Wouldn’t it be amazing if only ONE skill separated the $40k agents from the $500k agents? What if you could snag that corner office by applying a few simple strategies to your life? It sounds almost too good to be true, right?

Amazingly, in 2022, there is one skill that most management consultants, TEDx speakers, psychologists, and best-selling authors all agree is primary to success as a real estate agent (or any sales job). No, it’s not hard work, it’s not “people skills,” and it has nothing to do with cold calling or keeping up with technology.

It’s much, much simpler than that. It’s the ability to bounce back after failure and come back even stronger than before. It’s the hottest buzzword in motivational and social psychology. It’s even backed up by science. Of course, Barbara Corcoran figured this out decades ago:

Barbara Corcoran Quote

OK, you’re probably a little disappointed now, and that Pinterest tab sure does look tempting. After all, some people are just naturally resilient, right? Maybe they’re just born with it and you weren’t.

I know the feeling. It’s a common misconception—and a comforting one at that. It’s also not true. In fact, skipping this article might cost you millions over your career. Here’s why:

In 2022, science has finally caught up with Barbara Corcoran’s killer instinct. Researchers have shown that you can build resilience like a muscle. 💪 Best of all, it’s easier than you might think.

In this article, you’ll learn the nine best tips, resources, and strategies that the experts have for building the resilience required to get over the plateau that so many agents find themselves stuck on, and that will help any agent develop what they need to succeed in real estate in 2022 and beyond:

1. Understand Your Unique Personality

Man Standing on Top of the Mountain

In order to build your resilience, you need to understand what you’re working with. You wouldn’t start a workout routine running 10 miles every morning right?

For clinical and social psychologists, the most effective tool for measuring your personality is called the Big Five Personality Scale. Think of it like Myers Briggs’ older, smarter cousin.

Here’s how it works: Psychologists developed these five personality traits to explain pretty much all human personality (with minor exceptions, of course). The Big Five Personality traits are:

Big 5 Personality Traits

For now, take a good Big Five test and see where you stand. Here is a great one ($9.95) designed by a former Harvard psychology professor, and here is an OK one (less thorough) for free. 😃

16 Strategies for Success

This tip is so crucial to success in real estate that award-winning real estate coach and Close contributor, Sean Moudry, has built his entire coaching career around it. Sean helps agents work with a variant of the Big Five to help you tailor a lead generation and branding strategy based on the results.

Here’s Sean explaining just how powerful understanding your personality can be for your career:

Still not convinced? Here’s Million Dollar Listing’s Josh Altman on the importance of knowing yourself to get ahead in real estate:

“Don’t get mad at yourself for being someone you’re not. Just know who you are, then find the ways to let that person be as successful as possible.”

headshot of real estate negotiation expert josh altman

Josh Altman, LA’s #1 Realtor, Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing LA, Author, Speaker

Can You Change Your Personality to Become a Better Agent?

As far as changing your Big Five or Myers Briggs results, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that you absolutely can change. The bad news is that if you are very low in key traits, you’re going to have to work harder to change.

Here’s something really interesting about the Big Five though: There’s an ideal combination of Big Five traits that almost all highly successful real estate agents share. More on this later.

2. Recognize Cognitive Distortions & Confront Them

Businessman Holding a Balloon

OK. This one might sting a bit. Ready? Your mom was wrong.

Sitting too close to the TV won’t hurt your eyes, not wearing a sweater won’t make you sick, and just ignoring negative thoughts about your career prospects won’t make them go away. In fact, according to modern psychologists, confronting your negative thoughts is actually one of the best ways to make them disappear. For good. Yes, really.

There’s a great reason for this: A ton of the thoughts that run through your head are flat out WRONG. Worse, since our emotions are created by language, we actually internalize a lot of these distorted thoughts as if they were true.

Can you see how this can kill your resilience and therefore your chances at not just becoming a top producer, but maintaining that success for a decade or more? The cold hard truth is that many agents who become top producers burn out. Constant self-doubt and negativity makes the job 100x more stressful and is a leading cause of burnout.

So you should know that one of the most important tools in your kit for building resilience for your career is confronting these thoughts as they arise and gently reminding yourself why they’re wrong or distorted. This is the idea behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has great evidence for building resilience.

Here’s an easy way to do it:

Since most negative distortions fall into only a few categories, the first step is to label them for what they are so your brain can easily spot the faulty logic the next time it comes up. Here are few helpful labels for distortions that are likely to come up in real estate:

Black or white thinking: The idea that you’re either perfect, or a failure. You don’t see the middle ground in the situation.

Application for real estate: Does losing this client REALLY mean you’re a total failure at real estate?

Mind reading: Similar to personalization, but for other people. When you mind-read, you assume you know what other people are thinking. This is impossible.

Application for real estate: The listing agent might not be calling you back for any number of reasons.

Emotional reasoning: The mistaken belief that just because you feel something, it must be true.

Application for real estate: Just because you’re feeling nervous doesn’t mean your offer will get rejected.

Here are a few quick tips for dealing with cognitive distortions on the fly from Dr. Perpetua Neo, Executive Coach and Psychologist:

Dr. Perpetua Neo, Executive Coach and Psychologist

“A simple way to deal with it is to get out of your head and into your body. When you regain your sense of groundedness, you can make wise decisions. Quick ways include three deep breaths (to reset your amygdala, the fear center in the brain that is partly responsible for distortions) and then shuffle your feet on the ground so you go back into your body.

“Then acknowledge how you are feeling (rather than getting upset with yourself—this is important because suppressing your feelings makes everything worse), before being rational and asking yourself, ‘Is my thought really true.’ You can ask people about their opinions about you, if the fear is that they think badly about you. Or speak to others to see how they operate—often when we realize we aren’t alone, it becomes easier to handle the standards we set ourselves.

“Instead, we must focus on (1) how do I amplify the great skills I already have, without downplaying them or letting my negativity obscure them, and (2) how do I improve on the attributes and skills I lack right now?”

If you want to dig even deeper on ways to address cognitive distortions, check out the amazing tools available from the Positive Psychology Program.

3. Learn When to Invest Money vs When to Invest Time into Your Business

Whether you like it or not, if you signed up to become a real estate agent, you also signed up to become a CEO, CFO, and Marketing Director. That means ALL the important decisions about your business are up to you, and you alone. Deciding when to invest your time to learn a skill vs when to invest money to achieve a business goal will be some of the hardest decisions you’ll make as a Realtor. 

When it comes to social media marketing, Investing money almost always has a better ROI than investing time. Learning how to design graphics, write copy, and figure out what and when to post on social media is hard. AgentCrate makes it easy. AgentCrate has hundreds of Realtor-specific templates and a marketing calendar that shows you exactly what and when to post. They also offer blogs, listing presentations, scripts, and much more. It’s like having a dedicated marketing team for less than what you probably spend on coffee every morning.

Visit AgentCrate

4. Ask Yourself These 2 Simple Questions to Build Resilience

Plants on the Table

Over at The Harvard Business Review, Dr. Srikumar Rao gives you two powerful questions to help build resilience in the face of adversity. The trick is to ask them whenever something “bad” happens so you can assess the situation more fairly. So the next time a client stops returning your calls or your deal falls apart, ask yourself these questions to help process the negativity into something constructive:

1. “Is there any possible scenario by which this could actually turn out to be a good thing someday?”

2. “What can I—and my team—do to make this scenario come about? How can we turn this event into a good thing that we can all celebrate someday in the future?”

Here’s the thing. Before you ask yourself these questions, Dr. Rao suggests you think clearly about why you’re labeling the event as “bad” in the first place. What do you think will happen? Even better, Rao says that just asking the questions will open up new realms of possibility for you. Pretty powerful stuff right?

5. Prospect, Prospect, Prospect

Woman Checking the Phone

That’s sage advice from Beverly Hills Realtor Thomas Hilal at Nourmand and Associates. Almost all top producers agree that if you keep your pipeline full, you’ll have much fewer problems with bouncing back in the first place. This way, when you do lose a client, it’s not the end of the world.

What do you do when you don’t have a full pipeline or lose an eight-figure client? Simple. Remind yourself to not take things personally. Here’s Thomas:

“Understand that it is not about you, and don’t make things personal when they don’t need to be. A real estate transaction usually accompanies a major life event (death, divorce, wedding, kid, second kid), and there are lots of moving parts that you may not be privy to.”

6. Get a Good Night’s Sleep Every Night

Woman Laughing while Sitting on a Chair

Arianna Huffington knows a thing or two about resilience. She turned a failed presidential bid into one of the largest websites on the internet. Was it luck? Connections? Nope. She worked really damn hard. Then she passed out from exhaustion and woke up in a pool of blood. That was her wake-up call (no pun intended).

She went from working 18-hour days and sleeping five hours to using that same work ethic to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. If she didn’t, we’d probably remember her as a failed presidential candidate instead of a media magnate. Here are some tips:

Turn off the phone: Every other agent will have their email autoresponder on too. Replying to an email at midnight doesn’t make you look like a hard worker—it makes you look desperate.

Practice gratitude: While you’re lying in bed, quietly list 10 things that went great for you that day. This might be harder than you want it to be. Don’t worry. Even the small things count.

A 15-minute body scan or mindfulness meditation: The science behind the resilience-building properties of mindfulness meditation are overwhelming. Here’s Harvard University again on the science.

Not convinced? Still think four hours of sleep is a badge of honor to brag about in the office?

Here’s Arianna with the scariest effects of sleep deprivation: 😳 💀

“One recent study found that sleep deprivation can actually create false memories. The researchers, from the University of California, Irvine, found that participants who slept five hours or less were significantly more likely to report memories of having seen a news video they hadn’t, in fact, seen.”

Still think you’re going to make it to the top on four hours of sleep?

7. Learn the Big 5 Personality Traits Every Successful Realtor Shares

OK, I promised we’d get to this, so here we go. Here is the ideal Big Five distribution that all successful real estate agents share.

High in conscientiousness: Think Angela Duckworth’s grit. Without it, resilience is nearly impossible.

High in extroversion: While introverts can and do succeed in real estate, extroverts will get there first. If you’re an introvert, you just need to find the right lead generation strategy and brand to work with your personality. In fact, many top producers think introverts are better set up for long-term success in real estate. We have an article on this subject here if you want to learn more about the debate.

Mid-to-low agreeableness, openness, and neuroticism: While creativity and an easy-going nature can sometimes be an asset in real estate, it can also lead to problems. Some negotiations require a heavy hand, and creativity is rarely rewarded.

Where do you fall on this spectrum?

8. Find a Motivation Outside of Real Estate or $$$

Dr. Bernd Irlenbusch at the London School of Economics found that financial incentives actually HURT performance. What does this mean for you? Well, if you don’t have a motivation outside of real estate or making money, you need to find one—and quickly.

In her bestselling book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth found one key trait that all successful people seem to share: Grit. Remember the big five personality traits we talked about earlier? Well, grit is something like trait conscientiousness: the ability to persevere and keep working hard no matter what.

In order to keep working hard, Duckworth found that many highly successful people also loved (or learned to love) their work, practiced nonstop, and had a higher purpose and hope that went beyond career rewards. In other words, find a purpose for your success that motivates you. It could be your family, helping your community, or even helping people find or sell homes.

Want to learn more about Grit? You can buy Angela’s book here, or check out her excellent talk at Google on how Grit helps people achieve more.

9. Learn From the Best: How Barbara Corcoran Bounced Back

OK. Now that you’ve got some tools to help build your resilience, let’s take a look at another real-world example from Barbara Corcoran’s improbable rise to success. In this TEDx talk, she goes over exactly how she picked herself up and turned a humiliating public speaking failure into a career-defining moment. I highly doubt Corcoran knew about any of the tools we talked about when she bounced back, but as you’ll see, she used almost all of them.

10. Never Stop Learning

If there is one thing that all top producers have in common, it’s that they never stop learning. Every successful agent I know—and I have interviewed hundreds for The Close—is always reading about real estate, going to conferences like Inman or Realtor, talking on panels, having informal learning sessions with colleagues, In short, they are obsessed with real estate and becoming successful.

So if you want to get to the top, making the effort to learn something new every day is non-negotiable.

Bottom Line

Learning how to be a successful real estate agent is a lifelong process. To start, you need to take the time to learn your unique personality, then prospect as if your career depended on it (because it does), then get a good night’s sleep, find motivation outside real estate, and never stop learning.

It’s not easy, but who ever said anything worth having is easy? So keep learning, and keep grinding. You’ll get there eventually.

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