Passion alone is not enough to be successful in Real Estate Development

Back when Bill Gates used to be involved in hiring software programmers at Microsoft, he’d give applicants a programming task involving troubleshooting.  The purpose was not to test high technical proficiency or programming brilliance, but to test to see who would persevere through hours of tedious troubleshooting.  Bill hired only those that finished what they began. 

In looking for strong real estate development professionals, we like to see people that have chosen a tough extracurricular activity or pursued a challenging certification and stuck with it for many years.  If you scored in the top percentile of a GMAT test and won a bronze medal at an elite soccer tournament; those outcomes alone are not great predictors that you are brilliant and will be a strong team player for a firm.  However, if those outcomes were the result of you retaking the GMAT four times over two years and training three off-seasons at soccer camps, that tenacity is a far better predictor that you will be a very valuable addition to a development team.   

In the long run, perseverance, combined with passion will take you to new heights in real estate development.  Behind the pretty artist renderings of grandiose developments, there is the stark reality of constant adversity faced to bring them to life.  Real estate is a cyclical industry where supply cannot change quickly.  When market demand turns, there are no quick exits for property development.  Development also includes a lot of incredibly tedious tasks, from reading through hundreds of pages of lease documents to deciphering incomprehensible zoning regulations.  It tests the tenacity of many high performing professionals to see their years of careful proforma modelling and creating gantt schedule charts being decimated by an unforeseen materials shortage or flood. 

Despite the thousands of books and talk shows that may lead you to think passion is the only thing you need, a much better predictor of success in this field is perseverance combined with passion.  I highly recommend you read Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit, The power of passion and perseverance”, to learn about her landmark scientific research confirming the importance of perseverance in achieving long term success in a variety of fields.  Learning to grind and strive for change will easily surpass passion alone.