Over nine months, Fort St. John real estate agent and city councillor Trevor Bolin toured the United States and Canada with his first book Take Charge and Change Your Life Today!
From talk shows, to breakfast television and national news, Bolin told viewers how he got his life on track and dug himself out of debt the hard way, no silver spoon in hand.
"I could have typically said that I thought I had a disadvantage, I couldn't do this I couldn't do that, but that's not me, that's not my style," says Bolin. "My nature is to take a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage. How can you change what you think you've been given and realize what you have is a pretty phenomenal gift?"
Bolin calls his early years a typical Fort St. John upbringing; his father worked in the oil patch and his mother, in an office. When he was about 14 years old, Bolin says his father got into drugs and struggled with addiction for many years after.
"It's one of those things that you don't fully understand it until it touches your life. My dad passed away about three years ago, but he struggled with drugs from the time I was 14 until the time I was about 28 or 29 years old, so for a long time," says Bolin. "Even up until the moment when he passed away, my biggest thing back to him was that I felt it was more of a fortunate experience going through those 12 or 13 years helping him to deal with that, helping him to cope with that and learning more about addictions; not what you read on the internet or not what you read in a book, but actually being there to see what happens. That's when my typical childhood changed."
From this, Bolin points to one of the points that he emphasizes both in his book and associated interviews.
"The biggest thing with the book was for people to realize, it doesn't matter what situation you're in right now, you can change it, you can change it to whatever you want," says Bolin.
And his method of changing his situation, as he outlined in the one-time Amazon top 100 book, was to make a plan and stick to it.
"When I was in financial ruins - when I was 19, 20 years old I had a large amount of debt - I basically had to figure out how I could overcome that, so I started to write a plan," says Bolin. "Part of that plan was the steps I needed to take. The more I started to write this stuff out the easier it looked because it was as if I was looking at it through another set of eyes."
Those well-planned out steps are what led Bolin to writing Take Charge and Change Your Life Today! despite, as he says, never being a writer.
"That is basically a compilation of all of those notes, life changing ideas, life changing plans," says Bolin. One of the comment responses he received both from reviewers and readers, was that they felt like they were talking to him, rather than being given a list or lecture.
That was his goal, he says; not to say "you must do this, you must not do this", but to give some suggestions on what can be done to change whatever you want. It was about giving the real life examples of what he overcame and how it is possible for others to also take those positive steps.
In penning his first book and in conducting interviews afterwards, Bolin said one of the challenges he found was in communicating his real intentions.
"The hardest thing I had was trying to relay how I actually felt, so when it came out on paper it was the same passion that drove it," said Bolin. "It wasn't because it would be cool, it wasn't because of the tangible benefits if I can do it and one other person can understand how I did it, it was worth it, and I think a lot of other people did understand how did it."
Sitting in his Fort St. John Re/Max office - he also owns the office in Chetwynd - Bolin's mile-a-minute style of talking and enthusiasm is hard to miss. It is from this passion that he says success is born.
"It's not about just doing the same thing every day and hating what you do, it's about absolutely being passionate about what you do," says Bolin. "If you can be passionate and find something you can be passionate about, you can do anything."
He is not hesitant to say that his entry into realty was somewhat happenstance, as he got caught behind a convoy of realtors at the traffic circle near the airport in Fort St. John and was intrigued by the option of having his name on a truck.
"I thought, I'd like to get my name on my car. How can I get my name on my car? Well, I could become a realtor," Bolin laughs, adding that he no longer has his name on his car in an effort to maintain some privacy in the city.
When he was young, Bolin says he had similar aspirations to other children, becoming a policeman or firefighter, but realizes afterwards that he had always had an uncommon interest in the real estate market.
"I'll guarantee the words never crossed my mouth that I wanted to be a realtor but I sure knew who all the realtors were and I was probably the only 12-year-old kid that knew what the average sales price in Fort St. John was," Bolin laughs. "It was the connection that I liked because you'd see realtors and you'd always see them with people, they were always with families, trying to figure out how to solve what the next step was."
Bolin got into real estate at 19 years old and says, like politics, he watched and learned and then started to do it differently.
Now going into his sixth year as a city councillor in Fort St. John, Bolin says although there will always be critics - particularly when it comes to raising taxes or utilities - the city is in a better place today than it was in prior years.
"You don't do it for the money, you don't do it for the esteem, you do it for the pleasure of hopefully being able to bring something more to the community," says Bolin. "I wanted to bring more of a business sense to Fort St. John."
Bolin says he views politics like his real estate business, with an overarching theme of "there's got to be a better way to do it".
When it comes to his business, around 2001 to 2003 Bolin started to change things up a little, rolling out direct marketing, Northern Homes & Gardens magazine and signage that strayed from the typical agent headshot.
Demonstrating his arms wide-open stance that still stands out on billboards around Fort St. John, Bolin says that the new approach was not immediately accepted.
"People were like woah, what are doing? Are you hugging?" he laughs. "I was like no, it's just me. I'm here."
Although the marketing has certainly helped Bolin's business to succeed, his interest in the job comes full circle with the focus of his books on setting a goal and making a plan to get there.
"I think that's what has kept me as passionate about real estate as I am, it isn't the marketing and new programs, it's coming out with ways that I could help [clients] find what that step is and that's been my driving force for 15 years," says Bolin. "It's being able to show people that: here's A, you need to get to C, we may not have to go through B, we may be able to go around B and take you right to a direct route, or here's the steps we need to take."
Bolin doesn't see this interest waning in the next few years but is taking on another project towards what he calls the next step of his life: philanthropy.
This year Bolin is establishing a not-for-profit that will support residents of the city with various resources to overcome challenging situations.
"I've always found the people that need the help the most are too afraid to ask for it," says Bolin. The not-for-profit will allow friends and family of people in need of support to come to the board, which Bolin will chair, to seek out support.
With approximately $100,000 from various local organizations per year dedicated towards the effort, Bolin says they will be able to help a number of people and families but says it isn't just about the money.
"We want to take it one step farther, to get in there, to help them change what they're doing, change what they're working on," says Bolin. "If there's a single mom and she's struggling, instead of someone giving her a $500 gift card, find out why she's in trouble, how she's in trouble and give her the tools to sort it out."
In concert with the organization, Bolin is releasing his second book - there will be three in total - titled Breaking Through the Old You. While his first book offered the baby steps to get back on track, Bolin says the second book goes deeper and like the not-for-profit is about how people can move past their challenges onto a new path.
"It's taking what I've learned; I've been extremely fortunate, it's humbling how fortunate I've been and I've been that fortunate because of the people around me in this community," says Bolin. "I want to make sure that the people that are the closest to us that are in trouble can get the help. I think we need to help those of us that are at home, first."
Helping people is something Bolin has always loved, during his book tour his favourite interviews were when the hosts brought forward real life problems - taken from family and friends - and posed them to Bolin, asking what he would do in those situations.
"They dropped this on me as I showed up, I was sitting in the green room thinking I'd do another interview like I've done 40 of them already and they come back in the green room and were like, we have a brilliant idea," explains Bolin. "I was like seriously? Live? All right, let's do it."
He says it was a fantastic experience to have that sort of one on one interaction and be able to help others through that process of making a plan to make a change, which he says is critical.
"If you don't have a plan for your life, somebody else does and you're probably not going to like where you end up," says Bolin. "If you're the one that's in control of your plan, whether its real estate, whether it's political, whether it's financial, whether it's life in general: be in charge."
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