It’s the end of yet another year for me in real estate. I’m closing in on a decade of being a Realtor now. And as 2015 comes to an end, I find myself contemplating my future like never before. I’m about to tell you why the worst year of my life was still the most successful one, for my bank account and my faith in my profession, and the takeaways I learned this year that will help you in 2016.

  • Support from other agents is invaluable.
  • One of the best advantages of real estate is a flexible schedule.
  • Don't speak poorly of your competitors -- it just makes you look bad.

It’s the end of yet another year for me in real estate. I’m closing in on a decade of being a Realtor now. And as 2015 comes to an end, I find myself contemplating my future like never before.

I’m about to tell you why the worst year of my life was still the most successful one, for my bank account and my faith in my profession, and the takeaways I learned this year that will help you in 2016.

I’ve had worst year ever. Most of the time I envision myself standing at the door of 2016 with flying fists, beating on the gate and crying to be let in, while the other half of me can’t believe 2015 is over.

Where did the time go? Every day I have to figure out what day it is because, in my mind, it’s still March 14, 2015, the day my sweet Sawyer passed away in my arms.

Don’t stop reading now because you think this not the story you thought it would be — hear me out.

You will see how even in the depths of hell, I have found the best part of my career, my co-workers and my family.

Sweet Sawyer was only 21 months old when he passed. Just a little guy. We didn’t have any knowledge of his rare genetic disorder, and even if we did there was no cure, no prolonging of his life. It was a death sentence.

I held him in my arms until his last breath, in a room surrounded by those I now refer to as my loves. I quickly went numb as we do in moments like this, when grief grabs onto your heart so hard you don’t think you will ever be able to breathe again. But in that same moment of numbness, something else happened.

My alter ego kicked into gear. You see, in my career, I’ve taken on the persona of The Pink Lady of real estate. She’s outgoing, crazy, wears lots of pink and can get in front of a camera and put on a show.

I often refer to her as the Batman to my Bruce Wayne. Pinky lead the group in the Lord’s Prayer and somehow guided everyone out of the hospital and back home. In the week that followed, my alter ego continued to function at full capacity.

She wrote out the eulogy for her son’s funeral, read it to a packed funeral home, said goodbye to him and held her other children and her husband. But she didn’t stop there.

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I took a few weeks off from real estate, which we all know can be catastrophic to our business. Luckily, the owner of my brokerage stepped in and handled my business.

I don’t have assistants. I always like to do everything myself. And after a month, I had things — or at least Pinky had things — she felt she needed to prove. So I booked my first video to shoot.

My videos are what I’m known for. I grabbed my husband and put on a pink dress that I remembered holding my baby in (upon closer look I believe I still see some drool on it) and went to work. My wonderful videographer, Bob, probably had no idea what to expect that day.

Would I cry? Would I be able to do this? Was I not going to be the Pinky of past? Usually, as they like to say, I’m a one-take-wonder with my videos. Although it took me going into a bathroom and screaming to shake off the nerves (not sure what Bob thought, but my husband was laughing), I did it.

And that shoot helped to solidify a part of me. Although the world is falling apart in my personal life, I could put on smile and be Pinky in front of the camera. It was a release. And as the year continued on I found out some more wonderful things and lessons about my alter ego Pinky and, of course, about real estate.

1. Create a family

Real estate is a wonderful career, and we are not all used car salespeople as we are often portrayed. So many of my fellow agents made a conscious effort to help me. Everything from taking lockboxes off homes to meeting customers to sign off on offers, without expecting anything for it. Wow! I bow my head in thanks to each one of you lovely individuals.

So when things are going crazy, don’t be afraid to reach out to your co-workers and friends. And something else I’ve learned that’s really important — these co-workers might not even be in your own office.

I can’t count how many agent friends from other brokerages reached out to me. I’ve learned not to care what sign is hanging over your head — Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Re/Max.

If you are good at what you do, and you’re a good person, I want to stand beside you and promote you.

I’ve taken some heat for this mentality. But I don’t care. We are people, people, and it’s time to break down the old school mentality of what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours.

2. Use time to your advantage

Being an agent gives you the opportunity to be with your family — don’t take it for granted. I always have loved that my career allowed me to take my kids to school in the morning and pick them in the afternoon. I was blessed that I got to spend every day with my sweet Sawyer.

We would joke he’d be a Realtor by 5. But he didn’t need to go to daycare, I had a wonderful family unit and babysitter to help me. He even went to open houses and showings on occasion.

After his passing, we decided we needed a family adventure together, so that’s what we did. We traveled from St. Augustine, Florida, to Washington D.C., to Cleveland.

We took the whole summer to be with each other. And you know what I learned? I can still be with my family and work from afar. OK, so maybe I can’t take buyers out, but I’m a listing agent, and with the power of the Internet and social media, I can market anything from anywhere, and this insight is helping me change my goals for next year.

So take stock of your life. It’s not about how many transactions you closed this year, but how much time you got to spend with your family. Your job is portable; take it with you. (Word of warning, the kids do get a little annoyed when you are on the phone too much, so be careful.)

3. Disregard negativity

One of my biggest fears after my baby’s passing was something so stupid and yet so real — I can only say I hate it. And maybe if I say it aloud people will understand just how awful it sounds. Negative competitors.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I get it. It’s sales, and it’s competitive.

Hell, we wouldn’t be in it if we weren’t competitors by nature, but what I firmly believe is that there is a difference between being competitive and tearing another individual down just to win.

For example, just after I gave birth to my sweet Sawyer, I was out on a listing appointment with nice woman, and she said, “Oh, I heard you just had a baby.”

Thinking that was an odd statement as I hadn’t brought it up, I inquired further. Well, it seems a competing broker felt the urge to say she didn’t know how attentive I would be to the seller’s needs after having another child.

(Side note: One of my good friends just had her fourth child and is killing it in real estate, so take that, nay sayers.) So upon the death of my son, you can imagine my fear of what might be used against me. An odd thought, right?

But I, along with my alter ego, worked so hard to build up our brand and reputation that the thought of someone coming along and using my horrible situation against me shook me to my core. I couldn’t fathom it.

Sometimes I felt like the vultures were just waiting in the wings for me to fall apart. I mean, I do understand jealousy, truly I do, but when you look at the inside of what you’re jealous of, do you find it’s what you really want?

So, you can’t compete with me because I do videos. Well, either figure out how to do them, or come up with another competitive angle to take your business up a notch. But don’t tear someone else down — it’s childish.

Eventually, over the months, Pinky finally came to the realization that if sellers weren’t going to use her because of her family life, then she didn’t want them as a customer anyway.

Instead, we put on our outrageous hat and upped our game again, with even crazier videos. (Thanks again, Bob, for dealing with those).

So remember when you are out there on your appointments — don’t talk bad about the competition. The only thing it does is make you look bad, and quite frankly, pathetic.

So what does it all mean in the end? I don’t know, but coming out of this year from hell, Pinky was still able to have the best year in her career. (Insert transaction numbers here: 40). But I didn’t do it alone. And that’s what I want you to remember.

Even if you do things solo, there’s always someone helping you in some way. Maybe it’s the receptionist who scans something for you at the office. Or the significant other who listens to your rants about a needy buyer.

There’s always someone, so offer your sincere thanks. We can only be truly successful business people if we are truly successful human beings. You never know when life is going to slip in through the back door and hit you upside the head.

So surround yourself with those who would hold your hand and show you the light if you have to walk through hell. And honestly, get rid of the ones who don’t do a damn thing for you but bring you down.

That’s what I wish for you in the new year. Because even though this has been the worst year of my life, I have found some of the best human beings in the world to stand beside as I take on 2016.

Sue Benson is the Pink Lady of real estate. Find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @sueispinky.

Email Sue Benson.

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