16173109477_97942b5e7f_kYears ago, I served tables at a bustling Italian Restaurant. The weekends were especially crazy. Greeting tables, taking orders, making change for a $100—it was total hysteria.

I remember they used to have us shout “Corner!” whenever we approached a crossing to prevent staff with hands full of plates or drinks from crashing into one another. And for the most part, this worked—barring the occasional accident, of course.

Truth be told, running food and drinks was always a bit unnerving for me—particularly whenever coffee mugs were involved. We used those ordinary cream-colored, ceramic mugs with the fat, rounded lip. I wonder, have you ever traipsed through a crowded restaurant carrying a full cup of coffee? If not, allow me to give you my professional insight on what happens—it spills. Seriously… It seemed like the mug was nearly empty by the time I could deliver it to its intended table.

Frankly, coffee mugs are difficult to carry anywhere, whether in a busy restaurant or simply walking down a set of stairs in the quiet of your personal home. They are inherently prone to spill. But have you ever wondered why? It’s pretty simple… It’s because of the handle.

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Breaking Down the Problem:

A cold beverage, for instance, is typically clasped in hand, which feels natural. But a coffee mug, because its contents are piping hot, features a convenient, little handle. So rather than gripping it, you pinch it with your fingers, which consequently, causes certain muscles in your hand and arm to tense up. With those muscles stiffened, every next step induces a mini mug spasm, followed by drip, drip, drip… now you’re making a mess.

The instant you feel the sting of hot coffee spilling over the edge of the mug onto your thumb or index finger, without thinking, you look down to inspect. You couldn’t help but look. Then, in an effort to control the overflow, as you press on to your destination your eyes are glued on the mug, your steps guided solely by your peripheral vision.

It’s like triage. Your total attention is centered on the sloshing coffee. But here’s the predicament… Staring at the mug only causes you to constrict your muscles more, thus intensifying the spillage. As a result, you slow down and take tiny steps, compounding the problem. Meanwhile, you’re not paying full attention to where you’re going. It’s easy to think slowing down will help but speed was never the real issue.

Here’s the Trick:

Here’s the trick I have learned to keep the coffee from spilling—first, never look at the mug. Consciously resist the urge and only look ahead to where you’re going. Second, concentrate on loosening the muscles in your hand and arm, which will probably seem counterintuitive. Nonetheless, you cause the liquid coffee to move with you—at your pace, in your direction. That’s the trick—to accept the coffee as part of you.

I wonder… What challenges have you encountered in your life or career to which your natural response was to pounce or smother the problem, but in so doing, you made matters worse or perhaps kept yourself from realizing another, bigger opportunity (because you were preoccupied with the problem)?

For instance, I’ve spoken with lots of real estate professionals who struggle to find a healthy, profitable balance between working “in” their businesses versus working “on” them.

A real estate agent, for all intents and purposes, operates two distinct companies. On one hand, they’re running a real estate practice, which encompasses all the tasks and duties normally associated with having a license to sell real estate—like showing homes, listing properties for sale, negotiating contracts, or working through inspection deadlines.

On the other hand, they’re running a real estate business, which involves activities like lead generation, marketing, team growth, back-end systems, and so on.

The Thing Agents Often Do:

To this point, it’s common to hear stories about how an agent got so involved with a difficult transaction that they basically suspended all marketing and prospecting efforts, given a lack of available time. Then, as a result, their pipeline dried up and they had no new business.

Why is it so many agents experience this exact scenario over and over? For two reasons, I’ve concluded. First, they figure they’ve come this far and it would be a shame to stop short of closing. So they dig their heels into the ground and refuse to surrender. What’s more, it’s easy to abandon one’s commitment to earning future business when today’s deal is on the line.

Second, the business of “saving” a deal leaves one feeling powerful and hero-like. Frankly, prospecting for business rarely produces such an exhilarating sense of purpose or value, though that’s a matter of perspective. Still, it’s no wonder why it is so easy for an agent to reach for his or her cape and go to work on a troublesome transaction, forgetting his or her business in the process.

It’s a Matter of Perspective:

Here’s the trick I’ve learned… Consciously decide to loosen the muscles in your hand and arm, that is, when a problem arises (like a difficult transaction), accept that you are not ultimately in control of the outcome. Relax! In fact, if you’re in the habit of “saving” deals, I’m fairly confident you’re overstepping the boundary lines of what you can and cannot control. As humans, our method for dealing with a problem is often to direct our full attention to it and confront it head on—to tense-up our muscles and refuse to accept. However, when you recognize that you are not in control of the outcome, knowing when to step in and when to keep a healthy distance becomes much more plain to see. Bottom line, stay focused on where you’re going and the rest will follow.

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Photo by the talented Lydia Brooks

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