What if every community looked like family?

By Belinda Forrest, Broker/Owner, EXIT Empowerment Realty, SC

A few months back when I got a call from Christina Luis and she extended an invitation to share what EXIT means to me at Convention I was totally caught off guard.  However, she assured me that this request was coming from a good place, and my presence was requested.  It felt like a dream.  And in fact, it was, because I’ve dreamed of a moment like this for a long time. Now I stand here in a place where dreams come true.

I’m not here because I’m the smartest, nor the wealthiest, or even the most productive. You see, works has nothing to do with my assignment. No, I am here because someone saw something in me that they thought would bring value to some and perhaps make a difference in the lives of others. In spite of my flaws and imperfections, I was still seen, accepted, and invited into this “Arena” simply for who I am, and that was enough. For that, I am truly grateful.

So, as I began to ponder my assignment, the words kept changing, not in an effort to make it perfect, but rather to give you what is perfectly true to me. I wanted to share with you how EXIT has touched my life in hopes of inspiring you to consider your own reasons for being here.

You see, all of us are here By Invitation Only. We were invited to this table to share the experience of collaborating and connecting with one another, to bring our unique gifts and talents with us, and to help build a community of real estate professionals that would reinvent the way real estate is done.

I was submerged into the Teal World of EXIT during my first convention in Nashville and with less than 60 days in, I knew I’d found THE ONE that had called my name.  I knew then, I was ALL IN.

It was everything I was looking for because it looked like the very foundation on which my own life was built. It looked like family.

When I came on board with EXIT, I was at a pivotal place in my life, having just turned 50. I was reflecting on the milestones in my life that lead me to that point…a college dropout who became a career soldier, taking 13 years to earn my degree as a working mom and military spouse and many other proud moments and accomplishments.  Yet as I entered this new season, I still felt I was called to do more as I considered the type of legacy I wanted to leave for my family.

I’ve spent much of my life helping to build the dreams of others, yet somehow, mine still seemed to be on the sideline.  Have you ever felt like that? You give and give, and ask yourself, when is it my turn to receive?  I believe the entrance to that season for me was through the EXIT door.

During that first convention, Steve Morris challenged us to get in the arena, be a good student, to trust our gut and get comfortable with ourselves, with who we are! So, I accepted the challenge, and got in the ring, having no idea of what a life changing step that would be. Since that time, I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve connected, and I’ve begun to walk in my purpose. I’m no longer a part of EXIT, but EXIT is a part of me. 

I think the reason I’ve become so passionate about EXIT is that it reminded me of the close culture I grew up with all my life. 

I was raised in an era where relationships and community were literally the substance of our lives and played a key role in shaping the person I am today.  Growing up, we were always surrounded by lots of family and friends, and friends who were like family.  My grandmother was a pastor and mother of 10 with 24 grandkids…and that didn’t include the in-laws. Much of my family also served in ministry and were civic leaders within the community. Servant leadership and community service was in my DNA.

The relationships that we developed and continue to enjoy over the years are an unbreakable bond that spans generations and time. Many of those childhood friendships, deep ties, and close community connections were initiated and nurtured within our faith community and became a very firm foundation. The lines between home and the outside world were often blurred.

Our circle grew to include close bonds forged in the trenches of raising families in the military community that instilled in us a sense of duty, purpose, and commitment for one another and the community we served. 

Yet somehow, through distance and time our bonds remained strong because our foundation was sure. We would periodically gather at retreats, camp meetings, and conventions, much like EXIT’s, that would remind us that even though we were separate, we were not divided, though apart, we were not alone.  

EXIT has both shown and reminded me the value of relationships and how to use them to touch, impact, and transform lives, including my own!

After all, isn’t this the type of experience we strive to give our clients? Isn’t this the way we want to do business, to build relationships that are lasting, enduring, and span generations? To invite others into a warm, welcoming atmosphere, to educate and provide them value, but above all, to empower them to believe their dreams can come true?

EXIT has become a safe place for my gifts to thrive and my ability to connect and build relationships to have free reign and leave a lasting impact on the lives of others. 

What if every community looked like family?  What kind of difference would that make in our world?

I felt I needed to share my upbringing with you so you can first understand why the passion and connection I feel for this company is so strong…because it reminds me of home. EXIT taught me that I could believe for big things.  If it did that for me, it can do that for others too!

Over the years our bond has grown as my own commitment to the vision has deepened.  EXIT has help me grow as a businesswoman, as a REALTOR®, as a leader, as a person. At EXIT, we have the added privilege of having some of the most powerful and influential leaders in the industry right here in our family. 

EXIT is truly something special. And what makes it so exceptional is the power of genuine connections and empathy driven relationships at work within our ranks.  What sets EXIT apart is that these connections are built for no other reason than to help us be our best self and build a phenomenal business that will change the lives of those around us.

I remember when I was moving into the role of broker in charge at my previous office, Tami called me about 6am just to congratulate and encourage me in my new role and answer any questions I may have had. All because she cared. That meant a lot and I always share that story with new agents to show the power of human connections at work.

…Or when our CEO, Craig Witt, sits with me to advise me on some of the important things to consider when starting my office.

…Or late-night texts with Erika on the joys and struggles of being a middle-aged woman and still trying to live our best life.

…Or getting a call from my Uncle Rick O’Neil, asking about my family and if he can say a prayer.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. 

This is real stuff.  These are genuine relationships with genuine people who genuinely care.

Every living thing that exists starts in seed form. And every seed contains every single cell and the DNA it needs to be what it was created and intended to be.   And when all the proper elements are aligned and working together, in the proper environment, it will encourage and stimulate growth causing that seed to reach its full potential and become what it was meant to be all along.

We are those seeds, and we are in good soil, and everything we need to live our dream is already in us. It’s already in you.

Finally, my Bible tells me, that if I just have the faith the size of a mustard seed, that I can move mountains, and nothing will be impossible unto me.

There is nothing you can’t do.

EXIT has taught me to believe in my dreams, and at Convention I lived it.  After this, there is nothing I can’t do and no one else I’d rather do it with!  

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