There's no easy way to say this. I've hit rock bottom. No, the bottom isn't found at the end of a needle, a tent under the overpass, or the last few drops in a bottle of cheap booze. The bottom is a familiar place to many agents I suspect. It's cold and dark and not really a fun place to be, but I'm here and I better get used to it or get out of it - and fast!
As you may remember, I won some free coaching with Tom Ferry here at ActiveRain. In the past few weeks, Tom and I have been having some scheduling issues, (on my end) but finally we had another call this week. Everyday, I have had an assignment to email Tom (it's a very specific list of things I have to do in the email) and it has helped Tom see what's going on in my life, both personal and professional. Those emails alone have been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It's kind of like email therapy really. I have held nothing back and Tom probably knows more about me at this point than my own mother. He's been a great guide along the way, sending email replies to cover a specific point in an email or sending me something he found that he thought might encourage me, but despite all of that, I've hit rock bottom.
Please note: I do not blame Tom for me hitting rock bottom, in fact, he's probably made the fall a little less painful. The events and thoughts and habits that got me here were in motion before I met Tom.
I'm lost and not quite sure how I got here.
Actually, that's not true. I know exactly how I got here. I can name a million reasons from personal problems to mistakes I've made to the economy to the weather to the fact that I don't like the color of my shirt. As you can guess, they might sound like reasons in my head, but in reality they're little more than excuses. There are some real factors in there - the biggest one being that I didn't learn a valuable lesson early on in my real estate career and I am now paying for that missed lesson. I had a good start with my move to RE/MAX Access and was feeling much more "settled in" to real estate than I did previously - remember I was still a relatively new agent. Along the way, I made one gigantic mistake. I forgot to prospect and continue to grow my client list. I'm sure all of you are moaning and groaning, "Oh Matt, that's number one in real estate!," and probably have a million stories of how and why you have to prospect. That's neither here nor there. This story is bigger than that.
As I forgot to prospect, my business slumped. As my business slumped, I felt depressed about not having any business. As I felt depressed about not having any business, I let my business slump some more. Can you see the vicious cycle that's building there? I let myself slide down the well into this dark hole known as rock bottom. I got here and truthfully couldn't figure out a way to climb back up.
The Well of Souls.
I never gave up, but I think I was starting to get used to my little place down here at rock bottom. Sure, it wasn't the nicest place on earth, but after being on tour for fourteen years of your life, traveling to some of the biggest hell holes on the planet, you find yourself adapting in ways you never thought possible. I wasn't comfortable, but I was alive - and that's always a huge plus in my book.
Tom Ferry could see what was happening through the emails and conversations we had. I'll write a glowing review of him any day, he's a really smart, intuitive guy who (remember, he's doing this for free for me) actually seems to care. It makes sense - if I fail, he fails. He'll be able to walk away, because he has plenty of other clients and he can carry on, but Tom has been more than direct in making me understand that he could walk away and wipe his hands clean, but he's not about to (I think he's one of those people that loves a good challenge).
Tom is brutally honest and it's one of the things I like most about him. Our conversations are open and he doesn't hold back. I mean he really doesn't hold back. Nothing is off limits or too harsh. That's not to say all he does is yell at me, but he has let me have it. Tom is the one who used the phrase rock bottom as we were talking the other day. When he said it, I was a little taken aback and maybe even a little hurt by it, but after a millisecond of thought - I had to agree. I had hit rock bottom and needed some serious help.
Enter the rope of thorns.
In our conversation (our coaching calls are a wide ranging conversation, a style I like and find helpful), Tom threw me a rope with the interest of me climbing back out. There was only one problem. Tom's rope was a twisted mess of sharp thorns and splinters. If I wanted to climb back up, I was probably going to have to go through some pain to do so.
Tom's rope is rather simple and I may write a post about it someday, but for now, I will tell you this. It is not something I was prepared for. It was so specific and exact, that I flinched when he told me and to be completely open about it, I had immediate doubts. Of course, I think Tom knew I would have my doubts - that's a common trait among us hole-dwellers. We discussed the rope and he asked me two simple questions, "Will you climb the rope? Will you do it no matter how much your hands bleed?" I agreed (after a bit of nervous sweating and thought) and he tossed the rope down from the heights above.
With any rope, the climb is only as good as two things; a) the dedication of the climber and b) the strength of the person holding the end at the top of the hole. Tom refuses to let me climb half way, only to say "I can't" and slide back down to the bottom. So he made the climb a bit personal. Ok, a lot personal. The climb might be tough, but he gave me a simple option - climb it or climb it half way and watch him let go of the rope. With a smile. All this metaphor might seem a bit much, but think about it - which is more painful? Cutting your hands as you climb and sweating your way through the blood and tears to get back to where you want to be? Or getting half way there and watching a maniacal Tom Ferry laugh as he waves goodbye and let's the rope slip from his fingers (Did you picture Tom at the top with devil horns and a forked tail? I did.). Of course, Tom isn't the devil in this situation, he's my coach - and he's given me the incentive of a lifetime.
The gentlemen's agreement.
Since Tom and I are not in a paid situation, he doesn't have quite the normal incentives to offer me. He told me some funny stories of things he's used to incentivize clients of his, but I was a different case. Being an inventive and intuitive guy, he came up with a plan. I won't reveal the terms of our agreement, but let me tell you this. If I lose, give up, or don't put everything I have into climbing up this rope, I probably won't be a real estate agent after this is over. I will be destroyed as a real estate agent and probably leave the business. No, Tom doesn't have compromising photos of me that he's going to mail to NAR or anything cop-drama like (or at least I certainly hope he doesn't). However, our agreement and his end of what happens if I refuse to climb is so particularly devastating to me, that I wouldn't be able to continue as a Realtor®. Yeah, it's that bad. And as a man of my word, I'm going to be sending him something today that will give him the necessary key to do exactly what he has said he will do, if I do fail. I could hide this information from him, but it's a gentlemen's agreement and I have no plan to go back on my word. In my email to Tom, I am going to ask him to comment here when he has the keys to the castle, so you all know he has what needs to fulfill his end of the agreement if I do back down.
The first few inches.
This rope is really long, perhaps because rock bottom is really far down. I'm scared out of my mind that this is going to be painful. I'm sweating, I'm nervous, and I'm shaking, but yesterday, I took hold of the rope. As I grabbed it, the sharp thorns gouged their way into my palms and I was already thinking, "this is insane." Who in their right mind would agree to what I had agreed to? It's not the rope, it's the consequence that scares me. The rope hurts as it digs into my skin, but that's the least of my worries. As my hands begin to numb from the constant cuts, scrapes, and the pressure of holding on for dear life; the climb got a little easier. Not much easier, just a very tiny bit easier. I kept my eyes focused about two feet ahead on the rope - I didn't want to look straight up for fear I'd see just how far of a climb it was. Instead, I focused on inching my way up the rope. As I would make some progress, occasionally my hands would slip from the blood and sweat that by now was pouring out of them. A slide down the rope is even more painful than a climb up (as the thorns tear through the skin instead of just jabbing and poking through it). If I slipped a few inches, the pain reminded me that the upward motion was much easier than the downward slide (and of course, the after effect of giving up). So hand over hand I continued.
I made it through the first day. I didn't climb quite as high as I had hoped, but I learned a few things on the way. New ways to grasp the rope in order to make it a little more comfortable and take full advantage of efficient measures to get further, faster. Tom was still up top, calling down to me and giving me some pointers, but for the most part, I was left to my own devices - Tom can't climb the rope for me. I shouted up to Tom and gave him a report on the day's progress as I will everyday (it's so dark at rock bottom Tom can't see just where I'm at without progress reports).
I will make this climb - even if it kills me. I have no choice. Well, I do have a choice, but that's to settle in to rock bottom and make myself a new home there. For some strange reason, that doesn't sound like a good idea to me. I hear there are monsters that live down here and although I might be afraid of the pain of the rope, I'm more afraid of the monsters that lurk in the dark. Today, I tackle a few more feet - one day at a time, I will climb this rope to meet Tom on the edge of the well and when I do, expect me to celebrate. Start gathering your party hats and noise makers, you might want to bake a cake even (I like chocolate, thank you!), I'm not sure exactly when I'll be standing on the edge of the hole that leads back down to rock bottom, but I am working to get there as fast as I can.
photo courtesy of aturkus (and no, that's not me)
PS Despite my own fears, I've decided to make this public content. Some may think that's insane (and maybe I do too), but I have always been open about the successes and failures I have experienced in real estate. Although a consumer might read this and think "why would I hire a struggling real estate agent," I think the reason for the struggle is important. I am an excellent agent - when I have the business to be excellent - but if I'm not generating the business (one of the hardest parts of a career in real estate), I can't show myself to be excellent at all the things we do everyday - writing contracts, negotiating, listing homes for sale, helping buyers find a new home, and all the fun stuff in between. This is about me struggling to be excellent at the consumer-facing-side of real estate, this is me struggling to get in front of those consumers in order to grow my business.