Virtue is a word that seems to be a bit out of date — it seems almost Victorian, harkening back to an era when clothing covered every inch of skin, gentlemen wore bowler hats, horse-drawn buggies cluttered the streets and cultural behavior was dramatically different than what we experience today.
In reality, virtue is every bit as relevant today as it has ever been. In fact, I believe you cannot run a successful real estate business without understanding and practicing core virtues: prudence, fortitude, faith, hope, charity, temperance and justice.
Theologian Richard Foster, in further defining “virtue,” states: “Simply put, virtue is good habits that we can rely upon to make our lives work. (Conversely, vice is bad habits we can rely upon to make our lives not work.) When the old writers spoke of ’a virtuous life,’ they were referring to a life that works, a life that functions well.”
We previously discussed prudence. In this post we will look at fortitude.
As a kid, the word fortitude invoked pictures of a medieval castle, well-fortified with towers, a keep, drawbridge, extensive ramparts, parapets, surrounded by a moat and capable of taking on and withstanding any attack. Conceptually, I was not far off: Fortitude can be defined as “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation courageously.”
A double meaning
Foster also has a few key thoughts about fortitude: “Fortitude actually has a double meaning, or perhaps two distinct aspects of one meaning. First, it means courage, bravery, valor, heroism. You know, all of those qualities that are rather out of fashion in our day, but which we sure hope the person next to us has when the chips are down.”
“The second meaning is endurance, tenacity, perseverance. It is that ability to stay with a task in the midst of every conceivable discouragement and setback. Courage and endurance — it’s this great combination that is summed up in the virtue of fortitude.”
Courage, bravery, valor and heroism are all synonyms for the ability to act in a positive way by overcoming fear and responding positively in the moment. We often think of courage as the absence of fear — that could actually be defined as recklessness.
Instead, it is overcoming the fear that would keep others in the same situation from reacting in a positive way. It can best be exemplified by the actions of firefighters on 911 who, while others were running away from the catastrophe, embraced the danger, put aside their fears and headed in. None of those firefighters left the comfort of their beds that September morning with the goal of becoming a hero.
Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he stated, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy.”
A test of courage
Put simply, if you work in the real estate arena for any length of time, your courage will be put to the test. For many agents it comes in the form of an ethical dilemma: It could be something a client is asking you to do that would be unwise or even unethical, or a situation where doing the right thing could result in losing business. It could be choosing to put the needs of a client ahead of your personal need for income.
I know of a team leader who cut loose their top-performing agent who was known to skirt the boundaries of acceptability to “get the deal done.” Other agents have found themselves amid natural disasters such as the firestorms that devastated communities in northern California, tornadoes in the Midwest, hurricanes such as Katrina, extensive flooding and more.
Their unpremeditated responses in those crises where they put the needs of others over their own, even while suffering personal loss, revealed their true character. A crisis does not create a hero, it simply reveals the character that already dwells inside, that when put to the test, emerges on its own.
Sailing into the storm
Endurance, tenacity and perseverance are akin to sailing into the eye of the storm instead of nestling safe in the harbor. Instead of taking the safe route, it is paying the cost required to grab onto something difficult and hang on until it is completed.
Watching the Winter Olympics, it is easy to forget that competitors in events that take mere minutes spent untold months in intensive preparation.
Former Olympic alpine skier Jim Hunter, the son of a dairy farmer in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, had some unique challenges. Having lived in Saskatchewan myself, I can attest to the fact that it is significantly devoid of something very important for training a would-be world-class skier: mountains. Or even hills, for that matter. The Canadian prairies are, for the most part, flat as a pancake.
To perfect his racing tuck, Jim built a platform that he mounted on his father’s truck and then strapped himself to it as his dad drove at speeds over 60 mph on varying terrain. His perseverance earned him a bronze medal in alpine skiing at the 1972 World Championships, the first alpine medal for any male in Canadian skiing history. He also reached the World Cup platform twice in his career.
Anyone who has built a successful real estate career knows that endurance, tenacity and perseverance can be synonyms for lead generation. Many agents will do anything except spend the time and energy necessary to build the fundamental skills required to be successful. They will pay boatloads of money to lead generation platforms like Zillow that typically have very low conversion rates, but will not take the time and effort to build their own database which not only has a minimal cost but, in the case of our team, consistently accounts for more than 50 percent of our business year-by-year.
Practicing scripts comes to mind. Knocking on doors, making cold calls, circle prospecting — all require time and effort and consistency. You must master the mundane to succeed at the significant. Imagine sailing into a storm in a two-masted schooner without ever having taken the time to master the skills required to control the sails without thinking.
Get up, dust yourself off and start over
Lastly, fortitude can be described as the ability to get back on your feet after failing. Dust yourself off, learn from the mistake and start over. Thomas Edison and the lightbulb come to mind. If one famous American had not continuously risen after every defeat, our country would look dramatically different today.
This person, in 1832, lost his job and was defeated for the state legislature; in 1833, failed in business; in 1835, his sweetheart died; in 1836, he suffered a nervous breakdown; in 1838, defeated for state House Speaker; in 1843, defeated for nomination for Congress; in 1848, lost renomination; in 1849, rejected for land officer; in 1854, defeated for U.S. Senate; in 1856, defeated for nomination for vice president; in 1858, defeated for U.S. Senate. But, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United State.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Fortitude: It may be an old-fashioned word, but it has never been more relevant as we sail through a pandemic, shifting markets and a world full of uncertainty on every front.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.