Category Archives: Passion

Love and Work

BHHSNJ NJ301_H_Seal_cab_cmyk

by James Stefanile, ABR, GRI, SRES, QSC, gCertified, REALTOR/Salesperson, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New Jersey Properties, Montclair Office

I’m an impulsive writer. You may have noticed.  I am moved to publish this blog when something kicks me in that part of my brain not controlled by rational thought.

My management has been cheerfully tolerant of me and my musings and my CEO is my longest running subscriber – 4 years.  Thanks, Mr. Kelleher!

The preceding is a kind of disclaimer for what is about to follow.  This month’s subject can be a bit touchy and strikes at the heart of how we REALTORS, nay, everyone in the American workforce, is motivated from above.

This month, my obsessive perusal of The New York Times led me to a written gem which stirred me to action. In the Sunday Business Section of February 15th Paul Jaskunas wrote the following essay, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile” for the “On Work” column:


Paul Jaskuna

Mr. Jaskunas talks about being a Libra.  Me too.  It’s equally difficult for me to be unequivocal and that brings us to the subject of passion.

The essay points out that a love of your job seems to be an employment requirement.  The author thinks this is a bit extreme.  I agree.  I like what I do and I’m pretty good at it and I’ve got the years, the experience, the designations and, literally, the hundreds of successful transactions to prove it.  I do know, however, that any employer I work for wants me to be fervidly enamored with my position.  That’s a tall order day after day.

I have my moments of unbridled enthusiasm but I’ll settle for experience, maturity and knowledge most days.  My clients will get the best of me on at any given time but if they want a cheerleader they should look for someone in a letter-sweater and pom poms.  Mr. Jaskunas says: “Our Protestant work ethic has blended with contemporary notions of self-actualization to create a situation in which we are all expected to whistle like Disney dwarfs.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I cannot bring myself to the brink of hysteria over nothing as seems to be the fashion. We have over-used the concept of “passion” to the point where it’s meaningless and empty.  I have been aghast attending real estate coaching seminars where the objective was to whip people into a frenzy of anticipated success and dollars.  I outgrew pep rallies when I was seventeen. This is another manifestation of what I call blind or demented capitalism.  That’s where the pursuit of monetary success outstrips all other concern.  In this case it also strips the cheering throng of whatever shred of maturity they have.

You think I’m being overly simplistic?  I attended a national convention when we were still under the Prudential brand in San Diego some years ago.  Prudential, much to its credit, hired a speaker, a therapist, who encouraged the assembled troops to have a well-rounded life, which included an emotionally satisfying life outside of real estate.  I was very taken by this speaker.  I then attended a seminar later that day in which a well-renowned real estate trainer – someone who I had followed (and spent thousands of dollars with), someone highly recommended by Prudential management – said that what the therapist had said that morning was useless.  The only path to success in real estate, according to him, was the obsessive and single-minded passionate committment to the business.

That was the beginning of the end for me with that trainer.  He was not a rogue or maverick but was at the top of the trainer hierarchy and I was very disturbed by his tirade (and was equally frustrated that I could not show it since I was with a very nice lady REALTOR who seemed very taken by this approach – and also seemed very taken with me).  How shallow and limited was the trainer’s message!  Are we children capable of no more sophisticated emotions than unrelenting enthusiasm for our work?  Are we so narrow that we have to be cheerful cyborgs in order to be regarded as worthy of our positions and our management’s approval?

The life I have outside of real estate is, I hope, as fulfilling (maybe even more so) than the business I happen to be in.  My profession is a portion of my persona, not the entire part and parcel.

I hope that any employer understands the reality of the profusion of personalities under their sway.  Some are ebullient, some are more circumspect. Some don’t equate motivation with hootin’ and hollerin’.  Some value gravitas as well as gregariousness.  Some also derive satisfaction away from the relentless drumbeat of the workaday world.  I expect that, even though we are rigorously reminded that we need to be “passionate”, a smart employer values a mature and well-rounded employee and values results first and foremost and rapture only secondarily.

Leave a comment

Filed under Passion


by James Stefanile, ABR, GRI, SRES, QSC, REALTOR/Salesperson, Prudential NJ Properties, Montclair, NJ

This month I’m not going to complain about anything or make fun of anyone.  No – I haven’t had a lobotomy and, as far as I know, no one is suing me.  I thought about finding some parallel between the NY Yankees’ collapse in the playoffs and real estate but I did that last year and it’s just as depressing now as it was then.

Rather, I’d like to share something I encountered quite by chance which showed me something that can best be appreciated by seeing it.

Please enjoy this 3 minute branding video produced by REALTOR Josh Altman which I think is one of the best uses of video for real estate I have seen.

Josh Altman works the Platinum Triangle of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Holmby Hills in Los Angeles, California.  He and his brother Matthew ( are a team within the Hilton & Hyland agency (  They sell luxury homes and specialize in high-profile clients including entertainers, athletes and celebrities.  Josh is, by all accounts, wildly successful and is targeting $100 million in sales for 2012 ( .

Josh Altman

He’s been featured in Bravo’s cable show “Million Dollar Listing LA” ( and is widely regarded as one of the more successful agents in a part of the world with plenty of high-profile real estate achievers.

Have you ever heard the saying “show me, don’t tell me”?  We REALTORS are inundated by speakers, gurus, trainers and managers who tell us to live our lives with passion and to be passionate about real estate.  Josh Altman has never said a word directly to me but has shown me a singular passion.  What I saw in that video, aside from its obvious entertainment value, was a natural talent, charisma and passion that showed through his performance.  He is very talented and used to be involved in the entertainment world (He does splits on the video!! Can you picture REALTORS you know doing splits?  I can and it would be awful and hilarious at the same time).  The passion that shows through is also reflected in his choice of production company, music and production values in general.  The video was produced by Realm Films,  ( an agency and production company that specializes in brand identity, among other client values.  Spending the money to hire an agency and top-tier talent is another indication of  passion.  You may remember from other posts in this blog that this type of branding or advertising of individual agents is paid for by the agent himself or herself and not the company.  So, unless Josh called in a whole lot of favors, that video may have had a budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In his market it’s the perfect personal branding instrument.  Clients in southern California are very media savvy and media connected and image is extremely important.  This video achieves high marks in all those areas.

It’s easy to be dismissive or derisive of this kind of talent and achievements – that’s obvious from the viewer comments that follow the video on YouTube.  There are, evidently, a lot of angry people out there who can’t appreciate this level of positive passion (and who can’t spell, either).  From all the interviews I’ve seen, Altman comes across as pleasant and upbeat.  A young man like him can be intimidating, however, with his extroversion, high-priced wardrobe, his self assuredness, his achievement at a young age and his celebrity.  You don’t achieve all that without passion, chutzpah, hard work and good breaks and it can make some people feel very inadequate by comparison.

Demonstrated passion can also inspire in a way that no lecture, affirmation or any motivational mantra can manage. Even before I heard Altman say he feels this is why he was put on earth, I saw the fervor and I thought this guy would make an excellent guest speaker at one of our company gathering (he rents himself out for corporate occasions – because I think this kind of spirit infects an audience when it’s genuinely felt and practiced.  I won’t complain about some of the keynoters I’ve been exposed to who speak about passion, because I promised I wouldn’t make fun of anyone,  but I have yet to be infected with the spirit from any of them.

Last month I wrote, in this blog, about the virtues of introversion.  This month I’m showcasing a textbook extrovert.  I made the point last month that a lot of REALTORS only mimic what they think extroversion looks like.   This guy, however, seems to be the real deal.  Moreover, in Altman’s part of the world an agent won’t get very far being a shrinking violet in a market full of strong personalities.  He’s the guy he needs to be to service his clientele.  I’ve got no beef with someone who is truly and effectively extroverted and who is successful because of the passion that fuels it.

Here’s another well produced video from Altman where he talks about his passion:

I consider a passion for real estate to be a minor passion.  It’s not splitting the atom or working for world peace or the end of cancer.  It doesn’t matter, however, where this passion ranks in importance.  What matters, in my view, is how it informs a personality, how it molds the actions and behavior of an individual.  Altman is obviously invested in his milieu of high rollers and movers and shakers.  He participates in charitable events and causes (which is highly recommended when cultivating a high-end clientele) and has made himself very visible and noticeable above the babble – impossible without passion and committment.

I enjoyed my brief foray into Altman’s world.  It was a refreshing change from the bland and unrealized.  I wish him well and hope his passion endures, unabated and undamaged, for years to come.


Filed under Passion