So who do you decide to save?

Article By: Neil O’Donnell

I was meeting with a potential client earlier this week and it reminded me of a podcast I listened to a while ago and the guest was talking about a Coast Guard motto.

To set the scene, he described a Coast Guard going out on a stormy night to rescue a boat that has capsized. As the helicopter hovered overhead, the crew realized there were more people in the water than there was space in the helicopter.

So how do they decide who they save?

It seems like a tough question, but the answer is pretty simple.

The Coast Guard’s motto is: “we can only save people who swim towards us.” 

Think about that. 

Those who are swimming towards you are the ones that want your help. They want your attention. They want your love. When you reach out your hand, they grab it. 

On the flip side, you have the person who is flailing around in the water or is swimming the other direction. They don’t want your help. When you reach out your hand, they slap it away.  

The harder you try to help them, the more they pull you down. Attempting to save them could very well result in you drowning. 

This principle doesn’t just apply to Coast Guard rescues. It applies in all areas of our life.  

You can only help those who want to be helped. 

As I said, earlier this week I met with a potential client about selling their home. After touring the home we started to discuss what it could sell for. Now, I never give a number the first time I go through a home. Its not because it’s some sort of sales tactic, it’s because I need to research and make sure the value I give is accurate. Any agent who walks through a home and can give a number without doing all the proper research is going to either be way over or under valued. Both are not helping their client.

A couple days later I meet with them and go over the value I came up with. “Now, to get the most for your home we will need to do a few things, and it starts with…..” As the conversation went along it was clear they didn’t want to do anything to maximize the selling price of their home.   First let me say that there is nothing wrong with that. You can always sell your home “As Is”. Where you run into a problem is when you want top dollar for a home being sold “As Is”. If your competition has newly renovated kitchens and master ensuite bathrooms and you still have 20 year old wall paper in the kitchen and a 1 piece corner shower from the 80’s in the shared upstairs bathroom….well….you get the idea.

This is when I always remember this Coast Guard motto. 

I was doing it wrong. 

Those clients that do swim toward us do so because they understand that our only job is to save them. Its not about how good we look in our fancy helicopter. They understand that all the things we are telling them are about getting them the most money for their home.

Shaun and Patty swam toward us. This was a couple that reached out and listened to our advice. They made the improvements to their home, they kept it so clean for viewings that you could literally eat off the floors. The result was that they sold for the highest price in their area in the last year. Now I’m not saying that it was easy, it wasn’t. Selling a home is stressful but we do everything we can to take as much of the stress away as we can. Now they are moving on to their next adventure.

This past week was an important reminder for me. You can only help those that want to be helped.

As for the others, all we can do is hover overhead and wait for them to start swimming towards us.

It is advice that applies to many things in life…


For a more in-depth discussion on these topics, go to: Request a FREE Copy of our latest book, “The Value-Driven Approach to Sell Real Estate: How to protect yourself from Real Estate Greed and bank extra profit by thinking like the great Warren Buffett.”

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