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Finding Success On Her Own Schedule    

Finding Success On Her Own Schedule

Art by FISK

By Justin Tejada

When you picture the real estate agent who sold the storied Playboy Mansion, the first image to pop into your head is probably not of a grandmother of seven, who started off selling homes to the parents of her kids’ classmates. But Jade Mills has always had a thing for defying expectations.

In a town and an industry with a fascination for shiny new things, Mills has charted her own unique path that has led her to being one of the Top 3 real estate agents in the world. In the past three years, she has sold three homes for $100 million or more, including the Playboy Mansion ($100,000,000) and The Manor, which once belonged to television executive Aaron Spelling, for $119,750,000. In 2020 (yes, that 2020), she sold nearly half a billion dollars worth of real estate. Not bad for someone who didn’t discover her passion for real estate until her late 30s.

We live in a time where a premium is placed on achieving success at a young age. Startup founders who dropped out of college are mythologized. Making it into a “30 Under 30” list is prioritized. 

That can lead to an unhealthy pressure to make something of yourself now, like right now. Which is why it’s so important to remember that everyone’s timelines are different. If you don’t achieve those early milestones, it doesn’t mean you won’t achieve later milestones. And those later milestones may be even more impressive.

Jade Mills is living proof that late-in-life success can be the best success. We spoke with her to find out how she did it and what advice she has for others.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

How old were you when you got into real estate? What led to that decision?

I met my husband in college. We both quit school, and we got married when I was 20.  He was a singer, so I was on the road with him for three years.  Then I got pregnant and had my first daughter. We had to sell our house at that time, and the real estate agent said to me, "You would be a really great real estate agent because you love people!" I was probably 24 or 25 when I got my real estate license, but I was not that motivated. There were too many other things on my mind. Then, I met my second husband seven years later, and he didn't want me to work, so I did not work for another eight years. He passed away in 1988. Then I said to myself, "Okay, I don't really have an occupation. I love people. Maybe I should go back and sell real estate." I met my third husband, and I thought, "I am going to do this, and I am going to be successful."  Once I started, and I realized, "I love this. This is what I want to do." 

And yes, I was definitely older at the time. I was in my late 30's. I had a father who was a real worker, and a mother who would say, "You can do anything." But I just was not ready. I was 25, but it was not my time. What I will say is, no one should settle for something that they don't love in life because work is half or more of your life. 

What changed? What made the time right?

I wanted to be something. I wanted to make something of my life. I wanted to be successful.  Successful is not necessarily how much money you make or how much or little you work. Success is a feeling inside. 

After you decided to really commit, did you second-guess yourself at all?

Yes, I definitely second-guessed myself. Many people who go into real estate end up quitting their first year. Your first year is the toughest. You have to decide how you are going to make contacts.  I actually went after my children's school friend's parents. I had the perfect audience. But I had to get out of my comfort zone, which was very hard. In the beginning, it was very difficult for me to make these phone calls to these wealthy, successful people. But after I did that, I kept feeling better and better about myself and what I could do for these people. It is the biggest gift to be able to give these really successful people what they want.

How did you get comfortable being uncomfortable?

I took a class the second time I was starting real estate. The man said, “No one likes to make that uncomfortable call, so make that the first thing you do in the morning.” When you wake up in the morning, and you are thinking, "Oh my gosh, I have to do this, I am going to leave it until 3 o'clock."  You negatively focus on that.  Get that first call out of the way, good or bad. Then for the rest of the day, you can think about positive things.

Bellagio Estate is just one of the multimillion-dollar homes Jade has represented. (Photo courtesy of Jade Mills Estates)

What do you think makes you’re so good at what you do?

Loving what I do—and loving finding people what they want. I am definitely a people pleaser. People will say to me, "Oh my gosh, that is so much commission." And I will say, "Wait a second. It is so much commission, but the best part of the closing is for the buyer and seller to say, 'We are so happy with what you did for us.'" There is nothing better than that.

Do you think that because your success came later in life that you appreciate it more?

Absolutely. I went through a few occupations while I was getting my real estate license. I worked as a cocktail waitress. I did some TV commercials, some print modeling work. That was absolutely torture for me. I was so out of my comfort zone, and I knew that I never wanted to do that. At the time, it was a way of making money and supporting my daughter as a single mom. 

What does it feel like to sell a $100 million home?

It feels amazing to sell a $100 million home. But the circumstances of selling a $3 million home may be more rewarding to me.  There are layers to doing a $100 million home because you are working with the attorney, the business manager, the seller, the buyer, etc. When you are selling something where you are working with just the buyer and the seller, you really make a connection. You really understand what they want, what their needs are, and what is going to make them happy in the end.  

Were people both younger and older skeptical of you when you started? How did you deal with that?

Knowledge. Knowledge in any business is the key to success, whether you are selling houses or snow cones on the corner. The person you are dealing with wants to know that you know more than anyone else.  I was given the best advice by [Los Angeles real estate legend] June Scott. She said, "You need to know your business backward and forwards. You need to study everything that has sold in your area, what it sold for, who the buyer was, who the seller was, etc. So that when you go on a listing appointment, you understand the neighborhood better than anyone else, and you will get that listing." It is absolutely the truth. Know your craft, no matter what your craft is.

We live in an age when so much attention is paid to people who have success at such a young age. Do you think that can be kind of discouraging to people that don't find their thing early on? 

We are all on our own paths. I love the 30 under 30 lists. I love looking at these people and thinking how incredible that is. But I wasn't there yet. Many of us are not there under 30. If you are, it is a gift. If you are not, it does not matter. You have to take where you are in life right at this minute and make that the starting point. 

How does it feel to not only be so successful late in life but to keep raising the bar?

I have always been very competitive. I sold subscriptions to a local paper for my church when I was 12.  I would come home and say to my father, "I sold 10 today."  He would say, "That is amazing! So tomorrow, you are going to do 12."  That would be my goal, to beat the day before. I don't think that has ever left me. Yes, I sold almost half a billion dollars of real estate in 2020. That is what I have to beat in 2021. 

What role do you think being patient has played in your career trajectory and life trajectory?

My mother was the most patient person I have ever known in my life. Her patience level was beyond what I could ever have. My mother used to say, "Just wait. That will happen." When I was locked out of my house with my first husband and there was a note on the door that said, "Do not enter. Seized by the Internal Revenue Service,” I called my mother, and she said, "Everything will work out, just be patient." There are a lot of things that you can't change, and there are a lot of things that you can change. You just have to wait until the time is right. 

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