Ever look at those people on social media and just think their life is perfect? They’ve got it all together, they have perfectly filtered photos, they look good even when they first wake up in the morning in their dreamy bed, and they manage to have a huge business with a bazillion followers. Maybe this is encouraging to some (??), but sometimes it makes me feel like crap that my life has never and probably will never look like that. So…enough with the perfectly poised Instagram photos of success – let’s get REAL about the things that suck.

Let’s talk FAILURE….and more than just talk about it, let’s be super open about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed – over and over again, year after year, day after day. From childhood until my mid-20’s I really only did one thing – and that was dance. It was something I’ve done since I was five, and I went to school for it. It didn’t necessarily come easily to me, but it definitely was comfortable. I knew what I had to work on, I knew what was expected of me, and I knew what I had to do. Eventually I decided I wanted to step out of comfort zone and I started in real estate. I thought it would be fun, and honestly I was expecting it to be just like my dance career. I had NO IDEA what I was getting into, and wow was I quite surprised at how uncomfortable it was to me when I got into it. And, it was pretty heartbreaking how HARD it was. And how I constantly felt like I was failing at everything – day after day, and even multiple times a day. It really wears on you!

After Zach and I got married, we decided to start a real estate team together. We had many failures through our first year – most of them financial (UGH), stress/anxiety related, and fear related. We’ve had to find ways to work with these. I wouldn’t say we “overcame” our failures, but to feel their burn, learn from them, and keep pushing forward despite when things totally suck. Admittedly, we still struggle with this very much, and the temptation of going back to my “comfortable life”of teaching dance still haunts me some days. Let’s take a look at the picture below:

In this photo, I look happy and excited to be “getting staging ideas at Target,” as I wrote on a social media caption. Let’s go back a few hours before this photo was taken….

I had an incredibly stressful deal going on, and we were working through an inspection and I wasn’t meshing well with my buyers. I felt like a failure and felt overwhelmed with stress. I had cried over this situation multiple times, had lost a lot of sleep over it, and I was just ready to throw in the towel on everything. Zach and I complained together and decided we were quitting – that’s it. We’re done. We decided to take the day off and go to Target – with literally negative money in our bank accounts and credit card debt piling up. So we took stupid pictures of ourselves looking like we were working hard – LOL! We’ve also posted pictures of us “business planning” at a cute coffee shop. The reality was that our “business planning” consisted of planning our way out of the business.

Yet here we are, still in real estate. HA! Obviously there are many MANY things we love about our job and about being a business owner, but holy crap it comes with a lot of difficult times and I think it’s important to be open about that. Nothing of worth comes without working hard, right? So, please learn from us – some of the most experienced failures. Whether you’re working toward your goals in a corporate setting, starting up your own business, or working on your side hustle, here are 4 things we’ve learned from failing forward:

  1. Manage your Expectations : Zach and I are both pretty optimistic people, and even more so when we first started our real estate careers. All those times that people told us it was going to be hard – we weren’t going to deal with that! We were going to be different. We didn’t need to have a lot of money saved to start our business because we were going to be great from the start. While that’s all rainbows and puppies – the reality really came to bite us in the butt. We were NOT breakout sensations like many stories we heard of Realtors getting started and totally “crushing it” – and that’s okay! It took us a long time to get going (and we are still very much in the beginning growth stage, so don’t think we’re big hot-shots at all, please). I was reading an article a few years ago and it talked about envisioning your obstacles. We are often taught to “envision our success” and picture ourselves reaching our goals. Ok, great. But then you get extra crushed when you experience unexpected hurdles or failures – am I right!? Instead, we can envision our obstacles and envision ourselves working through them, which is a much more realistic approach and helps you prepare for the hardships, knowing that it will all be worth it.

  2. You Need a Community : About a year ago Zach and I signed up for business coaching with Neil Mathweg of Agent Rise Coaching. We would go in every couple weeks and tell Neil that we were quitting and told him our elaborate plans and spreadsheets for our next big pivot. Fortunately, Neil never gave up on us and did not let us give up on what he knew we really wanted. We are also grateful that we have a community of support and encouragement from many other agents in our office and other friends that are going through some of the same things. The support has been HUGELY important for us to stay on track even when we want to give up and take the easy route.

  3. You Need a CLEAR Plan : Also in our coaching sessions, Neil helped us solidify a business plan that was SIMPLE and PRECISE. It is so easy to get distracted by “shiny objects” in marketing or new ideas. But what’s helped us stay consistent and grow our business is to commit to just a few small things that we can keep doing over time. Use your awesome community to compare ideas and then PARE DOWN those ideas to a few simple items that you can trust to have a big pay-off. It also helps to keep it simple when things get crazy or overwhelming and you want to quit. It’s much easier to remain dedicated to a few simple things you know will work than to try to get creative in those moments of suck to get new business or attain your goals.

  4. Focus on the Activities, Not the Results : This is the biggest piece of advice I got from my old boss, Chris. He sounded like a broken record because he would always tell me that so many business-owners overthink the outcomes/results of their work, and never actually DO anything. I am so guilty (BLARGH). Also – if I had focused on the results when I first started (results being no business and poverty, LOL), it would’ve been very logical for me to give up and apply for jobs that paid a salary and benefits. Chris helped me switch my focus to have FAITH in my daily activities (that were all laid out in my simple but effective business plan), and to forget the rest. Easier said than done! But it has helped me ignore the negativity that comes with a failure, a house that doesn’t make it to a closing, or a lead that decides to work with another Realtor®.

Now all of this sounds nice, but it’s so important to note that WE STILL STRUGGLE EVERY DAY with failures. Instead of looking at failure as something terrible that we need to quit over, we’ve got to approach it as a learning opportunity and be encouraged that we can grow from it. Brush it off your shoulder and keep trucking forward. I think it’s helpful to know that everyone fails, so it doesn’t mean we are in the wrong line of business or that we can’t do it.

In fact, we are so passionate about switching our mindset about the idea of failure that this is the start of our 4-part series to share our failures with YOU. So stay tuned for more REAL stories and vulnerability in the areas of finances, anxiety, and stress. Hopefully we can all take some good encouragement away from the days that totally suck. 🙂


This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.