Fair Weather Friends and Bell Bottoms… Real Estate Lessons from the Economic Crisis

bell bottoms

Editorial Note:  This blog post was first published in 2009 at a time when the real estate industry was facing the worst market that most current practioners had ever witnessed.  Looking back at the sentiments expressed in this blog post brings to mind some of the important lessons that period of challenge created.

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I remember the early 70’s when bell bottom pants were all the rage.  The bigger the flare the better.   Everything was just a tad ‘puffed’ up and that included ‘big hair’ like the Afro. Sometimes, it was difficult to have a sense of how tall a person really was.  Several young men I knew used the cover of bell bottoms to add several inches of height with platform shoes!

Bell bottom pants were also handy for ‘sweeping streets’ clean.  Many kids wore their bell bottoms so long, that the bottoms actually frayed from dragging across the street. But this was deemed better than revealing that you had spindly legs and a short torso. But really…who were you fooling?

Today, that excess almost seems nostalgic.  In fact, bell bottoms are considered vintage wear in some circles. And as for the mile high Afro…well, that was OK until it rained.  If you were unlucky enough to not have a head covering, your Afro disappeared like a poof of smoke!  Now, come to think of it, both bell bottoms and the Afro relied on the cover of ‘fair weather’ conditions.

But like all things in life, change happens.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the shift to skin tight stove pipe jeans created unforgiving revelations for everyone apart from those who had almost perfect figures.  It was as though, we had entered into fashions’ version of a period of reckoning.

You see, fair weather has a way of making many things seem alright. Over the past decade, the real estate industry has enjoyed a good deal of it. During the fair weather period, just about anyone was able to get a license and sell at least a couple homes a year… During the fair weather period, real estate brokers and associations welcomed everyone in with open arms; it didn’t matter if you could sell as long as you paid your fees on time. During the fair weather period, just about anyone with breath could get a loan…

But like all things which depend on the unpredictability of fair weather, the day of reckoning has arrived. Short Sales have now replaced the Sure Sale.  A lack of training has revealed an industry that is significantly short on training and follow-through at a time when the market is dictating increased scrutiny and consumers want to look to see what’s underneath your bell bottoms in a manner of speaking.  

And in truth, Bell Bottoms never really covered anything. It was all just temporary.  In the end when you took off your pants and platform shoes, you returned to the real you. Even if that was just at bedtime.

This is the sort of re-adjustment which I think is taking place in the real estate industry today.  We’re being forced to look at ourselves and take stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Stormy conditions are forcing us to take a good hard look at who we’re connected to. Have you found yourself surrounded by fair weather friends? Folks who are all too happy to enjoy the good times with you but are unwilling to buckle down to support the load?  

Or, has your experience been more about the bell bottom covering up stuff that really needs to be dealt with? Things like the fact that you’re not meeting your goals and don’t have a plan in place to make them happen.  This is an opportunity to take stock of what’s really going on professionally and to assess what skills we need to become competent to meet today’s challenges.  Without this sort of honest assessment, all the marketing in the world is doomed for eventual failure in this new era of transparency.

You know, times of challenge are kinda like stove pipe pants that have a way of revealing things that were less noticeable during a more forgiving period.  It’s up to each of us to get in shape!

Focus – Lessons on Living Life Well.

Spring Showers...

Spring Showers…

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Focus.  And the way our focus impacts our lives.  Focus is a magnifier.  It enlarges whatever it is directed towards.  Focus also is an attractor.  It brings to us whatever we pay attention to.

Focus is not just a mental activity.  It incorporates just about every dimension of our being.  And, it’s not optional.  We are all focusing on something.  It’s just a matter of WHERE we are choosing to place our focus at any given time and to what extent.  Even folks who have a hard time at focusing are actually doing so.  The difference is that they are simply jumping more rapidly from one thing; in other words a type of mis-directed focus.

Concentrated focus is incredibly powerful.  When we concentrate our attention on anything, we have the capacity to tap into an enormous reservoir of energy and opportunity. Over the years, I’ve talked with many real estate agents.  I’ve also had the opportunity to coach and train agents.  One of the most interesting elements of training has been exploring where agents place their focus during the work day and how this correlates to the results they’re achieving.

I was somewhat shocked to find that the average agent was spending less than 3 hours in any given day on real estate related activities which actually produced an income.  Yes, they may have been at a desk and even in front of a computer.  But what were they focused on?  More often than not, the focus was NOT on the things that generate income for agents such as: Prospecting, Lead Generation, Follow-up, Listing Appointments and Buyer Appointments.  It does not require genius to understand that three hours or less on any work related activity is not likely to bring in an living wage. Unfortunately, the advent of many online activities has made the issue of a lack of focus even more acute.

Focusing requires the discipline to take a step back and in some cases to step away from other activities.  It is about prioritizing and re-evaluating the direction in which you need to go.  Focus allows you to concentrate on things which need to be changed and to address issues which require urgent attention.

Lastly, focus requires balance.  Anything taken to an extreme is not advantageous.  In the past, I’ve focused so much concentration on my business that sometimes placed other important areas of my life on a back burner.

Balanced focus means that taking care of business does not come at the expense of family life, spiritual life, emotional health, financial well-being or spiritual vitality.  For it is in balance that focus brings it’s greatest gift.  Living a focused life means that we are fully present in whatever we do and when that’s over, we release and move on without regrets.  These are some of my lessons.  What does focus mean to you?

(Republished from 2012 – Copyright Audu Real Estate)

In Between the Cracks…

A burst of fresh green against the dilapidated fence

In starker contrast to the carefully manicured lawns and hedges,

this fence was clearly in need of attention.

Yet, despite the obvious decay, life was peeking in between the cracks.

Vigorous life, unrelenting in its ability to create vitality in spite of challenge.

Unwilling to yield to sordid staleness

Reaching out to delight the gaze

Of  anyone willing to notice.

On Life…

Over the past few days, I’ve had a few thought provoking conversations with colleagues.    The tumult that engulfed the real estate industry has had a profound impact in the lives of many of us…personally and professionally.  Everyone handles crisis in different ways.  And this was most clearly demonstrated by two conversations in two days.

As we exchange minor pleasantries during my first conversation, my colleague asked me how I was faring.  That’s a question fraught with a certain amount of angst for many in the real estate community due to the realities of distress sales and the frustration of dealing with increased levels of stress and incompetence.  I remarked that I was hoping that if I treated ‘Life’ kindly, she would respond in kind.  My colleague remarked on the fact that the advice he gave was, ‘treat ‘Life’ harshly and she will treat you kindly.  Very different philosophies…

The second conversation was with a colleague who I knew to have taken ‘Life’ by the bull horns.  A spirited soul who always sparked response and even sometimes a little controversy mixed in.  We hadn’t talked in awhile and I was glad to catch up.  As we talked, it became clear that this individual has gone through the crisis in a different way.  Gone is the anxious spirit and intense drive.  It has been replaced by a graciousness that allows life and its circumstances to move through without disrupting the internal peace.  The drive to succeed has been replaced with compassion and a desire to care for the family.  Definitely has me re-thinking
today…

Paradigm Change…The Power of the 3 Yard Shift!

One of my favorite Bible stories is about a group of experienced fishermen who went out on a lake to fish on an inky black night.  As time wore on, it became depressingly apparent that no fish were going to be caught in the net that night.  The prospect of dragging the water logged net back to the shore was the only thing that separated the engulfing gloom from the faintly emerging rays of dawn.

As the three contemplated their misfortune, a voice emerged from the diminishing darkness and shouted out a question, “Gentlemen, did you catch anything last night?”  Although they could barely discern the form, they responded by yelling back one miserable syllable…”NO”!

Most people would have shut up, for although misery loves company, most of us would prefer to leave it alone.  But not this guy.  Instead he offered an unsolicited word of advice.  He told them to drag the heavy, soggy net out of the water and deposit in on the other side of the boat.

Amazing!  Unbelievable! The guy was on the shoreline.  Did he even know anything about catching fish?  You wonder what went through the minds of the fishermen.  Did they question the logic of a ridiculous command?  After all, would it not have made more sense to make a suggestion about the stuff that everyone knows can affect a catch like…the fish aren’t biting because it’s the wrong part of the lake or you simply chose a bad day?

But to their credit, the fishermen obeyed.  And the narration records an extraordinary moment!   The text says that the fish rushed into that net that had moved location a grand total of a FEW YARDS with such force and vigor that the huge number of fish began to break the net.  What a difference a 3 Yard Shift can make!

This story demonstrates the power of little shift.  More often than not, the truly impactful moments in my life can be traced to ‘just one little thing’,  a simple moment in time when I made a quality decision or took a deliberate action.  While not all these moments have been good ones, many have had monumental impact in my life.

I’ve learned to respect the dawn of awareness and recognize the fact that profound revelations rarely occur in the limelight.  In fact, some of the richest shifts have occurred in the dark nights when my life boat has found itself moored on a lake which seemed devoid of opportunity and reward for my efforts.

It is there that I’ve learned to value the voice of intuition and wisdom which comes from a place where my rules and limited perceptions failed to make sense. I found that they don’t matter.  And as the dark scales  lifted from my eyes, it  becomes increasingly clear that the solutions have often been simpler and closer than I imagined.

So today, I’m encouraging you to set aside a few moments in your life to be open to a 3 Yard Shift.  It will require humility.  The sort that allows you to be open to guidance from unexpected sources.   But, I promise you…if you will listen and obey the voice, guidance will come.  For the solution is rarely about what’s out there; it’s more about the shift that comes from inside you…in your heart.

*this story is my paraphrased version of event.  An exact rendering of the ancient text can be found here.

Image credits via Flickr

The Art of RE-Membering How to Be Human.

Pain demands a response.  An urgent messenger who will not be denied the access of a hearing.  Even if the witnessing acknowledger is merely an audience of one.  The message is always delivered.  But, not always heeded or understood.

As the keynote speaker got up to speak during the West Michigan Center for Fair Housing luncheon this week, a projection of a public lynching emerged on the screen. A jarring image in any setting.  One designed to provoke a  visceral response.  I wondered where he was going with this…

My gaze was drawn to the two figures who were hanging by nooses from the tree.  But the speaker drew the attention of the audience to the crowd underneath the tree.  A large group of well dressed citizens, some of them  with smiles on their faces.  Two young teenagers hanging dead from a tree was a community social event!

This gruesome chapter in American history is one many of us would prefer no to re-read.  But beyond the imagery preserved in historic photographs, prints and yes…even postcards, there is an on-going issue of pain and its consequences both for the perpetrator and the victim.

The Art of RE-Membering How to Be HumanWhile the American story of opportunity and promise is a shining beacon of hope to many around the world, the underbelly of this story has a dark side.  One in which people struggled to get ahead, stay alive and manipulated power to their advantage at the expense of other human beings.  History reveals that  fear, rage and the desire to increase or maintain power were often the driving forces behind the most heinous acts of racial injustice.

Pain is something we prefer to avoid. We fight it, medicate it, sometimes ignore it, and often strike out and wound again because of it. However, the pain of the past has the capacity to serve as more than a stark reminder of our failings as individuals within community.  The fact that we recoil and want to move on indicates that we know that all is not yet well.  Pain is not sent to stay, it’s purpose is to deliver an injunction to initiate healing.

When we ignore the message, pain can do a number of things, the most insidious being to re-format itself in a way that can serve to spread the infection covertly.  This is sometimes referred to as Secondary Pain Syndrome.  A condition in which the initial onset of the pain has now been transferred to another part of the body.

This is the challenge we face as a country today.  The pain of racism has taken on camouflage.  It has spread in ways that are covert and harder to quantify or identify.  The refusal or inability to deal with the constraints which tempt us to devalue and deny the dignity of another human being now threaten to undermine our capacity to live as fully human. And to recognize the divine spark that exists in every ‘other’ who exists alongside us.

Because pain can do this to you.  It can make you forget who you are.  Pain can cause you act irrationally and to strike out with incredible viciousness and in the process create shame and guilt.  It can kill, literally depleting the life blood of hope and inspiration which sustains the body, soul and spirit.

The reason why we must examine issues of Fairness in Housing  and our explicit or implicit participation is that ultimately we cannot afford not to.  The key is Awareness.  We cannot afford to ignore the gift and extinguish the hope of others simply because they are not like us.  For in doing so, we are denying the basis of our own humanity. We hijack the promise which lies dormant within the potential of every human being.

Awareness is our hope.  It is awareness that brings understanding and compels action. Awareness  is what allows us to question WHY we respond the way we do, make certain types of assumptions and fail to react to the violation & denigration of human beings.  It is through awareness that we slowly begin to discover who we are and to see ourselves in the likeness of ‘the other’.  We re-awaken to the fact that we ARE the other.

Focus…Life Lessons


Lately, I’ve been thinking about Focus.
  And the way our focus impacts our lives.  Focus is a magnifier.  It enlarges whatever it is directed towards.  Focus also is an attractor.  It brings to us whatever we pay attention to.

Focus is not just a mental activity.  It incorporates just about every dimension of our being.  And, it’s not optional.  We are all focusing on something.  It’s just a matter of WHERE we are choosing to place our focus at any given time and to what extent.  Even folks who have a hard time at focusing are actually doing so.  The difference is that they are simply jumping more rapidly from one thing; in other words a type of mis-directed focus.

Concentrated focus is incredibly powerful.  When we concentrate our attention on anything, we have the capacity to tap into an enormous reservoir of energy and opportunity. Over the years, I’ve talked with many real estate agents.  I’ve also had the opportunity to coach and train agents.  One of the most interesting elements of training has been exploring where agents place their focus during the work day and how this correlates to the results they’re achieving.

I was somewhat shocked to find that the average agent was spending less than 3 hours in any given day on real estate related activities which actually produced an income.  Yes, they may have been at a desk and even in front of a computer.  But what were they focused on?  More often than not, the focus was NOT on the things that generate income for agents such as: Prospecting, Lead Generation, Follow-up, Listing Appointments and Buyer Appointments.  It does not require genius to understand that three hours or less on any work related activity is not likely to bring in an living wage. Unfortunately, the advent of many online activities has made the issue of a lack of focus even more acute.

Focusing requires the discipline to take a step back and in some cases to step away from other activities.  It is about prioritizing and re-evaluating the direction in which you need to go.  Focus allows you to concentrate on things which need to be changed and to address issues which require urgent attention.

Lastly, focus requires balance.  Anything taken to an extreme is not advantageous.  In the past, I’ve focused so much concentration on my business that sometimes placed other important areas of my life on a back burner.

Balanced focus means that taking care of business does not come at the expense of family life, spiritual life, emotional health, financial well-being or spiritual vitality.  For it is in balance that focus brings it’s greatest gift.  Living a focused life means that we are fully present in whatever we do and when that’s over…we simply let go and leave the past alone.