Things my guitar taught me about Real Estate

At Okanagan Lake

Well, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two
Guitar pickers in Nashville
And they can pick more notes
Than the number of ants
On a Tennessee ant hill
Yeah, there’s thirteen hundred and fifty-two
Guitar cases in Nashville
And anyone that unpacks his guitar
Can play twice as better than I will
– The Lovin Spoonful – “Nashville Cats”

I first picked up the guitar in the mid-sixties. It was the era of the British Invasion, a time when the guitar was king. I wasn’t interested in learning how to play the clarinet, or the accordion like many of my friends were being forced into by their parents…it was the guitar that caught my imagination and stimulated my musical heart. The thousands of musical wanna-bees across North America all began nursing their fingertips in step with the growing popularity of the six string box. Ed Sullivan and the other variety shows blazed the trail for the guitar with their invites to the various young rock n roll bands. The sounds and images of the guitar found its way into the living rooms of America. We all watched with hunger, as the guitar players weaved their magic with new musical styles. Clearly the love of guitar followed the advent of artists like Elvis and the Beatles on the old black and white television.
It was only a decade previous that the guitar began to grow in prominence in popular culture. Les Paul and Mary Ford helped set the pace with their innovative records in the early to mid-fifties. Les Paul is of course credited with helping invent the solid body electric guitar. He also helped to create the modern recording sounds we hear today, like echo effects and multi-tracked recordings.
The guitar has been very good to me over these years. When I reflect back, I recall the relationships and opportunities given to me that connect directly back to those steel strings. Working as a session player and back up musician in the past, I have had the opportunity to work with some well known artists, as well as meet many of my generations leading musical personalities. Over the years my guitar has been heard on hundreds of records, radio jingles, TV and Film soundtracks. I share this all to reflect on what 45 years of playing guitar has taught me as I relate to the world of Real Estate. Here are some of the points that the old guitar has left with me…
Stay in tune – A lot has been written about the “frequencies” of positive thought, and how focusing on the vibrations of energy can result in the secret of success. Whether that is true or not is subject to debate, but one thing that I am sure of is that in order to make a positive connection with people, you need to make sure that you are in tune with them. Just as a guitar that is out of tune will not resonate with a listener, if you are not in tune with your Seller or Buyer, it will feel uncomfortable for both you and the Client. Take some time to tweak your understanding of their background, current situation, and future goals. When you are in tune with your clients, you will be able to perform better and feel more satisfied with the results. Everything needs to vibrate in harmony to have a successful relationship.
Practice – There are no shortcuts to competence in any field. This applies to guitar as well as real estate. I spent endless hours playing scales, and working on songs that I wanted to understand musically. When I did a gig with pop star, Bobby Vinton, I learned all of his songs before we had our first rehearsal. Later, he expressed amazement that I knew all of his tunes inside and out without the aid of sheet music. In Real Estate, rehearsing dialogues to answer common objections, working on your listing or buyer presentations all pay off with the air of confidence that you will have when you meet your prospective clients. First impressions can’t be erased, so making sure that you are ready and capable is of the utmost importance. Use your phone or a mirror to practice. Write mock contracts so that you will be able to deal with issues without hesitation. The old adage, “Practice makes perfect”, holds true in Real Estate as much as in music.

Have the right tools – The first guitar I was given as a young musician was a Simpson Sears “Silvertone” from the catalogue. It was a pretty thing, made of plywood but it was almost unplayable. When I got my hands on a decent guitar some years later, I found myself improving very quickly as a guitarist and musician. The difference was in the tool that I had in my hands. That first guitar only took me so far…I needed a proper instrument to move into the next phase of musical growth. Later in life, I found that having the right amplifier, or effect pedal, helped make the difference in whether I got the gig or not. It is the same in Real Estate. In order to move upward in your career, the proper tools will make all the difference. Having a good smart phone, tablet, or using a solid data management system will make life and your career function so much better. Don’t be afraid to try new technology, the winning horse might only win by a hair…and that whisker might be the tool you have that your competition doesn’t.

Find the harmony even in discord – The interesting thing about music is that seemingly discordant notes can be blended together to create a really beautiful sound if the surrounding environment of harmony is attended to. For example, a minor second interval will sound unpleasant to the ear, but only until a third note is introduced. In Real Estate there might be a conflict between the Seller and Buyer….and often is…but as a REALTOR, adding that third part to the equation will make the difference. Sometimes the discord only needs the right context to smooth out the apparent conflict. Look for solutions, ways to blend the opposing interests of two different parties. Even the most outrageous discord can find a sweetener if you are creative enough to look for it.
Passion will carry you through the trials – When I was first learning to play the guitar, my fingers would get sore to the point of blisters. Anyone who has tried to learn the guitar will testify to the pain that will result from trying to press down on the strings in order to make a sound. I was able to work through the blisters until they became calloused because of the driving passion I had to learn how to play the instrument. Once my fingertips hardened it became easier to finger those cheese slicer grade strings. It was only the passion to learn how to play that made it possible to get to the point, past the pain and frustration, into making music. In Real Estate, we find ourselves at points where the going gets tough…we may be out of listings, or we can’t find buyers…or it may be the frustration of clients that are indecisive. Whatever the frustration, it is the passion for what we do that will carry us through these tough times. REALTORS need to use their passion for the work in order to deal with the inevitable tough moments. It gets easier when you have your heart in your work.
Find your personal style – In the world of guitar music there are a lot of directions that one can take. There is the classical discipline, popular music, world, or flamenco music. You can decide to play with a pick or with your fingers…or even both. Some have chosen to follow the style of the Delta Blues, using a slide on the finger, then there is the decision on going electric vs acoustic…Bob Dylan made big waves with that decision at the Newport Folk Festival in the sixties. The bottom line is that focusing on the style of music that speaks to your heart will give you the best results. In Real Estate, the options are many. One can specialize in a given type of home, specific neighbourhood, residential, new construction, or the various options in commercial Real Estate. Focus on a specialty that speaks to your passion and you will reach your best potential in the business. Don’t be a jack of all trades, because that will make you a master of none. Seek your heart and follow it in this business. The beauty of Real Estate is that you can find so many different options to build your career with that it is limitless for your options. The key is to find your personal style. What works for you and what you love to do will make all the difference in your career.
The guitar has given me many gifts and taught me a lot about relationships, life and business. It has introduced me to people and given me credibility through my playing. I can honestly say that picking up the instrument in my early teens shaped me as a person and has impacted on my professional life like nothing else. I like the fact that apart from the guitars obvious pleasure as a musical instrument, it can also teach object lessons in life and business. Over the years, I have been amazed at the number of people I have encountered who love and play the guitar. This includes many high profile business personalities. The love of guitar is shared by a beautiful community of people who have used the lessons the instrument has given them to excel in life and business. I follow that path and I will keep playing the guitar until my hands can have no more.


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