Looking Back: 7 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self

Listen to your gut.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

When I was first starting out in real estate, I had a lot of passion, and I thought I knew what I was doing. But let’s face it, I was bound to make some mistakes along the way. But the great thing about mistakes is that when you learn from them, you gain some measure of wisdom. Now, some 20 years later, I still have that passion and drive, but there’s a thing or two I’d definitely tell my younger self. If only he’d listen.

1. Being good can be good for the bottom line.

Solar energy is the future. Fossil fuel has a definite expiration date, and it’s going to come sooner than later. Pollution caused by fossil fuel is getting increasingly worse, and solar energy can go a long way to offset that. Not only is it a highly efficient renewable resource, it is also good business. These days, there are so many tax credits, rebates and incentives that help encourage sustainability and going green. It’s an investment in the future in more ways than one.

2. Listen to your gut, not other people.

It’s not that I don’t value other people’s opinions, but I’ve learned that it can be even more important to listen to your own gut. If you look at most successful people, you’ll see that often, they did the things that others wouldn’t. If they had let other people dissuade them, they would have never created these incredible businesses or followed through on those seemingly crazy inventions and ideas that turned out to be brilliant.

When I was first starting out, I trusted the wrong people, and I trusted the advice and information that they were sharing with me. But that voice in your head exists for a reason. You should listen to it. Over time, you may find that it gets louder.

3. Take more risks.

There’s a Warren Buffett quote I love — “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” When I was younger, I played things a bit safer, but as I learned more and learned to trust my own gut and gather my own intel, I began to take more risks. As everyone knows, more risk can mean greater rewards. You have to buy when others are afraid to. You have to seek out opportunities before others discover them. At the racetrack, you’re not going to win much money if you bet on the horse that always wins. Now, I’m not suggesting betting on the horse that always comes last. But if there’s a new horse that you’ve studied and looks like he’s the next undiscovered champion, you should probably bet on it. You just have to do your homework. Then your gut can make good choices and go all in.

4. Be consistent.

One thing that I’ve learned is that people want to do business with people they trust. The quickest way to earn their trust? Consistency. No one wants to work with someone who’s erratic and who can change their mind on a whim. They want to work with people who are reliable, stable and who they know will always keep their word. Wouldn’t you?

5. Learn to love numbers.

When I was just starting out, I didn’t realize just how much I would grow to love numbers. Often, passion starts with an idea, but numbers are just as important. As a businessman and investor, I crunch a lot of them. Before an idea can be turned into reality, the numbers have to add up. Without that, an idea alone won’t flourish. So loving and caring about numbers isn’t something you should look at as greedy. Rather, it’s something that’s essential for making sure that a business idea is sustainable.

6. Don’t be afraid to be different.

As you’ve probably realized by now, I am all for implementing environmentally friendly approaches to real estate — whether that means solar panels, like the ones in the Atelier condo building in New York, or other green technology. In a landscape that’s often referred to as a concrete jungle, making people feel truly at home means giving them something that connects with them in a unique way. So any project I take on, I try to give it a special twist. The Atelier, of course, has stunning views of the city and the Hudson River, but it also has the highest skating rink in New York, a huge health club, a basketball court and a movie theatre. Being involved with the Atelier really taught me how being different, taking risks and putting new ideas into what could have just been another typical luxury project can lead to others responding passionately to it too.

7. Don’t just try to predict the future. Learn from the past.

Keeping up with the trends and ahead of the curve is essential if you want to make good decisions. When I was starting out, I was especially excited about figuring out what would catch on in the future. But as I’ve grown, I’ve realized that it’s just as important to know what happened in the past. History keeps repeating, right? Besides, it’s much cheaper to learn from mistakes other people made in the past than make your own.

This One Habit Makes You a Most Productive Entrepreneur

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

What I love about the real estate business is that each new property presents unique challenges to learn and grow. This is especially true in New York, where every building has its own way to inspire.

Sometimes it’s just marveling at a beautiful piece of architecture. Other times, it’s digging up the history and understanding how the builders overcame the special challenges within the building. Often it’s pragmatic — figuring out how to creatively modernize a new condominium. No matter what the situation, there’s always an opportunity to learn.

Self-education is the one habit you need to cultivate, because it drives your productivity, pushes you to new heights and lights a fire underneath your feet as you carve your own path. That commitment to continuous learning leads you to everything else.

Here are five tangible ways self-education gives you the golden ticket to success as an entrepreneur:

1. It saves you time and money.

Twenty-four hours is never enough for an entrepreneur. A commitment to self-education could potentially save you weeks of time — and your bank account.

Case in point: Alibaba founder Jack Ma rode his bike 45 minutes everyday to an American hotel just to improve his fluency in English by talking to English-speaking foreigners. Ma did this for nine years starting at the ripe old age of 12. He ended up speaking English so well, he became an English teacher at his local school in China. His eagerness for self-education is no doubt the reason Ma is now worth approximately $35.7 billion.

For the entrepreneur building the next billion-dollar app, this means gaining a basic knowledge of coding and user interface design beforestarting a project. While it may take a little time and investment up front, it will ultimately save hours and thousands of dollars because you have a basic understanding of these worlds.

The smart entrepreneur understands that his or her investment in education will reward them with both short-term and long-term benefits.

2. It builds confidence.

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging jobs, especially if you want to stand out in New York. There are constant hurdles, and you’re never short of opportunities to throw in the towel. On top of that, it’s easy to fall victim to your own doubts.

Learning a new skill and using it to push through a challenge can give entrepreneurs a massive boost in confidence. It’s been shown that there is a strong link between education and confidence. It gives you the motivation you need to push through the humps that come with being an entrepreneur.

3. It opens new opportunities.

One of the projects that challenged, but inspired, me the most was installing solar panels on the Atelier Condos. It forced me to learn everything I could about solar and renewable energy. On top of that, I got involved on the design side as we went through revisions trying to perfect and refine the use of the panels to add an efficient, yet modern element to the building.

By undertaking that project and learning about the future of solar, it opened so many new doors for me personally and professionally. And though the idea-to-implementation period was longer than I would’ve liked, it is by far one of the most rewarding projects I’ve tackled. In fact, I’m planning to install solar panels in other River 2 River properties.

I’m now able to talk fluently about solar technology and renewables, which has afforded me the opportunity to speak and write about sustainability and the non-profit space.

As an entrepreneur, you simply cannot predict what new business and personal opportunities you could unleash by learning something outside your comfort zone. Through it all, Atelier stands as a beautiful step forward for integrating alternative energy and modern aesthetics in New York City.

4. You’ll be sharper and happier.

I love real estate, particularly New York real estate, because it changes so fast. I have to stay abreast of current events, market shifts, etc., because the environment, neighborhoods and tastes of my clients evolve constantly. If I stop learning or if I stop reading, my business will suffer because there are people out there waiting to “eat my lunch.” I’m telling you, NYC real estate is not for the faint of heart.

Investing in your self-education keeps your skills, your brain and your outlook sharp so you have the ability to adapt. And the bonus is that constant learning also makes you a happier human being. Even amoebas get bored and unhappy when they keep getting hit with the same stimuli over and over again.

Not to mention, keeping your skills sharp will ward off things like Alzheimer’s. In other words, an active brain makes for a happier brain.

5. Your gray matter makes you better at business.

There is something to the old saying that “variety is the spice of life.” Entrepreneurship can be a grind. It’s easy to lose yourself in the constant responsibility and busywork. That’s when you start to get complacent. You develop blind spots and become vulnerable to your competition.

That’s why self-education is so important. Discovering new ideas that are unrelated to your business can release your creativity and give you perspective on your business that you would otherwise miss. Trust me, this can be the difference between life and death for your passion project.