DESTIN, Fla. – His mission: to change hearts and minds in Iraq. Seem impossible? Not to Justin Lindsey, a Realtor® from Destin who proudly served his country in the Army.
While in the Diyala province of Iraq, Justin Lindsey, then a second lieutenant in the Army, was tasked with getting water to local farmers.
“It was 2005 and there was a huge drought in this province, which is the breadbasket of Iraq,” says Lindsey, a sales associate with The Premier Property Group in Destin. “The Kurds in the north had shut down the dam, so all of the canals were drying up. My job was to figure out how to get water to these people,” he says. It was a tricky negotiation, but Lindsey eventually worked with the Kurds to open the dam.
All in a day’s work for Lindsey, who joined the U.S. Army as a lieutenant after graduating from the University of West Florida.
“I was a chemical officer. My job was to assess and mitigate chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological threats on the battlefield,” he recalls. “It’s a very small career field, and we’re usually assigned to infantry units as advisory staff officers to a battalion commander.”
While there, one of his duties was to attempt to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. “I was a jack of all trades and worked on anything that needed immediate attention, including assessing the largest acid cache found in Iraq,” he says.
After Iraq, Lindsey went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri as a captain. He joined the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), which was established to respond to post-9/11 type events in the U.S. “We had to be ready and out the door within 24 hours any given day of the year,” he says. “I was part of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear events (CBRN) section where I assessed threats and advised commanders as necessary.”
He recalls, “I had to be in Virginia three days after her birth. When I came back, I had to turn around and report to the field for a week. When I left, my wife had tears in her eyes as she was holding our new baby. My family needed me at home, and I knew it.”
That’s when Lindsey started researching other careers.
“I read about Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki (an American investor and businessman) and got the real estate bug,” says Lindsey. He soon found a mentor, a retired colonel, and “after a lot of meetings with him, I came to the conclusion that if my ultimate goal of having more family time was going to come true, I needed to get as close to the real estate market as I could, find people who were successful and do exactly what they did.”
Here are Lindsey’s lessons from the battlefield that helped his real estate career:
- Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. “I went into the military as a second lieutenant, so I had rank, but I didn’t have the responsibility. I did, however, take some great advice. I attached myself to a couple of non-commissioned officers. Sure, I technically outranked them, but they knew everything and I didn’t, so I didn’t do or say anything until I got their approval.”
- Be a student of your profession. “If you ever walk into a general’s or other high-ranking officer’s office, you’ll see history books. They are students of history. They are warrior scholars who constantly read about the successes and failures of the past. You have to be more than a practitioner of your profession. Read every day and study your industry. That way you’ll have the benefit of the lessons learned from the past when you are faced with a challenge at the negotiation table.”
- Be aware and stay safe. “Before we went into Iraq, the most senior non-commissioned officer gave a speech. He told us that our enemy had proven themselves in battle, and we needed to prepare ourselves for the fact that some of us would die. But, he also said that we had a say in that because we were trained. We needed to commit to living by our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and should not become complacent. As a Realtor, going into a house with someone you don’t know is an ambush waiting to happen. Have a safety SOP in place, share it with people and follow it consistently.”
- Make time for the important things in life. “I was working late one night when my boss dragged me outside and told me to come back tomorrow morning. I thought he was a jerk. As we walked to the parking lot, he told me that during my deployment or later in life as I was dying, I would wish for another day or another moment with the people I love. A year later, as a young married lieutenant in Baghdad, as I was enduring my 14th consecutive night of rocket and mortar attacks, all I wanted to do was see my wife again. Schedule time for your family and protect it. It’s the most important appointment you can make.”
- Make a decision and commit. “When I was a cadet at the University of West Florida, we were taken out on what is called a situation training exercise. We had blanks in our M-16s and had to practice battle drills again opposing forces. All we knew was that they had heavy machine guns, and they were in a bunker. Our entire squad got behind trees and didn’t move until the evaluator came to tell us we had all been killed. We failed because the designated leader froze and everyone else was afraid to step outside of his or her roles. Never let fear of failure stop you from moving toward your objective. Make a decision, commit to it and go for it. You’ll be amazed at what you can do.”
A member of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors®, Justin Lindsey was named Florida Realtors®’ Newcomer of the Year in 2014. The Newcomer Award recognizes an outstanding individual who has entered the Realtor profession within the past three years or less, and during that time has made notable contributions to the local and state associations, as well as to his or her community.