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Opinion: What every agent needs to know about shifting markets

In a market slowdown, how you respond to adversity will determine your success.

In 1978, when I was eight years old, my dad delivered an inherited sailboat for his new boss. It was moored in Key Largo and needed to land in Sarasota. The lure of a free family vacation outweighed his better judgment. Though an experienced power boater, he had limited knowledge of sailing and decided we should do a dry run so he could familiarize himself with it.

We left port midday and sailed straight into North America’s largest barrier reef. It punched a hole in the hull, and we sank. Quickly. It was during this panic that we discovered the life jackets were dry rotted and the radio didn’t work. As the keel came to rest on the reef, the boat fell over on its side and filled with water. We were left with a small area of cabin trunk and side rail above the water.

Picture the five of us standing there; my parents yelling at each other, while the three kids were at their feet, clinging to the mast and lifelines. I distinctly remember not being afraid at this point. We could see land, I was with mom and dad, and there was a constant stream of boat traffic headed towards us and going around the reef.

After a few hours of no rescue — we were a small profile on a glittering sea, after all — there was a debate about swimming for it. My mom thought we could make it, she even wanted to try alone, but my dad talked her out of it. The first hour was excitement, the next several were boredom, and as night fell, we entered a world of terror.

The rising tide induced panic as we made preparations to spend the night on the reef. My dad rigged a hammock of sailcloth as far up the mast as he could get it and loaded his wife and kids. He stood at the base of the mast and assured us that everything would be fine.

We saw sharks throughout the day, and though I tried to be brave, and believe that we would be safe, I imagined what it would feel like to die.

How much would it hurt? Would the sharks eat my arms and legs first or would they swallow me in one bite?

A day of adrenaline spikes had left me hollow.

The sight of a dorsal fin quietly slicing the air couldn’t startle me any longer. It was hot and sticky. We were sunburned and dehydrated. I don’t remember going to sleep that night, but I will never forget waking up. My mother was screaming the most blood curdling howl of absolute terror. I peered over the edge of the hammock and realized that the tide had risen or the boat had shifted. We were in the water.

In the moonlight, I clearly saw my father, standing at the base of the mast in waist deep water, tracing the path of something with the boat hook he held above his shoulders. The shark was large. I saw it approach, and I saw my father push it away. My mother screamed the whole time. The shark eventually left.

Every moment of that night felt like an eternity. When it was over, we faced a second day of no rescue. During the second night, a fast boat with no lights stopped and gave us water and sandwiches. The Coast Guard arrived at dawn. We all survived and, thankfully, none of us were attacked by sharks.

In the years since our rescue, I’ve thought a lot about the lessons of our dry run.

Perhaps the most useful though, is about the nature of fear. It was our companion, our tormentor, and the friend that kept us alive long after we had reached exhaustion.

So, what does my survival story have to do with real estate professionals and the 2022 shift in the market? My family didn’t panic and the sharks didn’t come in and get us. I repeat, the sharks did not come in and get us.

Those who thrive in harsh environments use fear to motivate them. The current change in real estate may be scary for some, but it allows us the opportunity to live in the moment, reset expectations, stay hopeful, maintain composure, and take action in the face of adversity.

When the water starts to shift around you, fear of the unknown will either debilitate you or make you stronger. Some agents will sink, and others will swim. How will you choose to respond?

Dan Stewart is the CEO of Happy Grasshopper.