James Leslie: don’t let the pursuit of perfection hold you back

It's one thing to know you can create a great real estate agency, but another to make the leap and do it. Hudson 365 Director James Leslie explains how an initial obsession with perfectionism held him back instead of propelling him forward, and what the five little words were that changed his mindset.

When I was younger, my mother would joke that I wasn’t arrogant but just really, really confident.

I was naturally good at sales and negotiated so well that even the other kids at my primary school weren’t safe.

At recess, I was swapping my homemade biscuits for packets of chips, canteen money and chocolate bars at eight years old.

I’m not even sure they knew what was happening until I walked away with their Mars Bar.

I could talk my way out of most situations and into places I wanted to be. 

The thrill of the sale was always a part of my DNA as I got older.

I spent time in retail and some in middle management, but then along came an opportunity in real estate.

I loved the game and felt at home very early in the piece, knowing that you could be a part of such a big decision for the people you are working for.

Through the years, there was always a feeling that I had the ability to one day start my own agency and make a real impact, but there was an ongoing fear of the unknown that held me back.

In early 2015, there was a conversation with my wife about how I just needed to take the leap and trust that my drive to succeed would make it work.

I had all the skills, a strategy with purpose, and more preparation than a boy scout.

So why was it so hard to pull the trigger?

One word, perfection.  

I wanted it all to be absolutely perfect before I’d commit.

Every system, every document, every little piece of marketing.

Every. Single. Thing.

I spent months trying to find solutions to each possible scenario, even the most unlikely of situations.

Budgets and forecasts, spreadsheets and sales data, I had it all.

Then the market would change, and I’d instantly rip it up and start planning from scratch again.

All the while treading water and waiting for the ‘right time’ to make the call to strap up my boots and get into the big leagues.

I genuinely think it was just a way of finding new excuses to stop me in my tracks because I was nervous.

A self-sabotage of sorts.

For someone with more confidence than you could poke a stick at, I managed to still look at the next step as just too far beyond me. 

I’d resigned to the fact that owning an agency on my own was above my level.

It wasn’t until a late-night phone call in 2017 that my mentor said five simple words to me that shifted my entire mindset. 

“Run fast and break things.” 

Now on the surface, this seems like a bull in a china shop type of approach, riddled with risk and without a whole lot of care.

Flying by the seat of your pants, hoping for success to magically appear. But it couldn’t be further from the real meaning. 

I chewed on the words for days, finally uncovering that the theory behind them is to back yourself and learn to be ok with making mistakes.

Act with energy and a clear direction while taking your losses as a lesson.

There will be failures, and there will be challenges, it’s more about how you use them to improve.

It’s a beautiful grouping of words that took me from someone lacking the ability to step up to, almost three years later, having a successful business that looks just like the one I’d hoped and planned for, only a much better version. 

Because of this lack of fear, our agency is constantly evolving, always improving and never takes a backward step when it comes to trying something new.

From where I stand, as long as your decisions are made with positive intentions, then you will either reap the reward of the successes that follow or learn from the mistakes and come away with a better understanding of where you’re headed.

It’s a win-win. 

These days we have access to the way a lot of agents and agencies operate.

Social media gives us a behind the scenes look at all of the different ways to slice out your piece of the market.

I love to watch the work of trailblazers in our industry that back themselves and take a path that isn’t the norm.

People like Marty Fox, Simone Azzi and Dan Lee have created something unique and a brand that shows who they are as humans, not just sales agents.

And if there’s anything better for building trust than authenticity, especially in an industry like ours, then I’d love to know what it is. 

There’s a beautiful thing about being so self-aware that you know your differences intimately and the genuine advantage that goes with them.

Real estate is about patience and skill, mixed with a little luck and a whole lot of passion. 

It’s not rocket science, and the simplicity of owning your approach can be the key to not only making a great living but having a smile on your face each day when you get to go to work.

For anyone standing on the edge of their new adventure and wondering if it’s safe to jump… It is.

I’m not saying to leap blindly, cross your fingers and hope that it will all be ok, but instead plan with all the knowledge and experience you have, double down on your strengths and execute to the best of your ability.

Before you know it, you’ll have all the chocolate bars you need. 

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James Leslie

James Leslie is the director of Hudson 365, a boutique real estate agency in Devonport, Tasmania, that does things differently.