliability of her results. But she learned a little about standard deviation in the process, and at least she doesn’t glow in the dark.
More importantly, she never forgot that the goal was to theorize, test and report — not develop a better "O" ring for reentry.
I call this Science 1.0, our equivalent of Web 1.0. And when she won first place in the city competition and then at state, her science teacher congratulated her with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for outpatient surgery. …CONTINUED
And, when my daughter found herself an accidental national semi-finalist, she was all but shunned by the middle school "science" community. After all, while her peers were busy splitting atoms and curing diseases, her display board didn’t include a single, mysterious Greek symbol.
Things are not so different in our own real estate science fair. We have the purists, the "serious" scientists, and we have those who are competing because they are told they have to. So often, we forget how we are really graded.
Our customers are as different as science disciplines. We can’t win in all categories, so we have to pick our passion and go with our strengths.
Mostly, I have always thought that her success was a result of being able to communicate to the widest possible audience. Few people have a clue how to build a better combustion engine, but everyone gets traffic.
In fact, the last step in the scientific method is communicating the results. Without this ability to communicate, you simply can’t compete — not in a science fair and not in business.
And this is what Web 2.0 is really all about. It is about communicating and connecting in our changing world. Web 2.0 didn’t replace the block party; it simply added a different dimension — another choice.
Technology for the real estate agent is applied science. My project is to help people buy and sell homes. Which channel, which discipline I select to get me there is going to be a function of my interests, my strengths and my target audience.
I can make it easy or I can make it hard. While I run into many people confessing to enjoy my blog, I have yet to lose a client over the number of online followers or fans I have.
Whether you are connecting at a kitchen table or connecting on Facebook, it is all about making that connection. It’s easy to succumb to fear that I am being left behind.
But, believing I am destined for failure because I don’t understand thermodynamics, or HTML, is a flawed hypothesis. I see too many agents disproving that theory every day.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.