Dedicated Husband. Father.
Dreamer. Founder. Philanthropist.
Entrepreneur. Author. Storyteller.
Just a Good Dude Trying his Best to Impact the Lives of Others.
Growing up, all I ever wanted to be was Number Five. Number Five for the Kansas City Royals. George Brett was my idol. From as early an age as I can remember, that was it for me. That was the pinnacle.
While other kids my age were watching cartoons and bugging their parents for action figures, I was hounding mine for royal blue stirrup socks and mock baseball card photo ops. Every baseball jersey I got as a youngster was taken to the local sporting goods store to have a big number 5 put on the back.
For twenty-four years, the singular goal of playing professional baseball drove me. That dream carried me through high school, through college, through setbacks from a grueling 18-month rehab from multiple elbow surgeries, through workouts, tryouts and independent ball.
In the spring of 2004, I finally made it. Signing that professional baseball contract with the Houston Astros easily ranks among the top five days of my life. For the next three years, I realized my dream of playing professional baseball; making stops in Lexington Kentucky, Roanoke Virginia, Savannah Georgia and about two dozen other Podunk towns in-between.
Then, there it was; the dreaded writing on the wall. After an all-star selection my first season and mid-season promotions in ’04 and ’05, in 2006, I was unceremoniously given my walking papers by the Washington Nationals.
I can’t remember the Farm Director’s name and frankly, it doesn’t matter. I was so frustrated, I only heard every third word of the conversation. But it went something like this, “we were never going to have a spot for you, this year, in our organization but The Nationals have a policy where we do not release a player until he’s had a full spring training with us.”
Excuse me? Huh?
The Subtext: We signed you as a free agent. Remember … you were un-drafted. We have no money invested in you and that means we have no obligation. Good luck, young man.
Sadly, the exact same sequence of events transpired just one-year prior with the Houston Astros. Trust me when I tell you that the only thing worse than getting released from Spring Training twice, is getting released from Spring Training on the final day of camp – twice. In my opinion, my release was unjustified both times. Then again, they didn’t ask me what I thought.
At the end of the day, my circumstances were not unique. The unfortunate truth is, professional sports is a zero-sum game and one largely driven by money and politics.
Yes, the death of a childhood dream is a really tough pill to swallow . . .
Life Leaves Clues
Every Tuesday Morning, I drop my (then) four-year-old daughter, Madeline, off at pre-school. I’ve been doing the same thing for two years now. There is a sign that hangs on the wall in the hallway. It’s safe to say that I’ve walked past that sign no less than 50 times without ever giving it a moment’s thought.
You see, on most Tuesday mornings, my goal is to get out the door as quickly as possible. I am pre-occupied with ‘work’ that I know is not getting taken care of because it’s Tuesday and I’m on Dad-duty. I’m mentally returning emails and going through my to-do list, wondering what I’ll actually be able to get done in a compressed amount of time. The last thing on my radar is the sign in the hallway.
A couple weeks ago, that changed.
The sign in the hallway reads, “Live your life in a way your children will know you stood for something wonderful.”
I cannot shake that thought. Am I?
Just this past weekend, my mom attended a funeral for one of her ex-students, a 29-year-old young man who died from a heart attack. He left behind a wife and three kids under the age of five.
Again, those 15 words ring loudly in my head.
Life is fragile . . .
A Divergent Path
I’ve learned that there are largely three reasons why someone would get into real estate. It’s a family business; Mom, Dad, Uncle or Gramps was involved. There are those who had a lousy experience with an agent and figured, “heck if he/she can be successful doing such a pathetic job, just think about what I would be able to do.” Last, but certainly not least, the largest contingent of all is the, “used-to-bes.” I used to be an engineer. I used to be a teacher. I used to be a stay-at-home parent and real estate seemed like a greener pasture.
I suppose you could toss me into that final group.
In the summer of 2006, the real estate market was booming. The popular shows on TV could be summed up as: flip this, invest in that, slap some paint on it and cash a $50,000 check. The idea of eventually becoming a real estate investor was an intriguing one to me.
If my baseball experience taught me anything, it proved that the only unobstructed path in life is one that you have the courage to forge for yourself. I was ready to take ownership of my future. I was looking for an opportunity to marry my love of learning with my entrepreneurial itch. Real estate seemed to check the boxes.
That was almost nine years ago, as I write this. For nine years, I’ve been fueled by the challenge of redefining myself and proving to myself (and others) that I can be a success at something other than baseball. That challenge has kept me working late into the evenings. That desire has kept me disciplined and heavily-invested. That quest has also kept me from being able to enjoy much “guilt-free” time off over the same period of time. Real estate is a tough business. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The one unfortunate thing about wisdom is that it is only revealed with time. I am a much different person today than I was nine years ago – different goals, dreams, priorities and certainly different perspective.
I am on a mission to find my voice in a story that is larger than just me. Recently on the morning of my 35th birthday, I wrote an article in which I referenced my relentless quest to find my “calling” and my recent realization that my time is finite.
As strange as it sounds, one of my biggest fears is actually success. No, I do not fear success itself because of my drive and my determination. What I do fear though, is the thought of pouring so much time, energy and effort into chasing success only to realize at some point down the road that I was firing at all the wrong targets.
In his book, Love Does, author Bob Goff has a great line. He says, “I used to be afraid of failing at something that mattered to me. Now, Im afraid of succeeding at things that don’t.”
You see . . . I never wanted to be a “real estate agent.”
A Different Perspective on Success
Many of the prevailing definitions of success in my industry run counter to what I believe and who I am at the core.
My industry tells me that success is defined by selling hundreds of homes each year. My industry glorifies status, ego and at times, greed. My industry tells me that the successful agent is plugged in at all times and willing to sacrifice family for work, seven days a week. Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to respect hustle but those things and that status have never been important to me.
The authoritative voices in my industry like to prescribe cold calling, business card pushing, polished scripts, baseless guarantees, and sales gimmicks as the quickest path to success. Dare to question those tactics and you are labeled as “weak” or told, “unfortunately – you just may not have what it takes.”
Beg, pester and blur the lines of deceit – it’s just not who I am.
It is no surprise that ‘real estate agent’ regularly ranks among the five least trusted and respected professions according to Gallup and Harris Polls.
I’ve never aspired to paint success with those brushstrokes. I cannot rationalize treating others in a way that I would not want to be treated. I’ve never cared to be associated with “industry-standard.”
Rather, I’ve always respected the longer game approach. One of my mentors says, “amateurs focus on sales while professionals focus on relationships.” Relationships require trust. Relationships require integrity, discipline and authenticity.
Relationships require time.
You see, for me, it’s never been about a shortcut to the next commission dollar.
The Paradox of Happiness
You could say that the past 24 months have been my “most successful” stretch in almost 9 years as a Realtor. But if I have your permission to be honest, despite reaching levels of “success” that I would have been thrilled with nine years ago, I am still searching for fulfillment.
Until just recently, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was bugging me so much.
“The path to living an authentic and meaningful life starts with questioning the one you are already on. Unless you understand who you are and where you are, there is no next step, there is no how-to.” – Philip McKernan
Philip McKernan says, “The path to living an authentic and meaningful life starts with questioning the one you are already on. Unless you understand who you are and where you are, there is no next step, there is no how-to.”
I have been asking a lot of questions recently.
For the longest time, I bought into the belief that I had to reach a certain level of success in baseball or business in order to feel “fulfilled.”
I’ve come to realize that I’ve had it backwards the entire time. A fulfilled life is ultimately what leads to success in business. Not vise versa.
Earl Nightingale said, “Success and happiness is the gradual realization of a worthy ideal.” Wisdom is truth lived and in order for you and I to find “our truth”, we have to listen to “our life.”
My ears have been opened and my life is telling me that it’s time to make a change.
For a while now my wife, Kristin, has been urging me to join a team, coach a team or become a part of something. She knows that being a contributor to a meaningful pursuit is ultimately what makes me tick.
I always reject the notion. “I don’t have time. I am too busy. I’m focused on work. It’s the kids. It’s the guilt.” That is the story I tell myself. And so, I wait. I pause. I procrastinate on what matters most. I postpone life. I let success dictate fulfillment instead of letting fulfillment guide success.
Matthew Kelly explains the paradox of happiness perfectly when he says, “On the one hand we all want to be happy. On the other hand, we all know the things that make us happy. But we don’t do those things. Why? Simple. We are too busy. Too busy doing what? Too busy trying to be happy.”
The Truth Inspires
It is time for me to realign my ambition with my true values. I am taking a bolder initiative to parlay my passions and unique abilities into meaning. I believe that is the only way that I’m going to be able to continue to grow into the person that I want to be; to fulfill my mission.
Two Saturdays ago, I had the best day that I’ve had in a long time. Why, you might ask?
I officially gave myself permission to stop trying to be a real estate agent. It’s terribly uninspiring to obsess about becoming a better version of something that you know in your heart of hearts, you are not.
I think we are all waiting and looking for someone else to grant us permission to start making the contribution we know we are capable of.
Ironically, that permission can only be granted from within.
The truth. The truth is what inspires.
Please don’t misinterpret this message. I am not going anywhere. I am shedding one skin and growing into another. My resolve has been strengthened and my convictions have never been clearer.
I am going all-in as a protector of those who choose me as their real estate advocate. I am standing up straighter for what I believe in – no matter what “they” might say.
The best part of it is, I know that my kids will never have to wonder what I stand for.
The Next Chapter in this Story: Choose Yourself – Its the Only Safe Bet
Thanks for Reading!