Rustin Low Rustin Low

Ask the dumb questions.

When I first began in Real Estate I was terrified to not know anything. In my mind, everyone expected me to have all the answers, immediately. Life was one big closed notes final exam. A couple years and a couple million in deals later, sanity prevails.

Do you know why college students make such phenomenal entrepreneurs? It’s because they operate in an environment that expects them, by default, to not know things. Questions are encouraged and expected, while a strong work ethic is demanded. That combination creates a ridiculously strong business owner. It’s a shame that the second we walk off a campus, the dynamic shifts.

When I first began in Real Estate I was terrified to not know anything. In my mind, everyone expected me to have all the answers, immediately. Life was one big closed notes final exam. A couple years and a couple million in deals later, sanity prevails.

The real shift in my business happened when I was at my wit’s end, near a breakdown, working on a deal I was pretty certain wasn’t going to close ( spoiler alert, it did), when something magical happened. I lost my sense of shame, and I started asking what I thought were dumb questions. Things I thought I should know. Only to find out that more often than not, the majority of the room has no idea. The fear of looking like the weak link creates a chain of paper, rather than steel.

I think this is probably one of those things that you can hear over and over, but won’t make sense until it’s right for your journey, but I wanted to put it out there just in case. Ask the dumb questions. Take notes on the answers. Learn. Repeat.

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Why I stopped vlogging.

I have lived a very strange life, so far. Birthdays always make me reflect on what I’ve done so far and what I’m yet to accomplish - and man, for 26, have I been through a lot. The strangest part though, is that all of it is archived online and shared with the world. I have some mixed feelings about that.

I have lived a very strange life, so far. Birthdays always make me reflect on what I’ve done so far and what I’m yet to accomplish - and man, for 26, have I been through a lot. The strangest part though, is that all of it is archived online and shared with the world. I have some mixed feelings about that.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that at one point, I filmed a vlog of my life and uploaded it daily to YouTube. If you’re new here, welcome aboard - on Wednesdays we wear pink. I abruptly stopped this after filming my travels around the world. I was asked by roughly a bazillion people, “Why did you stop?” I never really answered.

See, that was the problem. I got so tired of having to answer for everything, all the time. I got tired of total strangers feeling entitled to intricate details of all aspects of my life. I got tired of not being able to go to the doctor without figuring out how to explain the gap in time. I got tired of having to hide first dates, or figure out how to gloss over a one-night-stand. And trust me, whatever I tried to hide would, without fail, be noticed. People became Sherlock Freakin’ Holmes - and I felt this need to satisfy them.

If you have ever had a best friend with whom you share everything, and you’ve had to keep something from them, you know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s not that anything is directly about them, it’s that they are important to you, and keeping anything from them feels inherently wrong. My audience became my best friend. My camera became my therapist. My life became a spectacle.

I stopped filming because I lost a sense of purpose. I was growing up, and realizing I wanted to build a deeper life for myself. I had hard questions to answer and when I considered filming my life a full time job, it was easy to avoid anything substantial. When you measure your self worth by view counts and the comments from strangers, it eventually gets to you.

I never answered the question when people asked me, because I woke up one day and realized that I don’t have to answer. I needed to reclaim my life for myself - and that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m unbelievably grateful for the people who watched every day and allowed me to build that dream life for myself. I truly loved them. At the time, I loved them much more than I loved myself.

This week I decided to revisit the idea. I wasn’t even sure I would share it when I filmed it. I just thought, “hmm, it can’t hurt to do a little test drive.” Once I viewed the final product I just started laughing. I love sharing my journey. I love thinking about the people who feel trapped being able to watch and see what one person can accomplish when they are as stubborn as I am. I like being living proof that it gets better. Once I watched it, I knew it would feel right to share.

Real Estate is my life now, because of it, I have more sustainable ways of measuring my worth and my self growth that I have direct control over. I don’t feel a responsibility to post daily anymore. I have rediscovered the joy in the process and in opening that window into my world for others, and if you’re still here after all this time, I hope you rediscover the joy in watching.

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It's been a rough year.

I’ve managed to book a ridiculously expensive, last-minute “economy” flight home after a series of my mistakes that resulted in a non-refundable ticket on the wrong date, which seems to be fitting for how things have been going lately. New York has not been kind to me recently. In fact, New York has all but chewed me up and spat me out over the past year. And if I’m being totally honest with you, and I feel like I can be, more than once I began looking into tossing in the towel and finding a less intense place to live. But sitting here, on the floor of the Houston, Texas airport, next to this loud and racist woman who smells like fast food, preparing to board my shitty flight that cost me my last buck, I’m still excited. That’s the thing about New York - no matter how tough it gets, I still get excited to return. 

I’ve managed to book a ridiculously expensive, last-minute “economy” flight home after a series of my mistakes that resulted in a non-refundable ticket on the wrong date, which seems to be fitting for how things have been going lately. New York has not been kind to me recently. In fact, New York has all but chewed me up and spat me out over the past year. And if I’m being totally honest with you, and I feel like I can be, more than once I began looking into tossing in the towel and finding a less intense place to live. But sitting here, on the floor of the Houston, Texas airport, next to this loud and racist woman who smells like fast food, preparing to board my shitty flight that cost me my last buck, I’m still excited. That’s the thing about New York - no matter how tough it gets, I still get excited to return. 

I get a good number of emails (or messages from platform or another,) asking me how I always stay so positive and motivated, and the honest answer is that I don’t. People tend to share the best and brightest parts of their lives and to hide away the rougher patches, and I’m no different. This year has been incredibly rough financially as the real estate market has slowed, I’ve gone through a breakup that felt like my heart got ripped out, I struggled with insecurities and health issues that I had to overcome, had strangers send malicious packages to me, and began to feel like I was completely isolated. New York can do that to you - you can be completely surrounded all the time and somehow still feel alone. 

Why am I spilling all this to y’all like I’m some teenage girl with a diary? Because it might help someone overcome the same feelings, and if I can help anyone feel like they aren’t alone, that’s a win in my book. So here’s what I’ve learned this week. 

When I feel like I’m losing, I do everything I can to avoid facing that truth. If I feel like I’m spending more than I’m earning, I’ll just avoid looking at my bank statements. If I feel like I am behind on my sales, I won’t pull up my analytics or business plan. If I’m not keeping up with my gym routine, I’ll stop logging it in my journal. It’s an awful habit, but it’s a flaw I’m working on. The worst part is that I can keep myself busy enough to feel like I’m justifying these actions. 

Last week, however, I went totally off-grid with my family for a Christmas Cruise and it was exactly what I needed to reboot. I’m feeling energized, excited, and ready to kick some ass. I’ve got a Tony Robbins book sitting next to me ready for a refresher and smile on my face. Sometimes when you feel like your losing, throwing in the towel might not be the best solution. Sometimes you just need a little time out to remember why you get in the ring in the first place. 

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Unbecoming the monster.

For the past decade, I’ve been boastful about my ability to compartmentalize my emotions. I’d say this is why I’ve been able to accomplish so much more than most of my peers, and I’d say that it gave me a competitive edge.  I’ve acted like my ability to simply “not feel” was some sort of superpower that had been bestowed upon me. My own version of becoming one of the X-Men.  In the past few years, though, I’ve been discovering just how naive I have been - that isn’t a superpower, it’s a handicap... and it wasn't gifted by some higher power, it was a learned condition. One that I am actively un-learning.

For the past decade, I’ve been boastful about my ability to compartmentalize my emotions. I’d say this is why I’ve been able to accomplish so much more than most of my peers, and I’d say that it gave me a competitive edge.  I’ve acted like my ability to simply “not feel” was some sort of superpower that had been bestowed upon me. My own version of becoming one of the X-Men.  In the past few years, though, I’ve been discovering just how naive I have been - that isn’t a superpower, it’s a handicap... and it wasn't gifted by some higher power, it was a learned condition. One that I am actively un-learning.

I grew up feeling like an outcast. In Small Town, Texas, you don’t meet a ton of gay men to look up to. You don’t hear anything about the LGBT community that isn’t speckled with words like “burn in hell,” “freak,” “faggot,” or “abomination." When you are taught that your feelings are unnatural, you learn to stifle them. When you learn that what you feel is wrong, you learn to not feel.  As humans, our instincts direct us to survive at all costs - you learn to do whatever it takes to protect yourself. For adolescent Rustin, that meant learning to not feel something that would make me a target. Learning not to feel love. My emotional numbness isn’t a superpower, it’s a handicap that I’ve learned to weaponize.

For what it’s worth, I was blessed with a truly extraordinary family. Considering that this was new and strange turf, my parents adjusted rather quickly, and have never faltered in expressing their love for me. In fact, this year, my Mother called me to let me know they’d like me to bring a man home for Christmas (me too, Mom. Me too. Maybe next year.) My siblings have always been there for me, too. For this, I am eternally grateful. Without them, I don’t know who I would be.

With that said - I spent many years afraid of exploring who I might be. I pushed my family and friends away. I dove into as many activities that could help me develop the logistic side of my mind, while learning to suppress the emotional parts. I became a monster. I knew how to tear people down with devastating words, all the while laughing to myself because they had allowed themselves to be so vulnerable. I knew how to manipulate everyone around me to get exactly what I wanted. I thought this was real power - I was wrong. 

In the past few years, I’ve been getting more comfortable in New York. Building a name for myself here is a ridiculously hard challenge, and one that never stops exciting me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people here who have never known the Monster I was -  people who don’t expect me to root all of my humor in malice or to calculate my relationships.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet people here who see me as the person I’m becoming. And God, that feels so good. For a huge section of my life, I thought the best motivation for my work was logical - it wasn’t until I learned my friend was being taken advantage of and I took on his deal (with no expectations of payment) that I learned what real motivation looked like.  The fire in my soul easily dwarfed anything that I had felt before, and I knew I’d do whatever I could possibly do to help my friend. When you care for people, truly care for them, you surprise even yourself. That is real power.

I’m at one of the most challenging sections of my career and life, right now, and I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more surrounded by people that make me feel so deeply, and I’ve never wanted to perform better. If I could go back in time and give myself a little piece of advice, it would be that suppressing emotion isn’t the answer, harnessing it is. Love is never the enemy.

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With Love

 “Well maybe I wouldn’t have done that, had you done what you were supposed to last week, but sure, let’s blame this entire situation on me” I recited in a Tony-worthy monologue as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair this morning, playing out a number of potential arguments that could possibly come to fruition.

 “Well maybe I wouldn’t have done that, had you done what you were supposed to last week, but sure, let’s blame this entire situation on me” I recited in a Tony-worthy monologue as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair this morning, playing out a number of potential arguments that could possibly come to fruition.

Have you ever found yourself having imaginary fights in the shower? Have you caught yourself mapping out exactly what snide comment you’re going to say when your roommate comes in? Have you ever walked into a meeting or a dinner with your arms crossed and your defense ready, shower-prepared, and unwavering? I sincerely hope so, otherwise I’m even odder than I expected.

I was bred to fight. A closeted kid in Texas, the youngest of four brothers, mock-trial and debate star, sports-player, and small town sweetheart. All roads lead to one goal - winning. I learned the world is not kind, nor to be trusted, and if you want something, you eliminate all other possibilities. I learned that being yourself can result in being walked over. I learned that better comes to those who take it.

I love competition. I feel a visceral level of satisfaction when I out-think an opponent. What I don’t love, is what I’d become in those years. Rabid. And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask my friends about the RISK Incident of 2016, or why none of them will play board games with me any more.

A few years ago, I went to comic-con with some friends, where I met a fella that my friend was (and still is) dating. You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly know they’re going to change your life somehow? This was one of those moments. His name is Chun, and he had a world view that was the exact opposite of mine. Where I find myself having to thaw the ice block that is my heart, Chun seems to naturally overflow with love and compassion for others. Chun and I have become closer friends over the years, but I doubt he knows quite how much of an impact he had on my life.

I don’t remember exactly what I was venting about when Chun said, “just approach the situation with love,” but I know I can’t forget that phrase even if I wanted to. It comes to mind every single time I find myself preparing for a fight.

I’d gotten so incredibly accustomed to never allowing myself a moment of vulnerability, I had learned to stop considering the other party entirely.

What I’ve learned since that conversation is pretty simple - when you approach with love, everything gets better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fiercely competitive, and when the time calls for it, I will show my fangs to protect my family, friends, and clients, but more often than not, that need is all in my head. It’s just the result of my simulated wort-case-scenario replaying in my mind. When I push that to the side, I find myself doing something incredibly important in moments of confrontation - listening. I’ve learned to look past pointed tones or snide comments, because I know that I’ve been there too. I’ve said those things and felt that way. Everyone is on a journey, and I don’t know what theirs has been like. Sometimes it’s easier to retaliate than to acknowledge these things. Sometimes I still do - I’m still on my journey, too.

The next time you find yourself putting your guard up, ask yourself, “is this person being intentionally malicious?” When I ask myself that one simple question, I feel my entire world shift. I find myself looking for solutions, rather than blame. For love, rather than hate.

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