Table selection

Real Estate Agent

"I learned that the most important decision I could make was which table to sit at.

~from Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh


This statement has been rustling through my subconscious for the past few weeks. It's profound and life changing. I seem to find myself navigating through life, and making decisions, based on a few guiding principles; and this concept from Tony is cementing into my mind as a defining guide.


This concept isn't new. There's no doubt you're familiar with the phrase "In the right place, at the right time.", or perhaps you've read Donald Trump's declaration that "Everything in life is luck."  


Table selection, is a phrase used in poker to describe which table you sit at. It's an important part of the game because each table brings with it a unique set of characteristics; competitor strength, stakes, game type, and betting structure.  


It seems that the more I study success and people, the more I realize that table selection plays (amongst) the biggest role in determining success. In other words, it doesn't matter how well you execute if you are in the wrong business, in too small of a market, or the timing isn't right. Contrarily, even the dumbest person will find success if they are in the right business at the right time.


Fictional character, Forrest Gump, ("Stupid is as Stupid does") became wealthy after investing $25,000 in a shrimp boat that became the sole surviving boat after a hurricane. Before the hurricane, his boat was a financial failure.


Another example of changing tables and finding success is found in the biography of Guy Laliberte. He is a professional poker player, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, and a self made billionaire. However, before changing tables and creating Cirque du Soleil, he was a broke street performer.


In poker, table selection isn't something that is done once (when you first select your table before you start playing). It is something that a good player is constantly doing, because like in business and life, the dynamics of the table is always changing. 


When was the last time you candidly assessed the table you've chosen?

Comments (34)

Melissa Zavala
Broadpoint Properties - Escondido, CA
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County

I used to sit at the college literature professor table, and now look at me. I love the quotes in the post; very motivational.

Jul 13, 2010 03:15 PM
Amy Law
Alliance Properties - Crosby, TX

It not just the table, it's what's AT the table and what you do with it. You must PACE yourself, depending on the situation. Timing and pacing are everything with a good salesperson.

Don't let the appitizer throw you off:

if you're at a Mexican place it's the chips and salsa. They will get you every time! Don't eat too much of it, or you won't be hungry for the great stuff that's still coming.  It may be a low priced meal, but there's lots of action.

If your at a high end italian place, you might be disappointed by the little piece of toast they bring for the appitizer--but just wait. A HUGE plate of pasta will be out soon. But it's the dessert that worth saving room for. This would be a higher priced meal, and you can't have it as often, but when you do-it is SO worth it.

You must be careful with your timing and not blow the meal, (or your deal) by having your mouth full of food when you need to be talking, or by talking so much that you couldn't eat anything...



Jul 13, 2010 03:19 PM
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Jonathan, while environmental circumstances certainly can play a role in the success equation, we are all responsible for making the choices that lead us to where we have the best opportunity to find our success.  Of course, success can mean many things and it's important to remember that it is up to each of us to define our successes for ourself.

Jul 13, 2010 03:32 PM
Brian Block
RE/MAX Allegiance, Managing Broker/Branch Vice President - McLean, VA
Northern Virginia & D.C. Real Estate

Oh, one more thing I thought about.  A friend of mine who was last year's chair for RPAC in our area, likes to say "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu!"

Jul 13, 2010 03:42 PM
Tim Maitski
Atlanta Communities Real Estate Brokerage - Atlanta, GA
Truth, Excellence and a Good Deal

I call it positioning yourself so that you can't help but run into opportunities.

Many people dream of making a million dollars but they keep sitting at the 2 dollar tables. 

Good thought provoking post. 

Jul 13, 2010 03:49 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Jonathan, this is a particularly relevant post to me/us right now and I will be able to share more about it later but let me say ~ the timing couldn't be better for ME to read THIS POST :)

Jul 13, 2010 03:51 PM
Debbie DiFonzo
Debbie DiFonzo - United Country VIP Realty, SW Missouri - Lebanon, MO
Lebanon MO and Buffalo Missouri Real Estate

Like many of the others, Jonathan, this post has hit home. I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the table AND the players. Thank you for putting into words what has been rolling around in my mind and my heart... I watched an interview with Tony Hsieh and thought about ordering the book - now I know that is a must!

Jul 13, 2010 04:23 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Choosing the "right" table is like choosing the "right" clients. It is always good to have a choice of different tables to pick from and assessing your table from time to time.  "Know when to hold em..know when to fold em"


Jul 13, 2010 04:58 PM
Tammie White, Broker
Franklin Homes Realty LLC - Franklin, TN
Franklin TN Homes for Sale

I love this analogy.  I've just switched tables and I think this one is lucky.

Jul 13, 2010 04:58 PM
Terry Chenier
Homelife Glenayre Realty - Mission, BC


This is a pretty thought-provoking post from a whipper-snapper. Gave me pause for thought. Well done.

Jul 13, 2010 05:06 PM
Andrew J. Lenza
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Holmdel, NJ

If you don't know who the pigeon is ...

Jul 13, 2010 05:12 PM
Katerina Gasset
The Gasset Group & Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Provo, UT
Amplify Your Real Estate & Life Dreams!

Jonathan - I love Guy's story. I also love Steve Job's story and just imagine all the millionaire app developers have been made simply because of the Apple store being in existence today. I love Pursuit of Happyness, best movie ever, if you think life it tough! Nestor plays poker so the table is very important to him. 

Sometimes it is hard to get up from the wrong table. 

Sometimes we think that switching tables is failure when in reality it may be the very thing that is needed to propel you into your billion. Katerina

Jul 13, 2010 07:10 PM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

In the last 2 years, I had to completely reassess my table based upon the changes that had occurred around me and shifted directions significantly.

After reading this post, I feel like I have some more changing I need to consider.

Jul 13, 2010 07:18 PM
Judy Jennings
Top Agent Plus - Middleboro, MA
Tap into Judy's real estate expertise & resources.

Jonathan - This was very well written and timely for me. I sat at the wrong table for the first part of my career, and have found a new table that has presented more opportunity to succeed. I agree with Katerina, sometimes it is hard to get up from the wrong table.

Jul 14, 2010 01:01 AM
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Jonathan - great food for thought! I am sure RainCamp will cause many to stop and rethink what they are doing.

Jul 14, 2010 02:21 AM
Irene Kennedy Realtor® in Northwestern NJ
Weichert - Lopatcong, NJ


A change of home caused me to seriously evaluate my table before picking a new one! Sometimes we don't get a choice of when to select - but we always can decide where to sit our little butts selves.

Jul 14, 2010 02:24 AM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

I think AR needs to have another choice of  tables. I have the perfect East Coast  home table...perfect for an ActiveRain corporate retreat at 3738 Bixler Church Rd.Westminster, Md.  And it very close to a small airport..easy access!

If all 187,000 members put up less than 5 bucks ..we could make it happen.


Jul 14, 2010 04:32 AM
Speed Equity® Mortgage Acceleration System
Speed Equity® - Olympia, WA
We help your clients Own Their Homes Years Sooner

Jonathan, first of all it was a pleasure to meet you at the Portland Raincamp. You have to be one of "the" most unassuming and genuine people, let alone a CEO, that I have ever met.

I would like to add to your post with reference to a question asked/statement made by one of the Portland Raincamp Attendees who said, "I DON'T feel comfortable about committing to Active Rain, or any other IT platform for that matter, to generate my business for me. What if you get bought out by Google or Microsoft and they up the price or change the Terms & Conditions?"

That statement stuck in my mind and I wasn't sure if I should address it via a blog. However your post has opened up the floor and I would say to her:

The only CERTAINTY we have in today's business environment is that EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE. With reference to your analogy, the only thing to do is to gain experience and wisdom in knowing which table you should be at and NOT being afraid to move.

FYI: I went ahead and addressed this issue in a different way via a blog post you can read it here

BTW: I'm a newbie to AR so if I screwed up with putting my link here - please delete this comment.


Jul 14, 2010 05:39 AM
Jon Washburn
Seattle, WA

Harj, Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I appreciate your comment & post, and have written a reply in the form of a new blog:

Jul 14, 2010 07:26 AM
Spencer Rascoff
Zillow - Seattle, WA

Good post Jon. Thought-provoking, as usual.

Jul 15, 2010 10:34 AM