::VOICE OF GRUMPY MAN:: "What's that noise? Don't those darn kids know that I'm trying to sleep in here?" Ralph rolls over and looks at the clock on his nightstand. It is 9:54am, and the sun is shining brightly through the windows...another fact that immediately irritates Ralph. Pulling the pillow over his head, Ralph thinks to himself, "It's New Year's Eve. There is no reason to go to the office today. Why do I ever go? Business sucks these days, anyway."
Just then, "Ralph, honey, it is almost 10am. I made a special New Year's Eve breakfast...all your favorites." Under his breath, "what does she have to be so chipper about?"
"Ralph? Ralph, are you awake?"
"Yeah, I heard you. I'll be right down."
Sitting on the side of the bed, Ralph pauses with his head in his hands...the weight of the world pressing down upon him. "God, why is life so hard for me? Why does everything seem to go wrong for me? I just want to start over...and get it right this time. I'm so tired of trying so hard and getting nowhere. Uhh...I know I don't talk to you very often...but can you help me? Will you show me what I'm doing wrong?"
Halfway through breakfast, Ralph announces to Rhonda (his wife) that he is going to the office for a little while...that he'll be back before dinner. "But, honey, I didn't think you had any appointments today."
"I don't. I just want to work on my new...umm...maybe take care of some paperwork...get a head start on 2008. What time are the Pipkins coming to dinner?"
"They'll be here at 6:30. Honey, please don't be late."
"Oh...don't worry. I will be home long before then."
While driving to the office, Ralph reflects on the past year...2007...the worst year EVER of his seven year real estate career. He remembers how 2006 ended with three closings...setting the stage for a prosperous 2007. Then, without any warning, the market just died. At first, Ralph was not concerned by the slowdown...even enjoyed the downtime...until March when the bills began accumulating. The rest of the year...April to December...thinking about those months caused Ralph's head to physically hurt.
Pulling into the empty parking lot of his office complex, Ralph thinks to himself..."What am I doing here? Look around, Ralph, everyone else is home with their families. It is New Year's Eve. What do you think you are going to accomplish today that can't wait until next week?" After two minutes of hesitation, Ralph turns off the ignition and goes inside.
Inside his office, Ralph takes a seat behind his desk...covered in stacks of disorganized paperwork, incomplete files, loose receipts, sticky notes and half-drank cups of coffee. As if he suspects the shambles to be the aftermath of mischievous elves sneaking into his office at night, Ralph says aloud..."How did this happen?" Shaking his head, he realizes that things...his life...have gotten way out of control. "Where do I begin? Where do I begin?"
Shuffling through the clutter on his desk, Ralph searches for something..."It has to be here somewhere." He opens his drawer and pulls out another stack of ‘stuff'..."No, that's not it." Looking around the office, he spots a plastic container on the bottom shelf of the bookcase. He empties it onto the floor and retrieves a notebook from the pile of miscellaneous items. Sitting on the floor, Ralph leans back against the wall and opens the notebook labeled, ‘Ideas for Business'.
As he flips through the pages, Ralph pauses to read some of the ideas he had intended to implement in his business over the past years. Then, he turns to a page in the back of the book...‘New Year's Resolutions for 2007'...written across the top.
- I will exercise more and eat less. (Take my lunch to work instead of always eating out.)
- I will spend more time with my wife and children. (Leave the office before 9:30pm.)
- I will take two weekends a month to do something with my family. (I won't cancel our family plans last minute because a client -who is not even pre-qualified- calls and wants to see a house.)
- I will set-up a database to keep all of my clients' information and follow up with past clients on a regular basis.
- I will...................
In a comfortable position against the wall, Ralph closes his eyes to ponder his list of resolutions and drifts off to sleep...his notebook still open in his lap.
"Ralph...Ralph...wake up, Ralph!"
Startled, Ralph opens his eyes and sees a man standing in his office. "Roger...is that you?" Roger was Ralph's first broker-in-charge...all those years ago when Ralph first earned his real estate license.
"Roger...what are you doing here? How did you get in...I thought I locked the door."
"Ralph...come with me. I want to show you something." As Ralph stood to his feet, he suddenly realized that he was no longer in his office. He was standing in the doorway of another office...watching a man talk on the phone. ::WAIT A MINUTE:: The office was familiar, but the man in the office was even more familiar.
"Ralph...that man is you...three months after you received your real estate license. Do you recall the passion you had for this business? Do you remember how you would arrive each morning before everyone else and stay late into the evening? You used to tell me that you woke up excited about what the day would hold. One time I asked you what motivated you to work so hard. You said, ‘Roger...I want to be the best REALTOR® who has ever worked for you!' Ralph, you were the best REALTOR® who ever worked for me."
Standing in that doorway, Ralph watched the man (himself) smiling as he talked on the phone and thought about Roger's words..."You were the best REALTOR® who ever worked for me." Roger had been a great broker-in-charge. On the day Ralph joined the company, Roger had given him a list of things to do everyday...the ‘Insider's Secrets for REALTORS®'...Roger had called it. Ralph had followed that list to the letter, and it worked. His first year was amazing...4.5 million in sales and an award for ‘Rookie Agent of the Year'.
Turning to thank Roger for his guidance and support, Ralph was surprised by yet another voice from his past. "Ralph, do you remember me? Come with me, Ralph...your journey is not yet over." She opened another door leading from the hall and led Ralph inside the room.
As Ralph walked through the door, he saw six people sitting around a table...the woman who had led him through the door (a past client)...an attorney he had not seen in years...three little girls...and himself. "Ralph, do you remember that day? That was December 22, 2002...the day I closed on my home. That was the happiest day of my life."
"I do remember it, Rosa. I have not thought of it in many years, but I do remember."
"Ralph, I have never forgotten how you helped me and my children to get our home. The first day I came to your office, I had no hope. I don't even know what gave me the courage to come talk to you. I just remember that you told me that you were determined to help me. You promised me that I would have a home by Christmas...that you knew that God wanted me to have a home for my children. Somehow, I believed you...and it happened!"
Watching the six people at the table...tears trickling down Rosa's cheeks as she signed the loan documents...Rosa's children drawing pictures to hang in their new bedrooms...Ralph remembered that day so well. It was one of the proudest moments of his life...even though he would walk away from that closing without one dollar of commission. He had forfeited his entire commission to pay for Rosa's closing costs. She had never even realized how much Ralph had sacrificed for her. "It doesn't matter", Ralph thought. "It is actually better that she did not know because she would have felt obligated. No...it was definitely better this way."
As he expected, Ralph looked up and Rosa was gone. He was standing back in the hall. There was one more door remaining...all the way at the end of the very long hall. There was no escort this time...no person from his past to lead him there. Ralph somehow instinctively knew that the next steps were the most important of his journey thus far...a journey that would take him through the door at the end of the hall.
Suspended momentarily between the past and the unknown...Ralph took one step...then another...and another. He courageously traipsed down the long corridor...keeping his eyes on the door...his destination...his goal.
After what seemed like hours, he arrived at the door...but it was locked. Discouraged, he almost turned away to leave...but he just had to know what was behind that locked door. With all of his strength, he pounded and kicked the door...but it did not budge. Then, he took ten steps backwards and charged toward the door...hitting it with all of his strength...to no avail.
Hopeless, Ralph placed his hands in his pockets and hung his head in defeat. ::WHAT:: Ralph's finger touched something hard...metal...a key? Pulling out the key, Ralph stared at it in disbelief. "Where did that come from?" He placed it in the lock and turned...the door opened.
As he pressed the door further open, Ralph had to place his hands over his eyes to shade the rays of sunlight that were bursting through the window. Through his fingers, he could see that he was standing in his office..."But where is ALL my ‘stuff'???"...he thought. It was spotless...immaculate...organized...and the desk was even clean!
Coming from the hallway, Ralph heard voices and turned toward them. He stepped aside as the group walked into the office...a family led by ‘him'...Ralph. Ralph could not believe his eyes! It was him... a twenty pounds thinner and smiling ‘him'. As ‘he' pointed them to their seats, ‘he' sat down behind the desk and began to type on the computer. ‘He' then turned the screen around to show them...a gorgeous, brick home. They were so happy, and they wanted to see the home right away. ‘He' was calling to schedule the appointment right now. ‘He' told them that the home was vacant...that they could go see it now...and they all left.
Alone in his office again, Ralph listened to the happy voices moving further down the hall. Then, he watched from the window as they all got into ‘his' SUV and drove away. Staring out the window...the same window he had looked through a million times...the world somehow looked different...brighter...just different.
At that moment, Ralph remembered his promise to Rhonda to be home for dinner. Stealing one last look, he turned around to leave. Once again, the scene had changed. He was still in his office, but it was the same messy office as earlier in the day. He could not help but smile as he glanced across the room into the mirror on the wall. ::CHUCKLING:: "I see the twenty pounds are back also. I knew I must be dreaming. At least, I'm still smiling!"
In the mirror, he also noticed that he was holding something. He looked down and saw the notebook...opened to the page, ‘New Year's Resolutions for 2007'. Ralph could not help but laugh as he thought about his prayer earlier that morning. "God...you sure do have a sense of humor. I asked You to show me what I was doing wrong, but I never expected anything like this. Thank you for also reminding me of what I've done right and why I love this business. I think I've got the message!"
Driving home, Ralph was more excited than he had been in years. He laughed as he imagined Rhonda asking, "Honey...how was your day?" He would tell her, but more importantly...he would show her. She would see that the old Ralph had left for the office earlier that morning, but the new Ralph was coming home. He could not wait to write his list of resolutions for 2008...and he intended to follow through this time. "Yeah...2008 is going to be a great year!"
Written and Posted by:
Elizabeth Nieves - Broker, REALTOR® -- The Elizabeth Nieves Realty Group @ Keller Williams (A Bilingual Real Estate Team serving Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill NC and surrounding areas.)