A Confession

Posted on September 15, 2014

"I am a long way from your hill or Calvary and I am a long way from where I was,
where I need to be”
U2 - Song for Someone
Album: Songs of Innocence 

I admit it, I am a member of the personal fitness device nation and obsessed with how many daily steps I take. I am completely focused on beating “UberSean42” in our 100,000 step challenge. Notwithstanding the fact that UberSean42 lives in Germany and we have not met….it’s a problem. However, something wonderful has come of it, almost every morning I am walking or running and I love it. There is something special that happens when you “beat the sun to the punch.” Everything is quiet and peaceful and I love watching God wake the world up and paint a new sunrise. For a moment, I get a very brief glimpse of perfection. Perfection because in that moment, in that calm and still moment, I haven’t made a mistake yet. I haven’t lost my temper or stood self-righteously in judgment of some thing or someone without looking in the mirror first. That brief moment is perfect and I find myself wanting to stay there because I know, trouble is coming.

So what is your point Paul? Hanging on the wall of my office is a picture from 2007 of the original 12 partners of CNL Commercial Real Estate that started this enterprise and the quote, “The Journey Begins”. We had dinner after the picture was taken and while we all had great expectations, there was a bit of an “uh-oh” moment. I think some of us were expecting to run out of the locker room knowing exactly where we were going and the fact is we didn’t. But we trusted each other (and still do), we trusted in CNL and their support of our efforts and we trusted in the journey. There was clearly something bigger afoot, it was happening in the context of business but each of us would tell you that we were “called” to this and we were fully invested in getting this thing off the ground.

So, 8 years later, here is the point:

  • The reality is, if we let it, the day will numb us. Emails, busy work, projects, phone calls, interruptions, deadlines – the treadmill is long and fast and the world simply won’t conform. Yet, I firmly believe that everyone wants to feel worthy, wants to have purpose to what they do, not just get through the day, not just finish a project or a deal to simply move to the next one and hit reset and do it all again. Furthermore, they don’t want that purpose wrapped up in some pithy statement (he says as he is about to reveal our mission) that they know won’t last. We want a focal point, a purpose that flows through everything we do.
  • Finding meaning in your work and in your efforts has to start with looking inside yourself, not what work or an enterprise does for you. When I have lost my way, and I have lost it big time during seasons of my life, the only way back I have found is through the realization that “I AM THE PROBLEM”.
  • When you look inside yourself, and you should do it daily, you find your gifts, what your dreams are, what you are good at and hopefully what you aren’t so good at. If you do this honestly you will experience gratitude for what you have, not longing for what you don’t have. I say this in the context as a father of a child who can’t walk without crutches but is a light in this world, as a father to a son who is becoming a man I am well pleased with. I say this as someone who is watching friends deal with cancer and who has lost two of the most important men in my life to this disease yet they continue to inspire me. I could spend my days focused on what I am upset about, in myself, the world and others, to rail against what isn’t fair but then I would miss the amazing blessings exploding in front of me. Perseverance with a smile over gut wrenching adversity, children growing up, a wife that loves me, careers forming, a team that cares for each other and the world around them.

You see, the journey is the point, it is the purpose. Let that sink in….your home, your faith, your work, this enterprise. We get to be a part of building it all, building it while at times it can seem like the world is falling apart around us. But then hopefully we wake up and we get another day to go after it. Then you have a quiet and still moment and you look back and realize “man, I am really far from where I started”, I am different and better in so many ways. Then I look forward and in those quiet perfect mornings I see what I need to work on in myself, I get really excited about where we are going and who God has placed me on this journey with, I get excited about all of you and what you are capable of.

After months of work, here is the mission statement you wrote:

Our mission is to make the world a better place by:

  1. Building meaningful relationships,
  2. Serving our owners, customers, associates, partners and
  3. Impacting the communities within and around the projects we service, acquire and build.

The simplest way to achieve our mission is to treat the needs of all of our constituents as if they are our own needs.

Many of you really invested in this drafting and the many versions we went through. I personally want to thank you for the sincerity of your effort. Now it is yours. We will talk about what it means and continue to work on driving this into our enterprise over the coming months but hopefully it has weight. However, in this context let me leave you with this to ponder; we aren’t there yet and we must perform. We have to deliver on our commitments to our customers, to CNL, to each other. We have to be honest about our failures and when we fall short, because we will. You have to be excellent about assessing your own performance.

Think about it like this, reflect on those timeless moments in your life, when you lose all sense of the clock and the effort didn’t drain you but energized you. Isn’t it always when you were serving someone else, teaching your children, competing on a team, solving a problem for a grateful client, mentoring someone who appreciated it, putting together a fundraiser or a pot-luck for the office? Aren’t the most draining times when you are focused on just what you want and why the world won’t give it to you…I believe our greatest moments are when we are in service to others and if our focal point is serving others the better we will perform for our customers, our owners, each other, and the greater the opportunity we will have to deepen and broaden this impact, to impact the communities around us, the greater the rewards in all aspects of our lives.

If we are committed to this it becomes the “why” we do what we do, next comes the vision and goals for our enterprise but that is all for now, as always I welcome and need your feedback.

Someone tell UberSean42 to watch out, I’m coming for him…..or her…I’m not really sure.

Written by Paul Ellis
Group President of CNL Commercial Real Estate 

CNL Commercial Real Estate is comprised of passionate individuals that love what they do. While our blog will primarily be directed towards our internal team, we hope that it gives those that we care about most, our customers, associates, partners and friends a look inside our culture and will give everyone a better understanding why we do what we do.