Start on “easy mode”. Building resilience is intentionally torturing yourself to some degree with the outcome of making yourself more tough. You always want to undershoot it on the difficulty level because the cost of overshooting means you’ll quit. The worst part is that you might not just quit for a day, a week or a month. It has been my observation to see people quit for a year or more (sometimes a lifetime!) when they overshoot how much they can take on only to get burned by it. Stay in easy mode and move slow for the long term growth you’re seeking.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Royal Smith, Esq., Founder and CEO of Royal Legal Solutions. Scott is a real estate investor who took the challenges he encountered for himself and has brought them to other investors across the country. Scott’s law firm seeks to do what every other firm considers suicide: level the playing field between attorneys and clients by giving away all the secret information for free.
Scott has always been annoyed with the legal and professional services industry he had become a part of. It seemed strange to him that information should be leveraged as a form of extortion, forcing the market to hire a professionals at $250-$1500 an hour. He knew from his experience being a Montessori teacher and professional tutor that that legal matters could be simply explained so that anyone could grasp them. So he set out to disrupt the real estate and Asset Protection legal, tax and business industry.
Through podcasting, Scott found he could disseminate the previously “coveted professional secrets”. The very ones professionals would use to strong arm their clients into paying huge fees. It worked just like he thought it would. The average person can grasp complex legal concepts and with some diligence master those better than attorneys. To date, Scott has made hundreds of podcast appearances and has written thousands of articles. He gives away information on anything he believes can help real estate investors create financial freedom, time freedom, and protect their legacy.
Since Scott gives away almost everything for free, it means he and Royal Legal Solutions must always be innovating. And with continual change also comes continual personal and business growth. Growth is always painful, but a “sweet pain” that tells him he is on the right path. Scott talks frequently about how the inner strength of the individuals in leadership of a company are the true limit to the overall growth of that company. It is this inner strength that compensates for the “sweet pain”. Scott believes when times are tough, it is his foundational daily practices which propel him and the company to success.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Iwas born and raised in Texas as a vegetarian, which is about the least weird part of my life.
My family was highly religious. I was not.
Everyone I knew went to college after high school. I went to Mexico.
My peers wanted jobs, I wanted freedom to create and explore for myself.
Luckily, I had a crafty southern mother who guided me along the way.
Mom knew just how to trick me for my own good. I didn’t want to go to college so she took my passion for learning Spanish and set me up with an apartment in Guadalajara, Mexico. When I got there, I suddenly realized that after 4 years of high school Spanish I didn’t know the language. I called her in a panic. She let me know that there was a university with Spanish classes 3 blocks from my apartment. Fast forward 6 months and I had 18 college credits and within 2 years I would be graduating from Hillsdale College, Michigan with a liberal arts degree.
After college, the last thing I wanted was a job. It didn’t help that I was completely unemployable for anything business related since I opted to just take the required courses to graduate as fast as possible. So I did the only thing I knew I was good at, I taught. I had it all. A job that was easy and paid well, free time to travel around the world, fun hobbies and friends. At 22 I had everything I had dreamed of and read about in books that made “the good life”, but it just so happened I was calling my sister every day horribly depressed. I didn’t know why, and everyone else thought I was crazy. “How can you be depressed when you have it all?!”
It all changed for me in first year of law school when I felt my spirit come alive with the intense competition and intellectual challenge of each class. Unfortunately in my second year of school, I had figured out how to succeed with little effort. The excitement of the struggle was over. The “game” of law school had been solved. The restlessness and other maladies slowly started to rear their head again. I needed something new and wildly exciting, so I and a partner purchased a commercial building and auto repair business with the intention of fixing it up and flipping it after graduation. This got my mind refocused. Tackling an insane level of complexity and learning new skills fueled me. Upon graduation, we flipped the building and the business to pay off our law school debts. This is the first time I had aligned the values of following my passions with also playing the “game” of business.
After graduation, I worked in a litigation firm suing insurance companies. The same pattern repeated. What was exciting and challenging in the first year became rote and routine over time. The darkness and depression slowly started to creep back in, so I left. After all, I had no debts.
With my new freedom, I returned full time to my first love — real estate investing. Interestingly, my law training and experience would soon become very valuable. As I scaled up, I encountered all sorts of problems within the areas of legal, banking, accounting, taxation, estate planning, and more. I thought: there must be a way to tackle it all more strategically as one cohesive unit.
I read every book and talked to every professional I could get my hands on. Oddly enough, the professionals in the field welcomed my calls since I was extremely well versed in their specialty while bringing them new ideas from their competitors. This is where I started to learn the “game” of professional networking. When people in my local MeetUp groups learned what I had done to tackle common issues, they begged me to put it together for them as well.
Although I intended to do real estate investing full time, pretty soon I had inadvertently started the law firm that would one day be known as Royal Legal Solutions.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
It was a bleak realization, but it wasn’t my first rodeo. We had exhausted our main existing lead channel and were rapidly retooling marketing when the worst happened: my sales team left for a competitor that had ripped off my IP. They poached my ideas, systems, processes, and even my ability to convert leads to cash. I’ve never been more disheartened or more angry. My “small self” thought: “Why would they do this to me after I had given them so much?”
I sat in despair trying to formulate a game plan to get out. Then, one critical mental shift happened that changed everything. I came to this decision: “It’s all my fault. I’m responsible for this”. The truth was, I’d known for some time I couldn’t make the necessary changes in the company with that team. But at the time I was convinced the whole business would go under without them. Yet, it just wasn’t true. The reality was that after they left it hurt badly but it wasn’t fatal.
Once I accepted 100% responsibility for the situation, I felt empowered to change it. Energy coursed through my veins and the path forward seemed clear. In the end, I learned this lesson: accepting responsibility for everything ultimately means I never have to accept weakness into my heart. By accepting total responsibility I can feel the fear and take action anyway.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In the information age, we often think that whoever has the information has the power. This has always been true of law firms and other professionals who use that mentality as leverage to charge high fees for information and work product their clients barely understand. Royal Legal Solutions differs in we take the exact opposite approach by “giving all the secrets away for free”.
My colleagues say, “Aren’t you afraid your clients will just do it themselves and not hire you?” My response is always, “If I’m that good, I have nothing to worry about”. And that’s usually when they respond with, “Well, what about all the other attorneys that will just mimic what you’re doing and steal all your customers?” To that I say, “If the worst thing that happens is that I revolutionize a professional industry, I’m fine with that.”
Time and time again I’ve had attorneys learn what I do and start doing it for their clients as well. I’ve had clients come through a consultation and put my system together for themselves. These people have flourished because we show up first with the intention of helping others as much as we can. I don’t think we lost any actual customers, but helped those that wanted to do it for themselves. That’s just how some people are made, and we should support them.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
As a young man, I was full of energy, ideas, and a passion for truth. What I was missing was wisdom and guidance to know where to direct the energy. My godfather provided the gentle coaxing I needed at the key decision points of my life. He accomplished this with great genius because he never fought me head-on when he thought I was going down the wrong path. Instead, his soft suggestions planted the seeds. He would ask questions and do lots of listening. Rarely would I get a direct answer. When I did, I often fought with him about it. Looking back the answers weren’t helpful. He knew that it was the questions, not the answers, that developed wisdom.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the ability to endure the emotional toll that the hostile whirlwind of your chosen life inflicts upon you. The characteristics of resilient people boils down to their ability to guard their emotional state in the face of the whirlwind. This doesn’t mean resilient people don’t feel things, but rather that they are emotionally detached from the problems. It’s kind of like the problem only exists outside of them: “The problem is over there, I am over here”. There are tools and techniques that have been taught for thousands of years to be able to separate you from your problems. The most common and quickest way I’ve seen is through meditation. The meditation becomes a tool to use when they slip into allowing the problems to touch how they feel inside.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My mother, for raising 4 children, 18 years in age difference, mostly as a single mother. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly understood her unselfish sacrifice for me. She was a school teacher and we would pinch pennies at every turn. Mom would always make sure we had nutritious food, enrolled me in team sports, and even saved to send me to summer camp in Colorado with the “rich” kids. With resilience and deep love, she did all of this without my father, without the financial support of anyone else, and she never complained. It wasn’t until years later that I realized she never bought herself new clothes, dated any other men after my father passed away, or indulged herself in any luxury. Everything she had she gave to her children with nothing but love in her heart.
Mom knew something that we didn’t, that it didn’t matter. Her life was her life, and she would follow her heart to live it the best she could, no matter what that meant.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
It was my second year of practicing law, and I was done with the negatively charged atmosphere and culture of high stakes litigation. Multiple of my trusted advisors told me to simply “stick it out” for the big raises that were right around the corner. All I wanted was to be free and follow my own passions. I heard things like “you’re just not driven or consistent enough to be an entrepreneur” or “I tried to go out on my own, and you’re going to starve”. Leaving seemed impossible.
What they didn’t know is that I had no other option since the status quo meant my soul felt like it was dying. After my second year of litigation suing insurance companies, I left to pursue my passions with real estate investing. However, as I acquired properties, I ran into such as asset protection, estate planning, banking, insurance, accounting, and more, all came up time and again. I had the fundamental tools from law school to throw at the problem, but it was tedious and complex. I sought out to do something no other attorney had done up until that time: to create a comprehensive streamlined solution that worked to every tax, legal, and business advantage for the real estate investor. Once other investors heard what I was doing, they wanted me to put it together for them, too. Here I thought I would be investing in real estate full time but pretty soon found myself with a law firm growing faster than I could pick up the phone.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
There was a time when it wasn’t just one thing that caused me a set back, but it was the culmination of everything all at once slamming down upon me. Lead sources shutting down, key leadership being disgruntled, and sales not converting. I wanted to quit, I was so overwhelmed but I could not see a way out. I had hundreds of thousands of dollars in products for which I collected money and needed to deliver. To make matters worse, I’d already spent most of the money so I couldn’t just “give it back”. I couldn’t couldn’t simply sell more because the more I sold, the more behind I actually became. I was getting further “in the hole”, so to speak. I was living in the vortex without the feeling of control.
Finally, I had to do something. So even though the timing couldn’t have been worse from an objective business standpoint, I took my travel van and went camping in the woods. No electronics; just me and my Labradoodle Franny for 2 nights. The solitude and peace of nature slowly worked a subtle magic on my mind. The whirlwind gradually turned into a subtle breeze and eventually stopped all together. Where my vision was once obscured like the static on an old TV set, it was now clear and sharp.
The experience of solitude in nature is something I hold as a tool whenever I need to bounce back from a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I can sit, shut out the world for a period of time, and just wait until it calms I can see again.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Growing up in Texas meant playing baseball. Unfortunately, I was never very good, no matter how hard I tried. Even with giving 110%, I was never as fast or as strong as the other boys. Every year there were select league tryouts for the talented players. Of course, I would never make it. Year after year it would crush me that I just couldn’t hack it, no matter how hard I tried.
Despite all that, there was a character-building upside happening I didn’t recognize back then. Even though I wasn’t as good, my teammates still accepted me and welcomed me to play. Through that, I was learning a valuable truth I would one day recognize and accept: I’m just not good at some things. And that’s really okay. If you give 100%, people will like you and want to be with you anyway. I know now that my worth wasn’t based upon how good I was at baseball, it was how hard I tried and the effort I gave for my team. That truth has made an incalculable positive impact on how I approach life and business today. It is through our team and community that we have the greatest strength.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
(1) Define if this is the type of resiliency you want. Being resilient to everything isn’t actually desirable or even useful. For example, you could become more resilient to being waterboarded, but how is that going to serve you unless you’re Jason Bourne? If you want the resilience to deal with the unexpected, while remaining calm and neutral about the situation, then that is a type of resiliency which will serve you throughout your business life. This type of resiliency can be trained over time through repetitive practice of fundamental skills like meditation.
(2) Start on “easy mode”. Building resilience is intentionally torturing yourself to some degree with the outcome of making yourself more tough. You always want to undershoot it on the difficulty level because the cost of overshooting means you’ll quit. The worst part is that you might not just quit for a day, a week or a month. It has been my observation to see people quit for a year or more (sometimes a lifetime!) when they overshoot how much they can take on only to get burned by it. Stay in easy mode and move slow for the long term growth you’re seeking.
(3) Stay at “easy mode” longer than you think you should. Now that you’ve done one easy step in resilience training, you think you’re ready for the big leagues? Wrong! Get a few more reps under your white belt before you start rolling in with the black belts. In almost all martial arts, you stay with the white belt for multiple years because getting your ass kicked really hurts. You need strong patterns and habits, built up over time, to endure a beating and still come back to the mats and train. Building your resiliency is the same process.
(4) Get a coach / mentor. Never do anything new alone and without guidance from someone who has done it before. Their experience gives you wisdom to know whether the challenges you’re facing are too much, too little or just the right amount. You can’t know while you are in the vortex of learning. You can’t see clearly. They can. Rely on their objective feedback and encouragement to guide you.
(5) Complete each new “resiliency” goal within 35–60 days. It is said that in order to form a new habit, it takes 33 consistent days of doing it. For me, I like to go a bit longer, especially if it is a little “harder” of a stretch for me. Doing so ensures I have it locked in. Also, with having shorter time frames, it naturally puts my ego in check to pick easier habits to build and smaller challenges to take on. This helps guard me from falling into my default frame of thinking wherein I’m capable of more than I really am.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A study of engineers, behavioral scientists, and generally recognized great men and women of all walks of life to see what are the foundational aspects that shapes greatness over the course of a life. I would then like the engineers to develop the data and analysis to show the objective impact of certain decisions and circumstances over the course of a lifetime. The idea being that perhaps we can obtain insights with objective data on the things we can control in our lives to influence outcomes that are outside of our direct control both for ourselves, society, and the world. What if we could distill greatness into 3 distinct and measurable KPI’s?
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
I would love to spend 2 hours in private conversation with Tim Ferris, ideally hiking in a mountainous countryside. He was not just a model for me when I was younger, but also my first look into the mind of someone who was truly gifted. It gave me inspiration to know my talents wouldn’t be wasted if I stuck to a path, even if it wasn’t one I fully understood or could do on my own. We both live in Austin, Texas and Tim, if you’re reading this, let’s grab a Coffee and walk around River Place Nature trail.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
● Scott Royal Smith on Facebook
● Scott Royal Smith on Linkedin
● Tax, Legal, & Asset Protection Secrets For Real Estate Investors is our private Facebook Group
● Royal Legal Solutions on Facebook
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!