A whirlwind. That is what the past 2.5 years have been.

As I approach the 2.5 year anniversary of graduating Iowa State, and passing my licensing exam to start in real estate, I am overwhelmed at how quickly time passes and how often we forget to reflect, to just be, to celebrate, and to truly appreciate how we have grown, who we’ve met, and what we’ve learned. Even sitting here writing this makes me feel almost guilty because I have conditioned myself to always keep moving, striving to advance, do better, help more, etc, etc. Today, I am still. I am 25–a quarter of a century old–and I’ve never felt more at peace. I am so proud to look back and realize that I’ve helped 52 families achieve their real estate goals in the past 2.5 years. That alone is a reason to get up every day and love what I do.

What brought me to real estate in the first place? A passion for three things: helping others + building wealth + running my own business.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t really clear on the motivators that pulled me into a self-employed role until I was doing the work for a while. I just knew that it was what I was called to do at the time. That’s the thing… we hear all this talk of “find your passion,” “Find your true calling and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I don’t think it’s this glaringly obvious moment in our lives where we find what we love to do. I think it’s much simpler than that. It’s as simple as having the courage to follow curiosity and to WORK it like a full-time job until you truly make it into a full-time job, financially. If you want to own a successful business, you have to work it that way.

So it’s simple, but NOT easy. I’m nowhere near done learning, but here are 8 takeaways from 2.5 years in business and 25 years of life:

Take action, but leave time to humanize your interactions

I think 90% of self-employed humans have a condition called Paralysis by Analysis. I sure do. So I’ve just decided to make a decision, commit, and implement. There’s no perfectly right answer, so you might as well put your best one out there. Give your audience something to consume, something unscripted and true to you. Burnout is real, and many times it’s due to over-thinking, over-committing, and over-analyzing. Stop. Simply take action each day that is authentic to you and true to your core values. Be knowledgeable, positive, supportive, and PRESENT. Judgment has no room in a space full of presence, positivity, and general care for others.

I cannot stress enough the value of humanizing your interactions. When I do intentionally do this – I have the BEST days. When you sit down with someone, really ask them – how is LIFE if going? What are their passions? Have they spent time with those passions lately? Realize that It’s never fine. Maybe it’s amazing – and if so, you should want to know why, or maybe there are bumps in the road –  and if so, you should be there to help or just listen. Whatever it is, move past the small talk and truly make an effort to be there for people. I believe that everyone just wants to be seen, heard, know they matter and be treated fairly. Do THAT within your business. Let the rest fall aside. Even if you aren’t WILDY successful, I’m almost positive that you’ll be happy. 

Be direct and exact about who is your ideal client

Throughout my past year in real estate, I realized how much I had fallen into the trap of trying to do what everyone else is doing, but better. That is both exhausting and disheartening if it is not true to you. I couldn’t grasp why things felt off — I had great clients, a good workflow, a better work-life balance than my prior year, etc. Then it clicked… I was not running MY business, based on MY core values and reasons for getting into the business in the first place – helping others BUILD WEALTH.

If you know me, you know that I am motivated by wealth. It’s not about making money, it’s about helping clients understand how real estate can be a tool for wealth building and financial freedom. I live for meetings where I can sit down and change someone’s mindset around money/wealth. Money is a tool. It’s a form of measurement that we trade our time for in order to gain a sense of security. I could go into my philosophy on this for hours, and trust me, I do, but when it comes down to it, my ideal clients are the ones that view owning real estate as a way to build equity, diversify their wealth, and/or build passive income streams.

The more I had conversations about THIS, the bigger and better my clientele became. Why? Because we had the same goal in mind. I was able to create common ground, understanding, and clear cut goals for my clients, just as I would for myself. I truly believe that sharing my personal goals and reasons for loving real estate is my best way to connect with + empower clients.    

Follow your curiosities and commit to being a lifelong learner

I’m a firm believer that the more you learn about subjects you care about, the more value you can add to others. Have you ever met someone that is fascinated by a certain subject? It draws you in, doesn’t it? The fact that they have spent so much time in the trenches learning about one set topic? I love that. Throughout the past 2 years, I have made a conscious effort to think of myself as a consultant in the area I am most interested in: building wealth through real estate. It’s fascinating to see the way people approach the subjects of money, time, and investing, and I love to challenge their thought processes and see how they can challenge mine in return.

Learn to outsource when someone can do it more efficiently + better than you

This was a hard one for me. As I got more intrigued by the idea of building wealth, my pocketbook got tighter. When I have a goal in mind, there is no chance you are derailing me from the path I’m chasing. Call it or ambition or tunnel vision, whatever you like, but when I have a clear-cut goal, I’m going to pull out all the stops to get there. This works well enough until you hit a few too many roadblocks at once. Trying to do it all really will take it all out of you. Outsourcing it all is not the answer either, and your own personal pocketbook will confirm that.

So where is the sweet spot?

It’s where someone else can do the work more efficiently, better, AND where it has a great ROI for your business or life. In other words – where are you spending the time that’s costing you? Personally – I’m great one-on-one with clients talking wealth building/goals/life, a natural at networking + building collaborations, I’m an expert negotiator, problem solver and closer. However, anything digitally? Not my thing. I can craft a message I’d love for you to hear, but getting an e-newsletter template together, setting up my website on the back-end, keeping my CRM updated, etc, etc. You guessed it…Not my thing, not my thing, not my thing. So I outsource. Because my time is valuable, much more valuable when I spend it doing the activities that produce income for me, and creating that income opportunity for others when it is not in my wheelhouse.

ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT and lean into the people that support you.

Another difficult subject. Asking for help. I do not like to need others. However, in the business of real estate, I rely on referrals from friends and family to keep the business circle running. I rely on some of those same friends and family to keep me sane when the market is crazy for those first few months of selling season. 🙂 My business mentors and a personal board of directors to help keep me accountable in asking for the support, partnerships, experiences, and business that seems out of reach sometimes. Having a personal board of directors (think about the areas in your life you want to improve and ‘elect’ a person you are inspired by to be on your board of directors to keep you on track and accountable in that area) has helped me to be confident in making the big asks relating to my life and my business.

I have realized that it’s ALWAYS worth it to ASK. I have ‘asked’ for new opportunities hundreds of times in my career, and while there are a lot of NO’s, I have gotten more YES’s than I can count, and have found that the opportunities I am really passionate about always have been a YES or have found their way back to me.. Lean in, don’t hesitate to show your value, + most of all, ASK for what you want. You can’t get a YES if they don’t know you’re not in the arena or haven’t made your name known. Always make the ASK.

Make time for who and what matters OUTSIDE your career

I once heard a real estate speaker say, “If you’re going to survive in real estate, you need to learn to live your life and do real estate in the cracks.” She also asked, “Who here works Sundays? Saturdays?” Arms raised up all around the room. “Ok… so when is your off day?” she inquired. Nobody knew how to answer that. Whispers of concern raised throughout the room along the lines of – how on earth does someone take a full day off, what if my clients need me? etc, etc. I vowed, right then and there, to have a set time of day or take my full day off- Saturdays. Anyone can relate to this – the feeling that there is always more to do or something more that can be done, especially small business owners.

So, what caused the shift?

I realized how much discontentment I was having in my personal life – and that a lot of that was due to that fact that almost all of the time I was ‘home’ craving quality time with my family and friends, I was actually on the sidelines working, doing all the ‘extras’ that I felt like I should be doing. I promise you –  It’s hard to “make plans” when your loved ones think you are never available. They start to think that way because you take anything and everyone that comes your way, on their time, every time, and neglect to set boundaries. And guess what – clients (most of the time) don’t care! Is Saturday your off day? They could see that home Sunday morning or Friday night after work. Just ASK.

Make time for your loved ones. It will make you appreciate your clients that much more for being flexible and they will appreciate your for being recharged and your awesome self after having actual time off. Make time for LIFE – the trips, and movie nights in, that spontaneous weekend adventure, the spring cleaning spree, etc, etc. Whatever truly makes you happy – outside of work – find it, and commit time to it.

Set Yourself Up For Success and SAVE YOUNG

It was a specific day. May 3rd, 2019. I have always had saving, investing, and being financially savvy in mind. But today was the day I suddenly realized I needed to budget where ALL my dollars were going, versus just being content with what I was saving. And oh my – what a wakeup call. If you are not currently running an accurate budget I bet you will be FLOORED with all the money you are leaving on the table.

Have you heard of compounding interest? The rule of 72? Real estate investing? Take all those extra hundreds of dollars WASTED on bar hopping, or too many times out to eat. Think of what that could be in 20-30 years, think of how many years EARLIER YOU COULD POSSIBLY RETIRE if you thought about saving and investing now. Have drinks with your friends and family at home or whip up a gourmet meal in the comfort of your own kitchen.

I’m pumped to see how much more exciting my life gets as I continue down this more frugal path. When you are aware of your money and following a tighter budget- you can get creative. Have fun with it. Skip the status quo of dinner and a movie, find an amazing recipe, and try date night in. What’s even sexier than the fun of dreaming up new ways to be more frugal? Thinking of the amazing vacations you’ll get to take and all the time you’ll have to just sit around doing what you love years earlier when you are thinking investments young.

Reflection is the best catalyst for YOUR growth

Should you get your masters? New certifications? Should you start a family? Should you switch career paths? A better budget? New Relationship? More time outside? More time with family? What do YOU need? I think that is the single hardest question for any of us to answer. Because we rarely sit down and spend time with ourselves. We are a society that is committed to growing a company, or building a stronger family, etc, etc. But how many of us know what we each need personally?

I believe that when we sit down and take the time to look back, we gain a lot of clarity. What were the needle-movers? For me – it’s the things that brought me: More Joy. More balance. More Business.

I know I need to spend my TIME on those tasks because they bring me both joy and income. And there are some that brought me all 3 – that’s where the magic happens. So I’m setting aside time for those people, tactics, practices, and events (hello anything fitness/yoga related) that are really moving me forward: both as a person and a business owner. Trust me – it’s hard to make those the same things some days.

If you’ve made it this far (thank you for reading) and I hope this is 1 takeaway for you – I hope that you set aside a few hours to reflect. Reflect on how truly wonderful you are, how many things you’ve accomplished, how many people you’ve affected, and that you set an intention to pay it forward. I hope that you can like I’m so desperately working on, learn to slow down, be intentional, and let people know: you see them, you hear them, you’re proud of them, you believe in them & they matter to you.

Your Des Moines Realtor,

Kelsey Russell