Swanepoel's Inner Circle

Swanepoel's Inner Circle: Why you should take the time to 'sonder' 

There is tremendous power in harnessing your mind's ability to visualize the paths you could take for your business and your life. Here's how.

December 22, 2022
4 minutes

Editor's note: Stefan Swanepoel has four decades of leadership experience in many facets of real estate, including brokerage, global franchising, association and MLS management. He is a widely respected strategist, sought-after trend analyst, best-selling author and the founder of Real Estate News and T3 Sixty, one of real estate's leading management consultancies.

You find yourself sitting at Starbucks, scanning the people as they power through their day, or maybe on a bench, watching kids play on the lawn. Perhaps you're just home, wondering. Rainy days, Sundays and late nights seem especially good for this.

You think about this and that, pondering things you've done or wanted to do but didn't. I like to call this "sondering."

If you don't know the word "sonder," you should. There are many definitions, all fundamentally the same. I like the one I found in the Urban Dictionary best:

The realization that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you'll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

When my son was younger, he used to say: "That's deep."

It sure is, and fascinating. For example:

When I finish writing this article, I need to give it to my editor at Real Estate News, which launched two months ago with a Gary Keller interview. Gary loves playing his guitar, as did Roy Orbison; which reminds me of great song Roy co-wrote with George Harrison called "End of the Line," how George lived in Hawaii before his passing, and now there are just Paul and Ringo left. Paul is of course now Sir Paul, after being knighted like Sean Connery loved him in "The Hunt for Red October" oh, that reminds me, Season 3 of "Jack Ryan" drops this week. Awesome! I have something to watch over the holidays.

… and that was in just a few seconds of sondering. Think where this can go in an hour.

Fascinating how the mind works. It's a powerful tool. And best of all, we all have one.

The real question is, do you use your mind to sonder for your company, for your career, for decisions you may have to make one day in the future? If you harness it effectively, I think you will see its huge power.

For example: You plan to launch a new idea in real estate or take over a new market. Now sit and sonder. Wander through the invisibly sprawling anthill.

Where does each path lead? Remember that you are not seeking answers; you are still just on a journey. When in scenario planning, you explore. Later, when you return, you analyze. Then you index pros and cons. Then you map out the great routes and the bad ones. You list the decisions that get you to the good places and note which path takes you in the wrong direction.

Squirreling, yes, but only the first part because now you are also mapping solutions and directions. When you come back to collect the nuts, you know here to go.

Like an Olympic champion visualizing victory or a Navy SEAL practicing a military maneuver, you will instinctively know what to do when reality arrives and automatically respond faster and with certainty.

When you see people reacting quickly, you may think they are arrogant or a know-it-all. Upon getting to know them better, you often learn they are neither. They simply have been down that path before, maybe in real life or maybe while sondering. The have "experienced" this scenario before and have also already entertained the solutions for it before.

Promise me, after spending time with your loved ones, you will find some time over the holidays to "sonder" about your life, your business and 2023.

Thanks to all of you for being in one of the passageways that has intersected with my life. I appreciate every single contribution that helped make my life special. Mahalo. May 2023 be an especially interesting and successful journey for us all.

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