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Saturday, October 18, 2014

My life in real estate: Lessons learned from Dad

If my blogging has seemed lacking these past couple of months, bear with me… it’s been a difficult time. My darling father, Phil Jones, recently passed away.  

In early August, Dad fell while trying to transfer to his trusty "Amigo" (his scooter). As a result of the fall, he tore his rotator cuff and injured further what was already a badly degenerative hip. Thus began our stress filled journey of emergency rooms, hospitals, surgery, skilled nursing, Medicare and finally hospice.  In spite of his debilitating pain, my dad remained steadfast in his courage and consideration for others. I will never forget how amazing he was throughout this ordeal. 

As you might suspect, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad these days. He really did live a good and long life. We joyfully celebrated his 90th birthday in May; surrounded by family and many friends -- both old and young and from near and far. But despite my gratitude for his long life, I am a bit heartbroken that my dad is gone. He was my go-to guy for information and counsel. He was always a steady presence in our lives -- a wise and trusted advisor as well as a beloved father.

As I think about Dad, I realize how much I have learned from him and apply to how I work, conduct my real estate business, and how I interact with clients and other agents. So in his honor, I hope you’ll indulge me as I take this time to share some of the lessons he taught me along the way.

There are two words that can define how you achieve success: work and goal. People sometimes thought that my dad was a lucky man. I don't really believe, that people who achieve success are lucky. I think they're well prepared and therefore are ready, when great opportunities come their way. My dad was one of the most accomplished people I've ever known. In his quiet way, he was very driven without the fanfare of so many successful people. He achieved success through setting goals and working to achieve the goals. He knew in high school he wanted to be a doctor, so even during his freshman year in college, he took advanced pre-med courses. This enabled him to skip college and go straight to medical school when WWII broke out. He was prepared. As he taught us, work without goals is merely labor. And goals without working for them, are simply pipe dreams.  (Or to quote Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, "A goal without a plan is just a wish.")  I've considered Dad's advice through the years and think he's right. Most successful people I know are goal oriented and work hard. 

Most people have good intentions. I think this is one of the most important lessons Dad taught me. He communicated that one shouldn't assume that people are malevolent. Most people mean well and simply make mistakes -- they're human. Forgive and accept them. Dad lived his life that way. He overlooked all the crazy things my sibs and I did and never judged us -- just forgave and accepted us. I try to remember that concept in this business of real estate when dealing with others -- it's not always easy, but it's a great guiding principle. 

Listening is far more instructive than talking. My dad was the best listener I've ever known. People gravitated to him because he listened to them. As a result Dad always knew the right directions to get to places; the nuances of situations and the back story to just about anyone's life. When others might get angry and start yelling, Dad would get quiet and start listening. He was amazing that way. I find that when I use his strategy, real estate negotiations go more smoothly and deals come together in a more effective manner.

Showing up is what it's about. One thing I can say about my dad, is that he always showed up.  He never committed to something he couldn't deliver on; when he said he was going arrive at 4:00, he would be there at 3:55. When he said he would help me with something -- he was there,  ready to help.  I've never known another person in the world, who was as reliable as my dad. I suppose for a child (whether young or old) there is something very grounding in knowing that you can count on your parents. He taught me responsibility for keeping ones' word and the importance of "showing up."

You are responsible for your own life. From a very early age, Dad rarely would take a position on what we should do... he would say something like, "It's your decision." I asked him once about it and he said, "It's your life, your decisions, and ultimately your responsibility." So often people blame others for their own mistakes:  "So and so told me to do..."   It seems like more and more people won't take ownership for their own bad decisions or behavior. I think it's become somewhat endemic in our culture to blame others. You often see it in real estate, which is unfortunate.

There is never a reason to be rude or unkind.  Watching Dad these last two months was quite impressive.  With every nurse or helper,  he was kind, polite and always said, "Thank you."  As a result, most of the health care workers were wonderful with him.  It was so instructive to see how kindness and consideration can be infectious and get results.  He was amazing.    

I’m sure there are so many other things that I’ve left out. Dad was special and they really don't make them like that anymore. To quote a sentiment spoken at his memorial service:

"We know we will never see you in the flesh again but know this; we are keeping the best part of you, your spirit. That spirit will continue to influence me and, hopefully, all of us, in the same quiet, dignified way that it did during your long and wonderful life...

In closing, I want to thank God for this great man. He was my mentor, my hero, my friend, and my... father.  I will revere and honor him for as long as I am alive."