Culture Scan

At the intersection of real estate, media, and pop culture.

Drug Dealer Turned Agent: A Story of Redemption & Real Estate

Stories of salespeople going from rags to riches are a dime a dozen. And books chronicling abuse and recovery often seem overly congratulatory and hazily constructed, with the most harrowing parts excised.

After reading all of the ways that Robert Radcliffe managed to almost kill himself before the ripe old age of 22, however, I’d say 180 Degrees stands out as something a bit different. Radcliffe, or “Robert R.” as his nom de guerre reads, writes about being a dropout addict who became a dealer to support his habit. He shares some pretty shameful stories, giving readers a believable inner narrative to go along with them. He explains the thinking behind what must have seemed like the erratic behavior of a crazy person, without requesting pity or subjecting readers to self-flagellation.

The book is split into two parts, one chronicling addiction and the other recovery. The first half of the book is addictive if only in terms of shock value and sheer honesty. Radcliffe exposes some pretty awful things done by a kid who was once deathly afraid of doctors’ office needles and who swore he’d never do drugs. As Radcliffe admits his self-destructiveness stemmed partly from the fact that he “never believed [he] would make it to adulthood,” you find yourself wondering how he did.

The second half of the book explains in detail the difficulties not only of recovery from addiction, but also how hard it is to break into real estate. You thought your rookie year was hard? Well, Radcliffe didn’t know how to turn on a computer. It took him hours to type up one letter. He couldn’t afford his own phone, so roommates would answer Radcliffe’s business calls “in their lazy gangster slang, ‘Yo, what up.’” His gross income for his first year in real estate “was a whopping $3,500.”

Yet, as the book’s jacket promises, Radcliffe makes a cool million by the time he turns 30. The actions he credits for his success may not shock anyone (long days, discipline, perseverance). However, the fact that this same guy spent years unable to keep a needle out of his arm for any real amount of time does make his steadfast commitment to real estate all the more admirable.  He shares goal setting strategies and nuggets he’s gleaned from those who have inspired him, but he also seems inspired by the industry itself:

Real estate agents help people realize their dream of owning a home. They also help families make moves that often positively affect their lives. I have a better understanding of the incredible services I bring to people’s lives now, and it has definitely changed my opinion of the job.

This memoir may not be for everyone. Radcliffe’s style is very casual and it’s clear he writes how he speaks (or spoke, depending on the part of the book you’re in). This can be both engrossing and distracting. While the book does contain a lot of Alcoholics Anonymous-style language, Radcliffe uses the afterword to address the sometimes dismissive attitude that this association can bring, and does his best to help people who may resist recovery because of it get past their preconceptions.

Alongside a harrowing, personal story, Radcliffe includes a helpful list of resources for people who may need treatment for addiction, along with questions to consider when choosing a recovery method. For those looking to mimic his meteoric success in real estate, Radcliffe augments his advice with what he calls “The Eight Equities,” and a recommended reading list.


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