Real estate professionals from across the country and around the world came together in sunny San Diego, California, last week for NAR’s 2021 REALTORS® Annual Conference & Expo. More than 10,000 people took part in the festivities, though attendance was (as expected) a bit lower than in years past.

While there were many highlights from the long weekend, Drew Brees’ keynote discussion with NAR President Charlie Oppler topped our list. The interview was rich with takeaways all real estate professionals will be keen to hear. Here are six of our favorites.

1. Don’t Wait for Doors to Open. Knock.

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Though you might not guess it from his accent, Brees grew up playing sports just outside of Dallas, Texas. Football wasn’t his first or even his second-favorite sport. Brees had plans to play either basketball or baseball at the college level, but a serious injury during his junior year knocked him out for the prime recruitment seasons for both of those sports.

While the original door he planned on opening wasn’t available to him, Brees pursued his third choice and led his football team to an undefeated senior season. He was recruited by Purdue University and though he knew it wasn’t in Texas, he was unsure of where Purdue was even located.

Nonetheless, Brees decided to take advantage of every opportunity that came before him and make the most of his time at an elite Big Ten school. He wound up with a business degree from Purdue and was a second-round draft pick for the San Diego Chargers.

Realtor takeaway: You may go into real estate thinking of one path with a particular type of client and a specific plan for success. If things aren’t working out the way you planned, don’t shut down and close up shop. Instead, look for the opportunities around you and create a new direction.

2. Make Your Career About More Than Your Own Success

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Brees was eventually traded from the San Diego Chargers to the New Orleans Saints, but many people don’t know that he also had the opportunity to play for the Miami Dolphins. It was during a visit to New Orleans soon after the city had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina that Brees and his wife decided that the Saints were the right fit.

“We spent all of 10 minutes driving through the streets of a New Orleans neighborhood to know that this place needed love, care, and attention,” said Brees. “And we wanted to be a part of helping one of the great American cities rebuild.”

Realtor takeaway: As real estate professionals, we are directly connected to issues that affect our communities. Find a cause that matters to you and use your expertise to leverage change that will create a positive impact.

Need some direction? Tackling issues pertaining to fair housing, accessible or affordable housing, or helping those experiencing homelessness are all great places to start.

3. Adapt & Build Around Opportunities

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

Brees told a rapt audience of more than 8,000 attendees about the first meeting he had with Sean Payton, his new head coach at the Saints. Payton began reviewing some very familiar plays, offensive schemes, and ideas for how the team would operate. In fact, they were nearly identical to the offense Brees ran in San Diego.

Brees remarked, “Wow, you guys run these plays too?” Coach Payton replied, “No, but you do, and you run them really well, so we’ll adapt around where you’re strong.”

Realtor takeaway: Don’t attempt to build a real estate business around a strategy that you’re unfamiliar with or not good at just because you see someone else doing it. Make sure the cornerstone of your approach is something that you’re good at, that you’re passionate about, and something you’ll be excited to get up and do every day.

4. Long Shots Are for Movies, Not Careers

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

NAR President Charlie Oppler asked lots of questions about Brees’ recent 2020 retirement, and what life is like post-football. Brees said he spends a lot more time with his wife and children these days. He has more opportunity to share in the little things with them.

They frequently tap him for coaching and advice on their fantasy football trades. “My kids ask me about literally every trade they are considering,” said Brees. “I can’t tell you how many times they’ve come to me with an idea to trade practically their entire team away for one hot player.”

“I know it’s all for fun, but I can’t help myself—I always try to remind them to balance their strategy,” he continued. “If they go all-in on a single player and he gets hurt, they’re out of luck. Success in fantasy football (and life) is all about creating multiple opportunities, not throwing Hail Marys.”

Realtor takeaway: Putting all your real estate resources in a single basket is an unnecessary risk in today’s industry. There are so many different ways to generate, nurture, and close leads. If you’re not constantly diversifying your approach, you’re missing out. You’ll never know what the best strategy is for you unless you test lots of them.

5. There’s Always a ‘Next’

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

It’s not uncommon for high-performing athletes to feel purposeless after retirement. After all, they’ve been focused for years—and in Brees’ case, for decades—on a single objective. Shifting gears and changing direction can be jarring.

Surprisingly, Brees didn’t seem bothered by this in the slightest. That may be because this former Super Bowl MVP has invested in all kinds of businesses, including Stretch Zone, Jimmy John’s and Dunkin’ franchises, and food delivery service Waitr.

“Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what my ‘next’ is. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be more involved with family, with my faith community, with service projects, with business opportunities, and more. The key is, even if you only do one thing, to be about more than one thing. There’s always a next.”

Realtor takeaway: This one goes out to all the realtors reading this who have said, “I could never do _______.” Yes, you can. Don’t think you’re good on video? You can get good, or at least, consistent. Not sure about digital marketing? You can make it happen. There’s always room to grow.

Remember, you’re in the business of serving your clients and your community. If that’s your focus, you’ll find ways to internalize the best strategies that are right for you.

6. Master, Mentor, Make a Difference

All photos courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)

At the close of their interview, Oppler asked Brees for his advice for young professionals—in sports or other fields—looking to launch a successful career. “Master, mentor, make a difference. Spend the first part of your career getting as good as you possibly can at something,” Brees shared.

“Learn everything you can, be voraciously dedicated, put in the hours. Then, find someone you can mentor and pass along the knowledge you’ve acquired—just like others have mentored you. Finally, look for a way that you can use your knowledge, experience, and success to make a difference in the world.”

Realtor takeaway: Not sure there’s anything we can add to Brees’ statement here. Master your craft, teach others what you’ve learned, use your influence to make a difference in your community. You can do it!

Your Turn

Did you attend the NAR Annual Conference & Expo this year? What were your favorite parts? Anything that stuck out to you? Tell us in the comments below.

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