We’ve all heard the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!” (unless you’re Greek, in which case you make Avgolemono – a delicious Mediterranean soup created with lemons). This year I had the opportunity to make a big batch of lemonade, and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it ended up being the sweetest batch of lemonade I’ve ever made!
I want to go to the punch line first. Several days ago I was notified by Inman News that I am nominated as one of Inman News’ ”100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders”. Inman has long been recognized as a powerhouse in the real estate industry, garnering respect from thought leaders, heads of large real estate corporations, affiliate partners, and Joe Real Estate Agent on the street. It’s an amazing organization dedicated to helping real estate agents everywhere create better businesses.
Being nominated for the list is a huge honor, and I am absolutely thrilled. Individuals on this list are key players who have positively influenced the real estate industry. Making a positive difference in the lives of my clients is something I’ve been passionate about for over two decades. It’s what drives me! So being recognized for something I’ve made my life’s mission is highly rewarding.
Most people who know me know that I am a no-nonsense sort of person. When I speak, I tell it like I see it. When I have praise for a client, it’s lavish. When I have suggestions for a client, they’re designed to help a client correct a problem or work through a situation so they can have a better life, and a better business.
Most people who know me also know that when I am passionate about something – whether it’s a core belief, or a cause I support, I will be strong in my defense of that belief or cause.
Earlier this year I stood up for something that I believe in very strongly – intellectual property rights. As the owner of a marketing and training company, intellectual property rights are something I need to be concerned about – not just for myself, but for my clients, too. But it goes further than that. I’m actually quite passionate about intellectual property rights! The core idea behind this is an individual’s ability and right to defend original work from reproduction or theft by others. Whether it’s a photographer, a graphic artist, a quilt maker, an author, or a chalkboard graffiti artist, everyone has the right to defend their original work.
In February this issue of intellectual property rights hit close to home, and I was forced to defend my strongly-held belief. Because I stood up for my principles, my staff and I were verbally attacked in phone calls that could best be described as unpleasant, and I faced a barrage of insults online – many of which had absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. What was said, and done, by others not involved in the situation was reprehensible.
In fact, I was told by a trusted industry leader that Google indicated that this was the worst instance of online attacks against a company that they had ever seen in the real estate industry.
As a member of the National Association of Realtors™ I abide by a strict Code of Ethics. That code is not just words written on a piece of paper that sits in a desk drawer somewhere. It’s a living, breathing entity designed to provide a framework for professional interaction in our industry.
Throughout the conflict, the Realtor™ Code of Ethics was a reminder of the need for a calm, strong, and firm response to the conflict around me. Of course, the respect I accorded others during the situation came from inside me, but it was most definitely sustained by the Code. Sadly, the Code was trampled on by many others who involved themselves in online controversy without the benefit of research, and full knowledge of the situation. As a result, the online attacks resulted in multiple violations of the NAR’s Code of Ethics.
Throughout the controversy I maintained my dignity, secure in the knowledge that I was right. I was determined not to stoop to the level of my attackers; in fact, I did not attack back. I did not insult people who were vilifying me. I let them have their voice, and share their opinion about the situation. That’s not to say I didn’t want to respond differently! It’s human nature to want to fight back when you’re attacked. But because conflict resolution is one of the topics I teach, I knew that stepping into the fray would be unproductive. I took my own advice – and it served me well during that difficult time.
This year I’ve had the opportunity to speak on real estate across the United States and Canada. I’ve been in San Francisco, in Toronto, and in Vancouver, British Columbia. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been overwhelmed by the comments I’ve received – often from total strangers – who told me they admired how I handled myself during the conflict. I am touched in recent months by a heartfelt outpouring of support from all corners of our industry.
As tough as it seems, it is possible to remain strong, calm, and firm in the face of conflict. Because of my strength and the way I carried myself, people who were watching the situation began reaching out to me … to learn my side of the story.
And a funny thing happened! I met some of the most amazing people in this industry; people whom I most likely never would have encountered had this not happened. These people were willing, and able, to look at the issues involved – not the personalities of the players. In their own way, they remained calm and firm in reviewing the situation. As a result of their outreach to me, I’ve established strong relationships with many of these individuals, who are some of the finest people in this industry.
I am also reminded that I have an amazing team at The Lones Group. Throughout it all, they were there to support me. One of the things I was most troubled about during this time was the fact that they, too, found themselves the focus of vicious, personal attack. And yet, they never wavered in their support. On some of the darkest days, they were my sunshine.
During the conflict, my detractors said I was “a joke,” didn’t know what I was talking about, that I was a “dinosaur,” and that I was “committing brand suicide” by asserting my rights. In fact, I walked through the conflict, and out the other side, with a brand that wasn’t merely intact – it was enhanced! Even more than before, people in this industry understand that one of the key values my brand represents is integrity.
The troubles I faced this year reminded me that our biggest “wins” often come out of the darkest times – the times you want to crawl back in to bed, throw the blankets over your head, and hide from the world. As hard as it is, the dark times are when you need to dig deep, and find the strength to persevere. Not only can you simply “make it through”, you can come out stronger because of it! Many times we experience the most joy when we win in the toughest situations.
This year, I learned that it’s always the right thing to stand up for what you believe in.
This year, I learned that the way you stand up (strong, calm, and firm) allows you to do so with dignity and without belittling others.
This year, I learned that it’s important to hear all sides of the story before leaping to conclusions, and taking actions that can hurt others.
This year, I learned that people are able to distinguish “right” from “wrong”, and are able to admit they made a mistake.
This year, I learned that some of your finest end results can come from some of your darkest beginnings.
And this year, I learned that there are some truly phenomenal individuals working in this industry, many of whom I am proud to call my colleagues – and my friends.
Now, back to the recognition I received from Inman. I was included in the list of nominees for the 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders due to nominations from you – my readers and clients. And today I’m on my way to teach at the National Association of Realtors™ convention in Anaheim. I’m excited about the possibility of sharing my ideas with some of the most respected agents and brokers in the country.
If you’d like to participate in Inman’s voting process, please cast your vote! I so appreciate your belief in me, your trust as I helped you build successful real estate businesses, and your support during this past year. You’ve helped me make lemonade from the sourest lemons I could imagine.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Are you facing a dark time in your personal or professional life? I want you to know that great things can follow! Keep your head up, listen to your heart, and trust your gut. I know that your “lemonade” is just around the corner.
To see the list of nominated individuals of Inman’s 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders (and to vote for your favorite), please visit this link: http://www.inman.com/news/2011/11/2/2011-peoples-choice-real-estates-most-influential