Social media is not a toy, but a powerful catalyst for societal change by individuals with individual goals and dreams. When I first said this, years ago in a speech to business leaders—long before social media and its sites became part of common speech and daily activities—it seemed as revolutionary (and to many as laughable) a statement as predictions of the world-changing impact of human flight did at the start of the Twentieth Century.

Now, proof of the government-changing impact of social media and individual certainty has played out on television and computer screens in North American homes and offices. We’ve had front row seats to see the full force of these technology-driven conversations and conversions.

So what? How does this knowledge influence the way you think about your place in and contributions to your neighborhood, community, and country? Since social media is not a toy, how will it prove to be a tool and a soap box for improvements at every level in your life and workplace?

These may seem like big questions, but these are the musings that reveal potential new pathways in thinking and behavior for individuals and those they collaborate with at home and at work.

Since we seem to do a lot of whining and complaining to each other—online and off, there should be many areas where grumbling can be transformed into growth. For instance, when you go beyond complaining about what is wrong relative to property ownership, do you see opportunities for growth? Some of the most creative and constructive plans for communal housing, and for solutions to homelessness and to housing those who would benefit from housing-linked-to-services, die in the planning stage. Many of these housing concepts are based on proven projects in other countries, so it is not the ideas themselves that are at fault. Out-dated barriers in the analysis and thinking of citizens and politicians, and in restrictions imposed by local bylaws hold communities back from realizing their full potential, now and for generations to come.

How can you be a constructive catalyst for growth? Why not ask neighbors—online and off—how things could be improved instead of griping about what they are doing and whining about what they shouldn’t do?

Other Underestimated Trends By the time trends are trumpeted as the next big thing, early adopters—and often the trend creators—have already locked in a lot of the true advantage. Those that finally jumped in when the trend had become a sure thing, have usually lost out on the price advantage, related status, and, perhaps, the usefulness.

Professionals and businesses often monitor trends so they won’t be left behind. They search with an eye to new marketing messages or selling approaches, not always with an eye to true opportunities for their clients. Individuals frequently wait to see what their professional advisors and service providers will suggest regarding emerging ideas and products. Lots of misguided thinking here, instead of simple forward thinking. This contributes to the struggle that business and individuals have lived thorough in the downturn and often experience in economic upturns.

Switching from following others to self-leadership can be a challenge, but you don’t have to make this shift alone. Using the question why? to chip away at standard business practices and social veneer which are no longer relevant, is a great start for conversations online and off.

What is going on around you? Here are a few observed real estate patterns with potential for growth. Since real estate is a local industry with distinct local impacts, important trends are not one-size-fits-all. By their very numbers (9.8 million in Canada, 75 million in the US), boomers will drive some of these tends. Their children and grandchildren want balanced lifestyles earlier in their lives, so don’t be distracted by chronological age. Search for similarities in intent and goals that span generations. For example:

    * Back to the future: Boomers are encouraging their children and/or grandchildren to buy the family home or cottage, rather than shopping around. Lots of advantages for boomers, especially those with lingering mortgages, and for their buyer offspring, but lots of drawbacks on both sides, too.

    * Shared ownership: Unrelated couples and individuals are pooling resources to purchase recreational and pied a terre real estate, so they’ll have access to great locations at various times of the year without year-long financial obligations. Variations on this approach include buying large tracts of land to preserve natural settings, actions which would be beyond the resources of one family.

    * Service-driven housing: Lifestyle or business service providers can use their expertise and financial resources to purchase real estate to rent to clients and users of their services. This approach can encompass any business model where shared location is a bonus for professionals and clients alike. An arts business centre could create its own live-work tenancy opportunity. It could offer benefits like access to bulk-buying of materials and shared use of kilns and other equipment.

What observed or possible patterns occurred to you as you read? Look beyond your needs and applications to who else will see potential in trends and patterns.

At the same time, opportunities will open up through new available services. These and other trends also lead to opportunities for real estate brokers, professionals, and their clients. For instance, real estate professionals could leave the transactions (which they are, even if no money changes hands) to real estate lawyers, or set up fee-for-service mediation services to facilitate decision-making and transfers. These new services could focus on lasting ownership relationships, improving investment returns, and minimizing possible areas of conflict.

Stop whining and complaining. Start constructive conversations and create the future you’ll be proud to be part of.