Teresa Boardman wrote an article recently that felt suspiciously like a shot across the bow. Now, I know that contrary to what I have been telling my husband for 24 years, everything is not about me. But, the profile fits, so I’ll wear it. And Teresa and I are friends, so I know she will forgive me my little counterpoint.
First, let me say that I don’t profess or pretend to be one of the people Teresa says we tend to canonize for their all-real-estate, all-day approach to the business. But, I have written about my own struggles with the runaway real estate bus on many occasions. It was also a pretty central theme in my Vook, so I consider myself qualified to write the rebuttal.
At issue is the idea of being busy versus working hard — the idea that "busy" might somehow suggest an absence of time management skills or healthy priorities, and that we can and should avoid being busy in favor of working smarter. The thing is I don’t happen to agree that the two are mutually exclusive.
I proudly live a world of total real estate emersion. Take-out cartons outnumber two-legged tax deductions at my house by a factor of 50. On any given day, I can tell you how many active listings there are in my market but not where I left my sunglasses.
My home office looks like Staples lost their lunch next to the scanner. There are several items of food origin in my refrigerator in serious need of a shave. And this morning, I learned that my daughter is sick only because I happened to read her Twitter stream. (Note to Child Protective Services: I am referring to the daughter who lives in a Missouri college dorm.)
Does this mean I am out of control? On the contrary, it means I have made choices.
Brad Inman admitted, "My businesses are my vocation and my avocation, not a duty, not an obligation and not something that I do now so that I can golf later. This is better than golf."
For me, preparing multiple counteroffers for my clients’ signature at 8:30 at night is better than watching the short-track speed-skating semifinals. It could have waited until morning, but my client was waiting; it was her priority, and so it I made it mine. I made a choice.
Spending my Sunday morning attempting to improve the functionality of my Web site or rethinking my business plan is far more enjoyable than tending to my herb garden (the one I don’t have, unless you consider the brown patch of grass where the dog likes to "cheat" an herb). One is not right nor is it wrong; I just choose what’s right for me.
Teresa wrote, "The idea that if we work hard we will make more money is flawed." That is not an incorrect statement. But the corollary concept that we can make buckets of money if we don’t work hard is equally untrue.
So it comes down to this: What do you want for your business and yourself? Each of us has our own goals, our own priorities, and our own short- and long-range plans. There is no one-size-fits-all. One agent may be quite happy navigating at the helm of four or six — or 12 — transactions a year. Another may aspire to more or fewer. What tastes great to me may be less filling to you, and our lives will be different as a result.
I am busy. Guilty as charged. But I am busy by choice, because I can’t stand still; that’s who I am. This doesn’t mean I don’t work "smart." …CONTINUED
Seth Godin, positing that our work should be "spiritual," wrote, "I don’t think there’s a relationship between what you do and how important you think the work is. I think there’s a relationship between who you are and how important you think the work is … Life’s too short to phone it in."
As I sat at a conference table with a group of agents for three hours this past Sunday exchanging ideas about the future of real estate, of the changes we anticipate for the industry in the next decade and how we might act now rather than react later in order to improve our business, I must confess I didn’t make a cent as a result. Busy? Yes. But smart? I think so; you may not.
And I am ashamed to say that while I was busy not making money, I also didn’t have a pot roast in the oven nor did my laundry get done. Amazingly, no one starved and, last time I checked, my entire family was still fully clothed.
I was busy Sunday, just like I was busy nearly every Sunday before. The crazy thing is that I am neither exhausted nor burned out as a result. On the contrary, I have more energy and enthusiasm. I am inspired to be just a little more busy tomorrow.
And tomorrow, as I don my hip boots to wade through the fur on my way to my home office (because that dog just won’t stop molting), or as I confess to my daughter that I haven’t seen a single episode of "Gossip Girl" nor do I remember where I put her father, I will do so without apology. For me, my career is both work and hobby. I am trying to build something. It’s something that I know will never really be finished, but, oh, how I enjoy the pastime.
Teresa offers, "To some, an agent who never has time to cook a family meal and is always on the run with a kind of crazy life looks like a successful agent, and for some reason has become a role model. To me that agent looks like someone who has some serious time management issues."
Or, maybe, that agent really does have that much "work." But, work is not only about the number of homes you showed, the number of offers you wrote or the pounds of paper you pushed, at least not if you are attempting to create something more, different, better. Work is also about being mentally engaged, about investing in ideas. And just like meeting the termite guy takes time, so do ideas. You can’t phone them in.
There is nothing wrong with working two- or eight-hour days, just like there is nothing heroic in choosing to blur the lines between career and recreation. It is simply a choice. If your family enjoyed a sit-down seven-course meal last night, it is commendable. You have defined your goals for your business; you set your priorities accordingly, and you stuck to them. My husband and I spent the evening talking about hyperlocal marketing, and we had a blast.
And while I suddenly find myself wondering what Brad Inman cooked for dinner last night, I know that is not the point. The point is this: Each of us will decide whether it is intergalactic domination or just a decent living to which we aspire. Perhaps it’s something in between. We will decide whether we want to align with a broker or be one, fly solo or build a team, make a living or make a splash. That’s the test, and no one is going to grade you, because only you know the answer.
The key is to make that decision thoughtfully, and not to just trudge through the workday feeling victimized by the "work." The key, really, is in seeing it as something other than work.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.