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The Road to Real Estate Success is Paved with True Grit

Business Services & Best Practices

Republished with permission from

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

For years, people have been trying to identify which traits predict success in the commercial real estate industry.

At first, the answer appears obvious—success is about talent. It’s about being able to do something—hit a baseball, play chess, trade stocks, build a financial model, write a blog—better than almost anyone else.

But what is talent? How did that person get so good at hitting a baseball or trading stocks? For a long time, talent seemed to be about the inheritance of genes that gave rise to some particular skill.

Many of us are conditioned to believe that it takes talent and intelligence to succeed. But talent is hugely overrated.

Grit, it appears, is what takes a person that extra mile toward success. All the talent in the world would be merely unmet potential without the presence of grit. For talent to transform into a skill that leads to success, grit is what you need.

The ability to be gritty—to pursue what’s important and be resilient in the face of failure—is actually the more critical component of success, beyond what talent and intelligence contribute.

Angela Duckworth started studying grit in Chicago public schools and found that the “grittier” kids were the ones more likely to succeed.  In her TedTalk on grit, she goes on to say that IQ was not the thing that separated successful students from those who struggled.

Grit, she said, was the biggest predictor of success for anyone.

  • Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Living life like it’s a marathon.
  • Gritty people don’t believe that failure is a permanent solution—they fail and keep going
  • Gritty people put in the hardest amount of work and learn the things that they don’t know.

So, why is grit important?

Because the world is filled with what could have been, and talent is in no short supply. Grit is what turns talent into skill and turns potential into reality.

Those with grit do not look at their difficulties or failures as a reason to quit; rather, they utilize them as opportunities to grow stronger and become better equipped for the next challenge.

Often, the gritty people measured lower on talent and giftedness. But they believed in a Growth Mindset, a theory developed at Stanford University, which is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and can change with your effort and outcomeYou believe your traits can change over time and that failure actually helps you learn and improve.

Duckworth’s results are clear:  Success does not just land on the laps of those who are talented, privileged, blessed, or lucky.  Talent is earned, and if you desire it, you must work for it.

Gritty people don’t seek perfection but instead, strive for excellence.

Entrepreneur Peter Shankman pointed out that we live in a world where the bar is unbelievably low and has this incredibly simple advice for anyone trying to find success:

  • Do the job you’ve promised you’d do.
  • Be brilliant at the basics.
  • Know the parameters of what you’re doing and abide by those parameters.
  • “I don’t need you to redefine pi,” Shankman says. “You just need to suck slightly less than everyone else.”

There is no better example than the business of commercial real estate. There are thousands of capable and competent brokers competing every day for the same business, so what have the truly successful brokers learned? 

They learn we live in a world where brevity rules.

Today a potential customer will give you just 2.7 seconds of attention before moving on—about the time it takes to read a 140-character Tweet.

You must maximize that moment by having good writing and graphic design in your communication.  If you only have 2.7 seconds, bad writing or a spelling error will kill you.

They manage distractions. 

We all have things in our lives that pull us away from what really matters. Discover what most commonly distracts you and evaluate the reward it’s offering vs. realizing your ultimate goal.  Have systems in place that keep you moving in the direction of productivity and positive outcomes.

They know that decisions are time vacuums.

Reduce the decisions you need to make. Decision fatigue leads to bad choices. Everyone only has 24 hours in a day, and successful people learn to utilize this time.

They learn to say no.

Warren Buffett’s advice remains a powerful life lesson: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Susan Arledge, SIOR

Susan Arledge, SIOR

Susan G. Arledge, SIOR, is senior managing director of Newmark in Dallas, where she focuses on tenant representation for business and corporate clients locally, regionally, and nationally. Susan combines her market knowledge with expertise in the financial and strategic aspects of a transaction, as well as site selection and labor analytics.
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