The Place: IHOP
The Cup: Coffee, black – for both of us.
Background: Cup 17, Thom Singer suggested Chad as a person to know in Austin. Chad and Thom have known each other for several years and among many shared interests, they’re both speakers and members of the same Toastmasters group. Thom invited me to visit the group (my first ever Toastmasters meeting) so Chad and I opted to meet following the meeting.
I was curious how Chad made the leap from Real Estate into public speaking, so that’s where we started. Twenty-five minutes later I had my answer. But not before going through an amazing story of trials and triumph, failures and victories, loss of self and redemption. I was left somewhat speechless and certainly in awe of the mental fortitude it took to stay on the wild roller coaster to success that Chad has ridden. Buckle up friends, and I will share his story.
Chad met the love of his life when he was 11 years old. I suspect not many people can say that. At 13 they began dating and continued through high school and carried on when they went to college, cycling somewhat on and off – as most young love stories do. As a little small world side note, Chad played college football at my alma mater, The University of North Dakota. So, for one year the two of us lived in the same town of less than 70,000 people – 1500 miles away from the IHOP where we met. Crazy stuff!
Grand Forks, ND isn’t for everyone and for Chad, a year was his limit. He moved to Minnesota and eventually his girl got tired of the cold and decided to move to Austin, TX. After several months apart, he followed his heart to Texas where after one of the most romantic proposals I’ve ever heard about, they got married, built a successful business and a beautiful family and lived happily ever after. OK, so I skipped a whole lot right and while it is the truth, as we know, sometimes the truth is complicated and not exactly as it seems. So let’s look a little deeper.
Starting from that amazing proposal and marriage, next comes the successful business. Remember when you were a kid and your favorite cereal contained a little piece of amazing plastic crap that you just had to have? Maybe you poured one bowl and then dug your hand down into the box and pulled out your treasure. Kinda nasty, when I think about it now. Particularly when I consider my little brother often beat me to it so his sandbox playing, booger picking fingers had been all over my breakfast of champions. Gross! Anyway, it would be super if building a successful business was that easy – dig in and pull out a treasure. Unfortunately, there is more to it.
Chad was bartending and had worked his way into management. He was married to a woman who wanted babies and the 12+ hour days and weekends behind the bar weren’t exactly conducive to family life. Chad knew he needed a way out. When his wife came home and excitedly told him she’d met a guy who had a business idea, Chad was ready to talk.
And talk they did! Chad tells me he was extremely excited about the business and was ready to go out and conquer the world. Unfortunately, what he didn’t realize was that although he hadn’t heard of the company, when he went out and tried to sell his products and build his team, the people he was talking to had heard of the company, Amway, and would he please get out of their living room? I can relate. Right out of high school I was hired by a company for a job that sounded incredible, until my first day when I realized I would be selling vacuums. Note to self: ask what are you selling before you take the job. Although the experience wasn’t the success he’d hoped for, Chad learned a lot about goal setting, leadership and personal growth and as you’re about to learn, those lessons have stayed with him.
Real Estate investing was an area of interest that Chad decided to pursue. He took classes got his licence and three months later, had his first listing – a mobile home in Bastrop, TX. Hey, you gotta start somewhere. He found himself on a property tour with a guy who never got off the phone. Chad told me he looked at that guy and thought, “I’ve got to figure out what he does.” Chad said, “The whole time we were driving around, he was in the back seat getting deals done.” A month later Chad picked up an industry magazine and there was Mr. Busy, on the front cover. It was a Saturday and Chad decided he would call the guy. And then he didn’t. He was still tending bar to make ends meet, so off to work he went and later that night who’s sitting in front of him at the bar? You guessed it!
Fate had intervened and four days later they met and Chad went to work for him and learned a ton about how to be a success in the real estate business. One of the first tasks he was assigned was to read a book called 30 Days to Success. It was from this book that seeds were planted within Chad about the importance of affirmations and visualizations. From June to December of that first year Chad sold 22 homes. The average Realtor sells 12 a year (maybe). The next year, he sold 67 and from there he started hiring buyer’s agents and built a team. He told his team he had a five year goal of earning the #1 Agent in Austin award from the Austin Business Journal. Three years later, the award was his. In addition to being a top agent in Austin, he went on to become the top agent worldwide for Keller Williams (out of around 80,000 agents) which is when he decided to start his own Real Estate firm.
When I asked Chad about that success and what the keys were, in his mind, that’s the exact answer I got. Success starts in your mind. Chad says, “The number one key to success is an incredibly positive attitude and massively positive energy.” And really, that’s pretty easy stuff when you’re on top of the world and life is one amazing success after another. You dig your hand in the box and out comes another treasure. What happens when you find a cockroach at the bottom of the box, or in this case, three? We’ll soon find out.
Chad’s business is growing like crazy for three years straight. He’s hired great people, they’re selling everything they touch, he’s even gotten into motivational speaking and training – sharing his blueprint for success with others all over the world. And then he gets a call. A member of his trusted inner circle, his controller, has not paid his payroll taxes in three years and they owe $300,000 in taxes. Where is the money? Well, along with another $200,000, apparently in her bank account. She’d stolen half a million dollars from his company. Recovering the money was not much of an option because it turns out, this 37 year old woman had just learned she had stage 4 lung cancer and she died soon after. Roach #1.
Three months later Chad’s top agent decided to leave his firm and took half of his agents with her. Roach #2.
Enter roach #3. About four months after that blow, the love of his life, the mother of his kiddos and his business partner tells him she wants out of the marriage and a few months later, Chad finds himself divorced, betrayed by a huge chunk of his team and in financial trouble. All in less than one year, he went from top of the world, to the bottom of the barrel. In this case, a vodka barrel.
Chad describes the next twelve months to me in a very matter of fact way. Almost as if he’s telling a story about a friend. I’m reminded of a surgical incision. Everything on top starts to look really good but underneath, healing is still going on. And it will take time before everything is right and the fact is, it won’t ever be exactly the same. The trauma leaves behind scar tissue as proof of the healing. Chad is looking amazing, but I can tell there is still some healing going on underneath.
Chad talks about losing his invincibility, his passion and his vision. He describes his daily routine like this: wake up around 6 am, head to pantry to fix a vodka and OJ, get back into bed. Sleep until 10 am, go to the office for a few hours, head to lunch alone and drink a couple margaritas, and back to the office for a few hours. Around 5, head to the bar and then go home and get into bed. Wake up and repeat. Chad was in a deep depression and didn’t know how to crawl out.
Everything changed February 14th of this year when his ex-wife brought over a card his nine-year-old son had made for him. In it the message was that Valentine’s Day would be so much better if his parents would take 20 minutes and talk to each other. And it couldn’t be about business.
For Chad, this was like a light bulb going off. “I’m wasting my life!” The one thing he was always terrific at – creating a vision for life 20 years out – he’d lost. He had to make some changes and find his vision again. Since that day he hasn’t looked back. He admits that his success was in part due to some great counseling and a therapist who cared enough to find the right approach medically to help him over the hump.
We’re now at the end of a year that he began flat on his back with a belly full of vodka, goalless and ambling through his days, and Chad is again back on top. His team has grown from 30 agents at the start of the year to 80, and they are getting ready to open a second location. He turned 40 last month and he says, “I feel great!” He sat down recently to do a project he completes 2-3 times a year that he calls “creating my utopia”. He projected life out 20 years and looked at his 60-year-old self and wrote about his perfect life in rich detail. He wrote about his accomplishments, his children and what their lives would be like, what trips they’d taken as a family, etc. All details of his life written out in exquisite detail. From this life, he creates 10-year goals, then 5-year goals, 3-year goals, 1-year goals and ultimately a list of things he needs to be doing today to get to that beautiful vision. It’s a process he learned years ago and has always served him well.
I ask Chad about a golden rule he lives his life by and he talks about wanting to have a positive impact on every person he encounters. “I want to be an encourager. Whether it’s with a smile or a compliment, positive energy is contagious. It’s real and people around you can feel it. I know that how I walk into my office is going to affect others.” When I asked him if he ever has a bad day, he’s quick to tell me there are bad moments, but not bad days.
If you want to send Chad’s happiness meter off the chart, take him to Nordstrom’s or give him some music. He loves all kinds – as of pretty recently, even country. He sees more live music that anyone I know. The list of concerts from the last two weeks alone is astounding and quite eclectic. He wishes someone had put a guitar in his hands when he was a kid, but since they didn’t, he’s learning to play now. I know how he feels. Guitar is like Spanish for me, I want to speak it fluently but I have no interest in actually learning it. Since magic wands don’t seem to do the trick, Chad bought a Taylor (super fancy guitar for those like me who don’t know) and is now taking lessons and practicing daily. I’m holding out on the magic wand.
If Chad had 30 seconds to address the world, this is what he’d say: “You have the ability to make a difference in your own life and the lives of those around you. Too many people walk through life without purpose and they die with dreams in their heart. Think big, love life and have an impact.”
For some reason this advice packs a lot more punch after knowing the back story. Chad is proof that nothing in life is permanent – success or failure. What matters is that you keep getting up, you keep dreaming and you dig deep. And when you dip deep enough, you’re sure to find the treasure you seek.