Build Your Cathedral – The Principle of Attraction
“I have found it helpful to think of my life as if it were a game in which each problem I face is a puzzle I need to solve. By solving the puzzle, I get a gem in the form of a principle that helps me avoid the same sort of problem in the future.”– Ray Dalio
Last fall, I read an obituary for Don Justo Gallego Martínez. His remarkable story reminded me of a significant business idea – The Principle of Attraction. Fundamentally, it’s about flipping the script. Instead of hunting for what you want, leverage a strategy to attract it into your life.
Don Gallego was a Spanish monk who almost single-handedly built a cathedral on the outskirts of Madrid. He started in 1961 and continued until he died in 2021. He had no financial support, just a plot of inherited family land. He worked alone except for occasional help from his nephews and a local named Ángel López Sánchez. He salvaged leftover materials from other work sites. He recycled junk. He used old 5-gallon buckets as concrete forms to make his columns. With no money, no formal training, and no building permits, he raised an 86,000-square-foot cathedral of his own design. There is a library, major and minor chapels, and even a dome soaring 130 feet above the chapel floor. Today, travelers come from all over the world to see the “Cathedral of Junk.”
I’m generally not a proponent of the maxim: “If you build it they will come.” However, when you create something remarkable like Don Gallego did, people will come.
Other than the fact this is a real estate story, what does this have to do with building a real estate sales business? When it comes to lead generation, we can either seek business or attract it. Seeking prospects takes effort and time. If you can attract prospects, you can save your time and effort for conversion. We do this naturally with open houses and client events. But most fail to leverage the Principle of Attraction purposefully in other areas of their business.
When Mo Anderson joined KW as CEO in the mid-90s, her mandate was to add more franchises and grow the company. Gary Keller shared a story about that time that has stuck with me. It also illustrates the Principle of Attraction.
Mo called Gary into her office to show him the luggage she’d bought for traveling around the country to recruit franchisees and new regional leadership. Gary was in an awkward spot. He’d been doing this job and he knew that seeking out prospects wasn’t the answer. “You can’t travel enough to hit your goals,” he told her, “And besides, you’ll wear yourself out trying.”
Instead, he offered this hard-learned technique. Calling on prospects around the country, he’d introduce himself and say that he’d heard great things about them. Invariably, these conversations would end with the prospect saying, “Well, Gary, if you’re ever in Nashville, look me up and we’ll have lunch.”
Gary: “Are you serious?”
Gary: “To be honest with you, the only reason I’d be coming to Nashville would be to see you. I think you’d enjoy what you had to hear about KW when we visited, but you’d have to come to Austin to experience it. So, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and you just come to Austin? We can visit and you can see how we do things.”
Gary would wait. If they paused even for a second, he’d add: “I’d be happy to pay your way.” The logic was that it was the same money Gary would have to pay to go see them. Except, Gary didn’t have to leave his family or his day-to-day life. He slept in his own bed.
That was the model he shared with Mo. And, it was how they added 91 new franchises over the following five years. I have no idea how many potential franchisees you have to interview to sell a franchise, but surely the Principle of Attraction saved them countless days on planes and in hotels.
Two important caveats. First, to attract people you need to create something worth seeing. At that point, KW was emerging as one of the fastest growing real estate companies with an innovative profit share system and a remarkable culture. People were curious. Second, this approach makes more sense if you’re scaling something big. If you’re only expanding to Nashville, it may make sense to go to Nashville. If you’re planning to scale big, the Principle of Attraction is the only way to go.
That story stuck with me and I have always had it misfiled in my brain under “build your cathedral.” When Gary was coaching Mo he shared a quote attributed to the famous Methodist Pastor John Wesley. People would travel from all over to hear him preach. When asked why, he replied, “Every day I set myself on fire and people come to see me burn.” While certainly evocative, I probably filed it under “build your cathedral” because that sounds much more pleasant than self-immolation.
Over the years, I’ve employed this principle again and again. Wendy and I hosted “Millionaire Meals” when we wanted to grow our wealth network. We launched a taco podcast (yes, tacos) that became a vehicle for meeting some of the coolest business founders in Austin. I started a weekly “Coffee with Talent” practice that has led to more than 643 talent appointments since 2013. Building each of these things has attracted extraordinary people into my life. Even ordinary things like coffee can be positioned as “remarkable.”
Leverage the Principle of Attraction to scale faster with less effort!
One question to ponder in your thinking time: What can you create to start attracting more of what you want in your business and in your life?
Make an Impact!