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Episode 47: Asking for Help as Self-Care and Connection with Kenny

Episode 47: Asking for Help as Self-Care and Connection with Kenny
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Hello and welcome to The Thoughtful Realtor podcast. This is a podcast where we sit down for insights and stories and conversations all about real estate; running a real estate team here in California; and how we find our ways as leaders and business partners.

I'm Kenny Gong, one of the founders and partners of Willowmar Real Estate and today's episode is a one on one just between you and me all about asking for help—which, if you're like me, has been a really big struggle, and can be a really big struggle.

I personally find it a whole lot easier to help other people instead of allowing people to help me. I don't know if you can relate, but for so many years I spent all of my time trying to do everything myself. And that was in my personal life, in my professional life. For the first few years in my real estate career, I for sure wanted to do every single thing by myself.

For folks that aren't in our industry, every transaction has a pretty big file of documents that has all of the disclosures that both the buyers and the sellers have to sign, and this entire big file has to be completed and audited before closing. These files can be upwards of . . . I don't know, 300, 400, 500 pages long. And so it's a lot, it's a ton! And today we have very, very skilled and professional transaction coordinators who manage all of this for our team, but for, I don't know, probably my first dozen transactions, I insisted that I had to be the one to do the file and complete the file myself.

And it's interesting because still to this day, it's very hard for me to separate this. It's tricky because I really still deeply value that kind of work ethic, that sense of hustling to learn every facet and every skill that is required to get a project done.

Even all of our new agents, we have them do their first few transaction files so that they can really understand every single document before they can even consider bringing in a transaction coordinator. But because I decided that it was so important for me at the beginning of my career to do every single one of these files and every single piece of my job as a real estate agent, I don't think I took a day off from work for the first two or three years of my career.

Seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day, right, for the first couple of years. And I think that really led to burnout, and I've been thinking about why it was so hard for me to ask for help. And I think it's because as a kid of immigrants, it was always really, really deeply ingrained in how I define success, like this sense of doing things yourself and being self-sufficient and self-reliant.

There's something about success that feels like it isn't success unless you're completing it on your own and that makes such little sense to me now because I've had so many experiences understanding and realizing that success comes from people coming together to do things together, in teamwork.

And even though I knew that and have known that my entire life, there was still something that—I don't know, that drove me to this feeling that it wasn't a success unless I did it completely myself and as perfectly as I possibly could.

It just really felt like if I wasn't doing something myself that it wasn't going to get done properly, and it felt like if I wasn't checking off every single document, right, or if I wasn't putting the lockbox onto every single listing and meeting every single person possible that would touch a property or a listing that it wasn't going to get done properly.

I think that was a little bit of perfectionism. I think it was also: I didn't trust other people. That's part of it. And also, I think now I'm realizing that a big part of it is actually insecurity, and being insecure in what my true value was.

Because I think in doing everything, it felt like that was proving that I was valuable, that I was worth it, that I was responsible, and it felt like that was my value, that I was doing everything, and it wasn't about even necessarily the quality of the things that I was doing, but just the quantity of doing things, the amount of things that I was doing and doing it well felt like the measure of success. 

And I think it wasn't until I realized that by doing everything myself, I was actually pulling myself away from getting really good at my highest-value work. And I think that—I'm trying to remember exactly when that realization triggered—and I think it might have been when I was completely burnt out, and I couldn't even work anymore. I was just completely, completely burnt out, and I had no motivation to do anything. So, I was forced to take breaks and forced to rest. And it wasn't until I rested and then came back that I realized how much more attuned I was into what was most valuable. And I was so much more alert and so much more focused and I was like, “Whoa!”

Rest and spaciousness actually had a huge impact, not only on my wellness because I was no longer burnt out, but also on my effectiveness as an agent, which was really an interesting understanding and realization. It took me a long time to get there, but in doing so, I realized that also, there are other people that can help and it is not a bad thing to allow people to help me.

And there's also some people that can do things better than I can and that I can do things better than other people. And those are the things that I should actually be doing. And those are the things that I should actually be getting even better at. That was the realization.

I knew even from the very first moment in my career as a real estate agent that this is an industry that can be so all-consuming and even more so because I'm practicing real estate in the Bay Area, which is just an incredibly global region known for innovation and the work ethic and hustle that perceptively leads to innovation.

We're having so much more conversations about rest and critiquing hustle culture and that sort of thing, but ten years ago, that was not the case. It was very much deemed: the harder you work, the further you get. So I think that's also part of the reason why I didn't necessarily think getting help was viable. And I think that was really the lost opportunity. I didn't know how much I was losing out on by working myself to the bone and doing everything by myself.

And so this brings me to an interesting point where, thankfully, I have been able to ask for a lot of help. And, I began asking for a lot of help many years ago. I've worked a lot with myself to figure out how to ask for help and also when not to ask for help. And I think it's important to hone in on the discernment, of understanding when it's appropriate to ask for help and then also when it's not because there are areas that are in my genius zone that are my biggest strengths, where I really need to hone in on. And those are the areas where I would never ask for help because that is my greatest value and contribution.

Figuring out what those areas are and what those skill sets are takes so much intentionality and deliberation, but in doing so, I was able to then decide and discern how I was spending my time and what things I was asking help for. And that discernment, I think, is so crucial and even more so nowadays because there's so much more that we have to do, so it seems. And there's also so much more help that we can get. I actually find that figuring out what we can keep on our plates and what we can take off is actually harder now. Because, you know, you can outsource anything and everything, but in doing so, I think we lose a little bit of that sense of, “What is our highest value and what are we here to do on this earth with our lives?”

So that discernment I think is very challenging. These days, I am okay asking for all kinds of help in my own home. If I don't have working knowledge of how to repair something, I will bring in a professional. There are, of course, times when I'll go to YouTube, but for the most part, I am bringing in a professional who can do things just better than I can and faster.

I think the biggest case in point actually was one of the first tasks that I outsourced so many years ago, which was cleaning my house. It is the most amazing thing to bring professional cleaners into my home and have them help me keep my house clean. Never, ever, ever has my house been cleaner as it is after professionals come. There's just no way. I do not have the skillset or the energy or the talent to clean in the ways that professionals do. And what takes me three hours, my professional cleaners will do in one hour and will do it so much better.

So it was interesting because it was one of the first things that I outsourced out, and I even outsourced it out when I didn't even have a lot of money to do so. I was making significantly less money when I decided to try out housecleaning and I knew though, I had a feeling that it was going to be so incredibly powerful.

What I did was I actually saved up and included in my savings budget and in my spending budget enough funds to bring in a professional cleaner when I wasn't making a lot of money. And within the first one or two cleanings, I was like: this is the most amazing mental gift that I was giving myself—to have an immaculately clean home and to have back the time that I didn't have to spend cleaning it myself.

And that was such an incredible aha to think about. You know, what are the ways that I can strategically ask for help in order to allow me to remain in my genius zone and remain doing the things that I'm best at and that give me the most joy and the most fulfillment and the most nourishment.

I love washing a few dishes; it is very meditative. I enjoy it, but that's the extent of my joy or the joy that comes from cleaning. Yeah, that's about it. That's all I wanted to share about asking for help, but I will say a few other lessons: in thinking about help and the power of asking for help is the realization that—I've talked mostly about my professional life in real estate, but I think asking for help also really extends to my personal life. And I think this is where things could potentially get a little existential, but asking for help in my personal life has also been pretty transformational. Asking for help has been about also asking for emotional help and support, and if folks know me, I have been a pretty self-sustaining, self-sufficient, self-reliant person, and this has also been emotionally.

In the many years of therapy that I've had, so much of my inner work has been on allowing people to show up for me and allowing people to see my vulnerability, and thus allowing people who love and care about me to love and care for me. And I think that to me is ultimately also what all of this comes down to: is that we are on this earth and we're living lives to—yes, get things done, to make the most of our lives—but I also think that also means making the most of our lives with other people and doing things, creating things, solving problems with other people.

That's been, for me, one of the most powerful realizations: is that asking for help is also about building relationships and showing close friends and family my vulnerability gives them the opportunity to love and care for me. And see that asking for help in the same way that when I offer help is an invitation for connection and that invitation is so huge for us, isn't it? Right?

I think there's something really special, and it's so strange because sometimes we do things, right, we do things that we can't understand for ourselves. And truly, I have been someone who has tried so immensely to be there for other people in their lives, to help other people, because that is my way of extending care and love to them.

And it took me decades to realize that that was something that other people could do for me and other people wanted to do for me. Ask for help in the same way that you offer help. If you are like me, I don't know if you are, I don't think it'll ever be truly, truly easy—at least, for me, to ask for help.

But, I do believe that if we are community-minded, if we are connection-oriented, we have to consider giving others the chance to help us and connect with us in that way. And for all the other things, for the professional help that you may hire, I see that as just as powerful because when we're doing things like putting a beautiful home on the market, or we are, I don't know, trying to tackle some of the world's biggest problems, no one can do it alone. That's it. No one can do it alone. None of us can. It's always, always in community and with others.

If you have struggled asking for help, please let me know. I would be so interested to know what kind of help might be the most difficult for you to ask. If you offer help, what do you love offering help for? Let me know your experiences. You can find us at Willowmar.com or on Instagram at Willowmar underscore underscore, and you can reach out to us directly. And if you haven't already, please hit that subscribe button and leave us a review. We read each one of your reviews and always appreciate when you share the love. I thank you so, so, so much for listening to this little one-on-one episode. I hope to see you next time. Alrighty. Bye.

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