Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Are You Practicing Success Avoidance?

Why are some companies having their best year ever, while others are languishing, or worse, failing? Even in the middle of a Great Recession, you can create your own success story, if you’re willing to make the tough calls. Dare you read on?

Imagine you wake up one day and the market has collapsed. Your business plan for the year is untenable, because something unforeseen has occurred. Some banks have collapsed; others are teetering. Credit becomes tight. The dollar plummets. Unemployment soars. Inflation. Customers pause. And so on. Any plans you had made, for the market conditions you had predicted would last a while, no longer apply. Reaching your goals is seriously jeopardized.

Well, that did happen. But it was nearly five years ago. So, what’s your problem today?

We have long said that you get the success that you believe you deserve. You get paid what you believe you’re worth. You attract the customers you think you’re worthy of attracting. You surround yourself with people you believe should be around you. At the heart of your success is what you believe about your success.

More than anything else, your beliefs (not technology, marketing, money or time) determine how – or whether – you pursue success. You add the other things together to pursue what you believe; but they don’t come first.

That’s why some companies are, plainly put, kicking ass. Sure, there’s a Great Recession going on, with all the uncertainty and difficulty that comes with it. But when is there never uncertainty and difficulty? Blaming your current situation on the recession – or lack of boom – is a cop out. The good times were really not as good as we romanticize them to be. It was just easier to avoid tough decisions when lots of money was coming in.

Revenue makes it easy to look successful without the need for goal clarity.

Some salespeople believe success will happen to them it they wait it out. With hope as a strategy they wait for that perfect lead. If you don’t think this is true, then how do you explain so many who won’t write down a business plan, attend office meetings or buy an iPad? Some industry insiders have estimated that more than 60% of REALTORS haven’t done a deal in the last twelve months. Is that practicing success, or practicing success avoidance?

To accept a situation in which you don’t make for months is to accept that you don’t believe you should be making . Harsh? Maybe. But so is being poor.

Company owners and managers often suffer similar delusions: Without a belief that they deserve to experience success every day, they avoid addressing obstacles and let things linger. That’s why many companies remain merely good – never rising to great – and eventually fail. Rationalizations are plentiful: If we fire the agent who hasn’t sold anything in a year, she could down the street and make a big sale. Did you see that flying pig? We can’t expect that manager who won’t hold her agents accountable to ever get it. Is that a pink elephant in the corner? Let’s not challenge the top agent’s negative behavior; they’re an independent contractor, you know. Isn’t that Elvis? 

As long as we don’t believe we deserve better, we will take whatever we get, with fingers always crossed.

Here’s a story to illustrate:

I recently met with a client who operates a real estate brokerage in a major East Coast market. When I asked him how he was doing, he whispered, We’re kicking ass!  In a down market, with a fraction of the agents as his competitors, he has risen to the top. I asked him why he was whispering his success. He said he felt funny saying things were great while other brokers were lamenting their troubles. Our conversation went on.

Next he told me about how he recently had to fire an agent he had spent a lot of time recruiting. Apparently the agents was marketing in such a way that it violated the company’s standards and brand values. Even though he had worked hard and invested money to attract an agent with high production numbers, my broker client sent him packing at the first sign of trouble. When I asked how he felt, he said proud. When I asked how the other agents reacted, he said they were completely supportive, even relieved. When I asked him if he saw the connection between his two stories – his success and his willingness to make the tough calls – he paused….

Then a big, broad grin spread across his face and he said, Yeah, I guess that is why we’re kicking ass!

Yes, it is. Whether you’re a broker or an agent, you need a personal belief in your success. You need a plan, to work hard, to find failure unacceptable. And you’ll need to make tough calls – with customers, managers, agents, vendors. Most importantly, with yourself. If you don’t find anything wrong going months without a sale, don’t expect clients to be upset, either, if you don’t earn their business. If you believe your agents should show up for your weekly office meetings, don’t be too surprised when office production reflects that, too.

If you’ve been avoiding the tough calls, perhaps it’s not so unreasonable to see that success has been avoiding you, too.


  • JT


    You summed it up nicely. There are people settings records in this market, some even without an iPad! Go figure.


  • Lburkard

    I Love this!  You have hit on points that many agents don’t want to hear. For some reason, People have the idea that   a Positive attitude; Attending Office meetings (sold a listing last week at my office meeting-Prior to listing it); Holding Open Houses;  And even plain old Determination are not going to help make sales.  We have to step out side our comfort zones and learn to be comfortable with that! We all need the reminder and to have it spelled out! Awesome as usual!

  • Revenue makes it easy to look successful without the need for goal clarity. (I think I shall retweet this nugget). 🙂 I’ve experienced this. I invested some of my marketing budget in things that did not yield a return (not because the system or strategy did not work, but because I didn’t follow-up). But sometimes though, through failure, you learn to overcome. I survived and thrived, others will as well. Your story of the broker who let go a top producer who didn’t quite match the company’s brand/values goes against the “norm” of years ago, where brokers were more than happy to manage any agent with a pulse. The business was fast back then and warm bodies was all a broker needed to handle the client load. The real question is can broker’s or individual agents make the tough decisions when the time comes like the broker in your story. Some will others won’t, but that’s the balance of life and business. In the “other market” I sucked as an agent because it the pace was too fast for me. This is the market where I can thrive or maybe that’s just my mindset for now to motivate me to action.

  • Thanks for your great comments, Angie! I appreciate your thoughts on failure and learning to overcome. Adversity is ok; it’s when we let complacency substitute for trying again that I think we should be concerned. Glad you stopped by!

  • Thanks for your comments! One of the things I often have to do with clients is help them confront “the elephant in the room” but once you start looking right at it, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

  • JT:
    Good point! You don’t need technology to be successful; you need a plan, determination and hard work to be successful. Technology just helps!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Michelle Spalding


    Well said, I’ve been stuying these concepts for a while and believe, “What you focus on you attract more of”.  When our attention is on the problems, the recession, the other things we don’t want happening, we’re just allowing more and more of that into our lives, but when we focus on the things we want to happen, they do.  It’s not all just wishful thinking, it’s working toward what what we want, and focusing on that, planning and taking action in that direction. 

    Great reminder to us all today to believe in ourselves, and focus on what we want.

    Wealthy Wishes,


  • Michelle:
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with people in the last year who basically can’t articulate for me their goal – or even their short term plans – and then are grasping at anything that comes at them. Technology, marketing, training – it all amounts to very little if you can’t determine where to apply it, toward which outcomes.

    Then, then really hard part: sometimes, involving making big decisions that most of us want to put off.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Matthew – Excellent post with some points that agents, managers and brokers can all listen to and should heed. The market is certainly changing but that is a good thing.

    The game of golf changed about 14 years ago when a kid named Eldrick Woods came along and decided to go against the status quo. He worked out, hit the ball a long way and wasn’t intimidated by anyone. He dominated the game for most of the last decade.

    Now more than a few other players have followed his recipe for success – a laser beam focus on the course, a regimented workout routine, discipline to do the hard work- they are finding levels of success. If you strictly look at Tiger’s results ON THE COURSE, there haven’t been many like  him but others are learning not to get distracted by the media, the weather or the rest of the things that don’t matter.

    Real estate success is really no different. The game has changed but the keys to success are still there for the determined to take – laser beam focus on the goals you seek (Tiger wants to break Jack Nickaus’s record for majors), a regimented workout routine (are you talking to enough people and setting enough appointments to achieve the results you seek?) and discipline to do the hard work. 

    And as for technology, remember what a good golf pro will tell his student who thinks a new set of clubs will make the difference – “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.” 

    My guess and belief is that Tiger Woods will be back in the winners circle soon. And that’s good news for many of the “tired agents” because it will show them that if they just re-focus their efforts “on the course” they can be back in the winners circle as well.

  • Sean:

    Excellent comparisons – and very apt because many agents want the same thing Tiger wanted – to break records, beat their competitors and be the “top” producing agent in the company or market. Unfortunately, others simply come to the golf course and never even take out a club, let along hit some balls. Likewise, too few managers see themselves in the all-important role of coach, and sometimes say things like “I’m not a babysitter!” which is sad they see only that as the “option.”

    I appreciate your comments!!

  • Thanks for the article. As a new agent, people are asking me why I chose to get into real estate now, and a lot of it has to do with job happiness, but a big chunk is the ability to see my own successes (something that didn’t happen in my previous career). This just helps me confirm what I feel and am starting to experience!

  • David Horowitz

    Great article.  No matter how bad the market there are always some people doing well.
    how can that be?  Beliefs. Attitudes  Actions.

  • Exactly!

    Here’s an irony: even in GOOD times, we know that 60% of agents wash out of the business within 18 months. So clearly there’s something more to being successful than the boom and bust cycle.

    Thanks for your comments! :>