The Pie Chart of Life

Fall 2015
Steve Martin

TWICE A YEAR, I have traditionally written a newsletter titled SDM Partners Real Estate INSIGHTS. It’s a rundown of industry highlights from my hometown of Atlanta. It also contains my musings on current events and life, which are sometimes pleasing and agreeable, other times infuriating and unacceptable, depending on your own views.  

A few years ago, I included the “pie chart of life” at right, which I developed to articulate my views on a career in commercial real estate to young people, those we in NAIOP call our Developing Leaders. To my amazement — and amusement — the pie chart of life resonated with a lot of people. 

The four parts of this pie chart — intelligence, salesmanship, character and risk taking — are, in my opinion, foundational to success in life and the real estate business.  

Intelligence: How smart are you? How high is your IQ? Intelligence, like athletic ability, is to a large degree “loaded in at the factory.” The real question becomes, “are you making the most of what you got at the factory?” The good news is that CRE and life are not an intelligence test. Thank goodness! You don’t have to be the smartest to succeed. “Smart enough” goes a long way when combined with hard work and a positive attitude.  

pie chart with four sections

Salesmanship: We all are selling something. First, and most important, we are selling ourselves. Sell it! If you are the smartest person in the room but cannot sell it, the “product” (you) has less value. Intelligence and salesmanship are a very powerful combination!  

Character: Have it, period! Be responsible, respectful, trustworthy and fair. Act with integrity. Be a good citizen. People do business with those they know, like and trust. No further explanation is required. Intelligence and salesmanship without character are worthless.  

Risk Taking: This trait does not get talked about nearly enough. CRE professionals spend considerable time managing, understanding, mitigating and often avoiding risk. I urge you to take it! Embrace it! Get used to it! High aspirations have a cost, and that cost is risk. Achieving great things requires some intelligence, a lot of salesmanship, and the character to make others believe in you. However, it isn’t going to happen if you are unwilling — or unable — to take risks! A little luck along the way also helps, but you make your own luck.  

Where does NAIOP fit into all of this? NAIOP provides all of our members with the opportunity and the platform to let the pie chart of life work for them. So come to our Commercial Real Estate Conference in Toronto in October, take a risk, show how smart you are, demonstrate what a great salesman you can be and put on display the strong character that runs so deep in NAIOP. 

I look forward to seeing you there.

Steve Martin's signature