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From Family Man to Salesman & Back


There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends. ~Homer

I never thought I’d overcome my failures.  I never thought I could make it all “work”, as they say.  My wife and I were married when we were 18… yes, 18 and no, it wasn’t because she was pregnant.  We were in love, well that’s what we thought it was at the time.  Now, we more readily identify it as lust.  It took us about seven years of disdain and staying together simply because we want to prove our parents wrong to get it right.  About 8 years ago, we figured it out through a variety of hardships.  We walked through fire, hand in hand and came out best friends and fused together on the other side.  Amazingly enough when I put my life in priority and not be the over-achieving work-aholic that I had become, it all worked out.  That story can be found elsewhere…

What the heck does this have to do with Real Estate???  Everything….  I’ve never been one prone to motivational speakers or holistic lifestyle programs.  But, I do subscribe to the fact that a balanced personal life will influence your career, as much (if not more) that a miserable personal life.  My family has been an important element to my Real Estate career and an inspiration for each time I had to deal with one more difficult person.  My focus has been based deeply in my belief system and in family.  It’s given me balance and made me a better person.  

Too often practitioners become so overly concerned with the awards, the accolades, the status that they fail to see that the one true purpose in life is to leave a legacy.  Let me ask you, when you are retiring from this career will your children remember all the plaques and awards, the nice cars and the endless banquets that they had a babysitter for?  If so, what benefit that they receive?  Would it be more influential that you were a solid parent to them?  Did you pass on your ability to balance life and appreciate people?  When my three beautiful daughters grow and mature, I want to know that I had a part in their capabilities and compassions.  I don’t want to relegate that to my wife in order to provide comforts.  The trade-off isn’t worth it.  I know…I’ve tried…I’ve failed.

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Balance in life is organizing your lifestyle to ensure that all needs are met.  I LOVE the social media aspects of the and deeply appreciate the friends that I’ve made there, but tomorrow when I fail (as we all do, from time to time) who am I going to turn to?  Will I have made enough deposits of relational value to my family, to cover me in my time of need?  I pray that I have. 

I try very hard for my life to be family centered and what I have found is that emphasis on relationship, has prepared me better to interact with my clients.  This priority based lifestyle, has helped me put my clients needs in perspective.  We fail in this field so often, because we listen but don’t really hear what our clients are telling us.  We treat them as spreadsheets at times or some agents see them as a commission check in the end.  There are many opportunities to stop and ask yourself if you were in your client’s shoes, what would you do? 

I want to end this post with a challenge for all the readers.  Stop.  Ask.  Reflect.  Take Action.    Stop what you’re doing right now…  Ask, is my family benefiting from my business practice (not just financially, but more importantly emotionally).  Reflect on your answers and then take action to revisit your business activities to ensure you have the proper priorities….  

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Mariana

    March 11, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Matthew – Awesome! I was talking to a good friend of mine today. We both are in the middle of what we call “restructuring” parts oof our lives. We spoke about how DOING things WITH the family and friends is always and infinitely better than HAVING things FOR your family and friends. I would rather DO MORE with less, than HAVE MORE with more. The “with” factor cannot be replaced, especially with little ones in the house.

  2. Bob Carney

    March 11, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I did that when I decided to take a buyout from my last job. needed to see the family.

  3. Candy Lynn

    March 11, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    My friend – you always get it right! You may be young in years but old in wisdom.
    Thank you for always being there.

  4. monika

    March 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    I think you get to a point in life… when you realize that you can do more with less and enjoy doing it. Like you, I feel a balance in your life with family and friends means more than dollars and cents. I could pick up and start over as long as I have my family, my husband…I can get by with very little… material things wise…if I’m happy personally. Excellent post!

  5. Rocky VanBrimmer

    March 11, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Three years ago I had to step out of real estate and refocus what is important to me. I can no longer miss a dinner, a date, or time with family and friends becase I need to “seal a deal.”

    Good post.

  6. Benjamin Ficker

    March 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Great post. I’m in the same boat as you, though not as far along. My wife and I got married when we were 19 & 20 (Again, not because of kids). We are 24 & 25 now, and are still trying to figure this whole thing out. It’s good to hear I wasn’t the only one who married young for lus… er… LOVE.

  7. Matthew Rathbun

    March 11, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    thanks all for commenting on this post. It’s been a 15 year lesson, that was worth the effort to figure out. Jennifer is my best friend and my girls are amazing. My career is a way to support those other priorities in my life. You all are so cool! Keep working at it – I tell you, it’s completely worth the effort!

  8. Ryan Hukill

    March 11, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Matthew, you’re wise beyond your years, and you’ve put it into words so well. Balance is one of the most elusive targets out there, and so many simply don’t realize they’re chasing the wrong targets. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Toby Boyce

    March 11, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    My wife and I don’t fight very much. But, lately it has been a very tough situation at home.

    The reason: I’m working too much. I keep thinking if I put in one more hour, something will pop in this crazy market. I’ve cashed in all these chips to walk away from a “safe” salary job that had me on the verge of a mental breakdown to the commission only world of real estate.

    So I need to take Matt’s advice more and turn off the “work” side more often.

  10. Ines

    March 11, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Wow! That’s what I call a FIRST GENIUS POST!! I can’t even imagine my life any other way than it is now – I love working with Rick by my side, love my 3 boys and being able to pick them up from baseball, school, whatever……..and yes, we need to listen. Not only to our clients, but to our surroundings and our lives.

  11. Rick

    March 11, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    I don’t make too many appearances but I’m watching. Mattew, GREAT post. Just today I was in the car with my 3 sons Blackberry in hand at a red light and my oldest son says, “Dad, do you ever put that thing down???” (Ouch!!) That is the perfect situation to ask myself, “Am I in balance?” “Am I hearing?”.
    Thanks for the eye opener.
    Rick (Ines’ silent half)

  12. Ines

    March 12, 2008 at 9:36 am

    OMG!!! This is a day to remember and document!!

    Rick actually commented!!……he exists! he is real!! Can I frame it? 🙂

  13. Matt Scoggins

    March 12, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Great post, Matthew! I have a one year old son and it is very tough sometimes to find the perfect balance between work and family. Your post made me think…

  14. Vance Shutes

    March 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Matthew – Thank you for sharing with us the results of your experience. No matter the volume of business in this market, or any other market, YOU are a success. Your family is very lucky. Continued blessings in life and business.

  15. ForexTrader

    March 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Truly Inspirational Post! I have the advantage of working from home, but this also require a balance in between home and work. It feel it’s even harder sometime to switch off when your office is almost in your living room. But with a few rules, life gets in balance and in the end both personal life and work benefit from you being at your best.

  16. Sarah Stelmok, C21 New Millennium

    March 13, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    This is a topic and point that I was trying to get across on another blog site. I didn’t succeed. The topic there was whether you could be an effective agent and have set hours. The consesus was that this is a 24/7 job… well until your AR Warrior Princess appeared. I changed the way I looked at my business the moment my husband, then fiancee, looked at me in the kitchen with tears in his eyes and her said, “I’m not even third in your life.” That was the moment RE became fifth in my life and I am happy and my husband are happy with this decision.

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