It's a Friday afternoon, and I already know today's gonna be fire. Not because it's Friday. Not because I have some wicked weekend plans. And not even because my astrologer told me so. Today's gonna be fire because I'm about to interview a man I've literally nicknamed "the Fireplace."
I've parked my car in the Bixby Knolls district of Long Beach next to a five-story office building. The building's exterior design plays with different-sized rectangles and squares, most notable in its ubiquitous glass panes, a quirky-charming California design touch befitting the quirky-charming California nature of greater Long Beach surrounding us.
Walking past a patch of desert landscaping, I go straight into the building, ascending to the top floor, where sunlight bursts upon me as the elevator doors open.
The office, filled with desks, is mostly empty that day, but one corner office is clearly in use. Warm yellow light fills it, and as I approach, the aroma of peppermint oil softly draws me in. On a wall in the office hangs a painting of a Japanese maiko in the rain, done pop-art style. She wears a kimono with furisode sleeves, her garment a beautiful multi-colored tapestry of crescents, curves, and undulations. Elegantly positioned with a bend in her posture, she looks over her sleeve and onto the Fireplace, working at his laptop below the painting.
My eyes scan down the wall, and he notices I've arrived. "Hey there!" he calls out, standing up from his desk. He wears a Cali-casual button-up shirt that reveals his own sleeves, tattoo work running down to his forearms. Arms etched with twists, waves, and embellishments, an alignment between his sleeves and the maiko's behind him reveals itself.
"Hey!" I greet him, as he pulls me in for a bear hug, the trademark hug of the fireplace.
"Before we get started, let me show you the top floor of this building. I think you'll really appreciate it."
And so to the top floor we go.
Couches for lounging are surrounded by long planters where kale, beets, and a variety of greens grow in strips of soil.
"I love coming up here," the Fireplace tells me. "You can see so much of the grid." He points right, where we have a clear view of the downtown L.A. skyline. He points left, where the port of Long Beach, its cranes and containers, feel just an arm's length away.
"Feng shui would call this the command position," I tell the Fireplace. "You're in a high, central position, and you can see the lay of the land. The Chinese believe this is a great position from a military strategy standpoint, and just from a life standpoint."
"I knew I picked this place for a reason," the Fireplace replies with a grin.
The Fireplace, aka Andy Dane Carter, is the subject I'm to interview today. I met him at Sacred Roots, a holistic healing center in Long Beach, where in-between teaching classes on creating soul space and getting my infrared sauna sweat on, I've also begun attending business mastermind meetings hosted by Andy. These meetings, meant to serve the holistic practitioners and entrepreneurs in the healing space, are fire-starting sessions. Whether your aspiration is to open your own sound healing cave and become the best sound healer in the world or if it's simply to build your massage therapy clientele in order to improve your business, Andy comes to the space to mentor you, unblock you, or as he puts it, to "unlock" you.
I've casually come to call him "the Fireplace" because the man has a tendency to ignite, both himself and others. He's got that je ne sais quoi quality found in many great leaders, a charisma I suppose, that draws people closer. And when paired with a heart full of sincerity and warmth, it's no wonder his spirit glows just like a hearth.
I don't know much about Andy yet, but I do know that he's become successful in the most traditional American sense of the word. Rooted in family, grounded in service, and having a level of financial freedom many only aspire to, I'm here today to understand what makes this guy tick, how he got to where he is, and how he manages to stay so damn balanced in the midst of it all.
When I ask Andy to take me back to his childhood, he throws it way back. Born in Long Beach, Andy's earliest memories relate to his parents' divorce, an event that happened when he was four. His mother, becoming a single mom, did what she could to make ends meet while raising Andy and his brother. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment and used a cooler in place of a refrigerator, but had a lot of warm moments in the midst of shaky financial circumstances. Andy says he developed a strong sense of autonomy and determination during that time, nevertheless. "I learned from a pretty young age I was kind of on my own. If I was gonna make something happen, it was gonna be me. Nobody was giving me anything. I used that as fuel."
Taking on a number of odd jobs in his youth to support himself and the family, from El Pollo Loco worker to Baskin Robbins cake decorator, Andy eventually found himself moving deeper into the food and wine business. Convincing the general manager at Walt's Wharf in Seal Beach to hire him without any table-waiting experience, he remembers fumbling on the job in his early days: "My first table I spilled a bunch of beers on because I'd never used a tray before. I drenched these guys upstairs. Then all of the beer went through the wooden floor, and hit the people at the bar below." He laughs at the memory, but quickly shifts to a more serious tone when describing taking over the restaurant's wine program at age 21. In this capacity, he would have his first wine tastings, travel to Bordeaux, backpack through Europe in search of fine wines, and train all of the restaurant's staff to understand wine beyond the simple classifications of red, pink, and white. In his words, "I ate, breathed, and slept food and wine."
Now a successful sommelier, at age 24 Andy made a move to become part-owner of one of the West Coast's hottest sushi restaurant chains. But what seemed like a good move turned out to be an uphill battle, and differences with his business partner would ultimately lead Andy to walk from the business four years after he came in.
The difficulty of this period only became more pronounced when a new position at a wine company proved to be unfulfilling to Andy. Enabled by his client care expense account, he handled his feelings of emptiness by burying his head in the sand and drinking to excess with wine clients he entertained. He found himself teasing the boundary of substance abuse. Then his first marriage failed. And he was in that downward spiral of life that is so familiar to so many people and so very hard to dig oneself out of. For the first time in his life, he describes himself as feeling paralyzed: stuck physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This low period would bring him to his ultimate low of lows: "I decided to drink a whole bunch for six days straight until my body finally said, 'Enough is enough.' I was laying on the floor, and I heard this voice, a voice I've heard my whole life. It said, 'Your organs are failing. It's time to stop.' Within ten hours, I was in rehab in San Diego."
There, Andy spent 32 days in a zen-like retreat, getting in touch with his own spirituality and building the foundation for his future holistic life. As he describes, "My whole spiritual world collapsed on itself and then reopened with this brand new understanding of life and what's possible."
What was possible was a career move to real estate, a newfound zest for consciousness, and a renewed appreciation for people. "I needed to be conscious every day. If I was drinking or doing drugs or whatever, I was basically numbing my consciousness. My power was in being conscious, awake, and having strong connection with people. I love people," he tells me.
Knowing that he loved people guided Andy into real estate, but he claims he knew almost nothing about the field at first besides that one could buy and sell houses. Just as he became fully versed in the world of wine when he was younger, he quickly became an expert on real estate and investment. One of his most important lessons was learning how real estate investment created greater financial freedom for investors in the now, as well as how it opened up lines of generational wealth for years to come in the future. He says, "To figure out those numbers and those metrics freed me forever."
Financial freedom for Andy right now looks like over $50k a month in passive income just from real estate holdings, not including other investments and business ventures. When Andy started investing, he had only $423 in the bank. His first month, he made no money. His second month, he made $2,000. His fifth month, $10k then $58k in month six. From there, he claims he never looked back. This success was the major impetus for Andy to write his first book, soon to be released, called 100 Doors. Dealing with the subject of real estate investing, Andy sets out to explain how individuals can attain higher levels of financial freedom through savvy involvement in the real estate market. Though he uses the metric of 100 doors, which create $100,000 a month in passive income, he insists that "100 Doors" is just a number. Even one door or two doors, that is to say owning one property or two properties, could serve as a gateway for people to unlock the power of real estate investment.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to pick up this financial book is that it wasn't written by a wolf of Wall Street; it was written by Andy. He describes himself as "dyslexic and a poor student," emphasizing that his book is about creating a new belief system: "Financial empowerment is not a mythological dragon with two heads, nor is it only for the top 1% of the world. Look, if I can do it, anyone can do it. You can be working at Starbucks, have your parents paying for your insurance, and you can still be a millionaire in ten years."
Painting himself as an average guy is typical for someone who doesn't want to take all the credit for his success, but it's also part of Andy's grander life philosophy. Though 100 Doors explores financial empowerment, in person, Andy makes it a point to discuss the vital importance of having life balance, something he strives for every day. Now happily married to his wife Kristen, he's the father to two boys, Jackson and Grayson. He explains that placing his own health, family, and spirituality at the center of his life is what helps him to feel whole: "Being broke or being wealthy, none of these things matter if you don't have what's in the middle. For me, what's in the middle is family, children, working out, spiritual practice, and meditation."
Executing this kind of balance is something a lot of people would like to be able to do but are unsure of how to do it. So for them, I ask, "How do you do it?"
In Andy's case, he does it by structuring his day around the "non-negotiables" of quiet meditation, disciplined exercise, and tech-free family time. He details, "I wake up, and I go straight into meditation. It's a space creator. I sit in gratitude for five minutes. I call in the light. I ask for help. I ask for space. I ask my yes or no questions. But I sit in gratitude for where I'm at right now. And then I move my body. I'll do yoga. I'll go run. I'll cycle, lift weights, stimulate the body and get ready for the day."
After he's put in the time for himself to feel healthy and charged, he's ready to receive his family. He says, "I cook breakfast for my family every morning. Breakfast is made when my wife comes out of the bedroom." I'm now thinking that this man is Superman, but he doesn't stop there.
This emphasis on family continues when his kids get home from school. "My children are deeply important to me. I make a conscious effort to put my phone on airplane mode from 5 to 8 pm every evening. It's family time, and I don't turn my phone back on until the kids are asleep."
And though for many it may seem impossible to live with this almost military-like level of structure and efficiency, Andy doesn't suggest that people emulate him exactly. He only hopes that he can lead by example, especially his own sons, in whom he tries to instill the value of gratitude.
Nevertheless, service is another raison d'être for Andy, and he loves being able to help or inspire people to be the best version of themselves: "In the deepest part of my soul, I want to help people get unlocked. Unlock whatever it is that you bring to this planet. Whatever. If you're gonna be a bonsai artist and you're gonna create these beautiful trees, I wanna help you be the best version of that that you want for yourself, and I'll do anything I can do to help."
And on that, Andy and I finish our interview.
"Wow. That is quite the life story," I tell him.
"It's been a ride," he replies.
The clock hits 3:45 p.m.
"I actually do have some serious real estate questions," I laugh.
"I've got time," the Fireplace responds.
We spend the next 45 minutes talking about real estate but not before I return the favor of telling my own life narrative. I want him to understand my personal and economic motivations better, and he's holding the space for me to do so.
When our chat's over, Andy walks back to his office from the conference room we're in; he unplugs his oil diffuser and turns the light off over his dramatic maiko painting.
We walk down the hallway, and a couple of his assistants burst out of the elevator while watching a Youtube video parody of The Weeknd's "Starboy" called "@#$%boy" on an iPhone. Andy takes a minute to check out the video, pointing out the moments of comedy he enjoys, and pausing for a good laugh. I can tell it's not really his cup of tea, but he's building solidarity with his team.
We descend in the elevator and at ground level, we say our goodbyes. He gives me another bear hug, and he's off.
Andy once told me he had a tipi put in his backyard with a fireplace inside.
And so I imagine he'll be there tonight, after family time, of course, plotting his next moves and introspecting. The Fireplace next to his fireplace.