Jay Oyugi is a realtor at Coldwell Banker in Plymouth, Minnesota.
Born on the eastern shores of Africa in the country of Kenya, Oyugi’s childhood lacked many of the modern amenities that first-world countries have, but that’s not to say his upbringing was inherently difficult.
“We didn’t have that much money, but we weren’t broke,” Oyugi recalls.
“We were average, which isn’t bad. It’s not like we were struggling or didn’t have food on our table. That was good enough for me.”
Even today, despite having lived in the United States for almost two decades, there are still things that Oyugi misses about his native country.
“The thing that I miss most about Kenya is that all the food there was fresh. For context, the food we ate we usually got the same day from the garden,” Oyugi shares, adding that his daily commute never included an automobile.
“We did a lot of walking. Most people did not have cars, and if you did own a car, it was the equivalent of being a millionaire.”
Shortly before his eleventh birthday, Oyugi learned that his family would be leaving Kenya and immigrating to the United States, a nation that to many Kenyans was considered to be the preeminent destination in the world.
“The way America is portrayed back in Kenya, you would think you were coming to heaven. The thought was that if you were coming to America, your life would change drastically and everything would be perfect,” Oyugi says.
“That was the image I had of America, that it was easy to make money and there was no struggling.”
Of course, as soon as Oyugi and his family arrived in Minnesota, the fall season had already begun, and consequently Oyugi was forced to recalibrate his expectations for life as an American.
“We arrived in September, and in Minnesota it starts to get cold around that time. Right away, I did not like it. The lowest temperatures that I had seen previously were in the sixties,” Oyugi explains.
Compounding matters, Oyugi only had a baseline knowledge of the English language, and like many foreigners who switch locales, adapting to the local dialect took time, and patience.
Fortunately, by the time Oyugi had graduated high school he had developed a firm grasp of English, which allowed him to enroll at a local community college in the Twin Cities.
After earning an associate’s degree, Oyugi then transferred to Oakwood University, a private college in Huntsville, Alabama.
By the time Oyugi returned to Minnesota, he was ready to apply the knowledge he learned in the classroom into real-life work settings.
For his first job, Oyugi worked at a group home, and he later parlayed that into a position where he helped people with disabilities find employment.
“I was like a job coach,” Oyugi says of the latter position.
While Oyugi enjoyed helping people with disabilities secure jobs, he also understood there was more that he could accomplish, and so instead of ignoring the irritating voice in his head that was clamoring for him to grow, he started exploring his options.
That’s when he dived into Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, a renowned novel that focuses on increasing one’s financial intelligence, among other things.
“My dad had given me the book awhile back, but to be honest it had been sitting in my room for years accumulating dust,” Oyugi admits, but after diving into Rich Dad Poor Dad, the book then had a profound impact on him, to the point that he began debating pursuing a career in real estate.
Getting into real estate isn’t an overly difficult task, but becoming fluent in the ways of the industry and acquiring clients is what ultimately separates the people who have a casual interest in selling homes from the lifers who devote their careers to becoming a trusted resource for homebuyers.
For Oyugi, deciding to bet on himself and take the plunge into real estate was challenging.
Over the course of several months, Oyugi battled the self-doubt and a litany of other emotions that urged him to retreat to the comforts and stability of his day job, until finally a conversation with a trusted associate pushed him to take action.
“I told Caleb I wanted to succeed in real estate,” Oyugi says, in reference to Caleb Carlson, a seasoned real estate agent in the Twin Cities who has helped hundreds of homeowners purchase homes.
“And then I asked him [Caleb] how I could do it, and he told me that the best way to learn the industry was to buy a house right away in order to learn the ins-and-outs of the game,” Oyugi adds.
Even though Oyugi found Carlson’s advice to be genius, it still took Oyugi another two years before he acted upon Carlson’s wisdom.
“I didn’t think that I could sell myself to people. I had so much fear, and that’s why it took me two years to become a licensed real estate agent,” Oyugi mentions, before then describing the blizzard of torments that impeded the growth he so desperately was yearning to make.
“With real estate, you have to consistently be talking to people and marketing yourself and what you do. I didn’t think I would be able to talk to people that much. I also liked having a consistent paycheck, and so the idea of walking away from that and doing something that had no guarantees of a financial return, that was terrifying.”
As for what happened next, there was no revolutionary antidote that Oyugi could take to numb his inhibitions.
He simply had to disavow the whirlwind of negativity his brain continuously conjured and move forward.
That process wasn’t easy, but after three years of being a licensed real estate agent, Oyugi is starting to generate serious momentum, to the point where his phone now rings without him having to solicit prospective buyers or empty his rolodex in order to make a viable connection.
These days, that same fear that once left him paralyzed has now been replaced with a quiet confidence that only trial and error could have fostered.
What’s even more special is that Oyugi is taking that fear he used to have and is now leveraging it to empathize with homeowners who are apprehensive about making the biggest purchase of their lives.
“That same fear I had has helped me relate to people and guide them through the same process and emotions that I have gone through,” Oyugi says.
It’s a strategy that works for him, one that is aided by the fact that he approaches every client with the goal of building a relationship, as opposed to looking at the individual as a business opportunity.
“Before anything related to buying a house, my focus is on building a friendship with my clients. The money will come but I need to build that friendship first because that is more important than money,” Oyugi emphasizes, who because of where he was born has an inroad with the Twin Cities’ Kenyan population, something that most of his competition won’t be able to match.
“I go to their community events and tell people there that I’m in real estate. Those things matter,” he says.
As an aside, Oyugi recently bought a duplex.
He lives in one side while renting out the other unit, giving him passive income that he can allocate to the larger ventures he has planned, but beyond property management Oyugi also wants to build his own real estate team and help the aforementioned Kenyan community that he feels is currently being underserved.
“Our community doesn’t have a team that can give them knowledge about real estate and help them purchase a home,” Oyugi says.
“Most of the Kenyans that I talk to here have someone that can help them process the transaction, but they don’t have anyone who can give them knowledge, so my goal is to help them with the transaction while at the same time educate them about real estate so they can better understand the business.”
Considering that just a few years ago Oyugi was reluctant to commiserate with people he didn’t know, striving to assist an entire community is quite ambitious.
But during his personal transformation process, Oyugi has learned that he isn’t seeking an imagined fantasy that is ripe with financial freedom.
In many ways, it’s actually growth he desires, even if that growth sometimes masquerades as abject failure that could send his entire universe into a freefall.
But having gone through the proverbial ringer once already, one can safely assume that the veil in front of any potential self-development will be lifted.
“I always tell people that once you make a plan, just do it, even if you’re scared. The worst thing that can happen is you learn a lesson from the experience.” QS
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