When Carl Medford set off on a weight loss journey, he soon realized that the same principles of commitment, coaching and overcoming failure could be applied to business. Here’s everything he learned.

As the years continue to tick by, my body has begun sending off signals that things are not the same as they were 20 years ago. In my case, an old shoulder injury started causing problems. Normally, I would visit the doctor, get help and move on.

Unfortunately, every trip to my local health provider included a check of vitals, including blood pressure. Since I knew my numbers would be a bit above normal, it would also mean discussing the need to go on blood pressure medication — a conversation I wanted to avoid.

My weight had crept up over the years and, I knew, if I shed some pounds, I could get my blood pressure back to normal, visit the doctor “guilt-free” and get some much-needed help.

Fast-forward 50 pounds later, my blood pressure is indeed down. I feel much better, and my shoulder pain is under control. Most significantly, however, the process of losing weight revealed key principles that, when applied to my business, dramatically improved results and increased our bottom line. Here are my top 10.

1. Start with why

In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek makes a critical point: “You have to know why you do what you do.” Many people try to lose weight but don’t have a reason that’s compelling enough to keep them on track. My “why” was very clear and significant enough to make it possible to pass by the fridge without opening the door. I never focused on “what” — it happened automatically when I kept my “why” front and center.

A business is the same. Most agents identify themselves to their clients by what they do, rather than why they do it. Without a compelling “why,” there’s nothing to separate you from your competition. When our real estate team refocused from “what we do” to “why we do it,” it crystallized our purpose, motivated our team and inspired our clients to work with us instead of others.

2. Decide that change is critical

In my case, the pain in my shoulder became a key factor to inspiring change. If I wanted to sleep through the night and function normally during the day, losing weight would be critical.

When I turned this laser focus on our business, our leadership team quickly identified pain points we could no longer live with. Having identified key issues, it became critical we make fundamental changes to move our business to the next level.

3. Commit to a life change

To be brutally honest, I’m great at losing weight. Having embarked on many successful weight-loss attempts over the years, I know how to effectively and safely remove pounds without much effort. Keeping weight off, however, is a dramatically different issue.

I had to decide that, at this point in my life, I could not afford to remove weight only to allow it to return. I had to commit to a life change that, in turn, altered fundamental behaviors.

We did the same in our business; We clarified core values and behaviors, put them in writing, posted them where everyone could see them and then began holding everyone accountable to the new standards. Those who were unwilling to abide by the new standards were escorted off the bus.

4. Draw a line in the sand, and begin

Once I made the fundamental decision to effectively change the way I lived my life, I had to choose a date when I would kill — forever — bad habits that were producing negative effects. I chose the date, posted it on the wall in my bathroom, pulled the scale out of the depths of our closet, dusted it off and began.

Our leadership team did the same. We set a date, installed a large screen where everyone could see it and posted our team’s mission, vision, values and goals. Once the date and goals were set and publicly displayed, we began coaching the team to the new standards.

5. Get professional help

Since the core issue for me was keeping the weight off, I decided I needed professional help. I signed up with a medically based program and set off. It turned out to be the key factor in changing my lifestyle. Since I was paying for coaching and checking in weekly, I was more motivated to make wise decisions and stay the course. They also helped me see destructive habits that were keeping me from success.

We concluded that if we wanted to make fundamental changes to our business, we needed professional coaching. So, we secured it for each member of our leadership core. Truth be told, we couldn’t have made the changes required to get to our current level without coaching.

6. Stick to the plan (measure your progress)

It is so easy to start, and so difficult to stay the course. Accountability is crucial, which underscores point No. 5 above. I posted a chart above my scale, weighed in at the exact same time every day and wrote in my weight for that day so I could clearly see moment-by-moment where I was in relationship to my goal. I reported the numbers to my weight coach on a weekly basis.

Accountability is also critical in a business. You can’t set goals and hope they magically happen. The large screen we set up included a scoreboard to measure individual and team progress.

You must inspect what you expect and keep everyone accountable to the new standards. If you have players on your team who will not embrace the agreed-upon standards, they’re on the wrong team. For you to fulfill your plan and meet the team’s goals, you need to help them self-discover their way off the team and then recruit new team members who will adhere to the playbook.

7. Remove obstacles

I love carbs. Problem is, they go straight to my belt-line. The key factor in my weight loss program was to avoid carbs. The easiest way to do this is to make sure none come through the front door of my house. It’s really that simple. You can’t eat what is not there.

In place of carbs, I filled the larder with things I could eat. I’ve heard so many people tell me they could never give up carbs, but the simple truth is this — when the pain exceeds the benefits of eating carbs, you can give up it.

Every business has obstacles that need to be removed. It could be false or limiting beliefs, misplaced priorities, refusal to do the necessary tasks of prospecting, follow-up or building a database, spending money on pie-in-the-sky lead generation schemes while ignoring the fundamentals.

Point is, every person and every real estate business has obstacles that will become roadblocks to success unless they are ruthlessly identified and eliminated. Can’t see the obstacles? That is why No. 5 above is so important.

8. Put failure behind, and quickly move on

Did I ever blow my diet? Of course I did. Occasionally, for a few days in a row. Once for a couple of weeks. I learned from my coach, however, that failure did not make me a bad person — it actually helped me make it to my goal.

If you can easily obtain a goal, then you didn’t set the bar high enough. Those who truly succeed and achieve great things are the ones who’ve learned how to climb on the back of failure to make it to the next level. And then the next and the next and the next. Fail forward.

Some have attributed Winston Churchill with stating, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Failure was a lifelong companion of Churchill that repeatedly galvanized him to historical heights.

It’s the same in business today, especially in the midst of this pandemic. We are surrounded by failure. Failure of our governments (both state and federal) to correctly respond to the coronavirus is just one example. The ability to recognize failure, learn the important lessons, quickly put it behind you and keep climbing is what will separate those agents or teams who will thrive in the new emerging reality.

Many agents, unsure of how to respond to the crisis, are failing daily. Some are looking to exit the business. Everyone has a choice. In the midst of our nation’s most significant crisis in decades, many agents and teams are having their best year ever.

9. Establish a new lifestyle (buy a new wardrobe)

I kept my old clothes until they looked like sacks on me. I refused to buy clothes halfway down because I knew I could never again allow myself to be at that mid-point weight. If I bought clothes then, I would have been wasting my money. When I hit my target weight and had stayed there a number of weeks, I knew it was then safe to buy new clothes. So I did — a complete new wardrobe from the ground up.

As a business, once you meet a goal and stay there, it’s time to celebrate and buy those things that not only celebrate your victory, but will establish steppingstones for the next level of achievement.

Whether it’s a new location, equipment, a congratulatory event for the whole team, celebrate the achievement and set patterns in place that will make future achievements possible.

10. Burn the boats (give away the old wardrobe)

With 50 pounds lost and my new wardrobe in the closet, it was finally time for me to give or throw away my old clothes. Some were longtime favorites, but I could not mentally afford to keep any of them. It was that final decision that cemented in my head — “I am not going back.” And I haven’t.

This also applies to business. History is full of epic tales of great leaders like Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu and Hernán Cortés who, upon reaching their destination, burned their boats so retreat was not an option. If you set goals but also plan for the possibility of retreat, you will never fully commit to the advance.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson in REWORK said it best: “You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy.” I couldn’t agree more.

Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.

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