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The Tragic Career of Troglodytes

Plato is our Friend

I love literature and really enjoy allegories, above all.  One of my favorites, is Palto’s Allegory of the Cave.  It was authored by Plato in his worked called, The Republic; and was written in about 400 bc.  In the allegory, Plato relates to a community of cave dwellers, as self prescribed prisoners to their cave, they watch shadows pass by along the blank wall they are facing, showing that there is light from a fire behind them.  The prisoners begin creating their own stories and assigning them to the shadows.  They create their own realities based on the shadows and what they think are causing them, as opposed to actually going outside and finding the true reality.  Plato’s allegory is much more in depth, but for my point; I want to depend on a few items:

  1. The “prisoners” were there by self imposed exile, we know this because one does walk free and sees that there is a reality outside of the cave.
  2. The “realities” were false perceptions, based on the “prisoners” lack of interest in realizing truth.
  3. There was satisfaction in living in the cave, even though there is a hint of a different reality

I want to be Morpheus

Now fast-forward to 1999 and the movie The Matrix, in which we find Neo frustrated with his mundane life and knowing that there is something greater than what is in the hear and now.  We see Morpheus offering two different colored pills and making this statement:

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind — driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Neo has a hint that there is a world and reality outside of his own limited perceptions.  The unfortunate reality is that too many practitioners chose not to take the pill and have no idea that there is a world outside of their own perceptions.  They have no idea that there are skillsets outside of open houses and floor duty. (not saying those things are all bad, when connected to other skills)  They subject themselves to reliving their Broker’s failures and limit themselves to things that do not work.

The Athenian Trial

In Plato’s Apology he writes that The Athenians put Socrates on trial for corrupting the young people and trying to cause a revolution against the state’s religion.  During this trial, it is said that ” the unexamined life is not worth living”; as to say that life is only fulfilled when we look at more than just the shadows on our own cave walls. (understand that I am not implying any religious reference here, that’s for a different blog)

I apply this to a recent conversation that I heard.  I was recently sitting in a program where an elected official was speaking of the future of the real estate industry.  He had worked for various associations over the years and this politician / attorney gave a ten minute diatribe about how the text messaging, twittering and e-mail was ruining how people communicate and results in people not talking to one another.  Evidently he doesn’t feel the written word is a form of communications…

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I was sitting in the room with Danilo Bogdanovic, whom I had met through Social Media applications and have learned from and shared with in the past.  It was interesting to see how the two of us bristled, just a bit at the conversation.  See I’ve learned things from Danilo – we’ve discussed real estate and shared meals together.  None of which would have happened, had it not been for the social media connections and we live less than an hour away.

This speaker had darkened the opinion of the nay-says in the room by his negative presentation of the Internet applications that I use.  Interestingly, this person’s particular cave was presuming that COMMUNICATION devices such as Twitter, Facebook, etc… were hampering people in communicating.  However, the overwhelming reality is that people are more apt to communication and learn from others by these same tools.

I’m Tired of Dragging Dead Weight

I was concerned about the effect this speaker’s opinion had on the group.  Mainly because there were a number of people in the room who had dismissed technology other than cell phones and e-mail.  I was only briefly concerned, because about a month ago; I made a business decision to NOT argue, fight or pursued people to open their minds. I really need to concentrate on those who “get it” and are willing to have open minded discussions.

I’ve been teaching real estate for many years and I can honestly say that almost every class is a battle to win people over to my side.  I get good feedback from classes, but my friends will tell you that I will always tend to dwell on the rare negative comment.

When I say things such as “Dual Agency is bad”, “Print Media is less effective than Internet Marketing”, “Your marketing needs to be about the client and NOT you”, “You need to be more interested in protecting your client than how another agent will feel about you” or “If you aren’t constantly learning, you’re a liability” I get people who just want to hold an “Athenian Trial.”  These types of statements are undermining the religion of Realtors and stirs the spirit of “younger” (by experience, not age) agents.

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I recently asked a large class of Brokers to articulate for me, they and their agent’s value outside of MLS and lockboxes.  Not one Broker could give me a persuasive and cohesive argument.  So what happens to our industry when Trulia and combo boxes become more pervasive?

I have made a decision that I will not drag the close-minded around any longer.  I am dwelling with those that have escaped the cave.  I am putting it right back in the “professionals” lap to learn and change with the needs of the consumer.

Many of you who read this blog and who I have met face the same “trials” and I want to encourage you to concentrate on your clients, your business and those who are open to knowing about change and progress.

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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. fred

    March 15, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Excellent article Matthew. I agree with your perspective on this. The cave is bad!

  2. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    March 15, 2009 at 8:59 am

    There will always be those that resist change and feel more comfortable with the “tired and true” ways. They often couch this in terms like “back to basics” and the like.

    I remember early in my career there was a big hullabaloo about “the Internet” replacing the traditional Realtor. Someone had the guts to say that “The Internet will not replace Realtors. Realtors who embrace the Internet will replace those who don’t”. Since then technology has advanced and the premise is the same: “Those that embrace the technology will replace those that don’t.”

    No use trying to convert those who live in fear.

  3. Sarah Cooper

    March 15, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    The sunshine feels good, doesn’t it? 🙂

  4. Matthew Hardy

    March 15, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    > concentrate on those who “get it”

    The first sign of a new religion. 😉

    I love technology and my work is probably more digitized than nearly all Realtors (my business has almost no paperwork).

    But I know that…

    Being good at technology and being good at business are not the same.
    Being good at social media and being good at business are not the same.

    Perform well in a repeatable way to advance the customer’s interest.

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    March 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm


    As I illustrated in the post, the technology function is only one element. Things such as the resolution to put clients first, stray away from Dual Agency, maintain a higher level of education, etc.. are all things that most agents don’t want to hear.

    I recently taught a class on Agency and explained that Offers to Purchase were confidential and half the class lost their mind…

    It isn’t technology at all – technology is just a symptom of the bigger issue.

  6. Matthew Hardy

    March 15, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    > Things such as the resolution to put clients first… maintain a higher level of education

    I agree. These are indeed the most important things and are things that have been around a very long time; since record keeping and follow-up systems were performed in bound journals. Perhaps there are still things to be learned from “troglodytes”. Just sayin’… 🙂

    > explained that Offers to Purchase were confidential

    Confidentiality!! How un-transparent! 😉

  7. Matthew Rathbun

    March 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Whoops!! I meant NOT Confidential (COE standard of practice 1-13 and 1-15)

    I agree that wisdom is important and wisdom only comes from experience. I just hope that 20 years from now I can properly apply wisdom and keep an open mind 🙂

    I hear what you’re saying!

  8. Missy Caulk

    March 16, 2009 at 7:11 am

    “I have made a decision that I will not drag the close-minded around any longer. I am dwelling with those that have escaped the cave. I am putting it right back in the “professionals” lap to learn and change with the needs of the consumer.”


    I told the last office I spoke in, twice now that I was not coming back until they had implemented a FEW of the things I had spoken on and been asked to speak about.

    4-5 hours out of my day, driving, gas, speaking, answering questions afterwards, drive home and they are just filling space just doesn’t work for me.

    Sound harsh?

    When the pupil is ready the teacher will come.

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