The balancing act

In his book What Got You Here Won't Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith says, “People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They're not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity. They embrace it. They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns. Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves."

This can be a fantastic trait in successful agents and new agents striving for success. Most people would say, “Of course this is what makes people successful—that drive to win, that mindset that I will never lose, I will survive in any market."

Here is where the balancing act come in! Goldsmith goes on to explain some of the dangers this drive to succeed can get you in once you have gotten there. He says, “Successful people tend to be extremely busy and face the danger of overcommitment. It can be difficult for an ambitions person, with an 'I will succeed' attitude, to say 'no' to desirable opportunities."

This is where I tend to see agents fall off the train. Anyone who knows me well is probably thinking, "That's the pot calling the kettle black!" You're right on. Overcommitment and saying “yes" to any opportunity was one of my biggest character flaws during the growth of my career in real estate. I was one of those agents who would say yes to everything. I felt that if I didn't say yes I was losing out. I thought, 'There are thousands of other agents out there trying to take business away from me? If I say no to opportunity, success is going to pass me up.' I thought by saying yes to everything was what made me so great. I never told a client no, and I never told an agent I managed no. I was the customer service king!

Or was I?

The danger of saying 'Yes'

Here's what was really happening, and I couldn't even see it: I was completely overcommitted. I was the Jack of all trades, master of none. I had so much on my plate with clients, agents, friends, and family, that I became ineffective in all facets of work and play. I needed a slap in the face. I had said yes to so many things that none of them were getting done well. I was fortunate to have a business partner who slowed me down enough to see the forest for the trees. So with my love for reading (four books later) and a slap in the face from my business partner, I finally realized that the word “no" was in my vocabulary.

Nathan (my business partner and BreakthroughBroker.com co-founder) started to say at the beginning of every business discussion, “Remember, if we say yes to this we're saying no to something else." What did he mean? Think about it. Saying yes means saying no. When we say yes to anything, there is something else in our life—whether it is business or family —that we are saying no to.

Find a happy medium

As I embrace this philosophy—and don't get me wrong, it's still a struggle—I can see great improvement in many facets of work and life. Several years ago I had an agent tell me, “No is not in my vocabulary." At the time I thought, “That's why she is selling over 50 homes a year." Now I wonder how long can she keep it up. At what point will she start to lose business with unhappy customers and a neglected family?

In our profession it is truly a balancing act. You need the killer instinct—that can-do attitude—to be successful. You also need to be able to say no. It's not a bad word, and you will be even more successful once you have mastered it.

Eric Sachs is a co-founder of BreakthroughBroker.com. Send your feedback to eric@breakthroughbroker.com.