By Christina Noelle
Staying focused and positive is a challenge in the real estate market today. Everywhere you turn someone is yelling into your ear that the sky is falling. Nightly newscasters broadcast regular stories projecting doom. Even the Internet news pages accost you with stories of the demise of all that is good and productive in the real estate sector – it is enough to drive you mad.
As Americans, we are intertwined with our work, so when the bad times come, it is easy to feel the personal pull of the downward spiral. Think about all of the stories you’ve heard about young stock traders and money managers jumping off buildings when they lose millions. Whether authentic or the stuff of urban legends, these tales ring true because it is often impossible to distinguish between our personal struggles and those of our work. We as a culture are not good at making a distinction between the person and the job. When the market hits bottom it can feel like there is no end to the darkness, and that kind of hopelessness can get in the way of making the good decisions you need to pull your business through the tough times.
One of the most important traits of a good business leader is to emotionally distinguish between work and self. To do that means changing our minds in a way that is counter-cultural to everything we have learned about ourselves and our jobs. If you could just be yourself and not your job – if you could just do your best with the highest regard for what is right – it would be impossible to feel desperate because you would have kept yourself above the fray. Of course, that kind of new mental approach sounds overly simplistic, and even if it is simple that does not mean it is easy. However, it will improve how your business runs.
The truth is that finding a way to be comfortable with being who you are instead of what you do is incredibly challenging and takes practice. We have spent a lifetime being programmed the other way. But it is important to find a clear distinction between the two. No matter how much you might want the real estate market to turn around right now, there is very little one person can do to change it. This can be extremely frustrating – just ask Ben Bernanke. What you do have control over is yourself and your reaction to each difficult situation. Finding a calm place inside from which to approach each new obstacle is a gift that only you can give yourself; it’s also the only thing in the market over which you have complete control.
My advice? Find quiet time each day, maybe 15 minutes, to let your mind calm and connect to your breath to find the peace inside of you. This way, you can take a more balanced approach to the day. You will get stronger inside of yourself and in your own skin, and before you know it this natural cycle of real estate ups and downs will have corrected itself, as it always has. When it’s over, you will have lived through a down cycle, and become a more seasoned professional for having weathered the storm. If you are able to approach the entire effort with a steady calm, your awareness of the experience will be heightened, you will intellectually absorb more of it, learn more lessons from it and be a better business person going forward because of it.
Christina Noelle is principal of MCZ Development, a Chicago-based real estate developer. She is also president and urban lifestyle specialist of MCZUrban, a new and edgier division dedicated to building urban infill loft projects.
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