The Wolves of Real Estate

Hustle vs Hustler:

Ask someone the first thing that comes to their mind when you say those two words. They’re so similar but elicit a sharply different reaction in our culture.

Hustle is a highly valued trait. I respect hustle. When I see someone really giving it their all—whether it’s at work, at the gym, or anywhere in between—it inspires me.

Hustle, defined in the dictionary, is: to proceed or work rapidly or energetically

I do believe some people are born with an innate drive to hustle in many aspects of their lives. Obviously, having the drive to really hustle comes easily when we’re passionate or desperate to achieve something.

Hustle is a tricky thing to teach—at least, I find that to be true with my kids. I respect those who hustle, so naturally I wish to see my kids hustle. But I also want them to recognize that quality is just as important. Putting more energy into what you do is great, but not when it means you do a half-ass job.

Hustle, when matched with an appreciation for quality, produces optimal results.

In my real estate business, I see agents every day make the mistake of listing their homes too fast, putting up lackluster photos, and skipping or writing minimal remarks about the home. Their apparent goal is to get the home up on the MLS as soon as possible. Is this because they’re hustling but cutting corners on quality? Or is it that they don’t care or don’t realize there’s a better way? As an outsider looking in, both seem lazy to me. Lazy has got to be the opposite of hustle, right?

Therefore you must be careful to not over-hustle at the expense of quality. It will come across to others as you being lazy.

I’m confident you have a friend or someone close to you who is overly focused on quality—so much so that it may take them longer to complete a task because of their obsession to make things perfect. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to achieve or even define perfection. However, we as a society respect quality.

I know when I see something of high quality; I immediately wonder how long it took to create that.

I often get asked by my clients and other agents in my community how I do all the things that I do, from writing books and creating weekly newsletters to hosting radio shows, running a brokerage, and producing high-level marketing for my listings. One answer to that question is: I’ve trained myself to do the work without fear or reservation.

So long as your intentions are good and focused on helping others before you help yourself, then you don’t need to have everything perfect, you just need to be genuine with your convictions.  

Sometimes our minds can slow us down with doubt or the desire to over-think things in an effort to try to produce the best quality product. Of course, I still feel fear and reservations about what I’m doing. What helps me is I purposely listen to and read about other entrepreneurs, which always helps to inspire me to push forward.

These other entrepreneurs whom I follow feel like friends. I learn about how they go about their days, their challenges and what they did to overcome them. The more I learn about these successful people, the more they seem human and just like me. Many of them found their stride sooner than I did, which frustrates and fuels me. Of course, some of them—when they examine my life—may get inspired in their own way, as success is defined in a million ways.

I’m writing this article at 4:30am on my couch. My family will be up in a few hours. I used to wake up at the same time as them, but at some point I was inspired by others doing amazing things. Most of them were hustling early each morning so they could accomplish more or so they could have more of a life during the day. I get up early in part so I can be more present with my kids when they’re around.

We all have different motivations that increase our hustle. If you’re struggling to find your motivation, I encourage you to seek out and learn more about other people who inspire you. You’ll find that the more you learn about them, the more you’ll understand that they’re not superhuman but driven by something. Learning about others can help you tap into your own drive and uncover the internal fuel you need to put more hustle in your pursuits.

I hate it when there is someone working harder than me at the gym. Every time I see it, I feel a jolt of energy inside of me. I may or may not be able to match their hustle that day, but it definitely helps me pick up my pace. The same thing happens to me in business. If I see others who appear to be out-working me, that internal voice inside me says, “Oh no you don’t!” and lights a fire in me.

When does hustle push over to hustler?

There’s a well-known entrepreneur, author, and media personality named Gary Vaynerchuk. He wrote the best-selling book Crush It and many others. He also hosts a weekly podcast/video-cast called the “Ask Gary Vee Show” where he answers questions from other aspiring entrepreneurs and some famous ones. Gary is constantly talking about hustle. He is the definition of hustle. This guy really pushes the level of hustle much higher than most people can fathom. Therefore, his nickname has become “The Hustler.”

Gary Vaynerchuk is not who I think of when I hear the word hustler. Gary is a household name among entrepreneurs because he gives back more than he takes—meaning he works tirelessly at trying to help other entrepreneurs. For no cost, no fee, no upsell. He just gives back a lot. It is much appreciated and respected. I have learned a lot from him over the years and still listen to his weekly podcast.

So what is a hustler?

The dictionary defines a hustler as: a person who employs fraudulent or unscrupulous methods to obtain money; a swindler.

By that definition, I would say every industry has hustlers. There may only be a small number of them, but the amount of destruction they leave in their wake can be massive.

Recently my wife and I watched the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. It depicts how someone with great hustle can become a hustler in the negative sense. What makes the true-life story so astonishing is that this man started with the right intentions. He just wanted to provide for his family and was struggling to do so. Then he fell upon a way he could easily provide for his family through selling penny stocks. He had no idea if the investments he sold were a good or bad investment, and he didn’t care. He made good money selling them. So good that he brought in his friends and they were intoxicated by the flow of money.

Soon one hustler became a giant company full of hustlers.

It was all about closing, convincing others to spend their money, so they could take a cut of it. Seeing these people transform into hustlers helped me understand how many good people can be swept up into bad behaviors and greed based on a company’s culture and what they’re being taught they need to do to provide for their families.

The curse of the salesman

It’s unfortunate but I see “hustlers” in my real estate industry every day. The saddest part is that most of them don’t even realize they’ve become hustlers. They’re just following the practices that were taught to them by their broker, mentor, or coach.

Realtors are often taught “Behind Every No is a Yes” and while this advice may work and earn them more income, they soon become a “Wolf of Real Estate” without even realizing it.

Wolves of real estate

When you take a sales job, you’re taught by the leadership what you need to do to be successful at your job. Therefore, the type of salesperson you become is often directly influenced by who teaches you.

The curse of the salesman is that many of the most successful salespeople in any industry have gotten there by being hustlers. They care little or not at all about the customer, just about how much money they can make from them. They practice and master how to close people.

I see real estate agents acting like hustlers because they’re doing what they were taught to do. They often don’t realize what they’ve become until after they damage many relationships by pushing loved ones and friends too hard for their business or referrals.

The Slippery Slope

I hear radio commercials every day about guaranteed sales programs to get your home sold, which are nothing more than bait and switch gimmicks to get in your living room so a salesman can deliver his practiced script that will most certainly close you even without his precious guarantee.

In my first year of real estate, I hired a real estate coach. He was one of the top-producing agents in North America. When he offered to coach me for a fee, I said yes. How could I pass up such an opportunity, right?

What I learned over that year was all about bait and switch tactics. I was encouraged to pound the phones and implement my own guaranteed sale program. Even though I couldn’t back up that guarantee, I was taught what to say and how to disqualify sellers so that I would never have to worry about honoring that guarantee. I was taught many other tactics like this to get more real estate sales.

I ended up firing my coach halfway through the program. Once I started listening to that inner voice in my head and surrounding myself with the right kind of role models, I saw the light.

These coaches put spin on their tactics, so that when you use them they seem to be benefiting the client. “It’s for their own good.” The coaches would say you are still the best agent to help them sell their house, no matter what strategy you have to use to get in their living room. “By closing them, you’re just helping them make a decision they already want to make.” Meanwhile they show you how well it works for providing for your family, which is the most important thing in world to you.  It’s not just a slippery slope to become a wolf, it’s a steep hill of solid ice and you’re getting pushed.

It’s not just a slippery slope to become a wolf, it’s a steep hill of solid ice and you’re getting pushed. 

This is why I understand that my real estate industry is full of hustlers and wolves. I was almost one of them. Part of my mission for the rest of my career is to try to reverse and minimize the damage that hustlers cause to our industry and to the people they impact.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately on a project that will hopefully help agents “see the light,” —to help them recognize what they’ve been swept into based on the bad leadership and advice they’ve been given for years. It’s about a better way to conduct their business that is way more enriching and fulfilling—how making this change will not only leave a legacy behind they can be proud of but will also pay them dividends well beyond their retirement. You can make a lot of money being a Wolf of Real Estate, but at what cost?  You could ultimately lose everything.

The line between hustle and hustler can become gray or invisible when you are just trying to do your best and following advice from those whom you respect.

It is healthy to question those we get advice from. To listen to our conscience and not be peer-pressured into something that just doesn’t feel right. There is always another path you can take that is equally as effective and doesn’t challenge your morals.

Luckily for humanity’s sake, the vast majority of real estate agents want to do the right thing. They would not want to be viewed as “a hustler or a wolf.” So if someone you know and care about is doing something that you feel is questionable or a bit on the shady side, you’re probably doing them a huge favor if you speak to them about it. It just might help them “see the light.”


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