I’m going to tell you something you already know and in my next column I’m going to offer suggestions as to how you can change it. Here’s what you already know. There are times when you feel completely out of control of everything that’s happening and utterly helpless to change it.

We’ve all felt that way. Every real estate agent has felt that loss of control at some point in their career. It’s like you’re in a spin and everything is swirling around you and all you can do is stand there and cringe.

Usually we bring this on ourselves. We don’t do due diligence. We don’t have systems in place that act as a means of control. We’re not on our game and things fall apart right in front of our eyes. Financing falls through. The home inspection turns up a serious problem. The other buyer puts in a ridiculously high bid. One agent I know hosted an open house and when she got there she found a dead body in the bedroom. The owner had had a heart attack.

Whether the loss of control is our own fault or not doesn’t change the way it feels. It still feels horrible. We’ve all felt it and it is not pleasant.

Now, sometimes it’s made even worse because a series of things happen – bad luck, bad decisions, bad choices or bad timing, and all of a sudden things are falling apart all around you. This loss of control may get so bad that you actually start to think there are forces conspiring against you that make even the simplest things difficult. These dark forces, it seems, are determined to stop you from being successful and even from being happy.

When you feel that way, when you start to think those thoughts, go to the bathroom. Immediately. Go to the nearest washroom and look into the mirror. Take a couple of breaths and say out loud to your reflection, “Dark forces are conspiring to ensure I’m never happy.” Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? And that’s because it is. No dark forces are out to get you. You yourself have probably done, or not done, things that led you to that moment. If you look back you’ll probably spot them pretty easily.

You could say, well that’s all fine, I can see why I’m in this pickle but that doesn’t make the pickle any sweeter. I’m still totally out of control of what’s happening and I can’t get that control back. You’re absolutely right. To a point you are 100 per cent correct. You can’t go and fix the problem with the roof. You can’t get that client approved by the bank. You can’t make the other buyer take back their ridiculously high bid. And you certainly can’t bring that body in the bedroom back to life and send him on his way while you sell his house. You are in a place where there is absolutely nothing you can do. Now the question is, what do you do then?

You accept that fact. You recognize and admit that you are not in control. For whatever reason, or reasons, you have lost control over that particular situation. Most people don’t do that. Most people do not take that step back and separate themselves from the situation. Instead they internalize it. They worry about it. They think about it. They drink about it. They talk about it. They build this big ball of stress inside themselves and because of the business we’re in, that’s a dangerous thing to do.

As we all know, being a real estate agent is more a lifestyle than a job. We don’t do nine to five. We can’t come home at the end of the day, put our feet up and forget about work until the next day. Wouldn’t that be nice? No, real estate is pretty much a 24/7 gig. So the danger of internalizing what’s happening in your professional life is it will have an impact on your personal life. You will begin to feel and believe that it’s you who is totally out of control, not the situation.

In my next column we’ll examine strategies that can help you avoid being sucked into that dark vortex of feeling out of control. You’re not and we’ll talk about why. There are many things you can do and most of them are fairly simple.

Debbie Hanlon is the founder of Hanlon Realty and CEO of All Knight Inc. She is a three-time top 50 CEO winner and was named one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada. She is currently an elected city official in St. John’s, Nfld. and is available for motivational and training seminars. Email [email protected].

Debbie Hanlon is the owner broker and Realtor at Debbie Hanlon Real Estate, a new boutique brokerage in St. John’s, Nfld. She is also a motivational speaker, real estate coach, author, former city councillor and children’s entertainer. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, Oral Mews and her dog Fisher.


  1. I think that having the right tools to help you stay organized helps you maintain more control of your business and become more proactive. For instance, a real estate CRM is key in helping you to manage your business. Good article!

  2. Thanks Debbie, so much of what we do in real estate is on our own….it is easy to think that nobody else has had our problems or worries. The fact that you wrote about it helps me see things as more situational and less personal. That's a good thing!

  3. Certainly something to think about. Sometimes things are just out of one's control, but like Greg said above, if you have a plan in place and tracks to run on, the chances of these things getting out of control is minimized. But as you said Debbie, if that happens, you need to stand back an re-evaluate and make sure that you are able to head off the issue before it becomes a problem the next time. Live and learn!

  4. I hear you Debbie, but don't forget that no man is an island, no man has won a war without an army. It takes two to tango etc. I don't want to blow my own horn here, but truthfully, I am the best salesperson (negotiator) in this whole universe. I've proven that no matter when, where and what I sold. I ALWAYS supeceded all. But then the enemy known as jealousy of others steps in. TRUTHFULLY, they are my biggest weakness, and withoust the help and support of others: ENTER THE LAME DUCK FACTOR. . Thanks for yiour advice, but it takes much more than what you say to have control. Usually it's called SUPPORT..

  5. We aren't the only ones. Try being married to a stock broker in these markets, then talk to me about the "dark forces" @ play!

  6. This is a very important subject. I have always said that we get paid the big money, not for the transactions that we do, but for the mental toughness that it takes when we are not getting the results that we anticipated. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

  7. Great article. Thanks. Wish I had read it a couple of years ago when my real estate business was having a complete meltdown.

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