The Competitive Edge: An Olympic Mindset

As a high jumper in the 2000 US Olympic Track Team and 2001-2003 & 2006 U.S.A. Volleyball National Team, Erin Shean is a natural leader. With over five years of real estate experience at CBRE in San Diego, Erin recently joined the Stream Team in Dallas, exclusively representing office tenants. In this two-part series, we catch up with Erin to discuss what so often makes competitive athletes successful in commercial real estate (CRE).

How did you get started in real estate?  

So, really it started when I was a little girl. My dad has been in the commercial real estate brokerage business for over 40 years. He did both tenant and landlord representation work, and I grew up listening to his stories at the dinner table about the deals he was working on. But I am very hard-headed, like many other competitive kids, so when it was my time to get into the business world after my athletic career was coming to a close, the last thing I wanted was to do what my dad did. I wanted to make my own way in this world and carve out my own path, which led me to earning my MBA and relocating to San Diego after graduation.

I tried a few different careers prior real estate. I was a trauma and reconstruction medical device rep for Stryker Orthopedics, and I managed a sales team at The Active Network, but after some soul searching, I finally landed where I should be—in CRE.

And, I love commercial real estate. It fits perfectly with my personality. If I could have a conversation now with my stubborn 30 year old self, I would tell her to let go of her pride and follow in her father’s footsteps, but then again, I absolutely believe that those experiences in different industries shaped who I am today.

You mentioned previously, how much training for and competing at the Olympic level taught you about commitment, competitiveness, resilience, discipline and drive. What is the most transferable skill for CRE?

Starting in a new market is somewhat like starting from the beginning, back to the basics of stacking buildings and cold calling. It’s not the most glamorous part of the job, and it takes a lot of discipline. Back in my track days the challenge was to stay motivated, my coach gave me workouts, but it was my responsibility to give 100%, not to skip out on any of the sprints, conditioning and strength work. So, discipline is something I practiced daily and is the most transferable skill for me.

What other skills and personality traits developed through competition and training help you in the workplace? 

In CRE you have to be self-motivated with the desire to find opportunities, especially in the tenant rep side of the business. We are constantly sourcing opportunities and seeking strategic ways to build our business and help our clients accomplish their strategic goals. That self-motivation mirrors a lot of the qualities you need to succeed as an athlete.

An athlete’s competitive mindset really translates into CRE because you literally can’t be successful in this business unless you’re driven and have that motivation to come to the office and to work hard. You have to create and generate business—to do that, you definitely have to be persistent, especially in a more challenging COVID market.

To anyone interested in training their mind, I recommend the book “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins, it is the ultimate mindset book. It had a profound effect on me and made me realize there are truly no excuses for not accomplishing what you want.  


This is the second in our two-part interview with Stream professional and former Olympian Erin Shean. To find out why competitive athletes are so often able to transition to become successful in business read part one, The Competitive Edge: From The Olympics to the Office.

Erin Shean received her MBA at The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business. In 2010, she was inducted into the University of Texas at Austin Hall of Honor for her academic and athletic accomplishments. Erin recently joined the Stream Team in Dallas to exclusively represent office tenants.

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