Ryan Serhant made $9,000 in his first year as a real estate agent. That was a little over ten years ago. Today Serhant enjoys commissions that have made him a multi-millionaire.
According to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Serhant represented the buyer of a $122 million house in Palm Beach. The beachfront mansion set a new price record for residential real estate in Palm Beach.
I spoke to Serhant recently about his extraordinary career, which took him from a struggling actor to the star of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York and one of America’s top real estate brokers.
The theme that struck me from our conversation is that successful entrepreneurs and leaders act like the people they imagine themselves to be—and they do so before making their wealth. “When you can’t change your circumstances, there’s one thing you can change: your energy,” says Serhant.
When Serhant auditioned for a Bravo show looking for successful real estate agents in New York City, he felt insecure because he had only been in the real-estate business for a year-and-a-half. However, just before he entered the audition room, Serhant decided to act like a million-dollar listing agent. He brought high energy, a big smile, confident gestures, and strong eye contact.
Many people who struggle with public speaking should take a lesson from Serhant and other successful entrepreneurs who overcome their feelings of inferiority by acting like the leaders they expect to be in the future. Don’t focus on your insecurities; amplify your strengths.
Think about it. If you are ultimately successful in your dream to start a company, become a manager or CEO, or become a recognized expert in your field, you’ll exude far more confidence than you do now. So why not start today?
When I work on public speaking skills with recent graduates, business students, or aspiring leaders, they often acknowledge their fear of speaking publicly. They haven’t built the confidence that comes with accomplishment. Unfortunately, their body language reflects their insecurity. They look down a lot, fail to make eye contact, nervously fiddle with their hair and hands, and use filler words like ‘um’ ‘uh,’ and ‘you know.’
“Let’s try something different,” I gently suggest.
“I’d like you to try the presentation again. Except for this time, show me how you would speak if you’re the founder or CEO of the company.”
If the students see before-and-after videos of themselves, they often can’t believe the difference. The only difference among the two presentations is the person they imagine themselves to be.
Serhant adds one crucial caveat to this technique: Don’t overstate your skills or embellish your experience. Imagining your future self simply means exuding the confidence of the leader you expect to be.
For example, pretend you’re in a job interview, and you don’t know the answer to a question. An insecure person would try to answer anyway, exposing their lack of knowledge. A confident leader would admit they don’t have the answer, but they have a plan to find the solution.
Serhant suggests that you fill your mind with positive thoughts and the image of the ‘future you’ for at least ten seconds before meeting someone. “If your head is in a good place, you’ll exude positivity and confidence, and it will set the tone for the meeting,” he says.
The ‘tone’ for a presentation or a meeting is set in your head before you begin speaking. You can’t control the outcome of a presentation, but you can control how you think about it.