“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”
Peter Drucker – 20th Century’s greatest management genius and all-round sage about human foibles
The world’s in a bit of a mess these days—and your days sometimes feel no better, right? And no goal is more elusive than trying to live a good life: what else is there to aim for, really?
Plus doing a career in real estate is hard. It’s relationship- and detail-intensive and requires serious commitment and a degree of entrepreneurship excellence few attain.
In other words, a life in the trenches of real estate is a recipe for full-on, full-strength performance anxiety.
And the pressure, the pressure: days that dance away from you, the minutes fly by and next thing you know, on the tough days, you’re feeling like it’s the end of the aforementioned world.
No fun at all.
Upshot? Many of us fall prey to thinking that productivity is the answer. And the guilt from not hitting our marks daily only amplifies the anxiety. (Wrong: management genius Peter Drucker once memorably observed “It’s not about efficiency. It’s about effectiveness.’)
Once, long ago, there was a weight-loss expert—we’ll call her Sonya—whose sole counsel to her frustrated charges was this. “When you start to get anxious about your progress on the scale, go to the mirror, look yourself in the eye and say to yourself ‘don’t start with me, Sonya.’ I’m making progress just being here and examining my life.”
Turns out that’s exceptionally good advice—and advice that’s thousands of years old, advice that focuses our attention on what’s possible and gives us perspective on what’s unimportant.
You’re seeing your performance anxiety for what it is: unimportant and a hindrance to actually getting things done.
You can visualize your way ahead.
How? Here’s a resource for you that pretty well guarantees you’ll be able to head off performance anxiety by looking at your own past to mitigate the anxiety of the present: the Stoics.
The who? The Stoics were a school of Greek philosophers who knew stuff about life. Their wisdom has withstood the test of time. In fact, their approach to the bumps and potholes of life is remarkably modern—and remarkably well-suited to the world of real estate.
And it just so happens there’s a masterpiece of a new book on the Stoics out, recommended by the likes of Four Hour Work Week’s Tim Ferriss, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and Olympic coaches like US gymnastics coach Christopher Sommer, quoted in the New York Times: “I didn’t realize I was a Stoic until I read the book.”
The book is Italian philosopher Massimo Pigliucci’s How to be a Stoic, a fascinating dialogue between Pigliucci and his ancient mentor, Epictetus.
Here’s a primer in a six minute podcast with Pigliucci, which nails the why? of a daily practice which simplifies life choices and mitigates anxiety.
Quick example: if you made a list of all the problems you had last week and looked at that list right now, you’d almost certainly shake your head—they’ll seem trivial and (if you’re anything like me) a tad self-involved.
Even more so, you’ll discover that you’ve solved or triaged away as minor or non-essential almost your entire list.
Like Buddhism for real estate folk, Stoicism offers a simple daily practice of seeking the vital and discerning what simply doesn’t matter. Think of it as decluttering your anxious brain, daily, hourly if you need it, and bubbling up clarity instead of chaos.
No philosophy’s perfect—Stoicism can feel a bit puritanical at times. You can’t dance to it, that’s for sure.
But that stern-ness is a lot like Sonya’s guidance: if you want a way out of the box of real estate-induced anxiety, the Stoic’s version of ‘don’t start with me’ in aid of helping you prioritize your way out of anxiety is well worth a shot.