18 Sep “Philanthro-capitalism” – Living life, making money and giving back, with Frank McKinney
My guest is Frank McKinney. Frank is an Ultra-marathoner, he’s and actor and a speaker, and he’s a “philanthrocapitalist.” That’s right, he spends a whole lot of time giving back. In fact, he and his wife founded the Caring House Project Foundation, which is a non-profit that provides housing, and self-sustaining existence for homeless families in the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Indonesia, and here in the United States as well. For example, at the end of 2017, they finished their 24th self-sufficient village and sheltered over 10,000 people in Haiti alone. How cool is that?
Frank has been featured on Oprah, 20/20, CNN, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel. He’s been featured in 2,500 plus TV and print stories.
Frank, welcome to DREAM THINK DO!
You know, make that 2,501.
Yes, exactly right, and extra hash mark!
Hey, folks, I’m honored, I’m excited. I’m coming to you today from my oceanfront, tree house office. Too bad we’re not on video because I’d spin the camera around and show you. I’m sitting 25 feet above sea level with 12 windows surrounding me in this tree house that I work from. Yes, this is where I wrote all six of my books, where I design my houses, and where I’m talking to Mitch today. Not because of DREAM THINK DO, but because of Mitch Matthews’ smile. The guy has the best smile.
I appreciate that greatly, and I wish I was sitting in the tree house with you. And gang, he’s literally up in a tree in a beautiful, beautiful office. It’s the coolest. Literally. He showed me before we hit record. He showed me his ocean view, which I do not have in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa. So, I love it, man.
We met years ago, I was trying to think of the year where Dr. Molly Marty invited us to both speak at her conference in Chicago. The more I’ve learned from you and gotten to know you, the more I’ve been impressed. So I’ve just been so excited to have you on. I finally get to ask you some of these questions I’ve wanted to ask. How about that?
I’m ready man.
That’s the whole reason I have a podcast, to finally ask the questions I want to ask.
Let’s talk about this, now, because I know, you know, DREAM THINK DO-ers as we talked about before I hit record, these are rock stars around the world. These are entrepreneurs, and leaders, and globe changes. A lot of them are fighting back from tough starts, right? They haven’t just been given an easy life. They’ve had to really take a stand and really make a mark wherever they’re at. And you are one of those people. You are one of those people who has truly shaped a life that’s … it’s trite to say, but it’s outside the box. You’ve blown up the box. But you’re doing great things, you’re building these million dollar homes, you’re helping people all over the world. It almost sounds like you’re royalty, but you didn’t grow up in royalty.
You grew up in pretty humble beginnings. You didn’t grow up in these million dollar homes doing philanthropy as a kid. So, give us a little picture, a quick snapshot of Frank as a kiddo. What I want to hear is what was at least one moment where you decided, “I’m gonna do something different with my life.”
Well, first of all, let’s start with asking the question, why does there have to be a box at all?
Either inside the box, or everybody says, you work for a nine-to-five, and you’ve got a job, then you must be inside the box. There’s such a thing that’s called and intrapreneur. Somebody who has entrepreneurial but they’re inside a company. But they’re in a box.
But then you’ve got an entrepreneur who’s outside the box. Forget the box. No box. We don’t have a box.
But back to my childhood. I mean, I was in juvenile detention multiple times before I turned 18 before it got real. When I realized if I kept it up I’d end up someplace other than a little fun house where poor kids go when they’re in trouble.
Growing up on a farm in Indiana, a corn-fed country boy with a dad who worked at a bank, and a mom who was a school teacher. I’m the oldest of six kids. I graduated high school with a 1.8 grade point average, so didn’t have the chance to pursue a formal education. Community college wasn’t even in the cards with that kind of GPA.
Well-known psychiatrists say, “Our character is formed by the age of 12 at the latest.” Right?
So, as a young child, a young boy, I had very self-destructive tendencies. What landed me in juvenile detention wasn’t going to church every morning.
It was inappropriate behavior. I actually give a lot of talk to kids that graduate from either juvenile detention themselves, or they graduate from substance abuse places. We really can’t change who we are, we can just redirect self-destructive, or destructive tendencies into something constructive.
Maybe at my age, I don’t need an adrenaline rush like I used to need, I might need an adrenaline drip, just picture and IV bag, dripping into the arm. But, Mitch, it’s all constructive. So, I didn’t co-op myself, when I moved to Florida at 18 years old with a $50 bill. I just said, “You know what?” A, why does there have to be a box, and B, Indiana really wasn’t the place for me to make my mark. I had to get out from underneath my family, and my father, and all that. So, after deciding to move to South Florida, which turned out to be the land of opportunity, I never ever had to co-op myself.
What I had to do, though, is redirect behavior, and I still have to do this. We all do this.
I also found, as a young person becoming an adult, was motivation doesn’t last, folks. Motivation lasts about as long as it takes for you to wash the soap off your body, and watch it go down the drain. So, in other words, if Mitch and his podcast simply motivate you, he has failed you.
What about inspiration, Frank? Inspiration lasts about as long as bad sunburn. So, I can get it, I can watch a movie, Mitch, I can read a book that inspirational, but eventually, it dissipates. What I learned that will change your DNA, it changed my DNA. And I would argue with a scientist that it changes the DNA, is aspiration.
Motivation goes down the drain, inspiration dissipates like a sunburn, but, I aspire to be a real estate artist. We’ll define that in a minute. I aspired to build self-sufficient villages in Haiti. I aspired to finish the toughest footrace in the world according to National Geographic. I aspired to be a best-selling author, even though I had a horrible GPA. Those aren’t things you motivate to or inspire to, these are things you put on what I call the aspirational pedestal. That aspirational mantle above your fireplace.
So, that as a kid, and even as an adult, if I lose motivation one day, or if I lose inspiration one day to train for my Ultramarathon, let’s say, for example, I’ll never lose sight of that aspirational goal of being a real estate artist, running charity in Haiti, running these long distance races. It is the most important lesson that I can deliver today.
That is awesome. I’d love to dive deeper into that too, as far as that aspiration. We can even use the real estate as an example.
Did you go to Florida knowing that real estate was where you were headed? Or was that something that came later? And how did that unveil itself especially as an aspiration for you?
No, I left Indiana just to get out from underneath what I felt like was a dead-end for me. I didn’t know what was down here other than it would be sunnier, and warmer, and the bikinis were gonna be smaller. There wasn’t much to it, other than I was 18 and needed to get out of Indiana.
But, landing in Florida, what became apparent to me was, being in the land of opportunity, being a place where I went from being a maintenance worker on a golf course, where I got to watch people who played golf all day in the morning, and then watch those same people as a maintenance worker on the tennis courts. If you’re my age or older, you might remember a show called the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
So I watched that show and listened to Robin Leech and that fantastic accent. Then I got to watch people live it during the day. So, when I said, “Okay, I’m a maintenance worker, I’d rather be playing golf or tennis, like these people.” I then was certified as a tennis instructor, I was a good tennis player as a young boy, I picked up the racket again, I was a tennis instructor, I was making $100,000 a year at 21. I bought a Ferrari. I realized you know what? There’s a limit to how much money I can make on this tennis court. The people that were paying me $50 an hour were the people who were in real estate.
I earned my Ph.D. in entrepreneurship, and my Master’s in Real Estate on the tennis court, teaching wealthy people how to hit a better forehand or backhand, but, at the end of that tennis lesson, I’d sit them down and ask them, “How’d you get here? What did you do?” I picked the brain of the ultra-wealthy for two years.
In the late 80s, I bought my first crack house. It was a two bedroom, one bath, 620 square foot house, that I bought for $30,000. I used my own money. I bought it, fixed it, flipped it. Before there were shows about flipping.
Right, that wasn’t even a real term back then.
It wasn’t even a show. Wasn’t even a thing. We flipped it and made $7,000.
Maybe some of your listeners have read the book Blink by-
And in that book, how many hours does it take to become an expert?
10,000 divided by a 40 hour week, is five years. For five years, I didn’t undertake a speculative project worth more than $100,000. Guess what I got good at? Guess what I became an expert at? The craft of real estate. The craft of real estate. So, by the time I jumped from $100,000 house to a $2 million dollar house. There was nothing in between. Because, according to Gladwell, I was an expert. So, by adding a simple zero behind $100,000 to make it a million, it was no big deal to me. So, yes, I did hundreds, and hundreds of smaller houses, graduating to the multi-million dollar houses, and I did all of these on speculation. Meaning I don’t know when I would get paid.
Right, you didn’t have a buyer in place, you just believe that you would get one.
That’s where the real estate artist was born. I can’t sing or play an instrument, but I build 3-dimensional art. That people can live in. I thought about Renoir, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh, and I thought, “Did they ever go to the paint store, and buy the cheapest paint? Did they watch how much they were spending on their brushes or their pallet that they dipped that brush in?” No, they were so proud of the art that they created, that … Look how much the pieces of art are worth.
That’s the approach I took. When I was selling them for $50,000, they were the nicest crack houses on the block when I got done with them.
I love that, and I appreciate that so much because I think, it’s so easy to look at someone, see their success, and not know about the five years when nobody was looking. The 10,000 hours when you weren’t on Oprah when you weren’t on the front page of the USA Today. They see you now, but it is so good to know that. It’s also something everybody can apply to be able to say, “All right, what am I going to be intentionally be learning, doing, and maybe yes, when nobody’s looking, so that I can become an artist? So that I can master my craft?”
Now, be willing to have your overnight success take 20 years. When you’re willing to say that’s okay with you, then you’ll be a success a lot sooner than 20 years from now.
Absolutely. So, here’s my next question. Again, these all go under the genre of stuff I’ve always wanted to ask Frank. So, I want to paint a picture. You talk about being a real estate artist. But, some of the houses that you built are just mind-blowing.
One of your houses literally, and maybe more than one, has a floor in the main room that is an aquarium underneath, right? Give us a couple of examples of extreme rooms by Frank McKinney.
Okay, I’ll give you a few, but I’m gonna give you the “why” beforehand, okay?
Because this is not tribute to my ego. I don’t want to be a starving artist. So, I’m building to a profile of a buyer that I have crafted over now, 25 years. Because, hey, you said it, Mitch. I don’t know who my buyer is.
But, I can profile what he, or she, is going to like before they know they like it.
Yes. When they walk in they’re like, “This is what I’ve always wanted! I just have never verbalized it.”
If I can do that, build something that they like, before they know they like it, I can go to the bank the next day. I can cash the check the next day.
So, there are certain rooms in real estate that you want to take chances in. I take a lot of chances in my foyer, which is what I call the front door, the significant front door event. When you walk through the front door of a spec house, my houses, I want your blood pressure to drop 20 points, while my bank account raises a million dollars. It’s really important that those two move in a separate direction.
The house you’re referring to had a water floor. You were literally walking on water by way of this thick layer of glass. Beneath it was 18″ of crystal clear water, fish swimming beneath there, a beautiful lotus garden motif hand-painted on there. There was a chandelier that looked like it was dripping into the floor. It was a whole foyer. It was over 400 square feet of walking on water.
I just finished a house, that we just sold, where the kitchen countertops were made out of sea glass collected from beaches from around the world. Beautiful. I mean, imagine, sea glass is about the size of your thumbnail. These were tens of thousands of pieces melted down, put into a mold, and then poured out over my kitchen countertops. One of my tubs was made by an 84-year-old boat-builder, who basically hand-made a wooden tub out of mahogany.
So, with all that being said, does Frank McKinney still get scared? When you think about a glass floor, and the investment in that glass floor, without having a buyer or doing that kind of countertop, do you feel fear? And if so, if not, how do you deal with that?
Okay. So, this is really important, because people have this misconception that I have no fear. I am afraid every day of my life. Every day of my life, not knowing when I will get paid for the last 25 plus years, is a terrifying experience.
Yes, you can exercise your risk tolerance like a muscle, and eventually, yes, it becomes stronger. That’s one of the chapters in my very first book. It’s actually the most popular chapter of my most popular book. Exercise your risk tolerance like a muscle. Eventually, it becomes stronger and able to withstand greater pressure.
Imagine you’re building a $20 million house on speculation. So, I’m taking all the risk. If it doesn’t sell, I’m eating out of a dumpster, or living in a dumpster, either one of the two.
Yeah, bye-bye tree house.
Bye-bye treehouse, bye-bye everything. So, we went through a few recessions, right? Here’s the thing about fear. This is gonna get a little philosophical. Fear is always associated with the thought of taking a risk. Just the thought. I’m gonna give a simple analogy, if you happen to have gone on a roller coaster, or you’ve jumped out of an airplane, it’s the thought before that roller coaster goes down that first hill, as it’s going click, click, click, click, click, click, up to the top, or if you’re in that plane, or ready to bungee jump. The thought of bungeeing, or jumping out of the plane. It’s the thought that causes the fear.
Once we execute, we push through that fear, it goes away. It goes away. So, fear is associated with the thought of taking a risk. Now, what is the risk usually associated with? A big change, or a big challenge in our life. When we think about taking the risk, that is when the fear sets in.
So being afraid every day for me means understanding that I’m taking a risk on a speculative property or whatever it happens to be. So I embraced the fear.
I embraced the fear. I don’t let it stop me, but I don’t deny it either. Because, if I’m done being afraid, then I’m not risking anything, and if I’m not risking, there’s not change or challenge in my life. Who wants to live like that? I don’t
I love it. It’s not really fighting the fear. If you wake up and there’s not some fear there, either from challenge or change, then you’re stagnating.
Yes, you’re stagnating. There is one thing that’s missing though. Let’s use your analogy, everybody listening to this wakes up in the morning, and if there’s fear there, it’s because we are either in the process of taking a risk or thinking about taking a risk associated with change or challenge.
And change or challenge can be present every single day of our life. It can be spiritual, financial, relational, dietary, physical. It’s there.
And DREAM THINK DO is not about stagnation, if it were, you wouldn’t be listening to this.
So I have now learned that that sensation called fear is actually a good thing. And it is NOT always going to work out. I failed my race in the desert this year, one that I spent six months training for. I made 91 miles, and I about died. I had to withdraw at 91 miles.
I’m not an advocate for every risk being calculated, by the way. Everybody says, “Oh Frank, are these all calculated?” No, they’re not all perfectly calculated. Some of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve ever made in my life were the ones where I calculated to a certain extent and I said, “Guys, we’re going uncalculated from here on out.” There’s no model. There’s no path, there’s no box.
Yeah. That is awesome. I love it. So, I want to talk about the Foundation, and I want to talk about your newest book.
Your foundation is the Caring House Project. As I mentioned before, you’re having an impact on people literally around the world. But what made you start this? Because you started it back in ’98, right? So, you were on your trajectory, but you weren’t at the peak of your business. A lot of people, you’ll see, as they’re nearing retirement, that’s when they start their foundation, or as they’re kind of at the pinnacle of their career, and maybe getting ready to coast a little bit, that’s when they start their foundation. But you’re in the midst of what, starting your first million dollar homes, but, what makes you stop, or at least say, “Wait, I’m also, in addition to building homes for millionaires, and the richest and wealthiest people in the world, I’m also going to take time to build houses for the poorest.” What makes you do that and why are you glad you did it now?
Well, it’s really simple, and it is the key to success is the business we’re all in, Mitch. And that’s the business of life. When you understand that this very simple mantra for the agnostic and atheist, and this very simple Bible passage for the believer, your life will be made complete. You can hop over happiness and land on joy. I’m gonna paraphrase it, I’m not gonna get all Biblical on you, “To whom much is entrusted, much is expected.” It’s Luke 12:48. It is a fantastic life mantra for those of you who aren’t religious, and it’s a fantastic Biblical passage for those of you who are.
Because, man, I realized 20 years ago that yes, 1.8 GPA, time in juvenile detention, came to Florida with a $50 bill in my pocket, and I was doing pretty well, even as a tennis pro, let alone at real estate. So, I am a religious man. I’m a Christian. And I love that passage. And it hit me when I read Luke 12:48 for the first time. I thought, “You know what?” I’m also a linear thinker. I’m a simpleton, back to that 1.8 GPA. I said, “I’m in the housing business providing housing to the world’s most wealthy.” At that point, I was building multi-million dollar houses. “Shouldn’t I be providing housing to those who don’t have it?” I mean, come on.
So, domestically, and from ’98 to 2002, we were buying run-down houses, and fixing them up. I would buy them, fix them up, and rent them to elderly homeless people for a dollar a month.
That was my calling. I wasn’t running a homeless shelter. I can charge a dollar a month, and they can’t shut me down. The city tried to shut me down, but they couldn’t. We did it kind of piecemeal like that for 4 years.
Then we went to Haiti and we built our first self-sufficient village in Haiti 16 years ago. Now, 28 villages later, that bio you read, must be old, because we’re up to 28 villages in 16 years, in 25 different Haitian cities. Philanthrocapitalism.
I hate the word charity. Charity connotes an entitlement mentality. In Haiti, there’s no government they can count on, so we go there with a philanthropy mindset, which his taking care of the poor. There are many Biblical references about taking care of the poor, and the widows, and the orphans.
A capitalist mindset that says, “I want this to be self-sufficient because I ain’t going back there to support it when I’m done with the village.” It is going to be self-sufficient. There’s gonna be discipline there. There’s gonna be like, “Here are your sewing machines, here’s your boats, here’s your motors, here’s your goats, here’s your chickens, here’s your fruit trees Now, go make it on your own. Because I ain’t coming back to help.” 28 villages later, Mitch, it works.
Now I have the infrastructure in place over there, I have the connections in place over there to help a country where the average, the infant mortality rate is 22%. So, if you’re listening to this podcast, and you’ve got a kid that’s under age of five, over there, there’s a 22% chance that kid wouldn’t see its fifth birthday. I mean, that’s astronomical. In our country, it’s less than one-third of 1%.
Knowing that I can make that kind of impact over there, I have a deep sense of gratitude for being discerning and aware enough to use the gifts God’s given me for the betterment of the poorest of the poor, versus putting more cars in my garage, clothes in my closet, or food in my pantry. I have enough of that. And you know what, people listening to this podcast you do too! Really.
Material things never return the energy in which we put into pursuing them. Never. We can build a concrete house, for a family of eight, for $4,200. That’s what it costs. So, when you’re done listening if you’ve got any value, you aspire, not motivate, or inspired, but aspire to do any of these things, go to Frank-McKinney.com. Click on the Caring House link, and see how you can help us build our 29th self-sufficient village.
That’s amazing. I love it. I think it starts with that decision though, of “What can I do where I’m at, right now.” And like you said, all of us have that ability to do something. We may not be able to build an entire village, but in this case, we could contribute to Caring House.
You know what, here’s where it starts though. Forget the money part. There’s a biblical principle about time and talents, that, again translates whether you are a person of faith or not.
When you’ve got a little talent like, when I first got into the real estate business, I would go and help people fix up houses in the bad part of town, that couldn’t afford to put on a new roof. I had the talent, and I had the people do that, so I went and did that for them.
Then, when I had a little treasure, I would take the treasure and share it with those, by building our self-sufficient villages.
I leave you with this one simple quote that I want you to remember. There’s a little guilt associated with it. “Compassion without action is a waste of emotion.”
Take action however it makes sense for you. But for example, on our website, our Caring House play page, there are 78 donation options. They start from $4.75 for a chicken. So, if you can afford to forego one latte at Starbucks, one day. Which I think you all can do or have both. Have a latte while you’re texting, or while you’re donating $4.75.
Use Starbucks’ wifi, it’s fine.
The point is, to make an impact … For example, in my new book, which we’ll talk about in a second, for every copy of The Other Thief that I sell, I can provide 200 meals in one of our orphanages.
The book is called The Other Thief, A Collision of Love, Flesh, and Faith.
So, give us a quick snapshot of the book.
In Luke Chapter 23, verses 33 and 43, again, for those of you who are not religious, please don’t tune me out. I want you to hear what happened there. Christ was being crucified. As He’s being crucified, there are two thieves, one on his right, and one on his left. The one on his left mocks Christ and says, “You know what, if you’re the savior of the world, get us down from here.” The one on the right said, “You realize who you’re talking to? I mean this is Christ here.” And he turns to Christ and says, “You know what? Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” In other words, he’s asking for forgiveness.
Christ turns to him and says, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” In other words, He offers grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and redemption to somebody who doesn’t deserve it, didn’t deserve it, at the 11th hour. To me, it’s the most beautiful showing of love in the entire Bible. So I used that story of love, in a time and place where we need it. Watch CNN, then watch Fox. Watch MSNBC, then watch CNBC. Come one. Then go to Facebook and watch people going back and forth at each other nastily. It is a vile place where there’s a ton of carnage on the battlefield of humanity.
If we were able to offer ourselves a little grace, a little mercy, love, forgiveness, redemption, and then maybe, your fellow man, the person that you get along with, or don’t get along with, grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, redemption, then, ultimately, if you can’t find it anywhere else, you look Heavenward and know it’s available to you.
It’s a very evocative novel. If you look on the back of it, if you watched Passion of the Christ, and you watched Fatal Attraction, it’s like a collision of those two. One of the endorsements that I got was 50 Shades of Gray meets the Bible. It doesn’t go that far, but it’s pretty graphic, because that’s life today.
So, here’s the thing. You’re building million dollar homes, you’re still doing it, every day. Right? You were just working on the Ultramarathon, you had trained for six months to do this horrendously challenging race. You’ve got the Caring House, you’re doing all this stuff. Why take time to also then throw in writing a novel? Obviously, very powerful, very important, but why does Frank McKinney do something like that?
Well, first of all, it’s my second novel. I wrote a young reader fantasy novel.
So, that’s been out for six or seven years.
But when I read that passage from Luke for the tenth, hundredth time, where that love that was shown to someone that didn’t deserve it, and how it was shown; I felt like the world really needs to hear a story about grace, and mercy, forgiveness, and redemption. I wanted to share about love in a novel, not in a self-help or whatever other genres.
The writing part for me is something that I love. And I am coming closer to the end of my real estate career, but, I’m not anywhere near close to the end of my writing career.
Hmm. That’s cool. So, you just etch out time, you make time for it?
Yeah. I mean, this tree house, where I’m talking to you, all six of my books have been written from the tree house. I created a place that draws out the creativity to design the houses I build. That allows us to plan the 28 villages in Haiti.
I think that that gets back to that first question you asked. Why a box? Why have a box? What are you? If you’re listening to this podcast, what are you? I want to be a real estate artist. If you think about it, a real estate artist is a fancy word for a developer. But, I don’t want to be a developer. That’s boring to me. I want to express myself. Same thing with the books and the philanthrocapitalism. Go for it. DREAM THINK DO is a perfect podcast for anybody who wants to blow up the box.
I will go down in flames before I will go down being just a regular person like everybody else.
Right. Every part of your life screams that. All of it just radiates being what you were put on the planet to be. I think that you doing that, there’s a ripple effect to that. Obviously, you’re creating these beautiful homes, you’re doing these things for people around the world that need the help, but, my hope is that as people hear you, hear your passion, hear your story, and get aspirational about what it is they want to do.
I tend to bring people on my crew that might not be the best runners, right? But they’re passionate about helping me see the finish line.
There are plenty of people out there, 7 billion or so. But be prepared, as you look to work without a box, to be alone until you find somebody who has that same passion you do.
Dude! That’s great stuff. Amen. Well, how do people find you out on the world wide web, Frank?
Go to http://www.frank-mckinney.com/. You can tour the houses that I’ve built, that we’ve described, even the one with the water floor. You can see the brand new home I’m building on the ocean in South Palm Beach, a $20 million house. Which, by the way, Mitch, is my last one. I’m retiring after that.
You heard it here! I did not know that.
The very last one. That’s that one. You can read excerpts from The Other Thief. You can go see the villages. Everything I do is housed there.
I love it. Go check him out, you know you’ll be glad that you did. I know that you will. And Frank, thanks so much for being on the show. I’m looking forward to having you back next week.
We’ve got so many more areas to cover, but I’m so grateful for the ground that we covered today. So, thanks so much for doing what you do, being who you are, and sharing the time with us today.
Fantastic, thank you, Mitch, and keep smiling.
You got it.
All right, gang, what’d you think? What’d you think of that man?
I tell you what, Frank just lights me up. He’s got so much good stuff going on and I was making, making the changes he wants to see in the world. I’m so impressed by that. I can tell you one of the things that stood out to me was compassion without action is a wasted emotion. Yowzers, that’s convicting! That’s good stuff.
What stood out to you? I’d love to hear from you.
Hit me up. Leave a comment and let me know.