Don’t just work hard. Make what you do count.

Can’t view the video, click here.  Malcolm Gladwell: ‘Meaningful Work Through Passion, Not Genius’

Many of us work as hard as we possibly can.

This is especially true in an era where we’re always available, new platforms are being thrown at us every week, and our customers are smarter than ever before.

Most of us can barely maintain the status quo, let alone allow ourselves to be seduced by the shiny new digital objects, or techniques and tips presented to real estate professionals to grow their business online. Google Plus? Most of us just wrapped our heads around SEO.

But, I believe there’s a simple difference in what separates those innovators, thought leaders, and individuals leading the charge in the digital real estate space from those making up the numbers in the herd and struggling to keep their heads above water.

I argue that it’s not a question of working hard. We all work hard. It’s a lot more than that.

It’s working with what Malcolm Gladwell characterizes above as ‘meaningful work’, where the effort you put forth into an activity is not only its own reward, but allows you to grow your business in a way that in many ways doesn’t even feel like work. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s something you’re really into and want to do. Importantly, this isn’t exclusive to online.

Look at the people in our industry who are successfully building business in social media (for simplicity’s sake let’s restrict this to just Facebook and Twitter). What’s the one element they all have in common? They are ALL really, really passionate about what they do. They believe in the platforms, evangelize them to their peers, and are completely selfless about their participation in those growing communities. These are the people everyone wants to meet in real life. These are the people that are being invited to speak and share insight. These are the people growing their business in the most aggressive way possible.

Think this is just about social media? Think again.

These aren’t the folks who are doing it because they feel they should. Or those people who heard that’s where the customer is these days. Or those professionals trying to short change their own marketing budgets by spamming others with listings in a news feed. These folks don’t make those kinds of decisions, they help others make them.

These individuals WANT to do it, and even if it wasn’t part of their job you really get the sense they would just do it anyway. Clay Shirky, in his fantastic book ‘Cognitive Surplus’ talks at length about how people will willingly invest their time and energies into building something for the collective good, for free, simply with the reward that it feels good to do.

He cites numerous examples, but think of Wikipedia, Yelp, Foodspotting or even how news is locally sourced from tipsters invested in their own communities to understand what he means by this. For one of the best examples he cites, check out the incredible Josh Groban fan club. The key idea here is that they find this kind of work meaningful and rewarding, even though they receive no financial compensation for their efforts. These often anonymous people make the products we use, the experiences we enjoy online, and the content we consume, better and better each day… for free. Interestingly, he believes that there is an incredible surplus of creative energy being wasted, in particular by watching television.

Source: Mashable:

Shirky puts this surplus into perspective by comparing the efforts involved in creating and maintaining Wikipedia versus our television viewing habits. With some rough math, Shirky calculates that in order to to create every single article, complete with edits (and arguments about those edits), would take about 100 million hours of thought and effort.

Shirky then compares this to our annual television habits, which in the USA alone total over 200 billion hours watched each year. Every weekend the American population consumes 100 million hours of television commercials alone. Frightening stuff.

Shirky concludes that if people were to use their time creating instead of consuming, that the 200 billion hours of television converts into about 2,000 Wikipedia projects worth of free time annually. What does your surplus look like? If you knew what it was, what would you do with it?

So these people creating amazing projects for free, why do they do it? Simply put, because they find this kind of work immensely enjoyable. They’re not comment chasing, there’s no ‘friending’ arms race present here, and most importantly, there’s no competitive aspect. There’s a distinct sense of collaboration, connection with the community, and genuine interest in proactively raising the bar for all.

Idealistic? Not really. It’s something all successful real estate professionals have in their DNA. But, I argue that this is largely overlooked in the wider real estate community in how we work online.

If you buy into the social media driven idea that helping people is the new way of selling and marketing yourself and your services, this idea of where and how to focus your efforts becomes critical. If you’re efforts are focused on measuring return on investment, or even discussing return on investment, I believe you’re looking at the wrong thing. Sure, there are ways to quantify your efforts and ensure that there are key value measurements in place (and these can be insightful), but when true, meaningful work is taking place, I argue that the effort is its own reward.

And if it’s one thing meaningful work breeds, it’s more meaningful work. It’s infectious, and those people in real estate who are truly passionate about what they do, have the industrious gene working overtime for themselves, and genuinely just enjoy the process of working online and finding people homes, will win. I think customers can spot this.

To create some perspective, let’s look at one of the pitfalls of working online, the time suck. In social media alone, we watch over 2 billion YouTube videos, and spend over 400 million hours on Facebook, every day. Darin Persinger has done some great work on countering digital distractions by suggesting setting limits and timeframes on how and when you work. His descriptions of the death spiral of just cycling between social and analytics platforms are well founded and unfortunately all too real.

I want to share a way to leverage your digital downtime and shift it to something more meaningful with the example of a startup out of San Francisco called Sparked:

Can’t view the video, click here.

Pretty neat, right? They describe their service as such:

“Most of us live incredibly busy lives. With 60 hour work-weeks, kids, running errands, and the stress of everything else, it’s difficult to take an entire day off to volunteer. And yet, we do have spare time. But it comes in moments throughout our day.

– Jacob Colker

At Sparked, it’s our goal to offer *convenient* online volunteerism to you. We’re driven to fit volunteerism into the same kind of time that you might normally spend on Facebook, Farmville, or Twitter. It’s volunteerism for the digital age. We call it microvolunteering.”

I think this is a really exciting concept, and clearly one that is able to greatly leverage how people are spending their days in front of the computers. It’s a concrete way to make your digital downtime meaningful, outside of simply checking Facebook, watching YouTube, checking e-mail, checking Twitter, checking the MLS, and then going back to the beginning to start the cycle again.

It’s a great way to connect with others online, is selfless, and optimizes your work day in a truly helpful way. Digital volunteering is a way to make the effort you put into your work day even more special by using those small moments throughout the day to make a difference in others’ lives. Take a look at some of their projects – very often they are just asking you to rate something with a yes or no answer on a topic of interest to you. To someone looking for feedback at scale, if 100 people did this it would be amazing. You’ll find non-profits in there, as well as just people looking for advice and feedback on the things they’re working on. It’s selfless problem solving, and one way to make your online efforts meaningful.

So what does this all mean for us? I argue that passionate real estate marketers don’t ‘choose’ platforms on which to work online. There’s no selection process, as that implies a strategic decision to grow your business in a structured way. I don’t believe it works like this. These people are using these platforms because the services excite them. They see possibilities to connect, to have fun, to say hi. They don’t see dollars, they see friends they don’t yet have.

Think about this next time something new comes up. Or if you want to step outside your current marketing ideas. Or if you just want a change in an attempt to do something different. Or perhaps even next time you want to crash in front of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Think about how passionate you really are about how you work online. Do you wake up excited about it? Or do you fear the inbox? Do you worry that Twitter is overwhelming? If this is the case, you’re not into what you do, and you might consider that you’re wasting you’re time.

I believe that those who are truly passionate about what they do, work selflessly and have the hustle gene baked deep into their DNA, will win. And win big.

Customers can smell this from far, far away.

For more on Sparked, please visit:


Further Reading:

Clay Shirky: ‘Cognitive Surplus’
Gary Vaynerchuk: ‘The Thank You Economy’
Nick Bilton: ‘I Live In The Future And Here’s How It Works’
Carmine Gallo: ‘The Power Of Foursquare’
Tony Hsieh: ‘Delivering Happiness’

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