A pretty bad crash in Tokyo that left me with a broken collar bone, broken ribs and a concussion, was followed by a roller coaster ride back to full strength, only to fall ill with a bug that I then struggled to shake. All this was an indicator that it was time to make the decision so many of us athletes dread; to move on from elite sport.
Once the decision was made it all happened pretty quickly, perhaps it was all those hours practising transitions as a triathlete, but one day I was wearing lycra and winning the final stage of the Tour of Southland, the next, in a pair of leather dress shoes, a suit and a tie in the heart of Auckland’s industrial real estate market.
Despite visions of somehow morphing into my old man, I never had second thoughts over becoming a real estate agent. All I knew was that for the past 10 years or so I’d hardly had a weekend to myself, so, although I admire the many people who work in residential real estate, that side of the business was never going to be for me.
At times I wondered how the skills I’d learnt as an athlete would transfer across to my new working life. Unlike my mates who had left school, gone to university then entered various industries, I was coming in cold, 8 years behind them, which, for anyone that knows anything about sport, aren’t usually the sort of odds you’d put your hand up for.
I needn’t have worried. What I’ve quickly realised is that all the lessons I’ve learnt in sport have set me up about as well as I possibly could have hoped.
The loneliness of 30-odd hours of training on your own per week, the strategy, the responsibility and accountability, the mental fortitude to work for months on end in the simple hope of achieving a successful outcome, the commitment and determination are all skills I learnt as an athlete that I’m employing daily as an agent.
I work for an amazing company and despite working in a team, real estate is a pretty individual game. Just like being an athlete, the onus is on you; the work you put in equals the results you get out.
It’s cut throat too. The inter-company competition is next level.
Like any sales type business you need to be resilient, deal with outcomes or losses you didn’t expect and move on and try again tomorrow. That’s just the same as in sport. Equally, sometimes you achieve far greater than you or the people around you expected. I think back to coming third at the National Road Cycling Champs in Christchurch, which gave me the confidence to switch from triathlon, knowing that I was good enough to compete at that level, and the feelings are the same when you achieve this in business.
Signing a lease for a client is super satisfying; with the financial reward it sometimes feels like racing for prize money. But just as if you won a stage on a tour somewhere, when you close a deal, it’s a quick and relatively quiet celebration. Then it’s back out on the tools again the next day knowing the race isn’t over. If you rest on your laurels, or celebrate too hard, then you won’t perform again the next day, and it’ll be someone else that gets the stage win.
The industrial side of the business is something that really spins my wheels too. The drivers are different than in residential. As an industrial agent I feel like I’m solving problems for my clients or at least finding solutions. Every listing or requirement is different; the drivers are different. Whereas in residential the emotional aspects play a key role in someone’s final decision, in industrial it’s about its form, its function and how do we make something fit the requirements, so I’m constantly challenged to do something different in the hope of achieving the same outcome; signing a lease or selling a building.
My sporting career wasn’t without its costs. Yes, I have a few more stamps in my passport than many, but it came with a huge sacrifice, missing milestone occasions with friends and family, and now my body is a little worse for wear. But what it has given me though is a real work ethic. An understanding of what it truly means to blindly commit to something, hoping for the best. The knowledge that what you put in is what you get out, and I’m 100% grateful for how my time as an athlete has set me up for stage two of my career.