When the Market Shifts, Get Stoic

The column of Marcus Aurelius located in Piazza Colonna


Gary Keller’s real estate license was only a month old when the 1979 oil crisis finally reached its pinnacle. He made it through the discouraging time by studying the basics of real estate sales and committing to effective habits. The experience stayed with Gary through his career—which saw more (and worse!) market crashes. But he didn’t regret it. He came to embrace challenging markets.

Gary recalls in SHIFT, “As bleak as things can look during shifts, when I look back I believe they’ve served as the genesis for everything I’ve become and the catalyst for all that I’ve achieved. In fact, I’ve come to see them as opportunities.”

The idea of turning an obstacle into an opportunity is shared by Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is the Way. Ryan writes, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” By leaning into the challenge, we transform. We become the person or business we need to be in order to overcome it.

The book translates lessons of the ancient stoics and organizes them into three categories: perception, action, and will. When we pair these Stoic principles with the ideas in SHIFT, we can overcome any changing market—and come out stronger. 


The first SHIFT Tactic is the foundation upon which the rest are built: the mental shift, or getting your mind right. “Your life will either be about your problems or your opportunities. You’ll either be running away from something or running toward something,” Gary says. And what determines if you’re running away or toward isn’t a literal direction. It’s your perception. 

There are three types of people who emerge when a market shifts: 1. Those who fearfully predict the worst and are unnecessarily pessimistic 2. Those who hopefully wish for the best, believe they can’t fail, and are unrealistically positive 3. Those who respect the fact that they might fail, actively prepare for the worst, and strive for the best.

By being the third type of person, you ensure your circumstances won’t derail your mindset and get in the way of your achievement. This is because you’ve matched your perception to your reality. You learn to focus on what matters, not what you fear.

Holiday agrees that there’s a difference between wearing rose-colored glasses and having the fortitude to see things as they are. When we’re striving to achieve our goals, there is no time to indulge in the luxury of delusions or distractions. For example, he writes, the Ulysses S. Grant was known to be unshaken by bombs or flying bullets on the battlefield. He knew he had to remain focused on the bigger goal—there was a war to win.

In a shift, you learn to focus on what matters, not what you fear.


Once you’ve got your mind right, it’s time to move into action. The same is true for the Stoics.

In The Obstacle Is the Way, Holiday tells the story of Gandhi, who showed the power of his non-violent protests during India’s struggle for independence from the British Empire. Other protesters resorted to showy displays of physical strength, but these demonstrations didn’t benefit the cause much. In contrast, Gandhi’s resistance seemed almost understated: he focused on hunger strikes. In the end, Gandhi was able to succeed where the others had failed.

Many people are attracted to real estate by the perceived income opportunity and driven out by its demanding realities. Or, as one Mega Agent put it recently, many newer agents want to make $100,000 net profit while doing $14,000 worth of work. It’s true that the industry can open doors to financial and time freedom—but only if you exercise proven models day in, day out.

Action consists of the proven habits we relentlessly follow to reach our goals. Habits continue to guide us even after we’ve surpassed the initial obstacle. The seeds of failure are usually sown during times of success. Make sure that your actions are in line with your goals, even if the goals become hard.


You can control your outlook and your response to the market, but you can’t control the market. At the end of the day, you can prepare your mind, take all the appropriate actions, and still fail. When that happens, you need to be ready to accept the outcome and keep moving forward. As Gary often says, “We fail our way to success.”

Don’t let challenge get the best of you. Be equally prepared for success and the worst possible outcome, and then be prepared to make the best of the worst. Or, as the Stoics advise, be prepared for this whole cycle to repeat itself.

The best we can do is prepare for all the possible catastrophes that may occur (and Murphy’s Law tells us they will) and keep trying. By practicing what the Stoics teach, you can be prepared to handle weather the storm of a market shift, and other inevitable obstacles you’ll face in your real estate career.

How do you keep your perception clear in the face of a challenge? Let us know on our Facebook page. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more deep dives like this into books and the path to success.

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