MP chatted with Steve Davis, CEO of Total Wealth Academy, LLC where he mentors tens of thousands of people on how to use real estate to build wealth and create passive income. Davis is focused on helping middle America achieve financial independence through one-on-one coaching and his daily radio show.

Steve Davis
CEO of Total Wealth Academy, LLC Steve Davis / Photo courtesy of Steve Davis

The Journey

The entrepreneurial journey is one of self-discovery. What have you learned about yourself while building your business?

I learned what I didn’t know. 

Through the journey, you discover all of your weaknesses, fears, insecurities, and ignorance. They become blatantly apparent to you very quickly — if you're humble. 

The entrepreneurs I know who have failed have a certain level of arrogance. They believe that they're right and the world's wrong. 

Instead of saying, “No, the world's right, and I'm wrong. I need to change to adapt to the world,” they insist they have nothing to learn. 

One of the great things about entrepreneurs is that many have written books about their journey. I found that entrepreneurs across every business I read about had the same fears and insecurities that I did, even to the point where they felt like they were fake. I remember waking up at night and asking myself, “Am I for real? Am I just wasting money? Do I have this?”

It’s a relief to know that others have had these doubts. 

I call them cracks in your armor. 

In other words, I went into combat with many cracks in my armor. And by reading, studying, and listening to lessons from great people like Stephen Covey, Robert Kiyosaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jim Rohn, and John Maxwell, I was able to fill in those cracks and come out the other side with a full set of very strong armor that allows me to continue to be an entrepreneur.

The entrepreneurial journey is often lonely. Have you experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur?

I never experienced loneliness as an entrepreneur. 

The main reason was that I spent a tremendous amount of time cultivating and building a relationship with my spouse. Her support kept me from ever feeling lonely. 

Another thing that I didn't do is make the mistake of becoming a workaholic — confusing activity with productivity. I see entrepreneurs do this across the board. They're always doing stuff, making them feel good, but there's no productivity. 

I followed “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” to clarify that what I did produced results. This process gave me plenty of time to continue my relationship with my spouse, kids, and even friends. 

I have heard many entrepreneurial people say I didn't lose my friends. People allow their success to change them. 

My reading has taught me that you must remain true to yourself. 

If you can't succeed as your authentic self, you're not going to succeed by fronting something you're not. 

So, I kept all my original friends and gained a new group of new friends, including entrepreneurs and multimillionaires.

The Psychological Warfare 

Entrepreneurs generally sleep less, work more, and let their health slip. This combination, combined with loneliness, often results in insecurity, self-esteem issues, and low self-worth. Have you experienced any of these issues as an entrepreneur? 

I have to admit that there was some luck in my entrepreneurial experience in that I read all the great books before I became an entrepreneur. 

A lot of people become entrepreneurs, and then they decide that they should learn more about what they’re doing. Without even realizing it, I had prepped myself to become an entrepreneur because of all the reading I had done. 

Tony Robbins talks about people who want to be the wealthiest person in the graveyard. In other words, they want to make millions more than anything else, even at the risk of losing their health and relationships. 

Because I had that warning in advance — with the wisdom of people like Stephen Covey of Tony Robbins — I could avoid burning out and losing sight of what I was working for — my happiness and relationships with my wife, kids, and friends. 

I kept working out, which I knew was of paramount importance. I kept my energy levels up, weight down, and muscle strength. 

I also want to credit Colonel AI Thomas, retired US Marine Corps. He taught me that you could quickly destroy your life trying to get rich.

Newer entrepreneurs often equate their personal success with the success and value of their business. If their business fails, they are a failure. If their business succeeds, they are a success. Have you experienced this warped perception of reality?

Yes, I've experienced fearing failure, which was a result of becoming completely unbalanced. 

For about six months, the only thing that mattered to me was the company's success. 

Then, I learned about a friend of a friend who had $815 million in the bank and ended up blowing his head off. 

This woke me up to realizing money alone will not bring you happiness. 

It's not going to satisfy you. 

It's not going to bring you a feeling that you're successful because if you're 50 pounds overweight, you've lost your spouse (or two or three), or you have no relationship with your children, there is no peace in that. 

What are you working towards if there is no joy, laughter, or passion?

What are your three biggest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?

1. Not Being Able To Meet Payroll

Going out of business and not being able to meet payroll when these families have given you their heart and soul. It's the 15th of the month, and you’ve got $70,000 in payroll with only $50,000 in the account. 

2. Lacking What It Takes

Finding out you're not as good as you thought.

3. Losing My Wife

If I fail, my wife might leave me, and I would lose love. I don't think my wife would leave me, just as I don't believe I might end up living under a bridge. 

But sometimes, your fears and insecurities disappear, and you imagine the worst stuff, which is ridiculous. To counter these fears, I use a technique from Tony Robbins, who calls it “changing the swish pattern” — make the circumstance seem so ridiculous that you cannot take it seriously. 

If I fear not making payroll, I see myself working harder. I change the pattern because I'm willing to do the work. 

I push myself to train, study, and do the work to ensure the worst does not happen. 

Entrepreneur at the station
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The Mistakes

What are three mistakes you made early on as an entrepreneur, what did you learn from them, and how can others avoid these mistakes?

My first two mistakes sound like complete opposites. 

1. Thinking I Was Better Than I Was

I was arrogant and thought I was better than I was without first having done the necessary psychological work of reading and studying to become who I wanted to be. 

2. Not Believing in Myself

I had both of those experiences at the same time when I first started with real estate investment. 

I had tiny units, 10, 20, 40, when I could have done 200 units in my first deal — except that I didn't believe in myself. I had done the work and the studying, but I didn't believe I was ready. 

Not believing in yourself is a huge mistake, and the best way to get past that is just read, read, and read some more — motivational material that's encouraging and enlightening. 

3. I Was Greedy

I got involved with somebody I knew was not a good person, but I stayed because I was making a lot of money. 

It backfired, and they eventually conned me. 

For people who find themselves staying in a shady situation because of the money, sooner or later, you will pay for your greed. 

So, it’s best to follow your moral compass first.

What are three things you see that are often overlooked by entrepreneurs you encounter, and how can other entrepreneurs be aware of these things from the beginning?

1. Not Taking in Enough Money at the Front

I see this happen all the time — an entrepreneur takes in $200,000 to start a business, and that's not even a year's worth of bills. They need to take in twice as much as they think they need in the deal. 

2. Getting So Consumed Daily That You Become a Manager, Not a Leader

A manager is about doing things right, but a leader is doing the right things. 

If you get mired in the minutiae of daily activity because you can't afford an assistant at the beginning, that's a huge mistake. 

You take in that extra money and hire the people you need. 

3. Arrogance, the Mantle People Where Hide Their Insecurities

Arrogant people brag a lot because they don't believe in themselves. 

When I meet genuinely confident people, they don't have to say a word to promote themselves.

The Successes

What was a seemingly insurmountable obstacle you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Raising Capital Because I Didn’t Believe That People Would Believe in Me

No matter how scary this is, you just have to do it. 

When I finally realized this, a light switch went on. 

I said, “just ask.” 

People can say no, and that's it. 

I raised the capital I needed to start my first business in one month. 

After that, I didn’t think anything was insurmountable, and so far, nothing has been.

What are three ways you have managed to boost your productivity without causing burnout? 

1. Romancing My Wife

I’m not talking about whisking her off to Paris but coming home, cooking dinner, and then washing the dishes. 

A happy and healthy romantic relationship makes all the difference in your success. 

2. Fitness

Keeping my heart rate and muscle tone up. 

3. Reading and Studying

This helps center you and reinforce your convictions. 

A few months ago, I suffered from imposter syndrome and couldn't sleep.

I got up and started watching videos from Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins. Two hours later, those insecurities were gone.

Entrepreneur working at cafe
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The Advice

How can newer entrepreneurs develop a healthy work-life balance even when it seems like an impossible task?

The key to balance is having written goals. 

If you do not have written goals, you will get unbalanced. 

Say you’re driving to work and get a flat tire. Suddenly, everything's about the car, the tire, and figuring out how to get the kids to soccer practice later that day. 

The number-one way to keep yourself from being distracted is to have written down goals. 

You need everything written down, and it needs to be based on the eight quadrants for a balanced life: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, financial, and occupational. 

You need to have goals for your fitness, goals for your relationships, goals for your romance, goals for your career, and goals for your wealth, all written down. 

Review them daily for the first three months, then weekly for a year. 

After that, once they're fully memorized and integrated into your brain, review them no less than once a month. 

The only people I know who have a balanced life can hand you a set of written goals.

What advice would have made your entrepreneurial journey easier, and why? 

Advertising is everything. If you have the best product in the world but don't tell anybody about it, it will never sell. 

I learned this from reading David Ogilvy’s “Ogilvy on Advertising.” It was written in the 1980s but is still relevant today. 

Everything I learned about making the entrepreneurial journey easier I learned from reading books by entrepreneurs. 

Without even knowing it, I was doing the right thing by giving myself a crash course in entrepreneurial leadership by reading, and that’s what I recommend to everyone starting.


Is there anything else you would like to share?

You must believe you can be anything, but also understand that work and sacrifice are involved. 

You can do that work and make that sacrifice while maintaining a balanced life. 

And read! 

There's a book out there on anything that you have a fear of by somebody who had the same fear and overcame it. 

There's no fear that I have ever had that I couldn't find articles about that led me to videos on it, that led me to workshops. 

Educate, educate, educate, and become a better person every day. 

The Japanese call this kaizen — a constant improvement of your brain.

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