J. Massey wasn’t always the Real Estate Investor he is today. His road was paved with challenges he had to overcome. He literally went from having zero, squatting in bank-owned property to owning more than 300 units of property across several states and is involved in a pretty cool luxury resort village project in Belize. Today, J. is an investor, published author, speaker, educator, podcast host, entrepreneur and business owner. His brand, Cash Flow Diary, is gaining global recognition.
Zephan: Hey, everyone. Zephan Blaxberg here again with another episod4e of the Year of Purpose podcast. And today I’m joined by J. Massey. J. wasn’t always the real estate investor he is today. His road was paved with challenges he had to overcome. He literally went from having zero, squatting in a bank owned property to owning more than three hundred units of property across several states, and is involved in a pretty cool luxury resort village project in Belize. Today, J.’s an investor, published author, speaker, educator, podcast host, entrepreneur, and business owner. His brand Cash Flow Diary is getting global recognition. J., thanks so much for being here today.
J.: You’re welcome. And you know, somewhere in there, I actually sleep, believe it or not.
Zephan: I don’t know how you do it, because I’m kind of in the same boat. I’ve got a lot of things on my plate and I don’t sleep very often, but still have to do it from time to time.
J.: I know, it’s like if your body didn’t force you, why take the time?
Zephan: Right, right. So I want to jump into your story just to start this off, and I didn’t want to really give away too many details of this. I didn’t want to do it any disservice, so maybe hopefully you could just start off with us, maybe tell us kind of where you were a few years back, and how you found yourself there.
J.: Heh-heh, well…how I found myself there is probably something that many people are familiar with at the end of the day, because I was told to go to school, get good grades, get a job, that’s—you know, that was the way to make things work, and it took me many years to find out I was the worst employee on the planet and I should have never been. So—that, you know, that’s how we end up in these situations. The question is, do we then develop the courage necessary to actually do something about it? And for me, to be honest, unless the following events that happened to me happened, I don’t even think I would have ever developed the courage to actually do something about it.
So for myself and my wife, we had experienced a miscarriage and I know there are a number of people who know what that pain feels like. And so when we were pregnant again, we were like “Oh, cool, he we go!” and…what we didn’t know is that when she’s pregnant, she also developed a condition known as hyperemesis. Most people have no clue what that is. Very simply put, if you are trying to drink a glass of water, or eat something as simple as bread, you would not be able to. So you couldn’t drink or eat. Period. And that’s the beginning of the stressors that were in my life at that time.
So I was a self-employed financial planner, trying to go to the hospital with my wife all the time, which meant that—you know, you can’t exactly invite your client to the hospital to meet you to do their financial plan. It’s not quite the setting that—that you should. So as a self-employed person, I began to learn a very difficult lesion. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Period. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. There was no such thing as sick leave, and there’s no—there was nothing there. So, I don’t know, I was in this situation I think others have experienced before too where I have to choose. Do I take care of my family or do I go to work? And I chose to stay by my wife’s bedside, and I started selling our personal possessions on eBay. That’s was like the solution—until the garage was empty. And then you gotta come up with a new solution.
And it was around that time a friend said “Hey, you should become a real estate investor” which…I don’t know, Zephan, if you’ve ever seen a dog like cock their head to the side like this. It just didn’t make sense to me to do that. It’s like “Okay, hold on. You want me to become a real estate investor? Do you realize I have a credit score of three-ninety-eight and unless you’re paying for lunch today, I am no eating? Do you understand that this is where I am?” And it didn’t matter to him. And I was like “Okay…sure…” so from that standpoint, like I said, with a credit score of three-ninety-eight, barely having seventy-five dollars in our pocket, we started learning about real estate investing techniques. Now mind you, we’re getting foreclosure notices. We’re getting our cars—we’re doing our best to keep food on the table. We’re making decisions. “Do we pay the electric bill or do we buy food?” And the guy at the front of the stage is like “Hey, you can do real estate!” Really! Good! And then he goes “You can do it with no money, no credit!” “Oh, great, because you’re gonna have to really show me how to do that, otherwise it’s just not gonna happen, because I literally have no money, no credit.”
And most people when they say those things, when they say “I have no money” they mean they’re down to their last dollar. Or down to their last thousand dollars, ten thousand, depending on their frame of reference. I’ve worked with some of my—some individuals who say things like “Yeah, I’m down to my last two million dollars” and that’s fine, today, depending on—it’s all relative. The point is, is when we hit that spot, what are we going to do about it? See I was at this place and what we decided to do is actually do what we were told to do. We started doing what I now call moving at the speed of instruction. And in a short period of time, things began to get better, but before they get better, of course, you know they take a little dip for a little bit worse.
So I went to go play volley ball, because I was trying to blow off some steam. I thought that was gonna help. I jumped, landed on a guy’s head, punctured my lung, and now I couldn’t walk or talk without fainting. So, if you can imagine, I’m learning a new industry that I’ve never done before. I’m unable to walk or talk simultaneously without fainting. My wife can eat or drink. And we have no money. And that’s the situation. With kids in tow. So you’ve gotta understand that that was our situation, and what makes me work and do the things that I do today. When you’re fighting for something as basic as clothing, food, and shelter, and you’re really clear on that—well, you get to work and you make a lot of things happen. So we’ve been able—we’ve had the fortune of doing a ton of real estate in many different states. Now countries is what we’re beginning to expand to. We’ve done commercial, we done cellphone tower, we’ve got all kinds of interesting plays and things going on and we work with tons of investors now to go out there and help them begin to achieve their dreams and we’ve taught a lot of people to do the same thing. So it’s been something of a journey, to say the least.
Zephan: Yeah, a journey to say the least, absolutely. Let me ask you this: when you get to that place, because a lot of us have not—many of us have gotten to that place and many of us haven’t. When you look at that bank statement and see that, like, this is it, what goes through your head? Because you had to make that decision of work or family. And you know, in my eyes, and most people, family comes first. Family always comes first. What are you thinking? Some people might get stuck in that negative thought of “I’m a failure” or “I messed up” or “I didn’t make this.” How do you kind of turn that around and say “Well, here’s where I’m at and this is what’s going on and I’m just gonna keep going from here”?
J.: Got it—and you’re right, it’s not like I was any different. That was a failure event. So the first thing to understand is to disassociate the events from it being you. Many of us have had failure events, very few of us are actually failures. And you may have failed thousands of times, that’s great. Thomas Edison failed a lot of times before he finally got the lightbulb, fortunately he did. Because he was willing to fail as many times as he did, we now have computers and all kinds of interesting things that come along from that, right. So the point is that—we have been—the school system to a degree as done us a disservice, training us to think that we have to get it right, that we have to get it right the first time, and without any help. That’s the correct way to do things. And once you cross that line to become an entrepreneur, that’s just not true. You’re going to get it wrong more than you get it right, many times, and you’re going to need a ton of help. And until we learn how to fail properly, it’s always going to stunt our growth and make it tough.
And that’s one of the first lessons that I had to learn, is that might best ideas—and Zephan, you correct me if I’m wrong—but I have never met a person who has said to me they wake up in the morning and go “I can’t wait to aim straight for the bottom!” No one has ever said that to me. Everybody tries their best every day. Which means the result you’re currently receiving, that you call your life experience, is a result of your absolute best thinking. And when you’re ready to take ownership for that result being less than what you hopes for, then you can begin to make a change and that’s what we had to do. We had to just look at it. “You know what, this is a result of our best thinking.” We did the best we knew how to do and it resulted in losing a house, squatting a bank owned property, a punctured lung, unable to eat or drink, and making decisions that I don’t wish on anybody.
However, the gift is we got clear. Hyper clear about what we wanted to do. And then we got hyper focused and then we learned those things. Nothing—crisis focuses people in a way that nothing else does. Any time you’ve ever been under those high intense situations, you know that every moment counts at the end of the day. Even worse is most people say they want to become an investor. I say you already are. And the challenge is that most people don’t see themselves that way. And what I simply mean is we misuse our number one asset, i.e. time, in such a way that it produces a very low return and then we get upset about the result. And learning how to frame those things differently has made all the difference.
Zephan: Yeah, I really like what you said about it’s really kind of how we react to whatever’s going on in our life. One of the positions that I held when I was in college was I was the supervisor of the recreation center and I was the first responder, and if somebody passed out on the basketball court, I was the first person to get the call on the radio. And you really kind of learned in that position that you can’t go “Oh my god! What am I gonna do?” You have to get up there, you have to be the first person on the scene, and you have to be the one to call 911 and to make sure that that situation is as controlled as you possibly can. There’s a lot of stuff beyond your control, biological factors, whatever’s going on with them, but as long as you reacted in a way where you know that you did your best, I think that the situation’s going to end up for the better.
Now when you were in all of this and your friend comes to you and says “Hey, you could pick up real estate investing”—
J.: That’s a natural response—everybody has that idea! That makes perfect sense!
Zephan: How did you know that this was what you should do? Was there some sort of a sign where it was just like “Hey, we got nothing left to lose, let’s just go with it?” I mean—
J.: Oh, god, I know, right! It’s like “Yeah that makes sense.” Well it’s a combination of a number of things. One, it speaks to the power of a mentor who’s willing to have a third party observance of what’s going on in your life and they may have a better perspective. So that’s number one. Number two, I—as a financial planner—I had experience in the sense of seeing what financially successful people have done. And being out here in Orange County, California, there’s lots of money. Period. There are lots of people with money, and I got to sit with them. I’ve got to sit with teachers. I got to sit with single professionals who are earning two, three hundred thousand dollars and still crying broke. And I got to sit with everything in between to figure out how that all works. And probably closer to two hundred thousand, especially on the single people, but married people even then, still.
The point is, I got to see what they did. They all had something in common. That one thing that they had in common was rental real estate. Not just fixing and flipping and those types of things. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they all had rental real estate if they are actually gonna be on a track to make things happen. My challenge was, is I didn’t grow up in a family that talked about these types of financial concepts. There’s nothing in my background that gives me—the way that I grew up—that says “Hey! This is what you should do…” and there’s a guy out there who says “If something that you’re doing isn’t working, don’t do it differently, do the opposite.” Like, wow, there you go. So when you’re in that situation, like “Hey, let’s do the opposite of everything that we’ve ever done.” Now that’s gonna be painful at the beginning, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’ve got very strong ties to church, God, and in my family, friends who were willing to support—cause my wife, oh my god. You want to talk about something that’s amazing, she comes from a line of doctors, and lawyers, and a whole bunch of college educated individuals, and here I am a college dropout, struggling, and she’s struggling with me, and I’m just like “Wow. You picked a good one, didn’t ya?”
But she saw that I didn’t need to be in the traditional system. There was no happiness for her because I was upset all the time being in that system. Like “You need to do something different. I don’t know what it is, but you better figure it out, find it, make it happen.” And…at the end of the day, real estate just happens to be where my genius shines. We all got something, we bounce around from thing to thing. And the cool thing is, is when you do find the thing that you’re interested in, all that past experience that you have in all those other areas will serve you going towards what it is that you’re doing now. J.ust like it is for you. All your past experience doing whiz-bang awesome videos for all of these awesome people, names that everybody knows and recognizes, is now serving you to be able to deliver your message to people so that they can finally find—hopefully—a purpose for themselves and go out there and make things happen.
Zephan: So let me ask you this: When you get to the moment that you realize that…there’s no real like “I made it moment” because it’s like “How much money in my bank account determines I made it?” is it a hundred thousand, is it a million dollars? But there had to be some sort of a moment where you kind of stopped yourself—I don’t know if it was like one morning and you woke up, or maybe you closed a sale on a house—but was there a moment for you in time where you just kind of like sat down and looked at everything going on around you and said “You know what, look where I was. We couldn’t pay the bills. I couldn’t talk. Freak accident, I got injured—” All these things were happening, and I don’t know if you have a dog or any pets—but did you have a moment where you just sat down and you’re like “I have a house that is mine. I have children that are here today with me that I can enjoy as much time as I want with. And I have pets”—or food or whatever it is—what was that like for you and how could somebody almost identify that moment? What sort of happens?
J.: Yeah—well, how to identify that moment? Good luck. It—as far as I know…here’s what I can say that began to happen…is I didn’t have to get up at any prescribed time. I start—in fact it got so bad to the point where I was kind of waking up around ten a.m. in the morning like “Hey….alright…let’s start the day—oh! It’s one o’clock, time to quit.” And there was in fact a summer a few years back where we were probably at about a hundred and seventeen units or so, and I remember two things. I was car shopping, and I was at the car dealer and they were asking me what do I do and I was just telling them. And then they stopped, they said “You do what? You have how many properties? What??” and then they called another person over here and they were like “This guy did—” and I was just like “…What?”
Zephan: Well they’re probably thinking “We’re in the wrong position. We took the wrong job!”
J.: Right, so that was happening. And then what happened is that I went on a cruise and it was—I went on a cruise, it was one of these real estate cruises and it was great, I had fun, but I was by myself. And I couldn’t have friends, because the friends were at work. And I came back home and I was just frustrated cause everybody had to go to work and I didn’t. So I said “I know, I’ll finally do something I always wanted to do when I was younger and growing up in Germany.” I would always get the catalogues of likes Sears and what have you, and I’d flip through them and look through the stuff that I knew mom wasn’t gonna buy, but I’d look at circle and pretend that it was actually going to happen, and I have this fascination with things that fly. So I started buying remote controlled helicopters. I was like “Yeah, this is great.” And then I got into photography. Same summer. Two of the most expensive habits I am aware of on the planet, at the same time. And I just dove in and did that. And I was like “Wow, I can do this all day!” and I did.
And it got to me, “Is there anything else, though?” I didn’t want to keep doing all these things by myself. And that’s when I began to figure out that I needed something else to do. I needed something else to keep me busy, otherwise I’m just gonna sit around, spend more money than I should, and do nothing with all of this information that I now have to help people. And that’s when I started asking friends “what do you do when you do have to work? Please tell me, because I don’t know!” and that when it began about trying to teach and share with other people what it is that I do, and have done, and helping them to do the same thing. That’s kind of where I light up today. I enjoy that way more than what I already do. Don’t get me wrong, we intend to keep doing all those things, it’s just I enjoyed helping someone else get their first hundred thousand dollars in private capital, or get their first department building, or even just do their first deal and get started. That is way more fun for me today.
Zephan: And I found that to be a pretty common theme with everyone who is what I would say is both successful and happy, is that they’re giving their time back to others. That is something that was really important for me just in starting this podcast. What I realized is that I had spent all of 2014 on a search for myself. And I don’t think it’s a selfish thing to do, I think it’s an important thing to do, but when I realized that I wanted to start this podcast, it was kind of like right in front of me, and I couldn’t quite tell what it was, because I had this search for what I wanted and what my meaning was. And then it was like “Well, wait a minute. What if I shred a hundred other people’s stories about how they did it, and how they got there? Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do. Maybe it’s not really about me it’s about sharing with others and opening up to others.” And so I think that that has really been a common theme of what everyone should do in life, whether they’re stuck, whether they’re working a job they don’t like. Or maybe they picked up model planes as a hobby, and they got bored! I think that they need to try something that lets them get back to others.
So along those lines, what advice do you have for someone who maybe, either A, is in a job, or B, doesn’t have a job and needs to figure out something to do. Maybe they’re at that point of, you know, bank account’s pretty much run out or maybe they’re at that point of emotional and mental bank account has run out because they don’t enjoy what they’re doing. What advice do you have for them? Or what steps should they take to kind of dig out of that hole?
J.: Well, I—having had the fortune now to hang out with some notable individuals, I’ll just tell you many things that they’ve said and that I agree with a lot. Many real estate people understand the name Ken McElroy, you know, even Robert Kiyosaki, and I just know that at the end of the day, having been able to be an influence and spend time with those individuals has made a significant difference on perspective. But for every business person, sales cures all ills. Period. Go sell something. Now I just said a four letter word to some people. “I don’t want to sell.” Okay, well…then don’t even try to be in business because there’s no avoiding it. Because I get this all the time “J., I just want to do real estate!” “Ok, cool! Learn to sell.” “I don’t want to sell!” “Well then don’t do real estate.” “But it’s about the building!” “No, it’s about selling, you don’t understand.” “Well, all I want to do is buy and hold.” “That’s wonderful. Guess what, you’re selling the same building to the same person every thirty days.” You gotta sell. And you gotta understand that as you go into it.
For most people, there’s what I call the path to becoming. And it starts with desire. Once you have that desire, the next thing you should do is learn to invest your time different. So I t goes from desire, then to time. What you should be investing your time into is gaining new skills or talents. Once you begin to gain those new skills or talents, this is where the magic begins to happen, is because you get into knew relationships. Those new relationships open up doors of opportunity that you haven’t even begun to try to imagine or consider. In fact, I would dare say you’re afraid to consider what would actually happen if you did. And then once you’ve established—here’s the next step—credit and or credibility with those new relationships, you then get to the next step which is cash. Meaning you now have a product or service, usually, by that point, that you could sell to other people, people who would buy from you so that you have a business that can grow. And once you get to the stage of cash, then you get to the cash flow, how to set things up with systems and automation so that you have to ability to do, you know, still deliver the product or service without you being personally involved.
Then and only then do you get to step number eight, which most people are chasing today, is significance. And then you can begin to do those other things. If you want to free Willie, then great, you have the time to free Willie and hug as many trees as you want and save all of the orphans on the planet because you’ve taken care and become all of the things that you need to become in order—whatever that is for each and every person. No matter where you are, emotionally bankrupt or financially, or you’re feeling stressed. That’s the path you’re on somewhere in there, and you just gotta figure out where you are and what that next step is.
Zephan: Cool—we just got some feedback there just before number eight, the last step there.
Zephan: Yeah, it’s a little fuzzy when you talk. Maybe try unplugging and plugging back in real quick? For your—
J.: The microphone?
J.: One—oh, one, two—can you—hello—oh that’s not working that’s the wrong microphone.
Zephan: Yeah for some reason it got like really fuzzy.
J.: Okay….is that better?
Zephan: Yeah, yeah.
J.: Albright… I didn’t do anything.
Zephan: No worries, it could’ve been interference or whatever. Real quick, let’s just jump back to that last step, step number eight.
J.: Okay, so, what happens is that as you’re going through that process, you’re not at the final step. Again, most people are trying to get to that step as quickly as humanly possible and often times out of order—is step number eight being all about significance. This is the—this is where—notable individuals who are at that step and individuals like Oprah. She’s someone of significance, where just being around her or knowing, being inspired by here, all these things. She affects change in certain ways because she has the time and the ability and the resources to be able to affect change. And once you begin to become that person, that’s a great feeling and a good thing to be.
That’s one of the reasons that I like real estate, because even at a small level, we’re providing clean, safe, affordable housing and jobs to people. And when you do it, especially with apartment buildings, you begin to change zip codes and neighborhoods. And that’s really cool to me. Start with something that’s broken, fix it, come back, see the jobs vibrant and working—it’s just like, “Wow. We did that.” And that started with an idea and a whole lot of hard work, and a great team. But that’s what an entrepreneur has the ability to do. Eventually become someone of significance.
Zephan: And that’s really how it all starts, is just one idea and a lot of hard work going behind it. And I think that—I don’t think there’s any real numbers to measure this, but you know a lot of people say that some people get so close to where they need to be and they give up. They give up too soon. Whether it’s thirty seconds before something happens or thirty days before something happens, and they’re like right there on the verge of finding that success. And it really just means going back to that idea that you originally had and saying “This is what I told myself I was going to do and I’m going to see it all the way through.”
So clearly you are in a much better place now. You’ve learned a lot of things over time. What would you say if you could just go back to yourself maybe ten, fifteen years ago—is there any just one particular thing where you would say…you know, whether it’s like “Hey don’t go out and play sports, cause you’re gonna puncture a lung!” or is it just like…you know “Make sure you work hard and never give up.” What would you want to tell your younger self?
J.: Whoo…crazy question, love it! Alright, so…uhm…and I think this applies for everybody, at the end of the day, I actually wouldn’t change what has happened. Because what has happened has been the foundation of what I get to do today. And I love what I get to do today. Friends ask me “Hey what would you do if you could do this? What thing are you working towards being able to do?” I’m like “I’m already doing it. This it. Boohoo!” Therefore, what I would say, is I would say to fail faster, fail more frequently, and fail forward. You gotta fail fast, fail forward, and fail frequent. And I would’ve told myself to do that. Because growing up, you get afraid of making mistakes. You know, you get your hand slapped if you—you know, in school, if you try to get help, they call it cheating and you’re like “No! I just don’t understand! Help me!” and I would’ve learned some of those lessons sooner. Learn how to vet and trust people. So again, just part of failing fast, you gotta fail through building relationships. You gotta fail forward to building—through building teams and learning how to fail is so critical to your success. I mean, you’ve heard it said before, but the way to success is only through failure. It’s not around failure, it’s not under failure, it’s not over failure. It’s straight through. And nobody likes that message—not even me!—but it’s the truth at the end of the day. You don’t learn anything without failing at it first.
Zephan: Absolutely. It’s—I think that life is kind of like this constant state of failing and success and whatever fail we do have leads to a different success. So like, you start one business, it doesn’t really work out, but you found this other business, so really, you didn’t fail because you got to where you eventually needed to be. And there’s a great Steve J.obs quote about you can only connect the dots looking back, you can’t connect the dots looking forward and make sense of it. And he was really right. There’s no way to say that whatever decision I’m about to make, whatever fear I’m about to go up against, no one’s going to say it’s a hundred percent guaranteed safe bet. That’s just kind of how it is. And unless you actually try, there’s no way you’re going to find out what’s on the other side, except for going through.
So, you’ve answered some really great questions here today, I really appreciate you taking some time out of your day. uhm, get me up to speed just about where you are right now, how the business is doing, and what the best way is for people to stay in touch with you, or find out more?
J.: Sure, sure. At the moment, we’re still—as you hinted at earlier—we’re in the process of continuing the building with the resort, we’re moving tenants in, we’re doing what real estate people do. We’re deal with the ups as well as the downs, because you got both of them, and we’re continuing to make steady progress and real estate investors do. We’re teaching new people how to get started and having—they’re having various levels of success as well to raise capital and we’re running our own little mastermind groups and all this other stuff, but…the best thing to do—I mean there’s just been so much that we’ve created and done, we’re just trying to do our best to get it all out there as quickly as humanly possible.
If you want to meet more great entrepreneurs, obviously our podcast is there and that’s just at cashflowdiarypodcast.com. Very simple to get to, and the way you can listen. We have hundreds of episodes from many different entrepreneurs all across the globe.
And if—you know, one of the things that I’ve become known for is helping people learn how to actually raise capital. Because that’s one of the things, actually, most entrepreneurs say, “If I just had the money, then I would finally have ladaladalda—” Okay cool, well here is an absolutely one hundred percent free tool that I created. I call it the Profit Analysis Quadrant, PAQ for short, and many people have been able to use it. I’ve seen many people use it to raise millions of dollars for their own ventures, whether it’s real estate, music, movies, it doesn’t matter. It works all the time. You can go to cashflowdiary.com/moneytool. Money tool. That’s how I look at it, it’s a tool that helps you get some money. And…then hopefully you can learn to deploy that in the marketplace to go create some more jobs. Please. Because that’s what we have a shortage of, is entrepreneurs, and if there’s anything here that’s been shared that has helped you do jump over that hoop and actually become that entrepreneur, then I’ve done my job today.
Zephan: Awesome, well thank you so much for spending some time with us today. I really appreciate it. You truly have an amazing story. Thank you for sharing that as well. And congratulations on where you are right now, clearly with no punctured lungs at the moment. So let’s knock on wood, fingers crossed, that everybody stays healthy and it’s been so great speaking with you. So thank you.
J.: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Zephan: Alright, we’ll see everyone next time on our next episode of the Year of Purpose podcast. Don’t forget, we do have show notes and a full transcript on our website at www.yearofpurpsoe.com. And you can find links in the show notes to the things that we talked about in today’s episode. Alright, guys. See you next time.