Larry Weidel: We are speaking today with a new $2-million-a-year earner from California, Neil Gurfein, a long-time friend who from the beginning—I think it was a gift of God—had a vision of doing things big.
It’s a way of thinking. “I don’t want to just do it. I want to do it as big as possible. I don’t want to be the one who limits my growth because I wasn’t thinking big enough, believing it enough, promoting it enough, talking about it to other people enough ….”
Neil Gurfein has always excelled in this.If you've always been driven for greatness—and people need to be unapologetic if they have that motivation inside themselves—then turn yourself loose to do it. Click To Tweet
Congratulations on being that guy who’s not afraid to go to the top. It’s paid off for you in your career.
Please give people an idea of how to get going based on where you are in your career, the size of your organization and your team, how many offices you have, where you take the greatest satisfaction in terms of the size of what you’ve been able to build, and the number of leaders and lives that have influenced you.
Neil Gurfein: To give a crystal clear answer to that – it is the maturity of the leadership. I think that it’s a philosophy of growing mature in your journey.
I’ve seen a significant amount of key individuals stay in their lane and not look left or right, and go after the big picture, an opportunity to make 40 years of work into 10, and people taking full responsibility for their actions.
That’s where the worthiness comes. That’s where the belief level comes. That’s where the significant duplication comes. That’s where the attraction stage starts.
I think that people who come right in and have the edge on everybody else—perhaps they come into an opportunity in the country and understand that there’s a lot going on here.
Everybody can get an education, but then there’s Harvard and MIT, and we’re Harvard. I think it’s because of the track record that my wife, Victoria, and I created when we started.
That’s really all we know, and we’ve gotten great at that process and going from a salary into business ownership, entrepreneurship, seizing the opportunity, being very grateful and humble, and never forgetting where we came from. That became contagious.
LW: What did you have in your background before you started the business that set you up for success—things you heard, experiences—that have paid off? What were the things that gave you a little edge?
NG: I think it’s the true testimony of my life. My mom and father always worked hard. I always had that indomitable spirit. They were the right driver in the wrong vehicle. I’d always see them go into a merry-go-round of their opportunity, and they would persevere.
Some tragic situations happened to them, some devastation, and some bad partnerships. I saw the wrong way, but it lit the fuse in me to be driven to take it to the top. And it’s been incredible. I think the adversity, some heartaches, and financial hardship growing up really gave me the edge.
LW: The phrase—that’s a key in your outlook—”the right driver in the wrong vehicle.” There’s a lot of right drivers following the wrong strategy.
NG: It’s an ambitious person that’s motivated but working an opportunity that doesn’t duplicate the ambition of the individual. It’s not tested through adversity. It’s not been bonified in American business.
It’s one of those things where the rocketship never breaks gravity. When you’re the right driver, meaning that you have the right ingredients, the indomitable spirit, the significance, the motivation, the optimism, and what you need is the right environment and proper leadership, and with that connection, you can go to a different level very quickly.
LW: When you came in, how did you and Victoria engage? How did you get into the machinery of what you saw? Was it a slow or rapid entry? Was it painful for you personally?
Did you have to learn some skills you didn’t have, or make some amendments to some attitudes you had? Describe your entry into your business.
NG: I saw the opportunity with Victoria. I was 24 years old and didn’t have a business background as a warehouse worker. I worked at UPS for three and a half years as a supervisor. I got hired on as an LA County sheriff. They went on a hiring freeze in July of 1992, and I had responsibility.
I saw the opportunity and what was significant about that is—if it was true, if it was right, I was going to do it, and it made sense to our crusade, the things that we do for the impact we have on others is bigger than the rejection, and the process of that is those who change the most win the biggest.
So when you come into the opportunity with people and your favorite word is fail, that’s not going to be Phi Beta Kappa.
So there was a lot of change in maturity, business maturity, rolling with the punches, learning from failure and mistakes, being that piece of clay that becomes a vase, and a consistent process of what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.
Once we got competent with that process, then we became effective and increased our value in the marketplace.
LW: What were you lacking? Where did the balls drop early in your career?
LW: Inconsistency is the mark of immaturity. The main thing I tell people that are having early success in their career is: “Don’t be your own worst enemy.”
I’m going to tell you the number one reason that brings down successful young people, and it’s inconsistency. Talk about going through that stage.
NG: It’s significant. I think that we were exposed to who our true friends and family were in the beginning. We were exposed to people going broke to the left, so we knew we needed to start going to the right.
We started making some backyard decisions that weren’t temporary but long-term. We’re fortunate to be around some good, significant people with some tough love who inspired us to believe, do great things, and rise to the occasion of making an impact on other people with our opportunity.
LW: What would you say were the significant long-term adjustments you made that you’ve continued—like the patterns you’ve settled into, the groove you settled into mentally, activity-wise, and friend-wise.
NG: I think the trade-off of comfort, of convenience, of what everybody else is doing, and really understanding that we’re going against the grain of normality because of an opportunity to take 40 years of work into 10. I think that trade-off of who’s in our stands having faith. Self-improving. I think that was a big part too.
Every time we added value—reading and adding value to our mind—we were eliminating distracting negativity. That was a huge part that started to be a process and a philosophy of our lives. It was significant that age was just a number. It was overrated.
As I was a young man in the business, I started becoming extremely effective right away in that process. I realized that we were doing things behind closed doors. A boxer becomes a champion outside the ring and gets recognition in the ring.
We were doing things like PDR (Practice, Drill, Rehearse) on our time when everybody else was going on vacation, doing other things. We were trading off knowing that one day that we can have the rest of our life off, live spontaneously, and have a great life.
LW: What would you say for new people getting started about the right attitude to make those first steps into independence? It’s actually the same things you do when you’re stepping out from one career into another career. It’s a big transition.
“Now I’m going to start something that I think can be bigger, more rewarding, and more exciting with bigger payoffs.” What would be your advice for stepping into something like that?
NG: It’s a financial blueprint that people have to emulate based on the environment they grew up in, and that’s where they make their choices. Monkey see. Monkey do.
It’s about learning concepts, doing the right things, the different things that our parents never did. Our parents love us, but they’re not financially independent. They don’t make millions of dollars. My wife, Victoria, and I had to think outside the box.
This inspired us to have faith in what they were showing us that we needed to do because they went through it; they accomplished it. By having that mindset, we were able to do it in half the time because there’s proof in the pudding.
LW: It’s not just you and your intent. Pretty much everybody that’s a drug addict did not intend to be a drug addict, but they dropped their guard. They allowed a friend into their circle where it was a normal thing, and they got sucked into it.
People get sucked into criminal behavior. It’s a step-by-step thing, and you can either have something lifting you up because of your efforts or not. Who you read, what and who you get exposed to, who you allow into your circle of friends, and who you allow into your mind have an effect.
You don’t let people steal your mind with wrong thoughts. Lies can be sugar-coated. Most lies are sugarcoated, and they taste them. They sounded unbelievable. And then, you’re flushed down the toilet because you dropped your guard.
We need to be aware of our limitations and our willpower and not expect ourselves to be this super disciplined, super committed person that will hold the line. As you said, when you started staying in your lane, regardless of who’s around you, you can make it easy for yourself to win.
I call it in my book, Serial Winner, stacking the odds of success. You’re never guaranteed that you’ll win, but you’re never guaranteed you’ll be a failure either. So it’s a matter of how you go about the day stacking the odds of success in your favor with your friends, who you read, your new ideas …
You can make good things happen by design through your action or through neglect, which leads you to go down the drain.
NG: It’s such a deep, crystal clear situation that people will be at a fork in the road in life. Early on, some of the adversity that I went through as a young man lit the fuse for me.
I’ve seen people who have been broken, they’re jaded, or they’ve had some tragedy in their life. I found that this vehicle inspires them, heals them, and fosters personal growth. They have so much to prove, and they want to start and finish something for the first time in their life.
I think the same philosophy is there are things inside people that if they don’t get that validation, they’ll get the wrong influence in life and make poor choices because of the environment and their circle of friends.
There’s an old saying that you take your five best friends in income. Show me your friends, I’ll show you who you are.
Understanding street smarts and understanding hard work is what my parents always showed me. That’s all we ever knew. I found that hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard.