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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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Our Rose Tinted Glasses

“… as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns- the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
― Donald Rumsfeld
In BC the provincial real estate council places a heavy burden of responsibility for an agent’s actions on the shoulders of the managing broker of the brokerage the agent is licensed with. Given the numerous valleys of gray amongst the mountaintops of success, it is a difficult mandate to help agents navigate through the unknowns. It is particularly tough when an agent has just enough knowledge to allow their brains to build confidence in their actions, but not enough knowledge to truly be competent in the field.
I have heard it said that the first phase in any new vocation or skill is that of “unconscious incompetence”. The Provincial Real Estate Councils across the country do a relatively good job in helping new real estate licensees understand their short-comings in terms of their knowledge base in the profession. They move them into that more uncomfortable phase of having “conscious incompetence”. However, Rumsfeld’s mysterious shroud of not knowing what we don’t know is something that impacts on both the seasoned professional and the novice. We must be aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is the name for the blind confidence the brain gives an individual who fails to understand that they truly don’t know something. It is a cognitive bias that creates an inability to recognize personal short comings. Basically, it’s the effect of the brain reaching its limit of self analysis and thereby creating the sense of confidence to plow forward.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is named after David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the Department of Psychology at Cornell University. They conducted a series of experiments to study this phenomenon. Their findings shine a light on the fact that our understanding of things is highly subjective, and that we can fool ourselves into beliefs and prejudices that are inaccurate.
This inability to recognize one’s own inadequate knowledge or ability also brings along some other traits in the process. The unconsciously incompetent tend to overestimate their own level of skill, they fail to recognize genuine skill in others, and will only recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill once they are exposed to training in that area.
Although the Dunning-Kruger effect was first published as a study in 1999, throughout history writers and philosophers have made similar general observations of this very human trait. The book of Proverbs states: Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool; Confucius put it this way: real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance; Even Darwin has been quoted on the subject, stating: Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
Interestingly, when someone speaks with confidence, the majority of people with find it easier to accept information as fact than when one speaks tentatively. However, the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that those with inadequate knowledge have a self-induced sense of confidence because they have a cognitive inability to understand that they are, or might be wrong.
An analysis of experts and pundants in the media showed that in most cases their comments were inaccurate or just plain wrong. However, because these individuals were able to speak with confident bravado (and in sound-bites) they receive the media exposure. How often have world leaders in history been wrong and lead their countries in directions that time has proven to be damaging? No one, including monarchs, judges, and politicians, is totally immune to the Dunning-Kruger effect. History bears that fact quite well.
If you are in a situation where you are thinking, ‘How can this person be so wrong ‘, and you are totally confident that you are right…take a serious and reflective moment to consider that you, not the other person, might be experiencing the Dunning-Kruger effect. Benjamin Franklin had a wonderful way of freeing the brain from its unknown biases. He would take a sheet of paper and on one side list all the positive reasons for a decision or a potential action, and then on the other side of the paper he would list all of the reasons against it. If it is a list written openly and honestly, then the correct position will reveal itself. However, you have to be willing to accept the outcome, even when it reveals that your own bias could be wrong.
In the extremely complex business of real estate, it is imperative that REALTORS® and Brokers be wary of the ways the human brain can fool itself into a false sense of confidence or righteousness. Never forget to speak to bonafide experts and do research to uncover those areas of “unknown unknowns”.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are — or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.”― Stephen R. Covey
Our lives, and our individual experiences have equipped all of us with lovely rose-tinted glasses. If you understand that you are wearing them, the better part of the battle of becoming competent at the highest level is being won.

Can You Sleep Your Way to Success?

sleep pic
An Internet series called TED talks is a fascinating diversion these days. The series consist of experts in various fields sharing leading edge ideas and discoveries. The other evening I was scrolling through the latest of the TED talks and came across Russell Foster speaking on the subject of sleep. Foster is a circadian neuroscientist who studies the sleep cycles of the human brain.
While listening to Foster’s lecture, it occurred to me that having a successful career can be greatly aided by paying attention to one’s sleep habits and improving on them. This may seem contrary to the image of a hard-working agent who never rests, but research suggests that spending quality sleep time is actually time well spent.
Sleep is the single most important physiological activity of the human brain. A person living to the age of 90 will have spent 32 years asleep. Interestingly enough, the brain does not shut down during sleep, quite the contrary. There are some areas of the brain that are more active during sleep. Some genes are only turned on during memory consolidation periods of sleep.
However, sleep is complicated. Researchers have theories on what sleep is, but they don’t really know why we sleep.
The need for sleep is not restricted to humans. Other mammals and birds share with humans the two broad types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM). However, the sleep process seems to have a greater impact on human brain activity in the areas of memory consolidation and the creative areas of the brain. An adult reaches the REM stage of sleep every 90 minutes, but the function of REM is uncertain. What is certain is that without proper REM sleep, the ability to learn and retain information is clearly impaired, according to scientific research into the subject.
Our society is sleep deprived. We live in an aura of artificial light that affects natural sleep cycles. As a result we keep strange hours. We suffer from jet lag, shift work, late-night computer addictions and various other factors that limit the time resting. Margaret Thatcher famously said, “Sleep is for wimps”. According to Foster and other neuroscientists, Thatcher couldn’t be more wrong.
So, what happens when we don’t get our eight hours of proper sleep? Lack of sleep has a real nasty downside. For starters, things like mood change, stress, anger, impulsive actions, chemical dependence, lack of concentration, poor memory and lack of creativity will result from sleep deprivation. Heart problems, obesity and even mental health problems such as bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia have been linked to lack of sleep. For a professional, any one of these side-effects of the lack of sleep can really impair the ability to fulfill the job description.
On the other side of the coin, getting proper sleep will give you many of the attributes for a successful career. Sleep increases concentration, attention, decision making, creativity, social skills, maintaining a healthy weight and overall cardiovascular health. A study conducted in 2007 by researchers Turner, Drummond and Brown showed that working memory was clearly reduced by 38 per cent when one was sleep deprived. Another University of California psychiatry study of more than one million adults found that people who live the longest reported a regular sleep habit of seven to eight hours. Having good regular sleeping habits pays big dividends in health and effectiveness.
Some cultures have the accepted practice of taking an afternoon nap after lunch. Despite stereotypes and social bias, this is not a sign of laziness. Studies have demonstrated that taking a short “power nap” actually helps in overall wellness. The “siesta” has been associated with a 37-per-cent reduction in heart disease.
The idea of the “power nap” is not new. Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter, would often sleep in a chair while holding a spoon. When he went into the sleep phase, his hand would loosen and the spoon would fall. The noise would awaken him, and he felt refreshed and ready to work again.
Recent studies have proven that short naps during the day can be as good for some types of memory tasks as a solid night of sleep. NASA has conducted numerous studies and research into the effects of sleep patterns as part of its interest in the effects of space travel. The research has confirmed the importance of naps for memory, alertness, response time and other cognitive skills.
This is a far better outcome than a sleep deprived individual having his brain shut down into the phenomenon known as micro-sleep. Many industrial accidents and traffic tragedies have been caused by micro-sleep. We have all experienced the uncontrollable experience of micro-sleep during a boring lecture, an overly long sermon or an early-morning sales meeting. It’s that feeling when your eyes begin to close and your head slowly begins to drop despite your best efforts to engage your attention.
So, how do we create the atmosphere conducive to healthy sleep? Foster suggests reducing exposure to light a good half an hour before sleep. Have a dark room with a slightly cool temperature and don’t drink coffee after 3 pm.
Perhaps brokerages should provide a quiet dark room for those who need a power nap in the mid-afternoon and remove the stigma of short rest periods during office hours. It might provide as much benefit as an in-house gym, or café-style office area. That being said, having a power nap during a quiet open house is not recommended practice!
The conclusion in all of this is; if you want to be your absolute best in business and achieve greater success through capitalizing on your full potential, remember that quality sleep is a scientifically proven, valuable and important tool in achieving your goals. The plus side of developing and maintaining good sleep habits far out-weigh the negative results of sleep deprivation, regardless of what our current social mores may be.
Writer and journalist Tim Butcher once wrote, “Sleep is God. Go worship.”
Rest well!

Successful People

I was vPeter's sunriseisiting a professional colleague of mine recently and I noted a wonderful list on his wall of success traits. It was by his desk as a constant reminder of what the traits of a successful person, as well as the unsuccessful person, really are. It was very reminiscent of the late Steven Covey’s writings…focusing in on the character of an individual as the barometer of effectiveness, and ultimate success in life. This could be seen as a do’s  and don’ts list. I think it is a great reminder of keeping our focus on others by reminding us that true success is found in the synergy of working for the common good rather than our own self-interests…

Successful people:
Compliment
Have a sense of gratitude
Forgive others
Accept responsibility for their failures
Keep a Journal
Keep a “to-do” list
Set goals and develop life plans
Continuously learn
operate from a transformational perspective
Embrace Change
Exude Joy
Share information and Data
Talk about ideas
Read everyday
Give other people credit for their victories

Unsuccessful People:
Have a sense of entitlement
Criticize
Hold a grudge
Blame others
Think they know it all
Operate from a transactional perspective
Never set goals
Don’t know what they want to be
Talk about other people
Withhold information and data
Fly by the seat of their pants
Fear Change
Watch TV everyday
Take all the credit for their victories

In reviewing this list, there are full blogs to be written on each of these line items…but for now, consider these items and reflect on how they integrate into your mind set. It’s powerful stuff…I wish you all much success!

Einstein’s Last Words

Einstein

Albert Einstein died in 1955, having seen his concepts create a new world of understanding during his life. His passing was at a time when the cold war between the Soviets and the Americans was at a point of escalating. Much of the worry of that year, and the decades that followed were with the growing number of nuclear weapons that both super powers were amassing. The creation of the weapon that could effectively wipe out much of life on our planet was due in part to the theories that Einstein had developed.

Albert Einstein was not only a radical thinker, but he also was an amazingly creative communicator. Although his ideas are beyond the understanding of most of us, he was able to demonstrate his ideas using common speak. His description of the speed of light was done by referencing a moving train, while his explanation of gravity and time was done by the mental picture of an elevator.

The context of communication is so very critical. When looking at something as simple as market trend data for housing in Vancouver, the numbers can be skewed to reflect the researcher’s bias, or to amplify opposing opinions. Our age is quickly moving forward in the means that we communicate ideas and opinions. Today Twitter is evolving weekly to address the quick fix communication needs of social media. To some the world view has transformed into a series of games…spurred on by a generation that has grown up with video games and virtual reality. Looking for a home in White Rock or North Delta becomes an extension of gaming and social media in method and mindset.

The language of the landscape is changing, and as Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same thinking we used when we created them”. The notion of communicating value and service is becoming increasingly difficult in a culture and marketplace where information can be accessed quickly and effectively. The answer to meeting the communication demands in the real estate marketplace is not to continue to use the same thinking of even two years ago. Anyone in a service or consultation industry, like the Real Estate Industry, must find new ways to communicate service and value to the new consumer.

The context of the information is important, and although information is freely and readily available, it must be interpreted properly and effectively in order to best serve the constituents. As Albert observed, “Sometimes one pays the most for the things one gets for nothing.”

The hidden costs are often greater than the sticker price. This is why having effective communication is so critical. Understanding the information is more important than having access to the information,

Nothing reflects the need to communicate properly in the right context than Albert Einstein’s last words. Before he passed away, he felt the need to share some final thoughts. The only person in the room was the attending nurse. She heard the final words of the greatest thinker in history. Unfortunately, he spoke them in German, a language the nurse did not understand.