Nick Ruiz was a millionaire by 26 but lost it all in the real estate crash of 2008. Angry, broke, and depressed, he learned six lessons that radically changed his life forever.
I became a millionaire in my mid 20s as a real estate entrepreneur.
I was borrowing millions of dollars from banks, and leveraging myself to the hilt while the money faucet was flowing.
I was making tons of money, living the high life, and my confidence was through the roof. I thought I could do no wrong.
Little did I (and almost everyone else in real estate across the country) know that the whole thing was going to come crashing down. In 2008 the bottom fell out of the market and it completely crushed me. My net worth virtually vanished.
I was over leveraged and constant issues were arising with the properties. A perfect storm of events forced me into federal bankruptcy.
If someone would have told me a few short years earlier that I would be filing bankruptcy soon, I would have literally laughed at them, and told them they were jealous.
Well, the market crashed and my empire crashed with it. I was devastated and totally broke. I wasn’t used to thinking about what I spent, or how much anything cost, and now I was concerned with the price of a gallon of milk.
What the heck happened? I had a family to support…
I was not only financially broke, I was mentally and emotionally broke too. I was depressed and a complete jerk to most people that I encountered. I felt sorry for myself and focused on how I hated every second of all of it.
After I was done with my little pity party, I quickly used all of the knowledge I already had, and developed some unique ways to turn everything back around to a point of complete financial independence. Here are six things I learned from this valuable life experience.
1. When the winds change, I adjusted my sails
The winds in your life are constantly changing – the economic winds, your relationship winds, your industry’s winds, etc.
If you’re not constantly adjusting your sails, the winds will blow you wherever they want, and all of a sudden, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night freaked out, wondering how the heck you got to where you are.
If you’re constantly adjusting and adapting, you’ll be able to keep control of your boat and stay on your course to where you truly want to go.
When I was at financial rock bottom, I was able to see things from a completely different perspective. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to start using some different tactics in my business, which catapulted me quickly to success again.
Listen, you can be successful in any economy. We’ve all heard the stories of how the greatest wealth has been created in down times. What I had to realize is that if I wasn’t constantly monitoring the environment I was involved in, I wouldn’t be able to make the adjustments necessary to stay on the right track.
2. Being broke just didn’t make sense
Having financial freedom does not guarantee happiness and peace, but when you have it, things are usually less stressful.
Living extremely tight because you’re broke can turn into a miserable obsession that is always running your world. So, if you have the choice, choose financial independence instead of the “this is as good as it gets” lifestyle.
I had to figure out how to put my own stake in the ground, and create enough income to where I could gain some freedom and not have the constant worry about where the next buck will come from.
3. Most things are not that big of a deal
Once you go through an experience like bankruptcy, you start to realize that many other things aren’t that big of a deal, and really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Realize there’s a solution to every problem and your perspective will be radically changed forever.
Whenever I find myself getting worked up over some situation, I force myself to mentally go back to my reference point of complete financial ruin. My psychology quickly flips a switch, and my perspective is one of creating a realistic solution to the very manageable problem at hand.
4. There will ALWAYS be a rainy day
When things are consistently going your way, you feel invincible. That’s how I felt during the early and mid 2000’s when the real estate market was booming, Back then you could make countless mistakes and the booming prices would correct it all.
Then the mortgage crisis came and the values collapsed. It was the biggest crash since the great depression. That wasn’t just a rainy day. It was a hurricane! The point is that even though a crash that big might not come along again for a while, there are going to be smaller thunderstorms that will throw you off track if you’re not prepared.
Don’t over-leverage yourself. Have a rainy day fund. Create financial cushions anywhere you can because it will allow you to weather the mini storms that will come your way.
5. Put relationships first, and you won’t have to worry about money
There are a lot of ways to make a buck from scratch. We’ve all heard a million “rags to riches” stories. If you really boil a lot of them down to find a common denominator, they stemmed from relationships.
When you’re first starting from scratch, surround yourself with people who are already making all of the entrepreneurial moves that you want to make. Buy them lunch and soak up as much info as you can.
Become friends with a few of them, and the knowledge will transfer over to you quickly. You will start to take massive action with that knowledge because your friends are teaching you to do what they did, and modeling someone successful is a great way to learn.
You start to raise your expectations to the level of your immediate peers; there really is no debating that. These are some of the main reasons why I became so successful as such a young man.
If you truly create and nurture sincere relationships (don’t go into it with the “what’s in it for me” mindset), you’ll get picked up when you’re down, and you’ll be rewarded in the most unexpected and fulfilling ways.
Now more than ever, when I meet someone new, I make sure to immediately give them a genuine compliment and try to learn something about them that is unique.
When they realize that I’m interested in them, they will be more likely to want to engage with me again in the future. Consistently planting these kinds of seeds has been vital to my success.
6. Major problems in your life should be looked at as “super experiences”
When major events or catastrophes happen in your life, I call them “super experiences.” They pack years of life experience into a short period of time, and the wisdom you can gain from them can be a lifetime’s worth.
The financial downfall spilled over into all aspects of my life, and while I was in the eye of the storm, the last thing I was thinking about were any “takeaways” or learning the lessons I would be getting from it.
I was busy trying to stay above water and survive. Looking back, 2008 was the greatest year that ever happened to me on so many levels. If you are struggling right now, know that there is hope, and you can overcome anything! If you want to talk, reach out. I’d be glad to help anyway I can.
How do you respond to difficult life situations?
Photo: Flickr/ Sander van der Wel