Scientists are currently tracking the sixth mass extinction in the past 500 million years, writes Elizabeth Kolbert in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Sixth Extinction.” The latest is predicted to be the worst since the dinosaurs were eradicated by an asteroid. “The one feature these disparate events have in common is … rate of change,” Kolbert writes. “When the world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out.”
According to current estimates, close to half of all living species could be gone by the end of this century. Bats, frogs, rhinos, coral, apes — the list goes on and on. Although it’s an incredibly compelling read, I would recommend accompanying it with a stiff drink. But it got me thinking about some grim statistics that have been circulating lately about another extinction — that of the broker.
Remember the survey a few years back that found 45 percent of brokers were considering giving up? More than half expressed a lack of confidence in the future of the industry. Another study found that two-thirds of brokers had seen peers leave the job in the last year, and that those who remain are worried about everything from health care reform to simply remaining relevant. Did I cheer you up yet?
No? Well, I recently spoke with industry veteran and newly-crowned NAHU president, Don Goldmann, and he assured me that the latest round of industry-based pessimism is nothing new.”
“Every time there has been a major and significant upheaval in our industry, there have been brokers who’ve gotten so gloomy,” he said. “I know people who sold their agencies. One sold a large portion of his to me for significantly less than a dollar for a dollar because he was certain that Bill and Hillary were going to put him out of business.”
Through the years, he’s heard countless predictions about the end of the broker. “Well,” he told me with a chuckle, “when you think you’re going to fail, it’s one of the few times where I can guarantee you’re right.”
When I asked him why he’s so optimistic, he gave plenty of reasons, including technological advances, shifting sales strategies and exciting new products. But he became most adamant when talking about those who make up the industry.
“They’re the most generous people I’ve ever met. Generous with their time; with other competitors; with their money. And you just can’t have that many positive people with that much positive energy fail. It’s not gonna happen. Change? Yes. Failure? No.”
Brokers are repeatedly forced to adjust to a seemingly impossible rate of change. As we’re finding out, this is a recipe for disaster in the natural world. But as both Don Goldmann and Elizabeth Kolbert would probably tell you, if there’s one thing that sets humans apart, it’s how quickly we can adapt.