Professional athletes know that there is only one time in their careers when they really have a chance to be great. Like professional athletes, I believe we also have a defined window of opportunity to make the most of our careers, to have the most impact on our clients and our own financial futures. None of us has a crystal ball and so we do not know how long this opportunity will last, but there is surely a window.
These were the thoughts that were going through my mind as I watched the National Football League (NFL) shuffle and bid on free agents. These professional players have paid a huge price to get to a place in their careers where they can win huge contracts. This is their window of opportunity, the time when they try to get the best deal they can. They know this window is short and that they must get all they can while they can.
For us, it's the same. Too often, we let that moment pass and that's a mistake in our business. Perhaps it is because we think there will always be tomorrow or that no one will notice if we don't give it our best. I think it's because many of us are working a job instead of embracing a career.
Many athletes start out in a similar way. They're playing a game, but not building a career. And then, one day they realize that they have the ability to go pro if they are willing to pay the price. That's when the hard work really begins. It can take years from that day before they get to the pros, but every day of that journey they know exactly what they're working toward.
I was visiting with Marty Preston, one of our branch partners from Lexington, Ky. the other day and he put it just right. He said, “Until someone looks at themselves and sees not just a loan officer, but a mortgage professional building a career, they'll never really succeed.”
He was exactly right. Only when we realize that we are building a career for ourselves, will we be willing to make the sacrifices and do what must be done to take advantage of this window of opportunity. And make no mistake, it is only a window and it will pass if we do not take advantage of it.
Winning means having a mental edge over the competition. In fact, it's all mental. You can take that from another man who knows. It was Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and the NFL's 2004 Comeback Player of the Year, who wrote in his book about the day he realized that there were a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL and a lot of great players and they all wanted to win, but his team won because they wanted to win more. Brees beat the odds and came back to lead his team to victory in the Super Bowl, but most athletes only get one shot at being great.
Do we really go all in when it comes to our windows of opportunity? Have we decided that we're willing to pay the price at a very intense level do really blow it out during or are we just getting by in the knowledge that we can get serious later?
What does it take to get serious about your career and get your game on now? First, you have to know your goal, really know it right down to how it smells. Professional athletes have fully visualized that home run hit or that game-winning touchdown. They know what it will feel like to succeed. It's the same for us.
At Benchmark, we know exactly what victory is in our business and my goal is nothing less than total victory. It means happy repeat customers getting great service every single day. It means referral partners that seek us out even before we call on them because they've already heard how great we treat our customers.
In our business, it's not all about growth. Biggest doesn't necessarily mean the best to me. For me, it's about executing at a very high level for our branch managers every single day, being accessible with a servant's heart and being extremely competent. For others, it may be about growing a business. Whether you want to be the best loan officer, branch manager or biggest company, your desire to win is your most important asset.
You have to know exactly what you want to achieve before you can reach that goal. The real professionals in any business know what they don't already know and they seek out the very best people to fill those gaps. Like professional athletes who hire strength trainers, sports therapists and nutritionists to keep them healthy, and sports agents to represent them, we can't do it all. Like them, we must hire a great team so that we can be our best.
Stewart Hunter is core values officer and Jim McMahan is president of Dallas-based Benchmark Mortgage. You can find them both online at www.iambenchmark.info.