The soul brokerage

In his 1983 autobiography, “Flashbacks,” Timothy Leary explained the meaning behind Marshall McLuhan’s phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

“Turn on” meant to go within. Activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them.

“Tune in” meant to interact harmoniously with the world. Externalize. Materialize. Express your new internal perspectives.

“Drop out” suggested a self-reliance and a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice and change.

Leary was also known to ask his followers if they were ready to die and be reborn.

Good question, and possibly a trip worth taking.

Turn on

Within your company, purpose and meaning reside. But through the years, circumstances have obscured it. You expended endless energy maintaining a status quo. You compromised your creative agenda to placate your dozens, hundreds and thousands of agents who weren’t concerned with championing your ideas unless they met their special and immediate needs.

You brand’s soul became a chimera dancing just beyond the horizon of possibility.

It’s the nature of the brokerage beast.

And therein lies the rub. By not going down a fantastical path of self-discovery – a rebirth – you’ve ended up like everyone else.

Across your city, your state, your planet, most brokerages look, feel, sound and service people exactly the same. Ask Joe the Plumber to define the specific differences between you and your competitors.

Joe doesn’t know.

And inside your brokerage, confusion over who and what you are is an accepted state of affairs.

You might be able to write 10 words as Jessica wisely suggests, but if you aren’t getting in touch with who you are those words will be barren of meaning.

Tune in

A long table flanked by 12 chairs crowds a glass-encased boardroom. A widescreen monitor is affixed to the far wall. Photographs of people in suits adorn a different wall. A glass cabinet replete with trophies grabs my attention. They’re all tied to sales achievements.


Those in attendance have a lot questions. Many are hoping for answers. But there won’t be answers on this day. Not about strategy. Or tactics. We won’t be solving technical problems. Or making vendor recommendations. Design concepts and proposed messaging have no place in this discussion.

Not yet.

Today we begin excavating. We start the questions:

What does your company do? 

Who is your primary customer? 

What are your values? 

Why does your company exist?

How are you different from your competitors?

We go around the table. Everyone must contribute.

We probe further:

Share stories about your brokerage that exemplify the values you’ve claimed.

Words aren’t core values. Actions are. Anyone can write words on a plaque and hang it in the reception area. Strong brands live and die by those words.


Describe the experience you want your customers to have when they interact with your company. Describe how you safeguard it with the people through which it is delivered.

Next we move into questions that may seem frivolous:

What color is your brand? If your brand were a person, what is their gender? What’s its age? Where would that person sit at this conference table? Describe their attire. What car does your brand drive? What style of music does it listen to? Does it have a sense of humor or does it maintain a serious disposition? 

Everyone’s responses should align.

The answers to questions like these – which we pose during brand meetings with clients – are the notes that make up your brand ballad. As such meetings unfold, the attendees begin to distinguish between the good notes and the clunkers.

They also discover which instruments are completely out of tune.

“New internal perspectives” indeed.

Drop out

For too long you’ve been distracted. Consumed. Softened by the good times, unnerved by the bad.

You’ve listened to others tell you what you should do. You’ve spent too little time listening to yourself. You second-guess your own creativity. You’ve stopped taking risks. You’ve been reluctant to rattle cages for fear of losing the people trapped within them.

You’ve paid too much attention to the real estate industry and not enough attention to your business. Your community. Your culture.

For too long you’ve been like everyone else: looking, reacting, seeking validation. You’ve forgotten who you are, within.

Just as Leary suggested in 1983, it may be time to die and be reborn.

It’s not as weird as it sounds.