Sometimes we get dealt lousy hands, and as real estate agents, we shoulder a lot of responsibility and burden. But the key is to maintain perspective.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday. 

Late last year, I began the somewhat arduous and not inexpensive process of training to do crisis response on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. After 30 hours of online training, followed with 16 hours of in-person training, followed by role-playing, practice and supervised sessions, I was approved to handle online chat requests to the hotline.

I volunteer for five to six two-hour shifts a month.

It’s gut-wrenching at times. Privacy prevents me from sharing any specifics of what I’ve seen, but I can say this — the visitors to this hotline can be in serious, life-impacting (and threatening) anger, distress and confusion.

I’ve chatted with, and tried to help, victims of rape, incest and child molestation. I’ve talked to people who actively practice self-harm. More than once, I’ve thought to myself, “If I get one more chat that starts with, “My mom’s boyfriend comes into my room at night …” I’m going to throw this laptop out the window.

Or find these animals and beat them senseless.

Believe me, these chats can be brutally painful. There are some very sick and twisted people out there and deeply hurt women, men, children and adults.

Every time I sign on to the sexual assault hotline chat, there are multiple people queued up, needing to chat with a crisis intervention specialist.

Every time I sign off the hotline, there are still people queued up.

And a thought passes through my head every time I log off the hotline: “These people are in more pain than I can possibly comprehend.”

The other day, I read about the Rohingya. They are a million-strong ethnic group who reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Over 700,000 of them have fled to refugee camps in Bangaldesh. They are trying to escape mass rapes, killings and genocide.

Bangladesh. One of the poorest, most densely populated countries in the world, opened their borders to the Rohingya in August. Now they are all overwhelmed and suffering.

Depressing, isn’t it?

My immediate reaction when I read this article? “These people are so much worse off than I can possibly comprehend.”

Gaining some perspective

The flashes of suffering seen through the Rohingya refugee children and some visitors to a sexual abuse hotline are two tiny glimpses of real pain, anguish and suffering. While I can’t speak for anyone but me, every so often things like this smack me upside the head with a giant dose of perspective.

Look around at what you see online.

A 24-hour news cycle bombards us from the left, right and middle. The media’s clickbait content constantly in our faces, almost physically screaming at us.

“Marketing gurus,” “life coaches,” “personal trainers” and “influencers.” Experts and advisers of every flavor constantly beat mantras into our head, their weapon of choice the Facebook, Google or banner ads that follow you all across the internet.

People in “community groups” bicker and snap at others and complain incessantly about every and anything that might remotely impact their livelihood, perceived way of life or what they’re having for dinner.

It’s exhausting.

Meanwhile, there are 700,000 people on the other side of the world, facing starvation, disease and genocide. Just in the U.S., 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, anonymous users are queued up waiting to enter a chat room, hoping for any sort of help, understanding or empathy they can get after their world has been turned upside-down by rape, assault, incest, stalking, pedophilia and human trafficking.

That’s not just exhausting, that’s seriously screwed up.

Not a call to save the world

I’m not publishing this to admonish anyone or guilt them into selling their worldly possessions and venturing off on a crusade to save the world. I’m a big fan of, “you do you.” (As long as your “you” doesn’t get into my space, ya know?)

But for the love of all the internet puppies and unicorns, for the sake of our collective conscious, how about just pausing for a moment. Really put your issues into perspective. Think before you act, stomp your feet, pout or whine.

I’m guilty. Heck, I get annoyed when it’s too cold and rainy to sail.

Think about that.

You’ve done it too.

  • Mentally (or physically) giving that idiot driver the finger.
  • Bitching when your team takes a dive in the big (or meaningless) game. Or doesn’t get invited to the dance.
  • Hatin’ on a website or a competitor with a different business model or philosophy. Hatin’ on anything — I mean, really?
  • Speaking of hating, read the comments on just about any article on iBuyers lately?
  • Politics? Don’t even get me started.

There is an endless list of possible things that drive you crazy, raise your blood pressure, make you want to slap someone or hurl your phone out the window.

Who needs any of that clutter, stress, anger and bitterness in their life?

Sometimes, life sucks. It’s not fair. It hurts. But you are reading this, probably on a phone, maybe a tablet, at least a lap or desktop. It’s highly unlikely that you’re sitting in a Bangladeshi refugee camp. (Sadly, there is a reasonable chance you are a victim of sexual assault, but hopefully you’re getting help with that.)

We can’t change or control some things. And let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that any of us are truly going to save the world. It’s doubtful any of us will even change it, at least not by any significant level measured in the grand scheme of things.

But you sure can make a significant impact on your life, and the life of your spouse, your partner, children, friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances. Maybe you can even make an impact on some random stranger by giving a little time, money, effort or just encouragement and understanding to someone that’s hurting.

You shoulder a lot

I know that many of you provide exemplary service to your clients, and I also know that isn’t always an easy thing to do. As a real estate agent, you shoulder the blame for everything that can go wrong in a transaction.

If the seller doesn’t bother to disclose something, or “forgets” to do so, and it torpedos the transaction? Yep, you get the blame.

If the lender balks at the last second and kills the loan? Yup, that’s on you.

If the inspector with zero tact or social skills scares the bejesus out of your buyers and they literally run away? You guessed it — all your fault.

You all have a seriously difficult job, people are stressed, they beat you up.

So what do you do? Return punches! Flail away at all the righteous indignation and unfairness. Blame your client, the lender, the inspector, the portal, the NAR, your local or state association, your broker, some “discount” brokerage, some iBuyer. Blame someone! Anyone! It’ll make you feel better.

It’s also a complete waste of time and energy.

The blame game is wholly ineffective. Sure, you may feel a little better inside. Venting is an effective emotional release. But you know what else is effective at getting your head screwed back on straight? Closing a sale. Handing the keys to a new buyer. Getting a listing under contract.

Keep it positive

So go do that. Focus on you, and those around you who matter. Look for the positives, minimize the negatives, the stress, the bullshit. Reach out, and offer a hand, an ear or a heart to someone who needs it.

Life can certainly deal us some really lousy cards, however, it can also serve up amazing beauty, love and fulfillment. Focus on the good, apply perspective to the bad. Take a deep breath. Recognize and enjoy all life offers. No, life is not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes, it just sucks.

The alternatives could be far worse.

Put things in perspective. Focus on the positive. Help people. Teach people. Be nice. Care.

Do those things, and then sit back, and watch what happens.

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.

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