Updated: Oct 1, 2020
| This is the 489th story of Our Life Logs |
“How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it?” ― Phil Knight, Shoe Dog
I could have easily had a very normal life, had a 9-to-5 job, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and dream of big things without acting. I’m fortunate because I had great people in my life who pushed me to new levels, gave me great advice, had faith in me, gave me insight, and pushed me to be more than I could ever dream of. With this support system, I figured out how to leave a mark on this world and become something different. But first things first. I have to say that my obsession with growth and contribution starts with my family.
My parents were my first stepping stones to the life I lead today. Both of them were from small towns in Sicily, Italy, where they lived close to each other but had never met. Each moved here as young immigrants, looking for opportunity, and each found a version of the American dream. My mother was the first one in her generation to become college educated and get a good desk job on Wall Street. My father had a tough time because his dad passed away when he was a young child. He had to grow up very fast, make money, and help create security for his mother. After many years of hard work, he worked his way up to owning a few properties in New York City. These properties allowed him to start a family and begin a legacy of accomplishment for my generation.
Both of my parents complimented each other when they were younger with their skills, drive, and family values. Truly, I have deep respect for immigrants who come to this country because the first generations must always establish roots in an unfamiliar place, but that’s how it is when you don’t have a backup plan. To survive in America, they had no choice but to succeed.
My early childhood during the early ’80s was spent going to work with my father. My brother and I would help him with small tasks like cleaning, painting, construction, and general maintenance of his properties. I learned many valuable lessons from my father. By his example, he taught humility, patience, and the value of long-term investments. He could see his impact and it gave him pride. I looked up to that sense of satisfaction and dreamed I would one day feel the same.
My older childhood was spent learning lessons from my older brother. He had many natural gifts such as a high IQ, photographic memory, and a sense of leadership that people were drawn to. To make extra money while he went to school, my brother had many side businesses, and I worked side-by-side with him, learning the principles of sales and self-employment. Some of these businesses included pop-up companies around the holidays such when we sold gift baskets, Christmas trees, and flower arrangements. This was when I learned how to overcome my shyness. We sold these items either by knocking on doors in the surrounding neighborhoods, or by going into high-traffic locations like the local mall. In the ‘90s, anything was possible. Years later, about the time I was ready to go to college, my brother became a very successful New York City attorney. All that hard work paid off.
For college, I chose a business school in New York City. I wanted to major in real estate but could not find a college that offered this major. The closest I could find was a business major at Baruch College in lower Manhattan. I chose a degree in marketing and business management. While in school full time, I worked at the college in technology and also at my brother’s law firm in New York City that was just blocks away. I had a full schedule where I would wake up at 5:45 AM to catch three trains to school and then work my two jobs until I would return home at 10 PM. I wanted this crazy schedule to push myself, save money, and use my downtime to appreciate New York city and its culture.
When I graduated school in 2003, there was an economic boom in America. Something like this only happens one or two times per generation. My brother was starting a side company to provide mortgages in south Florida and he gave me the opportunity to move to Miami to help start it up.
After it was created, I fell in love with Miami, the lifestyle, the people, and I wanted to stay. That first year in Miami, I saved my money, worked hard, barely went out with friends, learned the basics of leading, learned hard lessons, and—through grace—I bought my way into becoming his partner. This gave me a sense of accomplishment and put me in a leadership position for the first time in my life. It was not easy to lead people and I made many mistakes, but they were my best teachers. Over time, we grew that small company into a large company with three locations.
Years later, a recession hit the country. More than 11,000,000 people lost their homes, the stock market crashed, fortune 500 companies closed and major banks shut down. We were forced to close our large company due to events beyond anyone’s control.
I had to reinvent myself, and as you would imagine, it was a hard time to have lost your identity. I had to change people’s perceptions of myself, learn new skills, and start over. But as it goes, life includes moments of loss. I could either be one of those people who lived in the past or if I could be someone strong and move forward. I chose to have my loss empower me and I took the lessons I learned along the way as strength. I learned how to lead, manage people, connect with people, and build a brand. The only way I was going to survive was if I was to succeed.
I found my passion for my next venture by reading, researching, and picking the brains of those who were well-established. I noticed that all of these successful people shared passion for a singular business venture and mastered that business. Mastery, as I had learned, was a 10-year commitment to growing your skills from 30 minutes to an hour a day. Oddly enough, this also reminded me greatly of my successful parents and brother.
Finally, I discovered that real estate was my passion. The average day is a blessing where I get to spend time with successful people that I learn from, see amazing properties, and help change people’s lives. I received my license in 2008 and went to work for a small luxury company in South Beach, Florida. I respected the leader and loved the high-end branding. We did not have any formal training like most companies, so I had to figure out on my own how to become successful.
Overtime, I sought out other top producers in the area from that company who never came to the office. After work hours at the agency, I looked to network with these people at the gym, local coffee shops, dog parks, the beach, etc. After talking to them all, I came up with my own little crazy marketing strategy that I used to help start my career.
My first year with working for the new agency, I was able to hit many goals. However, it was a tough year financially so I was limited on my spending, had to give up some friends and vacations for a while to get on track. Still, I would not trade those small sacrifices for what I gained. I learned about public speaking, I created a massive network, formed a foundation for marketing, and I closed a million dollars in sales.
After four years of working for another company—I had the confidence, strength, grace, and savings to open my own brokerage. The first year was an interesting challenge which forced me to search how to bring more value than anyone else to my industry. I started the formation of a company culture I would be proud of and would change things wrong with my industry. I pushed myself to do larger deals and immersed myself in high-end environments. While the atmosphere was definitely out of my comfort zone at first, I told myself to keep moving forward.