Please watch the first 1:45 of William Ury TEDx Midwest video before continuing, it will make the context of this blog make much more sense… or don’t…
William starts his TEDtalk off with an interesting story from the Middle East. A man leaves his 17 camels to his three sons. To the first son he leaves half, to the second son he leaves a third, and to the third son he leaves a ninth. Well as the three sons do the math they find that none of their portions divide very well into 17 camels. Arguments ensue and they decide to consult a wise old woman who tells them she’s not sure if she can solve their problem, but instead she offers them her one camel, thus giving the three sons 18 camels. This gives the first son 9 camels, the second son gets 6 camels, and the third son gets 2 camels. Well… 9+6+2 = 17 camels, so the three sons return the 18th camel to the wise old lady!
In real estate, life, and in leadership positions I often find myself searching for that 18th camel. It’s interesting how we as humans tend to focus our time, energy and thoughts on the problem versus the solution. Getting to yes shouldn’t be as hard as we tend to make it on ourselves.
I used to work at The Little Nell hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain in Colorado. This amazing resort hotel is owned by the Aspen Skiing Company and is rated a 5 star/5 diamond property. Guests pay top dollar for just a standard (insert luxurious) room. With that, they expect amazing service (insert treatment). One of the challenges posed to us as employees was to never, ever tell a guest ‘NO’. This gave us the unique opportunity of always finding ways to say yes, or offering different options/solutions that kept us away from the dreaded ‘NO’. Unfortunately that experience was many moons ago and I have sadly fallen away from the practice of always finding the yes or solution and avoiding the ‘NO’.
Much of the difficulty in getting to yes is our mindset. Lewis Pugh (check out his TEDtalk), who swam at the North Pole and also at the base of Mt. Everest, shares three interesting thoughts on the subject of mindset. First, there is nothing more powerful than the made up mind. Second, just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. And finally, what type of mindset do I need to have to complete a task? Remember the 3 brothers and the camels – their mindset was focused on the fact that 17 camels can’t be dived by 2, 3, or 9… thankfully the wise old woman gave them an 18th camel, which she knew she’d get back!
I was just today faced with an opportunity to find the 18th camel, and boy did I miss it! Thankfully, this client is also a good friend. They are trying to sell a town home in a challenging market surrounded by short sales and foreclosures. Due to outside circumstances a short sale is not an option. We’ve discussed this many times and we always find ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Today I spoke with the friend/client and the question was raised again, what can we do? I quickly (insert foolishly) responded, “We are still where we’ve always been, there’s nothing we can do…” Then the friend/client brilliantly found the 18th camel, suggesting a price reduction method that I had never thought of or considered. I was too focused on the problem and not the solution.
William Ury’s TEDtalk and the experience with my client, reminded me of my days at The Little Nell and taught me an important lesson… I gotta run, there’s an 18th camel running around and I need to go catch it!