Try to be better tomorrow

Joel Horst on pivoting and fostering resourcefulness.

Hey everyone,

I’m doing something different this time around. I interviewed a good friend of mine and shared portions of the conversation below. I hope you enjoy it!

If you’re new here, would love if you would subscribe. A new edition goes out every week or so to hundreds of other subscribers, all interested in improving themselves and the world around them.

Quote of the week:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us."
— Marianne Williamson


Try To Be Better Tomorrow

The world encourages us to fall in line with a narrow path that we aren’t always very intentional about. Traditionally, many of us go to school, haphazardly choose a career, and climb the corporate ladder in aspiration of ultimately living the good life.

Joel has not only approached his work through what appears to be a series of trial and error, he also meticulously maps out his goals and progress along the way.

Something we can all learn from, no doubt.

My friend Joel was born in the Netherlands and moved to Michigan when he was 7 years old. He's had any number of careers, owned businesses, sells real estate, and continuously challenges himself to level up. 

Fun fact: Joel and I both had the same humble beginnings working at a restaurant together, but only connected again years later. We've collaborated on any number of projects, one of which included selling pallets of returned Walmart merchandise. Quite literally, for weekends out of our life we audited and inventoried Walmart tools and sold them on Craigslist.

Last month, I sat down with Joel so I could share his story with you all. We chatted about his humble beginnings, his multiple career pivots, and a few of his life philosophies. I hope you find it as invigorating as I did.


I'm Joel Horst. I'm currently a real estate agent. I'm passionate about investing, particularly real estate investing. Before this, I started a small business doing vehicle wraps and commercial graphics - which led me to also become passionate about business. Within the four years I ran that business I learned a ton about scaling a business: what it takes to start one, how to establish processes, and how to do sales.

I learned everything from start to finish because I did it all by myself for the most part.

Out of high school, I went and got my associates degree. In the process of that, I took on an electrical career where I was an apprentice for two years. It was definitely a positive experience to have worked in the trades for some time, but I realized I didn't want to do that for long at all.

An Early Pivot

When I was in that industry I talked to a lot of my coworkers — they were the biggest influence on me at that time. When I was an electrician, they were the ones asking me why I was in this industry! That was a bit unnerving.

I remember one time someone approached me and asked me that. Quite literally, he asked: “Why did you become an apprentice? Like, you really want to do this shit?” 

And of course I said, “Yeah, why not?”

And he was like: “Well, you're pretty enough. You could probably fit in an office somewhere.”

Shock and confusion aside, all I could remember thinking in that moment was, “Wow, that is the most absurd thing I've ever heard.”

But at the same time I realized in all seriousness, at that point, maybe I am better fit for something else. I didn't actually want to be doing this anymore.

It just wasn’t for me.

It started with an incredibly dirty job in the construction field, which then pivoted to another hands on job, which was what my business would become. I got into the graphics industry, learned at a few companies, bounced from there, and then started my own thing.

It was always hands on work, which I liked because that was my skill set my whole life. I learned sales on top of that because I had no choice. At the same time, it required me to engage with customers and take on marketing in order to learn all of those other skills.

And now my job is sales entirely.

Scaling Resourcefully

I definitely learned to be resourceful out of requirement.

Illustratively, I found my accountant and graphic designer on LinkedIn. I needed both but it didn’t really make sense for me to do it on my own. I literally typed in graphic design into the search bar, messaged five of them, reviewed a few of them and came out with one that was awesome.

That's the epitome of being resourceful — going in and reaching out into the world.

In some industries, it’s sell it and figure it out later. My product at that time was a wrapped car or a commercial graphic installation.

(editor note: For those of you who don’t know: Joel’s work generally ranged anywhere from high-end vehicles that needed decals or paint protection film, to vinyl graphics you might see scaling a sports stadium, all the way to even the interior of some elevators.)

My main focus was doing the highest quality of work possible in my city. My final product was better than most others, so much so that even my competitors were sending me work.

So that being said, I was very confident in the product. This helped take some of the pressure off of landing each individual sale because it removed clients that were only focused on price rather than quality.

I was willing to break even for a consistent process that I could scale. I had good relationships with the larger print shops because they were asking me to do their work. I could bounce things off of them. And if I did run across a project that was way too big, I would simply just say: this is more than I can take on but I have a great referral for you.

And my deal with the referral was I would still get some of the work. So it was a mutual benefit, their process was better than mine at scale. And I accepted that. So I leveraged them for those bigger sales where I would definitely still get a cut myself and I wouldn't be giving it up entirely.

I think that it is valuable to have as a resource when you’re early.

Most people take on more than they can handle or turn away business when they’re at capacity, but I wasn’t worried about it. It's totally worth it because you gain respect and build a long term partnership. I liked the notion that I knew I was giving that same customer a good product.

Even today as I find my footing in real estate, I’m leveraging other professionals constantly. And that's critical (especially in your 20s). If you can figure some of that out as you go, you’ll continue to understand a lot more as you get older.

Having Skin In The Game

I often think there’s an inherent drive that makes someone want to try new things. 

Flipping pallets of consumer merchandise was an exit out of any industry I've been in, and I think it was for you too. It was retail sales. But you and I looked at it and said: We can start at an $800 investment and see if we can at least get our money back.

I love putting skin in the game.

That’s one thing that differentiates entrepreneurs from others - they're willing to put skin in the game to get a higher return.

Electrical, you have to pay up front for the classes, and then they'll refund you if you pass. Then there's a reward after you get your journeyman license. That was appealing to me. With electrical work, there's a buy in price for the classes and your return is a promised wage.

Similar to the pallets, I thought let's buy in and see if I can get my money back. With real estate investment, you get licensed and if you don't sell anything, you're not making any money. 

You can feasibly make six figures in real estate. But you have a fair bit of skin in the game, there’s a regular cost to me and a split commission. So yeah, you better be hustling. With a small business, there's so much investment that you would never even consider. Fortunately for me, a lot of the businesses I worked in involved manual labor so I was able to minimize that. But for some time I had a shop, equipment, and employees. Talk about skin in the game!

“Joel’s Journey To Space”

I put my largest goals in a flow chart. 

I call it Joel's Journey To Space™. It maps out my life. I know, it’s so cheesy.

I look at it every few months and see where I'm at. Subsequently, I map out my goals and my finances. I want to acquire five rentals by the time I'm 30.

(Editor's Note: Fun fact: between recording this months ago and now, Joel is currently in the process of acquiring his second rental unit! Well on his way.)

I recently decided to go back to college and get my bachelors degree on top of everything else. So I threw that in the mix. My flowchart is where I'm at right now: my current income per month, and how I'm going to pay for my degree. 

This is how I'm gonna acquire my next rental that will pay for more of my education.

I structure it all so hopefully it all comes together with a solid ending of five rentals, my college paid off, and a monthly cash flow of [redacted]. I include all kinds of stuff in there. I started my real estate career, so it helped me plan how much money I should have in reserves.

I kind of relate it to the Jordan Belfort straight line theory. He approaches sales calls like this. There's a straight line. You start with a “probably not” and aim to end at a sale. They're going to take you along this trail of ups and downs on your way to get there, but as long as you end up with a yes - you’re on track.

Because you don't, I mean, you can't plan on making it big right away. You can't plan on making a deal every month right when you start out. So it's a good way to structure and to see if you're hitting your goals. Maybe it's as simple as just goal setting, but I use it to map my current state as well as my desired future state.

Regardless, you're going to go through ups and downs on your way. And so I don't like to criticize myself over the flowchart. But it's a good way to see if I am on track or not on all the other small things along the way, those are the ups and downs. You know, maybe I'll take on a small investment here, I'll take on a small one here, but it's not as simple as “Hey, I'm going to quit my job and go do this now”. I would never do that. 

Be Better Tomorrow (Core Philosophies)

One thing I do every day is make my bed. I believe in making your bed; you have accomplished one thing already and can move on with the rest of your day. I definitely borrowed it from someone else. If your day was miserable, you come back to that and at least it’s made.

There was also a quote I found in a workout setting or something, but it was: “Train insane or remain the same.” In other words, try to be better tomorrow than you are today. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the power of collaboration. Whether it's a poll online, or a post that provokes some thought, or even making a collaborative playlist online. Just getting other people to engage with something you're doing that is for everyone. Collaboration is free – or generally free – and gets other people involved. Other people love being involved. People that aren't always invited to things can join and become the part. 

I love the inclusivity piece of throwing something out as small as an opinion poll - it's not for me, it's not for them, it's pretty much for everyone and we can see how this turns out.

Ultimately, the process is more enjoyable. Think about this, think about the podcast we recorded together. Everyone loves being part of it and owns a piece of it, What's the power behind it? I'm not sure exactly. I do think it's nice because everyone is involved and included and take part in it. It's powerful right now more than ever — with everything closed — it can bring a lot of people together in a positive way.

One final philosophy I live by is, "people hate being sold, but they love shopping with friends". Now that I'm solely in sales, I've learned that it's important to connect with people. People generally don't want to hear your script, or your pitch, but if you're able to connect with them you earn a much better chance of shopping with them.

Confidently being myself has shown me far more success than presenting a well scripted pitch.


Thank you for reading. This was out of the ordinary for me and something new I wanted to try. Could you take a moment and let me know what you think?

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Wishing you and yours the best,

Cullin