We had the good fortune of connecting with Nick Halaris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nick, why did you pursue a creative career?
I came to a practice of creative expression out of necessity in a way. One of the things I’ve learned is the value of paying close attention in life, especially to the things which seem to come of their own accord. For I’m convinced that this is where you can find important messages. There’s a sense in which the things that come to you which you do not seek are sacred communications. I have had it in my mind as long as I can remember that I would be a writer. This thought has been so long a part of my consciousness that it has taken on a sort of casual tone, almost with a sense of inevitability in it. The thought existed in my mind like: “Of course, I will probably write a book or two someday.” I don’t know why but I just always assumed that writing was something that I would do. And looking back on my life, I’ve always been writing, even back when I was busy with law school or starting my business. Almost every single day for the past 25 years I’ve written something in my journal, sometimes just a passage or two, often many pages of thoughts and meditations. In my younger days when I was less sure of who I was I wrote poetry, essays and the beginnings of many a story, even a screenplay or two. But clouded with insecurity that a lack of self-understanding brings, I hid these things away in my secret files. Interesting though, as the years passed, I accumulated more and more and more of these writings. Even though I couldn’t bring myself to share them, I couldn’t stop myself from writing either. This pattern repeated for years and I accumulated a vast library of unpublished work. And there were some periods where I wrote a lot. When my first son was born a surge of creative energy came over me and I wrote a few hundred pages of life advice. Then again, when I was starting Metros Capital, I wrote pages and pages of investment advice. I just kept writing and writing—I guess for myself. But when the COVID crisis hit things really changed for me. First of all, the old pattern repeated. I got energized to write for some reason and in the weeks of the shelter-in-place orders here in Los Angeles I wrote hundreds of pages on investing, on self-improvement, on spirituality, on citizenship—all sorts of topics. At the same time, I noticed that I was getting a lot of calls from colleagues, friends and family members, all with the same theme: people interested in getting some kind of serious life advice from me—about their financial situation, their living situation, their investments, their jobs…. In the middle of all this, my friends from Real Vision, an incredible online platform for investors, reached out to me. They asked if I would be open to do an interview to discuss my perspectives on how the COVID crisis might impact the real estate world. This was something outside the confines of my comfort zone but for some reason I accepted without the slightest hesitation. When the interview finally aired something unexpected happened, at least for me. The feedback I got was so incredibly positive and encouraging. Strangers started to reach out to me with the same kind of questions that I was getting from my colleagues and friends. I got on the phone with some of these individuals and what was really eye opening for me was how willing people were to share with me, a complete stranger, some very intimate and personal things. People were so willing to be vulnerable with me. I started thinking to myself: “why have I been holding back so much and for so long? Why have I been so unwilling to engage properly with this obvious drive in me for self-expression? And as I sat with these questions it became absolutely clear to me that I simply had to start sharing. This is how Civic Dawn, my newsletter on investing, self-improvement and citizenship was born.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started Civic Dawn because I finally realized that I really do have something to contribute. Much of what passes for “advice” in my world—investing and real estate—is nothing more than self-serving, self-promotion. Schemes that promise all sorts of things: “Financial independence,” whatever that means. “Getting rich quick.” In truth, these schemes are designed to enrich only the advisor. My goal with Civic Dawn is to deliver a more genuine and sophisticated message that can actually really help people along the way to financial freedom and a better life. I believe that along the path to the good life, everything matters. You have to rise to meet the challenges of life at every level. You need financial mastery and independence just as much as you need mental freedom and clarity, civic responsibility as much moral responsibility, self-discipline as much as self-knowledge. There’s never just one thing. What I am trying to do with Civic Dawn is to present actionable ideas and strategies across this entire spectrum of being that have actually worked for me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My kids are the center of my universe these days so I’ll suggest a kid-focused itinerary for how to spend a great day in Los Angeles. And let’s assume the COVID crisis is over! Start the day with a walk on Melrose Avenue. Grab yourself some coffee at Joe and the Juice or Alfreds. Then take a trip to Coldwater Canyon Park in Beverly Hills. There’s this amazing mini-river there that the kids will love. Head to the Grove next to ride the train, look at the fountain and maybe grab something to eat at the Farmer’s Market. Catch a movie after lunch. If you have any energy left, take the kids down the street to the La Brea Tar Pits or drive out to Santa Monica for a walk on the beach. Finish the day with an early dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants in West Hollywood.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are many, many people that have had a profound impact on my life. Too many to name here. Teachers. Friends. Mentors. My Wife and Kids. I would love to recognize and celebrate each and every one of them. For what is life but the people in it. Today though, I’d like to honor and recognize my parents, Jane and Tony Halaris. Now that I’ve been a parent myself for a while, I’ve come to recognize how profoundly fortunate I am to have parents like them. Something really interesting has been happening to me since I became a father myself. I am re-remembering what life was like for me as a kid. I thought I had lost these memories but they’ve been coming back lately and often in great detail. And what I’m seeing and feeling in these memories is the great childhood that I had. All the love I received. The attention and care. The little daily sacrifices. The big ones. My Mom and Dad made my brother and I the center of their world. We were cared for and loved and in the right ways. There was none of that possessiveness or pressure that we read about and see so often. My parents gave me two great gifts: 1. A Happy, Joy-Filled Childhood—and now that I’ve grown as a man and seen firsthand how this world can be, I know this is a preciously rare thing and an amazing gift. And 2. The Freedom to become exactly, precisely who I was meant to become rather than some vision of theirs as to who I ought to be—My parents, through their love, the emotional stability and maturity of their relationship and their moral fiber, created this environment for me where I really had a chance, to learn about myself, to grow and evolve and to live authentically. And, again, I know enough now to see that this kind of childhood is an absolute Godsend. Thank you Mom and Dad. I love you very much. What I’m trying to do now with my own family, my writing and my work in the community is to honor these incredible gifts by being a force for good in the world. I really hope that I can pay things forward and make some small difference for people who maybe didn’t have the advantages that I had. That’s the challenge I’ve set for myself. It seems like the only possible response in light of the parents I have.