Tuesday, November 27, 2007

They grow up so fast...

The other day Mary's daughter Sable, who is 9, was hanging out in the office for a little while before I came in. Mary was on the phone and Sable wrote this up on the whiteboard.

We weren't sure what prompted Sable to write out her idea of the process of selling real estate, but we loved this little list and have left it up on the board for the past couple weeks. Sable soaks up a lot of information, being the only kid left in her parents' house. I especially love #8, "Shake hands." She also has somehow picked up in #10 that if you sell your primary residence after living in it for two years that you can take away a big portion of the sale tax-free. Hilarious.
As much as she already apparently knows about real estate, this girl is not going to be a realtor, she informed her mom. Even though her initials are S.E.L., as she pointed out, she does not want to "sell" homes! This little ES?J (or so I guess) wants to be a veterinarian. Cute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Treating Plants Like Friends

I was lovin' the warm Santa Ana winds blowing through SB last week. There are few things I enjoy more than a warm night, where you can sit outside after dark in a tank top and not feel the slightest chill. I love our backyard; I feel so peaceful when I can sit out there (or look out from my bedroom window) and take in the city lights.

So its been really cold this week, but since last week was warmer than usual that meant that plants were needing more water. Every week I visit our listings to make sure they are still looking nice and clean and that the properties are at their maximum marketing potential. That includes watering all the plants that we use for staging. I made my weekly visit a little earlier to check on them because of the heat. Now I've always known that taking care of plants was not a strength of mine. Maybe that's putting it mildly. When I was an R.A. at Westmont the student life director gave all of the R.A.s plants in pots to keep in our rooms and take care of at the beginning of the year, to symbolize to us how we needed to nurture our residents and help them grow. Well, mine lasted about two weeks. I made sure nobody in my section figured out the symbolism behind the dried brown leaves on my poor little plant.

A few years later and I'm having trouble keeping plants under my care alive again. Sometimes a couple of the plants I water wilt or get brown leaves, and I can't understand what's wrong, since I'm watering them regularly! So I've been blaming it on the plants, not myself. Which is wrong, of course. And it has recently occurred to me that what I don't naturally do with plants (or other "things", for that matter), is what I focus on doing with people. Individualization.

Anna J. was recently talking about how she took the StrengthsFinder test and that Individualization came up as one of her top five strengths. She said this strength was the ability/desire to look for each person's unique traits and study the differences between people and how they interact based on those differences. I realized that this concept of "approaching people differently" is something I've always strived to do. I can't stand to be unoriginal in/unaware of my approach to others, whether it's how I talk to them or how I seek to understand them. It pained me back in the day to see others write in yearbooks, "You're soooo sweet! Have a nice summer!". Really pained me. Life is too short to be generic. Zero in on who a person is and what your relation to them is. Did they make you laugh in history class? Say so! Did they encourage others during soccer practice? Tell 'em. Whether I was close with someone or not, that was my yearbook-signing philosophy. To narrow in, to get specific with someone, I think that makes people feel known. I love feeling known, and I try to pass on that feeling. Base your responses and understanding of who you interact with on how they are an Individual. I think it's a key factor in making new friends, deepening old friendships, being a good parent to each of your different kids, winning over your boss, being a good teacher or R.A., etc. There are other key factors, but this is one gets less publicity.

So getting back to the plants, they, sorry to say, must not feel known. The ivies, the orchids, the potted trees, and all the other ones I don't know the names of... they aren't being treated like they are a unique type of plant. Do they need sun or not? Watering twice a week or every other? Heck if I know. But I'm going to get better at individualizing those Things in life that I generalize, like plants, laundry, and dishware. Both people and things flourish when you zero in on what makes them different from one another, and act accordingly.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What comes naturally

I walked into the office this morning during the weekly agent meeting for Prudential, and to my delight, our broker was asking all the agents to check their email and follow the link she sent us to take a personality test! Of course I did just that as soon as I was able. This particular evaluation is called the Core Capacities Index. I'd never heard of it, and it might have been developed specifically for Prudential by corporate, from what it looked like on the website. Anyway, this diagram illustrated

my results. Seems like the CCI is based on four basic personality types, a common system found in personality typing. The Core Capacities and what they are supposed to represent are:
Builder: Power
Merchant: Inspiration
Innovator: Wisdom
Banker: Knowledge

So apparently I have Merchant/Innovator tendencies. My result printout tells me that The Merchant works by the "cornerstone" of Inspiration and works best when they are able to motivate others with their vision and are at harmony with others. The Innovator's cornerstone is Wisdom, with understanding and compassion being central to my life strategy.
It wasn't the most original assessment I've taken, and it was a bit frilly. But I'm a fan of whatever any business is doing to help people understand themselves better.

I recently read that the Gallup Organization found that more than 70% of people “languish” in their jobs and never reach peak performance because they are stuck in a business environment that is at odds with their natural talents. How disappointing. I know that many people can't start out in their working life in exactly what suits them best, and that sometimes the stage they are at in life will call for them to do something else for a time that doesn't exactly speak to their strengths, but I think if I met a genie and had three wishes the first might be that everyone I know would find a job where they can thrive and use their natural talents. Either that or I would wish for the ability to disapparate.

My friend Anna and I had lunch the other day and got to talking about what sorts of things we gravitated towards and received praise for when we were kids. She said that she always felt drawn to sales. You know that type of kid, they're 9 and running the school bake sale and making a killing. That was her. She would make hats and her dad would help her sell them to the ladies at church. I laughed thinking about that.

I was, to say the least, quite different. I had a hard time selling Girl Scout cookies, and those sell themselves! Even though I know the CCI term Merchant didn't mean that you necessarily are good at selling things, I still thought it was kinda funny that I landed that title on the test. As Anna and I talked I realized that when I was grade-school age, I gravitated towards and received praise for creative expression. That mostly took the forms of writing and performing (musically and in plays). Both of those things came naturally and I wouldn't have thought not to do them. Anna and I discussed how what came naturally to you as a child can be a leading indicator of what areas you might be successful in later in life. She is very successful in her job in pharmaceutical sales. And although I have had zero desire to perform in any plays since I've been an adult, I know that when I can use creativity in my work, I flourish. I still love writing, and whenever I can apply my skills in that way, I feel fulfilled.

Think back about what you did well as a child and see how much of it is appearing in your life today, and if you happen to need more direction as far as job choice, take a hint from your elementary-aged self. To some this might seem like an obvious idea, but look deeper than at what was obvious. It definitely took me a few minutes to figure out. Lots of kids are good at and praised for general things, like grades, sports, clean rooms, etc. Only a few kids can be the troop leader in Girl Scout Cookie sales.

Let me know what you figure out!