The Unsugar-Coated True Story of What it Takes to Succeed as an Entrepreneur

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Real estate has been proven to be the best wealth building tool and consistent route to financial freedom by many. Within the broad industry of real estate, real estate entrepreneurs often get a spotlight shined on them for their rapid growth and success. This is one of the reasons why many aspiring to enter into real estate envision being an entrepreneur, their own boss, quitting their day job, owning a real estate investment company where they can work from the beach, only spending four hours a week reviewing reports and rolling in the big bucks. Like all things that have a spotlight shined on them, the real estate investment entrepreneur has a shadow behind it. In this article, I will share the side of becoming a real estate entrepreneur that rarely gets talked about.

We all read stories and hear interviews with investors realizing amazing successes in their real estate businesses. I personally have written those articles and done those interviews. I am fortunate to be one of the investors who has achieved success as a real estate entrepreneur. I am extremely proud of that success, as everyone else who has earned their success should be. Who doesn’t love to focus on those success stories? They are awesome, motivating, fun to listen to, and educational. However, the other side of these stories, the side that remains out of the spotlight, is something almost all of us entrepreneurs have experienced but often do not focus on publicly.

If you’re thinking of becoming a real estate entrepreneur but haven’t made the leap, this will be the realest article on real estate you have ever read.

Over the years of being immersed in the real estate investing industry, I have met, become friends with, and done business with many successful real estate entrepreneurs. I’ve come to realize the stories we share around a dinner table or while out for beers are not the same as the ones you read about in the articles or hear in the interviews. In private, we often reminisce about the years of struggle, the sacrifice, the uncertainty, the risk, and the failure. This is the reality that remains out of focus from the public audience.

We have all heard “it takes years to become an overnight success.” Many real estate entrepreneurs know this quite well. I write this article to shine light on the non-glamorous side of becoming a successful entrepreneur and the years leading up to “overnight success.” I want to show this side so those with the goals of becoming a real estate entrepreneur will be more prepared as they pursue their new venture. I do not want to discourage anyone from pursuing financial freedom, but rather I want to bring an awareness to the reality that often remains out of the spotlight.

I also write this to commend those who have reached success and wear their struggle like a badge of honor. The perseverance during tough times is often what makes the good great. I have had my fair share of hard knocks, and I am grateful for every step in the journey. I hope by sharing my own story I will get others to share theirs.


Related: 10 Truths Nobody Told You About Getting Started in Real Estate

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No One’s There to Tell You What to Do

We are trained in our schooling system to follow directions of our teacher and ask questions if confused. Throw that way of thinking out the window on day one of entrepreneurship because there is no one telling you what to do, how to do it, or what questions to ask even if there was someone there to ask, which normally there isn’t. It feels a little like being dropped in the middle of the ocean when your objective is to go home. Well, you don’t know which way to start swimming. Even if you knew which way was North or South, you may not know which direction you need to go to get home. You could swim for days and realize you swam the wrong direction all that time.

A mentor or having previous work experience can help with this. The truth is, you don’t know what you don’t know. So not knowing you need a mentor or not being able to find one is all too common. I was hardheaded, oblivious, or both. I thought, “Eh, I’ll figure it out on my own.” Many times, even if someone was willing to answer my questions, I didn’t have a clue they needed to be asked.

One of the hardest feelings is knowing something is wrong but you don’t know exactly what. There were times I would have to teach myself entire subject matters just to identify a problem, only to then need to teach myself how to solve it. These times can be trying. The hard truth that all entrepreneurs know is that ultimately you are responsible for the outcome of everything that happens.

What You Need to Give Up in Order to Grow

Business is an exchange of energy. People trade time for money, money for experiences, money for knowledge, time for knowledge, and money for creativity. Around and around this flow of economic energy goes until a transaction has satisfactory energy to complete. It’s all an equation that can be balanced. If you do not have money, you have to give some other source of energy. As many new real estate entrepreneurs realize quickly, this is an expensive industry to play in. It is rare that entrepreneurs enter the game with millions at their disposal to complete transactions, so something has to give. We end up giving time, creativity, and knowledge.

If you lack experience like many beginners do, you mostly trade time. Those dreams of a four-hour work week on a beach smack you with the reality of 80+ hour work weeks. As experience and money grows, the equation begins to shift and time becomes more available. In the spotlight, we focus on the successful entrepreneur working four hours a week, but in his shadow are the years of 80+ hour weeks that go unnoticed.

I started as an entrepreneur young. I had very little previous work experience and even less money. I was pretty creative and was willing to work hard. Because of this, I traded my time day in and day out so I could begin shifting that scale. If wasn’t swimming in the wrong direction, one day the equation would shift and I would begin to have more and more time and financial freedom.

Just take BiggerPockets as one of the many examples that illustrate these realities. We all look up to BiggerPockets as this amazing company built by Josh Dorkin. We see the huge following he has built, the #1 podcast ratings. If you look harder, you see the years of hustle that often go ignored. If you go to the BiggerPockets YouTube page, you find videos with a couple hundred views back when Josh was well into year five or more in his business, and now the podcast has some 60,000+ listeners each episode. The spotlight gets shined on the podcast, while the years of hustle remain in the shadow. BP is just one of the many companies like this — from an outside perspective, it looks like an overnight success; the reality is years of sacrifice created that success.


Related: Not Easy, But Worth it: The Top 7 Sacrifices Real Estate Investing Demands

The Sacrifices Continue

Time is finite. There is only so much time in a life. In a year, in a month, and in a day. In order to not crash and burn in year one, most entrepreneurs have to trade time to get their business off the ground. The unfortunate reality is this takes time away from everything else. This includes kids, spouses, family, friends, and all the people we all care for.

In a perfect world, there would be time for everything. In that perfect world, we would work some, be with family some, and see friends some. I truly wish it was that easy. In my own experience, I had to trade so much time to get our business up and running that I had to decide where to cut time. Everyone is different, but I know the reason I worked so hard. The financial freedom I was seeking was driven by my desire to give my family a certain life. Because of this, the time to work came from friendships and social life. I consciously made the sacrifice that if I was going to reach my goals, I would give up much of my social life to do so. As many look to the successful entrepreneurs in the spotlight and his/her current lifestyle, they don’t see the tough choices that had to be made. I made my choice to let social life diminish as I dedicated myself to my entrepreneurial ventures.

I have a friend who is one of the most passionate entrepreneurs I know. His passion for his work and his squeeze for time actually caused him to have medical issues. He was so focused on getting more done that he would hold his bladder longer and longer because “bathroom breaks took too long.” After years of hard work, this entrepreneur has achieved much success and lives a different lifestyle, which now is looked up to, as he is in the spotlight. But what we don’t see back in the shadows are the days when he had so little time to spare, he felt he didn’t even have time to go to the bathroom.

The Uncertainty

Certainty or security is not something many entrepreneurs get in the first years. The highly successful entrepreneur may have systems and procedures that are so predictable that he/she knows to an extremely high probability what the outcome of his/her efforts will be. In the beginning, it often is much less predictable as you are still trying to develop those systems and procedures.

Uncertainty also encompasses financial uncertainty. As I learned the business and continued to shovel money back into the business to help it grow, there were long stretches where I went with no pay. As I mentioned before, everything is a flow of energy. In order to not have to trade all of my time, I began putting money back into the company to help it grow rather than do it all through trading time. This, in turn, led to uncertainty as to when we would have money. This can feel scary and uncertain to those who have become accustomed to a consistent paycheck.

The Mental Divide

I heard the other day that happiness is when mind and body are 100 percent in the same place. Often as entrepreneurs, there simply is not a divide between work and life, and if there is, it’s usually a very blurred line. Because many entrepreneurs have such a passion for their work, we often have some part of our brain always working. If this is the case, then according the quote, we can never be truly happy outside of work. If a part of our mind is always consumed by work, regardless of all other external events, we are not 100 percent there.

This also means you can be one of the rare people who has true happiness at work. Many entrepreneurs have such a passion for what they do that they can hit that 100 percent mark every day and truly love working.

Another common term for all this is work-life balance. That balance again shifts over time as you and your business evolve. The key that I did not practice in the beginning and that I still struggle with is mindfulness. It’s about learning to shift my focus back and forth in the present so I can be my best in both professional and personal life.


It’s All Worth it

All of these things sound scary and bad. The good news is if you are willing to take them on, solve the problems as they come up, and persevere through struggle, it is all worth it. Back when it felt like I was swimming in the middle of the ocean trying to get home, I would remind myself, you have to live like most won’t so one day you can live like most can’t. For me, this meant financial freedom. Not having to work if I didn’t want to. Not having to trade my time to earn money for 30, 40, or 50 years of my life. Not having to work when family has something more important going on.

Related: 4 Questions That Separate ‘Want’-repreneurs From Entrepreneurs

I am proud to say at the age of 26, I am on the brink of financial freedom. For me, this doesn’t mean sitting in my mansion overlooking the beach never working again. It means I am getting close to where I can maintain the life I live and enjoy it without having to worry, or if I need to not work one day to be with family, I can choose not to and nothing bad happens. The greatest thing about all this is even as that time equation begins to shift and you get more and more financial freedom, you continue to have the passion for work. So now all the scary, hard things that I mentioned in this article begin to fade. Things become more certain, but you still get to do what you love.

If you’re one of the many who is considering making the jump to entrepreneurship or who is still feeling the hardships, I hope this article shines a light on a part of the process that often remains in the shadows. For those who are feeling the friction of these realities, I hope this shows you this is not uncommon and many of us go through the same things. Many entrepreneurs are aware of their own struggles but only see the success of others in the spotlight, leaving a discouraging feeling of “why isn’t it working for me?”

The reality is most of what you see in the spotlight is created through the years that remain in the shadows. You are an entrepreneur for a reason—you are persistent and a problem solver. You will push through, and each problem will be solved into a success. If you are thinking of beginning the journey, you are now more prepared and likely to push through these and many other difficulties. I look forward to seeing you all in the spotlight as you achieve your success, and congratulations to all who have experienced these struggles and persevered.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

Where are you in your journey? What struggles are you encountering now or have overcome in the past?

Let me know your stories below.

About Author

Jered Sturm

Jered Sturm is co-founder and director of sales and marketing at SNS Capital Group. Jered began in the real estate industry in 2006, working for a successful real estate investment company as a handyman. From 2009-2012, Jered co-founded the construction company Sturm Properties. Using his background in contracting and construction, he began investing in “Value Add” real estate. Now, after co-founding SNS Capital Group, Jered has conducted over 10 million dollars in real estate transactions. He currently co-owns and operates a portfolio worth over 3.7 million dollars in investment real estate.


  1. Dustin Mellor

    Very inspiring post, Jared. I’ve always found that when I’m working on something that is important to me, I can put far more time with greater focus than I can at my day job. The entrepreneurial route seems to be calling more and more these days. Thanks!

  2. Martin Carstens

    Jared, great article! And spot on! My day job is working eight months a year as a sea going captain. When home, I take my precious off time to look at good single family homes to buy & rent. Easy, no. How ever I do real estate in addition to my w2 paying job, a bit scary at times, you bet. Also the biggest sense of accomplishment and reward. House number nine is in the works! To future entrepreneurs, keep your day job! And do real estate in addition to.

  3. Mike Dymski

    “There were times I would have to teach myself entire subject matters just to identify a problem, only to then need to teach myself how to solve it. These times can be trying.”

    Wise quote. Most won’t take on the challenge. Then, many don’t have the stamina to persevere through this problem resolution process. Any many times, it’s the stuff you don’t want to spend time on. Lastly, many take 10, 15 or many more years to reach the point of comfort…some spend a lifetime doing it.

    The sense of accomplishment that comes from success achieved through very hard work is incredible. That’s one of the true fat paychecks at the end of the deal.

  4. Zachary Lamb

    Jered, Thank you so much for this article. The analogy you gave for swimming to go home truly hit home, I am still dog paddling to find my way and this has really helped me narrow my focus that much more so to know I am headed in the correct direction, only time will tell if it is the “right” direction!

    All the bests!

    • Jered Sturm

      Thank you for commenting Zachary. Your comment is exactly why I wrote this article. Many of us have felt the feeling you’re at and I wanted to encourage others to keep at it, its normal, and usually ends up great if you stay determined.

      If I can ever be of help feel free to reach out to me directly on here or by email.

  5. Brent McKee

    Jered, thanks for a very honest article. Many newbies are miss informed and see REI or other entrepreneur businesses that offer the opportunity for financial success and freedom. They forget to weigh the sacrifices and costs of time, effort and setbacks. and the possibility of

  6. Brent McKee

    Jered, thanks for a very honest article. Many newbies are miss informed and see REI or other entrepreneur businesses that offer the opportunity for financial success and freedom and they forget to weigh the sacrifices and costs of time, effort and setbacks. I know that as a mature newbie I’m seeking all the input and advice from successful people in the business to make sure I’m swimming in the right direction and am prepared for the setbacks. Looking forward to financial success but realize it will take time!

    • Jered Sturm

      Really glad to hear this Brent. Being wise will help you avoid the bumps. Like I have mentioned in previous articles I was not always so wise. I would smash into a roadblock until it broke only to see in hindsight the issue avoided with one slight tweak.

      Just being on BP will help avoid those pitfalls and expedite you reaching goals. Keep up the good work!

    • Jered Sturm

      Thank you, Douglas. There are a ton of articles out there that make it sound easy. I just want to share my perspective and how far from easy it was for me and many I know well.

      Thank you for taking the time to write a comment.

      I enjoy reading all the comments. We don’t make any money or anything for writing these. All the authors write with the purpose of helping others. Becuase of this Comments and shares are our way of knowing our time spent writing was worth it.

  7. Anthony Geren

    Jered this is an amazing article. As a newbie working toward my first deal, it definitely makes my vision clearer and more humble to be working toward financial freedom hearing it from someone like you. Nothing in this world is easy, and if you really want something you gotta work hard to get it. While reading this article it brought me back to think all the tough times I had to go through to get to this great point of my young life, and it all started with a vision to get there. I have a vision to be financial free with real estate being part of it, and you better believe im gonna see it through.

    Thanks again Jered

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks, Anthony. When reading your comment I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite quotes. “whether you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right”, You call if vision. When you see it happening and know it will happen it seems to always happen. Keep at your vision and you will get there very soon.

  8. How many times have you heard someone say “I want to have my own business so I can set my own hours.” As you mentioned, Jared, most people don’t see that the journey getting there consists of sacrifices and long hours. Great article!

  9. eric c.

    Good article that reminds us that real estate riches are not made overnight. BiggerPockets is a great resource, which is a great place to go to get tips and help, which prior to this site, I’m not sure where I would have gone. Thanks Jered.

  10. Great article! Very much needed in my time of hardship. I’m a licensed massage therapist who recently opened up their own practice in March of this year. I finally took the leap of leaving my day job to fully focus on my practice. Right now it’s tough not receiving the income I once had biweekly. I’m finally starting to get people through my door but most seem to only come for that “one time deal”. I know I’m a great MT reviews speak for themselves but my biggest challenge are getting this people to come back on a consistent basis. I am truly doing my best to explain the benefits of Massage on a regular basis. Any suggestions!

    • Jered Sturm

      Avery, I love that you realize this article is not just for real estate and applies to all entrepreneurs. Congrats on starting your business. If I had to make a suggestion I would say to keep a focus on marketing and sales often times you may be the absolute best or have the best product but if people don’t know you or don’t have a way to find you your business will have difficulties growing. Investment in marketing in sales are hard to swallow in the beginning but they are the fuel that drives the engine of business. Secondly stay consistent and persistent. you have only been at it a few months keep providing the best service combined with sales and marketing and the rest will begin to fall in place.

  11. Daniel P Willis

    That was a great post, I think your statement, “i have to do what most wont now, so that later I can live a life that most can’t later” really should sink deep with some. I think that a lot of people loose sight in why they pursue the life of an entrepreneur. Great post and thank you for taking the time so write this for us.

  12. Tyrone Townsend

    This “process of hard work” is exactly what does not get enough light like the “spotlight of success”!! This process is a daily dose of mindfulness! You don’t want to be telling yourself negative stuff, ancan be a challenge for some. Setting the right mindset is all about discipline. And some of us have to unlearn to learn. I am more driven to p.rove that it doesn’t matter what your background is, success can be achieved!!

  13. Gary Alford

    Great article Jered,

    As I’m in the hardship stage myself now I really like reading stuff like this because it reminds me that I’m not alone and it’s just apart of the journey. So I definitely appreciate this because it was much needed.

  14. Jack Gray

    My gosh, 26 years old, what the heck have I been doing with my life! I’m 10 years older than you and at square one.

    Jered, fantastic article and somehow encouraging despite the reality check. This article makes a good case for delaying starting a family if you have entrepreneurial ambitions. The dad who works all the time and misses his kid’s baseball game because money is more important is almost a cliche, and most of us are into real estate in the hopes of eventually having more time to spend with our families, not less. But the time to get the business/investment portfolio off the ground has to come from somewhere.

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