Keep those options open

    There it was again. That line Iíd written in my pocket calendar, under the "Things To Do" section: "Take Real Estate Exam."
   It had crept up to the Number One position, meaning everything else had eventually been done and erased from the list. But month after month I would look at "Take Real Estate Exam" and conveniently ignore it.
    This wasnít the original test. I have held a real estate brokerís license for about 16 years. And under California law, every four years all licensees must take 45 hours of continuing education in the real estate field and then pass a short exam which tests their waning knowledge.
   So every four years, I would find one of those home-study correspondence schools where you pay your money and get a degree. Somehow they get accredited by the Department of Real Estate, convincing some bureaucrat that their at-home students were spending 45 hours studying.
    In general, I would spend about 1/45th of what was expected. Iíd pass the final examination, which was all that mattered, primarily because it was effectively an "open-book" exam. And Iíd have my license renewed for another four years.
    But thereís something wrong with this picture. Your first guess might be that I am a lazy conniving manipulator looking for the easy way out at the expense of innocent clients.
    And you would be right, except for one minor little point: I am not in the real estate field.
    Moving on, you might ask what I am doing with a real estate brokerís license. And the answer is simple: Iím keeping my options open.
    Any moment now I may drop everything Iím doing and open a real estate office. While the changes of my doing so are about one in 2 billion, you never know. Thatís why I continued to keep my license and pay the fees.
    I even saved some money once or twice by listing my own house for sale and saving half the commission. But that was in the early Ď80s when Charles Manson could have listed his house and had a line of buyers outside his door. And besides, you donít need a license to sell your own property.
    So basically, I spent 16 years with a license that was going nowhere. But the option to become Coldwell/Banker/Hoppe was available, and that was all that mattered.
    Obviously, I have trouble closing doors. In general, I think the philosophy of keeping your options open is an excellent one, but problems occur when it is taken to extremes (just ask my seven current wives).
   At some point, I have to learn to let go. And as I looked at the "Take Real Estate Exam" month after month, I realized the time was now.
   Some shallow-minded real estate experts might note that the state has cracked down on the final exams, no longer allowing Ďopen-book" tests. While that may be true, it had little to do with my decision. I had breezed through the chapter quizzes without opening a book, why not the final exam?
   So what if the correspondence school didnít correct or grade the quizzes, meaning I could take wild guesses for each question. Iím certain my pattern of C,A,D,D,B,A on the multiple-choice tests was a clear winner.
   No, my decision to not take the final exam, thereby relinquishing my license, was due to a general philosophy change in my life. As the years pile on, itís time to reluctantly close some doors. Real estate is a field that has taken me nowhere in the past and shows no signs of leading me into the future.
   The Department of Real Estate has done what they set out to do. By requiring continuing education of its licensees, they were trying to weed out the dregs of the industry who were contributing nothing. Guys like me.
   I held on for years, slithering under the floorboards, finding ways to escape their cleansing actions. But the time has come to surrender, knowing it was a valiant but futile effort. I will now reach over and draw a line through Number One, "Take Real Estate Exam" in my pocket calendar.
    There. Itís done. My license will now be gone. I will never be the head of a multi-billion dollar real estate company.
    Itís time to move on. My new philosophy of closing doors instead of leaving them wide open will serve me well.
    And thatís exactly how I felt until I saw what was Number Two on my list of Things To Do: "Get a Vasectomy."


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