I‘m in row 19, and because we booked at separate times, my wife and daughter are in row 26. We’re mid-flight, somewhere over North Florida, and then it happens.
I smell electrical burning, and I see tons of white smoke billowing down the aisle, unbelievably fast.
Over the loudspeaker in a frightened voice, the flight attendant says, “Oh, my God, ladies and gentlemen, we are on fire! Crew, return your stations.”
People are panicked and crying.
Suddenly, the plane goes into a nosedive.
Everybody’s screaming, but the only screaming that I hear is my five-year-old daughter yelling “Daddy!”
I can’t get to her.
I make eye contact with my wife and whisper, ‘Goodbye, I love you.’ It’s super heartbreaking. I take out my phone and film a goodbye video for my son on the chance it survives the crash.
By 30, I was running a 1.8 billion-dollar company.
I joined my father in business at 17; we were arbitraging groceries. By 26, I ran the company, and we did $86 million a year. At 27, we were bought by an $800 million company. The new owners gave me the keys to run it. In less than three years, I grew our revenue to $1.8 billion.
I was flying high, very close to the Sun, and it brought out the worst in me.
I was a douchebag buying into my bullshit. I worked all the time, 100% at the expense of my soon-to-be ex-wife and my new young son.
And I was arrogant.
On March 14 of 2000, because my pride got a tiny bit wounded, I made an impulsive, dipshit, childish decision to resign.
I made that life-altering decision in less than 10 seconds. True story.
I didn’t care because I was invincible. I was sure I’d quickly build a new, bigger company.
I lost the waterfront home, the cars, my wife – and I burned every bridge on my way down.
By December 2002, I was living by the grace of my girlfriend (who would become my wife of 18 years and counting) in her 600 square foot apartment.
You know what they say, “When you hit rock bottom, the only direction to go is up.”
I went into real estate because one of those 2 a.m. TV infomercials was speaking directly to me: “No money. No credit. You can make money flipping houses.”
And I did. But this time, as I rebuilt my income, I was intentional about family time with my new wife and a second child on the way. Because of my desire for time freedom, I became passionate about trying to turn my hustle into a real business.
I came up with a new concept called “Reverse Wholesaling,” and I invented the first software that automated finding buyers. Both were game-changing innovations in the industry.
By 2010, I was flying high again in business…
And just when I start to get sucked down the rabbit hole of work again…
Just when I start to lose my focus on what matters…
Suddenly, I’m in a nosedive on a plane on fire.
I’m looking death right in the eyes.
Our plane landed safely, surrounded by fire trucks. (I learned that when an aircraft is on fire, pilots nose dive immediately for multiple reasons, such as getting to 12,000 feet as fast as possible in case
the plane loses cabin pressure.)
On the ground, with my wife and daughter wrapped in my arms, I had a clarifying lens on life: “Is my life as I want it to be? Not by my checking account, but by every other regard?”
I will no longer leave anything unsaid or undone.
I will pursue moments over money because you can’t take it with you.
I will live every moment as fully as I can so that when my time comes,
even if it’s tomorrow, I will have no regrets.
Today, our family-run real-estate company, REI Nation, and our educational businesses, Real Estate Worldwide and the Boardroom Mastermind, are doing incredibly well. My greatest passion is the training business; I run it day to day; I love to work closely with the 150 students in our mastermind.
Unlike my younger self, I’m not trying to collect bullshit trophies for my business accomplishments. Now I value being a present dad, a good husband, and a mentor to as many people as I can.