Doubt is an unfortunate necessity of life. Whether it be internally or from those around you. It’s essentially unavoidable. But, that doesn’t mean you have to absorb it. Think of it like a sponge, the more you soak it in the more it will weigh you down. Doubt is a weakness that everyone has the ability to overcome.
I recently met with the Co-Founder and CEO of Steam Whistle, Cam Heaps, one of the largest and most popular breweries in Canada. Heaps always had a desire to craft his own beer and had the grand dream of having a brewery of his own inception. Since broadcasting his desires, he was presented with vocal uncertainty from friends and family. Fortunately, he pushed through the dubiousness of his peers because he knew that he could accomplish his ultimate goal.
His story had me thinking of my own journey. Rather than everything and everyone one weighing me down, I use it as fuel. Rather than soak up the doubt I stay a dry sponge. The analogy doesn’t sound so great in reverse, but we should all be dry sponges. This prompted me to start a blog and write a post on the importance of best utilizing your strengths to the utmost degree, siphoning fuel from the “doubters” to attain your aspirations and the unimaginable power of positivity.
Toronto is a very diverse and welcoming city. But I didn’t always get to experience the bright side of my community. I was one of three kids at my school who wore a turban. As one would suspect, I was ostracized for being different. They would tease me about my long hair, saying I belonged in the girl’s washroom. And that was not #woke. This is harmful to any kid, it stays with anyone. My perceived “lack of coolness” meant getting friends would be a challenge. The opinions of my peers dictated how I felt and thought of my own self-worth. Like every other kid, I just wanted to fit in. I mulled over alternatives as to how to be accepted by those around me. I ultimately decided on being the class clown. If acting up and cracking wise was what it took to be welcomed, I would do that very thing. Nothing was more vital than the validation of my peer group.
I kept this trend all the way through middle school. I grew to become a highly active kid, finding it difficult to sit through class, and really focus at all. The majority of my teachers reached out to my parents due to concern and sometimes pure frustration over the negative influence I was having on the students. My 7th-grade science teacher, Mrs. Jackson, got a hold of my dad and informed him of my unfavorable behavior. She stated that I would have to repeat the grade. Although furious and disappointed, my father persuaded her to pass me with the promise that I would be tutored to be better prepared for the following year.
These tales of youth and we have a purpose in shaping who I came to be, and now you as the reader. These people had power over me whether it be through hierarchy or because of social conventions. They reinforced their control, making me feel weak, that I didn’t fit the right mold. This obviously severely impacted my confidence, which proceeded to create a vicious internal dialogue that stated I would never be good enough.
The notion that grades are the epitome of success is ingrained into us for so long and when we’re so young. I barely made it through high school, so I knew college and university wasn’t a realistic option. My thinking was that I could hopefully get a decent job and maybe live a moderately comfortable life. As a young man, this was a morbid thought.
I managed to land an interview at CIBC through a hiring agency, and there I was fortunate enough to interview with Lynn Thoms. Much to my surprise, she put little emphasis on my resume and minimal qualifications. Instead, she said: “Sell me something, choose anything you want.” Having spent my teenage years selling shoes at Sporting Life, I decided to use that to my advantage. I asked her what she would be using the shoes for, how often she would use them, and analyzed her stance and posture. Based on these factors, I recommended a number of options tailored specifically for her needs. Given that I had asked a number of meaningful questions and specified everything to her particular requirements, she stated I would be perfect for the role.
I was now a Sales and Service Specialist, the fact that someone took a chance on me gave me a whole new sense of purpose. I could utilize my one talent: sales. Unfortunately, my colleagues didn’t share the same attitude as Lynn Thoms. They said because I didn’t have a university education I was very limited to what I could do in my career and this was pretty much it for me. This brought me back to my years of elementary and high school. I felt belittled, that I would never amount to anything, I was stuck in the place that they put me in. Eventually, I thought back to the 8th grade, where I had a teacher that did inspire me, Ms. Canata. She believed in me. She spends the extra time with me to ensure that I understood the lessons, she informed me that I had strengths and great potential. Not everyone needs to or should be good at the same things, we need different ways of thinking and processing. She told me that I was capable of things that others weren’t. I was informed I had charm, a skill she said that would serve me well in the future. Her belief in me was the fuel I needed to know that I didn’t need what others said I did. I wasn’t dictated by how they thought I should live my life. For the next 2 years, I was the top salesperson on my team, all without a “necessary” education.
Eventually, I grew tired of my position, so I left CIBC for employment in 100% commission sales at Acura. I learned very quickly that I had less than minimal knowledge about cars and there was not enough charm I could present that would compensate for this. Rather than let my insecurity best me like it did in the past, I studied up. Learning the trade became my life until I could be comfortable among the other vehicular enthusiasts. I could recite every little detail from the brochure, I spent time outside of the shop learning every minute detail, and I joined the mechanics to understand all of the inner workings. What I learned was that I could use my own strengths (ie. salesmanship) to overcome my weaknesses and be better than I was before. Outside factors didn’t matter, I had to be the best I could be for me. I deflated my own self-doubt and became one of the top salespeople.
During the next two and a half years, I sold a vast amount of cars, and a good portion of those was to real estate agents. This led me to think that there was a way that I could get into bigger ticket items. I was immediately actively pursuing my real estate license. During this process, I happened to sell a car to an agent and I was excited to pick his brain. “You’re too young, don’t even think about getting into real estate. It’s a man’s game and you’re not that.” That was essentially the summation of his egotistical ramblings. Taken aback by his statement, my 22-year-old self needed no more fuel to prove the world wrong. I quit Acura and spent all the time I could muster to selling real estate. Admittedly, I had a chip on my shoulder due to my efforts of just trying to prove one guy wrong. The following year I was filled with resentment, anger, and more self-doubt. I felt my dreams were petty and uninspired, as I recall all of this it comes flooding back to me.
2004 marked a major turning point when I met someone who would become my mentor, business partner, and dear friend, Simon Giannini. He lent me his Tony Robbins CD’s to listen to on my commute. I got the impression he could sense my overwhelming pessimism. The consistency of bombarding myself with positive messages started me on a path of self-reflection. It helped me realize that I was allowing others to negatively influence me and that I had the power to excise this from my mind.
For the remainder of my twenties, I actively worked on altering my mindset. “To bring new clothes into your closet, you have to purge the old ones.” And so I did. This developed into something better than I could’ve anticipated. The more I exuded positivity, the more I attracted it. I also made a conscious effort to avoid negative people. These acts of purging freed up mental space to think with more clarity, perceive things more creatively, and dream bigger than I ever had.
Now fast forward a couple of years, I become a Managing Partner of a team of 25 agents who year after year is in the top 5 teams in all of Royal LePage Canada. We produced over $100 million in sales and helped thousands buy, sell, and invest. On top of that, I am the Creative Director of REC Experience and host of our podcast. I utilize every medium I can to enable people to use the tools and information necessary to achieve what I have accomplished. I want to help those who are hungry do beyond what they thought possible.
My story is not the same as yours, but it’s also not uniquely mine either. At some or many points, you have felt like you don’t belong, that you can’t do much, that this is it for you. Regardless of sex, gender, religion, cultural beliefs, or age, you’ve felt like an outsider. Isolation is a feeling that at some point or another can’t be avoided. Everyone has moments where others have done or said things that stain us in ways we wish didn’t. Doubt is a part of our genetic makeup, but I hope I can leave you with this…
People who are doubting you and your path are likely doubting themselves in the same way. Unfortunately, these individuals never go away. Whether it be those you wish to not fraternize with or those you consider dear. My advice is to view them as hurdles you can leap over. Use their advice and comments as the fire under your feet. If your feet were actually on fire you could jump over the obstacles better due to the additional adrenaline. It’s a metaphor. It’s also very important to recognize those who are in your corner and seek their mentorship. Never be afraid to ask for help. These people can drastically change the trajectory of your life. Nobody knows you like you know yourself. Ignore all of the noise and ask yourself: if I try and really try, can I do this? If you believe it, the answer is always yes. From this point on, it’s a matter of always recognizing that power lies within and all of those negative thoughts are just wasting your time and energy.
It’s time to purge!