Being Autistic in Real Estate: 11 Reasons Autistic People Should Consider a Career in Real Estate.
Being autistic in real estate
Happy Autism Awareness Month, my Lab-Coated homies! My name is David Serpa and I am 35 years old and autistic.
A lot must go through a person’s head the first time they hear me say “I’m autistic” because they always want to tell me I’m “fine” or “how normal” I seem. I want to assure you this article is not a cry for help. I am quite happy being autistic and have no desire, whatsoever, to be “normal”. What is normal, anyway? And, who is making this determination?
The more we learn about the brain, the more we are able to understand what makes us different. The more we see what makes us different, the more we realize there are very few normal people out there anyway!
The way we turn out has as much to do with our nature as it does nurture. Whether or not we want to admit it some people are well suited for certain careers and others appear to be swimming upstream no matter how hard they try. We are discovering our differences are quantifiable, recordable, and found within our DNA and the workings of our brain. What was once brain theory can now be demonstrated with imaging in an MRI. If you’re interested in learning more, Temple Grandin writes on this topic extensively in her book The Autistic Brain.
There are many misconceptions about what autism is, is not, and where it came from. I don’t care to enter the debate here. For my own experience, I can track the way my brain works throughout my family history. I am honored to say there are a lot of big brains and odd ducks in my family.
If you have an autistic child in your family, there is a good chance there is an autistic adult somewhere in your family too. I can’t tell you how many times an autistic parent will be explaining to me that they “have a child with autism”. I want to tell them “your child has an autistic parent, too. She’s just gotten really good at hiding it. Even from herself.” It’s not the parent’s fault they don’t see it in themselves. When we were children the autism diagnosis was still very much a mystery and it was impossible to be diagnosed with autism later in life.
Not until the 1990s was the diagnostic criteria expanded to include adults. Somehow all autistic children, sort of, grew out of it back then… I guess. Psychology has been holding us, hostage, for quite some time. They are discovering some of the inner workings of the brain, and because they have found consistencies that are abnormal, they have labeled these things as a “disorder”. Is it possible to have a gene, which is abnormal, but is not a disorder? Take hazel eyes for example; are these a disorder because they are an abnormal or recessive gene?
Many of these “disorders” are just consistencies that differentiate from the baseline. A disorder implies something is wrong. There are many official diagnoses being called a “disorder” which should have stopped one word short. Why did the Autism Spectrum ever need a Disorder? Did something in the DNA or brain suddenly scatter about? Was my autism contracted? It didn’t. It doesn’t. It wasn’t.
For many autistic children and adults, we escape into fantasy worlds where everyone is not just accepted for who they are but celebrated and utilized! Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The X-Men, The Avengers, all unique people, working together. Not in spite of their differences, but because of them. The Avengers would be boring with a whole bunch of Captain Americas running around, agreeing with one another, and perpetually doing the right thing.
Harry needed Dumbledore. Captain America is made better by the brains of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Spock might just be another conflicted nerd at odds with himself if it wasn’t for the extroverted, equally valuable, and completely neurotypical Captain Kirk constantly pushing him out of his comfort zone. In real life, however, everyone acts the same, dresses the same, and talks about the same things. What if life was a little more like the TV shows and movies we love so much?
Well, I’m here for my fellow weirdos! I want to encourage you to be different. Be abnormal. All of the aspies out there, sprinkled throughout the world by the Mother Ship to be raised by human beings. I am here to tell you why you might enjoy life as a real estate agent during your short stay here on Planet Earth, should you choose to become one.
I’d also like to meet the ones already out there “living in the wild” as my fellow Lab-Coated and Autistic Realtor Eric Flynn put it when I met him at an event we were speaking at in Portland, Maine. He is a highly-successful, big-brained, big-hearted, team lead, who is highly involved in his community.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is, technically, a social disorder. Real estate seems to be filled to the brink with neurotypical social extroverts obsessed with expressing their emotions, attending cocktail events, and incessantly sharing small talk on their cell phones between overlapping lunch and coffee dates. Rest assured, you don’t have to be neurotypical to make it in real estate. Just find a place in the business where you are comfortable existing.
So, why is real estate a career worth considering for some autistic people? I will tell you why it has been good for me and why I know I am not alone in this business. Fair enough?
I believe there are quite a few autistic Realtors working in real estate today who have no idea they are on the spectrum. If you’re curious if you or someone you love might be on the autism spectrum check out my book All The World’s A Stage: Unmasking Asperger’s Syndrome or watch my video on YouTube entitled What is Asperger’s Syndrome? Establishing a Baseline.
Without further ado, let’s jump in.
11 Reasons Autistic People Should Consider A Career in Real Estate.
1. Working Alone with Frequent Breaks.
I can get four hours of work done in forty minutes, but I can also get forty minutes of work done in four hours. It is hard for me to get back into a workflow if I am interrupted at work. This is one of the reasons I had to stop going into my old office. Realtors in the office kept stopping by to talk, even if the door was shut and the “do not disturb” sign was up. It would completely break my focus.
Many autistic people are great at working for themselves but aren’t great employees. Many of us struggle in traditional work atmospheres because of all the unspoken social requirements; the small talk, the body language, the patience required to listen to long-winded stories without urging people to “get to the point”. These things are tedious, at best, and exhausting and overstimulating at worst.
When I was working at In-N-Out Burger after leaving Blockbuster Video in 2004, there were unwritten expectations. In the beginning I was great! I worked with the produce, and I got along swimmingly with all the tomatoes and potatoes, and so they moved me to fries. Turning those potatoes into Freedom Fries was easy enough, and I didn’t mind doing it, so for whatever reason, they moved me to work the drive-through window which I got with entertaining myself by putting on different accents at the window. Eventually they moved me to the front on the cash register. This is where the trouble started. I learned the register quickly enough and flew through the lines, but apparently there was a problem; I wasn’t smiling.
They brought me in the back and explained to me the problem. I didn’t see one. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be rude. I didn’t understand why a smile was important if I could check people out twice as fast as the person next to me. I asked to be moved to the back so I could work with the potatoes, as everyone else hated it back there anyway. I didn’t last very much longer. I walked off of my shift one day, on the edge of an autistic meltdown. I threatened the fry guy on the way out the door, who for no apparent reason had taken to intentionally and repetitively bumping into me during our shifts together. I laugh now but looking back I realize it was just too much for me to process and I was on constant sensory overload.
There are many benefits to working in real estate, which suit me, and may drive you nuts. Not all autistic people are the same. This is not a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job. This can also be the downfall if you don’t manage your time well or establish professional and personal boundaries. You can work whenever you want to work and there is always something to do. Welcome to being self-employed! For most people, motivation is hard to come by, but for autistic people, who are interested in what they are doing, motivation can be hard to turn off.
The real estate quickly developed into a special interest of mine and I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about it. If I was going to be required to talk to people about real estate, I wanted to know what I would say. There was no one telling me to “stop working” and so I didn’t. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was told, “more was the answer” at every turn and at every step of the way. And so I continued to “grind” and “hustle” until my body shut down.
You can make a good living in real estate closing two deals a month and never running a team or starting a brokerage. It’s just the “what’s next” mentality of real estate. You can be a self-sufficient island, or run a small efficient team, and earn a great living. However, if you want to run a Mega-Team or start a brokerage, I won’t tell you not to do it, but I will say it was far too many energies for me to manage efficiently. I am a great leader, but I am an awful manager. My team was great at seven! Everything after that was a non-stop headache and contributed to my autistic burnout.
If we were to talk in military lingo; I would rather run a small elite team of specialists than manage a huge Mega-Team or brokerage of generalists. There’s still room for an eccentric leader in an elite team of other elites. I don’t like the thought of looking down on people, or being unattainable to people who need to reach me, so this sort of unattainable ideal of a 7th level person seemed disingenuous and ill-fitting for me.
To the person in the huge office, who has never been exposed to autism, autistic people can appear “crazy”. Pacing back and forth while on the phone. Working on the computer with the music blasting on headphones. Carrying conversations while staring at the floor intensely and waving one leg back and forth. It can be a lot of work simply not appearing crazy or abnormal. Which is why I ghost. I work from home in my backyard with my dog, wearing sweatpants. Me, not him. He’s always naked. I get way more done and avoid the incessant small talk expected from me in the office.
Neurotypical people refer to this as isolating. I prefer to think of it as insulating. Creating a barrier from the noise and chatter of the world. The only problem with working at home is there was no one to keep me in check. I forget to eat or sleep and I will skip meals and work into the wee hours of the morn. I’m very lucky to have a wife who has such a great understanding of my autism. She prevents me from getting a little too manic during my long work binges.
The nice element about human interaction in the real estate industry is it is limited to short bursts of energy. Showing homes, attending listing appointments, and holding open houses have become a relatively predictable practice and are broken up by lots of alone time. For neurotypical people working a four-hour open house alone is torture, for me, it’s a reprieve. I sit down and I get to work on my blogs, or my books, I can get some reading done, and my signs are up advertising for potential clients to stop in and talk about real estate, the weather, or the football game they are missing. If you have had a hundred conversations about real estate, you have almost had them all. Open houses are predictable conversations with new faces.
Make sure you find time to relax. Take your meals alone, if necessary, to allow yourself to continue handling all of the energies you come into contact with throughout the day. If you don’t learn to self-check and self-regulate real estate can lead to physical illness and autistic meltdowns, or worse; autistic burnout.
It is no secret the stress the autistic body stays under causes a lot of autistic people to have digestive issues and sleep problems. This can lead to auto-immune and your body shutting down completely. I have been hospitalized three times in the last five years. Last time they thought I had leukemia because my white blood cell count was almost non-existent. After five days, I signed myself out of the hospital against doctor’s orders, but there was work to be done.
If your body doesn’t shut down from over-stimulation, your mind will. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for autistic people. I suffered from autistic burnout for a long period of time two years ago. Autistic people grieve differently than neurotypical people. We need space to process our emotions, and then we often need help processing them.
In addition, during autistic burnout, or an autistic meltdown, autistic symptoms can seem heightened. You can suddenly feel “more autistic”, it can feel like a backslide. Old emotions, thought patterns, and symptoms you thought were behind you, suddenly resurface.
Real Estate is a great career! It really is, you just need to make sure you are taking regular breaks, not over-scheduling yourself, and giving yourself some of the grace and compassion which comes with admitting “maybe I am autistic”. I can tell you acceptance was the beginning of opening a door to a massive amount of self-love and understanding for the first time of my life.
2. You get to be the expert.
Many autistic people love to be an expert! They often are experts. Parents or other adults around autistic children will often think it’s cute when the kid recites all these seemingly random tidbits until they take a moment to fact check these children and find out they are right. They aren’t simply making things up for attention. How did they find this out?
When I was a child I could relate to adults, who enjoyed my eclectic personality and funny little perspectives, but I struggled with most of the kids my own age. Kids aren’t impressed by fun facts, or in being corrected when they are pretending they are dinosaurs in the wrong time period, or in being told Michelangelo doesn’t have swords, those belong to Leonardo.
There are different types of autism. When I was in middle school, I was reading Shakespeare because I enjoyed Shakespeare, not to impress anyone. I am hyper-verbal and so I loved Shakespeare for the same reason I loved hip hop. It gave my mind something to explore deeper in the meaning of a sentence through puns, analogies, and parables. We, autistic people, are often experts in seemingly “useless stuff”, but it is only useless to you. It is something we enjoy deeply.
Becoming an expert in something “useful” is our way to relate to and help the world around us. If we can become an expert in something, we are valid, and therefore of use to society, and maybe this usefulness will lead to something resembling love and acceptance from a world we feel quite alienated from.
I studied my market with rapt interest the way an autistic person would study anything they are interested in and might actually have to talk about in front of people. I studied home prices, taxes, HOAs, and school zones and stored all of the information in my head. I wanted to be prepared to talk about real estate, should I get the opportunity. It is very easy to provide value by simply becoming an “area expert”. Realtors tend to complicate this by talking about everything except real estate.
Why would someone not want to work with me? I’m like a walking computer, when it comes to my local market. I know what neighborhood to look in if they don’t want an HOA, want RV parking, and are only interested in single stories with large lots. I know what they should expect to pay to live there, what that breaks down to monthly, and what the tax rate and schools are in the area. I don’t need to look anything up to have a genuine conversation with the person in front of me and provide value.
A lot of parents of autistic children or teachers will confide in me, or say in front of the child, “they are just lazy”. The child excels at one subject in school but seems to completely be uninterested in another. We know the child is not stupid, and so, therefore, they must be lazy. This is broken thought.
There are some topics that will click with me immediately or interest me, so I feel compelled to learn more. Then, there are subjects of no interest to me so I will not waste my time with them. Some, I hate to admit, fly right over my head. When this happens during a conversation, my brain switches to something more interesting or will go completely blank, no matter how hard I “try to focus”.
Just because I am great with all of these tax rates, does not mean I understand how to manage my own finances or will ever understand the stock market. Just because I understand how to read and write contracts, does not mean I am organized enough to see a transaction through to the end without the help of a transaction coordinator, or a team to back me up, without causing me significant stress.
Be great at being you. Hire to accommodate your weaknesses.
3. Keeping Special Interests.
Many parents I talk to have an unrealistic, though supportive, idea their child will find a way to monetize their special interest. Let the special interest be a special interest. They do need to get paid for it. This is often counterintuitive. It is necessary for the autistic soul to have alone time to listen to music, draw, or read to self-soothe. If we connect our special interest in paying our mortgage, it is harder to find relaxation or reprieve there. We don’t need to get paid for everything.
This being said, everyone needs to get paid. Living costs money and autistic people struggle with unemployment and underemployment which leads to feeling undervalued and underutilized. No one wants to feel like a drain, and most people want to contribute to society or at least the home they are living in.
There are three different categories I suggest keeping full, in order to stay stimulated, and allow yourself time to detox properly from the day and diversify your thought.
This category is reserved for something that is currently making you money. For all intents and purposes, this is your “job”. For me, this is real estate.
This is something you would like to make money from eventually. This might be a dream job or hobby with a yield. For me, this is writing.
This category is reserved for pure special interest. This is something you will probably never monetize and, in fact, will probably cost money to keep up. For me, this is playing music.
Some parents want to deny their autistic kid their special interests, in the event the child is not performing, as a way to punish them. The special interest is actually an outlet and can help the autistic person return to work, or schoolwork, revitalized, refreshed, and rejuvenated. I would suggest finding other means of punishment.
If you can incorporate some of your special interests around real estate do it! A lot of people on the spectrum love animals. Hold a fundraiser, conduct an awareness door-knocking campaign, or even run an adoption event for your local animal shelter.
It is often easier to talk about your special interest and let real estate be implied than it is to approach a person directly through real estate. It feels less self-serving and is often more intellectually stimulating. Plus, it can be much easier to bond over initially. This allows real estate to happen, while service continues.
4. Comfortable Work Clothes
There is a fun little revolution happening in real estate right now! You have the suit and tie guys and the t-shirt and jeans guys squaring off publicly. For the most part, the ladies of real estate have always dressed professionally. If I am not out holding open houses, showing homes, or conducting listing appointments, sweatpants are the uniform of the day. When stepping out, I suggest getting out of the sweatpants, hoodies, and house slippers, and into something a little less comfortable.
Nick Baldwin, one of LCA’s founders, posted about not working in a suit. He posted a picture someone took of him delivering a speech in front of over two-hundred people last week, while wearing a black hoodie. Not all of us have the street cred to go full Gary-V on the world. It’s a good thing for me I’m also a bit of a dandy.
Yes, I enjoy getting dressed up! I like to match my tie or bow tie to my socks, wedding ring, wayfarers, and whatever other accessories I might be wearing that day. It’s fun and it sets me apart from everyone trying to be everyone else.
Sam Khorramian suggested I read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power while attending the first Closing Table. It was an eye-opening book with an interesting list backed up by history lessons to support the content. A few stood out to me when it comes to attire.
Law 6: Court attention at all cost.
Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd then or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious, than the bland and timid masses.
Law 25: Re-create yourself.
Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced, and your character will seem larger than life.
5. Helping People.
I had a seller walk to my open house a few weeks ago and tell me about their home. They said they were interviewing agents and were about ready to lock it up. I suggested they have me over to the home and they did. They were going to list for $389,000. I told them to list at $420,000. We did The Grand Opening Week and got multiple offers at $430,000 and I referred them to an agent through Lab Coat Agents with the help of Jason Morris in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My sellers will net $41,000 more than they planned while leaving California and are having a smooth experience with their buyer’s agent on the next leg.
Sometimes, people like this will still hate you and leave unhappy. There is truth to the old saying “buyers are liars, and sellers are yellers”. The benefit of being autistic is; we don’t care about money. I have yet to meet one autistic person who is super obsessed with expensive shiny things, elaborate vacations, and lots of money. We aren’t impressed by these things and so we don’t make them our aim.
It is by not caring about the money and focusing on service I was able to make a significant amount of money. There is a tipping point where it becomes less about service and more about self-service. When you start treating people as numbers and transactions, you are well on your way to the tipping point.
We over-complicate this career. People want to buy and sell real estate. Are you the best person in the area to serve them? Then do it. Stop worrying about whether, or not, you will get paid. You will make money if you help enough people with their real estate needs, so help people with their real estate needs and don’t distinguish between who you can and cannot help. Someone wants to kick curbs, help them be a better curb kicker. Someone wants to be sent homes under $400,000, do it. Someone needs a rental, point them in the right direction, even if you don’t work with renters. Who does? How can you be of service? Who can you help today?
At no point in my career did I treat the person at $2,000,000 any differently than the person at $200,000. If you tell someone you cannot help them, or they cannot afford you, you are turning a piece of yourself away. Just be of service. Real estate gives us so many opportunities to serve.
In addition, when your cup runs over it is much easier to give. You can afford to give from a surplus. It is difficult to give generously from a deficit. Money is not bad. It just makes us more of who we already were when we get our hands on it. Becoming financially secure and serving my community goes hand in hand. I can coach, teach, or volunteer in the community or in my children’s school, and never say a word about business, but get business as a byproduct.
Just be a good person, you don’t have to monetize it. If you serve your community, your community will serve you when it comes time to buy and sell real estate.
It is a good thing service is at the heart of so many in the autistic community.
6. You can be weird.
First off, have you ever met a Realtor who wasn’t weird? We are a weird group. Normal people do not stumble into this profession. Good. Normal people are boring. The real estate community, like the live theater community, is full of eclectic weirdos. Weirdos tend to be more accepting.
This is not to say there are not prickly people in real estate. That’s okay, we need prickly people to find out who us gooey people are. We need the squares to find the hexagons, trapezoids, and obtuse triangles.
The square, prickly types all look the same, dress the same, talk about the same things, drive the same cars, and have the same goals. They live an unexamined life. Few of them have made it far into this article “because it’s long” and they only read audiobooks. That’s okay. If you don’t tell them they’re squares, I won’t tell you you’re an obtuse triangle. Or, we can do both because we are autistic, and more often than not we don’t have filters between our brains and our mouths…
When you work in real estate you find out, eventually, even the normal people are weird. When you’re a weird dude or dudette, it helps to have someone around who understands you. It can be even better to have a group of people. Lennie had George, Raymond Babbitt had his brother Charlie, Sam from Atypical has his friends and family, Sheldon Cooper has those weirdos he hangs out with on The Big Bang Theory, and Temple Grandin had her mom and aunt. You can get away with being a lone wolf for so long, but it helps to have a wolf pack or a few of them you roll around with, or bounce along the outside of, on occasion.
Professor Tony Attwood says, “if you want to cure someone of their autism, instantly, place them in a room by themselves.” Like most autistic people, I am fine by myself. I am better when I am around friends and family who love and understand me. It is only when interacting with an over-stimulating, expectant, and judgmental society that something is wrong with me.
When the Holiday Season comes around, many friends, family, or people who would like to become friends with me, will ask me why I don’t attend the holiday parties. Truth be told I have rather come to enjoy my own company and the company of the people who already join mine. I much prefer being a weird outsider to being a strange insider.
7. Most of the real estate is scripting. (Which we do anyway.)
I thought it was weird people in real estate were obsessed with scripting. As a hyper-verbal autistic, I began writing and directing plays in elementary school, and continued this into adulthood. Theater gave me a place to study humanity, and humanity an opportunity to study me. My ticks were questioned as “character choices” and I realized I had them. Other times people called me out for having them. Both times I gained awareness of myself and some perspective from other people.
Through theater, not therapy, I started learning what emotions really were, where they came from, and what they looked like on a person’s face. I loved character acting and started studying body language from a very young age. All of these things naturally transition from the theater into life and real estate. “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.” -William Shakespeare.
I script constantly. This is part of being autistic. I have certain things I like to talk about, and the ways I like to talk about them. I will often repeat the same story, or walk people into a similar conversation, in similar settings, because I have found they work to get the desired response I need. If I see a man crossing his arms and looking up at the ceiling while walking around the house, I know he is closed off. I need him to open up. I call him out for not liking the house and we all laugh about it. “How can you tell?” the family will ask. “All men do the same thing when they don’t like home. They cross their arms and suddenly become very interested in the ceiling. You can just tell me when you don’t like a house. That’s okay. I want everyone to be happy, even your dad.”
If I see a guitar in a house at a listing appointment, certain questions, if I see a certain bumper sticker, if someone asks me about football or baseball, I have canned responses for everything. I’m not a big fan of small talk, and sometimes I will let people know as much. I like talking about houses. Talking about what a buyer thought about each home is mission-critical. It’s all valuable feedback. Listening to how they will use the home, what they don’t like about their current home, and what certain members of the family like, and don’t like, are all valuable information and I am like a sponge. I want all of it.
Besides, the more they talk, the less I have to, and the closer they get to where they are going. When the time comes, I have my closing scripts ready.
8. Technology or Service?
Just like neurotypical people some autistic people love tech and others are frustrated by it. Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy technology. It frustrates me and I often need help from my wife, Kate, figuring out the most basic updates on my phone or laptop.
When I was in high school, I wore a Tom Petty shirt which proudly stated, “sell your computer, buy a guitar.” Needless to say, I prefer people to technology. I have been watching them my whole life. It is much easier for me to figure out what someone needs in person and how it can be attained than it is for me to build out the tech to bring them in and nurture them. In my opinion, it is also much more rewarding.
I didn’t have as much access to the internet and gaming as a lot of kids my age, nor was I particularly interested in it. I was more interested in learning how people worked. Video games, as much of an alluring escape as they are, did not seem like a practical use of time for me. I read a lot of books and I listened to a lot of music.
Many Aspies dive headfirst into a real estate business completely supported and driven by technology. Systematizing every interaction from generation of the lead to scheduling the appointment, so they can get the deal into escrow and get it closed. After the close of escrow, they systematize the follow-up.
You get to pick your poison. You can be very service-oriented and hands-on or systemize your every interaction. You can even do a little of both. There is no wrong way to real estate, despite what they might be telling you at certain real estate conferences.
9. Opportunities to Draw Patterns and Algorithms.
One of the most elaborate reasons why real estate is a great career for some people on the spectrum is the opportunity to see and understand patterns and develop your own algorithms. Real estate can be understood and quantified. It is not as mysterious as people make it out to be and there are ways to make money in every market. No matter what kind of market we are in, people are buying and selling real estate. How can you be a person representing a percentage of the transactions taking place in your area, no matter what the market is doing? This is up to you to determine.
Whether its patterns in buyer and seller behavior, the way an offer is written, and what it says about the agents who write them, or patterns in behavior in offices, schools, and family units which tend to repeat themselves. Life is one big algorithm. Sometimes it isn’t meant to be solved. Sometimes it is meant to be understood and manipulated, and other times enjoyed, marveled upon, or endured. Seeing the patterns and knowing when to engage is like keeping the serenity prayer on loop.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
The second an algorithm has been proved, or the science has been settled, and we’ve gone around burning everyone at the stake who disagrees with the general consensus, is often when we realize the general consensus was wrong. Earth is not the center of the universe, it is not flat, and “more” is not the answer. I’ll be mocked for saying the latter by the prickly types. That’s okay. I’ve always been more of an obtuse triangle, myself, and as far as I know, they can’t burn me at the stake at for it anymore.
Understanding the DISC assessment helped significantly in understanding team building. Understanding Myers Briggs revolutionized my life. It’s like a horoscope but actually based on your personality. I jest. I like horoscopes too. Yes, I’m a Pisces. Go ahead, say you “knew it”.
Taking a moment to take the Myers Briggs test and learning I was an ENTP was eye-opening for me. Afterward, I watched a YouTube video by IDR Labs on my personality type. I thought I was so unique! Turns out, there were several people out there like me. I read their biographies and studied their lives. I learned where they succeeded and where they failed. There was a common denominator in many of these people and their stories, and it looked a whole lot like autism to me. I dove deeper.
The more I looked at my life I saw the constant influx of ENFPs surrounding me, INTJs sharpening me, ISFJs supporting me, and other ENTPs just being absolutely awesome, with just the most awesome ideas, and senses of humor, and the best memes. My point is; people and computers are not so different. There is an algorithm for people as well. They just have the “x” factor of being a human being which I tend to enjoy. As an ENTP, I like a bit of life being unpredictable. With computers, this is not going to happen for another 7 years, or so, and by then it will be too late. (A little nerd humor about the singularity taking over mankind as we know it. ROFLMAO.)
10. Keeping Routines
Most days I am up several hours before anyone else in my household starts to stir. I smoke and have my coffee while diving into my reading, or doing some writing, as the sun starts to rise in French Valley. I top off my coffee, dive back into the reading and writing, and then head up to go to the bathroom and take a shower. Once I am changed, shaved, and deodorant-ed, I get on my bicycle and ride with my kid to school whether he slept at my house, or slept at his mom’s house the night prior.
I ride my bike home and the rest of the day is jazz. A routine, for an autistic person, is more than just a schedule to keep up. It can be things you do in order to keep regularity in your day or soothe yourself in some capacity or another if something was thrown off. It can be drinking the same drink, around the same time every day. It can be sitting down to read with headphones on or even watching a show or movie you have watched several times before. Routines are comforting to process in a world not always easy to process.
If I have a disruption in my schedule, it can be hard for me to adapt, this is why real estate is such a nice career for me. Cancellations used to really bother me, now I bring a book and plan on enjoying my own company regardless if the person decides to show up or not. I just don’t tend to reschedule.
If you don’t respect your time, no one else will. Don’t compromise on things you know will break your routines, stretch you too thin, or push you too far out of your comfort zone. I like to sit in my backyard, or on my patio, wearing sweatpants, a hoodie, a beanie, wool socks, and a bathrobe, with a blanket wrapped around my waist. I set my coffee, and my water, along with all my chargers, and open my laptop and work for hours with Alexa playing music for me. I think I would get even more weird looks than I normally do if I showed up in this attire to the office, but this is how I am comfortable.
I know I would rather spend my Wednesday morning with Mozart and my laptop, so why would I schedule something which will disrupt my routine and send me spiraling for the rest of the day? I know, by the end of the day it is a possibility I might be drained and tired of people outside of my family, so I don’t schedule appointments at the end of my day any longer. If someone can’t meet me during the day, they can work with someone else and I will make a referral and set them up with a great agent! I don’t want to pace around my house for four hours stressing out while putting my kids to bed and speeding through reading them stories, checking the clock, and waiting to leave for a listing appointment at 8:30 pm. This is not conducive to joy for me.
The good thing about real estate; most people will make excuses not to meet with you. Give them everything they need, virtually, without needing to meet with you, while no one else will. Every other agent will hold the information hostage, waiting for the listing appointment. I send a digital listing presentation, and a CMA, and tell them to let me know when they are ready.
People are looking for value. If you can provide what someone needs without leaving your house, why not do it? Why not become more efficient? I remember Mike Bjorkman saying in a mastermind “People don’t want you in their house.” Good, I don’t really want to be in anyone’s house who doesn’t want me there. I’m rather fond of my own. By the time I show up, I want to be ready to rock and roll, and I want them sold on me, and my team. I don’t want to compete at listing appointments. I’m not interviewing against seven other agents anymore. People who want to work with me, work with me. Those who don’t, or have no idea who I am, or have a mom who is a real estate agent, won’t. That’s just fine. I’m going to eat. My family is going to eat. We are going to be okay.
11. Validate Other Autistic People.
One of the many reasons I enjoy working in real estate is I am able to be an effective advocate for those on the autism spectrum. I remember the first time I ever told a crowd “I’m autistic”, it was briefly at LCA LIVE 2018 in Coronado. A few of my friends, led by David Golden and Julie O’Dell, took to the hallways to help fill the audience at my side stage with a respectable amount of people. I stood there flanked by my stack of books, ready to break it down for the world. Everything I had been learning. This was also the first time I mentioned Zen Business.
At the end of my speech, I was approached by a short line of people, and amongst them was a woman who asked me “did I hear you say you are autistic?” “Yes, you did”. I told her, shocked anyone had heard it, and by the validation, this had, indeed, come out of my mouth. She told me her grandson is autistic, and she thanked me. It meant a great deal to me then, and it does now.
Several months later, I would garnish enough courage to come out to the world on Facebook and proudly say “I’m autistic”. A friend of mine, Jesse Zagorsky, wrote me a private message to tell me the video helped him understand his own dad. He told me I could quote him in my book, and I will leave the quote there.
I have had the opportunity to meet the autistic children of some of my clients and make them feel as awesome and as unique as they are, even if they don’t know they are autistic yet. This is not my place. I volunteer at my kid’s schools, and I get a chance to see kids who need to be seen because I have the ability to see them. I get to have other real estate agents and veterans confide in me they “might be autistic” or tell me stories about their children. I hear them out, give some advice, and point them in the right direction if necessary. The rest is up to them.
I’m not the Autistic Avenger out there writing messages to old members of my team, people I served in the military with, and family members saying, “Hey! Did you know, you’re totally autistic?” If I live my life loudly enough, I will reach a few souls, somewhere, and make life a little easier for them in some way, shape, or form.
I’m very fortunate I have been able to help a few people truly see themselves during my time here on Planet Earth. I hope to help a few more before I take my exit from this world.
In Conclusion and Caveats*.
While real estate may be a difficult career for autistic people who are nonverbal or have some basic or extreme circumstances which will prevent them from working independently in this capacity, I do believe it is a viable option for those who have the abilities for it. You cannot force an autistic person to love the piano, however, if you expose an autistic person to the piano, you may not be able to separate them from it.
As parents of autistic children, or autistic adults making the transition into independence, I strongly suggest giving your son or daughter the opportunity to step into the family business and enough space to gently fail or succeed beyond your expectations. There is a tendency amongst the children of real estate agents not to want to follow mom or dad into the family business, not realizing mom or dad may be wired pretty similarly and might have a thing or two figured out.
Hand your kid a copy of The Alchemist, and an opportunity to come work with you and let the rest work itself out. If they pass, they might circle back. If they launch on their own to a field of their choosing, good for them. It is not our job to control our children into success, but rather offer them space to step into and accept who they already are, so they don’t have to forget themselves out there in the world.
For those of you reading this article for yourself. I think, intuitively, you know whether this is the right next step in your journey, or not. It doesn’t have to be the last step, but it might be the next one. Being a real estate agent doesn’t need to define you, just like being autistic doesn’t. You will always be you. What career gives you the biggest opportunity to be the most you, you can be, while still helping you to live the life you want to live? Real estate just might be it. It has been for me.
Questions, comments, concerns? What feedback do you have? Are you autistic and working in real estate? Did I miss anything?
The great real estate experiment continues, my Lab Coated friends!
Zen Business; an Eastern approach to the Western business climate.
All The World’s A Stage; Unmasking Asperger’s Syndrome*. Or Autism Spectrum Disorder, or High Functioning Autism, or whatever it is they’re calling it. I tend to be a little long-winded.
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