Ever decided against doing something big or meaningful because a “what-if” thought convinced you it would never work? If your answer is yes, you’re not alone.

For instance, early in my speaking career a mentor of mine, Brian Copeland, used to forward me applications to speak at different real estate conferences. I would always apply, and then invariably, get turned down—over and over, but he kept sending the invitations. Once he sent me a link to apply as a speaker for this tour of events The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was launching called REthink: The Future of Real Estate. Frankly, of all the invitations he’d forwarded to me, this one appeared the most far-fetched. So I decided not to apply and I rationalized that decision by telling myself I was too busy with my real estate sales anyhow.

I remember, I was working in the shared space at my brokerage one day and Brian sat down to work in the chair next to mine. While he was waiting for his laptop to boot up, he asked me if I’d applied for that latest opportunity. I told him I didn’t because it seemed extremely unlikely that I’d be chosen, given my lack of experience—which, by the way, was true. He paused in momentary thought and then responded, more or less, “Oh… That’s too bad because I personally recommended you.”

You better believe I felt guilty, ashamed, and downright mad at myself for blowing the opportunity. At any rate, to avoid the awkwardness, we both resumed our work. But after like seven minutes, I couldn’t stand it any longer and so I asked Brian if he thought they’d be willing to accept a late application.

He immediately pulled out his phone, made a call, and sure enough, they agreed to it—but there were conditions. I had 24 hours to complete a tedious application that involved creating a video of me speaking, which, at that moment, didn’t exist. By some miracle, I was able to get the application completed and submitted.

After that, weeks went by with nothing—no news whatsoever. So I began to think I was right all along—that this had been just a big waste of my time. But then, lo and behold, an email appeared in my inbox. It was an invitation to attend the NAR midyear conference in Washington D.C. for a face-to-face interview. Long story short, I got myself to D.C. and was selected for the opportunity.

Sometimes, when you look backwards, you’re able to connect the dots and see how an event or an experience—a yes or a no, a stop or a go—was really an inflection point that dramatically shifted your life’s trajectory. Not to romanticize it too much or call it destiny—but for me, that opportunity, in a profound way, launched my speaking career. And to think—what if I hadn’t applied?


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Here’s another one. Have you gone into something assuming the outcome would be just as bad as the last time you did it simply because that’s been your past experience? Like maybe you’ve diligently hosted open houses for months on end, and one after then next, left without a single lead. You can’t imagine the next one going any differently, can you? And odds are, it won’t. Not to say that it couldn’t—just that it won’t, given your attitude. You start asking yourself questions, like “Am I doing something wrong or is it just me?”—as if you have faulty wiring.

There’s a psychological phenomenon known as the placebo effect, whereby a patient with a real condition is given what they believe to be a real antidote—though in actuality, it’s just a fake pill. Nevertheless, the patient’s symptoms, by some miracle, improve—not because of the pill, but because the patient believes the pill has provided the cure.

The opposite of the placebo effect is the nocebo effect. In a medical setting, a patient may be prescribed a medication that, for instance, runs the remote risk of producing a certain, known side-effect. The patient braces for the real possibility of experiencing that side-effect, and then, as it follows, the patient starts experiencing the very symptoms of that side-effect, only it’s not actually the side-effect itself. In other words, it’s all in the patient’s head. Or sometimes, patients who have been administered the placebo pill will report side-effects as though they had been taking the actual medication. Once again, that’s the nocebo effect.

Here’s my point. Abstaining from a big opportunity because you assume its inevitable failure or going into a venture believing nothing good will come of it is, in a way, the nocebo effect. It’s like taking a pill and being convinced that you’ll be the one who ends up with that awful side-effect—and then (big surprise!) you do. Or you don’t take the pills at all because nothing’s worked before and why should this time be any different? In your mind, the drug’s risks outweigh its benefits. So you say “screw it!” and do nothing.

By definition, a defeatist is a person who expects or is excessively ready to accept failure. At some point or another, we all play to this character. Why? Because we give into what we fear the most or because we believe past experiences dictate the future.

There’s a saying I’ve always liked. It goes like this:  What you focus on expands.

Meaning, if you focus on all the negative events in your life—all the times things didn’t work out in your favor—you literally blind yourself to seeing the good stuff. What’s more, you become programmed to only see more of the same. In effect, you close yourself off to seeing the possibilities of success.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about creating a series of informative videos about your market and sharing them to Facebook to engage your network and generate new leads. But you don’t because you think it won’t be good enough, it’s been done before, and no one will care anyway. Are those good excuses?

Maybe you don’t pick up the phone to nurture your relationships with past clients because you’ve lost contact for too long a time now and think it will be super awkward to restart that dialogue. So you continue to put it off. What you’re really communicating though is that the remote possibility of facing rejection or being embarrassed, like a side-effect, outweighs the possible benefits. Is that really true?

In my experience, when you feel yourself resisting something, odds are, it’s something worth doing. So next time you come face-to-face with a big, meaningful opportunity, why not lean into it?

I wonder, how might a defeatist attitude be impacting your business, your money, or the way you live life?


Jason Pantana, Realtor, Speaker, NashvilleJason guides real estate professionals through current and emerging trends in consumer behavior, sales and marketing, and entrepreneurship. To invite Jason to speak or to schedule a consultation, visit: www.JasonPantana.com/Contact