We arrived looking as if we were an expedition party preparing to plant our flag at the polar ice cap — if only we could find true north.

That’s the problem with Missouri. It lacks the familiar points of reference upon which we have come to rely in our San Diego homeland. The ocean comes to mind. And, in December, the sun.

We arrived looking as if we were an expedition party preparing to plant our flag at the polar ice cap — if only we could find true north.

That’s the problem with Missouri. It lacks the familiar points of reference upon which we have come to rely in our San Diego homeland. The ocean comes to mind. And, in December, the sun.

In subfreezing weather amidst a sea of indigenous cardigan sweaters and lightweight jackets, we arrived in the frozen tundra. We were there to play the supporting role of proud family. Our oldest daughter, or as we like to call her, "A Good Chunk of Our Retirement Account," would be delivering the commencement address at her college graduation ceremonies.

There are only two reasons an otherwise semirational teenager would leave the 72-degree comfort of the West Coast for college life set against the backdrop of rotational crops and Doppler radar warnings: free designer handbags, or a nationally acclaimed journalism school. (I mean this with all due respect; it’s just that, as California natives, we weren’t factory-delivered with deicing mechanisms and a strong desire to attend cattle auctions.)

Trust me when I tell you that the designer handbags were not free. Rather, Daughter No. 1 left our little "brokerage" a little over three years ago to study journalism. Now she is readying for yet another move, looking to hang her license elsewhere.

‘Tis the season that real estate agents seem to engage in that game of musical chairs. There is something curiously seductive about the coming of a new year, each bringing the promise of renewal. In real estate, however, we tend to operate under the Julian calendar, where every year is a leap year.

As an agent, your email inbox undoubtedly looks a lot like mine this week, brimming with enticements from brokerages of all shapes and sizes, each unique save the promise of "better" — better earnings, better training, a better work environment. Yet if you find yourself heeding the siren call, ask yourself, "Why?"

I have jumped the brokerage ship several times in my career; I understand the temptation. From the agents I have talked to over the years, I have heard their own reasons. Sometimes it’s purely an accounting matter — commission splits and fees. Generally, though, the impetuses have more to do with intangibles, the common thread being a desire to be more successful.

In my case, my outmigrations were never about money. They involved philosophical differences where I perceived company core values, culture, priorities or vision to be an ill fit. The trap into which I see too many agents fall, however, is this expectation that their broker can deliver them unto success. They buy into the promise of the free designer handbag, when what is really important is the institution.

Success comes from within. Your broker cannot teach you critical thinking, passion or commitment; the broker can only inspire you to aspire to succeed.

As my daughter spoke about a career in journalism, I was, of course, processing her words from a real estate perspective.

"(Journalism), the kind that we can believe in, is inherently driven by the passion of its reporters. Stories that inspire in us neither curiosity nor emotion will be, without fail, mediocre. And our readers and viewers expect better, as they should."

Ours is a stressful profession. Much like my own graduate, we will awake tomorrow to search for work. The difference is that we must do this every day. Success in real estate does not come wrapped in a single logo, nor does a single business model define it. It is essential that you associate with an organization that sincerely believes in you. Ultimately, though, you must believe in yourself.

When my daughter acknowledged the "daily stresses of training to work in an industry that doesn’t even know what it wants to be when it grows up," I had to chuckle at the parallel.

"Given these realities," she continued, "it is incredible, perhaps, that we are all still here — except that we hold an intense belief in this profession. Belief, you see, is not a passing whim or even rational; instead, it is something rooted so deeply in the fiber of our beings that we couldn’t break free if we wanted to."

Can you say that? If not, where you hang your license is purely immaterial.

If you sense that it is time to take a new stage, you are likely unhappy with your level of production. Ask yourself this one question: What is missing?

If you can honestly say that your broker is somehow stifling your potential, through imposing burdensome practices and antiquated policies symptomatic of a bloated bureaucracy, or simply through an unwillingness to embrace change in a world of convergence media, you may have something.

If your environment tends to dampen your enthusiasm for your craft because values are not aligned, then run — don’t walk — to another venue where you will find like-minded professionals who share your passion, your ethics, and your vision.

If it is only about money, ego, or the promise of being spoon-fed, send the argument back to the editor.

She admitted, "Many of us here don’t know where we will land after tonight, but I don’t think that matters. Wherever we go, and whatever we end up doing, we will be products of this school and its values.

"We will be skeptical, of course. We will be persistent. We won’t always know who to believe, but we will always believe in the profession of journalism. And we will believe, foremost and forever, in ourselves."

As we approach a new year, one that will be full of both new opportunities and new challenges, I wish for you above all else that you may have faith in yourself. I wish for you that you may have the strength and the wisdom to surround yourself with colleagues and mentors who are positive and supportive influences, but who respect you enough to recognize that it is you alone who can shape your future.

Succeeding in our business is hard work. In the words of one headstrong cub reporter, "Congratulations, graduates. As David Foster Wallace once said, ‘I wish you way more than luck.’ "

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