Wisdom Finds You In Mysterious Ways

My Uncle Jack, You gotta meet this guy…..  He taught me life lessons I will never forget. When I worked with him from 2002-2003, not realizing it, he was changing his nephew’s life by creating values in a young man who was just starting to find his way. Or did he mean to do it all along?

 Working on my computer in my parents basement, fresh out of real estate licensing school with a real estate license and no clue what to do next… When, out of nowhere comes Uncle Jack.  The younger brother of Jeanne, my mom, Jack was known as a wild child. He never missed a chance to test waters and see how far he could push before something big happened.  On Thursday August 15th, 2002 Jack showed up to my parents house, I had not seen him in 5 or 6 years since I was away playing junior hockey and at college. He “quietly” started working on replacing a sliding glass door in my parents basement. I was sitting at a card table with a laptop computer deciphering where to begin my quest towards making a living selling real estate. Not knowing Jack like I do today… He was quiet, letting me do my work, until 25 minutes later when he couldn’t help himself, “So, Tim how the hell are ya?”  now if you know anything about Uncle Jack, which some of you do, you know once he gets started he may never stop. So, one thing led to another and 2 hours later you end up learning all about Jack and what he was up to these days…. Along with 7 other topics that came to his head.

The Big thing Jack had on his plate was building a new home in Lakeville. Jack had built a couple other properties in the past for himself. One being a home and another a cabin in Wisconsin.  Not knowing this before, I found it to be really interesting. This guy was a paper salesman, now he can build homes too? Being curious I kept asking him questions about the  new home he was building. One thing led to another ,then Jack said, “Well what are you doing for work?”  My response, “ I just got my real estate license and now I’m trying to figure out how to make money with it.” Jack smiled, with a grin only Jack can give and said, “Why don’t you help me build my house in Lakeville? I need a guy to do some grunt work and you might learn something that will help you with real estate.”  I remember thinking to myself, “Well, I am broke, I don’t have income coming in and he just offered me work. Hmmmm.. My old man would say, “What are you thinking about son! Take it and figure the rest out later.”” I shouted to Jack, “Hey Jack, will I get paid to be your grunt?”  he responded, “Yeah!”  I ask, “How Much” he said, “$10/hr” I choked, caught my breath and said, “I will do it for 12/hr and that’s cheap.” Jack laughed, damn kid you are just like your Dad.  Getting Jack to agree on paying $12/hr instead of $10/hr was one of many small lessons learned along the way.

As our relationship began to grow I started to learn how he truly believed he could do anything he set his mind to. I mean anything!  It was intriguing and I couldn’t help but want to see what else he could do. Just think about this. He literally built a five thousand square foot home, on his own, with no other general contractor or building specialist helping guide him. He had to know everything about foundations, framing, electrical, plumbing, roofing, siding, windows, cabinets, tile, wood floors, etc…..  Yes, Jack had his own general contractors license but, it’s not like he has been doing this his whole life. Even so, I am always impressed when I meet a general contractor who really knows his stuff.  I was excited to be on the job working with him. Being a hands on person I was able to absorb things on a deeper level. That was the beauty of having this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Working with Jack he taught me how to lay tile, cope baseboard trim, lay fieldstone on a fireplace, custom build a decorative pillar from scrap base board and countless other tricks. You couldn’t help yourself to ask… where did he learn all of this?  After several months of working with him I began to realize Jack learned most of his tricks from reading magazines and books about “How To.”  Jack was very diligent about his craft and trying to learn everything he could to be the best. The rest, was just trial and error. Sometimes he had absolutely no clue what to do. He would sit there for 5, 10, 15 minutes staring at something…  “Yo Jack!!  You OK?” I would shout. It usually took 2-3 three attempts before he snapped out of it.  “Yeah, What!” Jack would shout. It was times like these you knew he had a gift. Deep down inside he had a place where magic happened. A place where any challenge could be solve if he just put enough thought into it. Observing these moments was amazing because you knew what he was doing and you knew he was going to figure it out.  The question, how long would it take and would he quit if it got to frustrating. 

Quit, did you say quit!” These were words I remember him saying as we installed wood floors on the main level. If you have never laid wood flooring you won’t understand the headaches it brings. Especially when you lay 1,100 square feet of wood flooring. The attention to detail and planning before you start is mind numbing. If you get it wrong… you have to rip the flooring up and start over. Now that sucks! We had his son Kevin helping us at the time and he was getting frustrated. So, every once in a while the words “Quit” came out. There are only a couple things that will get Jack fired up; one is the word “Quit” the other is the words “I Can’t.” Say either to him and you will see a man possessed. Possessed to make you eat your words and show you anything is possible. “Tim, you going to quit on me?” Jack said, just loud enough for his son Kevin to hear. “Quit, are you kidding me I’ve carried you longer than your mother Jack.” was my response.  He laughed, Hahaha!!! “Good!”

Working 10-14 hours a day with Jack on his home was no joke. He pushed hard and was on a mission to finish this home within the 6 months he gave himself.  Everyday I would come to the house early in the morning to find Jack already there. I would always tell myself, “I am staying here until Jack leaves.”  Being I was still in great shape from playing college hockey, there was no way an old guy could out work me. Every night I would be the first one to head home. Sometimes at 9pm, sometimes at 10pm and a few times at 11pm.  Never once, did Jack leave before me and never once did I get to the house before Jack. 

As we worked on building his Lakeville house, usually just the two of us, we always talked about life and told stories. These were great times. The stories I told Jack and he told me are stories most people never heard or knew unless they were actually there. I knew he was intrigued with what I had planned for the future.  He would ask, “So, have you put anymore thought into how you’re going to use that real estate license?” 

Unc, have you ever read the book “Retire Rich, Retire Young?” I said, “No” he responded, “You should read it. It changed the course of my life.”  Wanting to know more Jack started asking questions and inquiring…  I explained to him my goals to be a real estate investor, the benefits and how I was going to get there. I knew I captured his attention when his eyes opened, he turned his head to look at me as I was talking and he started to get that long stare. Like the one he gets when trying to figure something out.  Then he said, “Let’s take a break and grab some lunch.” Jack never grabbed lunch. We always worked through lunch and found something to stuff in our face when needed. This is how I knew…

During lunch, in the kitchen of his new Lakeville home we were building, we started talking about an opportunity I had in Arizona with a good friend at the time. My buddy, Derek, was living in Arizona and had a smoking hot real estate market there. Knowing I was in real estate he asked me, “Hey, Murph do you think there is anyway we can buy a few rental properties in Arizona?”  You could purchase homes from $135,000—$175,000 and rent them out making $1,000/month cash flow at the time.  As I explained my plan to Jack a light bulb went off, “Wait, I got an idea Tim. Why don’t I put together the financing and you do all the acquisitions and management. We will be business partners.”  I had a look of shock on my face, my heart started pumping and my mind was racing. I couldn’t believe my ears. Jack wanted to invest thousands of dollars in me and my plan. I mean $85,000 dollars. This was no chump change. Could I actually do this. Invest in my first property 1,000 miles from home. Could I put this whole plan together— finding the properties, filling them with tenants, working with my buddy to manage them, running this business.  Really!!  Is this really happening….  Then I asked, “Jack, are you 100% serious right now or are you just playing with me?” Jack’s response, “Tim I don’t play with peoples dreams. This is an opportunity we need to look into. I know together we can do anything. Just look around you.”


Next ArticleMy Dream Come True