How Did Dean Graziosi, A Poor Dyslexic Kid With No College Degree Build A Multi-Million Dollar Real Estate Empire From The Ground Up?
Dean Graziosi didn’t do particularly well in high school. Now, it wasn’t because he wasn’t working hard. In-fact he was working harder than most. It’s that he wasn’t working hard on what you imagine an average 16 or 17 year old to be working on. No homework, no tests, no after school programs, no study groups… Instead, he was working on… cars. Lots of cars.
Dean woke up every morning at 5:30 to put a few hours of work in at the shop before school. And when he got out of school he would hurry on over back to work. He didn’t do this because he was in love with fixing cars. He did it because his family was poor, and his parents needed his help to make ends meet.
“I watched my dad work his ass off to make twenty or thirty grand a year, always struggling, always out of money. We moved around a lot, always getting kicked out of places for lack of rent. We lived in a large bathroom for a whole six months because it was the only place we could have heat from our little electric heater. We literally ate out of garden for a year straight that year” Dean remembers.
From all of Dean’s experiences growing up, he picked up a simple life goal: “My dad works hard, kills himself with work, and we still can’t eat dinner. That’s not working out for me. That’s not going to be me.”
Dean moved 20 times before the age of 19. When asked why, he says, “My parents were really good at getting married. They just weren’t really good at staying married. So my parents got married and divorced a lot. Nine times in total between the two of them.”
All the divorcing and moving was related to money problems: “Money was always a huge issue. I watched my mom work three jobs to make 90 bucks a week, and she was never around. I can’t even remember all the different times we got evicted. I even used to make my mom drop me off a block from school in her old beat up, barely-running Impala because I didn’t want to get made fun of.”
During this time, Dean watched all his friends get ready for college. He didn’t even consider college. “I didn’t think there was an option for me to go to college. My family didn’t have money. I was horrible in school. I had dyslexia. I couldn’t read well. I was always in special reading. I felt dumb. I felt inferior in class. And looking back, I realize I was being judged by an outdated scorecard. Teachers didn’t give me the opportunity to listen to books. (Now I practically listen to one book per day.) My parents weren’t the type that said, ‘Yes, you’re going to college.’”
As he and his friends graduated high school, and his friends who went to college were stressing out about which pre-law class they should take (for law careers most of them didn’t even want) Dean was learning the ins and outs of the auto business, buying and selling used cars.
As important as learning the auto business was, Dean was slowly learning about sales. He noticed that, the less he talked, the more he sold. “I would listen, and I’d ask a couple of questions, and then I’d let them talk. I realized I could sell a lot better with my ears than I could with my mouth. People will buy from you or learn from you or adore you when they feel understood, not when they understand you. I noticed how many guys in the auto business would only talk about who they were, how great they were, their qualifications, why you should buy from them, before even asking one question.
I would watch that and think, ‘Wow, that’s exactly the kind of person I’m repelled from.’ So I’d do the opposite. When people would come on the lot, I’d ask a lot about them, their family and what their needs were. Then; with that information, I would literally push people away from certain cars. I would say, ‘After what you told me, that’s not the car for you. Your kids aren’t going to fit in the back, and it’s rough on the back roads.’ And all of a sudden, this transparency built a relationship.”
What Secret Did Dean Discover That The Few Rich People From His Hometown Knew?By this time, Dean was in full-on hustle mode. He was determined to escape the poverty he had grown up with, and to help his parents stop working so hard as well. He looked around, and he noticed that the only people in his little town who were rich were the two guys who were into real estate. “I remember the two most successful Italian guys in my town. I mean, I myself am Italian. I grew up in this little town in upstate New York and I thought everybody was Italian. It was just a town full of Italian people. But both these men had money, they seemed happier than everybody else in town, they drove the only Mercedes in town and they were both into real estate.
That made me think real estate was the answer. But I didn’t have money. When I found out that those two did everything they did without using any of their own money, that did it for me. I had to figure out how this game worked. I asked them about their business, and how they got started, and they gave me some pointers.”
Upon hearing what they told him, Dean was determined to use his hard earned sales skills to convince someone to sell him a rental property with no money down. “I was just young and dumb and hungry, trying to get away from my past, trying to gain control of my life, and I just went after it. I said, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ I was an eighteen-year-old kid, knocking on doors of places for sale. I got rejected enough times, until finally I found an old, empty apartment building with 9 units in it that was so run down that nobody wanted it. I convinced the owner I could fix it up—based on my mechanical skills—and he was willing to give me a shot to see if I could walk my talk. I took contractual ownership for six months. That was the deal. ‘I’ll work on this house, I’ll make it amazing, and in six months I’ll close on it, or you’re going to get the property back, with an improved house.’
“Everybody told me I was crazy. But I said, ‘I have no other option, and I’m betting on me. I’m not betting on anyone else. I went to work. I cleaned up the outside of the building. I got my friends to help me. I told them I’d pay them later on. I bartered with people. I was cutting firewood and providing cords of wood for a guy who was putting my sheet rock up. I fixed the guy’s car who was doing my plumbing. I did all this barter stuff and I fixed this old apartment up.
“By the time the six months came, I went to a bank and it was appraised for $200,000. I only had to borrow $65,000. They gave me 100% of the money. Then I finished all the apartments. That was the foundation of everything. I used the cash flow from that building to buy another one, and then another one, and that was the start of my real estate career.”
By the time he was in his early twenties, with the wealth he was generating, he had saved his Dad’s business—and, as a budding manager, had his father working for him on the used car lot.
There was so much deception in the used car business among his competitors, so Dean saw a way to help customers. He created a video called “How to Buy a Used Car Without Getting Ripped Off.” It showed his customers all the scams, deceptions and frauds his competitors were using, so the buyers could protect themselves. (It also positioned himself as an honest used car dealer, which is rare.)
Customers loved it, and this got the spark in Dean’s mind about selling information, rather than physical products. “I thought, ‘Wow, rather than selling a car to one or two people a day, let me help tens of thousands of people make better decisions.”
The problem was, he didn’t know how to get his information out to the masses. This was long before the internet.
How Did Tony Robbins’ Informercial Change Everything For Dean?
Late one night, Dean saw an infomercial that changed his life. Yes, an infomercial changed his life. It was a Tony Robbins infomercial, and no, it didn’t change his life because of the content in the infomercial (though he loves Tony’s material and has gone on to become great friends with him.) It changed his life because it gave him the idea of making his own infomercial—about buying and selling cars.
“I typed out this whole course on how people can wholesale cars without a license, and create their own car dealership. I transcribed a Tony Robbins infomercial, ported over the basic structure to a car-dealing infomercial, and sold the course for $59. That’s what started my information business. I failed miserably for the first year, but through time, effort and energy I scaled that up and made a viable company.”
Based on the success of his first auto-related course, Dean decided to make his first real estate investing info-product, the type of product he’s now famous for.