I love getting dirt under my fingernails in the flower garden.
And the way dirt crumbles in my hand.
I especially love the way weeds pull right out sometimes, root and all.
Recently, when I was down on my hands and knees digging in the dirt, my little dog joined me. At first, she supervised nearby for a few minutes, possibly to see what treasure I would unearth. As I continued pressing my hands and tools into the soil, pulling out weeds, and humming, she decided to dive in right next to me.
She claimed a patch of weeds right beside me and set her paws to furiously digging. Dirt and leaves flew everywhere, even onto me. I paused my weeding to watch (while guarding my eyes from flinging flecks of dirt). She worked and worked, finally digging a little pit for herself. Then she stood in the middle of it and plunked herself down, nestling as deeply as she could into the cool earth.
I smiled, petted her, and returned to pulling weeds.
In the quiet, I thought about how she and I were both digging in the garden but for different reasons. I want the flowers to be visible and not crowded out by weeds, and she wants a cool place to sit.
We all have different motivations for doing what we do.
Many people can do the same thing, but for different reasons.
I’m a real estate agent, but my why might surprise you.
It’s not for the money (It’s not as much as you think anyway)
It’s not for the glamour (People tend to see agents more as salespeople than industry professionals)
And it’s definitely not for the primo hours and awesome vacation times (Days off can be hard to come by. Heck, attending a wedding uninterrupted can be hard to come by!)
No, I’m an agent in spite of all these challenges.
Because I’m a helper and encourager at heart, and I love, love, love to help people find their perfect-for-them home. As an agent, I get to protect people from pitfalls, walk them through scary and difficult circumstances, and make them super crazy happy.
Those are the things that satisfy my soul that I count as excellent results, and that drive me forward each day.
What motivates you in your work?
We all face obstacles.
A controlling parent, a cheating colleague, lying clients, or a bullying boss.
When you’re in it, especially if stress and difficulty come from multiple sides, it can feel like the most miserable isolation. But the truth is that none of us is alone. We all struggle.
So what do you do when the pressure becomes relentless and you start to feel like you’re drowning in negativity?
You don’t drown in water by being in it. You drown in water by staying in it.
-Edwin Louis Cole
Many years ago, I was in just such a place – drenched in deep, extreme negativity. The enormous personal stress resulted in my losing 50lbs in a month. I couldn’t eat – my body wouldn’t allow it. My insides felt shaky – like I’d swallowed a phone stuck on vibrate. And all I could think about was the very difficult circumstance that was turning my heart inside out.
Then something happened that changed my life.
A friend noticed and did something. She saw what a mess I was and how it was damaging my body.
“You need to go to a doctor!” she said.
I insisted that I didn’t – that I could handle it. She insisted more though, and made me go. She drove me to the doctor’s office. She sat with me in the room. She forced me to get help.
And it rescued me.
Most of the stress and difficulty we face in our work and relationships isn’t that extreme. But it’s critical to recognize when we’re maxed out on stress and negativity, and to take action before we make things worse – for others and for ourselves.
How to Recharge in the Face of Obstacles
Be Your Own Friend
I was lucky that time to have a friend not only notice, but then help me initiate change.
We can’t wait for a masked hero to arrive though. Most of the time we have to be our own friend, noticing that we are a mess and that something has to give.
Give Yourself Permission
I don’t know why we find it so hard to give ourselves permission to be wounded; to feel hurt. I’ve got news for you: humans hurt, hearts break, and we’re not robots who can flick a switch to make it all stop.
Healing can only happen when we realize we need it.
Needing help does not mean you’re weak. In fact, it’s what’s going to strengthen you. Admitting your wounds is itself an act of strength and the next step to progress – no guilt required. Give yourself permission to need help.
There is a time to take a break. When you’re slammed from all different sides, it’s tough to pull out a smile. We have to recognize when our bodies, emotions, thoughts need a break.
When we are in a bad mental state, we’re probably not the most effective in our work and relationships anyway. We need to invest in our own well being with the gift of a rest.
Let It Look Different
Know that your rest and recharge time doesn’t have to look like sunbathing on a beach in Cancun.
It doesn’t have to be two weeks long. Do and be what refreshes you.
For some, it’s going to be retreating to a cabin with a stack of romance novels. Or others it looks like camping out in a recliner for a few days, refusing to cook or clean, so their body can heal.
Recently, I took a break to recharge, and spent that time attending classes, learning online, brainstorming my brand positioning, and product development. That – especially the brand positioning and marketing – is what revives my motivation. It refreshes my confidence in my abilities to excel, and fires me up to work with renewed gusto.
What refreshes you will be different than what works for others and that’s okay.
I’m curious – how to you recharge when facing obstacles?
What is Virtual Staging?
Virtual Staging is the use of software to stage the photos of a home. The key to doing this well is to have good quality photos to begin with and then have a skilled Stager do the decorating.
When would you use Virtual Staging?
Virtual staging would only be done in a VACANT HOUSE.
What is the benefit of Virtual Staging?
- NO added costs to hire a stager
- NO added cost to get content insurance for furniture
- NO damaged walls from moving furniture in and out
- No risk of furniture being stolen or vandalized
- Increased perception of value
- Buyer is able to picture what the space is to be used for
See the difference in the following examples:
This first photo is an odd room. The window does not appear to belong to a specific room. We cannot see what is behind the wall. Can you see how these two options help clarify the use of this space?
It’s scary to be ourselves.
It’s risky to admit to others that we are depressed sometimes, that we love Jesus, or that we’re rednecks who like celebrating Christmas by firing guns.
After all, if others knew us, or even caught a glimpse of who we really are, they’d drop us like third period French. So we wear masks. We smile and pretend and post only the happiest, most winning comments and Facebook updates. And we most definitely avoid anything slightly controversial or off color.
The problem is not just the isolation it causes or how fake we feel. The biggest problem with our mask-wearing is that it keeps us from being ourselves, or even exploring who we are.
Years back, I used to berate myself a lot for the way I looked. I was embarrassed by my weight and size, and wished every day to look different. Younger and thinner like I used to. I didn’t like how my body had changed. It was difficult to look myself in the mirror everyday and dislike what I saw. And I didn’t really talk about it, either, because I was sure others thought about me like I did. I was afraid they’d say the hurtful things I said to myself. So I put on a smile and went about pretending I was okay. It was isolating, which only deepened my pain.
On my long journey to becoming comfortable in my own skin, I learned from a few people the value of being yourself.
Leigh Brown is one of those people. She happens to be a Remax Broker and salesperson in North Carolina, and I had the chance to hear her speak a few times at the National Association of Realtors Conference. From the first time I heard her, I knew I was about to be blown away.
She is like no one I’ve ever met. Her personality is big and strong, and she lets it show. She doesn’t wear the stuffy masks like most of us do. She doesn’t filter her words through a bland sieve of diplomacy. As an example, one of her YouTube videos is called, “Sh*# Leigh Says”.
Her boldness and energy reminds me a lot of one of my favorite Bible teachers, Beth Moore. Both of these women are who they are, and they like it that way.
It’s women like these who inspired and motivated me to work through removing my masks and let my colorful personality show too. Now, as a (more) confident woman who’s (more) comfortable in my own skin, I (am still learning to) love who I am.
I wear moccasins to work, cloak my ipad in wild zebra print, and tell buyers that a major benefit of a deck off the master bedroom is for “those who like to smoke after”. Our Christmas tradition includes shooting Targets, and I’m not ashamed to be both tech-savvy and a redneck all at once. I love integrating my faith into my work, calling out bullies, and advocating for seniors and the brokenhearted.
But here’s what I didn’t expect.
Accepting and loving ourselves as we are AND as we would be is important, but something even more wonderful happens when we can do that.
The time and energy previously spent on hiding, second-guessing, and maneuvering around our insecurities suddenly becomes available for other uses. Suddenly we can empower and encourage others, adding value to their lives.
And here I learn a critical, hidden cost I didn’t realize before. By wearing masks and avoiding rejection, we don’t just miss out on being the awesome people we already are – others actually miss out too! When we put down the masks and forget the fear, we can take all the good stuff we do have to offer and offer it.
So get out there and be awesome.
Like you already are.
If you are an agent reading this, you may want to listen to this video of Leigh Brown on personal branding called The Art of Being You. Be inspired to be yourself.
We need to talk about control.
This series about selling due to separation would not be complete without talking about the games people play and how they try to manipulate each other.
Incredibly, the blazing hot emotions involved with divorce can turn a previously loving relationship into a battle zone. Sometimes, the sale of a house becomes the last pawn in that battle to the death.
As a real estate agent, I get a front row seat to such gladiator games.
It’s not a fun sport to watch.
I also don’t plan to out anyone’s real, personal story, so will instead paint a picture with broad strokes that have applied to many situations.
One common situation is when a couple has separated, but continues live in the same house until it sells. She never wanted the divorce, and is resentful about it. He just wants to get out of there as soon as possible.
Guess how that pans out during negotiations.
Any buyer who comes along to make offers will be roped into the manipulation and mind games these two end up playing together. Offers – even ones perfectly matching the seller’s requirements – will be rejected. Or stalled. Or have a last-minute change added. Anything to hang on – to keep the unwanted future from unfolding. Anything to keep him around, even if it’s just to fight.
In another common situation, one spouse has moved out, and the other remains in the house, which is for sale. The animosity between them is thick enough to slice.
He decides the house is the battlefield where he will win back control over her. He’ll sign no papers. Or he’ll leverage the house to renegotiate divorce terms. Or he’ll simply stall, perhaps suddenly “needing to talk to a lawyer”, so the buyers who have finally come with an offer walk away, tired of waiting for these two to get their heads on straight.
Sometimes the attempts to manipulate are successful enough to wreak emotional havoc.
Most often though, the result of all this arm-bending is financial loss, even to the point of bankruptcy.
When people sell due to separation, the dynamics are tricky.
Tips For Buyers:
If you’re trying to offer on a house where separation is an issue, bring an extra helping of patience and compassion. These are hurting people in an emotional volatile state, neither responsible for the other’s actions.
Try to remember none of their antics, behaviors, or inconvenient requests is about you. Most of the time, it’s about their last desperate attempt to control or at least hurt their spouse. Try to cut them some slack.
Tips For Sellers:
The best advice I can give to couples selling due to separation is to decide as much as possible before you sell.
Any decision you can make before separating and before selling, is better.
If one of you is leaving the house, try to decide division of assets before actually leaving. Get it in writing and sign if you can. Once a spouse actually leaves, it seems sad emotions ignite into flames of rage and bitterness, and the control games begin.
Don’t think it won’t happen to you. Or that you and your spouse are too sensible to become like “those people” who break down and lash out. You’re not. This happens. And not just to ‘other people’.
The best thing you can do is not underestimate the power of emotions involved.
Head trouble off at the pass – discuss and agree on as much as you can before walking out that door.
The phone rang. It was a past client.
“My marriage is over…” She explained they’d decided to end it, and wanted me to list their house.
I was able to head over to her place right away. Before hanging up though, I encouraged her to rethink the separation. “Relationships are more important to me than transactions.”
“No, it won’t work. We need to sell and end it.”
“Okay, I’m on my way.”
On the drive, I prayed. For wisdom. For their relationship. That healing could happen.
At the house, they both waited for me, and together we three signed the papers and listed their house. They didn’t really want to sell it. They had custom built their dream house only a few years prior. But it was unthinkable to stay after ending the marriage. It had to go.
It was a peaceful meeting. They were not angry and yelling as some do, instead they seemed quietly resigned to the story unfolding this way.
As we passed papers around and signed on lines, I said, “Just so you know, you’re not locked in here. You can change your mind. All you have to do is say the word and we’ll withdraw it from the market. No questions asked. You don’t owe me an explanation.”
They thanked me, and I proceeded to market the property.
Two weeks later they emailed, asking to withdraw the listing.
I drove over to their house to sign a different set of papers. This meeting was peaceful too, but hope hung in the air.
Afterward, he walked me to the door. “We want to make our marriage work.”
I smiled. “I’m so glad.”
I didn’t regret for a moment the money I spent to market their house (and by then I’d spend quite a bit already).
Now I see them having fun together, posting smiley photos of them together at Jets games and eating out with friends, and I am so thankful. I’d much rather see their happiness and success than a sold sign.
Divorce happens. Sometimes it needs to.
But sometimes it doesn’t need to.
Their courage to try again is something I greatly admire.
Separation is emotionally volatile.
What’s surprising is that it surprises people.
I’m not sure why. It’s perfectly logical.
When a previously deep and intimate connection disintegrates, it does not go quietly into the night.
The connection doesn’t simply become dead. It becomes… undead.
It continues living, but in a new, twisted form.
Divorce seems to poison its victims, transforming one or both into claw-bearing, fanged creatures who rip and tear relentlessly to satisfy their new thirst for blood. What was once passionate love becomes an insatiable desire to inflict pain, ironically in an effort to relieve pain.
Logic becomes calculation.
Reason becomes justification.
Love becomes hate.
Suddenly the dining set bought together years ago, while holding hands in the furniture store, becomes the mountain on which each is willing to die.
Discussions about the house, the furniture, and the car, each become an opportunity to slash and bite and howl.
Unfortunately, the children also fall victim to the poisonous effects of divorce. They, however do not grow fangs. They become the table or the car – a thing to fight over. There, smack-dab in the middle, they can’t help but get in the way. As they watch their parents slash at each other, and as they are tugged and coaxed and pressured back and forth, they are soon scarred by slash marks too.
It’s an ugly unfolding.
As a real estate agent, I’ve had a front row seat to many such stories. My clients have suffered the grief and shock and pain of divorce. Luckily for both of us, the deep pain of divorce is something I’m personally acquainted with, so I can empathize.
I understand. I’ve been there.
My experience – both personally and as an agent helping my clients through this gut-wrenching process – also means I can hopefully start a conversation that helps others understand how to help their clients.
Whether you’re a real estate agent, banker, or lawyer, it’s tough to watch clients suffer, and difficult to navigate the volatile transaction.
The biggest way we can help our clients is by empathizing. Let’s not be surprised or critical of their emotional state or outbursts. This is the nature of the beast. Instead, let’s look past the claws and fangs and realize all the howling is not about dining sets or houses. These are the final twitches of death – the pangs of regret and hurt that themselves cause hurt.
Hurt people hurt people, as they say.
Let’s not add salt to the wound.
As the professionals helping them through it, we can offer an ear, a kind word, and maybe even suggest alternative, more effective ways to salve their wounds. But our advice can’t come out of a desire to fix them. It has to come from a place of compassion and empathy.
It’s all any of us wants – to be loved the way we are. To be understood. To be known.
Luckily, every human interaction – even acting as a real estate agent – offers the opportunity to provide exactly those things for another.
They were happy.
Married, healthy, and earning a comfortable income, they enjoyed life, their home, and each other.
Then it happened.
Strange symptoms started to show up. Finally bothered, nagged, and mystified enough, he went to the doctor to find out what was going on. A diagnosis followed, and the prognosis wasn’t good. He was slated for surgery.
Many long months of treatments followed the surgery. She made herself available to be his personal, stand-by nurse after the surgery and during treatments.
They couldn’t go out.
Few came to visit.
The isolation was crushing. No one knew the emotional and mental anguish they suffered at the hands of his physical disabilities, or how trapped they both felt inside the walls of their own home.
Years passed this way. They robotically dragged themselves through each day of his long and slow recovery. Thankfully though, recovery did come. He was able to care for his own physical needs. They could leave the house and be among people. Both were miraculously able to return to work.
They were happy again, but something had changed.
The years had made their home into a prison cell. Now, despite his recovery, every room in that house reminded them of the hardest years of their lives. Every day the memories of that dark time haunted them.
They needed a fresh start somewhere else and to make new memories in a new home.
That’s when they called me and we began the search together.
Sometimes we need to bloom where we’re planted, even in a bed of weeds. Other times, it’s necessary to move on.
Reasons people have for buying and selling their homes are as varied as the people themselves.
I’ll never tire of the honor of hearing people’s stories. I especially can’t get enough of helping people through this highly personal experience of buying and selling the places where we make memories that last a lifetime.
What new chapter of your life are you starting this fall?