The Life-Changing Lesson That Turned Stefan Aarnio into a Real Estate Rockstar
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Stefan Aarnio, founder and CEO of BlackCard Elite Academy, a real estate investment training company. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who are you?
Stefan Aarnio: I'm the same kid as when I was 16 and wanted to be a rockstar. I was in a band while in school in my early 20s and then played jazz for a few years, but when my dream to play music full time didn’t come true, I jumped into real estate investing. I was making $10,000 a year at the time, so all I wanted was to earn the same amount flipping a house so I could replace my income.
Years later, I became a self-made millionaire through real estate investing. People began asking me to teach them how to do it, so I started a coaching business. Now I’m also an author and speaker, and I train real estate investors all over the world. I guess you could say that I became a rockstar after all.
What are you more skilled at than most people in the world?
Stefan Aarnio: I teach three things that make all the difference for my students and my own company: buying real estate at 40 to 60 cents on the dollar, raising capital, and personal branding.
What excites you the most about your business right now?
Stefan Aarnio: There is a massive need in the marketplace for education, and we are filling that gap at BlackCard. Where universities and traditional colleges have dropped the ball, companies like ours are coming in to offer a fully applied five-year education. For the same cost as a traditional MBA, anyone can flip their first house and make $100,000, $300,000, or even $1 million in five years.
What book changed your mindset or life?
Stefan Aarnio: The book that started it all for me was, “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. Reading it was like rediscovering rock and roll because it taught me that anyone can be rich. I used to think that you had to be a rockstar or movie star to be rich, but this book taught me that anyone can become wealthy if they build a business and invest in real estate.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Stefan Aarnio: I only have two regrets in life: not doing something and not doing something soon enough. For instance, I wanted to become a door-to-door vacuum salesman when I was younger, but my mom convinced me not to. I’ve always wished that I had at least tried it. I also intended to get into real estate investing sooner, but again, I was convinced not to. If I had, I would be much further in life now.
So, I’d tell my younger self: It’s the things you don’t try that haunt you — not your mistakes. Don’t worry about failing or breaking the world. Just be afraid of not trying.
How do you define great leadership?
Stefan Aarnio: Great leaders aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and get down into the trenches with the troops. You must be on the front lines with people, feel their pain, understand their joy, and win their hearts and minds. Every great leader in history has done that.
How do you hire top talent?
Stefan Aarnio: Top talent always comes from a function of the brand. Your brand is what attracts people to you, so if you aren’t getting good people, it’s time to amp up the brand. Our company has grown steadily by hiring our students — those who believe in what we do. We’ve created a cult-like culture and that makes all the difference.
Which single habit gives you 80 percent of your results?
Stefan Aarnio: Every year, I go to a resort in the jungles of Costa Rica for a water-only fast to reinvent myself. This annual ritual is huge for re-evaluating who I am and what my company does.
Last year, I did a 40-day fast. I worked my way up to it by doing 18 days one year, then 30 days the next. With the right support, it’s a great opportunity to cleanse the body.
What are you working on right now?
Stefan Aarnio: I’m working on my new book series, “Hard Times,” which is about what it means to be a man in the modern world. The original book in the series, “Hard Times Create Strong Men,” has been very successful and is spawning a life of its own.
What do you want to be known for, or what do you want your legacy to be?
Stefan Aarnio: When I’m gone, I want to leave behind a library of 20 books that I wrote about how to live a good life and reach your potential as a man. My grandkids might throw them away, but someone else's grandkids will really like them.