Accomplishment Begins with a Shift in Character

By:  Lifebook Member Chris Condon

When I turned 21, I decided to become a real estate agent.  My timing was excellent as the greatest boom market ever was just getting started.  In 2006, I bought my first home and 2007 was my best year financially. I was doing pretty well for a 27-year old. In 2008 I was on track to have another great year, until August when the world began to change.

In a two-week period, I had over $60,000 in potential income vanish as deals began to fall apart.  All my clients where scared about the future and backed out of contracts. That’s when I realized that being a real estate agent had just gotten very difficult.

With little to no money coming in and plenty of expenses, I began racking up credit card debt.  I also borrowed money from my parents.  I had about $10,000 in credit card debt and had borrowed $10,000 from my parents trying to survive.

In June 2009, I realized that I can’t borrow my way out of this problem and in order to survive, I have to stop making my mortgage payment.  I decided to put a “for sale” sign in the yard and sell my home. In December, the official foreclosure was filed.  By the end of 2009 I had worked very hard all year, but only earned $13,000 in total income.

It was about this time when I first learned about Lifebook and attended the March 2010 session.  I would like to say that from then on, my life has been a fairy tale, but honestly that is not the case.

I left the “Chocolate Cocoon” and had to go back to my very frustrating reality and make some changes in my life.  I had always enjoyed personal development programs, but was somewhat addicted to the “high” I received while doing them.  I learned a lot, but never really applied what I learned in any meaningful way.  In reality, setting goals and not accomplishing them made me feel worse, not better.

Every couple weeks I would pick up my Lifebook and become inspired, do a little work on it, but really wasn’t making meaningful progress.

Then in June, my fiancé and I realized that we didn’t not have enough income to rent a home.  We were going to have to go back and live with our parents.  It was our only real option.

We moved in August. I think it may have been the worst day of my life.  I remember crying like I had never done before… feeling like such a miserable failure.  I had worked my butt off for the last two years and had nothing to show for it.  My fiancé and I had racked up about $60,000 in debt, and were now forced to live with her parents.

Two weeks later, on August 12, we were married in a ceremony and reception that absolutely blew us away.  We were so humbled by how beautiful everything turned out.  Her parents are very generous people and gave us a first class wedding. We were also very fortunate that our friends and family were very generous with their gifts.  We had no money so, our honeymoon was a gift of two nights at a small resort in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.  The rest of our gift was a pretty significant amount of money, which we used to pay down our debt.

When I look back on 2010, there were successes and failures. My financial performance was dismal.  I had worked my butt off for an entire year and only had about $15,000 to show for it.  But personally, I had achieved my lifelong dream of marrying my best friend.

And in January 2011, my life began to turn around, and I found the opportunity I had been waiting for at an established real estate company that was growing rapidly and needed additional agents. I established a small monthly salary and a commission agreement, and began working with them immediately. This was the opportunity I needed to make my comeback.

That same month, we found a home that we wanted to buy, and we closed the deal in late March.  I spent the next two months with my father completely rehabbing the house, and ultimately creating about $35,000 in equity as a result.  We officially moved in on May 22.

Now back on our own, we really began focusing on paying down our debt and reestablishing ourselves financially.  We became extremely disciplined about how we spent our limited resources.  Whenever I had a closing, that money would immediately go towards debt repayment.

In late 2011 my wife and I became even more serious about goal setting and making progress together.  We placed a white board in my home office and each week began planning how we could get out of debt and start moving towards our ideal life.  We really started making serious progress as we focused on what we needed to do and disciplined about our follow through.

Our lives were turning around in a very big way. In December, we found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child. Another one of our dreams was going to be coming true in nine short months.

In February I closed the last deal needed in order to accomplish our most important goal… we are out of debt!!!  We still have a mortgage and a car payment, but we have paid off our credit cards and we have enough to pay our parents.

The morning of that closing, when I realized what I was about to accomplish, I cried tears of joy like I have never done before.  I realized that I have completely turned my life around in the most profound way in just one year. My wife and I have gone from deeply in debt and living at her parents house, to living in a beautiful home and paying off $47,450 in debt in one years time.  For us, this was an unbelievable accomplishment.  If someone had told me in February 2011 that I would do this in one year I would have never believed them.  But I did.

The more important point is, the person I had to become in order to accomplish this.  The real win is the change in character that took place inside me.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this profound win, came as a by-product of changes in my character.

As I think about it, this win came as a result of developing the following character traits: Discipline, Determination, Persistence, Integrity, Self Responsibility, Frugality, and Courage.

Like everything in life, it is easy to talk about these characteristics, but it’s another thing to actually live them on a daily basis.  Living them on a daily basis is what turns your dreams into reality.  They are synergistic as well.  One trait supports every other.

Here is what these character traits mean to me:

It’s my belief that this is the master character trait of achievement.  Without discipline, no accomplishment is possible.

With determination, all achievement is possible.  If you are truly determined to accomplish the goal, nothing will stand in your way.  You will pay any price and do whatever is necessary.  Determination is also a function of discipline. If you are not disciplined, it is so easy to give up and lose your determination.

Without persistence, nothing meaningful is accomplished.  You must have persistence to get up everyday and work towards your goals.  Your persistence will come from your determination to accomplish your goals.

For me, integrity is vital.  I made a commitment to myself to turn my life around.  I also made that commitment to my wife.  So many times it would have been easy to give up and admit defeat.  But, because of the desire to maintain my integrity, I persisted. Integrity is supported by discipline, determination, and persistence.  There is no integrity without those other traits.

No one was going to change my life for me.  No one was going to make things right for me.  It was my responsibility to change my situation. It was my responsibility to develop the discipline, determination, persistence, and integrity necessary to accomplish my goals.

I had limited financial resources and limited time resources to make my goals happen.  I had to become very frugal with how I spent my money and how I spent my time.  Frugality has supported all the other character traits.  There is no frugality without discipline, determination, persistence, integrity, and self-responsibility to see it through.

Without courage, I never would have taken so many first steps that led me to this place.  I would have given up a long time ago.  I would still be a victim of this economy rather than using it to redefine who I am and what I am capable of.

The first step towards creating your ideal life begins with developing your internal life.  Where your internal world goes, your external life follows.  This tremendous personal accomplishment began in my mind and is a result of a shift in my thinking and my character.  I had to improve those character traits before the results would ever show up in my physical world.

All accomplishment begins with a shift in character!

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