I’m a recovering washed up celebrity.
Let me explain…
In the early 90’s, I was in my twenties, and I was originating mortgages for a local bank. The real estate market was in a recession, but I somehow managed to build a gigantic mortgage business. I was making money hand over fist, closing 20, 30 or 40 mortgages per month. Out of hundreds of loan officers in the country working for my bank, I’d always fall somewhere close to the top. Bottom line, I was killing it.
Roughly 10 years later, I was no longer killing it. By this time I had started other businesses, including my real estate firm, and I had joined a local law school and was studying to be a lawyer.
My loan originating days were some of the funnest of my life. Money was never easier to make. Customers loved me. My bank loved me to the point I’d get unexpected bonus checks, exotic vacations, and pretty much anything else I wanted too. All of it, however, came with a price. I worked my butt off from the break of dawn each morning until long after everyone else had gone home. I was at the beck and call of the real estate community and my customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If I was at dinner and the phone rang, I’d take the call. My life was not my own. I had very few friends, I was engaged to be married but that was on the rocks, and it eventually fell apart. Finally, at the end of a 12 year run doing mortgages, I woke up one day and realized…..I’m a washed up celebrity of the mortgage world.
I share my story because I run into washed up celebrities all the time, in all types of fields. They don’t know they are washed up. Or, even worse, like me….they suspect it, but letting go of the glory of who they once were and starting over at something new seems so overwhelming, daunting, tiring, that they just aren’t willing to give up trying to become what they once were. Most of the time, this is truly fruitless.
I was talking to a real estate agent recently and she shared with me her own journey. At one time, she was a celebrity, earning close to a million dollars a year. The money just kept flowing. She had been unstoppable at one time. But then the recession came, the business became harder, clients became more demanding, and slowly but surely her passion for the business wilted away. As I sat with her chatting, she asked me, “I can make a come back, can’t I?”
I had to tell her the truth. “Maybe.”
The truth is sometimes hard to hear. For many of us, what we do is who we are. Without our career, we have no identity.
I went on to tell my friend, “Yes, of course, it’s possible to come back. But it’s also possible that you are a washed up celebrity, just like I was.” I shared with her my own story as a loan officer and I explained the metrics I used to determine that I was a washed up celebrity. This is how I knew:
Passion: When I held celebrity loan officer status, I had undying passion for the business. This passion is what drove me daily. It’s what got me out of bed on the days that I knew would be difficult. I truly enjoyed every part of the job, even the sucky part of telling a client that they were declined. I loved the challenge, the people I met, and everything about the job. The money was fun to spend, but never once did I think about the money when I got up to go to work each day. The money was a score card, not the driver of my ambition. I was fueled by passion. I realized I was a washed up celebrity when more than a year went by passionless.
It Felt Like Work: I realized I was washed up when it occured to me one day that my job as a loan officer had become a job. Holy Freckles Batman! Who the F wants to work their entire life? Not me! My best years in mortgages were the best because I never felt like I was working. The mortgage business was my life. My friends and family were the customers, real estate agents, and co-workers with whom I spent every single day churning out loans. On the occassions in which I did go away on “vacation” you can bet your bottom dollar it was with someone I met in my business. Do you think Betty White considers acting a job? I highly doubt it. Acting is her life and if it were simply a job, she would have been washed up decades ago.
Stuck In The Past: At the end of my mortgage career I noticed a bizarre symptom of my kuput career. I found myself constantly telling people about my past accomplishments. Like who I was as a loan officer 4 years ago mattered at all as to who I was currently. I was like a veteran football player who never quite gets over the Hail Mary pass he made forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. It defines who he is for an entire lifetime, never allowing him to grow into something bigger, better, and more beautiful. I realized then that I never want to live in the glory of past accomplishments, but rather always live in the beauty of who I am right now.
Disinterested: Lastly, I knew I was a washed up mortgage celebrity when I realized that I was no longer engaged in learning how to be better. When you love what you do, you are constantly curious to grow. You attend classes, observe others who are doing it better than you, and you simply always look for ways to expand. An entire year had gone by where I had not participated in any type of development for my career. I had mentally checked out, and there was no going back.
In no way am I suggesting that a bad stretch in your business means you are washed up. People make come-backs in their businesses all of the time. I am only suggesting that just like it’s possible to be bigger and better than you ever were, it’s also possible you are a washed up celebrity. It’s a hard pill to swallow, I know.
I am forever grateful for realizing that I was a washed up celebrity. The minute in which you admit this to yourself is a milestone in your career. It’s the minute that you begin to regrow. It’s the minute in which you start finding another way to succeed. You are never too old to start fresh. You have what it takes to kindle the spark of greatness within you. I won’t promise you that it will be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it. For when you actually get up the courage to look yourself in the mirror and admit that you are a washed up celebrity, then you have the power to change yourself….and to even change the world.
This washed up celebrity simply closed one chapter and started a new one…far better than ever was the first. You can too.
Stacey Alcorn is the author of REACH! – Dream, Stretch, Achieve Influence and regularly travels the world showing business entrepreneurs how to REACH!. Stacey is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur and Huffington Post and has a weekly podcast series entitled Leaders and Legends on iTunes. She is addicted to awesome shoes, reading, writing, cool people, and building business empires, including the 5th largest real estate firm in Massachusetts, LAER Realty Partners, closing more than $1B in real estate sales annually. Her WHY is her 5 year old daughter, Oshyn.