Thoughts on Leadership: Tough Love and Butterflies

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had my early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and then prepped for several meetings with the team. Today, I had the opportunity to support newly inducted Santa Clara County Association of REALTORSⓇ (SCCAOR) president Will Chea of Intero Real Estate at the 2023 Installation of SCCAOR Officers and Directors. Now, I sit down to write this post to you.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Tough Love and Butterflies

Even though we’re about midway through the academic year, I happened to see Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech online, and it inspired me to think about what an ideal talk to a graduating class should be. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Jobs famously told the new grads. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

His speech was moving, but it was also direct. As a leader, it’s about imparting tough love, the kind of love that’s no-nonsense, gritty, and real.

Many times people who love you don’t have those difficult, tough-love conversations because their instinct is to protect, comfort and shield you from all the bad things about the world; they only want you to see what’s shiny and good.

Tough love will help you recognize that life isn’t easy, and tough love implores you to learn those difficult lessons all on your own.

Here’s a scenario: You’re sitting in your backyard one afternoon. Suddenly, you spot a butterfly attempting to break free from its chrysalis – that hard shell formed during its metamorphosis. The struggle is difficult for you to watch, and your instinct is to help the creature out. So, you get some scissors from the kitchen and cut the chrysalis, allowing the butterfly to emerge into the world.

Success, right?

Wrong.

You wait for the butterfly, still shriveled up and weak, to flap its wings and fly away. But it never does. Instead, it just walks on the ground, and that’s where it will remain, if it even survives as all.

What the metamorphosis of a butterfly teaches us is that struggle is necessary for survival. As the butterfly pushes through a small opening at the bottom of the chrysalis, the fluid from its body is sent to the wings, making the butterfly’s wings strong enough to support its eventual flight.

This is the tough-love lesson those students – and all of us – need to hear when times get challenging. It’s the hard that makes us great. Just like the butterfly must fight against its cocoon to develop wings solid enough to fly, so too do people need to experience adversity to grow strong enough to overcome it. Remember, it is not what struggles happen during our lives that determine how well we’ve lived. It is what we choose to do next during those unexpected times of struggle that defines our character and determines our happiness.

In other words, we must develop grit. In author Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed, the journalist says that using IQ and academic success as a predictor of future accomplishment is wrong. Through exhaustive research, he discovers that noncognitive skills like gratitude, optimism, curiosity, and grit are far better predictors of high achievement.

So, what’s the message? When it comes to success, it doesn’t really matter what other people say, or even how they perceive you. It doesn’t matter what talent you’re born with or what skills you acquire early in your career. It doesn’t even matter whether the economy is strong or weak, or what the market is doing today and where it’s going tomorrow. What matters is that you understand there’s no substitute for hard work. As the saying goes, if you’re interested in being successful, you’ll do what’s convenient, but if you’re committed to being successful, you’ll do whatever it takes. Basketball coach Tim Notke said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Your competition may have more innate talent than you do, but tell yourself they’ll never outwork you. That’s tough love. That’s the chrysalis you’ll have to break on your own. Because in the end, the only one who can determine how high you’ll really fly is you.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Katherine Johnson

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home on Monday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and monthly leadership virtual meetings. Wednesday through today (and really, for the rest of this week), I’m working on various projects and in between those projects, sat down to write this post to you.

This week our HomeServices family of companies honored the tradition of MLK Day of Service with a wide variety of company events. So, in the spirit of leaders who give back, I want to dedicate this post to a Black leader whose contributions changed our country, our world and really, our entire universe: Katherine Johnson.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Katherine Johnson

Johnson lived an extraordinary life. She was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia in 1918 and immediately it was clear she had a penchant for – and brilliance with – numbers. By age 13, Johnson was already attending high school classes. At age 18, she enrolled at West Virginia State College, where she excelled in mathematics and was mentored by math professor W.W. Schieffelin Claytor, the third Black American to earn a PhD in mathematics. In 1937, she graduated West Virginia State College with the highest honors and began working at a teaching job at a Black public school in Virginia.

In 1939, when West Virginia quietly integrated its graduate schools, West Virginia State president Dr. John W. Davis chose Johnson and two other men to be the first Black students at the state’s flagship graduate school, West Virginia University. Johnson left her job teaching and enrolled in the program, though she left the program shortly after the first session to start a family. When her children were older, Johnson returned once again to teaching.

Several years later, in 1952, a relative told Johnson about a few open positions at the all-Black West Area Computing section at the Langley laboratory at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Johnson moved with her family to Newport News, Virginia and started working at Langley in the summer of 1953.

For the next four years, she analyzed fight data and plane crashes, and in 1958, her mathematics work was used in “Notes on Space Technology,” a series of lectures by engineers in the Flight Research Division and the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division (PARD) who would become the Space Task Group, NACA’s first official exploration into the possibilities of space travel. Later that year, when NACA turned over operations to NASA, Johnson, according to NASA “came along with the program.” The year prior, she co-authored a report along with engineer Ted Skopinski – “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position” – and this credit marked the first time a woman in the Flight Research Division was named on a research report.

Her work on NASA’s Mercury program (1961-1963) was perhaps what she’s most well-known for today. In 1961, Johnson’s calculations of the path from Freedom 7 sent the first U.S. astronaut – Alan B. Shepard, Jr. – into space. In 1962, Johnson began work on an orbital flight for astronaut John Glenn that required the building of a complex communications network around the globe.

Despite the intense work to create this network, astronauts were hesitant to trust their lives to electronics. “Get the girl,” Glenn told his engineers, during the preflight checklist.

“The girl,” of course, was the brilliant Johnson, who ran the same equations that were programmed into the computer all by hand, using a desktop mechanical calculating machine.

Johnson would later recall Glenn saying, “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

On February 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. The mission, thanks to Johnson, was a success, and marked the beginning of NASA’s accomplishments in human spaceflight.

So, what’s the message? During Johnson’s 33 years spent at Langley, she co-authored 26 research reports and among many, many achievements, was part of the team that made calculations about when to launch the rocket for the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that sent the first three men to the moon. She also worked on the space shuttle program. In 2015, at age 97, President Barack Obama awarded her with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, though sadly in February 2020 Johnson passed away at the age of 101. When once asked about her time at Langley, Johnson said, “I loved going to work every single day,” proving that when you love something that much, you can achieve goals that are out of this world.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Damar Hamlin

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting Monday with an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by seven WIG calls. On Tuesday, I traveled to Dallas for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention 2023 video shoots and speech coaching, which continued into Wednesday. Also on Tuesday, the Swanepoel Power 200 list was released.  Congratulations to all the extraordinary leaders who were recognized on the list this year!

Today, I’m home and I have one incredible leadership story on my mind: Damar Hamlin.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Damar Hamlin

On January 2, as football fans watched the Buffalo Bills play the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-year-old Bills safety Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during the final moments of the first quarter. An ESPN correspondent broadcasting the game described what happened next: “[Hamlin] made a hit, he got up, took a couple of steps and then just fell to the ground.” 

The response was immediate. First, the players knelt over Hamlin, aware he was in serious distress even before ESPN could identify the player who had collapsed on the field. The first wave of first responders came from the Bills sideline. According to the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, when a player is injured, doctors and trainers from that player’s team will be the first to get to the athlete.

“If they get out on the field and they sense that this is a significant emergency, then they will give a hand signal in addition to the radio signal,” Sill explained. “It’s basically an all-call, meaning everyone come.”

During that Monday night game, everyone came, including the code leader, who is responsible for taking charge in an emergency. Sills continued to explain the medical response protocol: “If there is a cardiac arrest, who’s going to lead?” he said. “Who’s going to be the captain of the ship in that moment to make determinations, decisions about various aspects of the resuscitation?”

In the NFL, those leadership questions are critical; the answers could be the difference between life and death. It’s why the choreography of emergency response is planned before every NFL game, from preseason games to the Super Bowl.

Before kickoff, a 60-minute meeting of medical personnel takes place where the emergency action plan is reviewed, discussed and committed to, and most importantly a code leader (the person in charge should a medical emergency occur) is acknowledged by the medical team – you could almost call it an NFL-style emergency response WIG meeting. This code leader acknowledgement is fairly new to NFL protocol but vital to the success of any emergency medical operation; with a code leader established prior to every game, there is absolutely no question who will lead in a crisis.

That pivotal change potentially saved Hamlin’s life and gave him a fighting chance to live.

And fight he did, and continues to do, with the support of the entire NFL – and the world – on his side. Another leadership lesson from this story is how quickly everyone came together, no matter what team they played for, what team they rooted for, or even whether they watched football at all. Everyone sent their good vibes for Hamlin to make a speedy recovery.

Following Hamlin’s cardiac arrest, the safety received an outpouring of support. People who didn’t normally post about football were wishing him well on social media and routinely checking for updates on his condition. All 32 NFL teams changed their Twitter profile photos to say “Pray for Hamlin” with his number 3 Bills jersey. Hamlin’s Chasing M’s Foundation Community To Drive, which had a goal of $2,500 in donations, raised $8.7 million from more than 245,900 donations (and counting) that came from around the world.

During Week 18 games, all 32 NFL teams had a pregame moment of support for Hamlin. They also had an outline of “3” (Damar’s number) in each 30-yard line number on the field in either Buffalo Bills Red or Buffalo Bills Blue. Pregame warmup shirts had “Love for Damar 3” written on them, and the Buffalo Bills wore “3” jersey patches.

Then, after about nine days spent in two hospitals, Hamlin was discharged from Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute. According to ESPN, doctors said they were “ecstatic” about his quick recovery, and Hamlin himself recently tweeted he was “grateful for the awesome care” he received. It’s amazing – and characteristic of a solid leader – to see Hamlin leaning into gratitude during such a challenging time.

So, what’s the message? Dorrian Glenn, Hamlin’s uncle, delivered a powerful statement about the recovery. “A lot of people don’t see how much they’re loved when they’re alive,” he said. “To see that he has a chance to eventually recover and see all the love he’s gotten … it’s gonna mean a lot to him.”

We’re experiencing that now, as Damar recovers and gives us an incredible leadership lesson about gratitude and coming together as human beings for a cause bigger than ourselves. No matter what business we’re in or what team we root for, we are always stronger together.

Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jim Thorpe

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me kicking off the new year by participating in my regular Berkshire Hathaway Energy call and speaking at Intero’s Academy. I spoke about finding opportunity in chaos, four reasons we aren’t in a housing bubble, 16 ways to thrive in a shifting market, seven types of agents who will get crushed in 2023 (and how to thrive instead), seven daily REALTOR® activities to utilize to have your best year ever, five predictions for 2023 (and how to take advantage of them), seven things top-producing REALTORS® do that you probably don’t do, and more! I also spent the week preparing and organizing for a busy January ahead.

From time to time, people will send me articles they think might be of interest, and this week, I received a text from one of the top agents in the country and a dear friend, Andy Tse of Intero Real Estate Services. He wrote: Have you ever studied Jim Thorpe? This blew me away.

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Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Hawai’i

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Hawai’i, on my annual post-holidays father-daughter trip. And as I spend quality time with my family in Waikiki, I can’t help but look around and find inspiration in the place we are – this incredible island locale – and share the leadership lessons Hawai’i has taught me.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Hawai’i

Strive to reach the summit.

You might remember the story I shared last year of passing a kidney stone while visiting the Wailea Beach Resort. Once the staff at the hotel found out, they immediately were sending me messages, asking how they could help. Here’s an excerpt from one sent by Samuel Spurrier, director of group sales – “Ginger chews? Gatorade? Our chef is also putting together some assorted teas. Wishing you the best and let me know how I can assist in any way.”

They checked up on me, they were concerned about me, and I was beyond impressed, especially with hotel General Manager Angela Vento, with whom I had the honor of having breakfast with during my stay. She’s one of the few female GMs at a major resort in Maui and her leadership style was influenced by Queen Kapi’olani, one of the last reigning and beloved queens in Hawai’i. Queen Kapi’olani was known for her deep commitment to philanthropy, health, and education for the Hawai’ian people, and in 1890 founded the Kapi’olani Maternity Home. She also lived by a famous Hawaiian proverb, Kulia I Ka Nu’u, defined in a book Angela read called “Managing with Aloha” by Rosa Say. The proverb goes:

Kūlia i ka nu‘u is the value of accomplishment and achievement. The literal translation for Kūlia i ka nu‘u is “strive to reach the summit.” Those who have this value continually pursue improvement and personal excellence. For them, the most satisfying competition is with their previous selves: They consider their life and everything within it to be a work in progress, and they enjoy the effort. ‘Hard work’ is good work when it employs the energies of striving and reaching higher.

Lead with humility.

It’s difficult to talk about Hawaiian leadership inspiration without referencing the great Duke Kahanamoku, whose life and achievements serve as a veritable blueprint for leadership excellence. A gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer and champion surfer, “The Duke” was the first to remind his fans that no matter how famous he got, he was always one of them, a citizen of Hawai’i who worked hard for every accolade he received. In June 1925, when a fishing boat capsized in Newport Beach, California during a tremendous swell, a 34-year-old Duke, who happened to be watching from the beach, sprang to action, using his superior swimming skills and surfboard – allegedly weighing more than 200 pounds – to complete a daring rescue. He was able to save eight fishermen and his friends saved four more in an act that was hailed “superhuman.” But when the reporters descended on the beach to ask Duke about his epic rescue, he was nowhere to be found. With characteristic humility, he had left the scene before the media arrived.

Get it done.

Dr. Donnie Thompson, former University of Hawai’i women’s director of athletics, Martin Luther King Jr. Commission chair in Hawai’i and the first woman to serve as Superintendent of Education for the state of Hawai’i, once said: “Anything worth having is worth having now.”

That sense of immediacy and action may have propelled Dr. Thompson to become a pioneering force in women’s athletics throughout Hawai’i. She helped start the University of Hawai’i women’s sports program and in 1961, was the university’s first women’s track and field coach, making history as the first African American to serve as a coach for women in any National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 institution. By 1972, Dr. Thompson was named head of the athletics program. Immediately, she expanded the program from its then-two-sport offerings for women athletes into eight sports and expanded the scholarship program for women to 30 scholarships. Under her leadership, the University of Hawai’i women’s volleyball team won its highest national honors, putting women’s sports (and women athletes in Hawai’i) on the map for good.

So, what’s the message? Sure, it’s fun to travel somewhere beautiful and recharge for your next sprint but the next time you take a trip, you might consider doing a little research into what makes that place special. Chances are, like I did in Hawai’i, you’ll find leadership inspiration to inspire you anew. And speaking of new, here’s wishing you a very happy New Year!

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from the World Cup

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home, conducting my typical WIG calls before flying to Orange County. On Tuesday, I participated in the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by the HSF Affiliates Leadership Summit. On Wednesday, the team finished the Leadership Summit, which was followed by the HSF Affiliates holiday luncheon. Today and tomorrow, I’ll host four succession calls from my home office in Northern California, puppy June by my side.

Lately, it seems like everyone has been captivated by the excitement of the World Cup, which began late November and will culminate on December 18. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks in Qatar as countries battle it out for a win. Here are a few lessons inspired by the World Cup:

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Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday I traveled to Dallas to attend Pierce Allman’s celebration of life (read a tribute to his leadership and legacy here). On Wednesday, I was back in Orange County to attend Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Lifestyle Properties’ grand opening event and today I traveled to Houston to be a guest speaker at the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Premier Properties Annual Managers Retreat where I will present The 17 Ways To Win

In A Changing Market, How To Create A Lifeplan and The HomeServices System.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Jimmy G

It was a tough week to be a 49ers fan, despite an earlier victory against the Miami Dolphins. On Sunday, we learned starting quarterback Jimmy “GQ” Garoppolo was out for the rest of the season with a broken foot. (In better news, doctors have since said that he doesn’t need surgery and could return in seven or eight weeks, just in time for the playoffs.) And while that’s not the kind of news you want to hear as a Niners fan, Jimmy G is the kind of leader you’d want to have in any situation. Here are the characteristics that make him such a fantastic leader:

  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Toughness
  • Love
  • Identity
  • Humility
  • Calm
  • Collaboration

Now let’s dive deeper into how those characteristics play out on and off the field for Jimmy G:

  1. Perseverance. Any list of Jimmy’s leadership attributes must start with perseverance. No matter his injuries or his perceived ineffectiveness by the general NFL media, Jimmy just keeps doing his thing. He is not flashy, he does not have gaudy stats, he just wins football games. Jimmy seems to have established the culture of his team. His work ethic is second to none and his attitude is always positive. He’s been through many battles and Jimmy has earned the respect of his teammates. So when the game is on the line, the 49ers often pull through.
  2. Confidence. Jimmy is a winner. His confidence in his winning abilities and attitude have propelled his career. He was 19-7 in his last two years playing at Eastern Illinois and threw for 84 touchdowns. After he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots – right in the middle of their dynasty’s glory days – he won two Super Bowl rings playing as Tom Brady’s backup quarterback. At the 2017 draft deadline, the 49ers traded to get him and just one month later, he was the starting quarterback for the Niners, helping the team to five consecutive wins to end the season. He has an overall 39-18 record as a starter and a .684 win percentage, which puts him in elite ranks with the likes of Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. 
  3. Toughness. Jimmy is tough and often plays through injury, maybe to a fault. But this toughness also translates off the field. In the offseason, the 49ers had hoped to trade him but shoulder surgery in 2021 prevented them from making the trade. No matter the scenario – good or bad – Jimmy has a linebacker’s mentality while playing a quarterback position. He’s not afraid of contact. He’s what you’d call a “flatliner,” enabling him to perform well even under the most trying of game situations. Whatever you say about Jimmy G (high turnover rate seems to be the most prevailing criticism), you can’t say he’s not tough. Injury after injury, recovery after recovery, he’s returned to show up and win.
  4. Love. Jimmy’s teammates love him and his leadership style, no matter what the media thinks of his abilities. The 49ers’ tight end George Kittle said: “When Jimmy’s rollin’, I think we’re rollin’. He’s a [heck] of a leader out there, and he really inspires us to play our best ball.” Three seasons ago, the 49ers nearly won the championship. Last year, they almost made it into the Super Bowl. He helped get all that done even with painful injuries in his throwing shoulder and thumb.
  5. Identity. Jimmy is the undisputed leader of the 49ers. Key wins last year during the playoffs arguably put him among the franchise’s most significant players, including Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Joe Staley, Frank Gore and Bryant Young. Somehow, Jimmy’s leadership has a unique ability to consume everything into its orb – his identity is the team’s identity because he leads it. When he shakes off mistakes, the team can shake off mistakes. When he walks into the locker room with confidence, it brings confidence to every single player. When he makes plays that are scrappier than they are superstar-quality, the team plays scrappier, too. He was committed to the team even after Trey Lance was named starting quarterback at the beginning of 2022. He gives the 49ers franchise a foundation and upon this foundation everything else is built. His playing isn’t perfect, but he knows how to put a win together. That’s been the legacy of the 49ers’ success.
  6. Humility. In February of this year, Jimmy delivered a heartfelt goodbye video, knowing his days with the team were coming to an end: “Faithful, thank you very much for everything,” Jimmy said. “It’s been crazy, man. Just all the comebacks at Levi’s, comebacks on the road, ups and downs, it’s been a [heck] of a ride, guys. I love you guys. See ya.” As the story goes, Trey Lance broke his ankle in the first quarter of San Francisco’s Week 2 win against the Seattle Seahawks and Jimmy returned to the team as quarterback. In discussing the incident, Tom Brady said: “I’ve known Jimmy since he was a rookie and Jimmy and I have been friends a long time. And just seeing him, how he’s handled kind of his own adversity, is really gonna prepare him for what’s ahead. It’s interesting in the NFL, you know, when one door closes, I think another one opens … And as tough as it is for Trey to get injured, Jimmy steps in there and does a great job … things have a crazy way of working out. … You never know when that opportunity’s gonna present itself and when you get it, you gotta go out and take advantage of it.”
  7. Calm. When trouble comes, Jimmy G never panics. 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa said: “I’m impressed with his demeanor just as a leader. A lot of people give him [trouble] for whatever. But he’s as cool and collected of a quarterback as I’ve ever had and he’s a perfect guy to lead us to where we need to go.” Kittle said: “Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy. The [bad things] that he takes … Just consistently people try to pull him down and all he does is try to deliver. And he leads this team. He’s the sense of calm in the huddle, he’s the sense of calm in the storm. He allows us to play football at a high level.”  
  8. Collaboration. When Trey Lance was set to replace Jimmy last year, you’d think the quarterback would scoff at any chance to make Lance better. The opposite was true. “He’s been a big bro to me when he came in,” said Lance. “He could have made things [horrible] for me last year and he didn’t. He helped me out with everything. Jimmy might have taken some inspiration on this one from his mentor, Tom Brady, who helped him after the 2014 draft when he joined the Patriots. Former 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders summed this one up best: “There’s certain people who know who they are. Jimmy G. knows who he is. Jimmy G. plays with swagger; Jimmy G. has his own swagger. He’s not walking around saying it, but Jimmy G. plays with swagger. Jimmy G. is a leader. He’s a natural leader. I’ve played with a lot of quarterbacks. When I tell you this guy is a leader, he’s a leader. He allows guys to follow him, not just by how he works, but when he comes in and he’s running meetings like coaches? He’s a natural born leader.” Bottom line: He helped Lance because he wanted Lance to succeed.

So, what’s the message? While the story of Jimmy G’s leadership was far from straightforward, all this back and forth, testing his toughness, his confidence, and his ability to lead, could very well produce the best version of Jimmy G possible. Coming back from yet another injury, he’ll have nothing to lose and everything to prove – the perfect scenario for a leader as incredible as Jimmy G to shine.

Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Veterans Day

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy call followed by a session of handwritten notes for the holidays. (Let this be a gentle reminder to start working on your handwritten holiday cards if you haven’t already.) On Wednesday, I joined the Global Leadership Meeting for our leaders in Europe and Asia then drove to Union City, California to present on the real estate environment and specifically, 16 actions agents can take in a declining market. Today, between succession planning calls, I sat down to write this post to you.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Learning from Veterans Day

As you may have read, early last week I said goodbye to my beloved Kona – for those following the story, I take home my new little best friend on November 22. Then at the end of the week, I celebrated Veterans Day, not only for all brave veterans who protect our freedoms but also for my dad, my Pappy. When my dad turned 18 years old, he was drafted to the Army. He went through training and became a Technician 5th Grade in Company B, 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division.

He landed on the beaches of Normandy, and his regiment was assigned to the Third Army. Yes, that was old Blood and Guts himself, General George Patton.

He was in General Patton’s Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge, a major World War II German offensive fought in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany from December 1944 to January 1945. My Pappy would go on to receive two purple hearts for his bravery fighting with Patton’s Third Army.

The most famous part of the Battle of the Bulge occurred around Christmas time in Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne had a bridge and seven different roads in and out of the town; it was very important strategically. The upshot is the Allies had been surrounded and cut off in Bastogne and needed help.

There was a famous meeting held among all the field generals. The only general that committed to getting to Bastogne was Patton. He said he could attack in three days.

The only problem was my dad, and the rest of the Third Army were 100 miles away and had to hike for three days through tough winter conditions, including deep snow. You heard that right. 100 miles in three days in deep snow during the coldest winter on record. A distance greater than a marathon in boots and combat gear … walking. But they got there.

So, what’s the message? My Pappy’s story proves the resilience and perseverance of veterans –  and that’s just one of so many veterans’ stories. On Veterans Day and every day, the key is not just to thank these brave veterans but also to listen, giving them a chance to share their incredible experiences, so they may live on forever.

Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Kona

By Gino Blefari:

This week my travels find me starting off en route to Minnesota for the in-person HomeServices of America CEO/Leadership meeting taking place at the Westin Edina Galleria. From there, I flew home, participated in meetings and sat down to write this post to you … without my beloved Kona by my side.

Kona passed away in my arms earlier this week and as a dedication to a dog that was so much more than a pet, I am writing this week’s Thoughts on Leadership for her. To me, dogs are the greatest pals we can ask for. One of the greatest feelings in the world was coming home from a trip, pulling up to the front door in my Uber and seeing my dog, Kona, through the window, wagging her tail like crazy as I walked up to the house and stepped inside.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Lessons from Kona

It makes you feel so good, so loved by this animal in front of you that your heart can practically burst from the joy of it all. It’s just what dogs do.

The American Kennel Club outlines several science-based benefits of dogs:

  • Dogs reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Research shows the bond between humans and dogs reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
  • 10 minutes of petting your dog can reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone.
  • Dogs help us psychologically cope with crises – PTSD in military veterans has been shown to improve when they get a service dog.
  • Dogs encourage us to move – dog owners are 4x more likely to meet daily physical guidelines than non-dog owners.
  • Dogs can improve your photography skills – in a study by Rover, 65% of dog owners said they took more photos of their dog than their significant other!
  • Dogs help us connect – an estimated 40% of dog owners report having an easier time making friends when out with their dog.
  • Dogs make us happier – staring into your dog’s eyes raises your level of oxytocin, the “love hormone.”

And I truly loved my Kona. When I was at Intero she came to work with me every single day; she never missed a day. We’d go to Starbucks together; she’d sit under my desk during meetings when I was working from home. She was just there, a constant, loyal source of unconditional companionship and support.

So, what’s the message? I believe we are connected to our dogs in ways perhaps even science has yet to understand. About a month ago, when Kona started really deteriorating, I was feeling dizzy and off, something just wasn’t right. Of course it wasn’t. Kona was part of me and if she was feeling sick, I was too. When I left for Hawaii, a sense of foreboding followed, like stepping on that plane I knew that this was the beginning of the end.

I moved my return flight up – Kona was in bad condition – and she waited for me to get home, just like she always did on every trip I took before. That sweet, adorable pal of mine – a mainstay at Intero, a regular at Starbucks, a curled-up sleeper beneath my desk – waited until I got home to say her final goodbye. And when I did say goodbye to my sweet Kona, I wasn’t just saying goodbye to my dog, I was saying goodbye to my best friend.

P.S. This story has a silver – or golden – lining. I called the place where I originally got Kona to let them know how great of a dog she was and offhandedly during our conversation happened to ask, “Do you by any chance have an F1 Half-Golden, Half-Miniature Poodle puppy?” And the breeder pauses then says, “You know, as a matter of fact we have a whole litter of puppies right now!” And because I knew somehow this news was Kona smiling down on me from the great dog park in the sky, I said, “Can you just check if they might be related to Kona?” And guess what? The breeder replied: “They are. The parents of Kona were Toby and Goldy and the father of the litter is Cody, the grandson of Toby.” Right then and there I decided I’m going to get one of the girl puppies … and I was thinking of naming her Kona. What do you think I should name her?

Thoughts on Leadership: The Value of Meeting

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Hawaii, attending a wedding and recharging.

Today I’m writing this post to you as I look out my hotel window at the wind-churned Pacific Ocean, and the waves meeting the sand reminds me about the value of meeting people face to face – our Thoughts on Leadership topic for today.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: The Value of Meeting

In-person meetings serve so many purposes. They:

  • Strengthen connections
  • Allow you to learn information as it’s being delivered live
  • Provide opportunities to spend time with your peers
  • … and so much more.

It’s why we put on the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention each year. It’s why we organize the HomeServices Stronger Together conference annually. It’s why at industry events you’ll always find the top-of-the-top because they understand the importance of meeting for their personal and professional growth.

Steve Jobs, whose iPad, iPod, iPhone and iEverything provided the foundation for today’s hyper-digital connectivity, once said: “There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.”

This concept actually reminds me of our daily accountability calls – many times in talking to my accountability partner toward the end of the conversation is when the ideas truly get spurred.

In person, you are privy to side conversations and comments, body language and real time feedback that creates an environment ripe for idea-generation.

How many times have you been at a conference and, while grabbing a quick coffee, bumped into someone you haven’t seen in years? You chat, you exchange contact information, and that person delivers a random nugget of knowledge that then helps you in your next deal, or casually mentions a referral they’d like to send your way … business is not only about structure and systems, but also about spontaneity and serendipity working together to create the alchemy of success.

Another benefit of in-person meetings is the sheer energy in the room. It makes you feel part of something larger than yourself. As we said many, many times during our HomeServices annual top-performer’s event: You are amazing when you’re apart, but WE are STRONGER TOGETHER.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Individual commitment to a group effort: That is what makes a team work, a society work, a civilization work.” And my mentor Jim Rohn said: “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Put these two concepts together and you can see why spending time with tens or hundreds of like-minded individuals will perpetuate the kind of continual improvement necessary for high achievement.

Further, when you’re in person, you can exhibit all the positive signs of someone willing and ready to connect. You can be friendly, maintain eye contact and project an optimistic self-image. Don’t forget to smile! Smiling is free and helps form an instant connection. While smiling sends a clear message about your upbeat state of mind, not smiling can be interpreted negatively as grumpiness, aloofness, or anger. And nobody wants to do business with a grump … or given the upcoming holiday season … a grinch!

So, what’s the message? Remember: Ideas flow where people go, and learning from others’ experience, skill and expertise is what growing together is all about.

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