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Left Behind

Nope, I didn’t go to Inman…I feel like an outsider. Unfortunately I had too many other commitments already and just couldn’t make it. Last week I had project deadlines, three days of teaching and none of it seemed to be in the same part of the state. From there I was home for one day and then off to Chicago to take some training of my own. All the while, I’ve kept up with my family by text messaging, Skype, instant message, twitter and occasionally the phone. I’ve stayed in touch with friends, by Facebook, Twitter and well… much the same as my family. My entire time of traveling, I couldn’t really enjoy it. Too many needs from the office, too many meetings that I had to stage for other people to deliver information I had, and far too little connection with my family.

What has this to do with Real Estate

I am starting to see a trend that is worse than what I say five years ago. Too many people in this business are loosing focus of what’s really important. During my trip, my wife asked on Twitter if anyone knew where I was (I was seeing the Dark Knight – which is really cool BTW – and had my cell phone off) that inquiry, as innocent and practical as it was to my wife, bothered me. I got to thinking and realized that there are many of us in this business, regardless of what your job is in the industry, have to be tracked down. Our connections online shouldn’t know more about us than our family or clients. Our offices have to hunt us, our clients, our brokers… and yes our family seem to be trying to locate us at all times. The tragedy here is that the information and communication overload that many of us are suffering and beginning to make us prioritize information as one single level. Communication is beginning to eliminate priority of things and individuals in our lives.

What’s Important

In watching some of us interact, I’ve seen that we’re taking our friendships online very seriously, and I’m not arguing that its not a good thing. Relationships are important. However, my connection with my family and my primary career responsibilities need to become a bigger priority again. My wife is an amazing woman, fun to be around and patient. She’s very supportive, but I can feel that I have not given her enough consideration and undivided focus. My kids have had to ask one too many times, as of late for me to play with them; and each time I’ve had to decline to work on some project or another to endless hours of the night. Many of you as agents, have expressed how many of your clients have had to track you down and get information, and that even in a slow market; you’re still too busy to balance all the balls in the air. Yes, I can Twitter and Skype while working on that project, but if I just turned it off…just for a bit…I could get the project done faster and perhaps have more time to invest into family.

Shift in Focus

I really want to challenge everyone to take some time and write (yes on paper with a writing utensil) out your priorities, match up the time commitment to each and see where you can fit in your social media addictions. Many of us see this platform for the great value that it really has and a wonderful marketing tool. However, many are putting a lot of time into “marketing” and not enough into other equally or more important tasks. Perhaps it’s just me, but I need to focus on priority and balance again. My wife and family are far more important than the job or farming of virtual friends.

Please excuse the indulgence, but I know that this issue is affecting many in our business, I’ve been hearing about for a few weeks lately and knowing that I’m not alone is important.

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 TheAgentTrainer.com.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Interesting topic. See, I personally hear all ends of the spectrum from “I really need to use my Twitter more” or “I’m addicted to the Interwebs and can’t detach from the computer.” If you’ve made connections online like the ones Ginger recently wrote about, your chances of being online frequently increase.

    Priorities do have to be made though- we recently resolved to have a daily “shut off” time, @ResPres unplugs on Sundays (unless twittering pics of his travels) and others I’ve heard have a set time they spend online daily. I believe your time spent online directly correlates with your goals (for ex: my goals include local real estate, a mommy blog and AG so I am on quite a bit as I don’t have to have face time with clients since I’m new media, not a practitioner).

    Matt, knowing you personally, I can safely say that it sounds like you (and some of our friends) need Social Networking Rehab run by @sass (@andykaufman introduced us to him at SXSWi last spring)- he’s a great guy and he has a bed waiting for you….

  2. teresa boardman

    July 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Matt –

    I don’t have time for all the online social networking with other agents and don’t understand where other people find the time. I love talking to them but I have a business to run and a family too.
    Unfortunately no one every has to hunt me down, I am way too accessible and am learning to disconnect when I have had too much. I am finding that I am reaching the “too much” point much more often than I used to. I may have to disconnect for longer periods of time, like days or weeks.

  3. Matt Thomson

    July 30, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Probably the best post I’ve read on AG. I’ve been singing this same song in our office, as WAY too many agents seem to think real estate is a 24/7 job. To some, maybe it is, but at our company at least it is not meant to be…it is meant to be a business that you control.
    All of our online networking makes me worried what types of relationships my daughter (now 10 months old) will have as she grows up. I want her to play and interact personally, but it seems folks are moving away from that. Something my wife and I intentionally model.
    If you get a chance to attend a Quantum Leap seminar in your area, GO! It’ll be 2 days of reshifting your focus that you won’t forget. Yes, it is a KW sponsored event, but no, it has nothing to do with KW. It’s for any business professional who needs to re-prioritize.
    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Benn Rosales

    July 30, 2008 at 8:49 am

    So okay, I know that anytime I turn off my phone, my professional world stops- therefore, I don’t do it. On occasion I might for a movie, but wouldn’t an addict twitter such an event and say “seeing batman!”

    It sounds to me like you personally just needed to shut down for a minute much like your phone and maybe there’s a deeper issue here we’re not seeing, but I’ll be honest- everything connected SM is funneled through to the phone, so if you wanted to disappear, you would simply turn it off. There are times to escape, and times you probably shouldn’t.

  5. Julie Emery

    July 30, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Great well thought out post. I’ll admit to struggling with this as well as with the overall balance between work and home. When I came into this business I had an agreement with Mike that for three years it would be heads down, work all the time to build a business. At that point I felt like I would have built something that would be sustainable with more normal work hours. And, that was just starting to happen and it felt great! Then the market came to a screeching halt and it felt like the only thing to do was to go back to all work, all the time.

    By the way, it’s not just the SM that sucks me away from real people. There’s the reading and research in order to have something pertinent to say in my blog. And, I’ve got lots of excuses, but you’re right, I need to focus on priorities.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Lani / Benn: The issues of priorities aren’t really new for me. I’ve nearly abandoned my family in pursuit of my career in the past and resolved not to do it again. However, I’ve heard from several agents recently complaining that they are so many places, that they aren’t anywhere. I’ve recently narrowed my activities in the social media world to just a few blogs and tools. Consolidation has been my trick. You’re right… I hadn’t “disappeared” in some time. I’ve been taking necessary steps this week.

    An example is that I am suppose to be preaching at church on Sunday and It’s Wednesday and I haven’t even picked a topic….

    Teresa – I’ve recently found that one day of disconnecting has done wonders for a week or two. I don’t get easily overwhelmed, but at times serving various masters starts impacting me.

    Matt – thanks for reading. I’ve never been big on coaching seminars, motivational etc. However, my wife is a fantastic encourager and motivator. That and my friends on-line help me keep up, but there are times when I feel that we all drift too far one way or another. Whatever anchors us is a great source of focus.

    Julie – I wanted to ramble more in the post about things other than just SM, but the post was lengthy already. I wanted to lump in just what you were saying about the research and other things. Social Media is just one small distraction from the real priorities. Fine tuning, yet one more training or presentation, when it really was OK has got my OCD firing on all cylinders…

  7. Dan Connolly

    July 30, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I have found myself in the same boat, having to work harder in this soft market and having more to do in the way of Social Media, blogging etc. The only way I can deal with the integration of family life and business life is to schedule the family commitments and hold to them as rigorously as I do to my business appointments. Generally when I am out with clients, I don’t answer the phone every 5 minutes, out of respect for their time, and I return the missed calls later. Why would I treat my family any differently than some client who may or may not ever buy something?

    I think part of the trick in keeping the respect of your clients is not acting like every request has to be answered immediately. An agent who used to dominate a high end market here, had a slogan “We aren’t just sitting around down here waiting for your call”. Another agent I know who sold several hundred homes a year told his clients not to bother him, he wasn’t calling them with feedback, he was too busy trying to sell their house.

  8. Kelley Koehler

    July 30, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I have a family? Oh wait – is that the dude in my bed every night? Ah yes. I remember him now. I think I had a conversation with him last week, something about not having any more clean clothes. Uh-oh, did I promise to do laundry? I’ll have to check my schedule, I may have that penciled in somewhere…

    A virtual hug is still a hug, people.

    (I’m only entertaining myself with that, aren’t I?)

    There’s some benefits to having and working with hubby at home, an arrangement that works well for both of us. Time together is always only 32 steps away.

  9. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Eric: Hi Everyone. My name is Eric.

    AG Readers: Hi Eric!

    …grin

    Eric

  10. monika

    July 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I can relate to what your feeling. I try real hard to limit my time and often find it overwhelming when there are so many new posts I want to read. For example this week alone there were several new posts on AG alone…multiple posts every day. I found it overwhelming so I just stayed away. I jump in and out of Twitter all day and follow links and then find myself invloved somewhere else. It’s all too much and I know it.
    I’m lucky as my hubby works with me and is as addicted as I am and we often sit together with laptops open at night…but we need to shut off more often. To that end I started limiting my on line time and prioritizing my real time. So far so good and you know what? I’m not really missing anything at all. Finding a balance is crucial.

  11. Larry Yatkowsky

    July 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Matthew,

    I equate RE, techtoys and stuff to riding a bike. Too slow, you fall off. Too fast you crash. The space in between is what makes for a nice ride.

    Being somewhat irreverant I have found that Nothing, Absolutely Nothing in real estate is that urgent or more important than your well being. If the buzz of RE messes up your ride just stop, leave all the toys in the basket, go for a walk and refocus on life. If this causes some folks to get cranky, well TFB!

    Real estate comes and goes. You got one life and there is nothing like sunshine, wine, cheese and your main squeeze that will make it more pleasant.

  12. Chuck G

    July 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Larry — Nicely said 🙂

    Matthew,

    I look at this from another perspective. I came from the high-tech industry before I made the jump into RE. This is what I do NOW that I could NOT do before:

    1) Drive my kids to school every day (with very few exceptions)
    2) Go on all of their field trips( ditto)
    3) Have dinner with the family every night (ditto)
    4.) Occasionally go home and have lunch with the “squeeze” as Larry puts it.
    5.) Coach an occasional soccer team
    6.) Dictate my own schedule.

    You get the point. I feel the same pressure to stay on top of the information tidal wave and produce results as the next guy (or gal.) But don’t ever lose site of the fact that you have the power to “re-connect” as much or as little as you want. What you do with that power is entirely a matter of C-H-O-I-C-E.

    I’ve been on the other side, and you have no idea how lucky we all are to have that choice.

  13. Matthew Rathbun

    July 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Eric: I took me a full minute to get the reference…LOL

    Monika: Jennifer and I aren’t unique?!?!?! Darn it… Yep, we do the whole laptop side-by-side thing almost every night and skype all day. It’s cool when we’re watching a movie or the in-laws are over, so that we can share without interrupting. Luckily, she’s just as geeky as I am 🙂

    Larry: VERY COOL! That’s a great analogy and perspective.

  14. Eric Blackwell

    July 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    FWIW- Matthew, I totally agree with you… i just had to have a little fun with our generations info-addiction. I also had to admit that I am as hooked as anyone.

    The first step is admitting that you have a problem…(grin)

    Great post.

    Eric

  15. Vance Shutes

    July 30, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Matthew,

    I believe it was one of the brilliant writers here at AG that once wrote how important it is that we look at ourselves in the mirror sometimes. You’ve captured the essence of the “man in the mirror” with this post.

    >”…write (yes on paper with a writing utensil)”

    This is a great suggestion. And yes, we joke about it, but it’s true. Nobody ever put on their gravestone “Gee, I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Thoughts like that should make it a bit easier to write out our priorities. No matter the impact on our business income.

  16. Ginger Wilcox

    July 31, 2008 at 8:27 am

    I am a social media addict. I will stand up and admit it! I love my twitter and my countless blogs, and clearly I feel passionately about the relationships that I believe can develop online. With that said, there is definitely something to say about focusing and shutting it off. When I am do stuff with my kids, I need to shut it off and focus my attention on them. When I am with clients, I also need to shut it off. (although I find sitting around waiting at things like inspections are a great time to catch up my tweets!)

    Most of my social networking tends to be early in the morning or late at night because I do have to focus on what I need to do in my business during the day. It is ok to turn your twhirl off during the day, and I think setting personal boundaries is the key step..

    I spend a lot of time networking off the computer through various organizations that I participate in, and again, that is the time to focus.

    Balance is the key. I schedule “appointments” with my children that are uninterrupted- no twitter, no telephone, no crackberry email just as I do with my clients. It is all about boundaries.

    No I have to go tweet about this.

  17. Rich Jacobson

    July 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Your wife was tracking you down on Twitter? Wow! My wife is still just trying to figure out the whole ‘blogging’ thing.

    Matthew: Your point here is painfully accurate. I must confess that I spend entirely way too much time with social networking, in part because of my role with AR, but just in general. Add to that the responsibilities I have with my clients, it leaves very little time for the relationships that should be a higher priority. I’m reaching for my yellow pad as soon as I finish this comment….thanks for the attitude adjustment!

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Opinion Editorials

Do women that downplay their gender get ahead faster?

(OPINION) A new study about gender in the workplace is being perceived differently than we are viewing it – let’s discuss.

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The Harvard Business Review reports that women benefit professionally when they downplay their gender, as opposed to trying to focus on their “differences” as professional strength.

The article includes a lot of interesting concepts underneath its click-bait-y title. According to the study by Professors Ashley Martin and Katherine Phillips, women felt increasingly confident when they pivoted from focusing on highlighting potential differences in their perceived abilities based on their gender and instead gave their attention to cultivating qualities that are traditionally coded as male*.

Does this really mean that women need to “downplay” their gender? Does it really mean women who attempt this get ahead in this world faster?

I don’t think so.

The article seems to imply that “celebrating diversity” in workers is akin to giving femme-identified employees a hot pink briefcase – it actually calls attention to stereotyped behaviors. I would argue that this is not the case (and, for the record, rock a hot pink briefcase if you want to, that sounds pretty badass).

I believe that we should instead highlight the fact that this study shows the benefits that come when everyone expands preconceived notions of gender.

Dr. Martin and her interviewer touch on this when they discuss the difference between gender “awareness” and “blindness.” As Dr. Martin explains, “Gender blindness doesn’t mean that women should act more like men; it diminishes the idea that certain qualities are associated with men and women.”

It is the paradox of studies like this one that, in order to interrogate how noxious gendered beliefs are, researchers must create categories to place otherwise gender-neutral qualities and actions in, thus emphasizing the sort of stereotypes being investigated. Regardless, there is a silver lining here as said by Dr. Martin herself:

“[People] are not naturally better suited to different roles, and [people] aren’t better or worse at certain things.”

Regardless of a worker’s gender identity, they are capable of excelling at whatever their skills and talent help them to.

*Though the HBR article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole.

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Opinion Editorials

Why I paused my career to raise our child

(OPINION) Our children are like tiny little sponges that absorb everything that we give them — your job and the sentiments it produces and evokes included.

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I never dreamed of being a stay-at-home-mom. Not in a million years did I think I’d find myself choosing to press pause on my career, but here I am, a mother for just nine months, doing just that.

HBR recently published an article about how our careers impact our children focusing on parental values and the emotional toll of our career involvement on our families. It got me thinking about my own childhood.

Growing up, my parents’ discussion of work was almost always negative. A job was something you had to do whether you liked it or not. As a child, I listened to my parents fight over money; I observed them in constant worry about the future. I watched them stress over unsatisfying jobs.

There was never any room for risk, no money to invest in a new career path, and no financial cushion to fall back on to give a new career time to grow.

Later, when choosing a path of my own, I would often wonder what my parents had wanted to be or who they could’ve been if they would’ve been able to choose careers they might’ve thrived in. All I ever knew is that my parents hated their jobs. While they’re on better financial footing now, the residue of their negativity persists in the career choices of their children.

While I was pregnant, I was working at an international tech startup in Silicon Valley. The company suffered from poor leadership; the week I was hired, my team quit and I was left to piece together a position for myself. The company continued to flounder, its culture unable to recover from interim toxic leadership.

I constantly worried about my son and the stress of a toxic culture on my pregnancy. Going into the office made me anxious. Leaving left me feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead of imagining a bright, beautiful baby boy, I closed my eyes and saw a dark and anxious bundle of nerves. Of course, I blamed myself for everything.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I promised my baby that when he arrived, I would do things differently. This would be the last time I accepted a job that I only felt lukewarm about. Never again would I participate in a culture that could diminish my talents and self-worth. I’d seen this kind of thing during my childhood and I’d be damned to repeat it.

During my career, I’ve watched coworkers hire full time live-in nannies, missing their baby’s developmental milestones and their children’s school events. I listened as one CMO talked about moving into his backyard yurt when the pains of parenthood became too much for him. He left his three preteen sons alone to fend for themselves in the mansion they shared in Silicon Valley.

We pride ourselves on the amount of work we put into our careers, but we rarely measure our success through the eyes of our children.

Children are mimics, they absorb everything we do, even during infancy. So, what are we offering them when we abandon them to make conference calls from yurts? What message are we sending them when our eyes are glued to texts, emails and push notifications? What are we teaching them when we come home stressed out, energy depleted and our values compromised?

We try “disrupting” anything these days so what about the working parent model? Would it be worth it?

My husband and I decided that it was and we’re doing things differently.

My husband works in the service industry. He doesn’t leave for work until late in the afternoon which means he spends all day with our son. At nine months old, my son has a strong emotional relationship with his father.

I carve out time during my days and nights to schedule writing work. I’ve recently returned to freelancing and I find that when I’m working with clients I believe in and doing work that I enjoy, we’re all much happier.

Everyone who’s ever had children says the first year goes by incredibly quickly. It’s true. My career will be there next year and for years after that. My son is only a baby once and I wouldn’t miss it for all the money in the world.

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Opinion Editorials

Zuckerberg makes eyeroll-worthy new years resolution

(EDITORIAL) This year, instead of losing weight, Zuckerberg is going to save himself and the world another way.

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Like the rest of us, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has announced New Year resolution – public talks on the future of technology in society. In a post on his personal profile page, he has pledged to participate in and host these discussions. Quite the step down from last year’s resolution to “fix Facebook.”

We get it, Mark, baby steps.

2018 saw Zuckerberg grilled by U.S. Congress and the European Parliament. His company suffered a drop in stock due to these hearings, was caught in the Cambridge Analytica firestorm and federal investigations, etc. It’s evident Zuckerberg bit off more than he could chew and his deciding to pull back isn’t surprising.

Here are the positives: the public needs more discourse on the future of tech and how it will affect the fabric of society. We want to connect with each other – we should pay more attention to what that truly means.

The entrepreneur titans leading the charge should be part of those discussions. Politicians, people elected to wield power for the public, are placed in debate situations regularly. Why shouldn’t the face of a global, digital platform be exempt from this basic practice?

If Zuckerberg is willing to truly have a candid talk (without prep or talking points), could we learn something new about his personal views? Does Officer Data have a soul after all?

But when all is said and done, talk is… just talk. The dangers with privacy on Facebook are already here.

The stakes are rising as the political and cultural landscapes are changing every year. It’s been two years since the problems with Facebook’s user information surfaced after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (and Ukraine actually blew the whistle in 2015). Zuckerberg has had quite a bit of time to reflect and “talk” about what needs to be done.

We try to keep to our resolutions every new year, and we’ll see if Zuckerberg can uphold his, or if his efforts disappear as quickly as my will to ween off my daily coffee routine. Even from a skeptic’s standpoint, I’ll eagerly wait to watch what goes down in this upcoming discussions.

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