How to Handle Impostors

By Stephen Phillips

Like many companies, we have a television in the lobby of our Irvine, California headquarters.  At one time it was continuously tuned to a cable news network, but then at some point our receptionist was tired of hearing about nothing but terrorism and pandemics and she switched to HGTV.  That makes sense to me.  I never watch television news, and I like HGTV.

Recently, I was walking through the lobby when I heard an HGTV promotional spot that stopped me in my tracks.  The ad was for a show named Rehab Addict.  The star of the show, Nicole Curtis, was talking about what she does in remodeling old houses in the Midwest.  She was describing her response to both the successes and the failures, and she said, “I want the good days; I want the bad days.”  I was immediately struck by how much wisdom there is in that simple phrase, “I want the good days; I want the bad days.”

How much time, precious irreplaceable time, do we spend trying to foresee the unpredictable future, while trying to sidestep life’s unavoidable difficulties?  Isn’t it better to move forward confidently every day without regard to whether the path is perfectly clear?  Won’t we ultimately be more successful if we learn to accept that life’s challenges are just as much a part of the program as its blessings?

As I travel around the country talking to affiliates and agents, especially at this time of year, I am usually expected to say something about the residential real estate market and make a prediction about the future.  Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about the market, but at the same time, I sometimes wonder what I would do differently, what any of us would really do differently, if we knew with certainty how the market was going to perform in the following twelve months.  Would we totally change our approach to the business?  Would we put in twice as many hours, or half as many?  If it didn’t look so hot, would we pull up stakes and leave town?

Not so long ago, this industry went through a dreadful downturn during which annual unit sales of existing homes dropped 42%, and a well-known national home price index declined 27%.  Those were tough years.  And yet, here we are.  Unit sales have rebounded 28% from the bottom and existing home prices have increased 25% nationwide, while the median price of a newly constructed home in the U.S. recently exceeded $300,000 for the first time.

So how should we approach the uncertainty of a new year?  In one of his most famous poems, Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”  Will we have triumph or disaster in 2015?  Who knows?  I certainly don’t.  But either way, following the astute advice of an insightful rehabber from Detroit, I say, “Bring it on.”

Stephen Phillips is COO for HSF Affiliates LLC, responsible for the daily operations of the company. He also serves as president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Find him on Twitter @sphillipstweets.

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