Lifting the Weight, My Story

Sometimes a friend or a client will ask me how I got my start. It’s an innocent enough question, but one that gives me pause. The road to founding my own Las Vegas real estate brokerage and real estate investment company has been a winding one, with more than its fair share of ups and downs. And it all begins in the mountains of the Idaho panhandle, with a boy watching Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone movies on a black and white TV with a bad reception connected to a car battery for power.

I didn’t come from money. In the backwoods of Priest Lake, Idaho, my childhood home had several walls made out of cardboard, and the property was littered with derelict cars. From a young age, I was milking cows, feeding chickens, and chopping firewood to help keep my family afloat. My home life was difficult, to say the least, and school wasn’t much better.

I didn’t start going to school until the third grade and didn’t learn to read until the fourth. Getting on the bus every day in my Goodwill clothes and hand-me-down sneakers and being unable to participate in class with kids my age made me feel ashamed just for being who I was – for not having as much as everyone else. That all changed in the ninth grade, when I discovered bodybuilding.

We were getting ready to start a course on weightlifting for gym class. To prepare, our coach showed us a video of a world-class bodybuilder. Seeing his muscles and the confident, dignified way he carried himself, all I could think was, “Man, I want to look like that.” I went to the library and immediately picked up a copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 book, “Encyclopedia of Modern Body Building .”

I devoured Arnold’s writing. While I’d picked up the book to learn more about getting in shape, I found myself connecting with the life story of this Austrian weightlifter-turned-celebrity. He also grew up in poverty and used exercise as a way to gain self-reliance and self-respect.

After school, I used to ride my bike 10 miles to mow the lawn at a local resort. My mom took every cent I made. But at night, I read about Arnold riding his bike to a small gym, dreaming of making it to the promised land. At this point, I adopted the philosophy “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” For once in my life, I had someone I could look up to.

I threw myself into bodybuilding, becoming quite the aspiring bodybuilder by the time I graduated. I went to college on a full-tuition waiver scholarship for college cheerleading, leaving my tiny hometown for sunny California, and later Hawaii. Through hard work and dedication, I set myself free.

You may be wondering how I went from being a college cheerleader to a real estate broker. Well, as you might imagine, such a transition was the result of a few detours. There were some hard lessons that had to be learned, but they helped shape me into the man I am today.

Throughout college, I had my heart set on becoming a personal trainer and ultimately a physical therapist. I’d seen firsthand how diet and exercise could build more than just muscle – they could build confidence and self-respect as well. I wanted to help others in the same way Schwarzenegger had helped me. But my girlfriend had other plans.

The woman I was dating in college had high standards for the life she wanted and made it abundantly clear that a personal trainer’s wages weren’t going to cut it. Being young, wanting a bigger and better future for myself and thinking I understood what love was, I threw my plans out the window to keep her happy. At her insistence, I hung up the sweat bands, donned a suit, and tried my hand as a stockbroker.

I hated working in the stock market; it felt like being a cliché used-car salesman, but worse. I didn’t feel I was helping people as a stockbroker and could not ultimately keep up with both jobs . I wasn’t providing any value or improving people’s lives. Like I said, detours and hard lessons.

I got out of the stock market – and out of my toxic relationship – soon after. That’s when I discovered real estate. I first became a loan officer, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I got to actually help folks get the homes they wanted, and it felt great. Over time, I worked my way through the industry, eventually climbing my way up to where I am today.

While the journey may have been tough, I don’t regret any of it. Without these trials, I might not be the man I am today. Helping people face their own challenges and giving them the resources and dedication they deserve is the best part of my job.

So, how can I help?

-Lathe Lavada
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