Do What It Takes

I know that in our current economy, many people are struggling; businesses are not doing well and layoffs are everywhere. We do have some glimmers of hope in the economy, but if you are unemployed or the owner of a business that might go under, these bits of good news are not a lot. We all face adversity in our lives from time to time, and it certainly is a truism that how we deal with adversity will determine the outcome rather than the adverse situation itself.

It’s also true that there are thousands of self-help gurus out there that have a myriad of ideas, theories and processes for how to improve your lives. Your humble Blogger does not want to join the ranks of the gurus, but I would like to offer some guidelines for living and doing business that I have learned over the years.

Those guidelines are:

• Do what you love
• Do what it takes
• Do something different

I started out my professional career in the early seventies as a French teacher, football and basketball coach. My early years’ adventures took me to quite a few places around the world over the course of a dozen years, and I finally settled down in the suburbs of Montreal, Canada in 1980. Unfortunately, due to a lack of teaching positions, my teaching career came to an end in 1985.

One of the first lessons I learned is that the transition from a teaching career to the business world is not easy. At the time, I had two options: sell insurance or sell real estate. My decision was guided by the experience of buying my first home. Our real estate agent was a special one, and since my wife and I were first time buyers, she took the time to educate us about buying a home. Later, when our transaction was in trouble, she worked mightily to save it, and succeeded.

I was impressed with the work that our agent did, in particular the way she taught us and guided us through the process. I decided to give real estate a try, and there discovered my first guide point: Do what you love. I loved working with people and teaching them, which is exactly what our real estate agent did for us. I did not find it hard to transition my teaching skills to a new arena, and enjoyed working with people to sell or find a home. As a matter of fact, “do what you love” expanded beyond my clients. As I became successful, it was not long before I began teaching other agents as well.

Becoming a top-notch agent was hard work, but I also discovered my second guide point in the process: Do what it takes. At the time a successful real estate agent needed perform some very basic actions well to find business. The basics were not necessarily easy, but they were simple: make phone calls and knock on doors. Now, you also needed to learn what to say when someone opened a door or answered the phone. I knew many agents who knew what to do, but failed because they were not willing to do what it takes.

The third guide point that I discovered was from my experience of the recession of 1990. In Canada, particularly in Quebec, the recession hit real estate very hard, not unlike what is happening here during our current recession. I had moved from selling residential real estate to managing a branch office for a major Canadian real estate firm. Due to the recession, the company closed more than half of their branches in Quebec, including mine. At that point I could have gone back to selling, but it was not really the time to jump back into sales.

My experiences following the closure of my branch led to the discovery of my third guide point: Do something different. During my years in real estate, I had begun using a computer to become more efficient in my work. Since teaching is something that I love, I had actually taught the first class on How to Use a Computer in Real Estate for the Montreal Real Estate Board.

Now when I say ‘do something different” I don’t mean that you should make such radical change that you must go back and relearn everything to start over. I mean that you must take an inventory your skills, knowledge and experience, and see if you can find another field in which to apply them.

Real estate was looking glum, but the computer field was just getting started!I decided to take training in computer programming. My intent was not to become a programmer, but to learn enough so that I could apply my teaching and management skills to that field. The knowledge that I gathered during that training along with the sales skills that I developed as an agent led me to a new career as an independent consultant creating and delivering training for software development companies.

There have been many other obstacles that I have come up against in the 24 years since I moved from the education world to the business world, and many changes, but these three guide points have been my steady companions through thick and then:

• Do what you love
• Do what it takes
• Do something different

2 thoughts on “Do What It Takes

  1. Great philosophy. And fits in nicely with your recent collumn about keeping strategy simple. Thank you, Bern
    www. extended-family .net

  2. This is an excellent back-to-basics article on managing your professional career. At a time when so many of us are focused on “getting a job,” Kevin Callahan reminds us all that you have to shift your focus to the things that are truly important. Thanks for your words of wisdom.


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