From Marine to House Flipper — One Triathlete’s Story of Survival
May 2011 — Shawn Tiberio, at just 28 years old, is quickly closing in on the end of his time with the Marine Corps. After 10 years, and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he is both excited and scared, but ready for the next phase of his life. But what that phase was, Shawn had yet to discover. Life was a clean slate and he had no idea where it would take him.
All he knew was that he was a high school athlete, turned Marine, and was re-entering the world with no college degree and no plan. He was scared. Fear of the unknown was common place for a man in the desert with a weapon in his hand. He knew that the best way to overcome it was to face it head on.
Shawn wanted the American dream. He wanted to settle down and build a business. But what business? He was a blank canvas. He could do anything, but with nothing more than a high school education, military experience, and a general knowledge of contracting, he wasn’t sure where to go or where to start.
He packed everything he owned into a trailer and drove 3 days across the country back to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio to figure it all out. The only thing that he knew was that he didn’t want to work for someone else.
His immersion back into Civilian life certainly wasn’t glamorous… unless you call hauling steel on a flatbed semi-truck glamorous. Yes, he was a truck driver. Okay, so he didn’t own his own business, but he was able to dictate his own schedule, which was a step in the right direction as far as Shawn was concerned.
But not long into this journey, Shawn realized that the truck driving life was not for him. He felt frustrated, and almost disgusted with himself, that he had not gotten closer to his dream of owning his own business in the more than 6 months since his military discharge.
In December of 2011, he hung up his keys and vowed to never return to that life again. It just wasn’t for him and, instead of enjoying his newfound freedom as a civilian, he almost loathed it. So far it lacked the structure and feelings of value and accomplishment that he felt as a Marine.
With very little money saved up, and a fair amount of fear and self-doubt taking over, Shawn decided to start his own construction company.
“For me, this seemed like a great idea. I had a lot of knowledge in the construction industry as I had worked in this field all through high school and as an engineer in the Marine Corps. Over the next 7–8 months everything seemed to be going well, except I had no time to do anything for myself.”
Overall, business was great as long as Shawn continued to do everything. Every job, every peak, and every valley that the business experienced was a direct result of what Shawn was doing. He wasn’t educated enough to realize until much later that he lost massive amounts of money on taxes.
Yes, Shawn had achieved his dream of owning his own business, but he had NO money and even less TIME. The only thing he had an abundance of was frustration and fear… Frustration with all the hours that he was putting into the business that was producing very little results and fear of what would happen not if, but when, he failed.
Struggling to make ends meet, working long hours, not even having the time to see his son were all part of the huge void that he was feeling. But there was another part too. Shawn was a very active athlete growing up, and during his time in the Marine Corps, but he no longer had time for that either. He felt a huge empty hole in his life and no part of owning his own business, at least not this business, could fill that gap. He felt like he was on the fast track to nowhere and less than one short year after he made the leap to pursue his dream and start his own construction business, he was ready to close up shop.
He felt defeated and disappointed in himself. But giving up and giving in has never been an option for Shawn.
Shawn had achieved his dream of owning his own business, but he had NO money and even less TIME. The only thing he had an abundance of was frustration and fear…
It was September 2, 2012 when his life changed forever.
“Yeah… This was the day that I became a real estate investor,” Shawn says with a slight excitement in his voice that you could almost feel as he said it.
This was the day that he started the grind.
A few days earlier he had heard a radio ad about a free 2 hour real estate investing seminar that was coming to his town. He decided to attend, with a healthy amount of skepticism, and the goal of learning the whole business in 2 hours.
He brought a pen and notepad and went in eager to learn. Two hours in and Shawn’s notepad was full and he was ready to do this. Sitting in that 2 hour event, Shawn had an epiphany. He realized that he needed, not only training and education, but a network and tools to be able to completely change the course of his life forever.
So he signed up for more training and got busy finding leads and making offers, without really even knowing what he was doing.
That’s when he got lucky and found a deal!
The First “Yes”
It was in that moment, in November of 2012, when the first seller actually said “yes” to the offer that Shawn made on their house, that he knew he was going to make it.
“I couldn’t believe someone had actually said yes! It was in that moment when I realized that I was about to invest in a house that I had no plans to live in, for the sole purpose of making money. Wow! Once again, I had a purpose. I had a passion. The emptiness that I had been feeling in my life was starting to fill with excitement.”
But at the same time, his family thought he was nuts. They didn’t understand anything about real estate investing or HOW he could possibly be making offers on 3 houses at the same time.
“HOW are you going to buy 3 houses at the same time?”
Shawn’s dad would ask him.
“WHAT are you doing?”
“Can’t you get a REAL job?”
“Is this even legal?”
These are all questions that Shawn fielded from family and friends when he was getting started.
And, truthfully, at that point in time, Shawn wasn’t even sure. He knew that he had gotten lucky up to this point, but that it wouldn’t be long before his luck would run out.
The day when Shawn closed that first wholesale deal and got a check for $5,000 made out to his company… that was the day when he filled with pride and truly felt like a real estate investor. His life had changed. He was going somewhere. He was going to be something.
Over the next 18–24 months, Shawn buckled down making offers, investing in new deals, and building systems into his business so he would NEVER again be tied down to someone else’s business, including his own.
Shawn told us that,
“Looking back, the one thing that truly helped me get to the point of closing that first wholesale deal where I made $5,000 without ever owning it, was the education and coaching that I had up to that point. Having a coach that helped me understand what I needed to do and having the education to execute this with a system like Realeflow was invaluable.”
Once he felt like he had an actual business that was doing deals and bringing in revenue regularly, things started to happen.
Shawn started to feel like he had “made it.”
Shawn felt like not only was he starting to achieve financial freedom, but even better, he had started to get control of his TIME.
It’s not that I can and others can’t, it’s that I have and others haven’t. — Tweet This
The business was finally getting to a spot where he could spend some time focusing on his dreams and goals outside of real estate investing.
His Freedom Moment
It was at this point when Shawn began to fill the void that he still had in his life and started chasing after his dreams as an athlete. He started training for his first, of many, triathlons.
Instead of being 100% focused all the time on real estate, finances, and building his business, he was able to spend several hours every week on training. The more he trained, the more alive he felt! This was it. This was the life that he had been chasing after for the last few years. And here he was, actually living out his dreams.
“I knew that I had finally created the type of life that I wanted when I left on a two-week trip to compete in my first Half Ironman Triathlon in Miami in October of 2015. I had a few employees and business was moving along at a steady pace. Leaving the business for two weeks to go focus on a dream of mine, all while deals were still closing was incredible. I remember waking up one morning on that trip and having a call with the team back home; I hung up from that call and realized that without the systems that we had in our business, like Realeflow, none of this would be possible!”
Having worked hard to build the right team, including contractors that work as hard has he did, and having put the right systems in place he felt confident putting 100% of his focus into that race over those two weeks.
(To learn how to build a solid team of contractors that can work hard for you, click here to get our Contractor Survival Guide.)
Shawn had a hard time explaining just how he felt when he finally crossed the finish line at that first Half Ironman Race. He was filled with so many different emotions… exhilaration, sheer excitement, freedom, and an overwhelming feeling inside of finally being complete.
He had just finished the longest race that he had ever set out to finish and his real estate business was still closing deals. The realization that he had made all of this happen while building a real estate investing business and spending 15–20 hours a week dedicated to training was mind-blowing.
3 years in and he had made it. He felt complete.
“It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. Nothing worth doing ever is.”
Shawn continues to chase his dreams, continually training and competing in triathlons across the country. If not for real estate investing he wouldn’t have the time or money to be able to compete in the ways that fulfill him as a person. The art of competition is Shawn’s WHY. It’s what pushes him when times get tough. It’s what motivates him when he’s tired. It’s what shuts down the voice inside him every time he hears, “Just quit. This is too hard.”
His kids see him compete, they see him work, they see him chase after, and achieve, the dreams that he has set out for himself and his family.
“This life has allowed me to set up a strong foundation for my children to follow. Showing them that nothing is out of reach if you put your mind to it is invaluable. Just as in a triathlon race, when the pain starts to sneak in, the day starts to get hard, we have to dig deep into WHY we are doing this in the first place and then push past the hurt to make it to the finish line.”
In the midst of growing his business, Shawn left Ohio and moved to San Diego. He runs his business 100% remotely back in Ohio where they currently manage over 100 rentals and continue to expand. Nothing is ever good enough and so they keep going to the next goal, the next finish line… there will always be another one and so they keep striving to get better, do more, reach the next destination.
It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. — Tweet This
Shawn is certain that, “Without the systems we have access to, I would not be able to chase my dreams and live where I want, all while operating the business at a high level.”
We asked Shawn to share one final thing with us…
What nuggets of wisdom would he share with new, or struggling, investors?
“One of my favorite sayings that has truly shaped me is,
“It’s not that I can and others can’t, It’s that I have and others haven’t.”
Our mindset is everything in business and life. Knowing and believing that we can build systems around us to give us time is great. Truly believing, without a doubt, that you can make it happen is everything.”