Five months ago, I stood before the Connect audience in New York City with an optimistic message about the economy, the housing market and the coming digital age.

How wrong could I have been? A pandemic, record unemployment, businesses closed down everywhere, maddening social isolation, and now a heartbreaking and painful week for America.

The ancient Greeks might have contended that the fickle Gods blessed us in the winter and cursed us in the spring.

What is next? Indeed what is next?  If we underestimate the virus, it will find us. If we underestimate the tattering economy, we will make the wrong calculations. Ignoring deep-seated prejudices will be our undoing,

Just last year, the industry was forced to face the stains of prejudice once again when Long Island’s Newsday revealed patterns of housing discrimination. While we must be part of the solution, we can also be part of the problem, and it must change.

How do we move forward?

Together, all of us must use the uncertainty about the present to imagine a new future. Getting back to business is essential. But not business as usual. We must act with a new compassion and a broad denouncement of inequities, injustice and violence.

It starts with companies like Inman News doing more to elevate underrepresented voices and to report on the systemic issues underlying our current turmoil.

And across the board industry, leaders must step it up and do more than make vague commitments to diversity, charities and economic fairness. For one, minorities and women are conspicuously absent from boardrooms and executive suites, a poor reflection on our community and a sad statement about where we stand as an industry.

It all begins with each of us. All of us have personal stories from these last few months that will be etched into family and professional memories for generations to come.

They become a foundation for doing things different and taking steps to make our lives and others better. We cannot be expected to heal all the broken parts of our society, but we can each show love and understanding with our families and communities.

In the last three months, we have worked all of the muscles of being human. all of our human emotions have come pouring out — happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, laughter and anger.

This time has fortified the value of home, family, friends and simpler things in our life like community, collaboration and service.

We cannot get worn out by these events, we must get back to business and do so with confidence. People need you now more than ever. Showing up has never been more important. We do not have to be heroic, we do not have to perform courageous acts, but we must be present for ourselves, for our family, for our friends and for our customers.

Yes, it is hard to imagine heaven while living through hell, but we have no other choice right now.

Now more than ever, we must exercise the three dimensions of our IQ: our emotional intelligence has never been more important, including listening, empathy and service to those who need us. We must have high-market intelligence, people are confused and they have never needed your local insight more than now. And you must have a very high technology IQ, embracing the digital experiences that help you and your customers.

Like everyone, I embraced Zoom Airlines and got to visit with 20,000 Realtors all over the world in the past three months. This was physically impossible before.  What did I learn? That our community is a colorful cast of characters that mirrors our nation: people of different colors, different points of views and different approaches to life and its challenges.

We have a bigger mission now. We must make an individual and collective commitment together to help those who need to find housing. That has never been more important. This community is up to the challenge, because that is what you do every day

But we must remove the pain points of getting there.

This is our digital spring — a technology awakening. In that speech in January, I dreamed out loud that we would make the transaction easier. I had no clue that the invisible hand of a pandemic would make that dream come true.

With our backs against the wall, the industry is adopting the great technology made possible by so many entrepreneurs. To all of the technology innovators out there, you are helping to save this industry from COVID-19 with your amazing creations.

We now have the ability to communicate digitally, list property virtually, to market digitally, to sign contracts electronically and negotiate digitally. And attend an Inman conference virtually. Wow

You can now focus on what is important to your clients and get back to your most productive activities — listing, selling and helping people get in and out of homes.

This has been a scary and tragic time, but it has also been about amazing achievements, unselfish acts and lasting memories.

The poet Carl Sanburg once wrote, “the fog comes in on little cat feet, it sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.”

This tiny poem got me thinking about the fog in San Francisco and COVID-19.  Almost every summer day, the fog comes through the Golden Gate bridge and defines our lives here. It affects our work, our play, our mood and even our daily decisions.. Then in the fall, its season is over, and it leaves.

As we just begin to see through the fog all of these tragic events, we must realize that this too has an end. Not knowing when exactly is daunting and not yet understanding the full consequences is scary. But there is solace in knowing that this torment, not its memories, will too pass through our lives.

And so what is my big idea? The title of this talk?

The big idea is you, the new-you who was born in March of this year. The new you who embraces this moment and all of its challenges, facing it because we have no other choice. The new you who growls back at COVID-19, who navigates a struggling economy and who stands up to injustice and inequality. The new you who is courageously getting back to business, serving others, doing what you do best.

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