When I hit 29, I came to a career fork in the road. At the time, I earned my living as a professional golfer, and I competed on the PGA Tour, as well as on other tours in Europe and Asia. Since I was 3 years old, all I had trained for was a career in golf and living the dream of a successful professional athlete.
But closing in on 30, I had a decision to make—do I keep on as a professional golfer or take what I’d learned and change careers? After talking with several friends and family members, I ended up choosing commercial real estate. One of the reasons is because it had aspects of golf that I liked; it offered unlimited potential, if you put in the time and the work to keep getting better.
But real estate also offered something golf didn’t. To be truly successful in golf, you need to be among the top players in the world. In real estate, which is still exceptionally competitive, you can be a true success by being in the top players in a single market like Dallas-Fort Worth.
Once I earned my license, I started working at Weitzman as a brokerage trainee. I learned everything I could and benefitted from the mentorship of the company’s leaders. Five years later, I’m now the statewide top producer for Weitzman and have been promoted to senior vice president. I believe the lessons I learned as a professional golfer gave me an edge as I took on the challenge of a new career in a completely different field.
Here are six key lessons I learned:
Lesson No. 1: Work with a team. In real estate, I’m an independent contractor, and in golf, I played for myself. But in golf and real estate, the reality is that success comes with the support and collaboration of a team. In golf, I had a coach and a trainer and others who helped my day-to-day playing. In real estate, my success comes from working with administrative support, marketing and research, and broker colleagues. We all work on our own deals, but it’s in a team environment where we learn together and support one another.
Lesson No. 2: In real estate, as in golf, you have to have passion and drive. It’s more than a job, it’s a way of life, and you work at it 24-7. In golf, I played every day to get better, and that work ethic has helped me in real estate. You’ve got to love putting in the time and doing the work.
Lesson No. 3: You have to build great relationships. Golf taught me how to build relationships, so when I went into real estate, I had a fast start thanks to a circle of influence that included business owners and leaders.
Lesson No. 4: It’s important to build your reputation the right way. I remember when I had a chance to win the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the age of 16; but in the semifinal match, I had to call a penalty on myself that no one else saw. It ended up costing me the match. But with hard work and motivation, I ended up winning the U.S. Junior the following year. If your moral code is high, no matter if someone treats you unfairly on a given transaction, in the end you will benefit the most.
Lesson No. 5: Learn from your losses. Golf taught me the discipline to learn as much from the losses as the wins. Real estate is the same way. Even during those years that aren’t successful, you keep learning by focusing on the little things, which can lead to bigger things. Few golfers start with their PGA Tour Card; you start with the mini tours and eventually earn your playing status one level at a time, similarly to the baseball minor league farm system. And after a lot of seasons and hard work, you earn the right by getting your PGA Tour Card through qualifying school.
More than anything, golf taught me how to deal with the ups and downs of my business. A successful year in golf can be based on three or four good weeks, and real estate is the same way. You work hard all year and hope for those three or four great deals.
Lesson No. 6: You have to budget—both your time and money. If you don’t make the cut in golf, you get a quick plane ticket home with no compensation. In real estate, you can put in the work and have the client ready to move, but then they back out at the last minute for some reason. So, I follow the advice Herb Weitzman gave me: “Get in your car and drive real estate so you can find the next five things to work on.” You take the blow and keep moving forward.
Matthew Rosenfeld is a senior vice president working in investment properties for Weitzman.