This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Martin Sawa. Martin was the son of penniless Ukrainian immigrants and was on a path for the same kind of life when he made a decision. At almost 30, he quit his dead-end job to go into real estate and compete in the high stakes commercial real estate market in San Francisco. He struggled, but eventually found enormous success culminating in a $400 million deal that basically allowed him to retire and pursue his passions for writing. He had it all – but he had to confront the true cost of the sacrifices he made to get there.
He wrote about his story and incredible lessons learned in The Other Side of Success: Money and Meaning in the Golden State. Martin came from nothing, sacrificed everything and went through tragedy to find success, and ultimately learned what really matters on his entrepreneur journey and I’m excited to have him share it with you in this episode.
Martin’s parents lived under both Hitler and Stalin. They made it through the war and were put in a displaced person’s camp in Austria for several years and finally made it to the US. They were resettled in rural Wisconsin. Martin was sort of an outsider in that he had trouble with the language, etc. He was able to go to and work to pay for a Jesuit boarding school and this helped him. He then went to college in the mid-west and after headed out to California.
He got a job in Oakland, got married, and as he approached 30 years old was dead broke and hating his job with another kid on the way. He had his “aha” moment when he was working at zoning counter for his job in the city planner’s office. A developer came in and started screaming at him to process his project. In that moment, Martin just walked away and continued out the door – vowing never to have a job again and would work for himself from then on.
He was driven by necessity. He had some sales experience from when he was younger doing door to door sales. He chose commercial real estate as the biggest things he could sell that would pay the biggest commissions. It took him a year before he made any money. Eventually, he worked for a broker and climbed up the ladder. He was divorced by this time and he and his new wife moved to Los Angeles. He was traveling and doing mega-deal internationally. He reached a point where he felt he was done and quit. He later went back when invited to do a deal with an old colleague. They bought a building in San Francisco. His wife, who was everything in his life, dropped dead one night from a heart attack. He had to work through that and did so. He did a large deal that gave him the ability to do what he wanted to do and that was how he got into writing and consulting.
Can you give perspective on why the US is such a great place to reach one’s dreams?
What went through your mind when you walked out on your job?
Advice for those looking to make the leap to entrepreneurship?
What was your mindset as you went through this journey?
At the 24 min mark, Martin talks about the other side of success and he you overcame the tragedy and challenges…
Where do you get the willpower that you’ve used to overcome and keep going?
Other advice on how to success?
Thoughts on truly finding meaning?
Best Quote: Put skin in the Game!
Martin's Misfit 3:
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