4 Traits That Accelerate Success in Life and Your Business with Caleb Johnson – EP 383

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Most people will face personal and professional challenges at some point in their life. Whether it’s an addiction, cancer, or even just bad luck, everyone has a story that isn’t always told or known. And today, we’re focusing on 4 traits that successful people all seem to have that have helped them not only survive but emerge on the other side with incredible careers and success.

My guest today is Caleb Johnson. He’s been an entrepreneur since he was 18; he’s done five real estate multifamily syndications and is now a full-time real estate investor and business owner. He’s also the host of From Trial to Triumph podcast, where he talks to people about the challenging times they’ve faced in life.

With that in mind, Caleb joins me today for a wonderful conversation about the four traits that accelerate success in life and business: responsibility to others, giving, making decisions, and never quitting. If you’re ready to make these traits your own–and find out how others have used them to make it through extraordinary circumstances–this episode is for you.

Key Takeaways with Caleb Johnson

  • How Caleb went from being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” as an antisocial, troubled teen to finding joy and inspiration in life.
  • Why most successful entrepreneurs have been through some form of hell on earth to get to where they are now.
  • Why these four characteristics define so many people who survive challenges and emerge successful and triumphant on the other side.
  • The power of living in triumph and happiness and joy–no matter your circumstances.
  • The dangers of settling for the comforts of the unknown when you need to push your life forward.

Caleb Johnson Tweetables

“The only way that you can quit or fail is when you give up. If you never quit, you can never fail.”

“Being around those stories inspires me and it fulfills me and fills up my heart to be able to share those stories and those experiences with others so that it can benefit them as well.”


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Josh Cantwell: So, hey guys, welcome back to Accelerated Investor. I’m your host, Josh Cantwell. Today, I’m really fired up to be with you guys and share an amazing message of trial to triumph. My guest is a gentleman named Caleb Johnson. He’s been an entrepreneur since he was 18 years old. He’s completed five real estate multifamily syndications. He’s a full-time real estate investor and business owner. And he is the host of a podcast called From Trial to Triumph, where he has interviewed notable guests who’ve been through amazingly challenging times in their lives.

And today, we’re going to focus a little bit different, a little bit on real estate, but primarily on the traits of the people that Caleb has noticed, the traits that he sees in his guests on his podcast, and the four traits that he thinks are most important that he’s witnessed in people who’ve been through amazingly challenging times in their lives from drug addiction to cancer survival to being blown up by a bomb in Iraq and everything in between. We’re going to talk about the four characteristics that Caleb thinks are the most important that he’s witnessed in people who have gone from major, major trial in their lives to potential suicide, to having major triumphs in their life and building multimillion-dollar portfolios and having major successful relationships.

Those traits are, number one, responsibility to others; number two, giving; number three, making a new decision; and number four, don’t quit. You’re going to hear that and so much more on today’s episode of Accelerated Investor with entrepreneur and real estate investor and the host of the Trial to Triumph podcast. His name is Caleb Johnson. Here we go.


Josh Cantwell: So, hey Caleb, welcome to Accelerated Real Estate Investor. Thanks for carving out a few minutes for us today. How are you?

Caleb Johnson: I’m doing well, Josh. I appreciate you having me.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, man. The market is a fun place. I know you’ve knocked out five syndications of your own. And as the market continues to evaluate and change, I’m always curious when I talk to a new guest about what passion projects they are up to, what are they up to today that they’re most excited about? So, as you kind of introduce yourself to the audience, tell us what you’re up to and what really gets you out of bed and gets you going.

Caleb Johnson: Well, a couple of things, of course, I love what I do, which is real estate, real estate investing, like you mentioned, syndications, and two other things that I’m really passionate about right now is my podcast, which is called From Trial to Triumph. And on top of that, also sharing the gospel, Christ love with other people, that’s my mission in life because we can’t take anything with us. We can only take the relationships that we have because everything on this earth ultimately becomes dust. And also, with the podcast, having conversations with amazing people that have gone through some tremendous life stories, one teaches me some amazing things. And also, we get to share those conversations with other people, which really motivates me.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah. So, why did you decide to make that a podcast and focus on the trials to triumph? What was brewing in your head that you thought, hey, I’m not going to create another real estate podcast, I’m not going to create a podcast or a digital marketing or recruiting investors, I’m going to focus on showcasing people’s trials and then having them come out the other end and having an amazing new life and amazing new triumph? Where did your passion for creating that podcast and that message start?

Caleb Johnson: Well, like you said, I didn’t want to be just another real estate podcast. And when I was in high school, I had a very low self-esteem, very antisocial. I tell the story often that I was at a big school, high school, 3,500 students. And if it was 100 steps to my next class, I would walk 1,500 steps out of my way just to avoid as many people as I could. So, I didn’t believe in myself at all.

But what changed for me was, well, one, I think making a decision and being sick and tired of being sick and tired, crying out to God and saying, “God help me, I’m done,” and then surrounding myself with inspiration, motivation. And so, hearing stories like the stories that I have on my podcast, where, I mean, people that were on meth 20 years ago, and now, they’re multimillionaires doing syndications and worth millions on top of millions of dollars, people that have overcome adversity in other countries because of their faith or persecuted in that regard or persecution here in the USA. So, being around those stories, one, inspires me, and also, it fulfills me and fills up my heart to be able to share those stories and those experiences with others so that it can benefit them as well.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah. What stands out to me, Caleb, is people may look at someone who’s done a lot of syndications or someone that’s created a successful e-commerce business or sold physical products and they’re worth millions of dollars and say, “Man, that guy or that girl, they’ve got it all.” But I haven’t yet met a single entrepreneur that hasn’t been through the hell’s fire on earth to try to get there.

I often speak to my kids who are sophomore in high school, eighth grade and sixth grade, and they will say, hey, this person is so beautiful, this girl so beautiful, or this guy is so popular, this person’s so good at sports. And I remind them that whatever you see on the surface is not their whole life. Whatever you see that you’re experiencing, whether it’s in school or me in business, that’s just what you’re experiencing in that couple of minutes of interaction or a couple of minutes that you’ve seen them in school or seen them out in the workplace. They have been through so much other stuff. And nobody’s life is perfect. No relationship is perfect. And you don’t know what somebody is going through in the background.

When I had pancreatic cancer 11 years ago, I never thought that I would walk through the hospitals. And when I was walking through the hospitals, I thought like I was the only sick person because all I cared about was me. Then the Cleveland Clinic put out a video about four years after my surgery and they put a little bubble through this video of everybody walking through the hospital. And everybody that was walking through the hospital was dealing with some sort of chaos. It could be a doctor who looks like a successful surgeon, but who’s actually going through a divorce. It could be a nurse who’s so happy in taking care of young kids, but her own child is disabled, right? It could be the patient like me who is 35 and big and strong and a wife and two kids but with a stage III pancreatic cancer.

And so, everybody’s going through something. That’s what I told my kids. And so, you’ve been interviewing these people now for months and months, years on your podcast. I would imagine that there’s probably some characteristics that you’ve assembled and that you’re recognizing in some of these people who’ve gone through major trial and who have come out the other end in a super triumphant way.

So, this might be the only question that I ask you on this podcast, Caleb, which is, what are the characteristics that you’re starting to see in those folks who’ve been through hell’s fire and come back on the other side and are now having an amazingly successful, triumphant life? Are there a couple of characteristics that stand out?

Caleb Johnson: I think there are a couple of characteristics that do stand out. Now, not every person has these, but every person that I’ve spoken to has one of these, and there’s four that come to mind. And the first is that they might have a responsibility to others. Now, the story that comes to mind is a gentleman who was in the military. He was in college. He wasn’t really the smartest kid, so he decided to go into the military and that’s what he was going to do.

So, he was in the Navy as a chef for some time, about seven years. Then 9/11 happened and he wanted to do more. Then he went to Iraq to work on bombs. And while he was in Iraq, an IED exploded, while it was directly pointed at his face. And from that explosion, he, long story short, became blind and deaf and was then laid up in a hospital bed six months, throwing a little pity party, which, honestly, if I was in that position, I would be throwing a pity party myself, I think, because I couldn’t imagine what that is like, where you can hear your wife and children one day, and then you can never see or hear them again. And I couldn’t imagine what that feels like.

So, he’s laid up in this hospital bed for six months and he realizes, “My family is still relying on me. There’s still people out there that’s fighting this battle. And there’s something that I can do.” And so, he decided to get out of the pity party and go, and he became an instructor for IEDs in the military. And now, he’s buying a $25 million property in Florida. And he’s running ultramarathons and hiking.

It’s just such a moving story. It can make me speechless because I hear that and I think, what excuse do I have if I take a 15-minute nap today because I’m tired? And this guy, he can’t even hear or see and he’s doing these incredible things. And Josh, I don’t know if you want to pull anything out of that or I can keep going to the other three.

Josh Cantwell: So, you said that he was in this trial of this bomb exploding and lying in a hospital bed, and ultimately, had the choice to stay there, do nothing, and what pulled him out of it when you interviewed him was that he made the decision that he felt he was responsible to someone else. And that’s ultimately what got him going to completely pivot and change his mindset, which completely changed trajectory of his life. And so, that’s one of the traits, I think, that I want to highlight and pull out here that Caleb mentioned is often, our success, regardless of what kind of trials we’re going through, is going to be because we’re fighting for someone else, right?

And isn’t that ultimately an amazing calling that whether you’re building a portfolio of real estate for someone else, whether you’re volunteering for someone else, whether you’re helping coach kids or people who are in distress situation, disability, kids that have been abused, whatever that is, whatever you’re passionate for? And how much satisfaction does it give that man or give us to really focus on being responsible to somebody else? I’ve got to step up to help other people, right? That’s ultimately what I take away from that. What’s another characteristic, Caleb, that you’ve witnessed in some of these people?

Caleb Johnson: Well, the next one actually kind of falls in line with that, and it’s giving to others. And I had a conversation with Rod Khleif, which is a very large syndication name in our space, and he has a mastermind, I think there’s over 2,000 people in this mastermind, but he calls them their Warriors. And he hosts this event maybe once or twice a year.

And all these successful people, the top 10 people in that Warrior program that are doing the biggest things, the most deals, raising the most capital, he lets them get on stage for about four to five minutes apiece and lets them tell their story. And the fourth to fifth person in, Rod stops the show and he gets up on stage and he says, “I want you all to tune into this,” because every person that was on stage that point had some kind of moment where they gave to others. That is what motivated them.

So, it wasn’t anything about the money, the watches, the cars. It was about giving to others and seeing that manifest in them. And I know in my life, Josh, the most happiest that I am is when I’m giving to others, giving my time. So, if we go to church and we’re called the tithe, a lot of people think it’s okay, 10% of what you make. Now, if I’m a broke person in college, I have no money. I mean, oatmeal every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner or Top Ramen, like I have no money.

So, what do you do? So, you can still give your time because it’s really just whatever resources we have, that is what we’re called to give. So, no matter what that is, if you can give your time, resources, or something else, just help somebody in an unforeseen instance, do that, and it’s going to make your life a lot happier.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah. And my takeaway from that is in the groups that I’ve been in with the most successful business owners I’ve ever been around. I was in a mastermind with about 50 CEOs. And the most successful people seem to have giving as an absolute top priority. There are some of the most generous, charitable, giving people. And you’ll hear when I met with them, it wasn’t like, I became successful. I’m a multimillionaire, and now, I’m going to start giving. It was actually the opposite. It was that I’m going to give through my journey, not at the end of my journey. That was my takeaway from that group. And I believe that’s absolutely one of the traits for people that feel like they’re living out their full life, people that are living in triumph and happiness and joy, they’re giving to other people and they’re getting more probably than they’re actually giving. I feel the best about myself, the most confident, the most happy, the most humble when I’m giving to other people.

And man, do I feel good at the end of that day or that week or whatever it is? So, I could see someone who’s coming from a drug addiction or somebody that’s coming from a major injury or a surgery or a major bankruptcy to say, like, this is one of the things that I did to get me back on track and ultimately feel triumphant is to give to others even when I had almost nothing to my name. You always have time, right? Or we can make time. People say, “I don’t have any time.” You’re just not making time. And what I heard you say is it’s not just about the money, right? It’s about tithing. It’s about possibly giving money if you have it. But if you don’t have it, tithe your time and see how that makes you feel. Pretty damn good, I’m sure, right?

So, Caleb, what about the others? What about the people that have been through these trials, how are they getting out of the one mindset and even starting to make that first or second step towards more positive life, a more positive experience? You mentioned, they make a decision. Tell us about that. That has to be something that they change their mindset in order to go from this terrible experience, this terrible trial into a life of abundance. There has to be a major, major change in the way they’re thinking.

Caleb Johnson: And yeah, that’s this third point, which, like I preluded to earlier, when I was in high school being very antisocial, I had to make a decision. And another story that comes to mind is a gentleman who actually lived in my backyard theoretically. He lived in Phoenix and he was on meth 20 years ago. Meth addict. I mean, he looked like Skeletor. He kind of jokes and says that’s what he looked like.

But he walked into, I don’t remember, some lady where they go and you get a job in which this gal actually had the power to send him to prison for two years for a crime he had committed or help him get on track, find a job. And he still had a warm meth pipe or crack pipe in his pocket while he was sitting in there. And she looks at him and says, “Are you clean?” And he, just breaking down, having that inner conversation with himself, saying, “I’m done. If I do not change my life right now, then I might die. I will never have another opportunity. And if I don’t make a decision right now, then it’s not going to happen.”

And so, he, in complete honesty, said, “Yeah, I still got the crack pipe in my pocket right now.” And so, from that moment, that was the pivotal moment for him in his life. It wasn’t that he became ultra-successful at that time or he had this incredible multimillion-dollar mentor pop up in his life all of a sudden. And that’s what speared him on. Because, Josh, I know you and I and other people listening to the show, we have people like that in our lives. We have very successful people in our lives. And that doesn’t mean that is what makes us successful.

What makes people successful is when they make a decision in their mind that I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. And no matter what it takes, I’m going to change. And that doesn’t mean you go out and do anything illegal by any means, but you just make that decision and saying, “I’m done. I’m done and I’m going to move on from this.”

Josh Cantwell: Yeah. Man, there’s so much that you can take away from that because of so many people who are unhappy with where they’re currently at. And it’s probably because they’re settling, settling for what they’ve got or settling for the life they have or settling for comfort of the known versus making a decision to push their life forward, their relationships forward, their business forward, which is going into the unknown. right?

And that guy with the crack pipe in his pocket or the meth pipe in his pocket, that’s what he knew, that’s what he was aware of, that’s what he was comfortable with, even though he knew it was terrible for him and could cost him his life at any moment. That’s what he was comfortable with. That’s what he was settling for.

Ultimately, he makes the decision, he tells the therapist or tells the probation officer, whoever it was like, “I’ve got this in my pocket. I’m ready to give it up and I’m ready to move on.” That’s the decision that anybody can make at any time. For a lot of people, Caleb, you mentioned like they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. They’re sick and tired of the same old, same old. They’re sick and tired of being where they’re at.

And that comfort ultimately becomes pain, right? The comfort of whatever you’re doing of mediocrity, the comfort of only making X amount of dollars a year, the comfort of whatever drug of choice, alcohol, whatever it is, is actually a pain point, it’s actually hurting you. And being sick and tired of that, I’m going to make a change, I’m going to do something different, and you make a decision and move on. Caleb, is there any others? Any other traits that you think of that these folks that you’ve witnessed in all the episodes that you’ve recorded? Anything else stick out?

Caleb Johnson: One final thing and I’ll make it quick is that they just don’t quit, period. The only way that you can quit or fail is when you give up. If you never quit, you can never fail. And I’ve gone so far is to tattoo something like that on my back where it says, if I quit, it will last forever. And that’s what is the last thing that I would say separates the ultra-successful people that are on that journey to success from the people that are just there trying to do this, but they aren’t fully in, they aren’t fully committed yet.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah, no doubt. Look, man, with so many millions and millions of people around the world who’ve been successful with real estate, I’m going to pull this back to real estate, you and I, Caleb, have heard dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of stories of people who literally started with no knowledge of real estate. They’ve been successful with either flipping houses, wholesaling, multifamily apartments, residential assisted living, commercial office, private lending, private equity, you name it. They all started with no knowledge, with no experience.

And I would say every single one of those people, they all had the same thing in common. Some of them might have taken a very short journey and got there really quick. Some of them maybe taking a much longer journey and had many different pivots or changes but don’t quit. It is going to be a theme in every single one of those stories.

And I would also say like, not only don’t quit, but it really never ends, right. Do you ever see yourself, Caleb, stopping, just like I’m going to retire from real estate? None of the guys that I know that are in real estate retire from it. If they want to be so wealthy that they have all the equity and all the cashflow, but they don’t stop, like I bought lots of properties, big 200-unit, 100-unit, 400-unit properties from these 80-year-old dudes and they’ve been in the business for 50 years and they were the original developers, like they never not only don’t quit, but they actually never get out of real estate because they love it so much and everything that’s done for them.

And so, when I talk to my group, I’m like, look, not only can you not quit, but real estate’s one of the few things that you’re probably never get sick of, that you actually will do it until the very, very tail end of your life because of all the financial benefits and the joy that it’ll bring to your life. I think those are traits that I see specifically in real estate investors who had triumphs is that it’s not like I’m going to do this for five years, get rich, and then do something else, right? Do you see the same kind of traits in the people that you talk to?

Caleb Johnson: I do. I never hear anyone say that I’m going to do real estate for five years and then do something else because, from my experience, there is nothing else that tops real estate.

Josh Cantwell: Yeah, yeah, I love it. Caleb, well, listen, thanks for jumping on the show today. I want to make sure that all of my audience goes and subscribes to your show for inspiration, motivation, and for whatever you guys are going through in your life right now, whether it’s just a lack of motivation, whether it’s you think you’re stuck in comfort, whether it’s you’re looking to get over the hump and make a new decision. Check out Caleb’s show, it’s called From Trial to Triumph.

He’s already recorded 48 episodes with amazing guests, talking about everything from avoiding burnout for busy professionals to gaining more clients on social media, why it’s easier to lose a million than make a million, and then ultimately, being super successful and having major triumphs in your life. You guys go ahead and check out Caleb’s show and follow Caleb wherever you can all over social media. Caleb, thanks so much for jumping on the show today. Really appreciate you being here.

Caleb Johnson: I appreciate it, Josh. Thanks, brother.


Josh Cantwell: Well, guys, there you have it. I really enjoyed that episode with Caleb. Man, being responsible to others is such a motivator. Giving to others, I feel so good about myself, right? Such and such a good place when I give to others. Number three, making a new decision. I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer and came out of my hospital bed and had an opportunity to restart my life, I had to relearn how to eat, I was not going to go back and redo my life the way I had been doing it, so making that decision. And then finally, as Caleb and I mentioned, don’t quit.

Guys, listen, everybody can do this business. Everybody can be successful. Everybody can be a multimillionaire with real estate. Keep getting your education, keep listening to podcasts like this. But most of all, go execute, raise capital, make offers. Don’t quit. We’ll see you next time on Accelerated Investor.

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