By Brent Roberts
When I tell people I bought my first house at age 18 and my first fourplex at age 19, some find it hard to believe. It sounds improbable, unless you knew me growing up.
My father was a huge supporter of mine—and my first mentor. When I was 11 years old, delivering newspapers in my neighbourhood and saving every penny I earned, he would nudge me and say, “When you make enough, tell me, so that I can retire.” He always believed in me. He encouraged me. He also expected a lot from me. What’s great about mentors is that they often have more belief in you than you yourself do.
When I was in my early 20s, my dad recommended I read William Nickerson’s famous book How I Turned $1,000 into a Million in Real Estate—in My Spare Time. (The figure has been updated to $5 million in the latest edition.) But I wasn’t much of a reader, so I took a course instead from real estate expert Albert Lowry, and it lit a fire under me. Since then, I have been fortunate to be educated, mentored, and coached by some of the world’s leaders in real estate investment. Mentoring can be a powerful personal development tool and involve an empowering relationship based upon mutual trust and respect.
Mentors have shaped my life, and I am a mentor now, as a way of paying it forward. Here I share with you some of the great advice I’ve received over the years—what I call the “10 Principles of Success.” You may not relate to all of it, but hopefully some of it will motivate and inspire you, as it has for me.
1. Seek Mentors
Let’s start with mentorship. My dad was an important mentor to me, as I mentioned, but I’ve had many others in my career. One is well-known real estate investor Floyd Wickman. He taught me important lessons, such as “You get by giving, but you don’t give to get.” I think that philosophy is brilliant. What it means in my business is that you don’t look at clients like they’re a paycheque. You help people buy real estate to help them reach their goals—and you do it with integrity.
Another mentor was Zig Ziglar, also a successful real estate investor. Zig used to say, “You know what a big shot is? A big shot is a little shot that kept on shooting.” He had some great, motivating lines like that. Don Campbell at REIN has also been a huge mentor to me. In fact, there is mentorship throughout the REIN group, whether it’s from someone speaking on a stage or sitting beside you in the crowd. They see something in you that you don’t see yourself. It’s important to have someone to guide you, who you can look up to and aspire to be like. I have also been, and continue to be, a mentor to others. That can be equally rewarding.
2. Have a Sense of Humour
I’ve been successful in this business, sure, but I’ve also experienced some horrific investment losses. It can be very difficult. However, there is truth in the adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. At some point, all you can do is laugh. If you don’t have a sense of humour, things will get to you. Plus, people gravitate toward happy people. Sometimes I come home from work and think to myself, “I laughed a lot today”—which is a great way to look back at the day. I often poke fun at myself, to make people laugh. Don’t get me wrong, real estate is a serious business and it can be stressful. It’s hard to always be happy, but if you can have fun doing what you’re doing, it’s the best thing in the world.
3. Always Be Learning
I love learning new things. If you’re not learning, you’re dying, as far as I’m concerned. When I see a new piece of technology or see a bridge go up, for instance, I want to know more about how it was put together. It’s the same in my real estate career. After more than 35 years in the business, I’m still constantly learning things. I try to learn as much as possible, not just about investing but about other areas of life as well. I attend as many motivational and real estate seminars as I can, to keep my mind open and fresh. You can also learn by teaching. There’s an old phrase I say a lot: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I find that the more I mentor people, or teach them, the more I learn. You need to have a learning mindset if you want to be successful at whatever you do.
4. Family Comes First
Your family is more important than anyone else. It sounds clichéd, but it’s true. They are the ones who stick by you and support you, especially when you support them also. You need to make time for family. When my daughter phones or texts me, I say to my customers, “It’s my daughter. I have to take this.” Most people understand, because they too appreciate the importance of family. The real estate business can be tough when it comes to balancing work and family, but you have to make it work. You have to put family first.
5. Be Resilient
There will always be ups and downs in investing. It’s inevitable. The wins are amazing, but the losses can be devastating. It’s important to be resilient and not give up when things gets tough. Most people quit before they should. You have to put up with bad tenants, repairs, and deals that fall through. Author and motivational speaker Raymond Aaron uses the term “the hang-on twins”—you need to be able to hang on financially and emotionally. That’s resilience. When it gets difficult is also when a sense of humour comes in handy.
6. Stay Focused
Focus is one of those abilities that sounds simple but can be very hard to achieve, especially in today’s society, with all its many distractions. If you think about it, there is no such thing as multi-tasking. You can really only do one thing at a time, at least if you want to do it well. Focus isn’t just about avoiding distractions either. It’s also about prioritizing different areas of your life at the right time—this includes work, family, health, and spirituality, if that’s your thing. You have to take your highest priority in each of those areas and focus on it. Zig Ziglar used to say, “When you’re at work, you feel guilty that you’re not at home with your family, and when you’re with your family, you feel guilty that you’re not at work. No wonder you’re never getting anything accomplished. You’re so busy travelling.” The point is that you need to focus: work when you’re working; play when you’re playing.
7. Be Prepared
Success is the crossroad between opportunity and preparedness. You need to be ready to accept any opportunities that come your way. You may have to make split-second decisions on things, and you will have to be prepared to make those decisions, especially as a real estate investor. That includes being prepared for any questions that might come up. If you can’t answer an investor’s questions, you aren’t going to be successful. When they see that you’re prepared, people trust you more and are more willing to do business with you. Think about it: it’s not different from buying a TV or smart phone. There’s a saying that goes: “Today I am prepared to do what others are not prepared to do, so that tomorrow I can afford to do what other cannot afford to do.” That’s what preparation (and hard work) gets you.
8. Be Tenacious
I believe that everything is possible. I teach that to my kids, and I try to reinforce it with my employees, fellow REIN members, and the people I mentor. In investing, if I believe in a deal, I can get the money. I rarely take no for an answer, whether in my real estate business or my investments. My employees will attest to that. People’s first instinct often is to say no. But there is usually a solution or at least a compromise that will end up being a yes in some form. It’s not really a negotiation; it’s a mindset. You need to be and think tenaciously to reach your goals, big and small.
9. Strive for Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is something I struggle with; most of us do. You’re not always going to achieve it. Sometimes you’ll be out of balance, but what’s important is that you recognize it and try to tilt the scale back to the centre, or to the other side, whenever you can. My kids have certainly helped me become more balanced at home and, more recently, at work now that I’ve included them in my business. Today, I work hard for six days a week and take one day off. I never used to do this. I used to work hard seven days a week. That’s not sustainable over the long run if you want work-life balance.
10. Help People Win
I love to help people reach their goals, whether it’s in real estate, investments, financial, or personal. In selling real estate, for example, one of the coolest things in the world is to see your customers win and to share in helping them make improvements in their lives. That’s also what I love about mentoring; seeing people walk away empowered to do whatever they put their minds to. My mentors have helped me so much; I feel blessed to be able to pay it forward.
Brent Roberts started to invest in real estate and bought his first "door" at the age of 18. Brent owned 18 houses prior to becoming a Realtor®. He decided to take the real estate course in the late 1980s to become a more educated buyer. He was then convinced to become an agent and has never looked back. Contact Brent at [email protected].