It happened exactly 10 years ago this month.
There were four of us TV news cameramen. Together we sat crammed inside a dingy hotel room in Springerville, Arizona. The smell of smoke hung in the air, it’s source was our clothes, shoes, hair and pores. You’d have thought we’d spent the night sitting around a campfire.
Less than 5 miles away, the Rodeo-Chediski brush fire burned out of control. This monster of flames would eventually consume over 500,000 acres of Arizona forestland.
I’d been dispatched to the area about 225 miles northeast of Phoenix, along with three of my colleagues, to cover the story for KPHO-TV, the CBS news affiliate. Prior to getting into real estate investing I was a TV news cameraman. For 15 years I carried around 60 lbs. of camera gear, covering everything from the 1994 Super Bowl in Miami to the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The Rodeo-Chediski fire was a big national news story. The smoke plume could be seen from outer space. News media from across the country descended upon the small town of Springerville quickly and occupied all of the nearby hotel rooms, which is why I had to share one of them with four smelly cameramen.
For nearly two weeks straight I worked from sunrise until midnight. I ate at fast food restaurants and greasy spoons. And when I got back to the station in Phoenix, after the fire was under control, not one manager thanked me for the effort.
I decided right then and there that I needed to find something more stable – a profession that didn’t require working long hours, being gone on nights and weekends or away from home for days on end. I wanted to be in a business where I didn’t have to take orders from other people and the phone didn’t constantly ring day and night.
So I quit and got into real estate investing. This was my Independence Day!
Boy, was I in for a surprise. I promptly learned that real estate investing is the opposite of stable. If I were going to make any money, working nights and weekends would be required. And, if I was any good at it the phone would never stopping ringing with motivated sellers.
As I reflect back it’s clear that the demands of the cameraman job didn’t bother me. What really got under my skin was putting in all that effort to improve someone else’s bottom line.
For the past 10 years I’ve been grateful working crazy hours, burning up over 1,400 minutes a month on the phone, and occasionally being away from home on business – because it’s on my terms. While the hours are demanding, the flexibility is heavenly. I can pick up my kids from school and take vacations without asking for permission.
This week, our nation will celebrate Independence Day. I’ll also celebrate my own. And for old times’ sake I plan to immerse myself with the smell of smoke – from the backyard barbeque grill.
God Bless America!