Teaching To Keep Ahead

Much of this is biographical, so be warned. I graduated from collect with two career options. One was to take a commission in the Marine Corps. The other was to go to work for my father in the real estate brokerage business. There were no shooting war going on and my father needed me, so I chose real estate. The Marines got me for one weekend a month and two weeks every summer for a few years.

As a Marine reservist with the rank of corporal I had an interesting job. I was put in charge of new recruits coming into the reserve unit who had to attend meetings before going to boot camp while they finished their high school or college studies. I had as many as thirty recruits to teach and taught them close order drill, things they needed to memorize, how to field strip a M1 rifle and so on. In other words, I was assigned to get them a head start on boot camp.

I got hooked on teaching in the Marines.

Flash to real life in a real estate office on the Sunset Strip. My father’s office was highly effective in selling real estate, but not well organized. Most of his agents had followed him into real estate from the automobile business and looked at selling real estate not so much as a vocation than as a daily way of having fun. They looked at my arrival as a product of nepotism, too young (21) and somewhat out of place. However, I had one indispensable talent: I was good at the English language and could write coherent offers on real estate. Consequently, whenever an agent needed someone to help write an offer in order to close a deal I was called to go with them.

I watched and learned human nature, selling skills, selling mistakes and how to keep deals in escrow.

But I felt I wasn’t leaning fast enough. I enrolled in real estate classes at UCLA Extension three nights a week. I joined the Board of REALTORS and attended meetings. I jointed the California Association of REALTORS, took classes and earned certificates and designations. I attended meetings and went to conventions. Three things happened to me during my first two years in business: (1) I became sales manager (as a manager, you learn a lot about standard of care by settling disputes among salespeople), (2) I was elected vice president of the West Holllywood Realty Board, and (3) I started making inquiries at UCLA Extension to become an instructor.

UCLA initially turned me down because one big qualification they had then was you have been a realty board president. A year later I was elected a board president – the youngest in the nation at 24. With that qualification, a few months later I was given a trial instruction assignment by UCLA Extension. A few moths after beginning teaching I was re-elected president. I still took a lot of kidding about my age.

Now, a word or two about the benefits of teaching. I’ve approached teaching with this in mind: If you want to learn about something, teach it. I got to explore all manner of subject matter with my feet to the fire from the students – mostly working real estate agents there to upgrade their licenses.

If you want to stand up in front of a class presenting yourself as worthy to teach a subject, you had better know your subject. No matter how well you know the subject, and I had a “real estate field of emphasis” from Berkeley, if you are going to teach it you have to do a lot of research. Luckily I was working in an office which was breaking new ground in real estate daily. The smartest guy in the class will always try to ask questions to make you look like an idiot.

Another benefit: It’s still fun to walk through an airport and have people walk up to you to say they enjoyed taking your class. In the real estate business it’s advertising (and an ego trip) you can buy.

In all, in the 45 years I taught classes for UCLA Extension, I have a number of things I am really proud off:

I taught more than 24,000 students in 41 different classes, seminars and conferences.

I met with guest lecturers such as John Kilroy, Peter Uberoth and the heads of all the major real estate offices and learned from them.

More than 18,000 of my students were a taught in a one day class I designed called Home Buyer’s Clinic.

I served on and/or chaired eight UC Extension advisory committees – all UC campuses – and still serve on the UCLA one today

And it all started with the Marines.