We’re taking a short departure from real estate content today to talk about the power of formative experiences. Sometimes, we experience major milestones in our lives that have tremendous influence on shaping who we are and who we become. I attribute two formative experiences in my life for giving me the inspiration to go into big-ticket sales, as well as instilling the self-confidence and drive I needed to pursue a successful career in the sale of luxury and very expensive items. These experiences also taught me valuable lessons about the mindset and attitude needed to pursue your passions to get where you want to go in life. I realized I had to stop giving precedence to what people thought of me or what they thought about what I needed to do to make things happen for me. 

1. Race Walking into Opportunities and Winning Championships

Prior to my race walking experiences which we will be exploring in further detail, I did not consider myself much of an athlete in high school. A friend of mine was participating in race walking, and my first impression of the event was that it was honestly kind of weird. I mean, it sounds funny right — race walking? Now, I knew I wasn’t much of a runner, but I thought why not try this race walking thing? So, there I was trying out this new sport and I suddenly found myself lapping people in the 3rd heat. The coaches even acknowledged to me that I seemed to have talent for this type of athletic activity. 

The next race, I was placed in the first heat and I won 3rd place. I realized that wow, I was in fact pretty good at this and decided that I was just going to go for it. In other words, I felt why not work a little harder and see where it takes me. So, the next thing I know, I find myself starting to place in race walking competitions. I won 6th at the states and 12th at the nationals. At the state championships in senior year of high school, I won with a record, placing as one of the top people of all time. 

The next day after the state competition was the national championships and as I wasn’t the kind of person to read up on my competition, I decided I was just going to go in tit, cold. I was focused on myself and on doing what I needed to do to set myself up for success. Well, I ended up winning the national championships the next day. I placed as the top 6th of all time in the U.S. for the all-American athlete competition. 

This experience was personally extremely inspiring for me. It revealed to me that we have so much more potential to do things in life than we may even realize, and we can possibly get in our own way of achieving success before we even let ourselves try out new things and explore various opportunities for growth. My success in race walking showed me that you can do anything you want to do! And if you actually have talent at something? Well, then if you put effort into things you’re already good at, then you can be anything you want to be. 

2. An Italian Journey of Self-Realization aka How I Started Doing Real Estate 

The second formative experience I will be discussing involves the events leading up to my career pursuing real estate. I graduated from college in Wisconsin, and all my friends had decided that they were moving to Chicago. While Chicago was a perfectly fine place, it wasn’t for me and I knew that I couldn’t just follow my friends wherever they were going. (No offense to Chicago.) In fact, I realized that I needed to take some time away from the States in general.

I had discovered a passion for Italy when I lived in Rome for one semester of college. I then had an epiphany and was overcome by the desire to move to Italy, this time. I just knew that this was the time in my life to do something like this and that I had to go take the plunge. So, I sold everything I had, bought a one-way ticket to Italy and moved to Milan for two years. 

While I was living in Italy, I first worked a number of odd jobs. For one of my jobs, I worked at this charming and popular bar restaurant where I served espressos and cappuccinos. In Italy, it is well-known that not only does everyone go out to lunch every single day around the same time, but they also go to a couple different restaurants and most go to the same place. Around this time, I had started making friends with successful, Italian people and my handle on the Italian language was starting to slowly get better. Through networking and relationship-building, I was able to obtain a real job rather than a bunch of random odd jobs.

I started working for this company based outside of Milan and was travelling with the president of the company. I was working my butt off, selling various products and making very little money. So I did this for two years and after some time, I thought to myself that continuing this way didn’t make much sense to me. The truth is, it’s kind of a European theme that you don’t make as much money in Europe, but you still enjoy life. I felt that I was an American woman after all, not Italian, and if I was going to be working very hard, I wanted to make substantial money for my efforts. So, I decided to move back to the States, and actually moved back home to my parents’ house. I was a little broken and sad that I hadn’t “made it in Italy.”  However, it was still an amazing, life-defining experience and by then I was able to speak fluent Italian.

I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do career-wise at that point. But I knew I was good at and enjoyed the field of sales. My step-father was the one who suggested to me that I should go into real estate. He explained to me that it was a bigger ticket item with potential for me to make more money and as I was good at sales, it made sense for me to try it out. It occurred to me that maybe, I could have Italian clients and would actually be able to use my fluency in Italian. This is how my career in real estate started! It wasn’t that I was necessarily so passionate about real estate and obsessed with architecture and design, etc. It was more of a “yea, let’s try it and see where it goes. Why not?” kind of mindset that I had going into it. 

In both of these cases, I decided to try out things and achieved success at things I didn’t even think I was capable of doing. I consider these experiences to be major milestones in my life that were incredibly inspiring for me on a personal level. These were both things I probably would have always wanted to do in my life and I was able to accomplish at a very high level in both of them. 

There’s always a bit of a comedown after the high of building up to something and then succeeding in it. I experienced a bit of a comedown after race walking and learning Italian was also a major thing for me. When I became fluent in the language, it was like, “Oh, I guess I just speak Italian now.” 

The moral of the story is that you truly never know what you can do, what you can be great at or even accomplish fantastic, record-breaking success in something until you just try it out. It may sound strange, like racewalking felt to me at first, but it could end up leading you to achieve more than you thought you were capable of. These types of powerful, life-defining experiences can supercharge your path to carving out your own identity, helping you find purpose in life as well as set you on a trajectory of success. 

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