Real estate is as cutting edge as it is traditional, and the same thing goes for the English language. Just think: When you’re calling a prospect on your cell, you might “dial” in their number, just as you might also “hang up” when you’re finished. But is there a rotary dial on your phone or a cradle within which you can hang the mouthpiece of your telephone? Nope.
As a word nerd, I love these contradictions that flavor our everyday speech. In I Love it When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech (St. Martin’s Press, 2009), author Ralph Keyes calls these contradictions “retroterms,” or “verbal artifacts that hang around in our national conversation long after the topic they refer to has galloped into the sunset.”
I Love it When You Talk Retro is a fascinating book by all accounts, and worth a read just for fun. But for Book Scan readers, I pulled out a few of the more real estate-related items for which you might want to know the origins.
Ever encountered an actual skeleton in the closet of one of your listings? Probably not nowadays, but in nineteenth-century England you may have. In the beginning of the era of modern medicine, doctors found that dissecting corpses was a very good way to learn about the human body and disease. However, doing so was illegal. So doctors had to hide the results of such experiments in closets, for fear of punishment. Now, of course, a “skeleton in the closet” is more likely to refer to family secrets than any frightening open house surprises.
Some of the best deals are struck on the front porch. Yet, back when political candidates William McKinley, Benjamin Harrison, and Warren G. Harding used front porch campaigns to connect with fellow citizens, they were derided as lazy by opponents who crisscrossed the country for votes. It was not particularly impressive to give speeches from one’s own front porch, but effectiveness is another measure altogether. Though each front porch campaigner experienced success from their efforts, the phrase is still used as a way to describe lethargic efforts to win people over. Or maybe it’s just a soft sell technique? You decide.
Next time you’re showing off the backyard of an early 20th-century home, don’t offer to take house hunters on a trip to the woodshed. Continue reading »
Being accountable for one’s actions is indisputably a good thing. But what about your boss’ inability to properly communicate, or a flat tire? Are you responsible for the ramifications of your own bad luck?
Local readers may think my headline is in response to the painfully prolonged winter Chicago is experiencing, well into meteorological spring. Actually, this piece comes from two books I happened to read in succession that have two different answers to the accountability question.
In Success Under Stress (which I reviewed a few weeks back), Sharon Melnick argues that holding yourself accountable for things that are out of your control is just going to stress you out and make you less productive:
Every challenge can be divided into two categories—the 50 percent of factors we can control and the 50 percent we can’t. Factors we can’t control include macrolevel forces, such as market trends, technology developments, senior leadership decisions, reorganizations, traffic… Additionally, there are a myriad of microlevel forces we can’t control, such as someone else’s tone of voice or what they write in an e-mail.
Things that are out of your control attract your attention like a magnet attracts metal. However, by focusing on factors outside of your control, you’re setting yourself up for stress.
In Where Winners Live, a new book by Dave Porter and Linda Galliano, the authors argue that if you “adopt a mindset of 100 percent accountability,” then “chances are good that it will work out in your favor.” They compare the days of Vince (who is 100 percent accountable) to that of Katherine (who only accepts accountability for 85 percent):
Occasionally, Katherine reasons, circumstances beyond her control cause her bad results. Take the weather, traffic, the occasional flat tire, or a restless night that left her without enough energy for her day…
Back to Vince. It rains on his way to work as often as it does during Katherine’s commute. But he leaves his house so early in the morning that he has plenty of leeway to deal with weather-delayed slow traffic and still arrives at work on time. He experiences few flat tires and car troubles because he knows a few minutes of preventive maintenance now will save him from losing up to an hour later… He plows through the days when he feels sluggish or has the sniffles, because he knows each day will end at 6pm and he needs to finish his work by then.
I was recently introduced to the music of an Australian rock band called The Beards. There’s a lot to like about them: Their tunes are catchy, they are talented musicians, and their lyrics are terribly witty. But what sets them apart from your average talented, hook-heavy folk-rock is their single-minded focus on subject matter. This band writes and performs songs exclusively about beards and the people who grow them.
Yep, you heard me right. Their third album (Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard) features such proto-hits as I Think Beards are Great, The Beard Accessory Store, and There’s Just Nothing Better Than a Beard. I think they’re pretty clear about where they stand on the subject.
The Beards have committed to doing one thing, and doing it extremely well. I think Gary Keller would approve. See, that single-mindedness is the focus of Keller’s new book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
The best-selling author and Keller Williams International Realty co-founder teamed up with the VP of his company’s publishing arm to write The One Thing, which will be available starting April 1, 2013. Functionally, their suggestion is a good one to follow. It’s important to have a focus in your company, just as it’s important to know what the core of your value proposition is. Even if the whole purpose of your company is creating and selling songs about beards, you’d better be off on a world tour trumpeting your beard songs to the heavens if you want to achieve the kind of extraordinary success that Keller talks about (and, frankly, has experienced himself). Continue reading »
When change comes to town, it seems to divide people into two camps: victims and villains. Those who precipitated the change are often the bad guys of the situation. And everyone else seems to be warily looking for their name on the chopping block. Change has the same effect on businesses, which is why mergers and other structural shake-ups can be so damaging to morale and productivity.
But they don’t have to be. While reading Sharon Melnick’s new book, Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On, I came across her seemingly stellar exercise for people who are going through this kind of flux. It’s called “WIN at Change.” While it is intended for the individual, I think that brokers, managers and leaders of all kinds could benefit from it.
The exercise is predicated on Melnick’s theory that if you take responsibility for your 50 percent of any given situation, your stress level will decrease, as you’re holding up your end of the bargain with the understanding that you can’t do it all. I think that’s a key component to this exercise, and I think managers would do well to mention that ideal as an introduction to the exercise. As Melnick says, “It’s tempting to comment negatively on other peoples’ decision or to be fearful of the uncertainty, but the way to stay productive is by managing yourself” (emphasis hers). If nothing else, it should quiet detractors long enough to get through the exercise!
So, here’s what you do. Gather all the stakeholders and hand them two pieces of paper. The first one should be split into thirds, and the second one blank. Here’s your script: Continue reading »