I know most people would say the opposite, but to be honest 2020 was probably the best / most productive year of my life. The reason I feel compelled to share the story of how and why this is the case is not to brag or say, “Look I made it!” Rather, my sincere hope and goal is to help people realize no matter what the circumstances, there is still opportunity to progress forward.
Also with it being the beginning of a new year, I’m sure there are others out there setting new goals for themselves. I therefore wanted to share the specific tools, tactics, and resources that were instrumental in helping me in case they help others as well. Perhaps others will find value in learning what I found to be effective for me.
Lastly, Christina and I purposefully try to advocate positivity on our social media, and with 2020 being such a difficult year for many, it might be easy to think this optimism is naive, forced, or fake. Or that it’s easy for us to be positive when our business seems to be doing well. But I wanted to show the other side that people hadn’t seen, the part where we went through our struggles. My optimism stems from facing real hardships and coming out on the other side, and realizing I had to change my mindset, attitude, and habits first before I was able to change my circumstances and results.
To better understand what made 2020 so good for me, you have to understand the context and my recent history.
I left the corporate world in 2011 to start The Class Room, and not until 2020 did I have some semblance of financial stability. That means, essentially, I’ve been broke for the better part of the last 9 years. Not to mention I’m at an age where most of my contemporaries are hitting their stride in their careers, getting promotions and raises, plus buying houses and starting families.
When we had The Class Room I never made more than $1,600 a month. During TCR’s 6-year run we were never profitable enough to pay me a livable wage. I was fortunate I had friends that helped me in a number of ways, like letting me live in their homes paying little or no rent.
There was also a time in between The Class Room’s closure and my transition to real estate full-time during which Christina was paying for everything for us. And I mean everything. It was during this time that she almost broke up with me. It wasn’t solely about the money. It was the fact that I wasn’t acting with a sense of urgency to correct the financial uncertainty I was in. I had ideas and plans, but I wasn’t really ‘bout that action. I would do a little bit here and there, but I wasn’t getting after it the way I should way I should have been.
On top of being broke, there was a time I was really difficult to be around. I would get stressed, crabby, and moody. I didn’t have steady income coming in, and there was a possibility I’d have to face lawsuits for The Class Room’s outstanding debts. There was a specific fight Christina and I had in which she explicitly told me, “I’m not happy.” My response to that was, “Well do what you gotta do.” I’m not sure why she didn’t break up with me right then and there, but fortunately she didn’t.
All of this that I just described - from opening TCR to Christina almost breaking up with me - transpired mainly between late 2011 and the beginning of 2018. Then in 2018 and continuing through 2019, things started to turn around, as business for the Chris & Cab Real Estate Team started to grow.
In 2020, the seeds we sowed really began to bear fruit, and last year ended up our most productive year to date. Our real estate sales volume increased 67%. Last year was also the first year I individually made more than my old corporate salary, and did so by 38%.
But life isn’t just about work and money. I also feel more mindful and balanced, and I’m much better at managing my moods and frustrations when they arise (most of the time...but I’m still human.)
Lastly, I think the romantic relationship between Christina and me has continually grown stronger over the years. It culminated in what was the highlight of our 2020 - our engagement. We’ve also gotten much better at working together, having figured out which responsibilities should be handled by which partner.
So what changed?
Below are the things that really helped me kick things into gear.
Though I didn’t turn things around immediately, the fight in which Christina told me she wasn’t happy was a real gut check. And since we’re in this business together, I always have someone to hold me accountable when needed.
Whether it be a business partner, teammate, mentor, personal trainer, business coach, or whatever it may be, we all need someone to hold us accountable, and to help steer us back to the right path when we start to drift.
2. A SENSE OF URGENCY
Although our Chris & Cab business showed improvements in 2018 & 2019, our pipeline of deals wasn’t yet stable. So when I turned 35-years-old at the beginning of 2020, I was acutely aware I was only 5 years away from middle-age and still not yet stable in life. So all of last year I kept telling myself, “If you don’t make it happen now, you’ll never make it happen. There’s no more time [to wait] - you gotta make it happen.”
Approaching middle-age, combined with another event that occurred on January 26, framed my mindset for all of last year.
That event was Kobe Bryant’s death.
Kobe was one of my favorite basketball players, and someone I emulated growing up. It’s easy to see why his death, at age 41, was something that had a profound impact on me. This is why all year I kept using the hashtag #StayMamba. It was a reminder to work hard, be disciplined, and to strive for greatness in your craft or vocation. But above all, it was also a reminder that the time we have on this earth is finite. So we have to pursue our goals with a sense of urgency, especially if we have big, ambitious goals.
3. BEING EXPOSED TO THE WORLD OF PERSONAL GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
At the beginning of 2018 I was required to take a real estate training course by Brian Buffini. To be honest, I didn’t really want to take it initially, but after the first week I was all-in, and it wasn’t long before I became a big fan of Brian Buffini and his content (namely his podcast). It literally changed my life.
My interest in Buffini’s podcast sparked an interest and curiosity to find other podcasts, books, and content in the genre of Personal Growth and Development. Buffini has published a reading list of books he recommends. I’ve read a handful of them, with plans to get through as many of them as I can.
And when it comes to the podcasts, below are the shows I listen to most:
Short Story Long (there are 191 episodes, but it hasn’t updated since February 2020)
4. FINDING SYSTEMATIC PROCESSES FOR PROSPECTING AND LEAD GENERATION
One of my previous misconceptions I had about business was that if your product or brand was good enough and if you marketed well, the right customers would find you. While this is true, this is only part of the picture.
The piece that I was previously missing was lead generation. Not only must you market and advertise your business, but you must also make conscious, focused, and deliberate efforts to generate leads and find new customers.
You can think of marketing as the activities you do to broadcast your business so that your customers find you. Lead generation are the things you do to find customers, preferably those that are ready, willing, and able to complete a transaction.
Marketing → Customers find you
Lead Generation → You find customers
Marketing and lead generation are related yet separate functions of any business, and you need to do both to be successful.
In 2018-2019 Christina and I tried a few different things to generate business. By 2020, we had a pretty good grasp of what was working for us and what wasn’t, so now we can dedicate time and resources going all-in with those proven methods.
5. MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS
As I got more into Personal Development content, “mindfulness” and “meditation” were topics that repeatedly came up.
One of the biggest misconceptions around meditation is that its intent is to “clear one’s mind”. That is impossible (unless you’ve reached Enlightenment). Everybody has thoughts that pop into their head as they go about their day. These thoughts are automatic and virtually uncontrollable.
We can’t stop ourselves from thinking, and so the purpose of meditation is simply to become aware of what we’re thinking (and feeling). The analogy the Headspace app uses is that if the thoughts in your head are like cars moving in traffic, meditation is like sitting on the side of the street observing the moving traffic.
As we become more aware and conscious of our thoughts, we're less susceptible to being controlled by those thoughts or emotions that don’t serve us. We’re also less likely to revert to automatic patterns of behavior that don’t serve us. As I alluded to earlier, I’m naturally a person that can be pretty moody, impatient, and/or frustrated, especially when I’m stressed. I think incorporating a regular mindfulness practice has had a tremendous positive effect on (1) my mental well-being and emotional steadiness; (2) my productivity; and (3) becoming generally more agreeable. I honestly believe delving deeper into mindfulness has revealed lessons to me that make me a better person.
A mindfulness practice doesn’t have to be meditation. I’d consider journaling another form of mindfulness practice. Taking time to sit, reflect, and write down thoughts, feelings, and emotions is being mindful. A quiet walk can be meditative too. Being mindful can take many forms.
What does my mindfulness practice look like?
Mainly I journal every morning. It’s one of the first things I do right after I wake up. My journaling is formatted as such:
List 3 things I’m grateful for this morning
List 1-2 things I’m “excited about” or “looking forward to doing” that day, but these things are actually things I DON’T feel like doing and know I might procrastinate on. I write down that I’m excited for them to change how I’m thinking about them in my brain.
Free-form reflection. I just write down whatever thoughts, feelings, and/or personal insights I’m thinking about that morning.
After I journal I’ll usually run or work out, and then after that I’ll meditate for 15-20 minutes, and sometimes up to 40 minutes if time allows (or if I fall asleep lol).
When I was starting out I just found a bunch of guided meditations on YouTube that I liked and I saved them in a playlist, and I would listen to those every morning. I also used the Headspace app for awhile and I definitely think it’s a useful app that a lot of people can get value out of. These days, I just listen to my favorite binaural beat on Youtube, start off with some deep breaths, and then perform some sort of focused attention meditation. I usually end the meditation by repeating my positive affirmations to myself a few times.
6. DRINKING LESS ALCOHOL
At first I cut back on drinking mainly to avoid hangovers. Now that I’m no longer in my 20s, hangovers are multi-day events.
But since I’ve cut back, I’ve recently realized even having as little as 2 drinks a couple of nights in a row will affect my cognitive ability and energy levels for a few days at a time. I won’t feel hungover, but I just won’t feel like I’m in a “peak energetic state”. I realized the days where I do feel my best - where I feel I am able to reach my “peak state” - are days that have come after I’ve abstained from alcohol for awhile.
By no means do I feel like I’ve got it all figured out, or that I’m even close to where I want to be professionally or personally. But I do feel like I was able to make huge strides the last 3 years, culminating in a milestone year in 2020 despite unprecedented challenges. My hope in sharing what I’ve learned thus far is that it helps you along your journey to living your best life.
#StayMamba my friends.
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