Richard Gontrand was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  He was always entrepreneurial and looked for opportunities to work and be a leader to younger people in his neighborhood.  He worked for a time in a neighborhood barber shop.  At the age of 17 he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School.  He spent about two years in Pennsylvania handling several contract jobs for delivery companies and giving himself some time to plan and set goals for himself.  Richard chose not to go to college because his goal was to be self-employed.  He wanted the independence and flexibility that comes from having his own business. 

He always had an interest in real estate, so he set that as his goal and decided to return to Brooklyn, New York.  He studied at home using the computer and successfully passed the real estate exam and started working as a real estate agent at the age of 22.  His real estate license enables him to sell residential or commercial real estate, but he focuses his business on residential sales. 

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit, or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

I have a self-taught person.  It is a way of life for me.  I set a goal for myself and then I get busy teaching myself all that I can so I can achieve that goal.  I don’t like having to sit and wait for someone to tell me how to do something.  I want to learn from the best and from the people that are already doing what I want to learn, but I am glad to put in the hard work and study to learn on my own.  

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

When I feel unfocused, I clean.  I just start cleaning my house to take a break, and after some cleaning usually I am able to start focusing again. 

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

The advice I would give to a young person getting started in life is to spend some time with yourself and consider what you would really like.  During that time, try not to ask for advice or listen to the advice of other people because you have to make some decisions for yourself.  Other people may give you some good advice, but everyone’s life is different, and you have to live with the decision that you make.  Nobody else can live with that.  Spend time with yourself so the answers can come to you. 

If you don’t get the answer that you want right away, don’t be discouraged.  Not everybody finds out what they want to do in life right away.  Sometimes it takes time and some life experience before you know what really matters to you.  If you are having a hard time figuring out what you want to do in life and how you want to overcome your challenges, keep working, get a day job, and when the answers come, they will come. 

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

Eating healthy is a lifestyle trend that I follow and that is important to me.  I really try to eat healthy.  I am working on making improvements.  I hope when I’m 50, I’ll be getting some compliments that I look younger. 

Reading is also very important to me.  I am always looking for ways to improve myself and learn new things. 

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

Magic Johnson has been an inspiration to me.  I am inspired by people that come from areas like I came from, who really started out with nothing, lived in the worst neighborhoods, and managed to better themselves through hard work. 

My life experiences have also provided a lot of inspiration for me more than a single person.  Life has moved me in certain directions and given me challenges that have helped me to become who I am today.  I have people that I look up to and that inspire me, but I really believe that life is my biggest inspiration.  You never how things are going to end up until you look back and are like, oh, wow, I did this. 

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned?

One of the biggest life lessons I have learned is to not listen to elders who have not accomplished much.  If you have lived life and have not accomplished much or just been average, then your advice will not help me to become better than average.  Everyone has some wisdom from living life but imagine the wisdom you can get from someone who has accomplished a lot of things and been through a lot of hurdles.  It makes a difference who you learn from and who you listen to.  You should listen to someone who has achieved the kind of things you want to achieve. 

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

Success is doing what you want to do.  It is setting goals for yourself and accomplishing them.  I also think of it as being competent and proficient, doing something over and over again and getting better and better each time I do it.  You do have to work hard and pay your dues to accomplish things. 

How do you stay motivated?

I see a better life for me.  Having good experiences and quality of life matters to me.  There are levels in life that I want to get to, and that keeps me motivated.  I also know if I can achieve more in life it will give me the ability to start helping other people.  Those goals motivate me. 

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

I want to be the person that helps and motivates others to do well.  When you finish helping yourself, what’s next?  Then you get to help others.  Life is not about showing off everything you have.  That is boring and is not cool.  It will mean more to me to help others.  I want to be a person that helps.