Have you ever been somewhere or talked to someone who made you inspired to do better?  To do more?  To put yourself out there on that fragile limb that says I absolutely trust you?

I spent several days this past week in Denver.  I bonded with a tremendous group of people who not only are my teammates, but I would call them friends.  I met a slew of other folks that empowered me to think outside my little box here in northern Virginia.  Discovering opportunities that I didn’t even know existed … just by exchanging information with people.  And best yet….because RE/MAX Allegiance took seventeen of its Broker/Managers and Owners and staff to the conference, we are offered the opportunity to bring ALL our associates at half price to the convention in Vegas in March.  I’m feeling pretty lucky here right now, and I’m not even remotely CLOSE to Vegas.

I also learned a few humbling things.  I left my phone, inadvertently behind on my kitchen table.  I was able to ask Gwen to go out of her way to get it for me so that I wouldn’t be text-less.  Is that not selfish?  I cannot believe how plugged in I am.   Not that I had anything to do with the something-like-fourteen-hour-trip Gwen had from DC to Denver aside, thank you, friend!  My family was wondering who I was texting from random phones to make sure all was well in my home world.  (Note to self:  NEVER EVER EVER make a long distance call on a hotel phone.  Ten minutes = $23.46.

I was fired from map reading along the ‘trails’ of the Garden of the Gods.  It wasn’t MY fault, however.  They could have marked the trails a wee bit better wouldn’t you say?????  I also know that I will never be asked to be a partner on The Amazing Race.  That one stung a little; I’d always thought I would win a million dollars.  

An exceptionally important personal thing I learned is that Kathy Moore, aka Kathleen Fulton, is the best.  (So are you, Steve.)  I was originally scheduled to spend some time with them over the weekend and things shifted and whatnot…suddenly it was Tuesday afternoon and I am flying out the next day.  So what does my crazy, longest friendship from fourth grade do?  She convinces her Steve to drive an hour to meet me and catch-up and have a couple of beers at a really amazing out-of-the-way pizza joint.  Their faithfulness to our friendship makes me humble.

When I got back I was greeted with great joy and happiness by Niko, the scariest dog ever to live on the planet.  Amongst others who are not scary that are family and live in my heart.  It was 96 degrees when I landed back in DC.  But it felt like home as I felt beloved from the moment my feet hit the pavement.

Tonight?  Friday.  48 hours later.  How do I feel?  I feel empowered professionally because of the attention that RE/MAX Allegiance pays to making sure that everyone gets what they need in able to move forward.  It is almost ten at night and I am writing this on my deck.  I have a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt on.  The weather has shifted a bit.  I feel…coooooooool.  I have been caught up in a maelstrom that captures the essence of my life and makes me smile.  And worry.  And always always trust.  And I am part of something that is greater than I, and for that I am very thankful. 

Sometimes I have a sort-of goofy smile on my face.  I often don’t know why; perhaps my mind retreats back to retrieve memories that tweak a smile.  Tonight…my frogs are frogging.  The world is spinning on its axis.  And I know for sure that the sun will rise in the east….and I am absolutely guaranteed to turn my face to it.  Isn’t that right, my sunshine?

It’s been a good week.

I got up about six-ish Monday.  My bedside table clock is set for fifteen minutes later.  Roll your eyes.  I already have done it.  Sometimes I forget to put my cell on vibrate and therefore get various dings/bells/whistles for things that I don’t even understand how to open.  But I do have some sort of weird internal alarm that has me on doze button about twenty minutes before the real deal.

Someone that knows me well had already texted me…good morning…..about two seconds before I realized I was awake.  Some0ne else (GWENNNN!) hoped I would drive safe and don’t text when I’m driving.  Oh heck.  You guys are taking all the fun out of a Monday roadtrip.  Seriously?

Heigh ho, heigh ho….it is off to work I go.  Starbucks coffee (with a straw so I don’t need to go  to buy a way-too-good-looking shirt)….(don’t suck in too fast, it will burn the whoknowswhatsit out of the back of your throat.  Just a friendly tip from me to you)

Long day.  Fun day.  LOVED meeting Regina, our great recruiter down there in Hampton Roads.  She will make us all proud, no doubt…not to mention she is an awful lot of good stuff to work with.  A personal favorite, Amy Carder, makes life a little fun for me.  And that puts her up in my fave list!  She brought Regina to  RE/MAX Allegiance’s  attention…and absolutely yes….Regina will build upon our already successful stuff.

Fast forward to today, Thursday.  Big storms blew in.  Trees blew down.  I sat in my car watching literal sheets of rain wash it clean.  There was no way-no how I was going to get out into that.  Especially since I no longer own a functioning umbrella.  Besides…great coversations can be had in cars when you can’t drive because you can’t see but the a/c is working so you are just relishing the quiet little slice of heaven. 

RE/MAX International’s Broker/Owner Conference starts on Sunday…so off to Denver I go.  Seventeen of the Broker-Owners/Managers/Staff will be heading out there.  It is going to be a really great event with a lot of networking, bonding, laughing…and perhaps a karaoke session?  One never knows.   I will miss my three trusty readers while I am gone.  Perhaps I’ll even get really crazy up there in that altitude and I’ll take fun pictures and post and blog from there.  My friend, Brian, says I’m really going to enjoy the running there.  Was he kidding me?  I’m really looking forward to finding out. 

Colorado will be a new state for me, but it won’t accomplish the dream I’ve established with someone.  Two down, forty eight GREAT ones to go!!!!  Next convention:  Vegas, March 2011!  At least that will be three!

Let the good times roll.

About five years ago or so, I received, courtesy of RE/MAX International a book entitled Everybody Wins:  The Stories and Lessons Behind RE/MAX.  I put it on my bookshelf, fully intending on reading it.  Heavens!  I WAS a RE/MAX agent, didn’t I need to know how I got here?  Of course as time passed the book moved down the shelf as ‘need to read’, ‘should read’, ‘hope to read’…etc.  Suddenly I found it foisted on myself as part of a group reading effort.   I am devastated that I never read it before.  What, pray tell, was I thinking?

I was supposed to read just two chapters…then four…but suddenly I had a heck-with-that moment and read the entire thing over a two day period.  I have highlighted, underlined, quoted…you name it.  I was influenced by this.  It made me realize just why RE/MAX is.  Who WE are.  Why I am with us and what I stand for.  Talk about humbling.  If I could only have half of the tenacity of these folks, I could move mountains!

It is not going unnoticed by me that I am talking in soundbites.  Because I can’t quite figure out how to parse what I’ve read and taken in.  The title of this post is “One is the Lonliest Number”.  It is derived from a quote in the book by Syd Syverston, “Dave, One log makes a lousy fire.”  (pg. 82).  It does.  The RE/MAX model is built on a bonfire concept.  Everyone has a log in the fire.  There is kindling.  When it lights, it warms you.  You are part of the fire.

When everyone invests, everybody wins.  We are all a collective of the whole.  The same group that talks about how “Eagles Don’t Flock” (Chap. 9) and “Shackleton Leadership” (Chap. 8)….are still there today.  The core principles that are RE/MAX still exist today.  Verbatim.  Nothing has changed, because when everybody wins, why should they?

The Leadership:  The leadership of the company remains.  People have come in, but they come in as welcome siblings to the family unit.

The Strategy:  We continue to grow, agent by successful agent, with Broker-Owners that embrace the Associates as co-owners in the dream.

The Dream:  Continuous learning, human development, and life success….and the technology to do so.

The Brand:  Brand awareness is paramount to the dream.  Every impression that is placed before the consumer has a local connection.  Television, radio, internet, signage…. whatever the medium….helps each and every one of us.

The Growth Formula:  How to grow?  Surround yourself with success.

The Core Principle:  The belief that RE/MAX is successful because its associates, the true customers of RE/MAX , are successful.  We work hard to keep you happy.

Nobody sells more real estate than RE/MAX.  Nobody.  That is not an empty promise. 

My good friend, Brian Block, whipped out his calculator yesterday and did some simple math using figures from RISMedia and the Power Broker Survey.  If you doubt his work, check out this month’s REAL ESTATE magazine, published by RISMedia.

Here is just a little tidbit from Brian’s blog:  

RE/MAX Allegiance is ranked #22 in the country by total sales volume with sales of $2,598,955,784.

RE/MAX Allegiance transacted this volume of sales with a total of just 657 agents in 23 offices.  We’re not a small company by any measure, but let’s look at some other numbers.

Every single brokerage that sold more real estate than RE/MAX Allegiance had more agents.  The next smallest company ranking ahead of ours in sales volume had over 1,100 agents.

Sure, some of the companies ranked ahead of us in sales volume had mega amounts of sales, but consider the following.

RE/MAX Allegiance vs. Long & FosterLong & Foster Real Estate had a sales voume of $21,779,927,000.  That’s over 8X as much volume as RE/MAX Allegiance.  However, Long & Foster has almost 19X as many agents at 12,405 total agents.

That means the average Long & Foster agent sold $1,755,737 of real estate in 2009 while the average RE/MAX Allegiance agent sold $3,955,792.

 And, since I know you were wondering… the top Keller Williams brokerage on this list — Keller Williams Realty in Dallas with 12 offices and 1,578 agents — sold a total of $2,129,074,428 in sales volume or an average of $1,349,223.

BOTTOM LINE:  With almost $4 million in sales for 2009, the average RE/MAX Allegiance agent is anything but average!

You can read Brian’s blog here.  You just can’t make this stuff up.  I, for once, am at a loss for words.

Some days the easiness of just talking makes me feel like we fit in each other’s skin.  Other days it is as tough as giving a recalcitrant baby a dose of oral antibiotics.  That kicking and screaming that resounds in the head long after the medicine is spat back out all over you, staining your freshly retrieved, dry-clean-only sweater.  Not that I know about this.

This is what the days are like for me at times in my role in career development.  A very dear friend once told me that you always start off with a call that you know will get you going.  A warm call that is just like stretching out the muscles before the start of the race.  It helps you put your game face on, gets you on your toes, focuses you for the rest of the day.  I told him fine then.  Expect me to call him every day.  Heck it is great practice and he lets me play.

Of course the reality is that we don’t always get to make that warm up call, the practice throw.  Some days I walk in and am slammed by returning messages of the previous day forcing a recollection of what exactly was left in the message so that I don’t sound like a complete and total blubbering idiot.  My favorite five readers (hold the applause, I am up from three!); know that occasionally I can roll with the big dogs and other days I should be left behind in the kennel like Niko!

I have met some of the most amazing people in the past near four years at this job.  One woman and I discovered a mutual interest in running (or talking about) running and exchange notes and calls on how training or races have gone.  She’s a great warm up call.  Another is one of my favorite stalkees that always laughs when he hears it is me.  He tried to pull a fast one over on me one day, but when I took the bait and gave him the contact information he’d been trying to get…that pretty much hushed him up.  He’s actually one of my favorites to call at the end of the day.  We share a couple of laughs, tell the occasional war story and always rehash the Reason of Why He Isn’t With RE/MAX Allegiance (yet).

Some of the folks that I’ve been lucky enough to land here have become friends as well.  They come into my office and hang out for a while just shooting the breeze.  We talk about books read, weekends, what our mutual work lives have been like.  Interestingly enough I don’t know their families.  That is a bit odd for me as in my past life I was Ombudsman (not PC any more, but that is the way it was), on ships with crews of two hundred, and that is what I did.  I knew the families.  How diverse my life has become.  We laugh.  We occasionally lunch.  I’ve had a drink or two with a few of them.  Relax, the pictures are untagged!

There are a couple that know more about me than just about everyone else.  I’ve shared myself, my hopes, my dreams, my frustrations; and I’ve received nothing but priceless treasure back.  It is hard to determine when or how long or why a friendship changes from a cordial warm call to an opportunity to share the deeper parts that make us all human.  Sometimes I suspect it is that there is a general sense of solidarity and common ground to make the leap.  Other times it is one of the greatest mysteries of life…one time it is a prickly call and then the next it is an opening of the floodgates and the Kathy Baker “Wow” moment…tell me more about that…a kindred spirit. 

I really love my job.  Since I’m a sheltered introvert an outgoing Chatty Kathy, I love reaching out to people all day long.  Solving issues and improving work life is a far cry from Mother Theresa’s call, but I feel pretty good about what I do.   So when I call you, as I am wont to do, you never are quite sure what you are going to get.  I hope you always get something, something of value, that you can carry with you through the day…something that says you matter to me, and while I cannot change your life I can show you how to improve upon it.

*The caveat on this is that perhaps this is scary as we all must encounter our monsters when they show, as Maurice Sendak would say, “Roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth, and rolled their terrible eyes, and showed their terrible claws…” (Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, 1963).  Our monsters do always show.  So if you are brave enough to read on, feel free to meet my monsters.  They live under my emotional bed.

I had a few other ideas for titles on this as I’ve been writing it in my head since this past weekend.  One was called Old Sweaters.  I have an old jacket of my father’s.  It is a really cool tweed number that he had made just for him.  It was made for him in 1954 while stationed in the Phillipines so it has a few years on it.  I occasionally wear it as it makes me feel good every time I see it.  I’ve referenced my dad here a couple times; he was loved and has been sorely missed these last twenty years.  But sweaters?  I am currently wearing a hand-me-down sweater from a friend.  One day, when life was very bleak and I was cold from the affront of it, I asked that he bring a sweater.  So he did.  And for a little while it kept me really warm because I felt good internally knowing that I was given this gift.  Now it is just a sweater.  I thought about sending it back because I feel the need to make those sort of statements.  But realistically?  I believe in keeping warm when necessary.  It is early spring.  Far, far too early to pack away my sweaters.  My nights of sitting on the deck being chilled by the night air are just beginning.  My mornings of a moment at the cool dawn with a cup of coffee to become whole again?   It is just a sweater now.  It may keep me warm in spite of its lofty beginnings.  But I will remember its original abilities.

How about Turkey Buzzard?  That was my latest thought on this whole blog-ism.  I was running after work tonight with the most incredibly brain-dead dog ever, Niko.  There was a turkey buzzard in a tree over my head, literally within a few yards from me.  He was doing that beady-eyed head swivel staring at Niko.  I did have the thought of, “If I was mean enough, I could let him off his leash….”  But those turkey buzzards are some really ugly dudes.  Seriously.  Have you taken a gander at them close up?  Even I, the Queen of Calling Niko Horrible Names, couldn’t do it….subject that sort of butt ugly on Niko.  Sheesh!  I do have some sort of class.  Even where Niko is concerned.

Monsters.  I guess I do have to segue back there.  My mind, a terrible thing to waste, has been wandering the frontier lately believing in fairy tales and happy endings and re-writing my own thoughts to try and make things go certain ways that I really have no control over.  But oh dear Lord, why don’t I?  Damn, I hate being human.  Ellen Claire, focus.  Get the stuff out and over with…catharsis for you comes with this writing stuff, doesn’t it? (Picture old Batman movies with the ‘Pow! ‘ and “KaPow!’  sounds while I fight with myself.)    Yup.  Working on that.

Today I spent the day with one of my very favorite people in the whole world, Kathy Baker.  She has this innate ability to make me look like I know what I am doing.  It is really frightening as she actually THINKS THAT I DO.  Monster alert!  I have to be at the very top of my game when I play in Kathy’s realm.  She is much much too savvy to let me slide or pretend that life is ok.  Work life.  Life life.  She’s my accountability.  And if I sense her monster alert…I’d better be able to turn on the light and confront it.  There is nothing worse than the KB, “Wow.  Tell me more.”

I also spent the day listening to role-playing by some fabulous people I am actually lucky enough to work alongside.  I never am not learning from them, gleaning ideas from them (gleaning is such a great word, isn’t it?), and just privileged to be in their company.  The fact that they make me laugh my ass off isn’t lost on me.  Anyone that can make me snort…they have me from hello!

Kathy is obviously just a pretend monster.  She makes me accountable for my life’s work, my ability to achieve my goals, and the encouragement that enables me to try on different roles here in a changing real estate environment.

My real monsters?  My children’s successes or struggles.  My ends meeting, a continually daunting task.  My ability to show others the RE/MAX Allegiance value…to enable associates to value themselves and their worth,, and recognize that they, because it is hard to tell people that they are worth more than they think they are…what they’ve been told over and over again, that their investment into THEMSELVES reaps great rewards.  My deck, the often joked about appendage to my house that didn’t fall off in the blizzard.  My heart health which has taken such a beating that it doesn’t know what to do, but it is something I alone can deal with.  I no longer sleep with the light on at night.  I don’t need to.  If they want to the monsters will wake me up and have a chat sitting on my chest at 4 AM.  I really hate that.  I want them all to go away.  But I know that with the right touches, the right decisions…for all of us…will allow us to breath easier.  Help our blood pressure go down.  To accept unevitable stuff and be able to take those blows as they come and then to grow from that educational opportunity.

If I see each monster as an actual monster, I gain nothing other than the ability to hide under my covers better; to accept that mediocrity is ok; that old status quo…yup, that too; and the paralysis that leaves one sleeping on the couch because the real world is full of monsters that ‘roar their terrible roars, and gnash their terrible teeth, and roll their terrible eyes’, yet we…yes we, have the ability to look our monsters in the eye and say, “Be still!”  Because we are in charge of our lives.  I am the “boss of me”.  And I say, “Be Still!”

Good Wednesday morning from the land of Mickey and Donald and all those oversized characters.  Oh, and the land of Shamu and some other killer whale that is getting terrible press for doing what killer whales do.  It was a tragedy, but please stop showing us on TV.

Yes, Orlando Florida!  I’m sitting at the table on the lanai, greatful to finally realize that if I moved my computer out of my room; I may actually have wi-fi access.  I’m wearing my typical mornng attire of pajamas and a sweatshirt (it IS winter in Florida too).  The coffee is brewing (big bummer:  I’m out of real coffee and have to use that nasty decaf stuff).  I need coffee.  In a big way.  I need a banana too.  I’m at the RE/MAX International Convention, and  I have to tell you; these people know how to party.  Last night we drank, and danced, and applauded ourselves.  And danced some  more.  And many of us drank some more as well.  Some of us took our awesome Bank of America ‘Party Favors’ home and drank and danced some more in our own little private worlds.  I’m anxious to hear how Planet Cayman did last night.  Some of us (and I won’t name drop here) hung out there until 3:45 Tuesday morning!  Apparently the Cayman Islands are here, alive and well, and the Aussies flew over just to hang out there (and pick up a few nice mementos of their Mickey-Land stay).  I KNOW none of us stayed up late last night after the big soiree. 

Full disclosure:  I was in bed every night at 9AM after typing up my copious notes from earlier in the day just so I could get up each morning refreshed and ready to carpe diem and all that stuff.  (Hello?  Is that coffee done yet?)  I’m in a feisty mood this morning and having to control the urge to use certain words to illustrate my point here.

Life is awesome.  Everyday it is awesome, but somehow it feels exceptionally bright and glorious this morning.

Bright is a big word in McFlorida.  The sun seems to shine brighter, the cars don’t use their horns, the water glistens off of the lake in a certain brilliant way that only Walt could have dreamt of.

Even the mirror in my Sabal Palms bathroom is brighter.  And bigger.  And somehow more revealing.  I didn’t need to know quite so much about myself.  I think I’ve mentioned in this written journal I’m keeping here, that I’ve been trying, with some success, to lose weight and to get back into fighting shape.  Ok, running shape.  I’m something of a pacifist.  My clothes are fitting better, and more of them are fitting again.  I, therefore, have envisioned myself as a lithe, nubile young woman again with none of the issues that plague those of us of forty-something-eight.  Needless to say it was so gratifying to climb out of the shower the first morning here and catch a glimpse of She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  Did you know that when you diet your body loses weight/gains a new shape in SECTIONS?  Neither did I until it was so Blindingly Illustrated in the bathroom mirror.  Without going into graphic detail, my runners legs are coming back.  Starting from the feet and working their way north.  I’ve lost weight in my face etc., working its slimming looks south. 

If I were to be divided into thirds, it would be decent legs…at least until mid thigh….a decent face, neck and shoulders.  And then this mess in between that screams four kids, friend-of-wine.  Life Has Been Lived here would be an appropriate tatoo across the middle third.  What is up with that and why in heaven’s name did the designer of the Sabal Palms condos in Orlando think it was ‘cool’ to put a mirror like that in MY bathroom?  Sometimes the fantasy in our own minds is the image we want to carry with us throughout the day.  Not the harsh reality.

I’m shifting.  In sections.  Parts of me look different from Before Diet, and others look annoyingly the same.  My mind is exactly the same way.  Compartments of it are chock full of memories and glorious times.  Some sad disappointments are in there, remembrances that are painful to look back on.  Other parts hold the day-to-day where to be, when to be there, what is the appropriate thing to say.  (And for heaven’s sake, Ellen, censor some of your thoughts before they become vocalized.)  And the best part?  Those are the blank sections that are yet to be written with memory code of all the tomorrows and bright sunshine left to witness.  There are miles and miles to go before I sleep.  Yes, I’m shifting my looks around, and I probably will do it more than once in the future.

Margaret Kelly, the amazing CEO of RE/MAX International and cancer survivor (I think those are in the wrong order), poignantly said at the annual Susan G. Komen Fashion Show and lunch yesterday, as she talked about her baseline mammogram at thirty nine that revealed cancer and the resulting mastectomy and treatments that followed, that the loss of her breast initially made her wonder how she felt about her femininity, that sense of balance that comes from looking in the mirror and seeing two breasts.  She along with millions of women have learned that no matter what shape or size you are, it is inside you.  What you are is inside.  There is no mirror in the world that can reveal that.  Nor can diet.  Or exercise.  Or wardrobe.  That is the shape you need to see.