These will probably not surprise you at all. But if some of these catch your attention, you may have a little work to do… Don’t worry, we ALL do!
Here they are:
They actively listen
They make a great first impression
They’re accountable for their mistakes
They do what they say they’ll do
They treat everyone with respect
They ask questions instead of making assumptions
They live their own life – not one that is held hostage by the opinions of others
They remember your name
They offer to help
They aren’t afraid to make mistakes
They send Thank You notes
They encourage others
They speak slowly and confidently
They don’t judge you
The forgive and don’t keep score
They don’t speak for you
They know how to give a compliment
They know how to receive a compliment
They tell the truth
They celebrate others
They have good body language
They don’t criticize others
They give you their undivided attention
They don’t make you feel defensive
They don’t take credit for other people’s successes
They maintain good eye contact
They let you do most of the talking
They know how to have a tough conversation
They admit when they are wrong
They are consistent
They don’t interrupt
They are not afraid to be vulnerable
They don’t exaggerate
They can laugh at themselves
They are optimistic without being unrealistic
Take notice that these behaviors are not tricks or tactics. They are genuine, admirable traits that breathe life into relationships. Think of some more? Comment below – We would be happy to add them to the list!
“I don’t care about business cards, websites and postcards. Its ALL about relationships. ” Building relationships is a long-term endeavor. And, in the end your effectiveness at building relationships (or success if you define it that way) comes down to one crucial choice on someone else’s part – You have to beTHEIRchoice.
Focus and Specialization. Differentiate! Uncover your unique story.
BRAND – Unique is Better than Better (than)
It is not what you “think” it is. It is not what you “say” it is. It is not what you “hope” it is. It is what “they” say about you. Make no mistake – you create your brand. If you can, boil your unique gifts and strengths down to 3 words. Class – Integrity – Innovation. Gene’s 3: xxxxx – Connection – Transformation.
There are three components to your brand. Promise, Beliefs and Story. You what I love about my real estate agent is fill in the blank.
In real estate this will probably boil down to a target market. You have to own the story in that target market. Would you rather Communicate or Connect? CONNECT
RELATIONSHIPS IN REAL ESTATE
3% – People Actively Looking to Buy or Sell a House (This is the dog fight of agent competition)
7% – People pen to Buying or Selling a House (not actively)
30% – People Not yet Looking to Buy or Sell a House30%
30% – People who are totally zoned out (Unconscious)
30% – People Who Will Never Use Me to Buy or Sell a House
The key is to reach the 67% in the middle
Speaking Opportunities – An unfair advantage – grab it! Go for areas of need for your ideal client and demonstrate expertise in one of those areas.
Podcast – A venue to raise brand awareness. Better to be on someone else’s Podcast though.
Leverage Platforms with HUGE followings – Success Magazine, Huffington Post, etc.
Social Media – A venue for sharing and connecting – NOT ranting and venting.
Ethical Bribe – sign up and get a free thing. Make the “give away” REALLY valuable.
Automated Marketing – Market like it is… 2016.
Ask Questions – Just ask relevant questions – over the phone or in person. NOT some automated survey broadcast to the masses.
Running your real estate practice like a Business can allow you to make the most of the money you make!
There are 11 questions that you can ask yourself to determine whether or not you have a “real” business. Most real estate brokers focus only on real estate sales skills because they are building their brand and training horses to pull their wagon. Keller Williams Realty also focuses on building business owners. This means that there is an additional conversation going on at KW and that is where lives get changed. Agents who are a part of the Keller Williams Realty training culture may very well graduate from being an agent someday to diversifying, managing a team, becoming an Operating Principle or owning an office by expanding into another city, state or country.
1. Are you incorporated?
The Key Concept here is an understanding that as a Sole Proprietor, you are personally responsible for everything. You are also liable for everything. That may not come as any surprise in the beginning of your journey as an entrepreneur. But as Michael Gerber pointed out in his best-selling book ( The E-Myth Revisited), taking your passion into the business world can have some unintended consequences if you are successful. Getting incorporated as a real estate practitioner is the first step to creating two worlds: “You” and “Not You”. “You” are the person you now employ to run your company. “Not You” is the company.
2. Are you capitalized?
In other words, did you forecast what it would cost to operate your practice for 6-12 months (including paying your salary) AND save that amount up? That is the initial definition of capitalization. In real estate, you have to get licensed first. You will then need equipment to start working (signs, lockboxes, phone, car, insurance, computer, printer, pens, paper, etc.). After that you will have monthly expenses (MLS dues, internet service, gas, oil, errors and omissions insurance, broker support, etc). Once your business is off and running you will still need capitalization in the form of a reserve account to carry you during down times.
3. Do you have separate personal and business checking accounts?
This should be self-explanatory but there is more to it than you might think. You need 7 accounts to keep everything in its place because mixing money blurs the lines.
4. Do you have a budget?
The budgeting process can be tedious the first time you do it. Every dollar has a name and a home. That is why it makes so much sense to hang around people who live by budgets.
5. Do you produce and review a monthly P&L statement and balance sheet?
Bookkeeping is usually not an entrepreneur’s strong suit. Thankfully, there are a number of small businesses that can do bookkeeping for small businesses.
6. Do you have a written Business Plan that you are following and reviewing monthly?
October is business planning month in most industries. That is when the vision and goals for the following year are outlined on paper. Real estate – when operated like a business – is no different. Setting goals is one thing. Achieving goals requires that you think through the daily, weekly and monthly activities needed to produce those goals.
7. Do you have systems in place?
For real estate agents, there is a best-selling book called The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller which researched the businesses of top agents from across the U.S. This book consolidated all that research into systems and models by which real estate agents can build HUGE businesses.
8. If you were gone for 3 months, could it run itself ?
Most real estate agents have other agents who can cover their clients while they are on vacation. However, these relationships are not designed for OR capable of handling ongoing client needs for an extended period of time. Plus, surviving is not really the goal here. A true business has plans for growth too. You know you have a business when the people and systems you have in place can sustain the business and possibly even achieve growth while you are gone for 3 months or more.
9. Do you have staff (Employees or Associates)?
This may be one of the first steps after incorporation and separate checking accounts. Once success begins to show up, entrepreneurs can quickly hit a wall in the delivery of their service or product because there are just not enough hours in the day. Knowing what and when to leverage out some of the job is crucial to being able to handle the hard-fought rewards of success.
10. Do you have a Board of Directors?
A diverse board of directors is essential for accountability and peak performance.
11. Can the business fire you for non-performance?
This is the last and final sign that you want this business to prosper. Many times the young entrepreneur who launched the company ends up being the very reason it does not grow beyond a certain point.
So, where do you start?
You can start right here. The Sandy Springs market center of Keller Williams Realty has an agent led Board of Directors called the Agent Leadership Council (or ALC). This is true for all Keller Williams Realty offices. Each year the ALC’s form committees and one of these committees focuses on Finance. As the Chairman of the Finance Committee for the Sandy Springs ALC, I will be leading conversations throughout the year on how to Run Your Business Like a Business. Our committee is committed to reaching out to every agent in our office so that they are aware of the advantages of answering the above questions for themselves.
Keller Williams Realty associates are giving back to their local communities by offering training to young adults from all walks of life. The program is called QL and it is geared specifically for those 18-24 years of age. Life is too short to miss out on knowing who you are and how to live your BEST life!
Most people struggle to push beyond their frustrations because living your BEST life requires focus. It requires some “soul work”. It also requires personal growth and work habits but those come second. The reality is that we are essentially floating through life until we wrestle through the following concepts.
Once your “life filter” has been built, you will use it to weigh the importance of EVERYTHING. You will have a liberating level of clarity that most people walking the planet do not have. Don’t over-think this. In fact, you may already have a draft! If you are on social media and have created a bio (a serious one), you may have some clues there as to who you are and what you stand for.
We are ALL building habits
We assume change will involve pain. But the reality is that we are ALL building habits – many of them are just accidental. Warren Buffett said the “chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” He, of course, was referring to bad habits. The irony is that the adage applies to good habits too. Habits are like gravity – once established, they pull you down a path. Our goal with QL: A World Changer Mindset is to draw 18 – 24 year olds into a conversation that most at that age are not having. A conversation about short term pain and long term gain. A conversation that candidly lays out the implications of “not caring” when it comes to their post-school collision with life. Real talk. Life will happen and when it does, you will care.
A large percentage of young people in high school and college are preoccupied with gaining independence. They are tired of being told what to do. And yet, the path to that independence actually involves being able to tell yourself what to do. That’s called Self-Mastery. Make no mistake – we are all in the process of mastering something. Think about where you spend most of your time. Our futures happen over time by making lots of seemingly very small decisions that add up. Gary Keller refers to those very small decisions as “Quantum” decisions. Webster’s defines Quantum as “the very small increments or parcels into which many forms of energy are subdivided”. The key to making large changes is to find the small pivotal “first” change and make that one. Then, find the next small pivotal change and make that one too. Keep things Small and Manageable. Otherwise life can get overwhelming and when it does, people have a tendency to give up and just go with the flow. The Q in QL: A World Changer Mindset stands for Quantum. If you are wondering, the L stands for Leap (note that Leap is an action word which points to the fact that action does have to be taken). If it helps, think of yourself like a powerful freight train – it takes a bit to get it started but once it is rolling it is very hard to stop!! Make sure you are on the right tracks though 😉 It would be a shame to master mediocrity…
When Gary Keller was in his early 20’s he journaled to track the tricks and techniques he used to navigate some tough, tough setbacks and challenges. Today we would call those those tricks and techniques “life hacks”. Ultimately, Gary formalized his collection of life hacks into a 2-day course titled Quantum Leap. QL: A World Changer Mindset was developed from that content and has been tailored specifically for young people in the early 20’s stage of life. Living life on purpose isn’t going to be easy but these life hacks helped Gary become a millionaire by age 29. They also became the foundation for Gary’s best-selling book, The ONE Thing. Please don’t mistake this for just being about money though. This course is primarily about a life of focus, purpose, abundance and giving. The “millionaire by 29” reference was included here simply as proof that these principles can pay off financially too. Which is a good thing! Because your BEST life is going to have to be funded.
If you were an archer, QL would be those small adjustments that help you close in on the bullseye.
The QL Course helps you identify small intentional adjustments that help you zero in on the the life you were created to live.
This course will help you build a personalized road map for navigating the rest of your life. This roadmap will be built around some core concepts that everyone will have to wrestle through at some point. Through QL, you will be empowered to:
Commit to living a life of significance
Visualize a life that excites you
Adopt the perspectives needed to optimize your potential
Experience a shift in mindset that positions a “wealthy” life as a life with the resources to fund your personal mission
Design your personalized success strategy
You will be encouraged to:
Be You and Start TODAY (We will start here and write it down)
Avoid Isolation (Identify the people you should follow and let them help you)
Remember that Time can be your friend OR your enemy (You are going to test drive several simple tools to see what works for you)
Accept that people have lived before you (Success leaves clues)
Avoid lazy choices because they waste lives (Choices are something you CAN control)
Treat Money as a tool that follows rules and funds lives (Not something that is bad or good)
This is a workshop and NOT a lecture because… We all need a gameplan!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the QL Course like?
The QL: A World Changer Mindset course is a day long interactive event covering topics such as life meaning, spiritual context, physical health, time management, funding your life and personal growth. Think of it as a “Leadership Laboratory” – could get messy but we’ll have it mostly cleaned up by the end of the day 😉
Where is it held?
The QL: A World Changer Mindset course will be held in various locations around the U.S. as Keller Williams Realty associates teach the concepts in their local communities.
How long is the course?
QL: A World Changer Mindset is a day long event and the pace is moving along! There is so much material to cover that the attendees are usually maxed out by the end of the day. The time will generally go something like this (subject to change):
Begin at 8:30 am SHARP (get your coffee and plan to arrive early for check-in)
Take a short break at 10am
Lunch with informal Q&A 12:00 – 1:00pm
Take a quick afternoon break around 2:30
Wrap up around 4:30 p.m.
How much does it cost?
These events and course materials are being funded through attendee donations. Donations begin at the base cost of the materials at $25 and go up from there. The KW associates who are leading these courses are donating their time.
Why is it limited to young people ages 18 – 24?
That was precisely the period of time in Gary Keller’s life when he made some crucial decisions that led to him founding Keller Williams Realty – now the #1 Real Estate Company in the world. Just let that sink in… Gary chose to master a few simple things early on and over time those decisions added up to something that actually did change the world. QL: A World Changer Mindset was specifically crafted for young people in this age range. If you or someone you know is a young leader age 18 to 24, this could be a very powerful step towards gaining control of your life and your independence. That should put you on the fastest path to your dreams. And, THAT would be a day well spent!
Is there a Dress Code?
Yes, sort of. One of life’s realities is that your appearance needs to fit the stage. This is a business-minded event and as such, it is not a flip-flops, shorts, sweats, hang out with your friends gig. Dress like you want to be taken seriously and you will be. Jeans are fine – the goal is comfortable “office casual” attire.
Do the sessions get recorded?
No. The courses are designed to be a safe, guided “laboratory” where young people can wrestle with their lives without the pressure of having to “get it right” the first time around. It is a safe place and if anything gets shared following the course (other than the group photo), it will be at the discretion of the attendees and they will be doing the sharing.
What if I have no dreams?
Oh, you have them. You just may need to uncover them. QL should jump start that process.
What if I just feel clueless at this point?
Perfect! That is just how Gary Keller felt at your age. You will hear lots more about that during the session. “Clueless” is merely the starting point on a journey. That label only becomes an identity if you stay there.
When it comes to Keller Williams Realty – Running like a Business is in the DNA
Keller Williams Realty has grown into a very successful real estate company. That success is especially intriguing given that they have done so operating on only about half of the profit due to its Profit Sharing model with agent stakeholders. In an era of consolidation, mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies – Keller Williams Realty has…thrived!
Harvard Case Study
The Harvard Business Review has performed two case studies on Keller Williams Realty. Both are available for purchase. Keller Williams Realty (A) as they call it describes the economic and cultural models that have led to the success of Keller Williams Realty. Keller Williams Realty (B) is a follow-up that explains the actions taken by Keller Williams in response to the residential real estate market downturn in 2008.
So what is the big deal? The big deal is that models and systems that empower agents to build interdependent businesses of their own. Not dependent – Not independent. Interdependent. A partnership. The old saying goes “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is the way Keller Williams Realty approaches the agents who choose to affiliate with the company.
Building a Brand
Most companies go to great lengths to build and protect their brand. That holds true for most real estate companies as well. Brand recognition and perceived credibility generate consumer confidence. That consumer confidence makes the phone ring and cash register light up. But the reality is that this brand building is a double-edged sword for the agents in a real estate company. Branding does build credibility and name recognition which helps agent win business in a competitive interview. However, calls and online inquiries are captured by the company and are then sold in some fashion back the agents. The company controls the leads and who gets them. That means the company also controls how much the agent will get paid in exchange for those leads. This is true for all industries. So who is the brand really being built for?
Profit and Profit Share
In most jobs, you go to work and the company pays you for it. Making money is up to the company (and the stockholders if it is publicly traded). With real estate agents, it’s actually the opposite – the agents pay the company to work there. Real estate companies operate by collecting money from the agents on the sales they make. In exchange, the company provides various administrative, marketing and training services. Generally, this happens under two models: 1: Commission Splits OR 2.Monthly Fees. With Commission Splits, the agent does the work and closes the deal. The commission check is issued to the company and the company takes anywhere from 50% (for the lowest producing agents) down to 20% (for the rockstars) of the commission earned. The exception is relocation business where third-party relocation companies enter the mix and even superstars end up sharing about 50+% of the commission with their company.
Profit Sharing in the real estate arena was pioneered by Keller Williams Realty. After having operated on a typical Commission Split model, the company incorporated a Profit Sharing model in 1987. Gary Keller invited the top agents in the office to a round table discussion and the result was the creation of the Agent Leadership Council (ALC). Through the ALC, the agents joined in the management decisions and the results are summarized in this ProfitShareWhitePaper. Giving agents a voice in the operations of the office and a share in the profits gave each of the agents a greater stake in the company’s success. One interesting by-product of the Profit Sharing model was transparency in the books. In order to maintain total accountability for the integrity of the Profit Sharing program, agents needed full access to the company’s income and expenses each month. They got it! To this day, the finances of every Keller Williams Realty office are open for review by the agents.
All real estate brokers recruit agents. It is how every real estate office is grown. Keller Williams Realty just mobilized its agents as “helpers” by setting up a reward system called Profit Sharing. No profit – no sharing. No signing bonuses. No purchase required. In fact, for an agent to receive Profit Share, an agent they refer must join a Keller Williams Realty office AND that office has to be profitable AND that particular agent has to contribute to the profitability. No one profits until the referred agent succeeds. Keller Williams Realty office owners agree to operate within the cost model and the office cost model derives its income from roughly 52% of the total profit generated by the sales. That means approximately 48% of the total monthly profit goes back to agent stakeholders as a reward for finding talented agents to grow the offices. It doesn’t take higher commissions – it takes lean business operations, systems and models. Makes you wonder about the other real estate companies out there… What are they doing with all of that money? No wonder Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch are buying real estate companies…
Rewards are actually not limited to the U.S. though. There is also Growth Share.
Training / Running Like a Business
Keller Williams Realty is often described as a Training Company cleverly disguised as real estate sales company. That must hold some validity because in 2015 the company was named by Training Magazine as the #1 training company in the U.S. – up from #2 in 2014. Training IS a major emphasis at Keller Williams Realty. In fact, the leadership is so committed to training that new programs continue to emerge to help agents build their businesses. Real Estate is one of those professions that can eat you alive and burn you out if you don’t set some boundaries. Classes at KW run the gamut from sales skills to incorporating to exit strategies. There is even a test for determining if you have a real business. It ends with the question “Do you have a Board of Directors that can fire you?” All KW training is based on sound fundamentals that apply to any business.
All the training in the world can be wasted if your company feels like a boiler room. Culture can be very difficult to describe but very easy to feel. Keller Williams Realty is very intentional about culture. While no system is fool-proof and with 108,000 agents across the world, there are inevitably examples where these values are not consistently demonstrated. And yet, having a set of stated values does set forth a lighthouse of what the company stands for and wants to be known by. Taking a stand sets a standard by which all business activities and relationships can be measured. Gary Keller has be quoted “Don’t judge me by the people I hire. Judge me by the people I keep.” Not everyone is a good match for the values outlined below and that’s ok. There are other choices.
How would you spend your time if you only had six months left?
This can be a VERY interesting question. In October of 2014, a young woman named Brittany Maynard brought this issue to the social media forefront. Yahoo Health reported on October 7th that Brittany, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, intended to end her life on November 1st so she could die on her own terms. As I began to read about Brittany’s journey, I came across an online post by Brett Harris where he contrasted Brittany’s journey with that of another young man who faced a similar situation named Clayton McDonald. Both of these stories are heart-breaking (You can view the videos from both Brittany and Clayton and hear it in their own words by clicking on their names above). Clayton made a statement in his video that really hit home with me though and that prompted what I now refer to as the “Six Months Left Exercise”. UPDATE 04/20/15: One month left in my “excercise”. I just came across another young woman who walked the same path as Brittany and Clayton. Here is Kara Tippetts’ story and her open letter to Brittany. Kara’s time on this earth came to an end on March 22, 2015. As I pray her family, I continue to pray that I will make the most of the days I have.
The Six Months Left Exercise
Clayton McDonald said in his video that “We all have a clock. A timeline of when we are going to kick the bucket. For me, I have the luxury of knowing about when I might go.” When I heard him say that I thought – Why does it take terminal brain cancer for someone to get a sense of urgency and live fully awake with a clear purpose? This thought churned around in my soul for a couple of weeks and on November 20, 2014, I made a decision to pretend I only had six months left to live. May 20, 2015 was going to be my last day and I was going to act like it. I know there may be some who read this and think… “This is just morbid.” Well that may very well be. The problem is that I cannot escape the nagging question that started all this. I also feel that this is such a serious issue to those who are actually facing this that I do not want to be disrespectful. So, I intend to let my emotions get as real as possible in order to relate as best I can. Thus far the emotions have been plenty real! Thinking this deeply is exhausting at times. It is also invigorating as I look back and see differences in my conversations.
Making the Time Count
Once I made the decision to do this exercise I started experiencing some deep emotions right away. 6 months. 26 weeks. 180 days. As I contemplated the reality of being gone in six months, everything started to get measured against May 20th, 2015. This is my last Thanksgiving. My last Christmas… Dang, six months will be gone in a flash! There is no time to start building something new – I am going to have to just bloom where I am planted. So, my first step was to define my life “arena” – the people I already interact with and the places that I go. As a husband / father / son / brother, I have 50+ years of experiences, emotions, advice and love to convey. This blog post itself is a part my offloading process.
My Places ( My Life Arena)
My life arena consists of the places I go each week and the people I know there. Beyond my immediate family, I spend a lot of hours each week through Keller Williams Realty because my team, The Bunch Real Estate Group, helps people buy and sell homes. So, as an example at my office there is the staff, fellow agents and clients. Here are some sample places that make of our life arena:
Service Providers you use
School (teachers, parents, students)
Neighborhood / HOA
College / Fraternity / Sorority friends
Social Media Connections
Think through all of these places and those people who seem to most appreciate you and what you have to offer. Keep in mind, you only have 26 weeks left. So that begs the question – how many people can you focus on per week? How many can you write a letter/note to? How many can you meet with? Go ahead and start your list.
We all have people or causes we care about. Ask yourself this question: “What breaks my heart?” OR if you want to look into the future, “It would break my heart if ______ happened and I didn’t ….” In my case, these questions really helped me get clarity. As I begin writing down my concerns in Evernote, it was easy to focus and re-focus. I noticed that when the days are flying by and life takes over, it is easy to get distracted. To slip back in to some zone where it seems like there is “plenty of time”. As I reflected on the people and causes most important to me, it was so gratifying to invest my time on those things instead of letting it slip away to the tyranny of the urgent! Please don’t get hung up on Evernote though. It is not the be all – end all. It is simply tool that allowed me to have my priorities available on all my devices – which in turn brought clarity. It allowed me to be very purposeful with my conversations, my lunches and my commitments. Having this list gave me a concrete set of priorities so that I could say “no” when I really wanted to. That in turn allowed me the ability to say “yes” when I really wanted to. 180 Days and counting. Let these people know how much they mean to you. Call them. Write them. Encourage them. Pray for them.
My Prayers ( Getting REAL )
The reality is that there are some problems that winning the lottery will not solve. This whole exercise is based on the notion of some terminal disease that money can’t fix. I know people who are hurting and sick. People who have relationship problems. Other things that money can’t fix. If I have limited time, I want to cover as much ground as I can. So, for me, asking for God’s help seems very natural. Prayer can be very powerful and yet we seem to reserve it for “major” problems. Like we don’t want to bother other people with our struggles. Let’s face it – we are all struggling in some way and could use prayers and encouragement. This six month exercise for me means writing those prayers down and actually sharing the written specific prayers with the people I am praying for. That way they know for sure what it is I am asking for. Talk about tough! Some of these prayers flush some serious stuff to the surface that has to be dealt with. That’s ok. I believe that is exactly what love looks like. Real Life Wrestling. Honesty, transparency, boldness, compassion. I call it good-hard stuff.
Want to do this exercise yourself?
Set a date six months from now and etch it in your mind.
Watch both Brittany and Clayton’s videos.
Describe your specific arena areas
Make a list of the most important people to you in those areas
Write out some thoughts and prayers for each of them
The fire pit is ready and I am ready to make my Burn Letter for New Year’s Eve!
A Burn Letter is simply a written list of all the stuff that is still bugging you about the past year. The emotional baggage or “head noise” that really should NOT be carried into the New Year. Can we agree that carrying that load has probably done enough damage already? Now, I am not dismissing the fact that we all make mistakes. We do. And those mistakes usually affect other people. In those cases, apologies need to be made so that relationships can be restored. There is also the matter of being reconciled with God which is a crucial topic all by itself. That is not what we are talking about here. Burn Letters are not for trivializing big mistakes. Burn Letters just allow us to formally dispose of the ever growing pile of other things that weigh us down emotionally. The self-condemnation stuff. We really should probably just… LET – IT – GO.
If you don’t suffer from “over-thinking” my hat is off to you. Your list may be really small. I am a driven person and a puzzle solver so it is easy for me to see ways to fix, improve or “learn from” things. I can definitely replay mistakes in my head so that I make sure that I “learn from it”. The problem is that “learning” can turn into “churning” and churning is not productive. So, in December of 2012 I decided to fight back and ceremonially lighten my load by making up a “Burn Letter”. The hope was to get rid of some “soul turbulence” as I call it. Toss that sucker in the fire and watch my troubles go up in smoke! See if it made any difference at all. Well, I didn’t know what to expect but the impact on me was HUGE! It was so much more powerful than I thought it was going to be.
As this year comes to a close, it is time again to make a Burn Letter. Now, I look forward to it. I would really encourage you to make one for yourself. Yes, the process takes some effort. Unearthing and confronting this baggage is not easy. JUST HANG IN THERE THOUGH because the emotional payoff is so worth it. This stuff is there whether you deal with it or not. The tragedy would be to just ignore it and carry the weight of it for another year. Or two. Or three… Get rid of it for crying out loud! Grab a cup of coffee, a pen and a legal pad. Just start complaining on paper. Go on a rant. Vent! Don’t watch your language – Don’t hold back. Just start writing everything down until you are empty. Then, fold up the page(s) and stick it in an envelope. Then, find a way to BURN IT.
The goal? Take all of the:
Shoulda coulda woulda
Johnny hit me
Life is not fair
Things did not go my way
I did not get that job, listing, promotion, nod, or award
I can’t believe I did that, bought that, overpaid for that
Write it down, fold it up and cast it into the flames 🙂
Disclaimer: I know this is not some magic recipe for happiness and yet, it did improve my attitude going into the New Year considerably. All religions and world views wrestle with life and how to navigate it. Jesus knew life was going to take its toll on us. That is why he said “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew Chapter 11:28). My guess is that we all could use a bit more rest and a lot less negativity. So, here’s to going into the new year with a lighter heart! And if doing a Burn Letter helps you with that, writing all this down was well worth it.
As a Christian, Passover has been meaningful to me both as the annual Jewish tradition that brought Jesus to Jerusalem and a chilling story from the Old Testament. Each Easter season, I find myself going back to the events surrounding Passover in both the Old and New Testaments because there are so many life lessons here.
For those unfamiliar with the story, allow me to introduce the main characters. Moses was an reluctant man who was not confident in his ability to speak publicly. And yet he was drawn by God into confronting the most powerful world leader at that time regarding the issue of slavery and oppression – the Pharaoh of Egypt. Pharaoh was walking around like he was God. When approached, he was not buying ANY of what Moses was saying about God. He kept referring to God as if he was just one of many gods people find and worship. Pharaoh was also the head of the country and needed the slave labor for his country to function. The story unfolded like a modern day court drama where each side presented their case – except here, people were actually doing miracles and real plagues broke out.
Finally, there was what writers and movie people call an “inciting event”. It is now referred to as Passover. God had finally had enough of Pharaoh’s belligerence. It was time for His Jewish people to be freed. So God dispatched an Angel of Death to Egypt to kill the sons of the Egyptians. The Jewish families were instructed to put lamb’s blood on the sides and tops of their front door frames. If the door was marked with blood, the Angel of Death would pass on by OR pass-over. If there was no mark, there was no moving on. No passing-over.
The Day After
The day after Passover most of people in the land realized that there was something out there more powerful than Pharaoh. Sadly, there was a lot of evidence that day that Moses’ God had sent one final, devastating plague. Pharaoh realized it too. God flexed His will and got tired of putting up with a man who claimed there was no other greater… I am sobered by what that looked like but not surprised that Pharaoh got put in his place. It was a clarifying moment. The relieved Jewish families had clarity; sadly the grieving Egyptian families had clarity too. Pharaoh definitely had some clarity because after dragging his feet and flexing his power, he suddenly could not get rid of the Israelites fast enough. He breaks out the cash (gold and jewels in his day) and helps them pack! Pharaoh did not end up being remembered as the most perceptive man in the land. In fact, his claim to fame was a hardened heart which resulted in a hardened head.
Choosing a Legacy
Leadership was evident in both Moses and Pharaoh. Listening is a choice. Obedience is a choice. Moses was obedient – Pharaoh was obnoxious. God used them both. Seriously though… who wants to be the one that God uses to point out what NOT to do? Today, I am thankful for the Bible because it is timeless and I am learning from both the good and bad leadership examples. I am also reminded that God’s justice can seem painfully slow many times and yet it can also seem startlingly swift. My guess is that the Passover was still a HUGE relief – even after over 400 years of slavery under the Egyptians.
I admit it – I do NOT crave vegetables. My wife and her mom always make a BIG salad when they get together. They make it seem like fun and get very animated. It is a “production”. I, on the other hand, seem to migrate over to the grill for the ribs. But ribs take effort too. There is all of this dry rub, secret mustard coating, hocus pocus involved so I concede that preparing ribs is a production too. The difference? One smells like smokey goodness. The other IS goodness. Much to my chagrin…
I will also admit I do not weigh what I want to weigh either and therein lies the problem. I know something must be done – I just do not look forward to a life without all the things that I love to eat!! Now for the best part – the hope in all of this – what I want can change 🙂
This past year I teamed up with a buddy of mine and we did a 21 day juice cleanse through a local juice company called Arden’s Garden. This process proved to me that my cravings could change. No Caffeine (yep), dairy, meat, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, white sugar, white flour or smoking. Well, my tastes began to change and I actually started desiring and enjoying eating (or drinking) something that also improved my health. I also lost 11 pounds and began to feel the difference in my joints.
So what does this have to do with goals?
I don’t naturally like goals either. Goals feel like eating vegetables. The unpleasantness comes right up front during the change and sacrifice while the results trickle in. Grumble grumble grumble. There is soooooo much chatter about goals this time of year and I am getting caught up in it. This year, though, is different! I have tasted momentum. And it is because of the 21 day juice cleanse success. It is also due to a time clock challenge I did during the first quarter of 2013 which resulted in our real estate team having the best year yet. Momentum makes all the difference. It is “getting over the hump”.
This year, setting goals was MUCH easier. Looks I am acquiring the taste 🙂 I went into 2014 goal setting with momentum and hope thanks to a sense of accomplishment from last year. One simple habit held over 90 days and 21 straight days of radical eating. I did not change the world but I did change my world. If you relate to this post at all my advice would be to pick one habit and decide to implement it for a quarter. One. ONE. ONE. The power of small sustained change is SO easily underestimated. And yet, it can change your entire trajectory. Pick the new habit that will make the most difference. For me, this year, it is getting up at 5:00am. That will set my day in motion the way I want it to.
Why sustain the new habit for a quarter? So you can remember where the finish line is. Keeping track needs to be easy breezy so you can devote all your energy to sticking to the habit. It will feel like war but success is oh so sweet! If I can do it, anyone can do it. Keep this simple. Embarrassingly simple. My prediction is that you will be so proud of yourself over one change that you will be able to make another change. And then another one.
In the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life“, the main character George Bailey gets toasted at the end by his brother as “the Richest Man in Town”.
I had a Richest Man in Town moment back in September. Months after I decided to say “yes” to a leadership trip my church planned for Turkey, my fundraising for the trip had not even begun. I was in a financial hole! Our church group met and others were reporting good progress on their fundraising. Meanwhile, I had resigned myself to the fact that I had procrastinated too long, it was too late and I was going to have to pay for it – ALL of it. The sad truth is that I was fearful. I was ready to quit. Then, one day in a weak moment I shared this struggle with my friend Dave Ward. Dave wisely gave me one piece of advice: “Don’t assume that people will not be interested”. We talked about why I going on this trip. And, then he prayed for me – out loud – right there. That began my “moment”.
Don’t Give Up
I learned that church trips are easy to talk about when someone else is doing the going. In our house we say “My availability is my worship and the results are up to God”. Easy to say… Thankfully Dave was too diplomatic to say that my refusal to take a risk and invite others into this journey was really selfishness and pride. I wanted to blame my fundraising procrastination on the busyness of life. The reality is that it felt like I was going to be begging for money and that hit an ugly “pride” nerve I wanted to avoid. I just could not do it and the clock was running down. I had not spent nearly enough time in prayer and for a “man of faith” that brought on guilt and doubt and all kinds of head noise. Thankfully, God’s plans do not rest on our feeble prayer lives. The spiritual battle was on though. And I was blown away at what happened!
I dug through my contacts and made a list of friends and family. I prejudged who I thought would and would not be interested. I then ignored my feelings and assumptions. I wrote down my thoughts in a letter asking for prayer and financial support. I edited, and edited, and edited that letter. I bought envelopes and stamps. I made labels and included self-addressed return envelopes so it would be easy to help me. I simply gave God a chance to show up. And BOOM He did. Envelopes started pouring in and fast! After a few days, the mailbox had a couple of envelopes every day for two weeks. People were offering to contribute even after I got back from the trip. Each envelope whispered a heavenly “I love you”. God seemed to say “Son, this is what life is supposed to be like!” I never sensed that he was saying “Son, looks like I pulled your fat out of the fire yet again” (although He did just that).
I was so overwhelmed with blessings and like It’s a Wonderful Life, the blessings were not things. (I am still overwhelmed) The blessings were people and their support, generosity and interest. In fact, my greatest blessing happened before I even stepped foot on the plane to leave. God blessed me with enough support for my part of the trip plus some extra for others who still needed some help. The whole group got to see first hand that God is real and that He does answer prayer quickly sometimes.
Even with all of the obvious answers to prayer and confirmation that this was the right thing to be doing, I heard from a number of friends “Hey, Istanbul is on my Bucket List”. My thoughts kept coming back to “I am asking my friends to help fund something that sounds like a vacation!” Yet, so many things were tugging at my heart for the Turkish people. OF COURSE there are closer and less expensive opportunities for me for me to serve others than going to Istanbul, Turkey. So why me, why Istanbul and why now?
My company, Keller Williams Realty, is expanding internationally and I found out back in February that one of the expansion countries is Turkey. Some of my best clients here in Atlanta are from Istanbul so when I heard the announcement I thought “Hey, I would love to go to Turkey one day”. Each year my church organizes a mission trip and this year it happened to be to…Turkey. Turkey is a very significant region Biblically and even though they are purposefully secular, statistics say that it is currently 98% Muslim. When the Apostle Paul was walking the marble roads in Ephesus, there were very few followers of Jesus Christ in this region. There were very few Christians period. So, in some ways Turkey is not that much different from 2000 years ago except for some bad memories about the crusades. It was like traveling back in time. There is a good bit of Christian “baggage” to wade through when developing relationships with Turkish people today. You have to remember their cultural context and that some words understandably set off emotional reactions. But, the Turkish people are soooo hospitable! You just can’t help but love them 🙂
Our children have said yes multiple times already to other mission trips. They have bucked up and raised financial support. They have bravely hopped in the car, on the plane or in some bus to remote parts of Timbuktu (not literally). My kids have endured close quarters, weird food, tough weather and even danger. It was time for me to set aside work for a few days and answer the call as well. But when the trip was less than a month away, reality set in and I was really feeling the weight of this decision. “Aren’t you concerned?” “Is it safe?” “What about all of the protests going on in Istanbul?” What about all the stuff going on in Syria?” “Isn’t Turkey next to Iran and Iraq?” Details, details…
What would we be doing in Turkey?
This trip began as an initiative through my home church in Atlanta, GA – ChristChurch Presbyterian. ChristChurch Presbyterian has been supporting a church called All Saints Moda in the Asia side of Istanbul, Turkey for over 10 years. This happened to be the year ChristChurch decided to send a delegation over to Turkey to meet with Turgay Üçal, the Pastor at All Saints Moda as a part of a Leadership Development Initiative. This initiative involves culture, business, lifestyle, local neighborhood dynamics, worldviews and faith. We explored the city, met with various Turkish religious leaders, learned about their places of worship and discussed their traditions and missions (oops, I just used the “M” word). What does the word “mission” mean anyway? As a Christian in America, I am very familiar with the term “mission trip”. For me that phrase brings up images of rustic accommodations and deep discussions about faith. In business, we are advised to never talk about “religion or politics”. In Turkey, you had better not use the term “mission” or “missionary” because it brings up all kinds of deeply rooted concerns. Here’s an article from 2006 outlining some of the concerns and violence. Oh, the meaning of words… Frankly, I do not really use the term “Christian” much anymore because so many people I talk to have different definitions of that word. In Istanbul it was fascinating to discover that on a personal level, we have so much more in common than we have differences. We all have dreams, jobs, families, needs, passions, meals to eat, places to go and lives to lead. We may speak a different language and use the same term for different meanings but underneath it all there is respect and understanding if we will just start off with a relationship. Relationship first – deep discussions later.
What is the connection to It’s a Wonderful Life?
For me, It’s a Wonderful Life is so poignant because the entire story is a series of collisions between dreams and duty. All George Bailey wants to do is get out of his one horse town and “see the world”. Yet, life events keep affecting people George cares about and he cannot resist stepping in to help. It my case, I actually got to do both! Travel to a distant part of the world AND serve people I care about. If you have seen “It’s a Wonderful Life“, here is the last 5 minutes. If you haven’t seen the movie, I encourage you to see the whole thing – this final 5 minutes will mean so much more if you do.