The Slippery Slope of Work / Life Balance
Several weeks back, I was packing up to leave the office for the day and a notification popped up on my phone with a meeting invite from none other than one Mrs. Linda Mitchell. Now, this is not an unusual circumstance. We send each other calendar meeting requests all the time for various appointments we go on, but this one peaked my interest. The location was for Cayucos for the weekend. When I got home, I asked Mrs. Mitchell what was up with the meeting invite. “I wanted to surprise you, we need the time away together,” was her simple response.
This year has been a bit different for us and one that we’re still adjusting to. Over the past few years, we’ve noticed a definite problem creeping up with our work/home life balance. Balance would probably be a bad word to use because, in reality, there hasn’t really been much of a balance. It’s been work and, that’s about it. And, therein lies the problem. We decided this was something we needed to address and make more of an effort on. And hence, trips like this one to Cayucos are starting to become a more regular occurrence. You see, marriages are sort of like two cruise ships leaving port at the same time. At first, they’re close together but even a 1° difference over time will create a space so large that you can’t even see each other any longer. Each person doing their own thing until they’ve grown so far apart they literally have nothing left in common any longer. Most people are well intentioned and this is something that just sort of happens without them even realizing it until it’s just too late to course correct. This is not rocket science though folks, it’s just making a determined effort to first, care enough and second, to have a game plan to do something about it in advance.
We packed our bags and took off early that Sunday morning with the anticipation of a mini adventure hanging heavy in the air. That anticipation can be intoxicating too. I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s fun to be spontaneous and to not have a scheduled agenda; we would go with the flow. Which is exactly what we did. We stopped at Bravo Farms in Kettleman City for lunch and enjoyed a Tri-Tip sandwich with a side of people watching. What an enjoyable little side hobby that is too. Never a dull moment. From screaming kids to the overly affectionate couple, to the guy showing a bit too much plumbers crack, Linda and I are always able to amuse ourselves as we sit incognito and take the show in. Sometimes we reminisce about the old days when we had our own screaming kids in tow or perhaps when we may have been the overly affectionate couple. Those days though, are like a mist in the wind, filling the inner chambers of our memories as we are now in a different season of life. It’s a great season too. We are best friends and immensely enjoy spending time together.
We pulled into Cayucos early that afternoon and checked into the Shoreline Inn; our accommodations for the night. It was sunny, clear, beautiful and a brisk 63° degrees with a cool ocean breeze. We donned our jackets, grabbed our books and beach chairs and headed to the beach to do one of my favorite activities. That activity is reading and relaxing. After we found just the right spot, I sat there briefly and closed my eyes as the sun and the wind both caressed my face. What a different feeling that was from being in Fresno on a hot August afternoon. Often times, it’s those moments I wish I could go back and revisit on those difficult days when everything seems to be blowing up around me. For now, though, it was me, Linda and my fictional book by Joel Rosenberg called, Without Warning.
As the afternoon waned and our stomachs declared it was dinner time, we devised a plan to drive a quick jaunt up to Cambria and have dinner at the Sows Ear. It’s a quaint little restaurant in the heart of Cambria on Main street. Introduced to us by my parents, we’ve been there many times. Usually, it’s with our entire family and we reminisced about the many memories of our prior times eating there. We had a great dinner and evening that night. Glass of wine in hand and a lovely blackened salmon dinner, we laughed and were for a moment, unburdened of the stresses and anxieties of any one of our several projects. When faced with the most difficult decision of the day, we had to make a choice of what dessert we would split. We watched across the room as the waitress brought the gigantic piece of Mud Pie towards us, laden with whipped cream. I declared to her that it was unlikely even splitting it, that we would be able to conquer this giant piece of pie. However, Linda and I both laughed as we zeroed in on the last piece. Maybe it wasn’t so big after all.
The next morning we had one of the best pieces of buttery, flaky crusted quiche I’ve ever had at the Cass House Bakery on the North end of Ocean Avenue in Cayucos. As we discussed our plans for the day, Linda informed me that she wanted to go on a long walk on Sand Dollar Beach. She had brought a bag with her and wanted to collect sand dollars and sea shells. She told me that she intended to fill the bag up too. As we wrapped up breakfast and headed to a parking area at the South end of the beach, we almost stepped on a Gopher Snake as we walked onto the trail and we gave it some room as it slithered on its way. It was another beautiful day on the Central Coast. As we set out on our walk, I watched Linda as she diligently searched for sand dollars with a high degree of discernment. The vast majority of them were brittle and broken. That, however, was not what she was looking for. Every so often, a treasure would present itself. Pristine and whole, it stood out in stark contrast from its peers of broken and damaged sand dollars, all in a sea of uniformity. Linda would quickly grab it, and into the bag, it would go. The broken and damaged sand dollars would forever stay on the edge of the beach; not a second thought regarding them would be had.
As I watched this scenario repeat itself time and time again, I couldn’t help but draw a correlation to that of our world in Real Estate back home. In the sea of homes on the market, most are battered and bruised. Buyers sift through them without much regard on their quest looking for the ones that differentiate themselves from amongst their peers. The diamonds in the rough, or in this case, the perfect sand dollars. As we work with our buying clients, we conduct dozens of property searches on a daily basis. As we sift through the available listing inventory, it never ceases to amaze me the fundamental mistakes the overwhelming majority of real estate agents make. Listings quickly tossed onto the market. Dark, grainy and crooked pictures taken with their cell phone camera’s (sometimes even with the agent’s reflection in the bathroom mirror). Cluttered, messy homes with a complete lack of staging. Poorly written and misspelled property descriptions with no understanding of proper marketing copy or emotion inducing trigger words. Listing agent after listing agent in a world of mediocrity, throwing brittle and damaged homes onto the market so they can say their bag is full. They take a “let the market do the work” approach, nothing more, nothing less. I find myself wondering if it’s apathy or just inexperience on their part.
As our clients will attest, following our Value-Optimized Approach is not the easy path. In fact, as Robert Frost would say, It’s the Road Less Traveled. We focus on where we can optimize value and in turn, increase profit. It’s why we’ve averaged 102.9% of list price and 10 days on the market for our selling clients from January 1st of this year to June 30th. Simply put, we don’t take shortcuts. A home is the most expensive asset people typically own, they owe it to themselves to do their due diligence and methodically prepare their home for the market. This does not involve rushing in the least. Even though it takes more time up front, in many cases, the overall time is shortened because of a quick sale and smooth and predictable escrow. This is however where most listing agents fail. They just don’t have the experience or confidence to provide the proper coaching and ultimately, they provide no value to their clients; they are setting them up for failure right out of the gate.
As I was lost deep in my thoughts, everything slowly came back into focus around me. We had walked a very long distance. It was time to turn around and start the long walk back. As the day progressed, Linda and I made our way to Morro Bay before heading back home Monday evening. It was a really, nice getaway. We somehow managed to leave the office behind and truly enjoy ourselves for the day.
I’m starting to really enjoy our plan for creating the proper work/home life balance. It’s a journey that is bringing wonderful new memories and time spent with my best friend.