“If you’re gonna lose, lose fast.” My manager gave me this advice. But I’ve never exactly been one to listen to advice … not even from my own mother.
After all, who needed advice when you were ME? I had been an award-winning real estate agent in sunny Southern California for years and worked in a few other states before SoCal. I knew what I was doing. I was a pro!
Still, despite all my years in the biz, there was definitely something unique about this California adventure. Especially the big real estate wave that started in the early 2000s – and that I had been riding very happily for some time.
My life went kind of like this …
I’d wake up in the morning, pop in the shower, only to be dragged out, dripping wet, by my ringing cell phone. Nine times out of ten, it would be a buyer calling and asking to buy a house.
And that tenth time? A seller wanting to cash in on the real estate boom.
The business was booming – like fireworks on the Fourth of July. I was regularly selling listings before I had time to plant the for-sale sign in the front yard. I’m talking busy, furiously busy, barely-time-to-breathe busy. And being at the center of it all, I felt amazing … all-powerful … unstoppable. Like the world’s greatest choreographer putting together some fabulous Michael Jackson video … “YOU – give me a moonwalk here… YOU – I need a head pop there… ”
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying life was perfect. There were plenty of days where I swore if my phone rang ONE MORE TIME, I was going to throw it in the ocean. (I didn’t. It was a really nice phone.) Not to mention plenty of times when I was out showing property on a Saturday night and writing offers on the hood of my car when the rest of SoCal was tucked in bed sleeping – or partying the night away at some fabulous nightclub.
But I had a mobile office and could write an offer anywhere, anytime, anyplace. I was free and I was winning.
Ahhhh, those were the days.
Still, there were a few dark clouds forming over my sunny California fantasy world. Like those pesky experts who kept talking about “the bubble.” We agents had been hearing it for years – “We’re in a bubble!” “Just wait until that bubble bursts!” And we’d all look at each other and say, “What bubble?” We were out in the field, out in the trenches every day! We didn’t see any bubbles! Just sold signs as far as the eye could see, and big, fat checks rolling in …
Quickly and quietly, things started changing. The market downturn snuck up on us when no one was looking … and left a whole heap of devastation in its wake. I didn’t have to worry about spending my Saturday nights working anymore. I couldn’t get anybody to buy a house if I ran through the streets naked! Seems like nobody could.
There were a lot of agents who didn’t see it coming, and a lot of agents who stayed in denial about it for a long time. It had to get better, right? It was only a matter of time.
As for me, well, I pretty much blamed myself for the downturn. Yes, in my own mind, somehow I personally, had total control over the economy and the housing market. <insert gasp here!>
Okay, not exactly. But I did keep asking myself what I was doing wrong, what I was missing, where I was being lazy. And no matter how much I asked, I just couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working like magic anymore.
Being from Texas, there was no way I was gonna give up without a fight. I signed up for a very expensive $5,000 sales course to improve my skills. I regularly visited a prominent creative visualization expert to try and get my visions back on-track and create my future. I joined a “success team” with other business owners who wanted to expand. I doubled my prospecting and follow-up calls thinking, “Maybe if I just apply myself a little more.”
And what did I get?
I started to panic. That amazing multiple six-figure incomes that I was so used to, and that I so very thoroughly enjoyed, was spiraling downward. The life I had lived for so long felt more like a dream from a distant past. And instead of creating my beautiful future, I was focused on my very scary present.
But I wasn’t alone in the panic room. My manager and broker started calling weekly staff meetings to brainstorm ways to deal with the market. I laughed to myself and said they were like two balls in the pinball machine, bouncing off the walls with a lot of clanging. However, as I began to research the downturn on the internet, I realized there was not a heck of a lot of information about how to handle a down market.
Towards the end of the year, I had a brilliant idea! I would ask the top producers in my area how they were coping. These were the guys that totally dominated the market, that had been in the industry through the highs and lows, heck, one of them even made over a million dollars a year. They had to have some good advice for me.
And guess what I learned? While my own income was down 30% … one at a time, each of these top producers revealed to me that THEIR incomes were ALSO down… by exactly 30%.
Wooo-hooooo! It wasn’t ME! I wasn’t doing anything wrong! I was in just as big a mess as everyone else! I was falling as hard as the biggest players!
Of course, after getting over my momentary excitement at finally, finally finding a reason not to blame myself for my misery, I quickly got back to reality. Because the problem with shared misery is… it’s still misery. And while the economists were saying, “This isn’t a down market, it’s finally a normal market” (I really hate those guys), personally, I still felt frustrated. Homeowners were going into foreclosure left and right.
That sure didn’t seem normal to me.
Then one day, I was sitting in my hairstylist’s chair, and he said another of his clients (who was also an agent) was in foreclosure because her income had dropped so far down. That didn’t seem normal either – when even agents, experts in real estate, are losing their homes, that sounds like a problem.
But the thing about problems is, they’re supposed to have solutions. So I started searching for a quick fix. Everywhere I turned, those naysayers were back, raining on what I hoped was going to be my next parade. The real estate gurus kept saying there was no quick fix for a real estate agent, that you have to have a foundation. They would say to go back to the basics, or to focus on client relationships.
What about the age-old meditative question “What one thing could be changed, that if you did change it, would drastically improve your business?” Did I really have to go all the way back to the basics?
Aaaaarghhh! How could I possibly go back and focus on basics when I had to pay my bills? There was no time!!
For me, that was really the moment when my search began. There had to be a real solution to what to do in a down market. And I was going to find it.
I had always been good at analyzing situations to make things better. Which is supposed to be a good thing. But I realized that by spending so much time thinking about how I used to do things, and in taking those experts’ advice and going back to the basics, that I was making a big mistake. I was spending so much time looking backward that I literally had nothing to look forward to.
That’s a little “backward” for an optimist like me!
And I noticed something else, too. In looking back and reviewing my life, my projects, my lessons learned, there were no exclamation points.
What do I mean by that?
You know how you look back at your life and say, “I did this, I did that. Period.” Or … “My greatest accomplishments this year were blah, blah, blah. Period.” It was kind of like that. In reviewing, in analyzing, in looking to the past for ways to make things better, the end result was always a period – at least for me.
So where were my exclamation points?
When you’re excited about something, when the prospect of something new is so flat-out amazing that it makes your toes tingle, it can’t possibly end with a period. It ends with an exclamation point.
You know, like “I got a new job!” “I’m in love!” “I have a brilliant idea!!!!”
My exclamation points were in my future, in my looking forward! That turned out to be a transformational moment for me.
I also remembered sitting with my friend Vicki and watching her 5-year-old son. He was toddling around the room, over the sofa, under a chair, just like any active child. Then he suddenly ran head-on into a door jamb and burst into tears.
Vicki picked him up, dusted him off, and said, “Michael! You keep watching where you’ve been instead of where you’re going!” She plopped back down on the sofa with me and shook her head, remarking on how many bruises and scabs he had from always looking behind.
Well, I couldn’t help but ponder that one! If I always looked at the past – even if the purpose was to make things better – would I also come away with bruises and scabs, as the universe tried its best to point me in the right direction?
One thing was for sure… I wanted those exclamation points back! I wanted to look at where I was going and not where I’d been! I wanted to find my inner optimist again!
The only question was, how… ???
Has that ever happened to you? Where other people “see” a very clear direction for you? One person after another would ask me, “Are you writing a book?” I heard this so often that I finally decided to become an author. I decided to interview other Realtors all across the country to get their insights. I decided to become a publisher’s darling.
It was 2007, the bubble had burst, and all across the country, agents just like me were wondering, “what the $&#% do I do now?” And as a curious, pro-active, let’s-make-it-happen kind of gal, I was going to go right to the source to get the answers I needed – and we all needed – to make things better.
It would have been a great book, I promise.
But the universe had other ideas for me.
Basically, it went like this.
Remember when I told you how so many of those top producers were also down 30%, just like I was, and that it made me feel SO much better about my situation … for about 10 minutes?
Well, that’s not all I learned from my conversations with these very powerful, very successful people. The more of them I talked to, the more I learned that they all had ONE thing in common.
And no, smarty-pants, I’m not talking about a strange passion for poking around in other people’s houses.
No, the thing I uncovered, the one, big, giant universal truth all these top producers shared, was a common thread of feeling burned out! Just like me, so many of these top producers were looking for something more.
Just being a top producer and making millions of dollars wasn’t enough for them. It didn’t solve their problems. It didn’t make their lives perfect.
So, me being me (curious, always looking for an opportunity, and just a little obsessed with solving problems) I started asking, what would make these top producers feel like they were living the lives they deserved? What were all these very powerful, very successful people missing?
Because, news flash!!! If I could figure out what’s missing from the lives of people who, at least in my field, appear to pretty much have everything, maybe I could write a book that would do more than offer coping strategies for an economic downturn.
Maybe I could actually offer some strategies … for personal growth???
As my interviews continued, the book began to change shape. It began to pick up speed. First, it morphed into being about passions. But as we all kept talking about our passions, the idea of Beingness vs. Doingness started to take over. Then optimism came from there, but it still wasn’t IT. It wasn’t the big something that I was looking for. But something was rolling downhill …
It wasn’t until that day when I was trying to go “back to basics” and I had my AHA moment about the exclamation points. Then it all came together for me. I realized that these superstar Realtors, these top producers, had lost their exclamation points, too! And just like me, they were looking for a way to get them back!
Maybe that’s what this book was supposed to be about.
Maybe I could help transform a person who had lost their exclamation points and wanted to choose optimism over mediocrity.
Maybe I could even help transform someone who’s in moral ambiguity [oooh, I like that phrase!] and they need to figure out what happened to their values.
Maybe I can even offer an answer to that age-old question, “How can I believe in myself again?”
Did I, personally, have all the answers to those questions? Ummm … no. Not exactly. Not even a little bit. So this journey I was about to take with this book was going to help ME, too. Help the world and help myself at the same time – now that sounded like a project I could get behind!
So I decided to take my search to the Masters of Transformation and Exclamation Points. I researched hundreds of books and articles, and talked with some of the most respected therapists, life coaches and authors in the business – along with a few other folks I just happen to think are awesome – looking for answers to the BIG QUESTIONS we all have.
I gave birth to my first book: Living Life As An Exclamation Point! It had such a profound effect that I was inspired to do my next book: Finding Your Passionate Life. Then my muse encouraged the next one, a more practical handbook: Resilience! How to Get UNstuck and Get Your Life Back so You Can Align with Your Life Purpose. And more recently: UNlock Your Hidden Power! The 22 Undeniable Laws of Alchemy.
So yes, some people call me an UNstuckologist. Some people call me a personal growth catalyst. And some people call me multi-faceted. Because at the end of the day, even though I have a very successful online business as an author, a podcaster, and a spiritual teacher … I’m still a real estate junkie.