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It’s About Time to Think About… Time

It’s time for me to apologize.  Some time back I introduced an idea – a set of ideas really – called the POPs Program, which I always meant to get back to it, but haven’t until today. So, to those of you who faithfully read my articles and were excited to learn more about the POPs Program, I am sorry.  I hope all four of you will forgive me…

In that Introduction, I discussed the autopilot that so often ends up running a great deal of our lives, and how diligent we must be to prevent it.  But it’s not easy, especially if you are a real estate agent!  One of the most common complaints I hear from agents is there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done.  Sound familiar?  Well be careful because that’s the beginning; that’s when we first begin to reach for the autopilot button.  Not on anything important – at least, not yet.  We turn it on to handle little things in our schedule; we allow it to help us move through a very busy week.  But tuning out is a slippery slope and eventually leads to the two great roadblocks of success: Guilt and Fear… and it all starts with Time.

Temporal Awareness is the great gift, and great curse, of sentient beings.  Unlike any other organism on this planet, we are aware of time as a line; we are cognizant of a past and a future.  This no doubt has served us well.  We know how to delay gratification, plan ahead and save.  We are adept at learning from mistakes, recognizing patterns and creating the possibility of a more successful future based on experiences of the past.  BUT (and you just knew there was a big “but” coming), this linear understanding of time is the seed of our undoing as well.

To understand this better, go with me on a quick, imaginary trip to the Serengeti plains of Africa where a tiger is chasing a gazelle… presumably for lunch.  The entire chase lasts less than a minute before both animals are exhausted and, in our happy little trip, the gazelle has escaped.  Do you know what happens next?  Nothing!  The tiger lays down to rest; the gazelle joins the herd and does some grazing.  That’s it.  The tiger doesn’t look over at the gazelle and say “Next time, I’ll get you…  If it weren’t for my paw bothering me a little bit… You are so lucky I’m not really that hungry” and so on.  Neither does the gazelle join his friends and say “Did you see that?  That damn tiger was going to eat me!  I just barely got away… no thanks to any of you.”  No.  Instead, they both just move on to the next moment, and often less than forty yards apart!  That’s because they have no forebrain: they are unaware of any time other than the present.  We humans, on the other hand, oh jeez; there would be discussions and meetings and all kinds of nonsense.  If we were the tiger we’d look back and regret that we didn’t pounce earlier or pick a different gazelle.  We’d worry about whether or not we were going to eat in the future based on our performance today.  If we were the gazelle, we’d worry about going near the watering hole again, or maybe we’d wish we hadn’t run away from our little gazelle offspring so quickly.  In other words, we’d find reasons to experience Fear and Guilt.

So, you ask, what does any of this have to do with Real Estate?  Dumb question, I’m going to ignore it.

Here’s the integral part of all this: the past and the future – while arguably great conceptual tools – don’t actually exist.  They are not real.  But we can spend a lot of time there can’t we; especially if we attach emotions.  Let me ask you a question: Have you ever heard from someone, that a friend said something unflattering – even hurtful - about you?  Do you remember how you felt?  The anger, the confusion, maybe even the embarrassment?  Then, two days later, you run into this “friend” and it turns out they never said any of it!  Everything had been mis-communicated and you felt such relief.  Ever had that happen?  It’s interesting isn’t it?  Here we are feeling very strong emotions, becoming stressed, aging our bodies, and all over something that didn’t happen… that never even existed.  It’s the same with Past and Future.  They don’t exist – they can never exist.  Yet we spend a lot of time there in our minds, experiencing Guilt and Fear: the double-header of useless emotions.

Alright, so let’s tie this back to real estate for the sticklers out there who believe reading an online magazine for and about real estate should have something to do with real estate.  Things go wrong.  Let me repeat that for any brand new agent out there: Things go wrong.  As a matter of fact, things go wrong so often in real estate, you might be better served occasionally reminding yourself: Things go right.  Either way, it’s a learning experience… and that’s all.  Figure out what you did right or what you did wrong, make an adjustment, and move on.  Regretting something that’s gone wrong in the past is no different than being angry about something your friend never said.  It doesn’t exist.  But worse… MUCH worse, at least in our profession, is: Fear.  Worrying about how an appointment will turn out or whether a new marketing campaign will succeed or (God forbid) if the next person you talk to might say “No” – this is worse than being embarrassed about something someone didn’t say.  This is catastrophic because Fear paralyzes us; Fear prevents us from taking action; Fear blocks our success.  And the worst part: Fear is borne of the future, and the future doesn’t even exist.

Next time we’ll talk about the “meaning” of things in the past and the future, and the present as well.  In the mean time,  here’s a fun exercise to try.  Next time you find yourself a little fearful about picking up that phone, the next time you hesitate because “it might not work out” or “it didn’t work so well for me last time,” think again about how you felt the last time you thought someone said something about you, and they actually hadn’t.  Look yourself right in the eyes and say “<Insert First Name Here>, (you are on a first name basis with yourself, right?),  What if the future doesn’t actually exist?”

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  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. Jeff Brown April 29th, 2011 1:26 pm

      Love it. At 16, first driver’s license in hand, car (’59 Morse Minor) in the driveway, Dad asked if I had a date for Friday’s football game/dance. Nope. He quickly ferreted out of me that being turned down was akin to contemplating a fiery death.

      He asked, “Do you have a date now?” “Um, no.”

      “If you as her and she says no, will you then have a date?” “Um, no.”

      “Take your time with this one, OK? If you didn’t have a date before asking, and you walk away without a date, exactly what pray tell, did you lose?”

      Haven’t looked back since. Great stuff, Sean.

    2. Greg Swann April 29th, 2011 1:50 pm

      I drive my best beloved crazy because I refuse to decide anything before I have to. Like most people, she lives much of her conscious life anticipating and preparing for events that never occur. (There’s something worse, though: Striving with all your mindful might to “fix” the past.) I deal with the present in my high-D way and only worry about the future when there is something that can actually be dealt with. I’m too busy to worry, but I’m no good at it, anyway.

      With regard to Sales Call Reluctance, the best advice I’ve ever had came from sales trainer Marty L’Esperance: Some will, some won’t, so what?

    3. Brian Brady April 29th, 2011 3:48 pm

      I’m fortunate to hear this stuff a lot, before it’s written. I’m glad you wrote down what you’ve been saying all of this year.

      Here is the best news for anyone, who is feeling like this year is slipping away, and wishes he/she could change it–Sean is absolutely correct. The rest of the year starts…in 5 minutes. You can start doing the dynamic things it takes to improve your business right now. It might take 60-90 days for the actions you take today to become “bankable” but Sean’s advice, about acting in the present, could be worth tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars to you.

      It’s all about action…now

    4. Ashley King May 15th, 2011 2:13 am

      Hi Sean, I came across your inspirational stuff while looking for property in Serengeti residential estate in Guateng, South Africa. Thanks. Very thought provoking. I shall certainly use it to cut down on the stress levels next time I’m dwelling on the fear of what the future holds.

      By the way, just a note that tigers live in Asia, not Africa. We have lions but the story is the same.

    5. Sean Purcell May 15th, 2011 11:29 am

      Thanks Ashley! What a pleasure to hear from someone who found this post looking for property in South Africa! I appreciate your kind words AND the education about lions vs tigers. I will definitely remember that.

      Good luck on your home search!

    6. Jo Amick June 5th, 2011 4:21 am

      This is an excellent post Sean. It makes me think of all the unnecessary things we stress ourselves about, and worse, for no reason at all. Very inspiring and thought provoking post here and thanks for sharing it.