“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming – Wow! What a ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson
We learned via social media that we had lost Manitoba’s Brian Collie. Later, more formal notices revealed he was 67 – too young – and the extent of his influence on the Canadian real estate landscape. Brian died on April 1 and I’d like to think he’s chuckling somewhere over the subtlety of the date.
I was influenced by Brian indirectly as a result of his relationships with several executive officers and staff in British Columbia. I learned the best executive officers are those who steer the ship but never get caught with their hands on the wheel. Alan Creer, Donn Gardner, Dermot Murphy and Rob Stevens exhibited great strength of character while accepting the direction of their organizations, coaching and guiding them to national and international prominence. Robert Fawcett and Robert Laing continue their exemplary style. Brian stood among them.
My first professional connection with Brian was my appointment as MC for the 2009 Banff Western Connection. I was filling some pretty big shoes – CBC radio personality Bob Robertson – and had been offered the opportunity by email. Robertson’s opening monologue in 2007 had been hilarious, featuring impressions of Queen Elizabeth and several Canadian political personalities. Rex Murphy was the keynote speaker as I recall. Brian bravely left me to my own devices and after I stage-managed having my tie cut off and getting laughs at the expense of the four western provinces, the pressure of the opening ceremony was over and I must have sailed through the remaining days because on the closing night, Brian, along with Bill Madder, handed me a cheque. I’ve had the gig ever since.
There are giants in our industry, past and present, and Brian was recognized in REM’s 25th anniversary edition as one of the most influential. The passing of giants begs the question: “Will we see their like again?” As an observer of 4 1/2 decades of real estate, much of that in the hallways of associations and regulators, I can assure you they are in the making as we speak. They are likely to be listening, not speaking; learning, not teaching; observing, not critiquing; preparing, not ad libbing. They may be licensed practitioners or professional administrators currently in the minor leagues, waiting for their shot “in the bigs”. But they are there. When the teacher is ready, the student will appear.
Losing a colleague causes reflection. Losing a friend and mentor results in an outpouring of emotions – sorrow, appreciation and condolences – all evident on Brian’s online obituary postings. Quiet moments of analysis filled with sincere comments of “Why now?” and “How unfair!” frequently then turn inward and make us ponder how long until we “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
In the minutes before starting this column, I recalled a recently heard lyric in the Lady Antebellum song Hello World – “Maybe talk to God like he is there.” Believer or not, there is a comfort in having a conversation about one’s own mortality with a friend, even an imaginary one. As I continue to remind our sales team, progress without measurement is just meandering. What value is a diet without a weigh-in or measurement? How far should you travel without checking the map or chart? As we age, those measurements change from the concrete, the lumpy objects of material possessions, to the intangibles of family, friends and community service. What footprints have I left? Robin Sharma wrote a book on achieving inner peace, Who will cry when you die? Life lessons from the monk who sold his Ferrari.
Bill Madder, quoted in REM’s 25th anniversary issue and noted in REM’s online obituary, said: “Brian Collie’s persona of a quiet guy from a small association in the wilderness belies his true power in the industry and his ability to get things done. Brian always knows what is going on in the business from coast to coast and does a great job of working with all the right people to get the right things done for the betterment of our profession. From education to federal affairs to MLS to ethics, Brian has had a hand (sometimes invisible but always there) in most of the major changes in the real estate world over the past 25+ years.”
Brian was, as the best leaders are, inclusive, willing to share and even to yield the stage, to push those deserving of recognition or opportunity to the forefront. His legacy is his example. An African proverb suggests, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Thanks for the journey Brian.