I've Hit Rock Bottom. - A True Life Allegory Of My Place In Real Estate.

Real Estate Agent with Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME

A man who hit "rock bottom."

Reality Bites.

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.


Re-Blogged 6 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Brett Tousley 07/24/2010 09:37 AM
  2. Richard Weeks 07/24/2010 11:21 PM
  3. Sandy Noll 07/25/2010 08:39 AM
  4. Thomas Cunningham 07/25/2010 08:47 AM
  5. LINDA SABO 07/26/2010 10:22 AM
  6. Jackie - computer-training-atlanta.com 08/30/2010 11:03 AM
Real Estate Best Practices
RE/MAX Active Rain Bloggers
Club Chaos
Be The Best In Your Field
real estate
tom ferry
rock bottom

Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Incredible number of clicks and comments.

If you can't read the numbers - that's 280 comments, 8060 views, and 7619 clicks (that's a hell of click through rate).

Thank you.  I know I haven't responded much, but it really is a lot to keep up with (and I've got some serious rope climbing to do).  I have read every comment.  For those that have called or emailed me personally, thank you.  I'm trying to return them all, but even that has grown to be quite a task.

In small victories, I had a successful offer/negotiation and my clients are now under contract after this weekend.  Feeling good about that, but I must tell you, the client was from my broker as she was out of town and needed some help.  It wasn't a direct result of my work, but I have found that when you work more, you have more things like that happen to you.  Call it karma if you will.

I'm very excited by all of this.  The personal stories are what has really gotten me fired up.  I knew there were plenty of agents with similar and worse out there.  Hearing it makes it that much easier to swallow.  Perhaps we could all learn a lesson from this - sometimes the sunshine and rainbows game only serves to keep us down in our dumps.  A little "I know what you mean" goes a long way - and not just to your local friends - perhaps a little public soul baring is better than you can imagine.

We talk about transparency, but how many of us are transparent all the time?  Sure, there are things I would never blog about (very few and far between), but there is a human element to blogging that can not be overlooked.  Some people commented that some consumers might see this and turn away and I agree.  I also agree with those same commentors - would they have been good clients for me?  Perhaps not.  I love money more than the next guy, but I don't need to work with people who don't believe in what I do, who I am, or how I take care of them - that trust is the value for me.  The money is the reward.

I will get to writing a more in depth post about some things soon, but at the moment, I'm trying to catch up on some of the basics and climbing that rope.

Thanks again - to all of you.  I'm sure the ActiveRain staff is sitting back and watching this thinking about how amazing the response here is and feeling great about the sense of community they built - not just the physical community, but the value of community.

Jul 27, 2010 04:10 AM #281
Risa Liebster
Ramsey-Shilling Associates - Los Angeles, CA
Toluca Lake Real Estate

Matt, you are a brave and honest man and I wish you the best on your journey.

Jul 27, 2010 07:41 AM #282
Coleen DeGroff
eXp Realty - Gainesville, FL
Haile Plantation Real Estate - Gainesville FL

Hi Matt,

Anyone who has the guts to post such a candid article about how far down they are in the crapper is sure to get back out.  Blessings to you, and to your coach Tom.....I'm sending good vibes your way.  Thanks so much for sharing this.


2010 has been a tough year for me business-wise as well. I think it's just my feisty Jersey Girl nature that keeps me going some days....those are the days I give a mental finger to this crappy market and vow to beat it no matter what. Right now that seems to be every other day. My virtual finger is sprained and I just needed to change fingers this week.


Hang in there!!!!

Jul 27, 2010 07:52 AM #283
Marge Draper
Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto - Menlo Park, CA
REALTOR, Keller Williams Realty, Menlo Park CA


I know I came upon your post for a reason.  Just today an associate said that her business was so bad that she's afraid she's forgotten waht to do.  (BTW, she has sold $1m + since the first of the year  --  yes, bad for her.)  I said I know what to do, I just want the chance to do it! 

I just can't figure out where the buyers are hiding.  Thanks for writing this post for me and the very best to you!

Jul 27, 2010 09:46 AM #284
Marge Draper
Keller Williams Realty Palo Alto - Menlo Park, CA
REALTOR, Keller Williams Realty, Menlo Park CA


I know I came upon your post for a reason.  Just today an associate said that her business was so bad that she's afraid she's forgotten waht to do.  (BTW, she has sold $1m + since the first of the year  --  yes, bad for her.)  I said I know what to do, I just want the chance to do it! 

I just can't figure out where the buyers are hiding.  Thanks for writing this post for me and the very best to you!

Jul 27, 2010 09:46 AM #285
1 ~Judi & Don Barrett & Chassy Eastep - Integrity
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK



You know that You are not alone, that people care where you take this life of yours and what you do with it.  You know who those people are and that's always the safety net under you, or should be.


As you climb that rope, pull that safety net along right under you... keep those that care posted and in the know so they can continue to support and be the safety net. It give you a resting place between spurts of accomplishment of this goal of yours.


You will get there, I hear it in your words that you have written.


One day at a time.


It's important that you keep blogging about your climb,  because there are others in similar spots  and it will encourage them to rise above.


Ropes are climbed one grasp at a time.


Jul 27, 2010 02:06 PM #286
Mike Parker

Hi, Matt;

In this business at this time, being overwhelmed with fear is fatal.

"Fortune favors the brave."

Please post this thought on your workspace:

"The only difference between a hero and a coward is that the hero is braver for a little longer."

DO NOT give up and do not give in. Resolve to hitch up your pants and start shoveling. As you can see from reaction to this post, people do care and are rooting for you. So, how about showing them their concern is validated and overcoming your demise? Also, ALWAYS prospect--every day of your life, because the only thing that separates successful agents from unsuccessful ones is that successful agents have someone to call on.

Dale Carnegie can't sell anything if he has no one to sell it to.


Good luck.

Jul 28, 2010 05:03 AM #287
Steve Shatsky
Dallas, TX

Hi Matt... I am not sure what I can see here that hasn't already been written.  I read all these comments and I am blown away by all of this.  WOW!  I am so sorry that things have been so difficult and it has left you where you are, but I am so impressed that you are fixing things with a little help from your friends.  You are an incredibly talented writer and REALTOR and I know that this story is going to have a happy ending.  I can't wait to read it!

Jul 28, 2010 04:49 PM #288
Lesha Mathes
Chinowth & Cohen - Tulsa, OK
Helping you find your way home

Thanks Matt, I've been going through a rough period and your post is encouraging.

Jul 30, 2010 04:18 AM #289
Cari Anderson
Danville, CA

Matt: thanks so much for your candor. It was a painful post to read but only because I, like so many others, can certainly relate. This is a tough time for lots of us but if we continue our climb we will emerge. Best wishes always!

Jul 30, 2010 06:22 AM #290
Sally Dunbar
Lyon Real Estate, Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento Area) - Fair Oaks, CA
Fair Oaks Realtor - Fair Oaks Homes for Sale

Matt - what helps me when I'm having a dead streak is the realization that I have done it before and will do it again.  I've been a broker for over 20 years (30, actually) and have had a 6 month stretch with NOTHING two different times.  Once was fairly recently (3 years ago).  I work at this full time, and during those 6 months I was hitting it hard.

I keep a sheet with a snapshot of a time when I had 12 listings and 8 - 10 in escrow. It's in front of me at my desk.  I KNOW I can do this, as Ihave before.  and low and behold, if you keep working smart and do the basics, it comes back.

We're in a yo-yo business.

You have the smarts, drive, charisma, and talent to make it.  You jsut have to chill and BELIEVE you will do it again.

Jul 31, 2010 02:40 PM #291
Carly Gonzalez
eXp Realty - Austin, TX
Carstin Team

Thanks for sharing!  We all go through low times in this business.  We are such powerful individuals...we have the power to build ourselves up or tear ourselves down.  Having a coach is GREAT and extremely difficult.  The honesty and the accountability of a coach can be so hard...it always comes back to our actions and choices.  Good luck with the climb back up!

Jul 31, 2010 02:48 PM #292
Phlinda Schumacher
PalmerHouse Properties, LLC - Smyrna, GA

Hi Matt - Wow!....to all the caring responses 

R.E.M    "Everybody Hurts"

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on.
Don't let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.

Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it's time to sing along.
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on.

Everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand. Oh, no. Don't throw your hand.
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone
If you're on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on.

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes.
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on.
Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on. (repeat & fade)
(Everybody hurts. You are not alone.)


Aug 04, 2010 08:48 AM #293
Paige Walker
Paige Walker - Pineville, LA
Real Estate Guru - Alexandria Pineville LA

Matt this may sound odd of sorts but, You Inspire Me! I have read through ever post and comment here and it is unbelievable. It is difficult times and some are faring better than others, some are hiding it better than others and some well, I'm not sure.

Just about everything has already been said. I know you are an amazing person even though we have never really met. I can tell by your writings, your honesty and the fact that you have so many that care for you.

Whether you stay in real estate or go to another venture. It is not the end, it is just a temporary situation. As I say these words out loud to you I am also saying them to many others, those who have posted and will continue to follow you as well as saying them to myself.

Thank you, the timing of the post was ironic for me. God Bless You and Yours

Aug 04, 2010 02:02 PM #294
Jim Crawford
RE/MAX Paramount Properties - Atlanta, GA
Jim Crawford Atlanta Best Listing Agents & REALTOR

Great post.  The longest journey in life begins by taking the first step forward, and you've already done that.  You also made it through the first day.  That is also impressive.  Now all you have to do is stick with it one day at a time and look forward, not backwards.  Keep you eye on  the goal.  God bless you, and keep you in His Graces.

Aug 07, 2010 02:37 AM #295
Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life

This may go down as one of my all-time favorite posts and threads, Matt.  Excellent work!  And your brutal honesty has sparked a fire with many who are probably more than identifying with ... but actually living it.  Cliches aside, Rock Bottom can teach you a lot ... I don't envy anybody who has never been there. 

Aug 10, 2010 02:44 AM #296
Troy Funk
Allison James Estates & Homes, Sarasota 941-957-3737 - Sarasota, FL
Broker / Associate

Matt, my wife has expressed to me that sometimes you have to sink to the bottom of the pool to push your way back up, instead of just drowning with nothing to gain leverage from.   You insight is brilliant.  Enjoyed your creative expression and wisdom.

Jan 17, 2011 01:32 PM #297
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Troy - Thanks for stopping by.  I really need to write a follow up to this post to talk a bit about my climb since then.  Your wife is definitely a smart woman - I'm not afraid of faltering and failing at times.  I need to fail occasionally to reconfigure my steps and attitudes.  I have a long climb, but only because I have high goals to reach.  The work I've done since I wrote this post has been life-changing and I think I owe a lot to my friends, my coach (Tom and Chadi), my co-workers, my broker, and myself.

Jan 18, 2011 01:33 AM #298
Jana Hristova
Best Deal Realty - Tampa, FL

Matt, this post is so refreshing because it is honest. Last night I watched the Flight of the Phoenix. It's an old movie about a group of people whose plane crashed in the dessert. Somehow they managed to build a new plane out of the old one. And just when they were ready to take off, a sand storm hit and their plane got buried under couple of feet of sand. They felt their only hope for salvation was gone.

This is exactly how I feel about working in real estate some days. The way I deal with this is to allow myself a day or two of self pity and desperation - I usually go out and do something fun. And then I go back, many times I have fresh ideas and energy because of it.

May 16, 2011 02:23 AM #299
Melinda (Mel) Peterson
Real Estate Cafe LLC - Bend, OR
Curator of Happy Endings

Wow Matt!  How are you doing these days?  Good, I hope!

Mar 25, 2012 02:33 PM #300
Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


Matt Stigliano

Ask me a question
Spam prevention