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The Challenge

I have a confession to make. I am an Oprah junkie. Ever since I got XM radio in my car, I am glued to the Oprah & Friends station. I find all of her ‘Friends’ to be very inspirational. I laugh, I cry…and very often I find myself going ‘Hmmm’ (like that song in the early nineties…things that make you go hmmm hmmm hmmm).

Today was a Hmmm day when I heard Oprah’s friend, Dr. Robin do a show about politics. Dr. Robin is a psychologist, so the show was not about the candidates and the issues but more about the attitudes of us watching the national campaigns. The point being made was about how we are so critical of our leaders and hold them up to some clear set of expectations, yet we don’t hold ourselves to those very same expectations. That, if we honestly sit back and reflect, we will see a big disconnect between what is acceptable for ourselves and what we expect from them.

So the challenge from Dr. Robin today was for all of us to take responsibility for holding ourselves to the standard we expect from our leaders. She used my favorite quote “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” to emphasize her point that, instead of sitting back and picking apart and criticizing the candidates…instead of watching and waiting and wondering how these people are going to make our lives better…we should be turning that energy inward. Yes, the election is important but not to the exclusion of, and certainly not more than, our own individual responsibility to the world. What a big difference it would make in the world, she said, if we all did that right now, today, and figured out how we can make a positive difference in our own little corner of the universe.

I myself have already tried to accept this challenge. Actually, before this current national political campaign, and before ever even hearing of Dr. Robin, I had adopted this policy of ‘doing’ for the community instead of expecting someone else to take care of things. I can’t even pinpoint when this began or how it came about because it seems like I’ve always been involved with some volunteer activity or another, at least in most of my adult life. But I have always felt that sitting back and criticizing leaders is not real helpful. That telling others you should be doing this or you should be doing that is not really fair. In other words, armchair quarterbacks suck.

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Answering The Call

It all really began to come together for me about 4 years ago when I made the decision to run for the Board of my Homeowner’s Association. I had been a Volunteer for a year or so and was Chairing the Communications Committee, which produced the bi-monthly newsletter in addition to some other responsibilities. It was not an easy job and took a big commitment of time and energy to do. So when I started having trouble with the Board because of their need to micromanage and use Volunteers to do the hard work without allowing them to have any real voice in how things should be, I knew that change needed to be made. The Board at the time was not very well-liked and had the reputation of being an old boys club that worked in a kind of bubble, oblivious to the needs and concerns of the rest of the community of 6,000 people. They were notorious for laying down the law, regardless of what anyone else thought, and too often trampling over volunteers and the work of the committees. Needless to say, volunteerism suffered and no one wanted to help out on committees or work with them on the Board. They had effectively diminished any possibility of a challenge.

So, when it became my turn to experience first hand the effects of this kind of leadership, I made the decision that someone had to try to change things. Call me stubborn or strong-willed or whatever, but I have never been able to resist a challenge and have no problem throwing myself headlong in to something, no matter how daunting it may seem, if I feel strongly enough about it. Basically, these guys pissed me off and that was just the kind of encouragement I needed!

My first step was to resign from the committee, at which time my entire committee joined me in this bit of revolution. Then, I threw my name in to the ring at the next election, and got myself elected to the Board. What followed over the next two years was an amazing bit of luck and circumstance (or, for you Law of Attraction types, an awesome manifestation of my set intention). Anyway, I ended up becoming President by the end of my first three year term on the Board. I am halfway through my second year as President and am astounded at the sea change that has occurred. I am not trying here to take credit for all of the positive things that happened recently but I do feel like my decision to get involved in this way was the measurable beginning of a great turn of events for us in our community.

The Results May Surprise You

Today, my Board is proud to oversee a larger than ever group of enthusiastic volunteers who feel like they are able to make a difference in our little corner of the world. We have empowered the people to contribute to our leadership process and to follow through on their great ideas. This has had a measurable effect on the morale of the community, and has allowed us to get more accomplished than we otherwise would have been able to. And, we are starting to feel our influence expanding outside of our gates and are poised to accomplish even more in the years to come.

Dr. Robin’s remarks on the radio today were really geared toward people in their personal lives, within their homes and families, but her message struck a chord with me as it pertains to us real-estate-agent-citizens in towns and neighborhoods all over the country. How awesome would it be for each of us to make a commitment to find just one way to make the places we work in better? What kind of impact would it make if the 1 million NAR members in the US did this? Would our neighborhoods be better for it? Would our country be a better place to live in?

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Be The Change.

Written By

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.



  1. Jed Lane

    September 28, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I have been doing this for awhile but came at from the need to get out and network. I can’t stand the bar/corporate mixer thing so I decided to meet people while doing something. It has proven to be great joy I never experienced before.
    I believe that we, Realtors, have unique talents to do thbis kind of work and that it fits into our code of ethics. Most of us have good listening skills, we are able to discerne the underlying motivation and need and then propose the common ground that gets the deal done.
    We also have knowledge of marketing and conectivity tools that many others don’t and we know how to deploy them in a social networking situation.
    I, just this month, organized my neighbors to fight the city transit district placing a bus line on a street that never before had one. The stated reason for the change was to “save 2 minutes”. I held a meeting and 25 people showed up, sitting around the table were neighbors that all lived within 2 blocks of each other but had never met.
    I know that there is a desire to connect in community and many communities just need the connector.
    We are the connnectors and yes imagine if all of got over ouor fear of angering someone and took a stand for our neighbors how much we could accomplish.

  2. Bill Lublin

    September 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Edmund Burke said “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing” – guess we could add “or good women” Eldridge Cleaver said “If you aren’t part of the solution you’re part of the problem” Amazing that they’re separated by race, age, and centuries but they said basically the same thing that you said.
    Great Post

  3. Shannon Gilmore

    September 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I too have a bad addiction to this positive network of people and possibilities ( Oprah & Friends) I love that you took Dr. Robin’s point and made it personal and meaningful. The greatest thing about her challenge as you mentioned:

    “So the challenge from Dr. Robin today was for all of us to take responsibility for holding ourselves to the standard we expect from our leaders. She used my favorite quote “You must be the change you wish to see in the world” to emphasize her point that, instead of sitting back and picking apart and criticizing the candidates…instead of watching and waiting and wondering how these people are going to make our lives better…we should be turning that energy inward”

    …. so the best part Is that we can do something, it doesn’t have to be something grand, or it could be, we just have to do something… it can be the littlest thing, like helping out a neighbor. Don’t we all wish our leaders had more of a connection to the average working guy or gal?

    You have reminded me that doing something is important and so I’m going to find a way ” to be the change” in some way, every day. Thanks for a positive and inspiring post.

  4. Missy Caulk

    September 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Lisa, we can change our worlds a little bit at a time, with neighbors, PTA’S, wherever we interact with people on a daily basis. Just think how blogging has changed the horizon in the last few years.
    Oh I like Oprah too, but rarely get to watch.

    Bill those are some of my favorite quotes….

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    September 28, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I know that in leadership training we try to prepare people to adapt to situations and atmospheres to overcome obstacles and achieve the goal. I don’t think that we spend nearly enough time teaching that occasionally (as good as a leader as I may be in some situations) the leaders is simply not a good match and removing themselves and being a servant for awhile.

    Case in point: As a manager I was good at training, being a resource and preparing the agent. However, I was not good at all, when the agent wasn’t motivated or had personal problems to deal with. For that the Principal Broker was a better resource. As a team we were great. I learned how to move out of the way. I just wish that some industry leaders, who are clinging to the past techniques that aren’t working any longer, would do the same.

  6. Jeff Royce

    September 28, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Lisa…very nice post post. I think you hit the nail on the head with our criticism of politicians. We complain about negative campaigning a lot as a nation, but it seems that is exactly what we as individuals respond to. I was astounded and saddened by what I saw on Twitter during the debate the other night. People were calling both of the candidates liars, making up names for each that put them down, talking about how stupid the candidates are.

    The truth is that all four of the candidates for President and Vice President are much more qualified, knowledgeable, and accomplished than those of us in the peanut gallery. Let’s give the the respect they deserve, and like you said, look to see what we can personally do to make our communities and our country better. It’s okay to disagree with an idea a candidate has, but lets cut out the cheap shots at them. It only makes the person who fires the shot look idiotic.

  7. Paula Henry

    September 28, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Lisa – I whole heartedly agree! One step at a time with passion, determination and a positive attitude, much can be accomplished. One key for me is to avoid negativity and toxic people. I ususally try to inject something positive into the conversation or situation.

  8. Lisa Sanderson

    September 29, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Jed: Connectors, yes! You are absolutely right about the special talents we bring to the table and I love that descriptor!! Keep up the good works.

    Bill: I love those quotes too. And it is also amazing to me how the themes of life transcend eras.

    Shannon: I take that as a huge compliment! Thank you!!

    Missy: That’s why Oprah & her friends on the radio 24/7 is so awesome. Does anyone watch tv at that time of the day these days? And yes, our blogs are great tools for us to use in our community works. Like Jed said, we are ideally positioned to get the word out about so many things.

    Matthew: Excellent point. We need to be very self aware to ensure that we are using our time and skills to our and our community’s best advantage. None of us can be everything to everyone and it is important to know our strengths and weaknesses in order to be effective.

    Jeff: Exactly. What we say about others is a reflection more on ourselves than on those we discuss. There is a famous quote that says this much better than I do…anyone know who said it?

    Paula: A positive attitude is definately key in any situation. And the beauty of it is that it is extremely contagious!

  9. Sarah Cooper

    September 29, 2008 at 5:25 am

    Lisa, you are so inspiring!! I’m ready to go forth and change the world for the better! AG is brilliant, we know this, but it’s completely reinforced for me with their most recent additions to the team. What a fabulous start! And the quote you’re looking for, is it, “You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” (I have found this to be quite true!)

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