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?

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. 

For those of you that do not know, I was born into a military family and have been involved in one fashion or another my entire life.  With that disclosure I have a very strong sense of what we owe our soldiers, sailors and marines for the sacrifices they make for us, the sacrifices their families make for us.

Davidson Lunger, one of the fearless Broker-Owners of RE/MAX Allegiance, along with a couple of his neighbors out on Kent Island, MD; embraced the injured men and women at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in an all day picnic/fishing extravaganza.  The group that supported the endeavor and helped coordinate it is a group called Operation Second Chance.  Their mission statement: 

  • To aid in the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded service men and women.
  • To assist in the modification of housing to accommodate disabled veterans.
  • To assist the families of wounded service men and women.
  • To facilitate the transition of wounded service men and women back into civilian society

How about that?  Pretty simple, yes?  How about no.  Often these folks haven’t the ability to buy some of the simple staples in life that we take for granted….toothbrushes, underwear….seeing their families often takes on a spin of the ludicrous with a spouse being able to visit the injured partner every other weekend and has to drive with the kids eight hours each way…in a car with 200,000 miles on it.  The love and commitment these folks share is an inspiration to us all.

At Davidson’s soiree last weeked there were amputees playing amazing games of football.  I probably would have cried had I been tackled.  One couple, a husband and wife, both military:  the wife had lost her leg.  The husband had lost his leg and a good portion of his face.  His glass eye?  The pupil was a Purple Heart.  The soldier that caught the biggest fish that day?  He had no fingers.

Who are our heroes every day?  I have a few that come to mind.  But my reader friends:  These folks are the real deal.  These are people that were willing to give it all up for me!    My favorite older brother’s best friend is a man named Brendan O’Connor.  He’s one of my heroes.  Because of him others are alive today.    You can read all about him through the link or you can watch him and his teammates during an interview that was on  60 Minutes a little while back.   That sort of do-or-die scenario is what is faced daily that brings our brave ones to WRAMC to heal.  To learn to live again.  To cope.

On September 11, 2010, RE/MAX Allegiance is going to be having a company-wide ‘cook-out’ , if you will, at Davidson’s digs out there on Kent Island.  The company will be floating the bill…and if anyone wants to, make a donation to Operation Second Chance.  That or giftcards to help alleviate some of the expenses that they face on a daily basis would be a great way to say thank you.  I’m proud of my company for doing something that feels so right to me.  I am more proud, no humbled, to be able to help out those who helped me.  And never even knew my name.

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.

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.

I find myself at a period in time that forces me to look backwards and forwards and while the look backwards feels like a blink of an eye and the forward glance feels far-reaching; the opposite is true.  More of my life is behind me than in front.  I’m not sure when or how or why that happened.  Or why I didn’t really think about it until now, but it is so.

Seven years ago I was a successful Realtor.  I was making “Big Bank” as my son would call it.  I was married.  I had four beautiful healthy children, a growing retirement account.  You know:  Life was Good.  I had finished my sixth marathon and had three more to do before I got to this point.  Running was what I did; regular thirty five plus mile weeks.  I could eat and drink literally anything and my metabolism did whatever it does.

But life really wasn’t good.  I was working incessantly.  There were cracks in my personal life that hadn’t been patched in so long that they became crevasses and I found myself divorced.  My four healthy children suffered because of life’s changes and the penalty we all paid for that will last forever in both physical and emotional scars.

Suddenly the ‘big bank’ didn’t seem worth it.  I couldn’t quite summon the energy to show houses or even care.  Running, my salvation for so many years, disappeared.  Couldn’t focus.  Couldn’t get myself to force myself up the hill.  (Note to Realtors:  If you are dealing with a runner, do not let her buy a house that sits at the bottom of a hill.  She will curse you for years.)  The incredible ability to eat, however, remained.  And over the past five years I have managed to plonk on about thirty pounds.  It has been a swell(ing) experience.

The biggest change, however, happened when I looked at my life and realized that while I loved the money, really liked the cool cars and Bob Fletcher, it just wasn’t quite measuring up to what I needed, what Ellen Ing’s Life needed. 

So I quit.  I went in to Charlie to give him notice.  And he, silly man, asked me to stay on in a wholly different world, the recruiting world.  So here I am now; in a new phase that I actually sorta thrive on.

Three years later I am still here driving a ‘hot little used Honda’.  Bob Fletcher hasn’t given up on me; I still get cards on a regular basis.  I live.  I love.  I am.

Running is again becoming important.  EIC (if you don’t know, don’t ask) is something I’ve come to terms with.  Those thirty pounds?  Well half of them are still there.  I’m trying to lose the jello look and take on the lean fit look that I fuzzily remember.  I fit into clothes again that I’ve kept in my closet.  I’ve got a half marathon and a ten miler in my life in the next two months.

And I’m happy.  The balance is back in my life.  When I laugh I feel it.  I feel the joy.

Every day I meet with people and encourage them to change their lives.  I tell them that they will improve their business and that if you utilize the tools we offer, they will be able to work smarter, not harder.  And it isn’t a sales pitch.  I miss meeting with clients and seeing the ‘sale’ take place and their happiness at finding their new home.  But as I said to someone just yesterday, I am doing the same thing that  I loved seven years ago.  I am just it in a different arena but with the same feeling of satisfaction when someone makes a choice to change their lives, to play on a different, level field.  And to grow and flourish.  As Macrina says, ideas are grown here. 

So I am in the midst of life’s changes.  It is a good life.

Once again, my muse has inspired me to deep pensive thought.  It is odd.  We talk a lot about a bunch of things that cover the gamut from real estate to life to change and today at lunch, he suggested I give up my current gig and become a writer.  I am not quite clear if that was his gentle way of saying, “Ellen, you suck at your job.”  But that would insult me and I am sure he didn’t mean to do that.

I was telling an amusing little story about the ‘book’ I was am going to write called, I Bought a House in Lonelyville.   It is a very real place that just charmed the pants off of me when I ‘saw’ it seventeen years ago with my dearest elderly sister, Mary.  ‘Saw it’ is sort of a loose term…we were walking down the beach on Fire Island, NY and the place passed us by in literally in four long strides.  I loved it.  The novel is wandering around some of the recesses of my brain; and I will get to it…one day.

Bringing up Mary and Lonelyville brought up a plethora of memories that when they come bubbling to the surface, I cannot just shove them away.  Muse had to listen to some of them.  It started out with just the nine of us, five brothers and four sisters.  Or four sisters and five brothers, as we like to say.  We were….we are ….a collective group of people that truly enjoy each other’s company and make fun of each other on a very regular basis and (run on sentence, sorry Mr. Tyropolis!), and if push came to shove, I would think that each of us independently would choose to spend time with our siblings rather than just about anyone else.  Sad, but true. 

Mom and Dad didn’t realize the mayhem when they were, uhm, creating this Crowley Madness as my dear brother-in-law, Johnny Boy, calls it.  But they did.  And what started as nine kids in a dozen years ended up being this wild crazy group of in-laws and out-laws and ex-laws that make me laugh and cry and fight with.  You know, a family.

The two parts missing of this happy bunch of insanity, are the people that started the whole series off.  And today, when I got back to my office from my lunch (paid for by the muse…paying me off to put him into the blog), there was an article forwarded from the The New York Times.  It was fitting that it showed up today.  Mom was part of a study group for melanoma research.  It didn’t quite work out the way that we had hoped.   she…along with Dad, for other tragic issues…called 1990 it.  To see this kind of success in research brings up painfully poignant memories and difficult times, but it is so , so great to see.  I had to put that in here.  It is important to me, and it is my blog.  Oh, how they would have revelled in their family.

In my little corner of the world, I’ve listened to some of my RE/MAX Allegiance siblings spin up over a bunch of things.  The greatest part about this company is that recognizing that things DO conflict and WILL conflict and family reunions won’t always be picture perfect.  But by working together and from within, the people that we choose to work with are people we are proud to call colleagues, and part of the RE/MAX Allegiance dynamic…that is indeed…something of a family.  Support, but not strangle.  Most days.

I didn’t choose to be born the third of nine into glorious mayhem.  But I am so, so damn glad that I was.  I cannot even BEGIN to express what that means to me.  I DID choose to be part of the RE/MAX Allegiance family.   It was mine to make.  It was the best decision I ever made because it was all about me.