July 2023 Newsletter Root for the underdog

Root for the underdog


I am the guy who roots for the underdog. No matter whether I’m watching an NCAA basketball tournament, a college football game between a high-ranking team and a lower-division team, or a professional football game, I love it when the underdog pulls out a win. When a highly favored team wins, that’s just a normal day at the office. However, when an underdog wins, I know that it could be a life-changing event for everyone involved… not just for the institution, the organization, or the school, but most of all for the individual players.



Never underestimate the POWER of an underdog



Why do I love underdogs so much? Because I AM ONE, dating back to my childhood. I grew up in a very loving family, even though my parents divorced when I was three years old. I was fortunate to acquire a wonderful, loving stepdad at the age of six. He worked extremely hard, helping to raise a family of five kids. I am the youngest in the group. Actually, I am the youngest by many years. (I think some people might call that a mistake.) I do not recall having had a lot of direction while I was growing up. I can count on one hand the number of times I played catch or talked about the future with my parents. I’m pretty confident it was mostly my fault because I was non-conforming, rebellious, and definitely a rule breaker with a very short attention span. So basically, what I’m saying is that I know what it’s like to be an underdog. This is why every time I have an opportunity to root for someone who is not expected to do well, let alone win, I am in their corner.


My favorite underdogs are the ones who believe in themselves. Even more than just proving that their critics are wrong, they want to prove that their belief in themselves is right. I believe that if an underdog has drive, desire, determination, and discipline, there is nothing they can’t accomplish.


Underdogs adapt, evolve and become winners because of their preparation, heart, execution, and the relentless attitude that the game will not end any other way.” – Ty Howard


After working for another broker for ten years, I started Deeb Realty out of my basement in 1993. The leadership of the top three real estate firms in Omaha, Nebraska told me there was no room for another real estate company in our city and that I might as well just become a manager with their firm. Oh, boy, I can go from being one of the top Realtors in the country to being a manager for one of those three companies (a little sarcasm here).


So as I sat in my 200-square-foot basement in 1993, I knew that I had minimal resources and none of the fancy technology that my competitors had. But I did have one thing that money can’t buy — the unrelenting determination of an underdog. I implemented the four-letter word W O R K! I was not motivated to prove my competitors were wrong. I just wanted to prove I was right. Over the next 16 years, that little one-person company became one of the largest independent real estate firms in the United States, with over 350 agents.


“It helps us being the underdog. We have nothing to lose. Nobody expects us to win except ourselves.” – Daniel Ruffin


One of my favorite characteristics of a true underdog is that when all the odds and statistics and everyone around us says we have no chance, we don’t even blink. The fire inside us just burns even brighter. It is our mission, our goal, and our passion to be successful. Naysayers don’t discourage us. Instead, they intensify our drive, desire, and determination to prove we are right. We underdogs believe in our potential with every ounce of our being. With that mindset, we are bound to be successful!


I used to be envious of people who were brought up in a business-owning family where they had the luxury of one day running the business. That would have been a much easier path to follow, with less stress, less uncertainty, more guidance and direction, and a better chance of ensuring that my business would be successful. HOWEVER, when I look back I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. The grind, the 15-hour days, and the weeks and weeks of not taking a day off have made me who I am today. The challenges I was able to overcome have made me more effective as a motivational speaker, because my audiences are assured that I know the power of the underdog and what it takes to succeed. When companies and organizations hire me to speak at their conferences or workshops, they know that my “been there done that” background will help elevate, inspire, and motivate everyone in the audience to be the best they can possibly be.


So the next time you have a chance to support a worthy underdog, remember that you are not just changing one person’s life — you are changing the lives of many, many people. Let’s all support an underdog at every chance we get.









What People in the Audience are Saying…

With Van's passion, humor and experience you can be assured of one thing- your audience is going to get fired-up, built-up, and fully charged –up. As an entrepreneur at the top of his game Van is in the unique position of being able to "talk the talk" because he has "walked the walk". Over the years he has been a great inspiration to me and my staff. Van is a speaker with charisma, humility and impact and he's a difference maker in the lives of the people he touches…"

—George Akers // President, First Mortgage Corp.

I wanted to thank you for coming and speaking with our company today. I thought your presentation was awesome! I was really motivated and inspired by your thoughts and ideas. I will use this motivation to grow my business and my personal life.”

—Justin Pauls // Realtor, Tampa, Florida

We are delighted you will be accepting the award for Omaha’s Top 25 fastest growing companies. Congratulations on your outstanding growth and we wish you continued success.”

—Tracey Fortina // Omaha Chamber of Commerce

Thank you for running such a class act company. It is an honor and a pleasure to be associated with someone such as yourself. I know you are probably one of the most respected businessmen in the region.”

—Dustin Talacko // Realtor, Omaha, Nebraska

Congratulations on writing “Selling from the heart” and thank you for sharing a copy with me. Your class has been one of the most enjoyable classes I’ve ever taken. Your enthusiasm and passion for your work are awesome. But the most refreshing part of the class was your delightful sense of humor. Thank you again for being a fantastic teacher.”

—Linda Reismeiler // Student at Randall School of Real Estate, Omaha, Nebraska

Kudos to you, Van, for reaching a major goal. But more than that...For successfully building one of Omaha’s best companies from scratch and making it thrive even in less than ideal market conditions. You have realized the American Dream...And brought it home to many, many others. My best to you!”

—Todd Andrews, Anchor and Producer, KETV Omaha

Having you here again was such a blessing to so many! As I looked at the pictures, I could see just how interested each and every person was in what you had to say!

This has been such a gift to our agents when they need it the most. The fact that you come, you are so genuine and caring, you are so honest, you are not trying to sell anything and your passion to help each and every person believe in themselves and become the best they can be is HUGE! The timing is perfect for us all helping and caring about each other, so, thank YOU from the bottom of my heart for giving of yourself to help all of us!”

—Carolyn Summerton // First Mortgage Company of Idaho

I enjoyed your seminar and its focus. I was on the fence whether or not to attend and decided why not? I could have sat through an all day session if there was one, usually I end up at the seminars that start with a focus and quickly go astray. I found with yours time flew by too fast and it was already time to go but I wasn’t ready to go.”

—Scott Asbill, CDPE // Associate Broker, Realtor