Bruce Norris is joined this week by John Stephenson. John is an entrepreneur, business owner, real estate investor, a personal competitor of his, and a friend for a very long time. What John does not realize is that he has often been the inspiration for Bruce to reach beyond what he had envisioned for his own life.
- When did the market begin to take a turn for the better?
- Who are John’s typical tenants?
- What year did he sell his business to retire?
- What were his goals growing up, and what drove him to reach these goals?
- How often is Bruce asked by people to mentor them?
- Who does Bruce consider his mentors?
- What does Bruce tell people who are struggling with the motivation to get started?
Bruce began by asking John when he felt the market begin to turn and get better. He wondered what year it started to have a little light at the end of the tunnel. He said it has actually always been good. He was able to put deals together with different tenants. In 2008, rents dropped by about 30 percent. They have had a waiting list for several years now.
Bruce asked him about when he has a lease on industrial property and if it actually is a year to year thing or much longer. John said it’s a minimum of a year. For some of the larger companies, it’s about five years. It’s really whatever fits the tenants’ needs as long as it’s a minimum of a year.
Bruce asked who his typical tenant is and what kind of work they do. John said they are zoned automotive, so the majority of the tenants are involved in the automotive industry. They are not causing any soil problems. Bruce asked if he has ever thought about making that a niche since he solved it once. He said ignorance is bliss. However, he was able to get it remediated. Yeager Landfill ended up taking all that dirt. It was under the limit as the inspections for Phase 1 and Phase 2. He took all the lab reports over to Yeager, and he needed dirt at the time because they take asphalt and cement, mix it together, and put it in their landfill. The seller paid for the transportation, which was good. Bruce thinks only one in a thousand people would be able to pull that off. John said at his age, he probably wouldn’t do that again, although he and Bruce have always been dice rollers.
John called Bruce once day telling him he has a top ten list every year, and on the list is to go see a heavyweight title fight. He asked Bruce if he wanted to go join him in Vegas for the Foreman and fight. He immediately said yes, and it was an amazing night. Bruce said it was the loudest noise he had ever heard sustained in his life. Foreman fought Michael Moore that night and took it in the tenth. He basically got beat the first nine rounds, and then there was a punch. They heard nothing but the loudest noise for five minutes in a row, and it was sheer joy. People were jumping up and down, and it was the coolest thing. They were standing ringside, and Foreman was getting interviewed. Bruce was familiar with boxing, and he realized he took a lot of heat for coming out of retirement. He had been fighting until he was twenty-five, and he took twenty years off. When he came back, he got a lot of ridicule and people thought it was a joke.
When you get interviewed after you win what’s arguably the biggest title in the world of sports, you would think there would be a part of you that would say, “I told you so”. When the guy interviewed him, he said, “Well, George, you got to be really proud of yourself. You got your title back.” He responded, “It’s not so important I got my title back. What is important is I live in a country that lets you pursue your dreams until you get what you came for.” Bruce never forgot that statement. That was just very impactful. Bruce called him a couple of years after that and talked to him in Houston. He wanted to let him know he was ringside when he said that, and it meant a lot to him. Foreman had beat the guy who had beaten Evander Holyfield and was a legit undefeated heavyweight titleholder. This was the most exciting sporting event he had ever witnessed, and the only thing he could compare to was when Russia got beat by the U.S. in hockey, but that was on TV. If you were there, it would have been equally as loud.
With all that said, Bruce has known a lot about John on the business side, but he has always had a plan for extraordinary fun too. John has always believed if you work hard, you have to play hard. Bruce asked John if he ever has trouble making up a top ten list. John said what is weird is he is in a position where he has the means to be able to go somewhere and make it happen. He has the means to, and he has been to almost every island in the Caribbean. After John told Bruce about this, he tried to make a top ten list. When he sat down and thought about it, and started by writing down two things. He wanted to see an actual lava flow, and he wanted to hold a dolphin. Literally within a month, he went on a vacation with his buddy Glenn, and they got to hold a dolphin. It just so happened there was a volcano that was erupting on the big island, and they got to walk up to where lava was flowing really slowly. It literally stopped right at their feet.
Despite this, Bruce still has a hard time making a top ten list. He thinks it could be because he got married at 17, and he had a lot of responsibilities. When you don’t have the means and when you have the means, it’s different. For many years, doing what Bruce wanted to do was not a topic of discussion. He wants to do what the person he loves wants to do. That is what goes on his list. It’s fun sharing things with people who appreciate it. Bruce is better off adopting somebody else’s list than creating it from scratch.
John had seen an MMA fight with Connor. Bruce asked him if this was on his top ten list or if he just decided to go. He said it was actually just a 24-hour notice. He just decided to head over to Vegas and watch a fight. It’s cheaper just to buy your rooms and go have a good time. As his dad used to say, they don’t build all these fancy casinos on the winners. They build them on the losers.
Bruce asked John what year he sold his business, which he said it was in 2013. He ended up staying on for two additional years, so it was more around 2015. When Bruce asked him how he has found retirement, he asked himself how he ever had time to work? He is still monitoring all his industrial units, which he is blessed to be able to do. He gets a lot of satisfaction out of it. If you’re doing something because you want to, not because you have to, that is his idea of retirement.
Bruce asked if it was his desire to be excellent at something and end up wealthy when he was growing up. He wondered what his driver was. He said he wasn’t sure what drove him, but he always knew that if he wanted something, he was going to have to earn it. His parents instilled that trait within him, plus all the love, emotion, and support they gave him in that way. Financially, if he wanted it, he knew he had to earn it. He also instilled this same mindset into his two daughters. Bruce asked if he sees any entrepreneurial spirit in either one of them, to which he said not so much. They are both very happy at what they do. He has invited them to join the business. One is in the medical profession, and the other one has three children, so she’s a full-time mom, the hardest job in the world.
John thanked Bruce for getting him started in the real estate business. There’s nobody he can think of that has more integrity and who he would rather do a business deal with other than Bruce. They have both been through things that have not been easy, but they have established that trust with each other. That’s when you find out who you really have. When you go through things where not everybody does what they say and you end up with people that do exactly what they say, you realize you’re working with and friends with the right person.
The second part of the interview segue wayed into a discussion between Aaron and Bruce. Aaron began by asking him how often he gets asked to do mentorship. He says he gets asked a lot. Typically, his answer is for them to just call him. At first, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it, and he wasn’t sure anyone else did either, so he set the bar high at $500 an hour. You had to sign up for a minimum of six or ten hours, and they would only take ten people. At the first meeting, he asked them what they wanted to accomplish, then gave them a 30-day assignment. Come to find out, after the 30 days, a lot of them didn’t even do the assignment. This was about 2005. Bruce ended up canceling it and giving everyone their money back.
Bruce said if he thought it was worthwhile for them, even if it was a struggle for him, he would have gone through with it. However, he could see that it was going to be almost like a therapy session. He didn’t want to do this. He wanted to be a real estate entrepreneur and get other people to get better. Most of the people just wouldn’t do what was necessary to change. Bruce enjoys doing something when it’s his choice. Here, he didn’t have a choice about who was going to be mentored. If they could sign up and write a check, they were in. Now, he says yes to the people who he sees have what it takes and will go after it, so it’s a little bit different. He enjoys it. It’s his own pace, his choice, and he can say no.
Aaron said it’s been interesting to watch. The Florida process is a little bit different. It includes a one-on-one interview with Bruce, which he has really enjoyed doing. That’s a very different experience. It’s like getting a standing ovation an hour a time. Aaron said he had someone call him the other day who attended a boot camp back in 2005. He told him how Bruce made him millions of dollars. He wants to know what’s next, so he’s coming to Florida. It’s been really rewarding. It’s similar to what Bruce told John. He didn’t realize how much he inspired him until he was already doing it in front of him. There was that gentle persuasion of “You built a custom home. I think I will too.” Although one thing Bruce didn’t accept was John got his blue belt before him.
Bruce has never really had a formal mentorship relationship. Aaron asked Bruce if he has gone to anyone himself and asked them to mentor him. He said no, although Jim Rohn was the only mentor he actually connected to. Bruce said if he wants to turn something around, he will listen to Rohn for two hours. He still has that power, whether it’s how he says it or how well thought-out it is. Jordan Peterson is about the only other guy Bruce will listen to for mentorship. When you realize the thought process that he goes through, especially when he writes a book, he literally takes every paragraph, separates his sentences, and he has probably redone each sentence ten times in each paragraph just to say it the perfect way.
Aaron said there are a lot of different personality types. When Aaron writes a journal, he has his little journal book he started a couple of years ago. Bruce had tried to turn him on to Tony Robbins when he was in high school. At that time, Aaron thought he was going to be on Broadway and didn’t need any of that. When Aaron tells everyone how good Bruce treated his kids, there was never an expectation they would get into this current business. Bruce had never created the plan for them, but Aaron is really grateful as he feels he is getting to lead a second life. People talk about writing a new chapter, while Aaron feels like he is getting to write a new book. He got to live out his dreams in New York, and he doesn’t regret those days as it really made him who he is today.
Everyone’s got a different journey and a different path, and some personalities will speak to you very differently. This is what Aaron learned in the Millionaire Makers. You have somebody like Tony Alvarez whose mentors are so different than who might speak to Bruce or Mike Cantu. Aaron read John Schaub’s book, which gave him permission not to be a flipper, but a landlord. He fell in love with it, and it really spoke to him. Mentors don’t have to be somebody that you show up with lunch once a month. It can be a book. Aaron has people call him a lot asking who would be a good mentor. The worst case he heard was somebody spent $75,000 on one of these coaching programs. Somebody who wasn’t even experienced would ask if they finished their to-do list, which is terrible. They are spending all that money for somebody just to tell them to finish their to-do list.
Bruce had one seminar where each of the speakers, Tony Alvarez and Jack Fullerton, approached things differently. This is what Bruce wanted the audience to see. You’re gonna relate to somebody. You’re probably not going to be like Tony Alvarez, but maybe you could be Jack Fullerton and just walk around the neighborhood saying you want to sell something. This is what Rohn did for Bruce. He motivated him. He just set a fire under his rear end, and he realized very quickly about writing goals and how they are magic things. If he is intense about a goal and reads it every day, something happens really quickly to get there.
Aaron has been using the full focus planner, and that was actually the very first thing he ever bought off of Instagram. It’s basically like a daily journal, and at the very front of the book, every quarter you have to write all your big, hairy, audacious goals. Every day, the goal is to look at your top three things on your to-do list you are looking to accomplish. I don’t know why, but it’s been really magical to have to transfer that every day. Aaron is a digital guy and trained in technology, but there is something about writing it down and something magical for him about the writing process. At the end of every quarter, he will then see if he has moved the needle on any of his goals, which he has. What’s been interesting is he is almost giving himself credit, and it feels good because he has been moving the needle and hasn’t been sitting on them. Just being very aware of those goals and moving the needle has been very awesome.
Bruce mentioned the idea of Dare to Think. He had one custom home lot where he never dared to think. Bruce had been living at UCR where all the college professors were. He was coming off of food stamps; and being married at 17 made him think he arrived. To jump over Canyon Crest and go to a custom home lot was unthinkable. Yet, he hung around the people that made it plausible. When Bruce wrote everything down, he found a building lot the next day. Bruce wondered what else was out there that’s possible that he just hadn’t seen. When Bruce saw the lot, it had been on sale for two months. If you want to know what else is possible, just ask.
A lot of it is motivation as there are a lot of people looking to start a business. Back in 2009 after he had gotten back from New York, Aaron found himself sitting on money and just really having a hard time pulling the trigger until he actually read John Schaub’s book. Figuring out he didn’t have to be a flipper was amazing. Aaron asked Bruce what he would tell people who are struggling with motivation and getting started in the first place. He said he will tell them to find a reason that’s bigger than their fears. It’s not necessarily the how, it’s the why. You will figure out the how from here.
Sometimes your motivation could be out of love. When his late wife wanted a custom home, she didn’t even have to ask. She just had to mention it until he put it on his list. Other times, his motivation comes from people pissing him off. In one instance, he was playing a guy in sports who broke his achilles tendon. He told Bruce that was the end of him. That was such an awful statement, but he also did Bruce a favor. It made him determined to go see him on the challenge court six months later. He welcomes that if it cranks him up.
Bruce interviewed John Stephenson because he motivates him. They are about the same age and have made the same progression. He didn’t go to college, he was just an entrepreneur go-getter. A lot of the time, he was ahead. He bit the built the custom home first; he owned a business first, and he did better in karate.
On the Norris Group web site, there’s a free resource tab where you can see a list of all the real estate investment clubs. Aaron often tells people clubs are just like churches. You’ve got to find one that fits you, and they all have a different personality. Those are the ones they speak of on a regular basis. If you’re looking for some motivation and surround yourself with people that can motivate you to get it done, then you’re in a good spot. However, it doesn’t have to be live in person. Mentors can live in books, and no time in history has it been easier to access. With the magic of YouTube, he could hear Jim Rohn’s speech he gave in 1981. Seventy-five percent of what happens on YouTube is because of their algorithms. Aaron teaches people to curate what they have been watching. Don’t mindlessly go down the echo chamber of doom, because then you think that’s it. That’s 100 percent of the content that’s available on YouTube.
Every once in a while, if you confuse it and look at something you’ve always just wondered about or specifically type in things that are motivational and positive, you’ll do yourself a huge favor. Otherwise, YouTube could be a dark and scary place. In a way, it has replaced reading. Aaron doesn’t even watch tv anymore, but rather YouTube. One time, Bruce was on his treadmill listening to Jordan Peterson get interviewed by the guy that owns Valuetainment. He’s really a smart guy, and Bruce enjoyed all of his little half-hour segments. They were well thought out and amazing. It’s quite an education tool, and in a way, you’re double-dipping. You’re walking and entertaining, so the walk is easier and you’re getting value.
The Norris Group originates and services loans in California and Florida under California DRE License 01219911, Florida Mortgage Lender License 1577, and NMLS License 1623669. For more information on hard money lending, go www.thenorrisgroup.com and click the Hard Money tab.