I’ve always had a voracious appetite for learning. Back in the early ‘90’s I started researching stock trading and real estate investing. I read everything I could get my hands on and eventually settled on one mentor who taught BOTH real estate investing and stock investing.

At first, stock investing was easier and much more lucrative. I was an executive at Hertz when Ford split us off and took us public. I got a piece of the IPO at the strike price and invested heavily in LEAP’s and companies that announced stock splits. Everything was going great until I filed my taxes that year and realized the full force of short term capital gains. Yikes.

So… real estate investing.

Again, I turned to my mentor for training and advice. I bought books, tape sets (remember cassettes?), videos (remember VHS?) and attended a few live events. I learned a lot about creative investing strategies and asset protection. And now I don’t fear the tax man so much because real estate gives me better protection and deductions than stock investing.

So, fast forward to 2010 and I find myself a bit of a real estate mentor. And as I peruse the real estate forums and blogs online I keep hearing the “scam” word being thrown around. I’ve written about this a few times before because “scam” is a pretty harsh word that I think is misused. And I hate to see it applied to something I do and respect – training, coaching and mentoring.

I was reading a blog where some poor real estate investing trainer was being throttled for not disclosing exactly where he invests. People were saying he must be shady or have something to hide. In fact, one guy went so far as to say that he had bought some of the guys courses and the strategies worked and he was making money but he now thinks he is a fraud because he is “secretive.”

I laughed to myself and thought, “Wow. People would freak if I ever revealed who MY mentor is.”

Because my mentor is in prison.

Behind bars. Locked up. In the slammer for 88 months for tax evasion as a result of an FTC investigation into his marketing practices.

But here’s the real question…

Does that make his investing strategies any less effective?

He never taught me to evade taxes so that’s not an issue. Am I now a failure? Do I not make money? Does this stuff not work after all? Here’s the book that changed my life:

And, yes, Wade Cook is my mentor. Convicted felon. Federal prisoner. Register #36240-086 at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex in California.

Now, I’m not defending his tax evasion or any of the underlying reasons why the FTC was targeting him to begin with. If he lied and cheated on his taxes, that’s not cool. But I am defending the fact that his training helped me succeed.

Was it all him? No. I’ve had other excellent mentors to guide me through various aspects of my real estate investing business. But he’s the main one.

Bottom line is Wade Cook was instrumental in my development and success as a real estate investor. And I thank him for that.

Does that make my real estate investing success a fluke? Was his training all a scam? Does that make me a scam?

I think, as I always have, that if you find a mentor you resonate with then learn everything you can and run with it. Your success is your responsibility. So is your lack of success. Which one will you choose?