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I Bet Many of the Cool Kids Are On the Verge of Greatness

I’ve always loved the Cool Kids (CKs). I’ve never been a cool kid, but the kinda sorta quasi-cool guy who seemed to think differently, while simultaneously remaining under most folks’ radar. I’ve been the poster boy for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours principle, which says we don’t become excellent at something ’till we’ve logged that many hours doing it. The CKs in the ethereal world of 2.0 real estate come and go, but the ones who’ve remained, some hangin’ by their fingernails, are the ones still puttin’ in those first 10,000 hours in the fields. That’s hopefully a diplomatic way of sayin’ they’re still mostly theoretically based and not so much empirically experienced — but gettin’ there.

A few of these CKs are gonna rise one morning realizing they’ve figured out where that last piece to their particular puzzle goes. When that happens we’ll all benefit wildly. ‘Till then? Let’s stop fallin’ in love with all the ‘can’t miss’ marketing ideas tossed at us as if they’re just as reliable as gravity and Grandma’s raisin-bran muffins. It just ain’t the case. If so, most of these kids would be livin’ the life of Steve Jobs, a CK himself, who actually put in the 10,000 hours and leveraged it to the max. Then he kept adding more 10,000 hour blocks to ensure the excellence of results.

What I’m tryin’ to say, and poorly at that, is that the CKs need to keep plowin’ their fields without ceasing. It’s like gettin’ in shape. You begin with a jelly belly and become discouraged after a week cuz you don’t look like Adonis yet. Rely on the universal principles at work — the most important of which is putting in your time. There’s simply no substitute for that part of the process. When working out consistently for a year, our jelly bellied friend is now slim ‘n trim, and wearin’ tank tops whenever possible. 🙂 Meanwhile, the others who haven’t unambiguously logged the hours, day in and day out, failed — but they’re still CKs, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m about to complete my eighth 10,000 hour block in real estate related practice. This last one has been brutally humbling. Thank the Lord for the previous 70,000 hours. 🙂 It’s been the one requiring me to combine my OldSchool experience with the current economically changing times and the online facts of life. OldSchool Training + Monster Economic Changes + Learning Online Principles X 10,000 hours = We’re about to see.

Here are some personal examples of the principle in action, followed by some predictions of what we might be seeing in real time soon by some folks some of you may know.

  • Started workin’ out just before I turned 16, trained by a very experienced guy. About a gazillion gym hours later I’m able to credibly compete in major regional contest.
  • RE license at 18 — was sick of it about 10,000 hours later.
  • Moved into investments — 10,000 hours acquired by 1981. BAD timing. 🙂
  • However, when first real recovery year hit, 1986, after yet another 10,000 hours, I had my first ever $100,000 year — the fruit of all those hours.
  • Decided I like umpiring. The umpiring equivalent of 10,000 hours later I’m recruited by NCAA group to try out. Was selected after summer long tryout. Post season first year. Did all those hours have somethin’ to do with that? Of course they did.
  • In the writing of this post I’ve spoken to a couple other contributors, Tom Vanderwell and Brian Brady, both of whom seem to relate to this principle. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but their histories, especially Brian’s, show clear benefits from hours spent in the fields.

    I can also point to Greg Swann. He’s been doing houses since roughly 2003 or so, after first spending time in rentals. He works inhuman hours a week, so I’m guessing conservatively he’s already logged well over 15,000 hours listing, selling, marketing and the like in those seven or so years. He’s been doin’ the whole Edison thing, experimenting with every possible aspect of the business. He’s been brutally honest with his failures, learned from them, applied his experience — basically a field plowin’ fool. He reminds me a bit of Jay Leno who was acclaimed as an overnight success after spending almost 20 years of over 300 shows a year. Yet, in these worst of times Greg’s breakin’ out BigTime. Imagine what he’ll do in a kinda sorta normal market when it finally arrives. A staggering thought.

    So, to Cool Kids I say — keep doin’ what you’re doin’, cuz we can see how some of you are gonna change how we do things. Log the hours and keep the faith.


    11 Comments so far

    1. Andy Kaufman March 29th, 2010 7:54 pm

      Great post Jeff. Funny that you posted this because I was thinking about this the other day when I realized that I’m approaching the 5 year mark of living digitally. 2005 was an exciting year. Tim O’Reilly coined the term Web2.0, I attended my first un-conference and a small group of us were embracing the new set of tools, connecting and living the edge. Since that time, I’ve found many shiny objects, some turned out to be fools good, but some radically changed how I lived my life. One thing remains though.. we can try to hack the 10k rule, but it still applies & nothing replaces actually logging the hours. Here’s to the future!

      PS- Cool kid or not, you alright in my book. 😉

    2. Ken brand March 29th, 2010 8:10 pm

      Nobody hits a home run further than you have in post, maybe 590 feet or so. Pure truth, time and pressure. I’ll be sharing. Thanks.

    3. […] I Bet Many of the Cool Kids Are On the Verge of Greatness – Good post reminding us that greatness does not come easy. Even Tiger Woods has to spend […]

    4. Jeff Brown March 30th, 2010 7:54 am

      Hey Andy — You were one of the CKs I was talkin’ about, approaching the end of your first 10K. I’ll tell ya what the feeling’s like when it dawns on ya that you’ve hit a new level. It’s akin the the almost indescribable feeling a kid gets when, after a myriad failures he finally throws a breaking ball that moves discernibly. I remember the first time my ‘sinker’ headed downward for reasons other than gravity. 🙂 You’d of thought I was Edison and the light stayed on.

    5. Jeff Brown March 30th, 2010 7:59 am

      Ken — You’re one of the guys for whom I have so much respect. Thanks so much. How many ‘blocks’ do you have under your belt?

    6. Jeff Brown March 30th, 2010 8:00 am

      Dean — Whenever anything I write ends up on your list, it makes my day — thanks.

    7. Ken brand March 30th, 2010 1:15 pm

      JB – I’m proud to say that I’m working on block 7, I’m about 62,000 hours into it (conservative formula – 40 hours a week (right.) X 50 weeks = 2k hours per year).

      It’s been a wacky ride, from monthly MLS books and mimeograph machines with purple goo, quarters and phone booths, one page contracts to iPhones and iPads, cloud computing, docu-sign and 45 page relo contracts….and a few market booms and crashes to boot. But you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way or trade it for another adventure.

      Rock on my man, thanks for sharing your wisdom and the Sensi-ways of the wily veteran. Cheers.

    8. Mark Madsen March 31st, 2010 3:04 pm

      Great post, Jeff. I was just talking with a friend about that first block you described. It’s been four years of Internet life for me, and I’m just getting to the point where I have an idea of what my purpose should be online. At least at this stage I think I know how to spot the shiny objects, but I’m a long ways away from where I need to be.

    9. Jeff Brown March 31st, 2010 5:04 pm

      Mark — Pretty soon the light will brighten, and everything will become pretty clear.

    10. Greg Swann April 1st, 2010 12:37 pm

      > I can also point to Greg Swann.

      Urf. I hate the thought of being a cool kid. Not my style at all.

      We’re a long way from Easy Street, but it’s interesting to me to note how little of our new business owes to gee-whiz toys, and how much of it comes from hard-scrabble plowing. As an example, pulls in a lot of first-contacts, but it’s not the blog itself that’s doing it but the vast amount of content we have built there, going all the way back to 2001 — long before the site was a weblog.

      We never did the local-interest and restaurant-review kind of stuff the actual cool kids talk about, but we know by now what pulls for us: Presentations of product and demonstrations of expertise. As with every other kind of product or service, consumers want to know what’s going on under the hood. The more of that we share, the stronger our relationships with new clients are from Day 1 (which can be Day 300 from the client’s point of view).

      Late tonight I’m going to take the first run at a new bot that will make it easy for us to post interesting homes to three different weblogs — one each devoted to bread-and-butter houses, to historic homes and to luxury residences. We don’t do enough blogging, and not consistently enough, so I want to build a tool to make it easy, fast and fun to pile up drafts to be posted later.

      I would love to say that we have this thing sussed, but I know we don’t. But I believe that our big growth is going to come from the hours we spend working after dinner. I’m thinking that if I can put in 10,000 hours between 8 pm and midnight, I might be able to take a day off one of these days.

      This was a great post, Jeff. Thanks for being such a tireless champion of excellence.

    11. […] ) I Bet Many of the Cool Kids Are On the Verge of Greatness – A good post reminding us that greatness does not come easy. Even Tiger Woods has to spend […]