By Gino Blefari
This week my travels first found me in South Florida, visiting with several Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerages. On Friday morning, I met with Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty and his leadership team, and we were joined via Skype by Christy Budnick, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty; Linda Sherrer, founder and chairman of Florida Network Realty; as well as the brokerage’s esteemed leaders.
The morning meeting was buzzing with motivation, but I’ll let those in attendance speak more about that and provide some highlights from our talk …
“Our EWM Realty leadership team thoroughly enjoyed our half day and were particularly inspired by planning and organizing each day around ‘MEDS’ – meditation, exercise, diet and sleep,” Ron told me. “Your openness to share personal stories of daily life and business planted memorable lessons in the minds of our team!”
Added Christy: “Every single time I hear you present the Four Disciplines of Execution and the value of keeping a scorecard, I always get at least two or three incredible nuggets of newfound knowledge that help us propel our business forward. This time the part that really stood out was that the company leaders should set company goals, but each individual broker should be determining his or her own goals to ensure complete buy-in and full commitment.”
Friday afternoon saw me heading to Ft. Lauderdale to meet with Rei Mesa, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, and his leadership team. Again, we spoke about systems for running a brokerage and again, I’ll let Rei take the proverbial mic …
“Your delivery of wise, value-add advice had a profound impact on the 50 members of our leadership team in attendance – from 36 branch managers to department heads,” he explained. “Everyone could hear the credibility behind your words because everything you spoke about you’ve done or you’re doing now. You’ve successfully implemented the West Coast Offense many times before, which helps our leadership team understand they can, too. The presentation went beyond the motivational or inspirational to the practical and applicable; we’re now all better equipped to execute on these powerful principles company-wide.”
Over the years, I’ve had to deliver many presentations and whether it’s to a handful of listeners or a crowd of hundreds or even thousands, I’ve learned the most important thing to do is connect … meaningfully, authentically and with an understanding for what your audience truly wants to learn from you as a leader. After my brokerage visits, I spent the next few days at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne resort for our 2019 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Summit Conference and it was there, during the second day at General Session, when I witnessed true connection onstage. Of all the great speakers we’ve brought you during our conferences, this one was exceptional.
I refer, of course, to Victoria Arlen, who was our keynote speaker for the second day of Summit Conference. The on-air ESPN reporter, Dancing with the Stars competitor, Paralympic Games Gold and Silver Medalist and best-selling author wowed the crowd with her story.
She began with a note of gratitude for real estate agents, saying: “It’s obviously a hugely meaningful thing [to help someone buy a house] in the life of that buyer and their family. I think it’s pretty amazing that your everyday work, your career, is part of that kind of really meaningful work in the lives of others.”
Then, she launched into her own work to brighten the lives of others, a tale of turning dark tragedy into enlightened inspiration. From an early age, Victoria loved to swim and dance, playing with her siblings, a triplet in her loving family. But Victoria’s world was turned upside down when as a bright and energetic child of 11 years, she was struck with not one but two incredibly rare neurological conditions – transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis – that caused her to be “trapped in her own body.” She spent the next four years in a vegetative state. She could still see and hear things, but nobody knew that she could.
“I heard doctors having actual conversations with my parents [explaining] that I was never going to come out of this,” she said, and even though she desperately tried to scream to them, there was no way Victoria could to connect.
For a young child, she possessed maturity well beyond her years, and though her life appeared bleak, she continued to try to push past feelings of negativity and despair and “began to think about everything I was grateful for.”
The more she thought about the list, the more the list grew.
“I wasn’t dead, right? That’s a BIG win!” She said to muffled giggles from the crowd. It wasn’t the best news, but it wasn’t bad either. It was a start. Soon, she began thinking about the love of her dedicated family and “how they were 100% committed to my every need.”
Victoria explained: “When I began to feel this sense of gratitude, it changed my perspective … it gave some strength to this idea that maybe, just maybe, things could get better.”
After her mindset shifted, Victoria’s body soon followed and she was able to make tiny movements, then blink “yes” or “no” to communicate. Slowly, after four years of utter immobility, she began to miraculously recover. As Victoria said onstage, the cycle of gratitude, perspective change, hope and effort led her to getting out of the hospital bed, into a wheelchair and eventually, back into the pool. Two years later, she competed, broke world records and won Gold and Silver at the Paralympics in London. And while she continued to progress, her life continued to be filled with incredible achievements. ESPN tapped her as one of the youngest on-air hosts the network ever hired. Confined to a wheelchair for a decade, she slowly regained the use of her legs and was able to walk – even competing on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
So, what’s the message? Well, it’s one Victoria said best: “I can assure you, you will come upon your own challenges in life, some big, some small … I have found that the real suffering doesn’t come from the challenges or obstacle itself; it comes from the things we tell ourselves about the consequences.” When life hits you hard, she says take a deep breath and remember everything there is to be grateful for, focusing on what you have and not on the things that are lacking. A change in perspective is more than inspiring, it creates hope, and when hope mixes with hard work, Victoria says, “I believe you will find yourself back on the path to living out your dreams.”