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Steve is the author and founder of Lifeonaire. Teaching thousands of people how to live and experience abundant lives. He has flipped over 500 houses in his investing career and helps investors to transform their businesses from life sucking to life giving ventures.
As a teenager, Steve was building his own businesses. At the age of 21, Steve bought a restaurant and bar as his first real estate investment. Without going into detail, it didn’t end up being a long-term success. But he was able to get started in this highly competitive industry at a young age and set a great foundation for his future!
When Steve turned 25 he bought another bar that ended up working much better for him. He used creative real estate investing techniques to get it. Once the bar was his, he thought he would be on easy street raking in the wealth.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s run a business that what he thought was not the case. “Turns out,” Steve says, “all I did was buy myself two jobs. I was lucky if I could pay myself for one!”
When the second bar went under, Steve found himself deep in debt with terrible credit. Not knowing what to do, he started working a day job with a steady paycheck. While getting paid for his work felt good, having someone working over him did not. “When someone else was dictating my life, that entrepreneurial spirit was starting to fire up again,” Steve mentions.
That was when he made the decision to becoming a successful real estate investor. However, Steve barely had an income, was deep in debt, and terrible credit. What was he going to do?
With everything going against him, Steve started doing his homework. He studied successful methods and researched different types of investing. Wholesaling appealed to Steve because you didn’t need good credit to start, you didn’t need a lot of money, and you didn’t need the means to flip a house. It took him about 8 months to get his first deal closed, but he didn’t give up.
That first deal was it for Steve. Real estate investing is mostly a mind game, and he understood that now. When the first deal was closed, Steve started getting offers within the first 48 hours. The man he ended up selling to took him on as an acquisitions manager, finding 7 houses in 6 weeks for his new partner.
Steve came back with an eighth property that got rejected. Instead of letting it go, Steve flipped that property to someone else and made a profit off of it himself.
When he made the full profit from that sale, Steve knew what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He was going to become a successful real estate investor. In his first 2 years of real estate investing, Steve flipped 105 houses!
At the end of the day, taking action is about being motivated. Steve was motivated to reach financial freedom, he never stopped, and he made it happen. There’s nothing more important in real estate investing than that.
After 2 years, Steve realized that working with a partner wasn’t for him. In Jan 2001, he made $40,000 with his partner. “At that time I only needed $25,000 to get by,” Steve explains, “My lifestyle was very lean.”
When he began working on his own, Steve easily made more than that in the first few months. One month made $60,000, then the next month he made $70,000. He didn’t know what to do with all of this money, so he decided to give back.
Steve found people in the community who offered to help him organize his income to live comfortably and to give back. Since he was making a great living now, they suggested for him to buy his own home. Steve bought a 5 bedroom, 4.5 bath house on a 5 acre lot in Baltimore as a single guy in his mid to late twenties. That’s amazing!
After that, Steve put together his rental portfolio, bought himself a vacation home, and went from having zero assets to over 7 million dollars in assets in just 3 short years.
Seeing his success, Steve started getting people coming to him for training. People were flying across the country to be coached by Steve. “In the back of my mind,” he tells, “I’m thinking ‘they don’t really want what I’ve got’. I don’t feel successful yet.”
Realizing he was happier before getting all of his properties and assets and worth, Steve was at a loss. He finally figured out that, although he had all of these things now, he didn’t have a life. Real estate investing is time consuming. Steve quickly saw that he was spending all of his time running his real estate investing business and not doing much else for himself.
One week there were 2 gentlemen who approached Steve asking him to teach them how to become a millionaire. He responded simply with, “Why do you want to be a millionaire?” To which both men replied: “So I can be a better father and husband.”
Steve told them a piece of great advice. He said, “You don’t need to be a millionaire to be a good father or husband. That’s done in the choices you make. Do the things that good fathers and husbands do, and you’ll be that.”
Needless to say, they didn’t like that answer. Steve was contemplating why these men thought they needed to be millionaires to be good people and heard the word “Lifeionaire” come to him. That’s what those men wanted to be, not millionaires. They wanted to experience an abundant life and they believed that money would get them there.
Money is just a vehicle. Having lots of money wasn’t the goal, having a great life is. Once Steve understood that, he was able to become a successful Lifeionaire, instead of just a real estate investor.
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Danny Johnson: This is Flipping Junkie podcast episode 97. [music] Welcome to the Flipping Junkie podcast. The podcast for flip pilots everywhere. Flip pilots are the house flippers that work more on our business instead of in our business by keeping a 30,000-flip view. You’re now part of a small group of house flippers that considers themselves flip pilots that strive to build the life of financial freedom and time freedom so that we can spend more time doing what we love with who we love. In this podcast, I give you a glimpse of the daily life of a flip pilot so let’s gets started.
This is going to be a fantastic episode. And I wanted to add this to the front of it because during this interview with Steve we talk about his amazing book. And it was afterwards that he said, “Hey, we got a special here where we’re willing to give away this book for free.” So listen until the end of the podcast episode to find how to get it for free. So I wanted to say that so that you’re not listening to it and jump out and buy it and then find out at the end of the episode that you could’ve gotten it for free. All you had to do is pay shipping which I think he said was like five or six bucks. So we’ll tell you how to do that at the end of the show. Enjoy the show.
Welcome back to the Flipping Junkie podcast. This is episode 97. We almost reached 100. Today, I’ve got a very special guest. Somebody had been trying to get on the podcast since I’ve started the podcast. It’s not that he didn’t want to be on the podcast. It’s sort of schedules never kind of worked out to where that happened. But I’m so happy to have Steve Cook on the show today. Steve is the author and founder of Lifeonaire, teaching thousands of people how to live and experience abundant lives. And he has flipped over 500 houses in his investing career and helps investors to transform their businesses from life-sucking to life-giving ventures. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
I want to start with a real quick story about how I was getting started. I spent some time on Creative Real Estate Online. It was creonline.com. And I saw some post from a guy by the name of Steve Cook who I’m now talking to on the show here. I was fascinated by his growth. He was so enthusiastic, so excited about his flipping in that forum and asking questions that—so it seemed that he sort of had success over the span of like one or two years, maybe three, from not knowing a whole lot to being very successful. And so what I did was I searched for his name on that forum and read almost every post of his from the beginning. And it was really cool to see the questions that he was asking and as he learned. And he would get advice and then go and do it and come back with new questions. It was super, super helpful. I used all of that to help expand my business, grow my business from not knowing a whole lot to—so Steve, you were one of my very first mentors and helped me. Even though we didn’t communicate and I didn’t ask you questions, I was going off with what you were asking and learned a whole lot from you. So I want to thank you first for just putting it out there even though you didn’t do it for that purpose. Thank you for being online and doing all of that.
Steve Cook: You’d be surprised at how many people told me they printed out all of those posts and that sort of became a course then to itself in time. That was the reason I was doing it, was give back. I just have this passion for giving back and for helping other people to achieve the things that I’ve achieved.
Danny Johnson: And it’s been quite a bit. I’ve followed you from there onto flippinghomes.com which you were in for a long time and then going into Lifeonaire. It’s an incredible book. I’ve got my copy right here. It’s a little battered and has a lot of earmarked pages in it, but we’ll talk about that. I wanted to first start though with you talking about your story: what got you interested in flipping houses and growing your flipping business and then transitioning.
Steve Cook: Well, for me, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I grew up in a home where we didn’t have much. It was always a topic of discussion that if we just had more money life would be better, and that really had an effect on me from a young age. I was just like, “You know, I’m going to have money. I’m going to be wealthy.” And that just really brought out this desire to have my own business.
As a teenager, I had already started pursuing my own businesses. I had started little things here and there. By the time I was 21 years old, I had already studied much about real estate investing and creative investing techniques. At 21, I ended up buying a restaurant bar and that was sort of my first big thing that I had done. But I had used creative real estate investing techniques to get into that. It didn’t last. I didn’t make it too long with that, and I won’t get into all the details. I’ll mostly just say that they didn’t want to give a 21-year-old a liquor license which was pretty smart on their part.
I didn’t learn my lesson with that first one, so I bought another restaurant bar when I was 25 and again used creative real estate techniques. I got into it with no money down. This was a much more substantial operation, and I ended up running that for a couple of years. I’ll just tell you. When I bought it, I thought I was going to be rich. I thought I was on easy street. I was set for life. And shortly after getting into it, I realized that all I did was buy two jobs and I was lucky if I could pay myself for one. I was tired after two years. But again, it was a situation where that went under. When it went under, my credit was completely shot. I was deep in debt. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was almost homeless at the time. I started working a job like getting a paycheck every two weeks. That felt good for a while because now I was actually getting paid for a work I did.
Danny Johnson: Do you think that maybe God was trying to keep you from the restaurant mistakes with the first one and maybe it took—you were a little bit too stubborn and too driven to listen and went into that second one—?
Steve Cook: I learned an awful lot through those experiences, and I teach from those experiences today. When I did get another job, I went right into the restaurant business and was a manager for a large restaurant chain. But I’ll tell you I had one person over me and the last thing in the world I wanted was to have somebody telling me what to do. It actually felt good for a little while, getting that paycheck. But when I was the one making my schedule and somebody else was dictating my life, that entrepreneurial spirit was just starting to fire up again. And I was like, “I cannot do this for long.” I had to figure out what I was going to do and went back to real estate investing. But I said, “Do you know what? I’m going to become a real estate investor, but I’m going to do it right. I’m going to figure out the formula to this, and I’m going to do it.”
But my problem and challenge was I had no money. I was deep in debt. I barely had an income. My income as a manager for this restaurant was only about $35,000 a year and that was just getting me by at that time. My credit was completely shot. So I had everything going against me when it came down to being a real estate investor. How in the world am I going to become a successful real estate investor from the shoes that I was in? And so, I started just investigating and doing a lot of research and studying and doing everything I could to figure out. “How do these people do it? Because I believe that some of these people are telling their stories, these rags to riches stories. Some of them got to be real.”
And I eventually discovered a type of investing that you could do, that you didn’t need any credit. You didn’t have to have any income. You didn’t have to have any experience. You didn’t have to have any money to get involved. I looked at that and said, “Well, I’m qualified for that so maybe I need to look further into this.” That was wholesaling. And I started pursuing wholesale flipping. It took me about eight months to get my first deal. During that time, most people would’ve given up. I’ll tell you. Once I got that first deal, the light bulb went off and I got it, and I got it. I understood it. So many people don’t understand that it’s mostly a mind game.
Danny Johnson: Absolutely.
Steve Cook: I knew everything that I was supposed to do. There was a part of me that didn’t believe it could be done. As soon as I got that first deal, within 48 hours or so, I had people wanting to buy that property from me. One of the guys wanted to buy it from me then actually took me seriously once I had a deal. And he said, “You know, I’ll take you under my wing and if you can find properties for me.” So he taught me a couple of things. I found seven more deals in the next six weeks for this guy. And then I go and I find the eighth deal and he passed on it. And then I was like, “Uh-oh. Okay. Why doesn’t he want it?” Today, at hindsight looking back, the guy just bought seven houses in six weeks. He couldn’t buy it anymore.
Danny Johnson: He started to get a little picky.
Steve Cook: Yeah. So I turned around and I flipped that eighth property to somebody else and I made as much off with that one deal as I did off with the seven with him. And I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I maintained the pace like that. My first two years in the business, I flipped 105 houses and just continued on a pace like that for years to come.
Danny Johnson: That’s insane. That’s amazing. I like how you said that you knew what you needed to do but you have a part of you that the belief wasn’t fully there. I was just reading a book from Chad Helmstead or I think is what his name is, and he was talking about how we do things, what gets us to do things and doing them well. And starting from the top, he kind of reverse engineer it where taking action is based on whether we’re motivated to or something like that. And then being motivated is based on your attitude of that topic or what you’re doing. And then attitude is based on your belief of whether you can do it or how you feel about it. And I’m screwing this all up. But basically, it all boils down to belief though. And then our programming is what determines what we believe. So that just like shows that when people can overcome those base ones, the ones that originate all of that to get where they could take action. And so when your belief was shown and you had a strong belief because you just did it. You knew you could do it. It just took off. I guess when you say that the majority of new investors don’t over get over that belief part where they feel like they can actually do that themselves and having success at it.
Steve Cook: Well, that’s one of the things that we really focus on with Lifeonaire. And I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves just yet but Lifeonaire is all about the why and having a why that you could believe in. And all too often when somebody comes to me and they tell me they want to become a successful real estate investor because they want to make a lot of money, that’s usually not a good enough motivator to get them to do what they have to do. My motivation in getting over that hump and why I stuck with real estate investing that was eight months when I didn’t get a deal, I saw many people fall to the wayside way after 30 days or 60 days or 90 days of not getting something. They walked away. I question that at times. I almost walked away. But the one thing I said to myself, I said, “If I don’t do this, 10 years from now my life is going to look exactly the way it looks today.” And that scared me more than the fear of maybe not succeeding right away. The fear of failing with doing a deal was not as bad as failing but doing nothing with my life, and that’s what really pushed me over the edge and made me hang on and do what I needed to do to overcome that.
Danny Johnson: I like that. So it’s kind of weighing the discomfort of getting out there and dealing with the fears that you face right now versus long-term regret that you didn’t do anything.
Steve Cook: I focused on the reward rather than the fear of failure.
Danny Johnson: I experienced the same thing. Nine months, I think, was what it was before we got our first deal. My father was flipping houses. I could see him doing it, and I knew he was doing it. But even with him knowing that he was doing it, I had moments six months in where I was thinking, “Maybe I’m not cutout for this.”
Steve Cook: Or “this doesn’t work.”
Danny Johnson: “Maybe it doesn’t work for me. It worked for him. I don’t know how, but it doesn’t work for me. Maybe I’m not supposed to.” And I almost quit, too. And it’s pretty amazing getting over that first one. That first deal is really—I think we had maybe two within the next couple of weeks after getting that first one.
Steve Cook: That happens so often. It’s crazy.
Danny Johnson: So, let’s talk about the transition. So how many years were you flipping at the high rate like you were doing?
Steve Cook: Well, after those first few years in the business, I didn’t make that much money. In my first two years, I made a lot of mistakes and I had a partner so things were getting divvied up. I decided to sit down and really evaluate where this was going and evaluate the business in general: what was working, what wasn’t working. I came to realize that having the partner was not a good idea for me. I made changes.
And so two years of doing that and getting away and started a few things on my own, I made as much money in my first month by myself as I did in the whole year with my partner. And so to put things at a perspective, this is kind of going back to January 2001. I made $40,000 in January 2001. And at that time, I only needed about $25,000 a year to get by. My lifestyle was very lean. Again, my credit was still shot. I couldn’t borrow money to buy a car or anything like that, so I didn’t have any car payments. And within the first three weeks of the year, I had met my needs for the whole year. Then the next month, I made $60,000. Then in March, I made $70,000. And I continued to make this kind of money month after month after month.
And now, I’m trying to figure out: What do I do with this? I’m making all this money. I want to do the right thing, and I’m giving the money away. I love helping people in ministries and places of need. And so, I was giving a lot of it away to the person I went to and I said, “I want to do the right thin with my money and I’m not sure what to do.” I went to a pastor at my church. And he said, “Steve, I’m going to introduce you to some people.” He introduced me to an estate planner. He introduced me to an accountant. He introduced me to other business owners who are very successful. And all of this people were very willing to come alongside with me and help me. They saw this young kid who was really making things happen and have such a big heart for doing right, doing good things. They were all working on putting together a plan for me and telling me what it is that I should be doing.
They put together this plan, and I did exactly what they told me to do. I followed it step by step. And one of those things they said was, “Steve, you need to go buy yourself a really nice home. You can afford it. Get yourself a nice home. You need to ride off.” So I went off, single guy. I bought a five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home on five acres. One of Baltimore’s nicest neighborhoods. I live in the house by myself. I went and bought my vacation home down in North Carolina. I started to put together my rental portfolio. Long story short, I went from zero in assets to over 7 million dollars in assets in just a little over three years. Everyone is watching me. And it’s like, “Everything this guy touches turns to gold. You should be doing what Steve does.” They kept sending people my way. I’m getting my phones ringing up. I look at email because people are emailing me. People are flying in from all around the country. They want to come and peek at my brain to see what I’m doing.
And in the back of my mind, I was like, “They don’t really want what I’ve got. If they knew the truth, they don’t want it.” I was struggling the whole time. I don’t feel successful yet. And I kept thinking maybe I’m just one big deal away from that success or there’s just something else that has to happen. And so, I started taking bigger risks. I started doing bigger deals and thinking, “They all believe I’m already there, so I got to be close.” I’m working harder. Finally one day, I just came to grips with, “Man, I used to have an awesome life before I had all of this.” When I was that real estate investor, I was doing really well and I asked them what is it that I should do. They put together this plan. And ever since, I have more money. I have more net worth. I own a lot of property. Everybody thinks I’m doing fantastic. I got a great reputation, but I don’t have a life and I’m working all the time trying to maintain this thing that they told me to put together.
I remember one night that I was in bed and I couldn’t get to sleep. I was sitting there and just thinking. I just started adding all of my debt, and I started thinking about my tax returns. And that night, I came to realize I had four and a half million dollars in debt. And for the last three years, I had paid over $300,000 in interest that I was getting to write off. But I can to realize that I have to make over $300,000 just to pay the banks first before I could even think about keeping a nickel for myself. And I thought, “Okay. I’m doing that. But man, that’s a lot of money. Why am I working that hard for them?” And I just really started contemplating everything and that things needed to change, something had to give in.
I had people always coming to me wanting me to teach them about real estate investing. And there was this one evening or one week. I had two gentleman, both come for me and said, “Steve, I want you to teach me how to become a millionaire.” By this time, I started asking people why. “Why do you want to become a millionaire?” And in both case that these men said, “So I can be better father and husband.” And I said guys, “You don’t need a million dollars to be a better father or a better husband. That’s simply a choice that you have to make, and you do the things that good fathers and good husbands do.” And they both were argumentative and said, “No, you don’t understand.” I said, “Well, look. I do understand. I mean, I am a father too. I get it. I know what you’re feeling, but you don’t need the money to do that.” And while they kept insisting they did, I said, “So let’s just say I help you and you spend years trying to become a millionaire and you fail at that, are you going to fail at being a father? Are you going to fail at being a husband because you didn’t make this happen? Or are you going to focus on that, too?” And again, both of them were sort of dismissive of me and thought I didn’t understand.
I was just really in prayer about that one day, “What is it? What is it about this word ‘millionaire’ that grips people?” During that prayer time is this word “lifeonaire” just came to me, and I’d never heard of lifeonaire before. It’s a new word. It doesn’t exist. I wrote down Lifeonaire and just what was on my heart. It was what they really wanted to be, was a lifeonaire. They wanted to experience an abundant life. They believe that money would get them there. And in that moment, I also realized that I was that same guy. What I really wanted was to live an abundant life and money is just a vehicle. It’s not having a bunch of money that I wanted. I wanted a great life. And that helped me to begin to start the change, to focus on everything that I was doing in my business.
Danny Johnson: I like that story a lot. I think a lot of us feel that way, that we get into this with hopes of becoming better fathers and husbands and being able to give by getting a lot and building up all this well. And I don’t know who said it. I’ve heard it several times. But basically if you’re not giving right now, what makes you think you’re going to give when you make that much more. Because when you reach that next level, all of a sudden the bar is set even higher. It’s a never ending thing like you were talking about. Everybody felt like you were there already, but you didn’t feel like you were there already. The reason why you’re doing it wasn’t to achieve that. It was the reason behind it. But I think maybe sometimes when people say, “No, but you don’t understand, Steve. I want to be a millionaire.” They’re maybe thinking more in terms of like time freedom or having the ability to do all these things. But as they grow the business like you did maybe like the restaurant in a certain way, you’re juggling a lot of things. And like you said, taking a lot of that debt and really finding that you’re not building more freedom, you’re actually losing some of your freedom as you’re doing all of that.
So what caused you to write the book? I’ve got it right here. It’s Lifeonaire. It’s an amazing book, and I love the way it’s written because it’s all in story. It’s not a dry, “Do this and do this and do this. Don’t do this. Do this.” It’s all in story. And I think a lot of us relate to the characters in the book. So where did the idea come from for the book?
Steve Cook: Well, first just going back a little bit to my own story when I met with all of those people who so graciously helped me with putting together the plan of what it is that I should do. I came to realize that every single one of those people when I was introduced to them and we sat down to develop my plan, not one of them said, “Steve, what do you want your life to look like?” Every single one of those people just assumed that my goal was to accumulate more wealth, so accumulate net worth and to make more money. They just assumed that.
And we’re living in a world where that’s sort of the American dream. The American dream has become very distorted. It’s all about accumulating more and making more and having more, and that’s not necessarily what we’re looking for. And by default, when you walk into a financial planner’s office or an accountant’s office or a state planner’s office, everybody just by default they go right down that path. And no one ever asks the question: What do you want your life to look like?
And so, I started realizing that I had bought into all of these lies and the people around me were buying into the lies. The people I was teaching bought into the lies. The lies are so subtle. They sound great. It sounds awesome. If we could make $50,000 a month, what would that do for your life? That sounds great. But what do I have to give? There’s a question that somebody should ask before you start going down that path.
And so, Lifeonaire when I decided I was going to write this book—by the way, it took me nine years to write that book. I wanted it to be a book that when people read it that they would not want to put the book down that they would repeat it from cover to cover. The first few versions of the book—go ahead.
Danny Johnson: I think you succeeded in that.
Steve Cook: Yeah. We’ve heard that from many people. In some or many cases, it’s the first book people have ever read cover to cover. They couldn’t put it down that’s what they tell us, but I kept going back and kept going back and kept going back. I was writing it first as a nonfiction book. It was Shaun McCloskey who said, “Steve, when you share the Lifeonaire message, you do it with your own stories and how things have involved, and that’s what people listened to. That’s what people want to buy into. And I think you should write the book as a fictional story.” And that’s when I changed gear. It went down to that fictional story route, and it all came together pretty quickly.
And so, the whole idea behind the book was helping people to relate to the characters in the book. We wanted everyone to be able to relate to somebody in that book and to see themselves in the story and to really realize that we believe we’re doing things right. We’re living in this world. We’re playing by all the rules. We’re following everything that the world around us says that we should do. But is that getting us what we really want? And have we ever taken the time to think about what we want? Are we just doing what our parents want us to do or our college buddies want us to do or our coworkers want us to do? Or are we living a life that we want to live? And the whole idea behind the book was helping people to see that, see themselves in these stories that perhaps they’re living somebody else’s life and not the one that they really want to live.
Danny Johnson: It’s interesting. Taking the time to do things. Like you said, if you want to be a better father and husband, you don’t need to get the million dollars first. Start taking steps to making sure. And I think there’s the whole thing of a balance, and some people say there can never be balance. You’re either going more than one way and then back this way and all that kind of stuff. You can say this or that works or this is better than or that’s better. But really at the end of the day, like you said, it boils down to what you’re trying to accomplish. Reevaluating whether the money is what’s going to get you there or maybe that amount of money.
Steve Cook: Well, money is a great thing. And it’s a great thing in the hands of the right people who know what they’re doing with it. Money can destroy the life of somebody who doesn’t know how to handle it or how it works. And unfortunately, I think that’s one of the lies that so many people have bought into. They believe that having more money will make life easier, but that’s the only thing in life that they believe more of as easier. Having more kids is more difficult. Being a teacher with more students is more difficult. More rental properties takes more time and more effort to manage them. It’s not easier with more. It’s not easier to manage more flips than it is with less flips. But for some reason, people think that having more money makes life easier. Not necessarily the case. Easier to write more checks.
But one of the things that I’ve always said, that when I was first going through this process and making a lot of money and doing all the things that people tell me to do was just—having more money just allowed me to be miserable [inaudible] that sense of not having what [inaudible]. I could go on vacations to nicer hotel rooms, but I didn’t enjoy those vacations because I was so busy focused on the work and focused on the problems with work or the conflicts that were taking place, somebody not doing what they were supposed to do. I was just always consumed with that, and it really affected my relationships.
You brought out time on a couple of occasions, and this is where Lifeonaire is so focused on because at the end of the day time is our life. And we live in a world that says, “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded for it.” And some of us are willing to just sacrifice and work and work and work and return for those rewards, but then we don’t have the time to enjoy it. We give away our futures and hopes that one day it gives it back to us. We give away our lives and hopes that we’ll have success that maybe in 20 or 30 years we can enjoy and then begin to experience the benefits of that. And at Lifeonaire, we said, “Well, why not enjoy it now? Why do I have to wait so—?” We’ve helped many people where they’re working 60 to 70 hours a week and making a good income, but they don’t have a life. So we’ve helped them to transform their business to where they’re working 20 hours a week and ironically their income tends to double or triple when they do that because now they understand the why behind their business. They know why their business exists in the first place. Before, it existed just to make a lot of money. Now, it exists so that they can live the life that they want to live.
Danny Johnson: So how are you helping people do that? Is it a strategy? What are you doing to help? Because people out there are like, “How do you that? So I’m going to not do as much and not work as hard, but I’m going to double my income,” which is not what you’re saying. You’re just saying sometimes you see that happening. What is the sort of overview of the process—?
Steve Cook: The very first step is putting that foundation in place. All of this stuff is foundation. If I sit here and I’m building a business to make money and that’s the goal of the business, then I’m willing to give up myself and give up my life or whatever it is to make that business successful. And unfortunately, I don’t count the cost of what did I just sacrificed with my life, what did I sacrifice with my marriage, what did I sacrifice with my kids.
We have people do something that most people have never done. We sit down and we have them come up with a vision for their life, and that vision is not allowed to have money in it or whatsoever. It’s a very difficult process for most people because that’s the way they typically define their lives. If I ask people: What you want your life to look like? Most of them tell me what they want their balance sheets to look like or how much passive income they want. And I say, “Well, no. You didn’t understand the question. What do you want your life to look like?” Then, I have to ask them, “Now, tell me. If you had all that money, how would you spend your time? How would you live your life? How would you experience it?” It’s a difficult process because 99% of all people have never done this before. So we have them develop a life vision.
And then the purpose of our business is to help us live that life. That becomes the why. And when people develop a life vision that they really embrace, now you start to look at your business in light of that vision and say, “Well, are these actions within my business going to get me closer to my vision or take me away? Is that new opportunity going to enhance my life? Or is it going to distract from my life?” And you now have something to measure things against. And once you start to make decisions based off of that, you say, “Well, I’m not going to be able to be the coach of my kid’s football team if I take on this opportunity; therefore, I’m not going to take on that opportunity because it won’t help me to live the life I want to live.” You start saying no to things that you would’ve said yes to before. And the things that you start saying yes to are the things that are really going to enhance the life that you want to live in. It forces you to become more efficient with your business. It forces you to do the most profitable things and get rid of the things that are not as profitable.
Danny Johnson: You just say no to things and activities.
Steve Cook: And yes to the right ones. It gives you power to say no when you should be saying no. It’s really transforming people’s lives. All too often, people become real estate investors and just pursue some good idea that somebody taught them, but it’s not necessarily the right avenue or vehicle for them to live the life that they want to life. As an educator in the business, so often people wanted me to tell that wholesaling was the best way for everybody to get started. I’d always say, “Well, I can’t tell you that.” [inaudible] I would frustrate people to know then because they all wanted me to just have a pat answer. But I say, “Well, it depends. What are you trying to accomplish? What skills and resources do you have? What do you want out of life?” And there are so many different types of real estate investing, and you can’t possibly know and I can’t possibly advice you which is the right one for you until I know what it is it’s supposed to do for you. And so when you have that life vision, we know the life that you want to live, and we can evaluate where are you now and how we’re going to get you to where you want to be, we can now plug in the right business model to get you there. But just picking any business model sometimes takes you so far away from the life that you want to live. I’m wrong to just tell somebody, “Everybody should start out this way and take these steps. And then once you get to this level, you go to the next thing.”
Danny Johnson: There was a part in the book where you were talking about passive income, people talking about rental properties and things. I found the page actually right here. “Passive income? Come on now, Alex. I’ve owned rental properties as well. There’s nothing passive about owning single family homes. They require a lot of work.” It’s things like that where you’re thinking, “Well, if I’m going to do that, then I’m going to have all this passive income and I won’t have to work.” It’s not the reality.
Steve Cook: That’s one of the lies that people believe. You’ve got guys who are on television with palm trees in the background saying, “Hey, buy these rental properties and all you’re going to do is go to your mailbox and pick up the check.” It’s not true. In fact, many of the landlords who I know would be better off getting a part-time job at McDonald’s and they would do better than they do with their rental properties. They wouldn’t have the stress and everything that comes along with it.
Rentals are great. I’m not mocking them. But if they don’t fit your plan and you don’t fully understand what you’re getting into, then they don’t make sense. And this is why it’s so important that you know what is it that you want out of life so that you can design your business the right way. In fact, I’ll just say this. Most of the programs that are out there would say, “Go down this path. Build your business and fit life into what’s left.” We say, “No. I’m going to live my life. I’m going to fit business into what’s left. We’re going to design the business to serve the lifestyle that I want to live.” And there’s just a little bit of a twist, but it makes all the difference in the world.
Danny Johnson: That’s huge. Over the last several months, this year, I started doing my weekly planning on Sundays for my week. And someone had told me—I forgot who it was. What I started doing that was different was exactly what you were just talking about. I would plan the fun stuff first throughout the week. The fun things and the things that matter the most. The things that I want to do with my family first and the things that I want to do for myself first. And then, putting in all of the work stuff around that. So it’s never where that doesn’t get fit in. It’s always a part of the week, and it’s changed things a lot.
Steve Cook: I always tell people that when speak to them, they always say, “Well, my family is the most important thing to me.” Well, if that’s true, they should get in your calendar first. Usually, your family gets the leftovers if there is anything left. And I say, “The way you put your calendar together, you’re demonstrating what’s most important to you.” And when you say that your family is most important, put them there first and give them the first priority and then let business fill in the rest.
Danny Johnson: Absolutely. And what I like about that is before I was doing that, I would be so busy because I have more than enough things that I can be doing. There’s not something that I could be doing. And so at the end of the day come home and say, “Wow. It’s just all that stuff that I’ve been working on.” And now, I’ve got to figure out something that I want to do with my family. That’s why a lot of people just vegged out and just sit and watch TV because having to come up with that when you hadn’t planned it is really hard to do. So when you’re planning it at the beginning of the week, you end up doing things that you typically don’t do because it would require that planning when you make that plan. I just love it. I recommend everybody to do it if you’re not.
Steve Cook: I’m almost embarrassed to say this sometimes. All too often and even yourself, I get an email from you and it said, “Steve, I know you’re busy and I really value your time.” I’m busy with doing a lot of things. But work, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I work less than 20 hours a month and that’s what Lifeonaire planning has really done for me. I just don’t work that often. I don’t work for money. That’s probably the best way that I can put it. I do a lot of things, and I have the free time to do so much what I want to do. I can be available to people who need me. And ultimately, that’s the things that are most gratifying for me is just being there to help people and to come alongside with them and to live life with them and help them through their struggles or help them build their business or help them become better fathers and husbands and things like that. “Well, I’m working 60 to 70 hours a week.” That’s a bother, and I don’t want to hear it from people. Doing this has really enabled me to become the person I want to be and live the life that I want to live.
Danny Johnson: Nice. So do you feel like that you see it really hard for people even when they come up with their why’s and why they’re doing things and getting beyond the financial part of it? Do you find that people typically still struggle with saying no to certain things or not working as much or following a different plan? Do you find that it’s not like a thing that the light bulb goes and all of a sudden there are different people? Are you finding that people do struggle with that even after they’ve determined what they want?
Steve Cook: It is varied. For some people, all of the sudden the light bulb goes off and they’re just killing it right out of the gate. They’re making drastic life changes. And within six months to a year, you look back and they can’t even recognize their old life. And then, there’s other people that the world around them is still telling them that they were on the right path. You’re doing the right thing. You’re working hard. You could start to share these Lifeonaire concepts with people and tell them about the changes that you want to make in your life. They start to tell you you’re crazy. I was told by people, “You’re nuts. You’re going crazy,” when I was starting to make these changes in my life. I just have to stop talking to those people or telling them what I was doing because they were trying to discourage me from doing the things that I felt like I needed to do. And that’s one of the beauties within the Lifeonaire organization, is that we’ve put together groups of people so now you get to surround yourself with like-minded people. It’s hard to find like-minded people at home.
And so, throughout the country we have these groups. And once you get around like-minded people, it’s amazing at what can happen. But it really boils down to when people develop that life vision. We call it their Lifeonaire vision. If they embrace that and they say, “I want this and I want it more than anything. I’m not going to let anything get in the way of me living it,” they make it happen. And depending upon how far down the wrong path somebody is, sometimes they can turn things around in a matter of a couple of months. Sometimes it takes a couple of years, but it’s well worth the effort because the rest of their lives they’re able to experience life on a level that their peers and siblings and others will never be able to experience. In fact, most Lifeonaires say that their biggest challenge is that because of the life that they’re able to live now, their friends can’t just go on a ski trip with them next week. They can spontaneously do things. They say, “Thank God I got my Lifeonaire friends. Because when I call them up and say, ‘Hey, I want to go to Vail in a couple of weeks and go skiing. Do you guys want to go?’ They simply say, “Well, my Lifeonaire friends say yes. All my other friends say they can’t.” So it takes some time for some people, but sometimes it’s very quick. Sometimes it takes two or three years. But it is that mentally embracing that this can happen.
Danny Johnson: So you tie in real estate investing with that training, correct? It’s not just change your life and focus on these things. It’s “here’s how you can maybe accomplish what you’re trying to do without spending all the time.” Am I right in saying that?
Steve Cook: To a certain degree, yes. Lifeonaire is for everybody. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Because of my experiences in the real estate investing world, the majority of people who are part of the Lifeonaire organization today are somehow or another tied to real estate investing. So we have some of the top real estate investing pros across the country who are actually coaching students of ours. I help many of the top investors to take their businesses and transform them so that they can live the life that they want to live. But at the same time, we’ve got beginners who are just getting started up and they want to know, “How do I build my business the right way? I don’t want to go down the wrong path. I don’t want a business that’s all consuming, that dominates my life and it’s robbing me of life. I want to build this in such a way that it enhances my life and it contributes to the lifestyle that I want to live.” And we love when we get somebody who is there. It’s a whole lot harder to unwind when somebody is done and bring them sort of back to zero so we can get them moving in the right direction versus somebody who is just getting started and has that gumption to just say, “I’m going to do whatever it is I got to do.” We can get them out of the gate running right from the start.
And so an awful lot of the people within the organization are tied to real estate investing. All of our coaches are real estate investors and have successfully built their businesses. They live the lifestyles that they want to live. I would say for just about every one of our coaches, real estate is their primary income. But Lifeonaire is they do because they absolutely love it. They love changing people’s lives, and it keeps them sharp too.
Danny Johnson: Nice. So how does this work? Lifeonaire. You’ve got the book. And I think that’s a great start for everybody to go out and get that book. And you can get that on Amazon, right?
Steve Cook: It’s available just about anywhere you can buy a book. I think it should be everywhere.
Danny Johnson: And then, I’ll put it also in the show notes page. So if you have trouble finding it or don’t know how to spell it, it’ll be on the show notes page at flippingjunkie.com/97 and that’s 97 for the show, the episode number. Beyond that, you guys do these live events, right? You do a couple of day events in different cities?
Steve Cook: We do. And the one thing that I always recommend is that people read the book first. See if this is something that’s appealing to you. And if so, come on out to one of our events. And what we do at those events is we help people to develop their Lifeonaire vision. It is more difficult than what people think. As I’m sitting here talking about it, most people think that they can probably just sit down and write out a vision for their life. At the end of the day, it’s not that difficult except we’ve been conditioned to think differently. And so, we really help people to break through that conditioning at the event. To write a vision, that is what they want, not what their parents want or what they think the right answer is but it’s your life. And our goal is to not influence your vision but to help you discover really what it is you want your life to look like, how do you want to experience your life, and not let it be influenced by me, your parents, your coworkers. You can live that way long enough. You don’t need that anymore. Now, it’s your turn.
But reading the book actually by itself has transformed people’s lives. We have some incredible testimonials where people’s lives are flipped upside down just after reading the book. And then some of those people need to come on out to the event for a little extra shot to get them to that next level. I’m passionate about getting that book into people’s hands because it’s such an easy tool to even share it with others. Once people are reading, they say, “I love this.” They can pass the book along or get it into the hands of other people as well.
Danny Johnson: I was worried when I went to look for it today. I couldn’t remember. I was like, “I bet I lend it out to other people.” And I wonder if I ever got it back because I wanted to bring it in to have it with me. I’m so bummed too because I missed—you guys were in San Antonio not that long ago when I missed it because I was out of town. But you guys have plans to come back to Texas?
Steve Cook: I’m sure we’ll be there someday. But I personally don’t even know what the Lifeonaire event schedule is.
Danny Johnson: How often do you do then?
Steve Cook: A number of people do the events today, and that’s just a testimony, too. The guys who are living it now, they love the message so much. They just want to go out and share it. We do those events for little to close to nothing. And there’s not tons of money being made at those events. In fact, we just hope to get our cost covered just to share the message. We have guys, they’re just passionate about sharing it because it changed their life and they want to help change others. So it says people get the opportunity to do an event. They book them, and they’re there. And they’re off sharing the message. So if you can get us to San Antonio, we’ll come back.
Danny Johnson: Say that again.
Steve Cook: If you can get us to San Antonio, we’ll come back.
Danny Johnson: Okay.
Steve Cook: There’s an audience there.
Danny Johnson: Sure. Let’s see. Do you guys do that? Do you try to plan out having a certain number of people interested and then you bring it to the city?
Steve Cook: We do. And so most of the time, there’s people who are contacting us who can expose us to an audience and then we’ll bring a team of people out there to actually teach at the event. My hope in the near future is that we can begin to start bringing this message into the church, and that’s where my focus is going to be. We’ve got some who are focusing on business groups. We’ve got some focusing on real estate groups, but they’re just passionate about getting it out there and we’ve got half a dozen people who want to teach this event and who want to share it with others.
Danny Johnson: And how long is the event? Two days? Three days?
Steve Cook: We do it in three days right now. We’ve done a lot of bringing it to people so that they don’t have to come to us and making it more convenient for them. But over the course of three days, we take people through that process of developing their vision and finally having the actual plan on how to start making that vision happen.
Danny Johnson: So what I want to say is I guess like all the people listening to this podcast if you are in San Antonio or close to San Antonio and you’re part of the Flip Pilot Facebook group. And if you’re not, just go to Facebook and look for the Flip Pilot Facebook group and ask for an invite. It’s a private group, but we’ll let you in for listening to the podcast. And just let us know if you’re interested and if you’re close to San Antonio and attending this event on Lifeonaire, then I’ll work on trying to get some more people together but that’s the place. Let’s do that on the Flip Pilot Facebook group, talk about that and try to see how much interest we can get to get Steve’s team down there for Lifeonaire. I think that would be awesome. And then, I wouldn’t have to travel very far.
Steve Cook: We would love the opportunity.
Danny Johnson: But if not, I think I’m willing to travel to see it. You guys do it where you are pretty often? What’s this? Do you know what the schedule is like for that?
Steve Cook: I am not sure when is the next time we’re going to have one near me. I live up in Wisconsin. So you’re all the way south. I’m all the way north.
Danny Johnson: And it’s cold right now.
Steve Cook: Yes, it is getting cold as we speak. But we do an event here maybe once every three or four years. If you go to lifeonaireevents.com, whatever events already on the books are there. And I don’t think there’s another event on the books until February of 2018. We did more events this year than we’ve ever done before, probably 15 to 20 of them this year. So any events that are already officially scheduled will be on that website. But I’d say read the book first.
Danny Johnson: Get the book and then look at doing the events. So I’ll put a link also in the show notes page, flippingjunkie.com/97, for that as well for lifeonaireevents.com. You’re in Wisconsin now, right?
Steve Cook: Correct.
Danny Johnson: How far are you from Oshkosh?
Steve Cook: Probably an hour and a half. I see you got Flip Pilot. Are you part of the EAA? Do you go to the events in Oshkosh?
Danny Johnson: Yeah. That’s why I was asking about that. So during the summer, I try to go to those events. All these things I do is all aviation based. It’s a mix of flipping and aviation, two of my favorite things.
Steve Cook: Awesome.
Danny Johnson: So that’s the reason for that. It’s good to have passion outside of flipping, family and everything like that. How can people reach? Is it a best thing to go to lifeonaire.com to reach out to you? If somebody else wants to get a hold of you, what’s the best way?
Steve Cook: Lifeonaire.com is by far the best way to reach us. I get quite a bit of emails and sometimes through the website because it’s the easier way to get in touch with me or anyone else in the organization. It’s not just Steve Cook anymore. There’s tons of people who are out there willing to help who are living this lifestyle and teaching it. So whether it’s through the blog or just through the Contact Us page, there’ll be somebody who will reach on out and be willing to help you.
Danny Johnson: Great. Well, thanks again, Steve, for being on the show. I’m glad that we’re able to finally get this put together and do this show. And hopefully, a lot of people out there—I’m sure people will get a lot out of this and really start to think about why they’re doing what they’re doing. Get that book and help that guide them to a better way of living.
Steve Cook: I sure hope so. That’s our whole goal at a minimum, just help people understand that they can make difference choices and it doesn’t have to be the way everybody around them says it needs to be.
Danny Johnson: Absolutely. I think we’ll leave it at that. I couldn’t say that any better. So thank you, Steve. And we’ll definitely be in touch.
Steve Cook: Thank you.
Danny Johnson: Have a good day.
Steve Cook: Have a good day. Thanks.
Danny Johnson: All right. So like I mentioned, Steve sent me after the show the information to get that book for free, to get the Lifeonaire book for free. Just pay shipping and handling. So if you go to the show notes page at flippingjunkie.com/97—that’s the episode number, 97. So flippingjunkie.com/97. There’ll be a link on the show notes page to get that book for free. You just pay shipping and handling. So everybody, I highly recommend you go out there and get that book. [music] It’s a great book. I know you’ll enjoy it.