068 Seth Williams Interview
 

If you’ve ever wanted to know the real story behind Seth Williams, this is your chance to hear where it all began, the twists and turns his path has taken, where he’s headed, and some of the lesser-known details of his life.

In this episode, Jaren sits down with Seth for a one-on-one conversation about his life, story, motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and a lot more.

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Episode 68 Transcription

Seth: Hey everybody, what’s up? This is Seth and Jaren of the REtipster podcast and today is going to be another unique podcast episode. If you caught the last episode when I interviewed Jaren and we learned more about his backstory and all things Jaren Barnes. We’re going to flip the script today and Jaren is going to interview me, so I get to really let my ego shine. And before I go any further, I’m just going to turn the table over to Jaren and he can kind of pick this up and start asking me stuff.

Jaren: Yeah man, I’m actually really excited to go long-form with you because I feel like because you just… And again, this is going to sound super weird, but you’re one of the most humble people I know. In your content, you really just focus on delivering the value and you don’t really puff yourself up or don’t make it about you. So, I think that it’s going to be really cool knowing you so well being able to interview you and kind of pull out some of the things that other people who don’t know you as well as I do would be able to in an interview.

Seth: Yeah, man. No, I agree. There is always that sort of because REtipster is a real estate investing brand. I mean every time we do anything, whether it’s a video podcast or blog post, there’s always this element of like, “Okay, people are here to hear about real estate. So, we got to stick to that somehow”. I think that we kind of fund to like do that, but also just get into other stuff. Just like personal life, interesting stuff that might not have anything to do with real estate, but it’s still maybe kind of interesting to people. We’ll see.

Jaren: Yeah. And I feel like a lot of other real estate brands out there, they get into the content because that’s what people go there for. But I’ve heard a fair share of feedback from other podcasts that I’ve been on and other brands that I’ve been aware of where people are like, “Okay, I just like had to fast forward through a lot of stuff to get to what I really want”. And I feel like with us, at least the feedback that I’ve gotten from a lot of people in our audience, they don’t really have to do that. It’s like action-packed from day one. Even with our normal podcast format, we do the interview first and then if people want to hear our banter and our personality shine, it’s at the end of the interview instead of the beginning. So, to kick this thing off, how did you get started in real estate? The question we always ask everybody to start a podcast interview.

Seth: Yeah. So, if anybody out there has not heard the origin story of Seth Williams. So, for me it all started, it was like in my mid college years when I had basically spent the first two to three years of college kind of just being lost, like not really knowing why I was there, what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make money in life. I wanted to be wealthy in some way, shape or form. But I always thought like, “Well, you got to be a doctor”. Like that’s the only way to do it. I think something deep down in me knew it didn’t have to be that way. I just didn’t know what else to do. And as many other people have gotten into the business world, I discovered that “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book and a lot of other books like that. And it just really opened my eyes and helped me to realize the logical process of how money is made.

And it really has nothing to do with what your degree is or your education or how much of a genius you are. It’s just like simple math really. It’s just spending your life buying things that make money instead of buying things that lose money. There are many, many, like millions of different ways to do this. But when he talked about real estate, it was something I could understand and my grandfather had invested in real estate and bought some triple net properties and that kind of thing and had done pretty well. And I didn’t really know anything about how he did it. I just knew, “Hey, somebody in my family has done this”. So, it’s in my blood maybe that I could do this too.

So, I started spending tons and tons of time doing what I thought I was supposed to do, looking for rental properties or houses to flip because, in my mind, those are the only two ways to make money in real estate. Of course, I knew nothing about direct mail or how to find motivated sellers or land or anything like that. So, I was just looking at my local MLS listings and just struggling so bad to find anything. I mean, I really found nothing to be honest with you.

For a long time, I spent a lot of hours going through foreclosures. I found some, I guess, things that could have been deals, but these were just the nastiest of nasty houses. Kind of like what Jaren was talking about in the previous episode. Just like you can’t believe people actually live in these things. I knew that in order to actually do anything with these, it was going to involve a lot of work and a lot of money financing, stuff like that. Not impossible to do, but it was just sort of out of my element. I didn’t really know what I was doing. There’ll be a high likelihood that I would screw something up and lose money on the first deal or two.

But even then, like in my mind, it’s like, “Well, that’s my only option”. And it wasn’t until around the 2008 era that I’ve found land flipping through a course. And when I first heard the idea of land it was like, “Yeah, that kind of makes sense”. Like, normally I wouldn’t think land, but the fact that you can buy it for almost nothing, well, you can make almost anything work that way as long as it’s something other people actually want to buy. And I got the course, tried it out, it worked. And that alone, I remember the first time I got an accepted offer in the mail, it was just amazing. My mind was blown. I couldn’t believe that something was working after so many years really of trying stuff that failed. So yeah, so it worked. Then I did my 1st deal and 2nd deal and the 3th and 5th and 10th and 20th, and I just kept going from there and the rest was history. So that’s kind of my story in a nutshell.

Jaren: Man, as you’re sharing, I just was thinking back to the first time I got a motivated seller call on land. And I was in the car, I think I was doing some work stuff and I was in the passenger seat and I was on the computer off of my cell phone hotspot. And I picked up the call and it was this guy’s like, “Well, somebody offered me $6,500 a couple of months ago. I didn’t want to take that day but I’ll take it now if you could do $6,500”. And this property, I believe we sold it for like $18,000. I mean I was so nervous on the phone, I sounded so dumb. I was like… And my wife like straight-up holding back her laugh there because I was nervous.

Seth: I know how that is like too.

Jaren: The land business works man. Just like she’s so awesome. So, something that came to mind as you were sharing, did you go to any like local REIA groups? Because I was surprised, maybe it’s because we live in such a different climate now with Bigger Pockets and all the information that’s out there. But it was surprising to hear from me that your first step in trying to find a deal was just looking at them alas and talking to realtors and stuff. Did you even know that there are REIA groups, certain things like that?

Seth: Yeah. It took me actually a few years to know that those were even a thing. So, I guess the answer is no, I didn’t know at the very beginning. But even when I did discover them, I was surprised and disappointed to find that Grand Rapids did not have a REIA that you would normally think of in most cities. What they do have is called The Rental Property Owners Association – RPOA. It’s for rental property owners, like landlords, property managers. That’s it. It’s not meant for like flipping houses and stuff like that. So, it does exist but only in that format for that type of person. And it’s pretty huge, I think. I’ve actually never been to it, but I hear about it all the time. There wasn’t exactly a REIA like you would think a REIA should be in Grand Rapids. Maybe it exists now. I don’t know. I haven’t looked in the past couple of years, but for a long time, it was the RPOA. And I know there are different groups that do meetups and stuff, but that’s not like a REIA. It’s just a private organization putting that together.

Jaren: So how did you, from an educational standpoint, because “Rich Dad Poor Dad” is very pie in the sky-high level, more mindset stuff than anything else. So, what education stuff did you find helpful? Were there books? Because for me, I’m trying to figure out how you went from like “Okay, I’m just like randomly looking at houses on the MLS, trying to find properties to buy and hold, trying properties to flip, that’s not working”. And then you somehow got on the list that you found the land course. So how did that all transpire?

Seth: So back in like, I think it was 2006 or something when I first discovered this, but there was a website called flippinghomes.com. It might still exist, but I haven’t even looked at it in years. So, I don’t know. But anyway, at the time it was run by a guy named Steve Cook. This was sort of like before Bigger Pockets was much of a thing. I think it existed but like nobody knew about it. And Flipping Homes, I think it was like the biggest real estate investing forum on the internet at that point in time. And I was interested in flipping homes. That’s kind of what I wanted to do. I found it super helpful. I bought a couple of courses from Steve Cook. There were awesome. He did a great, great job of explaining really everything you’d ever want to know. Just amazing work, especially for the time when courses were a lot harder to do. Video and stuff was not an easy thing to put together, but he did a really good job of that.

So, anyway, I was like a huge fan and follower of him. I felt through what he taught me like I really probably could have made a run at flipping houses and I probably would have if I hadn’t discovered land. And it was on his list, at one point, he made an announcement about Jack Bosch. I guess Jack Bosch had reached out to him and so he was doing an affiliate promotion for Jack and that was kind of how I found out about Jack. And that was kind of where I got the first introduction to the business and how it worked. At least how Jack’s version of it worked.

Jaren: That’s really interesting. So, do you feel like Steve Cook, you said his name was?

Seth: Yeah.

Jaren: Do you think he was the source of inspiration for you to start something like REtipster? How did you go from just doing deals as a land investor to wanting to start your own online community and your own online blog?

Seth: Yeah. So, Steve Cook, by the way, he does still do stuff online. He now runs the website Lifeonaire. So, lifeonaire.com. That’s kind of like what he’s doing now. I don’t even know how big of a thing a real estate is on that website. But anyway, so that’s what he’s up to now. But he was definitely the first guy I ever discovered that really made it seem doable. He really explained not just high-level concepts but really all the stuff you need to know. And I just remember after his course like I truly felt armed to do something. It wasn’t just vague concepts in my mind. But he was definitely not the inspiration for REtipster. When I discovered, Pat Flynn at smartpassiveincome.com that’s really where the REtipster idea really came into its own. Because I saw what Pat was doing on his website at the time just like putting out incredibly valuable and completely free content that was like worth paying money for, but it was just free.

He was just putting it out there and he actually found ways to make money from that, like monetize it in a big way while all the while it being just a very trustworthy, honest, down to earth real person. And prior to seeing him, I didn’t realize you could do that. Like I thought doing what he did just meant, “Well, you better just have a ton of free time and not hope to make any money”. But when I saw that he could actually monetize it to make it worth his while, it was like, “Man, like I can totally do what he’s doing”. And I also saw a lot of things about his personality that reminded me of me. He sorts of seemed like somewhat of an introvert and like he didn’t just ooze with confidence. He wasn’t cocky. He wasn’t like this, “Look at this bag of cash that I got right here and my Ferrari in the background”. It wasn’t that kind of guy.

He just seemed really normal and down to Earth. And I was like, “Well, if he can do that with his personality and what he knows, I could totally do the same thing for the real estate world”. And there’s sort of this, we’ve talked about this before, Jaren, where there’s sort of like this hunter personality and the farmer personality. And the hunter is one who really enjoys the thrill of the chase. They do really well at sales a lot of times. They really love making huge paychecks, just that kind of thing. Whereas the farmer is more the type of person who doesn’t necessarily enjoy that. They’re content to just plug away for years on end as much time as it takes. And they more value, not the massive paychecks, but just the steady predictable income that’s going to come eventually from that. And I figured out I was much more of the farmer type. And that farmer type I think does really well with something like a blog because blogs do not pay off in the beginning. It takes a long time and a lot of work that nobody sees. And you just have to be okay with that. And I was okay with that and a lot of people can’t do it. For me and my personality, it worked really well with the kinds of things I’m good at.

Jaren: So, I wanted to ask you something that you brought up and then I want to circle back on kind of the origin story of REtipster. But I actually get a lot of feedback from coaching clients at retipster.com and people in our community. They’re shocked that when I say you’re shy and extremely introverted because you’re so dynamic on camera and you do these podcast interviews and you are all over the place. In terms of like people being able to find you on other brands and so on and so forth. How did that happen? Because I mean, I know you’ve shared with me some personal stuff about how you were growing up extremely shy and the effort that you had to put in to be able, as you say in your 20 things about Seth Williams article that you’re introverted, but you know how to turn on “extroversion” if that’s the word. How did you cultivate that? How did you learn those skills?

Seth: I honestly still don’t think I’m there. There’s a lot of times getting interviewed by other people or shooting a video or being on a podcast like I don’t dislike those things, but it requires a lot of heavy lifting and mentally for me. Like it’s not my natural element. I have to really almost kind of like hype myself up a little bit. It’s actually funny. If you watch some of my earlier videos from like the 2015/2016 era as I, unfortunately, do from time to time. It’s kind of painful because I didn’t have the whole enthusiasm thing worked out yet. Like my voice is just very like… Maybe that’s exaggerating, but I still think I can do better at it. But you can just tell I wasn’t on fire about it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the subject matter, I didn’t know how to turn on the enthusiasm and the charm and the personality and stuff like that.

I think podcasting has probably helped out with that a lot because when all somebody has an audio feed, that’s all they have to listen to. That enthusiasm is really important. And I kind of realized that early on and I was able to kind of get better at it. It’s also been helpful working with you Jaren because I think you’re really good at that naturally. Just showing enthusiasm. You don’t really have to try it, it’s just there. I think being around that kind of influence has helped me to crank it up a couple of notches. Yeah, so, I guess what I’m saying is it’s not something that’s easy. It takes work and effort, but I kind of think of how I would act if I was around my really good friends, people that I’m really comfortable with. They know who I am and they know my personality. I kind of try to channel that.

It also helps to just think about the importance of the message that I’m trying to get across. Like why is this video worth making? Like what does this person really need to understand that’s going to change their life? And when I think about the importance of that message and what it has the power to do, if I’m able to convey the importance behind it and if I’m able to be engaging enough for a person to actually watch more than 10 seconds of the video, that could go a long way for them. I try to bear all that in mind when I’m making it and I don’t think I’m there yet. I think there’s a lot of improvement I still have to make, but those are kind of the ways that I can get a little better.

Jaren: When you were growing up in maybe your college years or sometime in your past, were there any books? I know some people mentioned Toastmasters or there’s like courses through Stephen Covey and stuff like that, that talk about charisma and learning it and cultivating that as a skill. Have you used any of those resources and did you find them helpful?

Seth: It started with me reading Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Which man, I love that book. It was an easy read. It was fun to read, it really articulated very well the importance behind charisma and when you talk to people, say their name. People love hearing their own name, that kind of thing. Not to be manipulative, but simply like this makes you a more effective person frankly. If you’re able to do this stuff, you’re a better communicator for it. And Dale Carnegie has all kinds of classes and books. Dale Carnegie is actually dead. This is his organization. The organization has classes in public speaking and sales. I never really did any of that. I did take a class on like the basics of Dale Carnegie, but I’ve not done it for the purpose of selling or anything.

But I think that was extremely impactful. Actually, it’s funny, it didn’t like to make me better overnight. It’s not like I was suddenly good at it, but it just made me aware of “This is why it’s important”. There’s more to life than just living in your own mood right now and just letting your feelings control everywhere you go. If you have a bad day, you can still be a really engaging, expressive person that people like to listen to. So that kind of gave me the awareness, but then actually working on it has taken many years to even get a little bit better. But I think the interesting thing is just knowing as anybody can improve. It’s not like you are stuck where you’re at. And even like Pat Flynn for example. I remember his first many podcast episodes. The guy’s voice sounds notably different then than it does today. He’s really gotten a lot better as a public speaker and podcaster.

Jaren: Yeah. I really appreciate you sharing that because one of the things that inspires me personally the most about getting to work with you and knowing you on a closer basis than a lot of others is how much you’ve worked on charisma and how much you’ve worked at it as a skill because a lot of people just say, “You either have it or you don’t”. And you are proof that you can kind of be born without it but through hard work and grit, you can be anything that you want to be in life. And that’s something when I’m trying to learn a new skill or there’s an aspect of my personality that I don’t like, one of which is like I feel I’m extremely wordy or I can go down rabbit trails quite a bit and get distracted. When I’m communicating, it’s hard for me to stay focused. Taking that as an example when I’m trying to work on that and I’m frustrated because yet again, I was too wordy on a call with a coaching client or whatever, I remind myself, “Calm down. It’s okay. It’s a journey. It’s not a sprint. And look at Seth”. Like Seth, he’s come a long way, even from the videos that I’ve seen of you. The stuff you put out now, it puts everything that I’ve put out to shame.

Seth: That’s not true. Thank you. But you don’t give yourself enough credit.

Jaren: Ah, thanks, man.

Seth: Yeah, it’s something that I’ve actually… It’s so weird. It’s like anything that a person is good at can just as well hurt them. I wish that’s not how it worked in the world, but it’s really true. Like, I don’t think you have any problems with having expression in your voice. Like, I wish I had naturally. So, I don’t know. There’s a downfall to everything, I guess.

Jaren: Yeah, man. Well, hey, I wanted to circle back to the origin story of REtipster because you’re very unique as an entrepreneur because not only did you go from just working a normal job and then learning real estate, you then took your real estate knowledge and then developed a huge brand online. Walk us through some of the processes there. Obviously, you mentioned Pat Flynn inspired you, but where did you find the wherewithal to actually like go buy a domain and start the thing? Because it takes so many skills to do what we do.

Seth: That’s so true. There is a lot of stuff that you just have to do to make all this stuff work. It’s overwhelming sometimes just to think of all the different things. And if I can’t figure it out, I have to then hire somebody and pay them to do it and then manage that person. And it’s a lot sometimes. It can almost drive me nuts. But in terms of the origin story, I kind of knew from day one that I’m not somebody who’s going to say, “You should listen to me because I’ve done 10,000 deals and that’s why I’m worth listening to”. Because that’s just not my store. I think I’ve done more than enough deals to know what I’m talking about and to speak with authority. But I’m not the guy who’s telling you like, “I’m going to thump my chest and say I’m amazing. Look at me”.

I think the difference though is that a lot of people out there who are much better at this than me, they will never be interested in teaching people about that. That’s not what they want to do. Or even if there was what they want to do, maybe they don’t have the skill to figure out how to make videos and edit them and do podcast stuff and all the stuff it takes to run a blog. And it’s kind of interesting in terms of when you think about what makes somebody a good educator. It’s because they’re good enough, they’re expert enough to know what they’re talking about and to really offer up legitimate, helpful, correct guidance and they have the patience to slog through all the stuff that a lot of people wouldn’t have the patience for.

And I think that’s kind of where my story brought me is like I have not like the perfect mix of that, but it’s good enough in terms of I know enough on both ends. But when I think about what is going to make the most impact on the world? Is it the number of deals that I personally have done or is it the number of deals that I help everybody else out there do through what I know and what I can help them understand how to do?

Undoubtedly when I look at the impact that other blogs and YouTube channels and podcasts have had on me, simply because I’m a listener. Just listening in to what they’re doing, I mean there’s no question it’s a bigger impact to help other people get there too. And helping other people earn success does not detract from my success at all. That’s part of why I’ve never had a problem with telling people what works for me and not worrying about competition and all this stuff because more opportunity for the others does not equal less opportunity for me. It just means everybody kind of gets better in the process.

Jaren: I also think it speaks to our mission at REtipster. I think you as just a human being, not to get super spiritual or whatever, but I really feel like you are functioning in almost what you were designed to function in because the way your brain works, I thought I was good at writing blog posts and I thought I was good at creating content before I joined the team at REtipster, but I really understand how to break down the subject matter now. Because you just have this ability to put on glasses of a brand-new user, our brand-new real estate investor and answer all of their questions. And so, I wanted to kind of dig a little bit deeper as to why you decided to start doing REtipster. Obviously, you saw Pat Flynn and you saw the opportunity there. Were you entrepreneurial as a kid? Did you like help tutor kids growing up or anything like that? Was there anything that spoke to the possibility of you doing what you’re doing now?

Seth: I think part of it honestly is that I was always kind of a slow kid in school. Even today, like it drives my wife is crazy sometimes, where she’ll say something and I have to ask five different clarifying questions to be like, “Okay, who are you talking about? When did this happen? Where?” She just wants to say it and have me understand it. I’m not smart enough, like I need a lot of other information to put it all together. So, it’s kind of a liability. I can’t say it’s always a fun thing to have that problem. But as an educator, I think it actually helps a lot because not that I always do this perfectly, but I can just think better in terms of like, “Oh, this also ought to be mentioned. And this too. And this too”. And sometimes that results in videos being way longer than they should be, but still, I want it to be complete. I don’t want people to just be left hanging and they got to go get the rest of the instructions somewhere else. I want to really give them everything they need right here. This is the last thing they’ll ever have to watch on the subject or read or listen to.

And I also sort of realized this when I was in banking. I remember I was blown away at how many people in the banking world, and lawyers and accountants and all this stuff. And this is probably like this everywhere, honestly. But I was amazed at how many very highly paid professional people did not know how to write an email. They just send you a one-word response, like “No” to a very complicated question that I would ask them. Or “Yes”. Not really explaining anything behind what they’re talking about. And it just drove me nuts. And sometimes they would give longer responses, but they were just like rambling going all over the place. Maybe the words didn’t make sense, maybe they weren’t even complete sentences. I’m just like, “Come on man, email is important. This is important communication we’re sending here. I’m going to take action based on what you’re saying. So, give me all the information, don’t make me hunt around for it”. And it just annoyed me.

Whenever I would send emails, I would spend a lot of time on them honestly. I would almost write them like blog posts in a way. Like I would use bullet points and headers and stuff. I remember, with the type of loans that we were doing where I worked SBA 504 loans, they were somewhat convoluted. There were a lot of confusing things about them and the weird ways they could be structured. So, I very clearly layout “You have three options with which to proceed”. Option one, and I would very clearly spell out what that looks like. Option two, same thing. And I remember on a number of occasions people would respond and be like, “Wow, thank you. I actually understand what you’re talking about”.

Nobody was expecting to get a good email. But when I sent it to them, I could see it really made a difference. I think through that and the first few times I tried to write a blog post actually sort of enjoyed the process. I didn’t think I would because blogging never sounded like fun to me until I thought about doing it in the context of real estate investing. But when I really had a mission and a reason to do it and saw the importance of what I can help people understand, it was really, really fun. And to this day, it’s one of the funniest things I get to do when I get to put that kind of stuff together.

Jaren: One of the things that you taught me that I use a lot with our coaching students is what I’ve called “The 24 Month Rule”. It’s this principle that you’ve lived out with REtipster or where you said for the first 18 months of REtipster you just had to grind at it. Every day you were working your banking job and whenever you had a free moment, you were building REtipster. And it took you about 18 months. I round up to two years to 24 months with the rule, but you said to me something that really stuck that you realized with REtipster that things that are worthwhile, you need to commit to you for at least two years before throwing the set and say it doesn’t work. Can you speak a little bit on that and what your process was there? Because I’m sure you had moments where you’re like, “Man, I’m putting in all these hours, it’s not making any money and I have no traffic”. What was that like internally for you?

Seth: Yeah, I mean it was a very similar thing with the land business too when I started that just like during my lunch breaks and every weekend and every night. Thank goodness we didn’t have kids yet. I actually had time to do that kind of stuff. But I remember it was kind of just like not expecting anything amazing to happen but just knowing fundamentally there is something about this that is going to work. This isn’t just rolling the dice. It’s like, if I do this and if these different statistics are correct, this will work at some point. And I think as long as I understood the potential there and also the fact that I actually can do this. I sort of enjoy what it takes to get there. It’s not like it was pulling teeth every day when I was trying to do it. I don’t think I ever would have survived if I hated what I was doing. But just sort of understanding, this is fun and this is what it takes, and I can do this for a good long while before deciding I don’t like this anymore.

And I think in both cases, with the land business, and with REtipster, it was really helpful to have not like massive home run wins early on, but just I saw signs that it was working. Getting my first deal within like the first, I forgot how soon it was, the first month or two after I started trying to do it. Just seeing like, “Hey, there’s something here. I’m not just wasting my time here”. And the same thing with REtipster. I didn’t make any money for like, it was at least a year, year and a half before I made a single penny on anything. But still people would leave comments and people would email me and say like, “Man, I hope you never stopped doing this. This is amazing what you’re doing here”. And just seeing that it was helping somebody, that was enough to show me that there’s something here this is worth doing even if it never pays off monetarily. Like there is a positive effect in somebody’s world because of the actions I’m taking right now. I don’t think that’s enough to keep it going forever. But it was at least enough to keep me going to the next step and the next step. And just getting that kind of encouragement and feedback from people.

Jaren: When did you know you had traction with REtipster?

Seth: There was a point at which I thought about pulling the plug and quitting. I was like, “This is fun and everything, but I’ve got a life to live too. I can’t just do this forever for nothing”. I mean, really undeniably the milestone at which things saw a massive uptick was when I got interviewed on Bigger Pockets episode 39. Man, I feel like that was a gift from God.

I don’t know if REtipster would exist if that hadn’t happened honestly, just because I’m sure it certainly would have grown to where it’s at eventually, but Bigger Pockets just give it a massive boost to get there. And just seeing a lot of people hear what I was saying and reaching out and be like, “Man, that was so awesome. I got to learn more”. That was a huge turning point. Even that it didn’t mean I started making money. It was just this giant wave of new people that discovered me through that. I think it was shortly after that I created the first, shortly before or after that I created the first paid product for $7 that people could pay. And I remember the first time I saw somebody pay $7 and buy it. Like the first day I put it up. It was like, “Whoa, somebody paid me $7 for this”.

Like if I can just do this like several million more times, this can actually get somewhere. So, it is not happening several million times, but still like it was just a “Wow”. Like there’s something here. I’ve actually heard some people say that. If anybody out there wants to build a blog or a podcast or YouTube channel or whatever, there’s a lot of power in putting anything for sale out there for any amount of money, even if it’s a $1 or like a pay what you want kind of thing. Just because when that first transaction comes through, even if it’s like almost nothing, just realizing, “Hey, somebody paid for this”. Like there’s something here. That’s a big light bulb moment for everybody who does that kind of thing.

Jaren: That’s really inspirational. I always love digging into the story of REtipster because it’s a different business model than the traditional real estate investor. I don’t know if you get interviewed a lot on it, but I wanted to take this opportunity to dive deep there. Let’s talk about your primary strategy in real estate for a little bit. I know that it’s land. Our audience knows that your go-to is land. But are you interested in any other type of real estate investing?

Seth: Yeah, absolutely. So, land. For me, land has always been a part-time thing. Like it’s never been the one thing that I’ve totally thrown everything behind and it’s really been my way of generating big paychecks. I used to do seller financing earlier in my career. So, I think seller financing certainly has its place. It can go a long way if you decide to really get behind that in a big way. But, for me, I chose to steer away from that and just do cash deals. And I really use land as a method of making big paychecks. And with those big paychecks, I can then invest them into other things. Or the last big paycheck I made I haven’t put it towards anything yet. And it’s mainly because when I got paid there were just no giant obvious deals in front of me and the market has just been crazy. A sellers’ market in the past couple of years and I’ve kind of been in cash hoarding mode because it’s been so hard to find opportunities, not impossible, but just harder.

I think the ultimate end goal is to buy more with the buy and hold real estate where it’s going to be there as long as I’m alive, it’s going to generate income as long as I own it. That’s kind of like, to me anyway, having this farmer mentality, that’s kind of like the holy grail of where I want to be. The question is what is the best type of property to do that with? And originally, I thought it was going to be rental properties. I’m not like sworn off of them or anything. I sold off the ones that I own this past year just because people were paying such crazy amounts for them. And given where we’re at now, I’m glad I did just because there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now.

But in terms of what the best vehicle is to do that. I think self-storage has definitely been on my radar for the past year at least. And I’ve looked at a few different facilities and I’m actually right now sort of still in a conversation with somebody about buying theirs, but with all the Covid-19 stuff going on, I’m not sure where that’s going to go. It’s sort of been on hold for a couple of months and we’re supposed to pick it back up in like two days from now. And I’m not sure where they’re going to be at. Self-storage I think is one way to do it. I really liked the triple net lease idea as well. But again, it’s sort of comes down to “Can you get a good enough property in a good enough location at a good enough price?” That’s kind of like the million-dollar question. If you can, then you’re golden.

Jaren: For those in our audience that might not know what a triple net lease is, do you want to explain that?

Seth: Yeah, the triple net lease is where you simply buy a property, whether it’s a commercial building, like what a restaurant would occupy or a strip mall or even a warehouse, something like that. And the triple net lease basically means the tenant that occupies that is paying the property taxes, they’re paying the property insurance, they’re paying everything. So, all of the costs to maintain it and keep it running. Things that normally the property owner would pay in like a residential rental property, that’s all on the tenant. And usually as a result, they’re paying a slightly lower rent amount because they’re covering all that stuff. But the idea is like, I don’t want to say it’s a hundred percent hands-off for the owner but pretty close to it in terms of “I don’t have to mess with that. It’s your thing. It’s just my name is on the title”.

I think I really like that idea. It’s appealing for a lot of reasons, but I think it’s just really key to get a solid location that’s always going to be in demand regardless of where the market is at. And I know somebody, a local investor who has several buildings like that and that’s just an awesome place to be in terms of people always need what you have to offer and it’s always hands-off. It’s just like it’s perfect. So, I would love to get in that kind of position. For me, the one drawback to self-storage has been, at least for the sizes of properties that I would be able to get at this point, the sub-million-dollar range, they’re not management free. There’s not really a turnkey property manager out there that’s willing to manage ones that are that small. And so, basically, I would have to manage them myself in some capacity. Which I think as far as property management goes, that’s probably the easiest type of property to manage because nobody’s living there onsite. But still you have to do stuff. You have to make sure payments are coming in, you get to clean out units and evict people and it’s not hands-free like I would love it to be so. But I think self-storage might be a good stepping stone to where I’m trying to go anyway.

Jaren: Very cool. It seems like you and me have a very similar philosophy on land. I think that seller financing with good systems is a really good route to go. I tell my coaching clients that if your goal is to quit your day job as fast as humanly possible, then seller financing and land is kind of a must. If land is going to be the vehicle that you quit your job with. But because the cash flow is not evergreen and because there’s such a high default rate, I personally shy away from seller financing just because it’s a lot to manage. And I would rather sell for cash, take the cash out of the land business and then park it into some other type of “buy and hold” asset class.

Before I ask our famous three questions, at the end of every interview, I wanted to just ask you, if you weren’t running a real estate business or REtipster, what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

Seth: Yeah man, that’s a good question. I feel like it’s a very rare thing for people to reach their full potential in life. And it’s just very elusive because there’s a lot of things that many of us could be geniuses at, but we’ve never even tried it. So, we’ll never know. And so, as a result, we will kind of just settle for what we’re doing and assume that that’s the best we can do. And I think if I had never started REtipster if I had never done land, if I had never figured out any of that stuff, I would probably be working at like a bank doing work that I could tolerate but not fully enjoy. Yeah, honestly, I think I would probably play the safe route and just do something that I felt was secure. Something where I could have the weekends off and work normal hours and earn like an upper-middle-class income and be like, “Yep, here we go. That’s the American dream right there”.

It’s not that that’s like inherently wrong. It’s just like, it’s not the best I could do for myself. And I guess REtipster and land and what I’m doing in real estate, that may not be the best either. Maybe there’s something even further that I have a calling to do, but I think with the stage that I’m at right now in my life, it’s much better than many other alternatives that I could have done. I’m really thankful to God for him letting this happen because it’s been an amazing ride and I really, really love what I do. I think I was explaining to you one time.

It’s like every morning when I go into my office, it’s sort of like what a child would feel like when they run through the gates of Disney World for the first time, where they’re just like, they’re so excited. There are so many things they want to do. It’s just the coolest thing they have ever seen or experienced. I’m not exaggerating, but that’s really kind of what life is like every day when I get to do this kind of work. Like I love it. I’m on cloud nine.

That’s not to say there are no hard things and hard days and days when I’m exhausted and tired and when I’ve had to edit stuff all day and it’s not fun, but it’s still an amazing thing. Like compared to every other kind of work I’m aware of in the world, it’s awesome. And the cool thing it’s actually like if I were stopped doing REtipster or for some reason stopped doing real estate altogether, it’s introduced me to a lot of other careers I never would have known about like videography or copywriting or social media marketing or design and editing. It’s just kind of cool how running after something you love can reveal a lot of other cool things in the process. Even if the main thing didn’t necessarily end up being your final calling. Like there’s a lot of other cool things you can discover along the way just by chasing after your dream.

Jaren: That’s awesome man. And I feel the same way. I love the opportunity that I have at REtipster where I can meet with people and help them become successful and make videos and teach and just make an impact. And I really feel like there are few better things out there than running a blog or an online community for impact. And that’s my biggest driver, man. I want to make a difference in my life. And I feel like here I’ve been able to make the biggest amount of impact that I’ve ever been able to compare to other jobs.

Seth: Yeah, man. When you think about it, it’s really important to work. I think that’s something that you and I don’t always see because we don’t always see who is getting this stuff and who is using it and who is getting to a place, they couldn’t have otherwise gotten to with it. I feel like most of the time I’m just totally unaware of that. But when I think of other influencers I’ve followed and what their work has done for me, it’s incredible. It’s an amazing thing and it’s really cool that in any way we get to be that for somebody else in any capacity. So, it’s an awesome thing. We’re really fortunate.

Jaren: Yeah, man, we really are. So, to wrap this interview up with our final three. First things first, what is your biggest fear?

Seth: Yeah, there are lots of things I have fear in the world, unfortunately. The first thing that comes to mind is that someone in my family will experience some kind of life-altering trauma or physical harm. I’ve had a lot of really irrational fears, things that like, “Why do you even think about that?” Like these things go through my head all day long. My kids like maiming themselves or getting injured. Just crazy stuff. So that’s a big one. Just that something terrible will happen, which is kind of unfortunate because like living on Earth, terrible stuff happens. Like there’s no way to escape that. Like it’s just part of life as a human. So, it stinks that I’m afraid of something so inevitable.

Aside from that though, there’s also this fear that I’ll have to go back and get a job someday. I don’t know why that would happen, but you never know, especially with the weird stuff happening in the world right now. Lots of crazy stuff has happened and that nobody would ever have guessed. I’ve really enjoyed this life. I really love where my life is at right now. I’ve seen other people in life who have obtained great amounts of wealth and sort of gotten used to the comfort of that life and then they lose it and sort of fall backward and it’s very, very painful. Sometimes I’m afraid of something like that happening. Not necessarily with wealth but just the career that I’ve enjoyed so far.

Jaren: What about that is so scary? Is it that you would feel like a failure or what about having to go back and work another job is such a negative?

Seth: It’s probably a bunch of different things woven into that. I think it would just be a huge kick in the gut. Because whatever I’ve done with REtipster, it sort of worked. I mean it’d not be exactly where I want to be, but you can’t deny. Like it’s gone somewhere. And this idea that what has worked in the past will suddenly stop working. This stuff that I thought I had figured out all of a sudden, “Nope, you actually don’t know what you’re doing anymore. Back to square one”. Like that would really be a very painful thing to go through.

And then having a boss and hours and just dumb rules. And you know how most companies are. Like just lots of inefficiency and the way the herd mentality that a lot of people have. I don’t know, a lot of things like that do not sound like fun to me.

And a lot of people that I knew in banking that were really like very highly paid high up in their organization, I know for a fact they hate their career. They do not enjoy what they do. They just don’t know what else is better. And they kind of get used to a lifestyle or an expensive lifestyle and their job pays them well. And you kind of paint yourself into a corner where you can’t do anything else. Because you’d have to say goodbye to all your nice things then. Heaven forbid, we actually do work we love because we’ve got this horrible job that’s paying us so well. It’s like the golden handcuffs’ thing. Having to go back to a corporate life that it’s just yuck. Like nothing about that sounds fun to me.

Jaren: That makes a lot of sense. What is something you’re most proud of?

Seth: I think my kids is an easy answer, but I feel like that’s more God than me. I am a spiritual, Christian person, so that’s the caveat to this. As he made them, it’s not like I made them. I played a part in that, but like that’s really his creation. I just get to be their earthly father, which is an amazing blessing. But I feel like that’s just God doing his miracle, doing what he does and I just kind of get to be along for the ride. It’s weird to say I’m proud of that when really, I’m just kind of an overseer of them while they’re here. But I feel like they’re both just like really, man, I love them so much. I feel like it’s more than just because I’m their parent. It’s because they’re really good fun people to be around. I can’t wait for them to wake up in the morning so I can just see them and interact with them. I really enjoy being around them. That’s just a really cool thing.

I’m also really proud of REtipster. I think that’s also been God. He’s opened up doors and allowed things to happen. I did a lot of the work, but I think any opportunity comes from him. Whether anybody read the work or not or watch the videos and listen to the podcasts, it’s just been very fulfilling and fun. Just being able to organize ideas and put together information that people can really use and enjoy has been just a really fun thing.

Jaren: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Seth: A really important lesson I’ve learned. I don’t always implement this well, but it’s still knowledge and the lesson that I know about is that I have the power to choose my response in any situation. And that much of what I considered to be a good or bad thing is simply the thoughts that swirl around in my head. There are many things in life that really aren’t good or bad. It’s just what I tell myself and how I choose to process that information and how I choose to react to that. Sometimes I can just fall apart and feel like tragedy has struck. And other times it was like, “Oh, not really. This is an opportunity and now you get to do this instead”. It’s kind of fascinating when you realize you don’t have to be a victim of your thoughts. You can choose your thoughts and you can say “No” to thoughts that are destructive.

But like I said, I know that but that doesn’t mean I’m always good at implementing that. There are lots of times that I still feel like a victim when I shouldn’t. It’s kind of a discipline thing honestly. To realize you can do that and then actually direct your thoughts intentionally. It’s not an easy thing, but it can certainly be done. And when you realize that and actually do it, it can really change your life in a huge way. There are lots of lots of people who’ve gotten really far simply by controlling their thoughts and the way that they responded to the situations and the cards that they were dealt, so to speak.

Jaren: What goes on in between your ears is everything. It’s all attitude.

Seth: Yeah, it’s huge.

Jaren: Well, that’s awesome man. I think for me, unless there’s anything else that you want to say in the interview, I mean, I could always be a tongue in cheek and be like, “So, where can people find you?” But I think that’s a wrap.

Seth: Yeah. If people ever want to learn more just useless facts about me, there is a blog post that I put together and have updated a few times over the years called “20 Things I’ve Never Told You20 Things I’ve Never Told You”. I’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode. This is episode 68. So, it’s retipster.com/68 or you can just search for it on REtipster. Just type in “20 Things” and it should pop up. 

Jaren: You know what we should do once this podcast goes live? We should put the podcast on the article.

Seth: Yeah, we should. That’s a good idea. Hey man, you should write a blog post like that too so people can get to know you more.

Jaren: I should.

Seth: Yeah. I got the idea from another blogger named Corbett Barr. He wrote a similar thing. I think his was “33 things I never told you”, but it was just like a bunch of brain dump of like his personal life and interesting tidbits and there are no like lessons so to speak. It’s just, “Hey, you want to get to know me? Here you go”. Yeah. I appreciate everybody who’s ever had any interaction with retipster.com or the YouTube channel or if you’re listening to this podcast episode right now. I appreciate you. It’s the only reason anything like this works is because people out there interact with it and consume it and find value in it. And let me know about it, let us know about it because that’s how we know, “Hey, we’re on the right track”. So yeah, it’s been amazing being able to give and receive from an audience out there in this space and I hope we can keep doing it for a lot of years to come.

And if you guys are listening on your phone, say if you’re not in front of a computer, and if you want to stay up to date with all the stuff we have going on, the new things happening every week, it’s pretty easy. Just take out your phone and text the word “FREE”. F-R-E-E to the number 33777 and you can stay in touch with us that way.

Thanks again everybody for hanging out with us. I hope you guys enjoyed this and if not, I’m sorry. I guess we’ll talk to you about something else in the next episode. I’m so sorry for wasting an hour of your time.

Jaren: On to the next episode.

Seth: Already guys, we’ll see you next time.

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About the author

Seth Williams is a land investor with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog that offers real-world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  1. Renee Riker says:

    Great podcast guys! Love the work that you do! Blessings!!

    1. Thanks for listening, Renee!

      1. Any Muench says:

        Seth, you have been an inspiration to me for the past ~7 years! You are amazing and so generous to share not just your tips but so much knowledge and experience . Loved this podcast!

        1. That’s great to hear! Thanks for listening and for those kind words!

  2. KB says:

    I loved reading more about your background. You are such an interesting guy with awesome ideas. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

    1. Thanks for reading! I’m glad you found it interesting!

  3. Tiffany says:

    I’m looking for a scalable change and I appreciate you sharing about yourself. It’s good to hear you talk about your faith and yourself in general. It’s important for me to know who I’m learning from and to know I can trust who I learn from. I can relate to your answer about how you teach and want to give well rounded answers. That really matters because I like to know what I’m doing and a lot of teachers out there are too vague.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Tiffany. I’m glad you got some new insight from the conversation. 🙂 I’m thrilled I can help you along in your journey!

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