For all intents and purposes, it would appear that I failed in my attempt to do commercial real estate and changing the face of the industry. I was under the fallacy that I could only make a mark if I was with a large nationally recognized brand, selling or leasing millions of dollars of real estate investments. I now realize I can effect change within the industry via a different path…Affordable Housing, Community Development and Real Estate Law. I had two moments during my adulthood where mere acquaintances spoke into my life regarding my career path. I was a skeptic and actually rebuked those declarations because I figured these people don’t know me. And God would not have me walk in their revelation for me. In hindsight, I realize that it was the gentle push of the Holy Spirit.
The two ladies spoke very similar things to me at completely different times in my life. The first time was in early 2004 and most recently in 2014. One lady I knew from work and the other was a classmate from high school. They both said that they saw me in politics or working for the government to serve the community by fighting for the greater good. My initial response was, “Oh, really? ” while thinking to myself, “No, I wouldn’t want the scrutiny that comes with being in a political office and would prefer to work behind the scenes.” The second time, having much more life experience, my response was, “No, I would rather work in the private sector, build wealth and then advocate for issues I’m passionate, while staying far away as possible from the drama of politics.” Considering the political climate since the election of our country’s first African-American President, my experience working during the tumultuous times in Detroit politics and more recently the divisiveness of the recent election; I was not interested beyond fulfilling my civic duties. Despite my internal feelings, I have been constantly drawn to advocating for issues that effect housing, poverty, inter alia, via volunteering and grassroots efforts. Even though I graduated from law school, I had sworn off being a lawyer in the traditional sense. I was under the guise that I would use the knowledge as a competitive advantage in real estate investment sales. I spoke about my law school experience in a previous post.
Over the past 2 years of working the business and speaking to many people who are successful or trying to become successful by their own terms; beyond the typical advice of work hard and follow a system, there was a less spoken truth. The truth is that it typically takes 3-5 years of working the business on the sales side before you make money. Unless you have wealthy connections who are already in the business, there was a consensus that there are no short cuts. I had to get real with myself and my financial responsibilities as I turned down VERY low paying jobs within the industry to focus on sales. In the interim, I also invested energy into learning about the issues and the solutions that effect real estate on a larger scale (affordability, homelessness, foreclosure, and development) and as previously stated I was called to act on those issues via volunteerism. The prospect of making a lot of money was no longer enough of a motivating factor for me to continue to sacrifice for the next 3-5 years; because my spirit was uneasy about all the unjustness I saw as it relates to aforementioned issues. I prayed and sought guidance from above to order my next steps. I want to make a difference and be involved in the industry I love without the constant teetering between financial success and ruin. I realized it wasn’t about the money but the placement. Placement that encompasses my purpose.
So I began applying for jobs again (GASP)…similar to the original strategy I began with when I arrived in Atlanta in 2014. But this time, I was very selective about the positions. Even if the job didn’t exactly fit the bill, it had to either be closely related to the vision God showed me, be a stepping stone or add to my skill set within my purpose. I began studying for the bar again…missed by 3 points. I also had to be honest with myself, some of my most enjoyable and purposeful professional experience occurred when I worked for the residents of the City of Detroit. I was heavily involved in changing the community during a trying time in history and I built my real estate business, as there were no conflict of interests. I utilized my education while gaining an understanding of local government. Even though it was a time of uncertainty due to all the administration changes, it was still rewarding work from the small goals to the very large objectives. This reflection made me realize the immense reward I felt when I helped individuals accomplish their real estate goals as a first-time buyer or defending their foreclosure even though I had resolved to leave those “small deals” in my past. I also realized that the same sense of accomplishment was present in recent years as I lobbied for affordable housing and when I strategized with commercial real estate brokers, investors, government officials, non-profits and developers about how to meet the overall needs of their communities while still turning a profit and the policy that effects it all.
Unbeknownst to me, the time I spent volunteering worked in my favor as I interacted with well-known community development organizations. These connections led to one person providing a recommendation to someone at the City of Atlanta’s Office of Housing and Community Development. I am proud to say I was offered a position to serve the constituents of the City of Atlanta. Full circle. I thank God for putting the pieces in place and I’m no longer running away but looking forward to the journey ahead!