Special offer

Why I Trust My Gut

Managing Real Estate Broker with Howard Hanna Rand Realty License # 49FA1074963

Max and his humanI seldom blog about my career before real estate, but a short question prompted me to write an answer that would be worth expounding upon. 

My first job out of Villanova started in May, 1989 for a publishing company in their sales division. It was a small privately held firm run by two partners who were ex-salesmen themselves. I started out well and was promoted to management in my first year. 

Lesson 1 out of college: Titles are often window dressing to get more work out of a person without paying them for the extra time and effort. 

My first year was actually quite a happy one, but in the early 90's the recession cooled things off. I was ambitious, and I was also enthralled with the big picture that ownership painted for young managers. I believed that I was in the right place at the right time to have a stake in a company that would make me wealthy. 

Lesson 2 out of college: The Big Picture painted by the guy on top can be hot air, or as I called it later, the Big Lie.  

Given my eagerness to advance and the fact that I was single and unattached, I was the perfect guy for travel and relocation. I worked brutal hours- nights, weekends, and a day off a week was a lot. When a guy under me was in a car wreck, I moved from Philadelphia temporarily to Maryland. Then, back to Philly. Then New Orleans. After that, Boston. Then back to Philly. My twenties were a blur. 

One thing I started to see over time was the bloom coming off the rose between my superiors and myself. Even though I was a fast learner and hard worker, my input was typically not considered. I began to feel as if I were square peg trying to fit a round hole more and more. And when I didn't perform to my past robotic standards, I'd be "called in" to the main office where one of the partners would have a "meeting" with me. Looking back, it was pathetic- a 25 year old working his tail off being worked over in a fancy office by the president, two vice presidents, and a division manager. My attempts to defend my position were waved off. Look around the room, I was told. They were all older and wiser. The voice in my head was my enemy. 

My nadir came in 1994. I had spent a successful year in New Orleans revamping a division down there,  I had an awesome apartment in the warehouse district, and I had a great girlfriend. When that relationship ended, they thought the best thing to do was transfer me to Detroit. But first I'd spend a summer in Boston turning that around. I didn't want to go to Boston. I didn't want to go to Detroit. Worst of all, since Boston was temporary, I was told to rent a room somewhere. So long Warehouse district apartment, hello Watertown boarding house with a pet pot belly pig. And that "temporary" assignment stretched to almost a year. I remember being out of town on business when my belongings were shipped from storage in Louisiana to my new address, and some jerk put all those cardboard boxes on the side of the house instead of the covered porch. 

It rained. 

Just kiss herOnly sloppy packing saved photos and valuable things. Clothing was drenched. Some books were ruined. But things like my diploma and photo album were OK. 

At this point, I was officially unhappy. I was tired of being sent here and there. I lost a tremendous amount of confidence in my own ideas and instincts. Every time something went wrong, it was because I didn't follow the instructions to a "T," not because their plan sucked. 

Lesson three out of college: Sometimes if you work for someone else, you are building their dreams and not your own. 

I could write a book about my resignation and exit from the company, but suffice to say I should have left years earlier. I landed in Rochester, New York working with my old roommate from college and his father. No relocations. No head screw meetings. No pigs. I took to real estate, and I built my confidence again. One epiphany I had was that my gut was not just often correct, it was uncannily correct. 

In 2005, when I started my company, I had a clear plan of how I wanted to build things. I would not second guess myself, and I would trust my instincts. I would not be swayed by anyone with an agenda contrary to my own. And all we've gone is grow. 300 Transactions, $125 million closed, and without a stitch of "help" from those guys in the Main Office. Imagine that. Me, myself and I shed their advice and did OK. 

In 2012, I know that had I gone with my gut 20 years ago, I'd be further along than where I am even now. I am at peace with things because lessons probably had to be learned and there is no value in regret. But one thing is certain: My inner voice, my gut, my instinct, whatever your choose to call it, is a better friend and far more accuate than the directives my old superiors gave me when I was a cowlicked kid. It is that way for a reason. Our inner voice is what makes us special, and wasn't put there to be elevator music. It is our GPS in Life.  

So yes, go with your gut. A lot more people would be a lot better off if they did. 


Janis Borgueta
Newburgh, NY
Retired RE Salesperson

Phil~~ Amazing story.... and yes, we all are today because of what we did in the past. It is what makes us strong.

Mar 10, 2012 10:23 AM
Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker
Janisch & Co. - Conroe, TX
Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you!

We all learn basically the same lessons but at differing rates. And, I suppose some never learn but I learned a few years back to trust that gut feeling..... I call it my "spider-sense" ala spiderman but it has never been wrong.

Mar 10, 2012 10:25 AM
J. Philip Faranda
Howard Hanna Rand Realty - Yorktown Heights, NY
Associate Broker / Office Manager

And as my gut has grown in girth....


Mar 10, 2012 10:26 AM
Doug Rogers
RE/MAX Coastal Properties - Destin, FL
Your Real Estate Resource!

Life's a dance we learn as we go! I've had bosses like the ones you describe. Not fun.

Mar 10, 2012 10:37 AM
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

J Philip - The older I get the faster I listen and act on my gut instinct, which so far seems to be spot on.

Mar 10, 2012 12:00 PM
Nancy Conner
Olympia, WA
Olympia/Thurston County WA
You are a wise man who has obviously found value in your experiences - even ...or maybe especially when what you are learning is what does NOT work for you. Trusting your gut and that inner voice - priceless!
Mar 10, 2012 12:21 PM
Praful Thakkar
LAER Realty Partners - Burlington, MA
Metro Boston Homes For Sale

Philip, what a story. You have learned lessons from life - and there can be no better learning than that.

Like many of Lou's power quotes, one stands out in your post - listen to your heart, go with your gut!

Mar 10, 2012 01:45 PM
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

J. Philip - what a story. I was glued to it. And your "Our inner voice is what makes us special, and wasn't put there to be elevator music. It is our GPS in Life." is brilliant.

Mar 10, 2012 03:16 PM
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Terrific blog Joe.  I have to wonder how many people have learned that same lesson!  I know I did, but not right out of college (I went to South America for a couple of years to gain a different life experience as a missionary).  But when I returned, I looked like you!

Mar 10, 2012 08:13 PM
Erv Fleishman
Realty Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Luxury Prop Specialist Realty Associates

The little boy is precious. 

Just think. you could be sellng real estate on the Main Line.

That would require driving a hunter green car, preferably a Mercedes or Range Rover. 

You would have to memorize all the train stops and schedules. 

The public schools would be the finest around and the private schools would be a badge of arrival. 

Villanova. Bryn Mawr. Ardmore. Wynnewood. 

All aboard.

Mar 10, 2012 08:52 PM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Interesting Phil on the reflection and experience...we all have different ones that shape us...I was lucky in my corporate career to be picked by the CEO to rise and get to do cool jobs...but most learn about people that made me like you who we are today.  There is nothing like the confidence in oneself to go forward and be in your truth and delivery of it...congrats to the wide girth and the great family you cherish!

Mar 10, 2012 09:19 PM
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good morning J Philip. What a captivating and beautifully written story of your history and your gut. You have a wonderful style and I enjoy seeing pictures of your family. Always go with the gut: if you make a mistake it is your mistake. I really enjoyed this!

Mar 10, 2012 09:59 PM
Kathy Sheehan
Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021 - Atlanta, GA
Senior Loan Officer

Mine has served me well over the years.  I like to callit my little voice.

Mar 10, 2012 10:33 PM
Dick Greenberg
New Paradigm Partners LLC - Fort Collins, CO
Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate

Hi J. Philip - Those are some great lessons. I learned those particular ones by watching friends learn them - my own personal set of hard lessons were a bit different, but just as transformative - and I was driven ultimately by trusting my gut feelings.

Mar 10, 2012 11:50 PM
Justin Dibbs
Fairway Independent Mortgage - Ashburn, VA
Mortgage Advisor

Great post!  I'm with you, I had the same experience in my first corporate job out of college except I trusted my gut and bailed after 18 months.  Soooooo happy I did.

Mar 10, 2012 11:58 PM
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

Phil, we love you and your growing gut. (haha). Much of your success is due to your great compassion for others and your straight forward no fuzz attitude.

Mar 11, 2012 12:23 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Trusting your gut is essential, and often downright scary.  I remember my days in the corporate world thinking that things couldn't get much worse, but terrified to go another direction.  When I finally did, I wondered what took me so long.

Mar 11, 2012 03:41 AM
Morgan Evans
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY

I just read Eileen's comment.  Let me apologize for her.  Back to business, always a pleasure Phil, thanks for sharing.

Mar 12, 2012 05:56 AM
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

Glad it worked out for you. Persistence and ambition can over come lots of hurdles, as you have demonstrated.

Mar 13, 2012 02:07 PM
Christine Hooks
Pino Agency - Pennsville, NJ
Celebrating 25 Years in Real Estate!

That is someting that I'm working on, Phillip.  Following my gut.  It isn't always so easy.

Mar 19, 2012 03:15 PM