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Nick Schlekeway: One Brain Scan Away From Change

Nick Schlekeway is the founder and CEO of Amherst Madison, the third-largest independent and fastest-growing brokerage in Idaho, and one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States as a whole. Being immersed in a self-propelled, startup-oriented family his entire life, the Idaho native is a true visionary entrepreneur. Nick has found that nothing compares to the satisfaction of accomplishing championship-sized goals with great people by your side. His passion for excellence and his drive for victory pushes him to conquer new frontiers while providing fulfilling careers and a dynamic culture for his agents.

Prior to Amherst Madison, Nick served the citizens of Boise as a certified Hazardous Materials Technician, Emergency Medical Technician, and Firefighter. His experiences as a firefighter, in addition to his time volunteering as a student-athlete at Boise State, were instrumental in building a desire to give back to his community and serve others. Nick was an Academic All-American, All-Conference football player at Boise State, and graduated with honors, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Nick also earned a master’s degree in Real Estate Development and Leadership from Georgetown University—all while doubling the size of his growing company during those two years pursuing higher education.

Learn more about Nick’s work here:

Nick’s Personal Blog
Amherst Madison Website

Transcript:

Bryan Wish:

Nick, welcome to The One Away Show.

Nick Schlekeway:

What’s up, Bryan? Thanks for having me.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. Thanks so much for being here. So Nick, you have, I think a fascinating story, one of resilience and overcoming triumph and just being a story for so many others. So I want to give the mic to you and ask you, what is the one away moment that you want to share with us today?

Nick Schlekeway:

Yeah, I appreciate the opportunity, like I said. And I thought a lot about that. That’s a big challenge, actually. It’s probably a bigger challenge than I thought it was the name one moment or one story or one time in your life that changed it all, because our lives are made up of thousands and thousands of these moments. But I think I do have one.

Nick Schlekeway:

When I think about, especially my adult life, especially where I am now, personally, professionally, I really focus in on I think it was like the spring of 2017 is when it was, thinking about a timeframe. And I made the decision, prompted by my girlfriend at the time, Megan, to go down to Los Angeles, actually to the Amen Clinics, Dr. Daniel Amen has a clinic down there. He specializes in brain trauma, brain research. And actually get scanned, get brain scans done and continue after those scans and getting on a treatment plan, a treatment path, psychological, physiological, emotional, spiritual at times.

Nick Schlekeway:

But really making the decision to face the hard truth that I had issues. I had issues that needed healing. And some of them were physiological. Issues from getting concussions playing football, getting concussions wakeboarding, getting concussions snow skiing, primarily from college athletics, but also the things I’ve done in my life.

Nick Schlekeway:

So yeah, that decision to go down there and face that reality was life changing. It’s one thing to think that you might have an issue. What I mean, an issue is like a physiological damage kind of an issue. It’s one thing to think that. It’s another thing to see scans up on a board and here’s your brain and here’s your brain on drugs. I don’t know if you remember those ads. But it’s like, here’s your brain the way it’s supposed to be and here it is now, to the point where the doctor, the physician is like sitting there with his pen and he is going, oh, so you must have played on this side of the line because this side of your brain has more damage than the other.

Nick Schlekeway:

And it was a trip to say the least, to have, I guess what I would say, a diagnosis like that, it’s kind of freeing in a way, because it’s like, Hey, this wasn’t just my imagination. Like there actually is something wrong here that’s beyond psychological issues only. Not to say that those aren’t real issues because they are. And I’ve had them as well. So it’s kind of a relief in a way. And in another way, it’s just like the pit of doom opens up in front of you, because it’s like, wow, I’m really effed up. This is no joke. I’ve got a big problem.

Nick Schlekeway:

So it’s an interesting thing, right? Because it’s a double-edged sword. It’s kind of nice to have something to point to. And then it’s also kind of like, I can’t pretend like this isn’t an issue anymore. And I think that’s a big part of seeking help with any psychological, mental, physiological problem is I think there’s a part of us that would like to deny that it’s real. You can’t deny it when you get test results like that. So that was a huge time in my life that led to a lot of different things, led to a lot of changes. That was what, five years ago now I guess? My life is completely different now than it was then. Completely.

Bryan Wish:

Well, I appreciate you sharing so transparently about maybe the reality that you had to face and seeing it visually. While freeing on one end, I’m sure brought up a lot for you on the other of what do I do now? What I want to ask you is you said that your girlfriend at the time, wife today, kind of encouraged this push to go seek help, or kind of take a look at what might be going on. What prompted that? What were some of the symptoms that maybe led up to saying, you know what, maybe we should explore deeper here and see what we can find?

Nick Schlekeway:

Yeah. You know, she was the first person I’d ever had in my life, I mean like family, friends, whoever who really pushed me to seek that specific kind of help. I had other people suggest that I see a counselor or talk to somebody about my issues or get on medication or stuff like that. I guess maybe more normal paths, but they never really insisted on it I guess, and never seemed to come from a place of love towards me and really just caring genuinely about me as a person. When her and I went through that, we had just met each other. I mean, it was literally like three months after we met each other. And our relationship, to be honest, was pretty rocky. It was kind of an on again off again, type of a thing. It wasn’t just like she was solid and we were solid.

Nick Schlekeway:

And so for her to suggest that, it came across to me as being very selfless. It was kind of like, Hey, I don’t even know what’s going to happen between you and I. In fact, when she first suggested it, I don’t even know if we were together. It was more just her genuinely caring about me as a person and saying, “This is what I see. And I don’t know if anybody’s ever told you this before, but these are the issues that I’m seeing. And I think you need to seek help for it.” And, and specifically related to concussion protocol therapy, physiological brain trauma.

Nick Schlekeway:

So what was she seeing? God, I don’t know. A lot. A lot. I don’t know if you’re familiar with, people in the audience are familiar with disassociation. It’s a psychological term where you essentially check out from reality and your brain disassociates yourself from reality.

Nick Schlekeway:

It’s almost like I would describe it as having an out of body experience where you’re kind of looking at yourself from the third person and you don’t feel anything. It’s a very cutoff, disconnective, disassociated, which is where the term comes from I think, state of mind.

Nick Schlekeway:

I was having a lot of disassociative episodes in 20, especially like 2015-2016, kind of leading up this time period of my life. So just be sitting at dinner with people and kind of staring off and in the distance, not listening, not hearing, not really caring about the conversation going on around me. Drive places and not remember how you got there. Drive for hours, not necessarily intending on even coming back. Not caring about what happens to you. A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of wandering, a lot of walks with no specific end.

Nick Schlekeway:

One time I drove to California through the desert of Nevada in the middle of the night. And it’s not a pleasure cruise. It’s kind of really harder to explain to somebody that’s never been there before. It’s wanting to escape from pain so badly that you’ll do anything to do it, up to and including thinking about taking your own life. And that was my reality for several years. Going on walks. I went on a walk one time for like 12 miles and ambling through parts of east and north Boise, not really intending on ever going home and just being completely kind of cut off and dead to the reality and thoughts and fears that would prevent a normal person for exhibiting that kind of behavior.

Nick Schlekeway:

It’s very odd to try to describe. But the fear and the uncertainty and the like, I probably shouldn’t be doing this because it’s weird. That all goes away. So I just had a lot of those kind of episodes and things that were going on and somebody like her, that was in my life, she had a front row seat to a lot of that.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. Wow. No, it’s like, guess the last eight months I’ve started to become much more present, I think, to the suffering of life and how much pain I think people are in it. It sounds like this was a period for you, as you said, of immense pain that had never been healed and pain that clearly drove you to disassociation, long walks, long drives to outrun it in a way. Seems like your wife of today seems like an incredibly special person said, you know what? We can’t outrun this. We got to face it head on. What do you think she saw in you as a person to not run herself, right? Because relationship’s about taking on someone’s past and their stories and who they are. So why do you think she stuck around?

Nick Schlekeway:

Because she has a heart of gold, is kind of the short answer. But the longer answer I guess, and the more practical one would be, she’s had a lot of those struggles herself. So she had had those struggles herself over the last 10, 15, actually her entire life. She kind of rambled and ambled and traveled the country for 10 years and was in music and was in tech and had some random kind of odd jobs and lived kind of a nomadic crazy life and had struggled with depression herself in the past.

Nick Schlekeway:

So that was part of it because she had been there in a way. She went through a time period, very similar to what I was going through like four or five year, actually, not even that far, like maybe two or three years before I was going through it.

Nick Schlekeway:

So she kind of saw the signs, I think is part of it. I would say that she saw my heart. She saw who I actually was as opposed to some of the behavior that I was exhibiting. I made a lot of bad decisions in that time in my life. Especially that 2015-2016 time period made a lot of bad choices, made a lot of errors in judgment, hurt some people close to me. Made some pretty irresponsible choices personally and professionally. Didn’t have that great of a reputation in some circles at that time.

Nick Schlekeway:

But she saw through all that. And she was one of the first people that I had met in a long, long time who made me a priority, and chose to… Ultimately, if you want to see past the drama and past the chaos and past the BS, you have to make that choice. You have to choose to do that. And she did. Why? To be honest, I think God had a hand in that. I really do. She’s a very patient person. She’s a very spiritual person. I think that was a big part of her strength and she was listening to a higher power. No matter what you personally want to call that higher power and what you believe in, she was in tune to hers. So there was, I think several reasons why.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah, that’s such a gift to have someone walk in your life to help heal you, to help you to go do some of that hard work, which I definitely want to get to.

Bryan Wish:

Nick, you told me prior to the show that back in 2012 period from July to September, you had gone through your first divorce, sold your first house and left your job to then go six months later, do real estate. Do you think, all those decisions and even the crushing decision of not being able to play in the NFL, all kind of accumulated and kept building and building to the point where all that running and all that disassociation, like just kind of added up to create all that pain. Does that make sense? I’m just kind of curious if you have thought about that.

Nick Schlekeway:

I think so, to a certain extent. If you don’t deal with emotions and if you don’t deal with trauma, it just sits there and it comes out in different ways, right? It might sit latent for a year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, half a lifetime. But eventually when you deal with trauma, whether that’s self-imposed, whether that is somebody else and something they do to you, whether that’s just the trauma that comes from living life, because, hey, life is hard. We’ve all got trauma, we’ve all got stuff that happens to us. But if you don’t deal with it and try and process it in some kind of a healthy manner, get it out, change your life, make different decisions, compensate for it in some way, I mean, do something, then it’s going to just come boiling out of you.

Nick Schlekeway:

And yeah, that was part of it for me. Absolutely. The only thing I wanted to do since I was as young as I can remember, was play professional football. And I actually felt like I said, God, or whatever you want to believe in had instilled me this belief that and understanding from birth, that was what I was supposed to do because it’s all I ever wanted to do. It’s all I ever worked towards doing for the first 20 some years of my life. So when that didn’t happen and when that dream was crushed, I couldn’t process that. I didn’t know how to process that. I had no help in that. There is no book for, Hey, when your lifelong dream gets destroyed, this is what you do. There’s no 12 step program for that.

Nick Schlekeway:

So what did I do? I did what my playbook had been up until that point in my life when I had hard times. I worked, I buried myself in work. I worked 80, 90 hours a week, so that I couldn’t think. Right when I got done with ball, I was mowing lawns and doing landscaping. And then I was working a full-time job for a commercial concrete company and studying and getting prepared to get hired to the fire department. I just made myself so busy and put so much work on my plate that I didn’t have time to think. And that’s what I did for a long time. And that worked right up until the point where it didn’t. And when that started to not work anymore, I didn’t have any other plays in the playbook and things were unraveling rapidly.

Nick Schlekeway:

So it’s a good question. It’s a fair question. And I think the short answer to it is yes. All that stuff that happened, and then the trauma of getting divorced, which my divorce was brutal for me. It was extremely difficult. And it wasn’t a long lived marriage. We didn’t have kids. But when I make commitments to do things, I see them through. And that was something that I took very personally, that I couldn’t see that through. And I gave my word in front of family, friends, and God, and I broke it. And there’s a part of me that honestly will never be completely right from that choice. Do I regret it? No, I don’t regret it. If I could go back, I’d do the same thing, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have trauma.

Nick Schlekeway:

And that actually was a big teaching point for me in my life was like for a long time, I think I felt like, well, if you don’t regret the choice or if you couldn’t have done anything differently, or if you worked as hard and you tried as hard as you could have, then you should just move on beyond that time, beyond that event and not have any, basically any negative feelings about it or any trauma about it or any emotion to it. You should just be able to say, well, I’m done with that point in my life. I tried as hard as I can. Didn’t work. I’m going to move on. That’s not real. That’s not real life. That’s not realistic. That’s not how the human brain works. You can’t just turn the page. It’s not a book.

Bryan Wish:

Wow. Yeah. What kept coming to mind, as you were talking, the body has a way of keeping score, as they say, and catching up to you. And it’s like you tried to build this sounds like a fortress of function to not have to feel. And your breaking points, you can throw yourself in work or other things as hard as you want, but sometimes the world has a way of telling you it’s time to address what might be in front of you.

Bryan Wish:

So one, I just appreciate the candor, this stuff isn’t easy to talk about. And then two it’s brave, right? It’s brave to share cause that’s healing in itself, but then it’s brave to face and work to get through the other side of it. So that’s where I want to focus now is, you said your wife now kind of said, Hey, let’s go address this and let’s go start the process. And you saw the brain scans and you said, you know what, there’s some truth to this. And then you said, my life today though looks 10 times different. Once you got the diagnosis, once you saw visually what was going on, what happened next? I mean, that sounds so intimidating and overwhelming. So what did you do? How did you think about things? Where were you at I guess feeling wise in this moment?

Nick Schlekeway:

Torn. You can’t really be in denial at that point. That part of it is gone. So it becomes a question of here’s the problem. Here’s the issue. It’s black and white, literally. And are you going to do something about it or not? I had already made a decision before I went down there that I was going to something about it. That was part of getting the scans in the first place. But that wasn’t easy. You asked about how I was feeling. Hey, it’s never easy to take action to change your life. For me, it’s never been easy to make me a priority. I’ll just say that. It’s never been easy for me to make space in my life to heal mentally, physically, emotionally, whatever. That’s always been a challenge for me my entire life.

Nick Schlekeway:

And in a lot of ways, this was one of those times where it’s kind of… Life has this funny way of challenging you in the ways that are your most vulnerable. As you want to ascend and grow and do something different, life doesn’t just challenge you in the ways that you’re strong. It will challenge you in the ways that you’re weakest. And for me at that time, that’s exactly what I was faced with, was like, oh, okay, well you want to get better? You want to move past this? You want to not have your personal life be a disaster anymore, and a shit show? Well, you’re going to have to make some time for this and you’re going to have to make yourself a priority and your mental health a priority.

Nick Schlekeway:

You’re going to have to cut some people out of your life that are toxic people. That’s step number one. So it’s very interesting because most of the stuff I’ve been talking about is brain scans and physical trauma and physical, physical, physical. Well, obviously the brain is chemical and it’s electrical and there’s blood flow. But the spirit and emotionally in the brain are one.

Nick Schlekeway:

Toxicity, drama, negative people, people who tear you down literally cause brain damage and literally prevent you from healing. Especially if you have other physiological trauma that you have on the brain and that you’re trying to heal from.

Nick Schlekeway:

So step number one in the treatment is like, yeah, you have to get all toxic people out of your life. That’s not easy. Those people are usually in your life for a reason. We keep people like that around for a reason. Because they fill gaps emotionally for us, or they give us somebody to on, or they give us somebody to scapegoat, right? I mean whatever the reason is that we kind of hang out with that buddy or hang out with that girl that a part of our brain knows we shouldn’t, and they don’t ever really bring anything great into our life, but we just kind of continue doing it because status quo status quo. And that’s a powerful thing. Well, that’s step number one is like, Hey, you got to, you got to end all these relationships and get these people out of your life.

Nick Schlekeway:

And then it’s, you know, it is like seeking out positive sources, positive influences, reading certain books, listening to certain music, listening to certain podcasts, being very specific about the positive, emotional energy and the positive that you’re allowing into your life.

Nick Schlekeway:

Now, part of it is physical it’s hyperbaric oxygen treatments. It’s a certain supplement routine. It’s exercise. Cardiovascular exercise. Exercise is good for the brain. Doing certain like literal mind brain exercises, puzzles, cross words, different teasers. So it’s physical exercise. It’s brain exercise. There’s quite a bit to it. The Amen Clinic’s protocol is, in my opinion, the best in the world when it comes to healing these types of things. And they’re experts, they’ve been doing it for decades.

Nick Schlekeway:

So I got on that path and I stayed on it and I committed to it. It was really, really, really difficult. Really, really was. Change doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why I say a path because that’s how everything in life is. And that’s how that was, is like I got on that path. I got started on it, but it took a full year, I would say, before I really started to feel like, wow, I’m feeling better.

Nick Schlekeway:

Mondays are always kind of like my barometer. Monday mornings is like my barometer for how I’m doing, how my mental health is in my life. Because I remember a time that 2015-2016 period, where getting up on Monday morning and getting to the office and going to work was like running a marathon for me. I mean, summoning the positive energy summoning just the positive motivation, like the forward momentum it takes when you’re running a business and growing a business, it took everything in me. It was just beating myself with whips to get myself out of bed, to go to the office and get my week started. So that’s something I started using as honestly kind of like a barometer of how my mental health was. Am I excited to get my week started back up again, or not? But that took a long time. That took a year, two years before I started noticing like, wow, I feel a lot better. I don’t have to beat myself with whips to get this stuff done like I did before.

Bryan Wish:

The thing I picked up on that is, you started out and he said, you knew you had physiological healing to do it was physical healing, but it was so much deeper. It was mental, it was emotional. It was spiritual. Not only that, right? Not like football. You can go into the gym, you can put on 10 pounds in two months and have a plan to do it. This is a windy road of path work that you don’t always know direction to go yet. Your journey took a year or two really start feeling some of these changes from the inside out.

Bryan Wish:

Beyond cutting or changing nutrition plan or supplements or exercise or cutting toxic people out. What were some of the other aspects or habits that became healthier, that you were able to input into your healing journey?

Nick Schlekeway:

The first thing I think of in addition to that, and I actually thought of it just as you were asking the question is standing up for myself. And that would be a shock to a lot of people to hear me say that. Even some people fairly close to me, because I don’t, I don’t know, I don’t necessarily exhibit the physical or even just life circumstance or where I am in my life, even where I was then of somebody who would need to stand up for themselves. But I did. And I wasn’t.

Nick Schlekeway:

And I was putting myself in positions with people and this does get back to the talks that negative people, comments and scenarios. But it’s a little bit more than that, just to let people drag you down, run you down, run your name through the mud, use negative things that you did as a way to characterize you as a person, not let you live down your mistakes. And just putting yourself in positions with people who would not stand up for you and actually would join your detractors if given a chance. And that time period of my life, I don’t know why, but I just kind of stopped standing up for myself. I let people tell me I was no good. And even though I would get upset by it and there’d be a part of me that didn’t believe it, I think a part of me did believe it. And I think that’s the reason why I was putting up with it is because a part of me was kind of like, well, yeah, I feel like a piece of shit. So if somebody says that to me, who am I to argue?

Nick Schlekeway:

That’s something I learned in this time period in my life after I got done playing ball to this 2015-2016 time period, which I guess that’s about an eight year span. It’s a very, very dangerous thing to start saying to yourself, well, I know this person in my life, be it girlfriend, boyfriend, family, friend, whatever, I know that they’re nice to me. I know that they have all these problems, but hey, excuse my French, but I’m f’ed up too, basically. I’m a shit show. I’ve got all these problems. I don’t deserve any better than that. So who am I to push back on that or judge them or say that I don’t deserve this. That’s a very, very dangerous path to start walking down. That’s a path that I was on for almost a decade.

Bryan Wish:

That’s huge to come into that awareness and acknowledge that. And [inaudible 00:28:44] into something, what you said as well, right? It’s you were healing journey seriously, very deep. But you talked about standing up for yourself and learning to do that, which is powerful. So powerful.

Bryan Wish:

If you care to share, I deeply resonate with this whole conversation. So what maybe created, it sounds like when you don’t stand up for yourself, I’m going to ask a question and then I’m going to follow up with it. But would you agree that when you don’t stand up for yourself, there’s a sense of lack of value or worth within? Is that fair?

Nick Schlekeway:

Fair. A hundred percent.

Bryan Wish:

And when you take that statement for yourself are things that you look at from? From growing up or from different period chapters of your life, where that muscle of seeing who you are and your value in the world, that was reasons maybe that had never been developed.

Nick Schlekeway:

Hmm. Yeah. And I also would clarify and say that I never had a problem standing up for myself, physically. That was never, ever an issue. I mean, I was getting in fights when I was very young against boys that were a lot bigger and a lot older than me. I never had a problem with that. But I did have a problem standing up for myself verbally and emotionally. And that was what I really started running into a problem in relationships and in business intricacies of adult life outside of playing college football is like, Hey, somebody says something, you can’t just punch them in the face or tackle them or light them up. Like you can’t physically attack somebody that says something you don’t like. I mean, you have to learn how to stand up for yourself in a mature, sometimes professional setting, but other times just a positive, productive way.

Nick Schlekeway:

And I didn’t develop those skills. I didn’t really have them. And that was part of the problem, but it was more just accepting the false reality that I was flawed so why should I say anything?

Nick Schlekeway:

But the answer to your question is I had struggled with that my whole life. I mean, as young as I can remember, I was having self-image problems and questions about my self worth. It got progressively worse as I moved through high school, moved through college. But even when I was, I don’t know, 10, 11, 12 years old, I remember that. I remember having those thoughts. And as you say, not exercising a muscle of positive self-talk or standing up for yourself or recognizing what you do and don’t deserve. I had never exercised that muscle. Not really.

Bryan Wish:

It’s deep stuff, Nick. I think it’s hard for… To build on this. I’ve been doing a lot of reading around men and masculinity, and I think it’s hard for men to grow up and we’re not emotionally developed creatures all the time. [inaudible 00:32:11] article about men celebrate Valentine’s day and loving themselves and their friends. And you see women do it. Why not men? But everything you’re saying is such a journey that I think, luckily because of your wife, you really had to face and after going through these inner battles, and to get to a place let’s just say of more peace. Is it easier for you to spot out in others who are in similar shoes or have similar pains and guide them through that? Or is it something that is more of an internal place so we just kind of keep within the family lines?

Nick Schlekeway:

No, it is easier for me to spot. In fact, it’s always kind of been easier for me to spot. I think, I don’t think, I know that I’m highly empathetic. Much more so than anyone would probably ever guess. It actually is in my position, leading and growing a company and going through all the things I’ve gone through in the last eight or nine years, it makes it a lot more difficult, quite frankly. It’s a superpower, like the ability to be empathetic is a superpower. But our greatest strengths always have a shadow side and always have a dark side and can always be our biggest… Usually our biggest strengths are also our biggest weaknesses, when you flip them. And when you’re empathetic, I have tended to take on a lot of other people’s stuff that I shouldn’t have, quite frankly.

Nick Schlekeway:

And so I’ve had to kind of learn how to use my powers for good. Yeah. And be there for people and be present with people, but don’t internalize it and don’t take it on and don’t take it home and just don’t internalize it. And that’s a fine line because it’s like, how do you really care if you’re not internalizing? And you’re only caring so much and it’s an art, it’s not a science. I have been able to, Hey, it’s like, you spot it, you got it. That’s fact, I mean, it is easy for me to spot. It’s easy. Because I struggled with it for so long.

Bryan Wish:

Well, there’s a difference between like checking in and acknowledging and being helpful. And it’s kind of creating a lack of energy for your own self when you’re serving others too much, so it’s a fine line. Great observations. So I want to talk a little bit about who you are today, and then also kind of lean into some of the other kind of prouder moments. I mean, it’s a proud moment what you’ve been through, but in professional world little bit as well.

Bryan Wish:

Let me put this question like this. If I was to ask your wife, sit down with her and say, who is Nick when you met him and how has he changed? What’s that look like today? What do you think she would say?

Nick Schlekeway:

That’s actually a really good question. Think about that for a second.

Nick Schlekeway:

Well, I know she would say that I’m more patient. Which may not say much, because I’m still not very patient. But I know she would say that my patience emotionally with her, with myself, with my friends and family has increased. She would say that I’m more resilient, much more resilient emotionally. Which by the way that’s was, I guess, as a sidebar, that was a big wake up call for me, because I’ve always considered myself to be a very resilient man. But when I realized that I was not resilient emotionally and not resilient personally, which was then making me not resilient professionally. There really is no personal versus professional. It’s all just you. You carry yourself with you everywhere you go. But that was a big slap in the face for me and a big wake up call. And a big reason why I started to make changes is when I realized that I could not say that I was resilient because I wasn’t.

Nick Schlekeway:

I know that my wife would say that I’m more resilient now than I was then. She would say that I’m more intentional, intentional with how I’m spending my time. She would say that I’m more, along those lines of time, more balanced because am. I detest and deplore the word balance. It’s like my least favorite word in the human dictionary. But it’s also something that at times in my life I’ve desperately needed more of. There’s no such thing as balance. Time is never something that you can hold up in one hand, hold up in the other hand and have like some kind of perfect 50/50 equilibrium. It doesn’t work that way. Life ebbs and flows and there’s sometimes in your life you spend more time doing this and sometimes your life you spend more time doing that.

Nick Schlekeway:

But I definitely have more balance, I would say, than I had when we met. And again, that comes directly from that decision her and I made together to go down to LA, get those scans and start getting treatment. Because the very first thing that they told me was if you’re not willing to make time for this, if you’re not willing to make time for you, if you’re not willing to make time to have that balance, this is a waste. Like don’t spend the money on the scans, just go home. If you’re not willing to do that, this is a nonstarter. It’s not going to happen. But that’s where that started. But that’s definitely something that she would say.

Bryan Wish:

Beautiful. So many things I want to tell you offline. Do you think you’d be married today if you didn’t take that scan seriously?

Nick Schlekeway:

No. No. I mean, a scan was part of the process obviously. But everything that it’s signified, I mean, if I didn’t take that process seriously and do it, there’s no way I would be with my wife and I wouldn’t be married today.

Nick Schlekeway:

And it wasn’t because she was giving me an ultimatum. Like I said, we weren’t even really together at the time. We were kind of off and on and our relationship was kind of rocky. So it wasn’t like she was saying, Hey, you go do this or I’m out. Because if she would’ve said that, I would’ve said, well, pound sand, because that’s my personality. If you try to force me into something, I’m going to push back like a madman. It’s just the way that I’m built. So it wasn’t that. But the answer is no. I would not have been able to sustain a relationship with her. I wouldn’t have been able to get the toxic negative people out of my life that were blowing it up and at times blowing her and I’s relationship up. So, no.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. Save yourself probably future divorce as they say. It’s beautiful. Beautiful story. So Nick, I want to use this healing journey that you have gone down, which so special to even do. Most people would never even take it on or continue to numb. So to hear this it’s just incredible.

Bryan Wish:

I want to transition a little bit to the business that you built with fierce intensity and fast growth. And you said that after that period in 2012, the house, the divorce, left your job, you said six months later, I was going to start the business. I’d love the snapshot of where you were when you started it, kind of what your vision was. And 10 years later, where’s the business today?

Nick Schlekeway:

Well, I started it with a vision of a real estate brokerage that was known for professionalism, for quality, quality over quantity. For being able to serve all price points in residential real estate and also some commercial real estate here in Treasure Valley.

Nick Schlekeway:

And everything just came back to this idea of excellence in professionalism, quality. That’s the model that I wanted to build. And that’s the people that I wanted to work with. And some of that came from my background being around a lot of excellence and a lot of highly driven, successful, motivated people. And I wanted to create that environment.

Nick Schlekeway:

I discovered that I was very passionate about building cultures and building teams and building environments and everything that goes into an environment and what that really means for a professional and for a person. So that’s where it started was just this combination of all these different things in my life and saying, Hey, I want to build this environment, this team, this culture that’s known for this.

Nick Schlekeway:

And honestly, being an entrepreneur is very simple in some ways because it’s like we personally have a need as entrepreneurs. And then we kind of go out there in the world and we try to find that need with products or services that are already on the market and we can’t. We can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. So we’re crazy and egotistical and naive enough to think that we can do it. We can create it. We can build it. I mean, after a while in life, you learn that the reason why certain things don’t exist, like there’s a reason, right? It’s not always, sometimes people don’t do things and it’s not a good idea or people don’t do things because it’s not a good idea and it doesn’t fricking work. So when you have that entrepreneurial spirit, you learn some hard lessons about like, oh yeah, wow, the reason people don’t do this is because it doesn’t work and it’s a bad idea.

Nick Schlekeway:

But sometimes the reason people don’t do things is because they just didn’t have the willingness, the intestinal fortitude, the guts, the work ethic, the desire to see it through. So that’s what I say is where we’re at now, I guess nine years, this is going to be the ninth year. 2022. Nine years later is the brokerage that’s known for having the most professional agents, the brokerage that’s known for focusing on quality over quantity, the brokerage that’s known to have success and all price points. The brokerage that’s known to give back tirelessly to the community and work in the community and be positive stewards for the community. That’s a wrinkle that I brought to it that I’ve been passionate about my entire life ever since my mom used to walk with me when I was a kid and we’d pick up trash on the side of the country road I grew up on. My whole life community has been a part of what I do.

Nick Schlekeway:

So that’s been a really big blessing for me and a really big honor to be able to bring that to the brokerage. So numbers aside, business is funny because it tends to be very numbers driven. The numbers for us are not the reason. They’re just a side effect. They don’t have anything to do with the reasons for why we do what we do. It’s a way to measure. It’s a way to keep score. But there’s a lot of ways to measure and a lot of ways to keep score. So it’s mostly just a side effect is the way that I think about it.

Bryan Wish:

Just to build on what you said, I remember walking into your office a few weeks ago or a month ago, and I went to go sit at the coffee table I noticed, one that it was beautiful, the office, but there were signs on the wall with quotes. And I noticed immediately that you clearly cared about culture and the environment that people were in and the messaging of what that represented. And so just to take what you said maybe a step further is what creates a good environment? What creates a good culture for your people to operate, exist, live within, to achieve a vision that you chart them towards?

Nick Schlekeway:

Well, people need to know that you care. That’s a building block of culture that often gets overlooked. People need to know that you yourself personally are willing to sacrifice for the vision, for the mission, for whatever it is that you’re asking them to jump board in. People do like to be a part of things. They like to be a part of growth and winning teams. They like to be a part of companies that stand for something.

Nick Schlekeway:

But the first thing that they’re looking at is the leadership and saying, okay, are they practicing what they preach? Are they somebody that I can trust? And also do they care about me. Fundamentally, we all want to be cared for. And none of us are willing or able to follow somebody or follow a mission or be a part of a team for very long, if we don’t feel like anyone cares.

Nick Schlekeway:

So you got to show them that you care. And we’ve done that. And I specifically have done that in a lot of different ways. Part of it is time, energy, help, assistance, coaching, training, mentorship. Part of it is treasure, quite frankly. We’ve made a lot of exceptions for some people who are in hard times in their life. We’ve helped people out financially. I’ve helped people out financially. Stepping up where you can, when you can, how you can to try to get people through a tough time or a rough patch or get them to the next level of where they want to go personally or professionally. That’s, for me, something I’ve always strove towards, I guess I would say is getting beyond just professional with people to take an interest in what’s going on in their life and helping them elevate that. And that’s certainly true for our agents, independent contractor realtors. But it’s a hundred percent true of our staff, our employees, like the people that are extensions of me that make this whole thing work. We need them and want them and desire for them to know that we care.

Bryan Wish:

Beautiful. I mean, I think when people, just to build on it, [inaudible 00:47:22] But when the team feels to your point supported beyond work, like we actually care about their lives, like you’re saying you care, financial hardship, things of that nature, all the actions that don’t go unnoticed. Having a true desire to help others I think creates that glue and stickiness. So that’s so cool.

Bryan Wish:

Something I was thinking about as you were talking, was connecting maybe this personal path to the professional path. You talked about. There’s no personal, there’s no professional. It’s called the blend. When you maybe started going down the say emotional and spiritual path and started doing internal healing, did it change anything within your business? Did you start noticing impact in a different way, different decision making in a different way? Did anything happen when you started going down that?

Nick Schlekeway:

It did, but not right away. It definitely took time. It took time for some of the bad decisions that I had already made to flush their way through the system and make room and make space for more positive energy, more better decisions. So that was definitely frustrating for me because it was like, Hey, I’m making all these decisions and making all these changes in my personal life. I’m doing all these things that everybody’s telling me that I need to do. And it’s not doing shit. It’s not working. I still have like all these same problems and drama and rumors, or just, I don’t know, people that were still around that shouldn’t have been around. And hey, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.

Nick Schlekeway:

After making different decisions in my life for a year or two did I started seeing changes professionally? Yeah. I 100% did. I had more faith and trust from some of my partners in business than I had before. My workplace was completely drama free. Drama costs money, period. You want to look at the brass tax of dollar and professionalism and office and workplace. If you have drama in your workplace, it always costs you money as an owner one way or the other. So yeah, it 100% did.

Nick Schlekeway:

And so in 20, what was that like 20… This office that you were just talking about? I’ll use that as an example, because you brought it up. It’s this beautiful building. We moved into it 18 months ago, brand new building about 14,000 square feet. It’s it is the nicest real estate brokerage office in the state of Idaho. And that is uncontested. It’s not even close. It’s my first commercial real estate development. So I was the developer on the project. I found the land, I found the contractor, found the designer, the architect put everything together. And it’s kind of my vision behind the building that brought it to life, even down to a lot of the finer design details.

Nick Schlekeway:

So, this building was the biggest financial risk that I’d ever taken in my entire life. I mortgaged myself to the hilt and put myself in an extremely precarious, personal financial situation to make this building happen. And I didn’t do it alone. I had a business partner, Matt Bausher, that was right there with me. Matt’s the first agent actually that joined the brokerage. Him and I had partnered together on several things. He bought in as an owner of the brokerage a couple years back.

Nick Schlekeway:

But him and I were like 50/50 at the hip on this building project. And for both of us, it was a massive financial risk to do this development and build this building that was about a four million project today would be about five and a half six with inflation of what’s happened in construction. So how does that tie into decisions and personal life. Well, for one thing, a partner is not going to jump in with you like that on a project if they don’t trust you and if you’re not making good decisions and if you’re kind of a shit show for lack of a better word, personally. That’s not going to happen.

Nick Schlekeway:

Secondly, you yourself don’t have the strength, the intestinal fortitude, the stability, quite frankly, in your home life to take on that kind of a risk, if you’re not making good decisions or at least better decisions than I was making in 2014, 15, 16. So yeah, there’s a very real dollars and cents impact on your business. As an entrepreneur, as a business owner, so much of it is about risk. Your willingness to take on risk. You have to be willing to take on risk to grow. And that’s a, an incremental sort of 50/50 correlated relationship, right? Like the more you want to grow, the more risk you have to take on. That’s just the way that it is. And you can’t do that if you don’t have a good foundation.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. So well said, I love what you said about trust. When you did the personal things on the personal side, you noticed that team members, your family, there’s more trust there so that you had the foundation to then go take bigger leaps. Congratulations on the project. I noticed the building immediately walking in. I didn’t know it was your vision behind it. I’m not surprised. But I think that’s a really cool story and testament to, it’s not just the building, it’s all the things that led up to you saying, let’s do this and without doing some of the prior work, would have never been possible.

Nick Schlekeway:

Yeah, yeah. And PS on the building. So it was one of those situations where you’re making a risk and in order for that to not blow up in your face, you need everything in the market to stay good and stay kind of at equilibrium and things to continue on a positive trajectory for the next couple years, until you can heal up a little bit and put some dry powder back in your counts and whatever.

Nick Schlekeway:

Well, we opened the building in May of 2020. So right when the building was getting finalized and we were getting our move in dates and figuring out when we’re going to move into this building is when COVID hit. So here we are taking like this massive risk and it’s February, March of 2020, and markets are freezing. No one’s buying or selling anything. I watch our incoming transaction volume get cut in half in a 10 day period.

Nick Schlekeway:

And Matt and I are looking at each other like, holy shit, like we are screwed. I mean, this is literally like a nightmare. The worst possible timing you could ever freaking have. We’re thinking that things need to be stable for the next couple years. And now the entire world’s getting shut down from this virus and nobody knows what is going to happen. The universe will test you, man. I’m telling you, it’ll give you gut checks.

Nick Schlekeway:

Now for us in that situation, hey, we lucked out. As it turns out, we live and work in Boise, Idaho, and what nobody knew at that time that we would find out six months later was that COVID was going to just put gasoline behind Boise growth because there’s so many people moving here from west coast cities that are completely locked down. I mean, who knew that? Nobody knew that. We sure heck didn’t know that. But that was a nervous time.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. Yeah. Nervous time for so many. But the fact that you have $4 million mortgage under your belt is without your transactions cut in half. I’m sure. But right. The emotional resilience that you built earlier, I’m sure you handle the situation so much better. What a story.

Bryan Wish:

So with the business, where are you now with employees? Where do you see the next 10, 15, 20 years? I mean, it seems like you’re here to play a long term game and build something elite and continue building something elite. I mean, where’s your vision today and how do you think this next chapter is going to look?

Nick Schlekeway:

Yeah. One of the things I’m most passionate about and I actually enjoy the most about any business is just having a concept and then bringing in all these different pieces and parts that make it work better, make it work more efficiently at time, make it more profitable in some instances. So for us, we set out to build this company that serves professional full-time agents. That was our target. Well, then the next immediate question is if you’re committed to that journey, anyways, is what do they need? That’s our customer, our customers now defined. We know who our customer is. We can go out and find thousands of surveys on them and what they like, and don’t like, and want, and don’t want. So what do they want and what do they need?

Nick Schlekeway:

And then you set out to start building services for that customer. For that agent that really thrives here. So, for me, here’s, the great news is I am a long term thinker. This is a long game for me. And we are just now starting to be able to do some of the things that I wanted to do eight years ago. I bootstrapped this company. I didn’t take on any debt. I grew it very organically. So, that takes time. It takes time to grow a company that way. And you can’t just go out on day one or on year one, or even on year two or three and start doing all these different things that you wanted to do, because you don’t have any money for it. And you need to incrementally grow revenue. And then maybe make a hire or make a couple hires and add some services.

Nick Schlekeway:

And so we’ve been able to add some, but we want to add a lot more. And that’s probably one of the more exciting things for me is to continue to grow. Yes, and continue to bring on agents who want to next level in their career agents who want to be professionals, agents who do believe in quality over quantity. I don’t have a limit or a target or a number on how many agents I want or how big I want to expand. We want to expand significantly and continue down that path.

Nick Schlekeway:

But what I think about on a day to day basis is more adding those services that I know that group of agents desperately wants and needs. And that’s a different perspective as a brokerage. Most real estate brokerages look at it like, Hey, the agent is going to hold their license here. They’re independent contractors. They’re running their own business. So beyond just their license and file compliance, they’re on their own to go out there and find all these services on their own.

Nick Schlekeway:

And I’ve just found that’s not a very good model. It doesn’t serve most agents very well. I actually puts them on an island and removes their tools to be successful and kind of says, well, it’s all up to you and if you fail, it’s your fault. Well, a life in business is not that simple.

Nick Schlekeway:

So what I’m most excited about is like we have our own transaction coordination department. That’s a specific function within real estate that’s become more and more popular in the last 10 years where agents are farming out a lot of their file compliance meetings follow up. It’s almost like a kind of an assistant role, but specific to that transaction kind of assistant.

Nick Schlekeway:

So we have our own in-house program here. We have three full-time employee ways that are TCs in the company, and we provide that service for our agents. Now, they don’t have to use it. It’s optional, but about 60, 70% of our agents do use it because it’s priced at below market. And it’s a fantastic service and they can go right down the hall to talk to a TC if they have a question or a problem.

Nick Schlekeway:

So that’s an example of something we’ve done in the last two and a half years that is very unique. I don’t know any other brokerage in Idaho that does it in terms of having staff members that you pay a salary to and they only do that work for your agents. And it’s a benefit to our agents. So we’re looking to do the same thing with other parts of our business.

Nick Schlekeway:

The next one up is relocation. So I’m working on building a relocation department right now. We just hired a relocation director out of Denver. She’s been doing it for like 20 years. She’s extremely experienced. She knows exactly what she’s about. She’s going to help us build this relocation team and department to one of the finest in the state. And there’s a marketing creative side that I want to add that provides those services to agents.

Nick Schlekeway:

So there’s several pieces like that that we’re very excited to be working on. And like I said, I’m just starting to have fun in a lot of ways. I had the kind of vision that, Hey, the first five or six years were a grind, because like I said, didn’t take debt on. I bootstrapped it. And quite frankly, I wasn’t getting to do some of the things that were really fun for me, that I was looking forward to doing. And now I am, and that’s really exciting.

Bryan Wish:

Super special. I love how you didn’t want, I mean, fact to take any debt on or capital on. Said I’m just going to grow this organically. And you’re eight years in, you’re saying now I actually get to have the fun. You’ve taking a very unsexy path and the path now that you kind of sounds like spice up a bit, but also grow the vision at the same time. And Nick, this has been a treat. I hope this went as well for you as I thought it did. And I enjoyed every minute.

Nick Schlekeway:

It’s been great. Yeah. And it’s been great to meet you and be a part of your journey as well. So I appreciate the time and the candor, the energy and looking forward to maybe doing it again sometime.

Bryan Wish:

Yeah. I would love to. Nick, where can people find you to reach out or website or all those things?

Nick Schlekeway:

Yeah. I do have a website that’s just my name, NickSchlekeway.com. I am a part-time blogger, although I don’t get to do that as much as I would like running a business. But I do enjoy writing. I’ve got a lot more writing in my future and I do have a blog site up with information about myself. They can find me on LinkedIn. They can find me on Instagram or Facebook. I’m on the major channels.

Bryan Wish:

Awesome. Well, thank you, Nick. Appreciate your time and candor and excited to share it.

Nick Schlekeway:

All right, man. Thank you.

One Away Podcast
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