VERY exciting! This is our premiere Conversation That Matters and I am THRILLED to introduce (if you haven’t already met) Michael Thorne who is a licensed REALTOR® with Little Oak Realty in my town Langley, BC! He is also a VERY dear friend, Co-host of Mobile Agent TV – an internet TV show aimed at REMAX a
gents, AND an amazing friend, husband, father and all round GREAT guy!
Michael very generously shares his VALUES, his challenges and his joy! We touch on a very serious conversation around his personal journey with depression and how he navigated his way back to being the NEW Michael!
A very special Thank You to Michael for believing in this project and supporting me in so many ways!
Narrator: You’re listening to Conversations that Matter with your host, Teri Conrad.
Teri: Thank you so much for coming. This is our very first Conversation that Matters and because it’s brand spanking new – we’ve never done this before – it’s probably going to be a little bit clunky. I did want to introduce Conversations that Matter. What it is, it’s intelligent conversation with people on purpose, very much like you, Michael Thorne. The entire passion behind this was because there’s so much noise in the world and because we have so little time that so many of our conversations seem to be remaining very surfaced and superficial. I’ve just been craving digging a little bit deeper and getting to know the people a little bit better and having conversations that are maybe a little bit more important besides just the surface stuff that we tend to be covering more often.
With that being said, let me now introduce you. This is Michael Thorne. Thank you so much for joining us, Michael.
Teri:I am going to take a little bit of a page out of your playbook and read your Twitter bio just because it covers the basics, I think, very well. Michael is a realtor with ReMax Little Oak. He is the co-host of “Mobile Agent TV” and the co-founder of My North Langley. He has been named one of Inman News’ Top 100 Most Influential Members in Real Estate, which is unbelievable. Now that I’ve sort of spit that out, there’s a few things in there that I actually sort of want to back track and touch a little bit. First one being can you tell people sort of what My North Langley is?
Michael:Well, I mean, Teri, we’ve talked about this many times. My North Langley was an inspiration – that sort of bug that you put in my bonnet a long time ago without you really knowing. It was a birth out of an event that you put on with a couple of other people called Twistaful here locally, which was a place to get people in the same room that knew each other online but didn’t know each other in person. When I went to the event, I got to have really great conversations with people like it was the fourth or fifth time that we had met, and it was really the first time that we had met. Because there was context and there was some conversation prior to the event online, it made that first initial face-to-face meeting so much more valuable and enjoyable.
We left that event, my friend Tyler and I, thinking why couldn’t we do something like that in our community on an ongoing basis where people would have the ability to connect, and share, and exchange with each other. Then the hope was that if they met off-line, there would already be this context in this relationship with each other. On April 4, 2011, a week after your event, we launched My North Langley, and it has been a very fulfilling part of my life and Tyler’s life for the last three years.
Teri:Right, and it lives on Facebook.
Michael:Yeah, primarily Facebook, absolutely, yep.
Teri:Right, and acts as this amazing space where everyone in the community can sort of connect, ask questions, crowd-source information, all these other great things that you’ve built there.
Michael:Yeah, I mean, the crowd-sourcing thing is something that’s come along in the last year and a half where people just started asking questions. I post the odd one, and now it’s daily where people come to us and ask, “I need a new piano teacher,” or, “I need some landscaping done,” or whatever. The questions that we get sometimes shock me about – I’ve never thought about that as a need sort of a thing. That part of it has been very, very exciting to see the feedback from people and how that information has crowd-sourced. It’s been pretty neat!
Teri:It is pretty cool! It kind of reminds me of when we were kids. It was all about the community center. That’s sort of what your Facebook page has become – this online community center. It’s fabulous. Anyway, I just wanted to let people hear that little piece because they might not know what that is. Also, you’re on a team here, a very successful real estate team of Little Oak Realty. You’re doing very, very well that way. You’re one of the most influential realtors in this space because – well, for a multitude of reasons, but “Mobile Agent TV.” Maybe you can – for some people maybe, if they’re living under a rock don’t know about it. I think I personally am so inspired by what you’ve done.
You are a natural on camera. It’s like you were meant to do this. Every week, there are absolutely golden nuggets for agents trying to improve their business, particularly when we’re talking about technology, and systems, and tools, and that sort of thing. What was the catalyst for that?
Michael:That’s another great story. It might actually become part of the conversation that we have in the next little bit here, Teri, but it came very much like My North Langley as an opportunity that I didn’t see coming. It just came and I saw it. We jumped on it. I was asked to speak on a panel at REMAX R4 which is the big REMAX international conference in Las Vegas a year and a half ago. I was going to speak on a panel with another gentleman named Dave Falkware [sp]. The person that was going to do the panel with us was out of – or that was going to moderate the panel was out of REMAX LLC in Denver. I suggested prior to the event why don’t we all get on a Google Hangout and get to know each other and build a little bit of context, which I think is so important. Then talk about what we want to talk about. We got on the Google Hangout and then Kevin said very, very quickly, “The two of you need a TV show.”
I thought well, that’s an interesting thing to say. I’d never met Dave before, but we got along well. We were kind of two sides of the same coin. We got on a week later with another private Google Hangout. Kevin said, “You guys need a TV show,” and four days later, five days later, we were on the air. We were actually on the air prior to Dave and I ever meeting in person. That’s just – I see these opportunities and I go, “Why not? Let’s see where it goes.”
Teri:This is where you and I are really different. I’ve been working on Conversations That Matter for months.
Michael:Yeah, I’ve been pushing you for months!
Teri:Yeah, exactly. I appreciate the encouragement, I really do. We are going to dig in a little bit deeper, but I do want people to – it’s part of my vision with Conversations that Matter to get to know the person a little bit more, more than just what we know that they do for a living and more than just the regular stories that we typically air. I want to dig in a little bit deeper and we’ve talked about this so you know where it’s going. I definitely wanted to talk a little bit about – because you and I share a lot of the same values and how we wanted to design our life and our careers was important to both of us. We’ve talked a little bit about some of the struggles that you’ve faced over the years, and maybe let’s start a little bit further back. Let’s go with –
You mentioned to me when you were a young boy, you were involved with 4-H. You were raised on a farm, right? You had said to me at one point that that was quite meaningful to you. I wondered if you would share that.
Michael:Yeah, I would think it was meaningful in a lot of really different levels. I think one of the biggest impacts it had with me was the friends that I had through that organization. Because they weren’t forced friendships, because we weren’t in the same classroom or the same school hallway, there was effort maintaining those relationships. With high school friends, there isn’t that effort. You’re together every day. You’re forced to be together. Sometimes these real relationships I found in school weren’t as deep or as real as the friendships that I had through the 4-H program. I developed really amazing, to this day, fantastic friendships.
One of the real life lessons that I had at 4-H was the 4-H motto. Learn to do by doing. For those people that don’t understand what 4-H is, it’s not run by the adults at all. We’re put out there as 8 to 18 year old kids to find our own way and fail and figure out how to balance the sheet, how to raise money, how to book to go to these different events. The parents sit way, way back in case we’re going to make an obvious mistake – they might pipe up. We’re left alone to make our own mistakes. I know from my kid’s baseball and hockey, it’s very, very well organized. All the kid has to do is just show up. Their gear is there for them. The sponsorship’s in place. The ice is booked for them.
We were taught really early on to learn from the older people in the club that had made mistakes prior to us. Don’t do this, do this, avoid doing this; this is what we’ve learned along the way. We were encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them. I think that’s one thing in our society that we really shy from letting our kids do, especially in our school system, is to let people make mistakes. Anyone who’s made a mistake, it’s the best lesson you’ve ever, ever made. The one that you actually really put into your core is the one you’ve made yourself. That’s been a great lesson. Go out and try something and if it doesn’t work, what have I learned from it and move on. That has made a big impact on my life, for certain.
Teri:That’s really interesting and just makes me want to ask actually a further question. Why do you think that we, as a society, don’t – we hide our mistakes. If you make a mistake, it’s a piece of shame that we hide and we don’t share it with the world. We tend to go quiet and duck and cover and wait until the dust settles and come back out and pretend that everything is wonderful again. Why do you think we do that?
Michael:It’s safe. I don’t know. I don’t know why. I think what it encourages us to do is to play down the middle. If I was a kid in high school now with all the cool technology and all this stuff, if I tried to think outside the box and I think it’s a really ambitious thing to do. What happens if that doesn’t sit well with the teacher and the teacher gives me an F? Instead, I’m just going to write the same essay in the same way that it’s been written forever. I’ll take my B-plus and I’ll move on. I just don’t think we’re encouraged to take those risks out of fear that we will fail. It’s this really, really negative word. I don’t see that at all.
It’s the reason that all of the drugs that we take are with a number behind it. It was the 50th or the 150th formula. Every single time there was an error, it was, in their opinion, further progress to finding the solution. They don’t see it as an error or a failure. I don’t know. I think it’s a really sad statement that we have because it just keeps people inside of that box. They don’t think differently. I think people that are really successful aren’t afraid of failure. I’m certainly not. I think of all the failures I’ve made – I’ve had a lot of them – we all have. The enjoyment of the successes I’ve had, because I took a risk, far outweigh the pain of the failure, far outweigh them. I’ve learned something. I’ve grown from them.
Teri:We’ve had conversations like this before. I really feel like every time I fail – you might have seen. I wrote a post last year. I was working at a PR firm very, very briefly. I got in, I realized nope, not a fit, got out, wrote a post about it. I was pretty open about it because I thought well, people are going to find out anyway. I have to say, I did have a moment of going oh God, what’s everybody going to think. You worry about your reputation, you worry about your failures and how that’s going to be perceived because so much of our successes are linked to, I think, your reputation and your character and how people see you. I think it is important. I think we do sort of want to mitigate how we’re perceived in the world. It’s kind of a tough one!
Michael:Absolutely! That post that you wrote, I know I remember it quite well. I reached out to you afterwards and I said how inspired I was by it because I look at that as being – I think that’s a great thing to be aware of that, to take that life lesson, to take that knowledge and move on. I think it’s a very positive thing, but I don’t think the majority of society, especially what’s taught to us. The school system doesn’t let you fail. That’s where we’re sort of build our habits – in that school system. I’m not blaming the school system. That’s just where we’ve all learned failing is bad.
Teri:Well there is a shift. I have kids that are older than your small children. You have two lovely young boys and a lovely wife. My children, when they were young, there was still a certain – well, my oldest son is going to be 26. When he was in elementary school, there was still a certain level of competition. It had been dummied down to a degree, but there still was – you didn’t get a ribbon necessarily if you just participated. Now every child gets recognition, a nod, a pat, it doesn’t matter what they do. I can remember as a young mother loving that, loving that there was this inclusion and no child was made to feel like he wasn’t good enough or whatever we were obviously concerned about.
In the end, we’ve seen the pendulum swing back and now of course, it’s every child just expects. There’s this element of expectation that I should be given something that I don’t need to necessarily achieve. Then there’s the other side of that coin too, which – and in our world, in the digital world, we see a lot of – what’s the word? I don’t know quite how to phrase it, but there’s sort of outcome. We’re a very outcome driven world. I think what’s lost – some of the magic that gets lost is we talk about just now, is the process, the journey. A lot of what’s going on that didn’t work or didn’t fit into the square peg, round hole it still had value.
I’m rambling on without a real specific question. I guess my question is how do you think we – what could we do – what would you like to see in the future in terms of preparing children better for life. As we’ve launched careers in life, marriage and family and all those things, what are they missing?
Michael:Well, that’s a really, really tough question and one of the things I’ve said I loved about this type of conversation is that I think one of these conversations that we’re having right now that are really deep and meaningful – it’s okay to say I don’t know. I don’t know. I think it’s the role of a parent. I think it’s the role of trying to let them – and it very important to me and you and I have talked about this before, I think the journey is so missed out on. The opportunity to actually enjoy the journey. I think that that’s unfortunate, that we so focused on the destination. If that destination takes 15 years to get to, somehow you just – those 15 years that it took to get there shouldn’t count as meaningful years of your life. I love the journey. I’ve tried to set up my life that the journey is the destination or at least the part of – it’s like going on a road trip.
The vacation should start once you get in the vehicle, not when you get there. You should have the right tunes and the right snacks and you should go hit the road. Yeah, I don’t know. I think its parents, I think its parenting. I think about being too harsh, I mean my parents took a lot of onus on raising me and trying to do the right thing. I think we’re trying to push that off to society and off to schools. We’re not bringing it into home as much. I think it’s the responsibility of parents to teach these life lessons. I know I was taught thought 4-H and through my parents a lot about financing. I had to balance the book that we fed our animals with. Then we took the animals off to auction. Then we had to take the amount of money that we got from those animals and we had to do a profit and loss balance sheet at the age of ten and twelve.
It taught me about finances. My wife – she wasn’t really taught about finances. When we met each other, she didn’t know those simple things. I think that’s for the education process or the education to do, but I think some onus has to be put back on the parents. We need to prepare them for the world. We’re aware of what it’s like. We’re in there every day doing it. We need to prepare our kids better I think as parents.
Teri:I love that! I love that answer and I tend to agree with you. I love that there’s programs like 4-H for the kids that fall through the holes too because not all parents are equipped, I think, to deliver that kind of education. Your parents sound like they’re pretty awesome which leads me to – you started working for them also at quite young, didn’t you?
Michael:Yeah, I joined them as an assistant when I was 15 years old. My mom became an agent around that time. My dad joined my mom later on and I worked with them as an assistant. I loved the business right then. I became an agent on my 19th birthday but didn’t join the family business like a lot of second generation realtors or third generation realtors. My parents didn’t want me to be a part of it. They wanted me to go cut my own teeth. Once again, sink or swim, learn to do by doing sort of attitude. They weren’t going to help me out at all. I went out and I starved. I was 19 years old in a market that was difficult. I couldn’t grow a mustache. I looked like I was 16 years old, but it taught me how to work.
It taught me how to work. It taught me to learn the business. I tried to learn the business so well that if I knew that a buyer and seller let me open my mouth – if I could open my mouth and let them know that I knew what I was talking about, I’d be okay. It was hard. I’m super glad it was hard because I think it’s really set me up now to understand what it takes to be successful.
Teri:That’s remarkable to me. You know I bleed for new agents. I really feel like it’s a tough gig getting started in this business. Often they are left to sort of figure it out. Like you say, you worked with your parents. You had the business, but you still were expected to figure a lot of it out on your own. I hadn’t planned on going down here, but while we’re here, if you wouldn’t mind. What are some of the things that you learned as a new agent that you still do today? Are there – is there anything that’s really changed for you?
Michael:I think a really great lesson I had was there was a scruffy looking guy. He would come into the office on floor shift sometimes and he would ask about really high end real estate. Back then I’m talking about 400, 500 thousands, but back then you could get a house for 120 grand. He would talk about high end real estate and no one would give him the time of day. He would come in, I would help him. I would serve him and I would show him the new listing that were out there. I’d ask if he needed anything and I’d follow up with him. Every agent was saying Michael, you’re wasting your time. This guy doesn’t have two nickels to rub together. You’re wasting your time.
First of all, I didn’t think I was wasting my time. It all still gave me the opportunity to learn how to talk to people and present them with information. I had nothing better to do. I was starving. He would come in regularly and I’d take really good care of him. It turns out he was a very, very wealthy guy and he ended up buying a piece of real estate through me. He said to me, you know Michael, I really appreciate that you always took really good care of me. You always talked to me really well and you always said you were going to do what you were going to do. Our motto from 20 years is do what you do so well that people will come back and bring others with them – a Walt Disney quote. That’s the lesson – if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, take care of people. You don’t have to worry about anything else, just take good care of them and the rest of it will take care of itself.
Teri:I love that! I love that! Now you don’t just take great care of people. You also innovate, you’re also doing all these crazy things with your business. You’ve become quite a beacon actually. A lot of people watch to see what you’re going to do. Where did all that come from? You’ve been quite inspiring.
Michael:I think the world has come towards my skillset. I think the real estate industry has changed and society has changed towards my skillset. My skillset happens to be a crazy curiosity. About all aspects of life, I’m curious. That’s the only barrier to entry for people today in any form of business. The information is out there. You can Google anything. The question is do you want to find out how to do something different. Do you want to learn a new skill? Because it’s not about access to information anymore. It’s about being remotely curious about what you want to do. When I see people do something that I want to be able to do and you know this, Teri. I pick up the phone, have a cup of coffee. What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why are you doing it? What’s working? What’s not working?
A buddy of mine – on a completely different tangent – he was putting in a tile floor in his house. I said can I come watch you put in a tile floor. I sat there and watched over his shoulder for half a day, asked him 24 questions and then I came home and I tiled my own house. I just think curiosity is this amazingly precious gift that we have in today’s society and it might go back to learn to do by doing. Figure it out, ask the right questions, do something different. I think that’s my skillset – just this curiosity. When you say there’s a lot of great information on Mobile Agent TV, it’s not me bringing out all that great information, it’s about having these great guests come on. Where I get to ask them my curious questions and find out what they’re doing and other people get to listen in on that and get those nuggets.
If I happen to have something to say on a topic, I certainly will. It’s I just want to know what people are doing. I want to know what’s working for them. That’s probably the thing that’s pushed us farthest the most and both my partners are willing to learn and they’re curious too as well. Curiosity is a very, very valuable asset.
Teri:I completely agree. I’ll throw in also it’s also – you have this fabulous imagination. Vision is nine tenths of it, I think. If you can’t see it, you can’t get there. You have to be able to imagine what it is you even want to explore. Then get in and get curious. I love that. I think that that’s actually – I do agree. It’s a big gift and I’m glad you got it because the show is awesome. Anyway, now –
Teri:We’ve touched a little bit about how you’ve gotten to where you are and you’re doing so well. I’m so proud of you. It’s really fun to watch your growth. There was a time when things weren’t fabulous. You’ve gone through some challenges like everybody else. Sorry, I’m just going to plug in here because I’m worried about – I’ll edit that out – there we go.
Michael:Leave it in, it makes it real!
Teri:Yeah, exactly! Anyway, so there was a point not long ago that you battled some depression. It’s very interesting to me. I literally this morning just saw a Ted Talk. It was an officer who’d been – he’ been an officer in the San Francisco area for, I don’t know, 23 years or something. His beat included the Golden Gate Bridge and he used to go and talk people down off the bridge. That was a big part of his job. Now he goes around talking about mental illness and suicide prevention and all these other things that are pretty intense. The statistics he threw up – and I’m sorry I can’t remember everything, but there’s a large number of people that battle mental illness.
I myself have battled some depression and I know that you also have battled some depression. You’re so lovely to be willing to talk about it. Where do you want to start with that? It’s such a big topic.
Michael:Yeah, it is a big topic. I’m happy to talk about it. I guess the trigger of what happened is it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. For everyone, it can be anything that triggered it. I was in a car accident in 2009 and through the process of being in pain and not sleeping and through that, over a course of about a year and a half, maybe two years, I slipped in a depression. At its worse, it was pretty bad, pretty scary. I wasn’t diagnosed with the depression for quite some time which was the worst thing ever–to feel like there’s something wrong or what’s going on.
I was very aware that things were different. I had a child before I got in the car accident in 2006. I had my first kid, my wife and I had my first son. Then my other son was born just prior to the car accident. I remember seeing them play as he grew up and I wasn’t participating in the same way. The joy wasn’t there. I found myself continually isolating myself, making excuses to hang out with friends, really being absent of emotion both positive and negative – just sort of being out of emotion. It then became quite a struggle with my relationship with my wife, who I love dearly. We’ve had an amazing relationship.
Being around someone like that constantly, when we didn’t know the reason behind it was extremely difficult for her. I was going to see doctors for all my physical symptoms, but there was no help or support or awareness that there was something else going on. I started losing friendships. Work became a struggle. I think I was very good at putting on an act I think, as most people that battle with this thing, and I can only speak really for my issue. I was at my doctor’s office one day and my doctor, thank goodness, just said to me. Michael, there’s something wrong with you. You’re just not the same guy you used to be.
He handed me an evaluation, an assessment test. Every single one of those questions were written by my wife and they were meant for me. There was no they don’t apply to me. It was someone looking into my soul. These questions were so poignant and cutting. I filled it out and I handed it back to my doctor. My doctor says I’m going to see you next week. I went in next week and he said here’s what I think’s going on. I think you’ve got depression. I think we’ve got to put an action plan together. Just that, just the fact that I knew that there was perhaps a solution for it – that it wasn’t me. Because for the longest time, I thought I was just a colossal jerk – substitute the jerk word for a word that starts with an A.
I was wondering why. I’ve always been so laid back and sort of obnoxiously fun to be around. My friends are always – I always have too much energy and here I was a completely different human being. Once I knew it wasn’t – there was a chance that there was something to fix, that there was a way to save my marriage. At that time it was getting – I had to save my marriage. Not that my wife didn’t love me. It just, oh, I can only imagine what it was like to be around me. I can only imagine what it would be like to be around me.
Especially at the thought that there wasn’t a solution. She was two years into this totally different man in her life – sort of an absent, emotionally absent father as well. Once there was help, I did whatever it took to get better and I remember speaking with the psychologist, psychiatrist – psychologist probably. I was so desperate to become the Michael Thorne that I was prior to the car accident. He was very clear. He said you’ll never be that guy again. You might actually be a better guy, or a different guy, but that was five years ago. Even if the car accident had never happened, whoever we are five years later is never the same person we were before. You’re always continually moving and evolving into something new.
He said to me there will be a silver lining to this. You will look back and there will be a silver lining going through that. About a year ago, I really got a really good grip on it and with the help of my wife and my friends and medication and counseling, I’m healthier mentally than I’ve ever been before. My marriage is better than it was ever before. I will tell you, I am very, very thankful that it all happened to me because I became – I was forced to become very, very clear. That’s a gift that I think a lot of us don’t have. You have to stare at everything and take stock of everything in your life, figure out what you’re willing to work on to keep and if it’s just going to be a burden for you, you’ve got to let it go. You only have so much energy and so much focus to fix what you need to fix.
Figure out what’s important and start working on that. I would never wish anyone to go through it, but it’s been – I can take something away from it positive.
Teri:I’m just so grateful that you’re healthier and you’re happier. Obviously it’s affecting all of your life. The work that you’re doing is so fabulous. I just think how many people suffer in silence and don’t get the help that they need, lose hope even. I think it’s such a painful journey, but it is – I know I’ve also battled with it and I do know that on the other end there’s always hope and help and a new life. Thank goodness we got you through that. I’m really glad you’re happier.
Michael:One of the things too, and what I want people to understand about it, is my impression of what depression was is sadness, or anger, or regret, or stress. I had amazing, two amazing boys at the time that I fell into a depression. I have glorious friends. I have the most amazing wife. I have a financially successful business and what do I have to be depressed for. That was my huge thing. Me, I’ve not nothing to be depressed for. I know people that should be depressed and I’m not one of them. I’d say that to my doctor and to everyone around me, but that’s not what it’s about. Depression and sadness, or depression and anger, or depression and regret are two completely different, separate things. It will just choose you like diabetes will choose you or whatever. You can’t put that on someone.
I happened to have been in a car accident. I happened to not sleep so well for a year or so. Those sort of stresses caused this to happen. Everyone that’s got everything figured out, just because you’ve got everything figured out – not that I had everything figured out, but I had my life together – doesn’t make you immune to this. I think people that assume that their friends might perhaps be going through it, that can’t possibly happen to them because they’ve got their life together. Be aware that it can really just tap anyone on the shoulder and thankfully I was never, ever in the Golden Gate Bridge scenario. I was never, ever remotely close to that. I feel for anyone who is because I know how trapped and how absolutely alone I felt, even though I was surrounded by great people. It’s pretty scary.
Teri:I completely agree and that’s sort of – you sort of sense that there’s something wrong with you. You think that you’re weak, you should be able to handle these things. I experienced very much the same things that you described there where you just think, wow, what’s wrong with me. I have it pretty good. I should write more in my Gratitude Journal and then I’ll be better or something like that. Of course, it just isn’t that simple. Again, thank you so much for sharing that. That is just a very deeply personal story and I think that it is important to talk more openly about these really important subjects. Along the same lines, we’ve also talked about designing your life and happiness and you sort of touched on it a little bit there in what really matters to you in your world. Your friends, your relationships always seems to be a really strong thread for you throughout your life. That is certainly my experience knowing you as well. You’re so focused on your relationships.
We’ve talked a little bit about different levels of careers. We know you have a very successful business and you’re very happy with the business that you’ve built. You have this great team with two wonderful ladies. You’re doing great business and you’re known, it’s growing every day. Talk to me a little bit about how you’ve designed your life, why you’ve designed it that way – a little bit along we’ve talked about life balance. I think that’s sort of where I see this going a little bit.
Michael:Yeah, I think it’s a very, very interesting topic and one we don’t speak about enough. We’re so focused on one point of it and I forget who it was – if it was a famous saying. Someone asked me one time, he said so what do you do. Our instinct is to respond with what is on our business card, right? That’s our instinct, but what happens if the answer is what do you do – how about if the answer is I go fishing with my kids on the weekend. I play poker once a month with my buddies. Why do we assume the question is what do you do, as what we do for income? That’s how our society has led us to be – to be work first and everything second, or our identity to be very rooted in what we do to put money in the bank.
I think that’s how we define success quite often. How successful are you? Are you the assistant manager or are you the manager opposed to I’ve got an amazing relationship with my wife and awesome kids. That’s success! I’ve taken time off and I smell the roses every week and that’s success. Yes, I’m coaching my kid’s baseball team. One of my ambitions in life was – one of the reasons why I married my wife along with amazing – the fact that she wanted to marry me was a huge factor. I married up. One of the things was she was very clear of what she wanted her life to look at.
Even when we met, I was young, but she was quite young when we met. She knew what she wanted from life, which I found very, very attractive. I knew what I wanted from life and there’s not too many people, unfortunately, in their late teens or early twenties that even have a clue what they want to do. I don’t know how fortunate I am that I knew what I wanted to do. I told her early on, I have an ambition to be a fantastic father. I always had this ambition to be a great dad. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted a career that would let me do that. I wanted to have a life that would let me do that. That’s my success.
I mean I love to have business success because of the enjoyment and the thrill that I get out of it. The hobby – that is my job. That’s not how I define my success. I think it’s unfortunate, as you do too Teri, that that’s how a lot of people define their success.
Teri:I absolutely do. We’ve talked about this at length. It’s funny, I also feel like we tend to hang around with, or develop relationships with people who are similar to us or share similar thoughts. This is obviously why we’re such good friends. One of the things that I’ve often thought is that there isn’t room for difference it seems like. It’s like everyone just expects – when I talk about being a realtor, everyone imagines the top producing, super achiever, working non-stop, juggling all the balls, doing tons of volume, making tons of money and there’s this sort of one size fits all. If you aren’t that, and I think the industry is a little bit guilty of fueling that. There’s all the competition inside your brokerage to – and I often thought that was really misguided.
I thought there’s this stigma around not being a certain age and if you’re not Medallion, then you’re not considered successful. I think this is – I haven’t been willing to really talk about it prior too recently, but the truth is, I never had any desire to be that agent. I was focused more on being available to my kids and staying home. I still obviously wanted to do a great job and I definitely wanted to be successful in terms of doing it very, very well and building it slowly over time. I wonder if we see a lot of people in our world chastised and there’s a lot of criticism and judgment. I’m wondering, how would you define a successful realtor?
Michael:The amount of hours in the day that you’re happy. That’s success to me whether it’s agent or not. If you’re unhappy and you’re miserable because you’re working too much, then you’re not a very good realtor. If you’re unhappy because you’re not doing enough work, you’re an unhappy realtor. You’re an unhappy human being. You’re unhappy. I want to go to bed at night, I want to put my head on the pillow knowing I did a kick-ass job for my clients. I wouldn’t take on an extra client at the expense of not being able to coach both my kids’ little league teams or to spend time with my family, or to spend a little time on me. Success, to me, that’s – we measure it one way.
We measure it in the bank account and that’s how we keep score. We talked about this too, as well. A great agent – and we don’t have to say names – who I have a ton of respect for, talked about legacy. In fact, my co-host on Mobile Agent TV talked about legacy, talking about I have to continue to grow my business. I have to keep pushing forward. I have to become this big team because I owe it to my kids to build them, to provide them a legacy. I’m only assuming they mean a financial legacy where I would like to have my kids have a legacy where their Dad did awesome stuff with them and all these memories and have these relationships. I would love to have an unbelievable relationship with both my kids when I’m in my 60’s.
That, to me, is a legacy not only for me, but also for my kids and not at the expense of not getting into a good school, putting a roof over their head and giving them the opportunities that I do and my wife and I can because we both work really hard. To me, that also has to factor into that legacy. It can’t just be a bank statement. If your kids are miserable and you have no friends, but you’re wealthy in the bank or you don’t laugh, that’s not – I don’t have that ambition. I’m not hooked up that way. I can’t do that. Do we have a great business? Absolutely! Are we successful? In my terms, I think we’re extremely successful. All three of us, my teammates, I think we’re extremely successful.
Are there bigger producers out there? Yeah, there are people that do more business. I think we’re extremely successful.
Teri:Well, I do too. I guess the question is then how have you designed it – because I think honestly, I imagine that you don’t take every client probably.
Michael:No, we don’t. We don’t. That was a very good lesson early on that if it’s not the right fit, if your gut says this is not going to work out, listen to your gut. There are times you’ll be wrong, but not at the expense of how many times you’ll be right. You will be right. One of the words that bug me the most in my life is the word luck. I just – there’s something about the word luck that really, really grinds me. My friends will come to me and will say what we’re doing or we’re putting in this, or we’re going on vacation. My friends will say oh, you guys are so lucky. The work luck undermines my hard work that I’ve put into my job.
I prefer the word fortunate and I think for some cases, we are fortunate. I’m fortunate to be born in Canada. I’m fortunate to be born to amazing parents. There are some things that I’m fortunate – and one of the things that I’m fortunate about is to have met and built a team with Jorda and Trish that both define success between the two of them in the same way I do. Trish had a baby six months ago, seven months ago and it didn’t hiccup our team. We knew that it was a priority for her having her kid and her kid comes to the office with us.
We went up yesterday and looked at a piece of property about four hours out of town. Trish and I went and we took Maliyah [sp] with us because the family is important. If there is one thing that I am fortunately – when it comes to having life-work balance, it’s that I have two partners that encourage me to have a very balanced life so that I don’t feel guilty for not working more. I encourage them also to have a balanced life. I think finding the right partnerships is extremely hard. We have a unique team. I think there’s a lot of these team leaders with the team underneath them. I understand how that works. Very, very boss employee type of thing where we have a partnership. I think we’re rare and I think it makes us extremely fortunate.
Teri:I completely agree. In fact, there are so few that I’ve seen that have been really, really successful although I have seen – and they are starting to crop up a little bit more and more which is interesting. Why do you think that is, just a side note?
Michael:Teams? I think teams are absolutely the way it’s going to go. I think one of the reasons why we’re been able to push the envelope the last few years is because we are a team. The personalities that are required to make a great agent, the seven different personality traits, or the eight different personality traits rarely exist in a single person in a large enough amount to make the perfect agent. There are so many things about this job that I just don’t like to do. I just don’t like to do them and this comes back to happiness. I am fortunate to have someone like Jorda who thinks those things that I don’t like to do, she likes to do. I get to trade her the things that I don’t like to do for the things that she doesn’t like to do, which happens to be the things that I like to do.
In front of the camera, being creative, pushing us forward technology wise. Trish also is a different personality. A team with three people that are the exact same personality doesn’t offer the client nor the team a whole lot of benefit. The fact that we get along personally, but we are very different is the reason why our team works. I think teams that go out and identify their weakness and plug holes to fill those weaknesses – I think there is a mistake that my parents and our generations’ parents have taught us. I’ve spoken about this before. It’s this ability to be well-rounded. We want our kids to be well-rounded. I’m dyslexic. I’m never going to be a great speller. I’m never going to be a great reader. That’s the hand I was dealt.
We should find what we’re good at and play to those strengths. That is something that I’ve embraced more and more over the last five or six years, especially in work. I’ve just said, I’m all in with my strengths. I’m all in with being a lot more who I am in front of the camera, in meetings, around other agents, not trying to be well-rounded. If you don’t –
Teri:I was just going to say Marcus Buckingham is a big important coach, he’s been on Oprah and all these other shows talking about playing to your strengths, precisely that. I don’t know why – we, as a generation or a society or who knows how long this has gone on, but we tend to focus on our weaknesses and apply the theory that we should invest stronger there because that’s our weakness. Well, that makes absolutely no sense when you really think about it. Its why would you work so hard on that when you can be playing to your strengths and doing things that you’re naturally good at. I was going to say and interject because when you started talking about playing to your strengths, when you send me a Facebook message, it’s always a voice message and I love it.
You’re like I’m not going to spend time typing when I can easily just talk and it’s so much easier.
Michael:Typing is embarrassing for me! I see that red squiggly line far, far too often. Once again, I’ll play to my strengths. I’m never going to be a written blogger. I’ll never do that. I just don’t have that strength so I’m not going to try to. I think we have to really be very clear as we can about what our strengths are because I think the reason why we’re good at our strengths is because we enjoy doing them. That’s what makes us good at them. Not only do you get to play to your strengths, I think you end up being a lot happier because you’re not trying to work on stuff that you suck at. Play to your strengths I think is a huge thing that we need to do. That’s why I’ve come full circle, back to teams.
I think that’s the way teams will work going forward. They’ll identify the things they’re lacking and hire for that position and make a team stronger. I think teams and teams will continue to be a dominant play in real estate moving forward.
Teri:It is very interesting to me. I also think along the business theme here for a second that the – as a team you can actually build a business. When you’re a realtor selling, it’s every year you’re starting your business all over again. If you get sick or something happens to you, that’s it. You’re out of work. I think the team concept as a business model – companies, this is how they operate. I just think as a business model, it’s very strong. I’m excited to see honestly, all kinds of different models. One of our good friends, Raj Kasar [sp] down in Orange County, I think is doing an amazing job of setting an example of how they can establish teams. I’m going to be going down to Seattle to see the divas here pretty quick next week.
They’ve just completely blown it up and completely made something brand spanking new which is so fun. I love that you’re doing that.
Michael:On that note, Teri, too as well, I think what teams will also allow you to do is fail. I don’t think a single agent has the capability to do something for it to land flat on his face and to lose those two months’ worth of effort where Raj or our team can say let’s devote five percent and try this new avenue. Try this new marketing trick because it doesn’t affect the whole team. It’s only a little bit of energy. You can try these new things, look at the analytics, and measure them. Do they work? Then you can think outside the box. When you’re a solo agent, back to the beginning conversation, you’re just trying to get that B-plus. You’re not trying for the A-plus. You’re just trying to get it done, do a good job or a good enough job.
Teams let you be a little creative. I’ll run an idea past Trish and Jorda. I’ll say give me four hours next week to try this out. Four hours is yours, knock it out of the ballpark. A single agent doesn’t have the ability to play and to test and to be curious as much. I think that’s another huge advantage.
Teri:That’s huge! I love that you do that because I don’t know that everybody in this industry is doing that. I think a lot of people have been doing the sort of, well this is how I do my business and I don’t want to even learn how to do it any other way. I applaud you for the attitude honestly. Like I said, you always inspire me. I love watching to see what you’ll do next.
There was one other thing that I wanted to touch on before we finish and wrap here. This is something that I think I’ll be closing all of my conversations with because again, it’s along the lines of something a little more meaningful. This has been such a rich conversation. I know we could go on and on and probably end up doing a bunch of these as we go. Again, thank you so much.
My final question is imagining – and we’ve already sort of touched on this, but imagine you’re nearing the end of your life. You look back at your life and you say what was meaningful to me? What is the legacy that I want to leave?
Michael:It will be family. Ultimately it will be family. We’re so fearful. This don’t look back, look forward. We’re all building to a point in our life where we’ll only look back. Right? You will be aware, hopefully, at some point aware that you don’t have a forward. You only have back. I think we should be brave enough to look back and hopefully feel that what we built or left behind was a value which still has purpose where you did laugh enough. My regret is a big thing. My dad is an awesome, awesome guy. My dad, after his boys were raised, three boys – my dad and my mom started traveling, traveling, traveling. Living in a hut in Northern Mongolia, traveling. Crazy, crazy traveling.
My dad would say to me every single time I dropped him off at the airport. He says Michael, if this is the trip that mom and dad don’t come back on, remember we have no regrets. We had a great life. Make sure the funeral is a great party and we love you and then he would leave. That would make me so, so sad. Just the thought that I don’t want to think about my dad dying. I don’t want to think about this. Now it is one of the most rewarding things I can hear any human being say to me – that he did it! He lived a life that he can now look back on and say if I go down now, I don’t have a regret. I lived this great life. I enjoyed my family. I lived a little bit of adventure. I had some great laughs. I had great friendships. I did something meaningful.
The fact that he could honestly say that he doesn’t have any regrets – that looking back the rest of its house money – it’s all gravy from here out – is such an inspiring place to one day get to. Where I don’t have these regrets, that’s what I hope will be what I look back on because that’s what’s real. You know what I mean?
It’s about – when I went through my tough time, I had to get really clear about what was real and what was real was where my boys, my wife and my friends and family – that’s what was real. The rest of it – it’s not, it’s not real. It’s real, but it’s nowhere near the same value. I think I want to remember laughing a lot. I want to remember stopping. I think there’s a lot of value in stopping, but definitely my family will be my legacy. I hope so.
Teri:I love it! Absolutely love it! I knew this was going to be a great conversation.
Michael:Teri, we could do this so many times. I know you might be wrapping up, but I want everyone that might be listening to this – to remember that this conversation was just about us which I like. We can have this conversation whether people listen to it or not. This is another thing!
Michael:Keep it real because it’s real! I have pushed you to do this for so much because of what this conversation is about. It’s about scratching the surface and thinking about it for ourselves. Going deeper and realizing what’s important. There is value in what Mobile Agent TV does. There is value in a lot of these type of programs that are out there for a price, but there is real value in these sort of conversations, Teri. I am super excited that you’re doing it. There couldn’t be a better person that’s doing it because I think you really relish these things. I think this is a thrill for you which is great because you really, really bite into these sort of conversations. I am super, super excited to see where this takes you.
Teri:That is so sweet of you to say that! It might be just you and me just listening to this, but no matter what, I absolutely love doing it!
Michael:I’ll make sure my wife listens to it.
Teri:Well, there you go. That’s perfect! I just want to thank you so much, Michael. You’ve been so awesome! I believe honestly that some of the stuff that you’ve shared today, that was so deeply personal, will actually be of such huge value to anybody who gets a chance to hear it. I personally want to just say I’m extremely grateful and I know we’ll do this again. Thanks a bunch!
Michael:Absolutely! Thanks Teri!
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