I was on the phone yesterday with a lawyer who has aged considerably since we last hired him. I spent nearly 30 minutes explaining how a school calendar works, and that children have three day weekends nearly every month. It took three of us 30 seconds to understand, but nearly 30 minutes for a seasoned lawyer to grasp.
In another instance, I watched an elderly doctor with hands so shaky, he could barely take my family member’s blood pressure, yet they would be performing open heart surgery in under an hour on this same patient under these same circumstances.
In both of these cases, these intelligent professionals should find an exit plan – write a book and go on tour, begin consulting or educating, or retire. What they’re handling is so life-altering, that one slip can change so many lives.
In both cases, their own livelihood is at stake, as is their pride, and stepping down can be crushing not only financially, but emotionally.
Also in both cases, neither party was aware that they’re slipping, and as we all age, it is difficult to tell that we aren’t as sharp as we once were. I’m only 32, but I sure as hell can’t sprint up three flights of stairs like I could at 22, just a decade ago, but that’s so obvious – what is slipping that I can’t even grasp because I’m experiencing it first hand?
This brings me to the practice of real estate
In considering the plight of the lawyer and the doctor, I got to thinking – can’t an aging real estate practitioner slip and cause their client thousands of dollars, just as easily as the doctor can slip and knick an artery? Can’t a loss of faculties cause damage to a transaction, sometimes without the client ever even knowing? Can’t a slowdown cause frustration when communications break down over basic concepts like how to use a fax machine?
I wondered to myself, should there be an age limit on the practice of real estate? Perhaps it should be like drivers’ licenses where at a certain age, basic testing is required. Sure, continuing education is required to keep a license active, but anyone can have their assistant take the internet-based test for them.
Shouldn’t consumers be protected?
There is no real success metric in real estate that can be measured – with lawyers, cases are won or lost, and with doctors, patients survive, or they don’t. In real estate, a transaction can be damaged in immeasurable and typically unseen ways.
Then I thought about Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman is 87. If you’ve ever watched Raising Hope, you know that she plays Maw Maw, the senile old bat who is always up to some crazy antic. The show pokes fun at a topic that is painful and not at all funny – aging and senility.
Her character affirms all of our fears of the aging process, that at a certain point, we lose it. All of it.
But then, you must remember that Cloris Leachman is 87. She isn’t actually Maw Maw. She is a wildly successful actor who goes on press junkets, films the show, does sketch shows when invited, answers email interviews and fan mail, and tweets, on top of managing her personal life.
She remembers every line flawlessly, she delivers them perfectly, and she brings Maw Maw to life.
What would Cloris think?
Leachman brings up the dichotomy of the aging process – the elderly person who can barely dress themselves (Maw Maw) versus the same aged person who performs brilliantly year after year.
What would she think of my lawyer and that doctor? I’m guessing that because she has full control of her 87-year old faculties, she’d tell them to retire because they suck, not because they’re aging. She’d tell them to not put people at risk because they’re scared to step down.
Ability has nothing to do with age. This 87 year old can act circles around an aspiring 20 year old actress. Ability has everything to do with ability. Period. There are plenty of 25 and 45 year old coke-head Realtors that put clients’ transactions at risk, and there are many more lazy agents who can’t negotiate, take crap deals, make a mess of paperwork, and expect a paycheck.
Ability has nothing to do with age
Lou Holtz said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Bingo.
So no, there should be no age limit on the practice of real estate, but there should be a stupidity limit. I’m pondering ways to impose such a limit, so stay tuned.
Originally published April 2014.