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Don’t fall into the comfort trap

When I went to the 2007 NAR Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, one of the most interesting and valuable speakers I saw was former NCAA Head Football Coach, Lou Holtz.  Coach Holtz talked about a lot of stuff, most of it not specific to real estate, but all of it valuable.

One thing that has stuck with me ever since I heard him speak is the story he told about his time at Notre Dame University.  Coach Holtz was extremely successful at Notre Dame, especially early in his career.  After he left Notre Dame, he was asked what his biggest mistake was as the coach of the Fighting Irish.  His answer surprised me– his early success.

Success is a problem?

Coach Holtz went on to explain that because of his team’s early success, they got very comfortable. They stopped working as hard as they did when they were striving to succeed. Because of that, they began to fail. Once they began to fail, it was hard to gain back that winning edge again. They had forgotten many of the habits that made them successful to begin with, and they didn’t work hard to find new ways to reach their goals.

Getting comfortable with success is easy– and dangerous

The lesson that Coach Holtz learned from his time at Notre Dame is that success can be great, but once you become comfortable with the success, it is all too easy to forget how you got there. Then, as time passes, and the competition keeps working and innovating while you are busy resting on your success. Before you know it, you are getting passed, and those successes are fewer and further between.

This lesson seems very relevant in today’s real estate climate, especially for real estate professionals. I look around and see the number of my colleagues who were, just a few years ago, selling homes hand over fist, raking in commissions, and are now out of the business.

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I can’t help but wonder if maybe folks got a bit too comfortable. I can’t help but wonder if folks thought that the good times would never end. I can’t help but wonder if everyone was just drunk on easy success, and forgot how hard one has to work in order to achieve sometimes.

I can happen to me and you, too

I think that the record-setting real estate market of the last few years made us all very comfortable, and lead us to develop some bad habits. Somewhere along the way, we stopped paying attention to what really worked, what really moved the bottom line, and just assumed that everything or anything would work.

Those days are gone.

Now that the market has made us decidedly uncomfortable, many of us are going back and re-examining every dollar we spend, every choice we make, in an effort to make sure that we make the right decisions. That’s probably a good thing.

Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable

My challenge to you to avoid the comfort trap. Make yourself uncomfortable from time to time. The natural reaction in a time like this is to go back to those things that make us comfortable, those things that might not have been working, anyway. Take some time, analyze your business, analyze your spending, look for new opportunities, even if– especially if they feel a little uncomfortable.

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The world is changing all around you, don’t stand still just because it feels comfortable.

Written By

I'm a REALTOR, basketball referee, happy husband, and Community Manager (in no particular order). I have a passion for the real estate industry and officiating, a passion that I try to turn into inspiration on my blog, The Real Estate Zebra. I am also the Community Manager at Inman News. When I'm not blogging here on AG or the Zebra, you can usually find me on Twitter.



  1. Paula Henry

    January 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Daniel – I have to agree – too comfortable can slow success. I have found it “not easy” to get comfortable in the current real estate environment though – there’s something new everyday.

  2. Ken Brand

    January 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Comfort is a killer Daniel. Great post, perfect reminder.

    I attended a Leadership Workshop deal and the speaker said, “Staying in your comfort zone shrinks the size and depth of your comfort zone over time. Doing what’s uncomfortable and stretching yourself expands the size and depth of your comfort zone.” Odd and semi paradoxical, but true as gravity, time and taxes.


  3. Missy Caulk

    January 24, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    I don’t know how anyone can get comfortable in today’s market and economy. Constant vigilance and learning are required.

  4. Esko

    January 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm


    The Holtz theory is right on. The mortgage industry fell victim to the same comfort symptom the real estate side did and now those who didn’t have their marketing campaigns well-oiled are gasping for air. This down market really is teaching everybody not to take anything for granted.

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