Thoughts on Leadership: Super Wildcard Weekend and a Tribute to Dwight Clark

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Tuesday at home with the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls (one day later due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday) and our monthly CEO meeting. There were 11 calls in total that day and I thoroughly enjoyed them all – when you love what you do and who you do it with, it never feels like work! On Wednesday, I traveled to Nevada to meet with Mark Stark, Troy Reierson and several of our HomeServices of America leaders, including HomeServices of America Chief Administrative Officer Dana Strandmo, Chief Financial Officer Alex Seavall and Chief of Staff Deitra Catalano.

Being an NFL fan, this past weekend was my favorite weekend of them all. Why? It was Super Wildcard Weekend, which meant two Wild Card games on Saturday, three games on Sunday and one game on Monday night. And they’re all games that you win, or you go home.

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys played my San Francisco 49ers, and it marked the eighth time these two franchises have met in the postseason. That is a tie for the second-most common matchup in the Super Bowl era of the NFL. The 49ers won the game 23-17 with strong defense, rushing attacks and the ability to capitalize on the Cowboys’ mistakes.

As I watched this historic matchup, there was so much nostalgia. It made me think back to my dear friend, Dwight Clark. January 10, 2022, was actually the 40th anniversary of “The Catch,” when “Too Tall” Jones and what seemed like the entire Dallas Cowboys defense was chasing quarterback Joe Montana and Dwight was trying to lose Cowboys’ defensive back Everson Walls running across the back of Candlestick Park’s end zone. What happened next has been memorialized in sports history books forevermore: Dwight caught the winning touchdown pass thrown by Montana and the 49ers won the NFC Championship Game that year. Today, “The Catch” is known as the #1 play for the 49ers.

In analyzing the top 10 moments in the epic 49ers-Cowboys rivalry, Sports Illustrated recently named “The Catch” as No. 1. Other ranked moments included: “Roger Staubach’s rally; T.O. standing on the star in Texas Stadium; Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, swapping sides; John Madden and Pat Summerall; The Guarantee, in three-inch headlines; Brass vs. papier-mache; Tony Romo’s punctured lung; Troy Aikman’s concussion; Jimmy Johnson’s “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?!”; Bill Walsh; Tom Landry; Joe Montana; Steve Young; Emmitt Smith; San Francisco’s Team of the 1980s; Dallas’ dynasty of the 1990s; Six NFC Championship Games, leading to five Super Bowl champions …”

… but “The Catch” remains No. 1.

This time is also especially profound because January 8 was Dwight’s birthday. (He turned 25 just two days before “The Catch.”) Dwight’s career with the NFL began in 1979; the NFL draft took place, and he went in the 10th round to Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers.  (You can read the story in Dwight’s own words here.) As my dear friend once described the experience: “[It was] the ultimate meeting between opportunity and preparation [that] resulted in the start of my pro football career. Yet, I know this tale could’ve had a very different ending if I hadn’t spent years running drills, if I hadn’t practiced all those long hours, if I hadn’t worked my hardest on the field each and every day.”

So, what’s the message? Dwight continues to inspire me and all those who knew him. We look up to the legacy he left behind as an extraordinary football player, leader and friend. Abraham Lincoln once said no man stands as tall as when he bends down to help a child in need. And for me, when I think of my friend, Dwight Clark, I don’t think of “The Catch” and how high he had to jump, I think of the many times I watched him bend down and help a child in need.

Thoughts on Leadership: Winning the New Year

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy meeting in the morning then filmed videos for multiple HomeServices of America acquisitions we’ll be announcing very soon. Today, I spent the morning at the virtual Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Leadership Conference, themed “Building for the Future.”

It’s noteworthy that this is the very first Thoughts on Leadership post of the new year. Ah, the new year, a time for resolutions to make … or break.

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By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me in Hawaii for my Annual Dad’s & Daughters Family Holiday Vacation. It’s been a fun week but a sad one too as I learned on Tuesday about the passing of NFL legendary Hall of Fame coach John Earl Madden, who died at the age of 85. For more than three decades, his iconic presence brought brilliant color to football commentary which ESPN called “one of the most influential TV analysts of all time.”

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Edge and The Edgers

By Gino Blefari:

This week found me starting off Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had my weekly Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by a monthly CEO leadership conference call. After the meetings, I joined the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties “Go Live” virtual event where I presented on life planning. Wednesday, I joined the virtual HomeServices of America corporate team gathering and throughout the week, I completed nine succession calls and attended various office holiday celebrations.

Between meetings, presentations, and celebrations, I had an interesting conversation with avid football fan and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Vice President of Business Development Troy Reierson about the new Tom Brady documentary “Man in the Arena” and its parallels between sports and leadership. In the third episode, the team’s 2004 journey is recapped by Brady and former New England linebackers Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel.

In 2004, led by Coach Bill Belichick, the team embraced an “edge” mindset. Winning for them was all about honing, sharpening, and maintaining the physical and mental edge against the competition. Here are a few leadership lessons we can learn from the episode:

Team members shouldn’t be afraid to call each other out when necessary.

At the time, Brady had moved to downtown Boston and simply wasn’t taking care of himself like he should have been. He was going out and staying out late. He wasn’t eating right or prioritizing his health. Patriots’ linebacker Willie McGinest, who Brady once called “the Godfather of the locker room,” noticed he was not taking care of himself and wasn’t afraid to call Brady out for it. He recognized Tom’s potential to be a great, long-lasting player, so he suggested Tom meet with his body coach, who at the time was Alex Guerrero. That chance meeting turned into what is now known as TB12 Method. It was also an example of McGinest holding Brady accountable. And speaking of accountability …

It’s great for a leader to hold team members accountable but team members should hold each other (and themselves) accountable, too.

Part of “the edge” the Patriots maintained was because of their impeccable level of accountability. Team members weren’t just held accountable by Coach Belichick or Brady; they were held accountable by the person right next to them.

Bruschi noted that if the team wins “3 out of 4” Super Bowl championships they could rightly be considered a dynasty. So, on the line was the chance to become one of the greatest teams, ever, and you don’t just become that with hard work and dedication, it takes unanimous accountability from every single member of the team. No one was bigger than anyone else. No one was a superstar while the others watched on the proverbial sidelines. Everyone was an equal in this game of extreme accountability. Teams knew the Patriots not as individual players but as a cohesive unit working in perfect synchronicity and that is a very, very scary opponent to face on the field (and in business).

“The edge” was all about accountability.

Before I talk about this one, let me tell you a story. After I watched Episode 3 of “Man in the Arena,” I was so shocked by its parallels to my time at Contempo Realty years ago that I sent text messages to 15 agents who were in that office telling them to watch the show. Back then, the policy at Contempo was that you had to produce a certain amount of income to qualify for your own private office. As manager, every year I would have to confront someone who did not meet the production standard and move them either into the bullpen area or a shared office. The practice was so well known that after a while, agents took accountability upon themselves. If a few agents weren’t doing the production, other agents in the office would stick a “for lease” sign up on their private office. I didn’t even have to make my rounds to tell anyone their production was too low; the agents held themselves accountable to achieving the production necessary for the private offices. As a result of this accountability, two agents who weren’t going to qualify (and had a “for lease” sign stuck on their door) proactively came to me and said, “Hey if you need us to, we’re happy to share an office because we didn’t do enough business to qualify for a private office.”

That level of accountability is what drove the Patriots in 2004. If one player showed up to practice at 6:30 in the morning, someone else who got there at six asked why they were late. If a player said they reviewed two hours of tapes, another player said they reviewed three. They not only outworked, out-competed and outplayed their opponents, they also out-competed, outworked and outplayed each other to ensure everyone was held to an even higher standard of what it meant to be an “edger.” So, what’s the message? The people you spend time around determine the person you will become. That’s why it’s so important to be among people who will not only push you beyond the limits of what you think you can achieve but will also speak up when your accountability is lagging, so you can always maintain your “edge.”

Thoughts on Leadership: Dedicated to AAPI and AREAA Leaders Worldwide

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels started on Sunday when I flew to Orange County. On Monday I completed my WIG calls and attended the HSF Affiliates holiday party followed by a holiday dinner with business associates. On Tuesday, I joined the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call in the early morning followed by four succession calls. In the evening, I was honored to be at the 2022 Installation Gala for the Orange County chapter of the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA). Julie Tran, friend, and REALTOR® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, was commemorated as the outgoing chapter president and helped install the 2022 president, Peter Au, also of California Properties. Today, I am writing this post between a virtual presentation at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty Statewide Managers Meeting and various conference calls.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Living the Good Life

By: Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday with the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had three succession planning calls and Wednesday began with a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties virtual life planning session, which was attended by five California Properties offices. In the afternoon, I drove to the spectacular Carmel Valley to spend time coaching Intero’s No. 1 team, the TSE Group led by the unstoppable Andy Tse, at the Tse Group Retreat. Today I recorded a presentation for the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance then met virtually with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Hawai’i Realty for life/business planning followed by the virtual launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Bay Area Realty and in the afternoon, I participated in the grand opening event for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Los Cabos Properties.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Giving Thanks

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting off Monday with the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had succession calls and today, I’m reviewing slide decks and material for upcoming presentations and meetings. Of course, tomorrow and Friday, I’ll be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with my family.

As we approach Thanksgiving, this week is all about gratitude, though as leaders, gratitude is the foundational element to a positive mindset, so gratitude is always an ongoing aspect of our work and lives. But this week especially, gratitude takes center stage.

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Thoughts on Leadership: The Power of Giving Back

By Gino Blefari

This week started out Sunday in Las Vegas where I attended the Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night football game. Then Monday I flew back to San Francisco for the 49ers-Los Angeles Rams game. as well as taking a WIG call. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and monthly virtual CEO leadership meeting. I also attended the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame announcement of the 2021 inductees where Intero Real Estate Services was a sponsor for the event. On Wednesday, I traveled to Palm Springs to attend the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Arizona Properties and California Properties yearly management retreat with CEO Mark Stark. I held a fireside chat with Mark then took part virtually in the monthly HomeServices of America corporate team gathering. Today, I was a guest speaker at the HomeServices Marketing Conference then had a photoshoot and interview with Andrew Flachner of RealScout. Between today and tomorrow, I’ll participate in three succession planning calls. Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to being a guest speaker on the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® Friday Forum.

It’s been a productive week and there’s one word that characterizes how I’ve been feeling, especially as we lead up to Thanksgiving: grateful.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Feeding the Good Wolf

According to a Cherokee teaching, there are two wolves fighting inside all of us. The first one is evil and the second one is good. So, which wolf wins – evil or good? It’s whichever one you feed. Read on to learn how I’ve fed the good wolf over the last 33+ years of my career.

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home with my morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention creative presentation and a visit with Semonin Realtors® led by CEO Brad DeVries. For the Sales Convention planning meetings with Corporate Magic and CEO Jim Kirk, we toured the conference center and participated in the creative presentation for our general sessions, keynotes and award presentations. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CEO Christy Budnick as we explored Louisville’s highlights. Next it was off to the Semonin Realtors®  office where I presented to top agents and managers. Today as I write this to you, I’m traveling back to California.

It was certainly a week that was less than routine, which made it all the more important to follow my morning routine, no matter what city I’m in because it helps frame my mindset to have a positive and productive day.

For our blog post today, I ask you a simple question: What is a routine?

Merriam-Webster defines routine as “a habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure.”

And in fact, it is. It’s an act you perform regularly; however, the meaning behind that act –as it relates to leadership–isn’t something you’ll find in the dictionary. For leaders, a ritual solidifies your mindset and allows you to focus on maintaining the correct attitude to accomplish your goals. It allows you to tune out the unimportant, the chaotic, the negative and center yourself around a ritual that grounds you as it uplifts. I have several rituals (my M.E.D.S. for one – meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep) and they’re all an important part of getting my mindset right to take on the day. I’d like to share two of those rituals with you now, in the hopes that they may inspire your own morning routine and the positivity that it will bring into your day – and life.

As a new agent, I remember when I first saw Og Mandino speak, and then had the opportunity to meet him backstage. The experience had such a profound impact on me that early in my career I committed to reading every single book Og had ever written. There was one excerpt from “The Seeds of Success” that stuck with me. It’s a bit long, but I think you’ll find it worthwhile and it’s one I’ve recited as part of my morning routine for the past three decades:

I will live as all good actors do when they are onstage—only in the moment. I cannot perform at my best today by regretting my previous act’s mistakes or worrying about the scene to come.

I will embrace today’s difficult tasks, take off my coat, and make dust in the world. I will remember that the busier I am, the less harm I am apt to suffer, the tastier will be my food, the sweeter my sleep, and the better satisfied I will be with my place in the world.

I will free myself today from [an obsession] to the clock and calendar. Although I will plan this day in order to conserve my steps and energy. I will begin to measure my life in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not seasons; in feelings, not figures on a dial.

I will remain aware of how little it takes to make this a happy day. Never will I pursue happiness, because it is not a goal, just a by-product, and there is no happiness in having or in getting, only in giving.

I will run from no danger I might encounter today, because I am certain that nothing will happen to me that I am not equipped to handle with your help. Just as any gem is polished by friction. I am certain to become more valuable through this day’s adversities, and if you close one door, you always open another for me.

I will live this day as if it were Christmas. I will be a giver of gifts and deliver to my enemies the gift of forgiveness; my opponents, tolerance; my friends, a smile; my children, a good example, and every gift will be wrapped with unconditional love.

I will waste not even a precious second today in anger or hate or jealousy or selfishness. I know that the seeds I sow will harvest, because every action, good or bad, is always followed by an equal reaction. I will plant only good seeds this day.

I will treat today as a priceless violin. One may draw harmony from it and another, discord, yet no one will blame the instrument. Life is the same, and if I play it correctly, it will forth beauty, but if I play it ignorantly, it will produce ugliness.

I will condition myself to look on every problem I encounter today as no more than a pebble in my shoe. I remember the pain, so harsh I could hardly walk, and recall my surprise when I removed my shoe and found only a grain of sand.

I will work convinced that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. To do anything today that is truly worth doing, I must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger but jump in the gusto and scramble through as well as I can.

I will face the world with goals set for this day, but they will be attainable ones, not the vague, impossible variety declared by those who make a career of failure. I realize that you always try me a little first, to see what I would do with a lot.

I will never hide my talents. If I am silent, I am forgotten, if I do not advance, I will fall back. If I walk away from any challenge today, my self-esteem will be forever scarred, and if I cease to grow, even a little, I will become smaller. I reject the stationary position because it is always the beginning of the end.

I will keep a smile on my face and in my heart even when it hurts today. I know that the world is a looking-glass and gives back to me the reflection of my own soul. Now I understand the secret of correcting the attitude of others and that is to correct my own.

I will turn away from any temptation today that might cause me to break my word or lose my self-respect. I am positive that the only thing I possess more valuable than my life is my honor.

I will work this day with all my strength, content in the knowledge that life does not consist of wallowing in the past or peering anxiously at the future. It is appalling to contemplate the great number of painful steps by which one arrives at a truth so old, so obvious, and so frequently expressed. Whatever it offers, little or much, my life is now.

I will pause whenever I am feeling sorry for myself today and remember that this is the only day I have and must play it to the fullest. What my part may signify in the great whole, I may not recognize, but I am here to play it and now is the time.

I will count this day a separate life.

I will remember that those who have fewest regrets are those who take each moment as it comes for all that it’s worth.

This is my day!

These are my seeds.

Thank you for this precious garden of time.

Another affirmation I’ve recited my entire career is “If” by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you  

      Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

      But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

      Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

      And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

      If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

      And treat those two impostors just the same;  

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

      Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

      And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

      And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

      And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

      To serve your turn long after they are gone,  

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

      Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

      Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

      If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

      With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

      And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

So, what’s the message? When you get up in the morning, you have a choice – you can feed the evil wolf or the good wolf. Like a hungry wolf, your brain is in an alpha state and anything you put in it tends to stay with you throughout the day. By reading these two excerpts, you’ll be starting each morning by feeding the good wolf.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Italians

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I began the morning with a Berkshire Hathaway Energy call then celebrated Italian Day … but more about that later. On Wednesday, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Sustainability Summit, which began with opening remarks from Greg Abel, Vice Chair of Non-Insurance Operations at Berkshire Hathaway Inc.; and Chair, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Cathy Woollums, Senior Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer for Berkshire Hathaway Energy. I also attended the Long & Foster shareholder meeting then traveled to Orange County. Today, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway Energy Executive Leadership Conference themed “Transforming Our Business” all morning then it was off to beautiful Laguna Beach for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties LUX event, where I introduced my good friend and great coach/speaker Tom Ferry and in the afternoon, participated in a photo op with California Properties luxury agents Cristal Clarke and Nigel Copley. Tomorrow, I’ll attend LUX in the morning then travel home.

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