Self-Awareness: Trust The Voice Inside of You

I wanted to share this story with you not because it teaches you anything about real estate, but because it hopefully helps you think about how you connect with people, and how it will affect the way you talk to clients, colleagues, friends, and families. You have to trust the voice inside of you when it’s telling you to take an action that may scare you, but which you know is driven by thoughtful and thorough consideration. Sometimes it involves taking a chance on yourself. You’ll see how after strong evaluation, taking the plunge can be extremely rewarding. Here’s an experience I had many years ago now, but which has helped me in my journey toward earning my success.

Years ago while speaking to a close friend of mine, we were discussing the idea of going to the next level. He said to me, “Rob, you will go to the next level in your life and in your business when you learn to trust that voice inside of you.”

I thought long and hard about what he had said to me that day. Whenever a great idea comes to you, what usually happens? Initially, you are fired up about it! You’re excited! All of these thoughts begin to spin through your head of how great an idea you have and what could possibly come of it. Where do you think that idea comes from? Especially, if it’s a good one!

I believe that idea comes from a higher power! I believe that idea is a gift from God. But what do we do as human beings? No sooner do we have this great idea, we do whatever we can humanly think of to defeat that idea, to sabotage it, or to put it down. We might think we’re not good enough to follow through on it. Here is an example of something that occurred years ago.

This story begins about a year after I had that conversation. At the time, I had been in Toastmasters for a few years. For those who are unfamiliar, Toastmasters is a public speaking forum where one goes to better hone their public speaking skills. I was asked to be the guest speaker for a Toastmasters contest. It was an evaluation contest. I would give a seven minute speech and then 10 Toastmaster contestants would evaluate it. The catch was that I would be going into prison, as a guest I might add, to give this speech to inmates who were part of a Toastmasters group inside of the Jessup prison facility. When asked, I immediately agreed to do it but when I walked away I thought to myself, “What did I just get myself involved in?”

I had a few weeks to prepare but all I could think about was what would I speak about to the inmates in prison? I did not want to give them any old speech. I wanted to impact these guys! Yes, they obviously did something wrong to be there and some would argue, why should I care, but I wanted to be an inspiration to them. I wanted to give them a message of hope. So, I thought and I thought and I thought about it. While doodling one night the thought came to me. The title of my speech would be “Jailbreak”! Wow! What a great idea! I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was at the thought of giving these guys a message of hope with a speech titled “Jailbreak.” I was literally jumping out of my seat!

Not even a few minutes had gone by after that energizing thought that I began to downplay it. I thought there was no way I could take a title like that into prison. I imagined, no sooner would I utter the word, “Jailbreak” and a riot would ensue. I had visions of guards standing outside the room where I was presenting and as soon as they would hear me say the word “Jailbreak,” they would cock their rifles and initiate a good old fashioned lock down. “Who was I to think I could impact these guys?” I wondered. At that moment I was thinking of any reason possible not to use that title for my speech.

Then it hit me! What my friend Curtis Oakes had said to me years ago. “Rob, you will go to the next level in your life and in your business when you learn to trust that voice inside you.” That was all I needed to think about. I was all in! “Jailbreak” it was!

Convinced the title should be “Jailbreak” now, I was ready to move forward. I put the speech together and was ready to deliver.

After passing through the guard gates and then through security I entered this small room. There were 20 inmates anxiously awaiting the presentation. We set the room for the meeting and were ready to start. The president of the club walked to the front of the room and announced the purpose of the meeting. Then he said, “Our speaker today, is Rob Commodari and the title of his speech is ‘Jailbreak.'” With that, you could see the curiosity rising in the room. Eyebrows were raised! Jailbreak it was!

I looked out over the audience and in a whisper I began, “I am planning a jailbreak! Are you in or are you out? It’s a simple question. All I need is a simple answer. Are you in or are you out?” I paused for what seemed an eternity and then in a loud voice I said, “I’m not talking about the jailbreak where you climb over the fence and run for your freedom. I’m not talking about breaking through the walls and digging under the fence to gain your freedom. I’m talking about breaking down the walls that you, and I and everyone in this room have inside our own heads. I am talking about breaking down the walls of fear, hate, jealousy, and anger! Now, I am going to ask you one more time; are you in or are you out?” With that, all 20 of the guys straightened their backs against their seats, signaling they were ready to hear the plan.

Throughout the speech I made reference to the movie “Shawshank Redemption.” I talked about how we were going to break those walls down using HOPE as our tool. I referenced just as inmates rely on fear on the inside of prison to get through their days, we on the outside rely on fear to motivate us to get through our days. Ultimately, my goal was to give them a message of hope. I concluded with the vision of the guys getting out of jail the next morning and walking toward the entrance for their freedom. I had them think about taking the last step out of jail and as they did they were to look up to the heavens, take a deep breathe and ask themselves one final question. “Do I get busy living or do I get busy dying?”

I ended the speech right there. All 20 guys jumped out of their seats hooting and hollering! It was a total success! I connected with these guys and I could feel it.

The meeting continued and we went on with the planned evaluations. As the last contestant stood to give his evaluation, he looked at me and said, “Mr. Rob, thank you for coming here today! Thank you so much for making us feel comfortable and thank you for looking like you were comfortable as well. Please don’t get mad at me for what I am about to say, but if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought you were one of us!” With that, all the inmates broke out in laughter as did I, however, I knew in my heart it was a success. I looked at the gentleman and said, “Thank you for that compliment. All you are telling me is, I connected with you and that’s what I came to do.”

When I left the prison, I knew I left the guys with a feeling hope. Hope that one day when they get out of prison they could possibly live a life free of fear, hate, jealousy, and anger. As I pulled out of the parking lot I looked in the rearview mirror at the large fence with all the razor wire around it. I knew something magical had just occurred. I could feel the spirit with me. I connected with those guys!

That would not have happened if I didn’t move forward with the title. The entire dynamic of the speech would have changed. I listened to that voice and from the response from those men, I gained a confidence and the knowledge that when your instincts are talking to you, follow them. Good things will come of it.