We’ve all been discouraged at one time or another. Even the big boys, those at the top of the food chain in commercial real estate, have had their setbacks. Those of us who make a living on commission income know the euphoric highs of closing a lucrative transaction. We’ve also experienced many disappointments. I know I’ve had my share.

My Early Years on Commission

I remember my early years on commission. I had no safety net. My spouse was a stay-at-home mom. My very first year as a commercial mortgage broker, I worked long hours only to earn $7,000. To stay afloat, I lived off my savings, and when they were gone, I tapped into the equity in my house. To say the least I was deeply discouraged. Ever so slowly I began to succeed as a commercial mortgage broker. But to get to that point required that I borrow against the equity in my house. It was a bit of an exaggeration, but I remember telling people I had the equivalent of the equity in my door knobs. Years have passed and today I own my home free and clear and I’m completely debt free.

Discouragement Takes Many Forms

In commercial real estate, discouragement takes many forms. It could be a day when every cold call you make, is not only a “no” but it’s a “hell no” or worse yet, the prospect hangs up on you. It could be a client, who through his words or actions, makes it readily apparent that he doesn’t appreciate what you bring to the table. And maybe the most discouraging, is losing a deal that you thought was a sure thing.

Grit and Success

So how do we keep moving forward in the face of discouraging setbacks? I recently read Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. This is a must-read book for anyone striving to succeed personally or professionally. For example, a high grit score for cadets entering West Point, is more important than any other factor in predicting whether a cadet will succeed in not dropping out during the first year at the military college. Grit is more important than intelligence, grade point average, athletic ability, leadership skills, etc.

The Hard Thing Rule

The book also reveals how grit can be learned by adopting the Hard Thing Rule. The author and her husband have incorporated this rule for their family members to live by. I liked the concept, so I’ve morphed it a bit so it can apply to commercial real estate professionals. There are three parts to the Hard Thing Rule. It is acknowledging that:

  1. To succeed in commercial real estate, we must do something hard, something that requires deliberate practice. For the newbie in the CRE business, it’s making a specific number of marketing calls each week, or attending a particular number of business luncheons, etc.
  2. You can quit the real estate business, but not until you’ve given yourself a chance to succeed. In my mind, it takes a bare minimum of three years before you can really know if the CRE profession is a good fit for you. Very few of us are overnight successes but those who persevere usually are rewarded for their efforts.
  3. To succeed in commercial real estate, our “hard thing” will change over time. It starts with cold calling and eventually we find a better way to market ourselves that is more productive. Whatever that new “hard thing” is, it’s not necessarily easier than cold calling, but it yields a far better return for the effort we put in. This could be focusing on the Pareto Principle, i.e., that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients. Maybe it’s becoming a thought leader in your particular niche in commercial real estate. By becoming the expert, slowly over time it attracts more clients who want to employ your services.

The Buddy System

One more thought about persevering when we are discouraged. I believe in the buddy system. Find someone you can confide in, someone you can tell your deepest, darkest fears to. This person should not be your spouse, nor someone you work with.

For me, I meet with my friend Rick on Thursday mornings at Starbucks. We’ve been getting together over coffee for about ten years. We talk about our families, our businesses, our ministries.  We do not talk about the weather or sports. When I’m discouraged Rick hears about it and vice versa. Just talking to Rick about my latest setback, whatever it may be, encourages me to pick myself up, dust myself off and get back into the arena of life. Life is not easy. But it’s far easier when you’re not doing it by yourself.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours? What do you do when you get discouraged?

Doug Marshall, CCIM is the award winning author of Mastering the Art of Commercial Real Estate Investing.  Check it out on Amazon.

Mastering the Art of Commercial Real Estate Investing