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Ask Alex: Why do I do this?

December 31, 2018 by Sherpa

For this last post of 2018, I wanted to share a question that I ask myself. Why do I write this column?

The thing is, I like you. I don’t mean personally, since I have not met many of you. But, I care about what you do.

I like that you chose to do this work. I like that you are willing to confront your fear of rejection, the anxiety of meeting goals, the complexity of family dynamics, the sheer emotional drain that comes after a day at the “office.”

I write this column because I care about what you do. The impact that you can have on people is profound. Not just in the “closing”, but in the process that leads to the closing.


Here is a story:

While on vacation overseas, I struck a conversation with Susan, a marketing professional from the states. Susan asked the customary (often loaded) question: “what do you do?”

I spoke of my work at Sherpa, and sales in general in our industry. Incredibly, this lady mentions that in fact, she had recently visited a community with her mom. I realized I knew the community, and the Sherpa hero in charge of sales. She did not know this, of course, but mentioned that after a long career in sales and marketing, she had never witnessed such an incredible sales interaction.

When I asked about what had made is so remarkable, Susan said:

The sales person asked my mom about her hopes and aspirations, was there something she really wanted to do?  To my amazement, my mom mentioned that she wanted to go to Vienna and hear Vienna Boys’ Choir sing at the Hofburg Chapel.

Now, I had no idea that mom wanted this, or why.  The sales person’s insightful question helped me discover something new about mom. I assumed I knew it all. I immediately began planning a trip to Vienna, mom and I are scheduled to go in March.

These are the kind of stories that happen in the trenches, every day.


So I leave you with just one thing that will make an impact on your motivation and results:

Talk to old people!

I realize that part of the reason we don’t ask prospective residents questions like: are you happy? what do you really want to do? why is this important to you?, is because we have trouble asking that of ourselves. It makes us vulnerable to an answer we may not expect or do not wish to examine. When it comes to engaging in a conversation with someone that has lived a lot longer than us, and is going through emotional upheaval, the risk of being vulnerable is even higher. You have to become comfortable with your own authenticity, with the fact that you may not have examined or considered the question for yourself, and it is okay. Because, you see, you don’t need to have an answer, or do anything about it. It is examining the question with another person that creates a meaningful conversation, and strengthens our understanding of the other.

Why do we avoid talking to mom? (see hilarious video!) I don’t know if it is ageism, I find it to be rampant everywhere, and our industry is not immune. At a deeper level, I think the fact that we don’t really “talk to mom” has to do with behaviors and attitudes that lead to a fear of old people – old age, anything “old”. Hence, we prefer to deal with our contemporary, the adult daughter mostly. I contend we don’t do it because we could not possibly have a whole solution to the real issues confronting us when we get old. All we can do is listen. Let them take you to that place in the conversation where the “untangling” happens, when the person tells their stories, shares their feelings, and examines these questions.

And oh, by the way, you will get more sales and have so much more fun doing it.

So now, during this holiday season and beyond, I wish that you may have some beautiful conversations with old people, at work, and at home.  Ask for their story. This is the biggest gift you can give, and you will get an even bigger gift in return: The ability to make authentic connection with another person.

Wishing you a brilliant 2019!

and of course…

Stay heroic,







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