In 2008, Ryan Serhant was flat broke and doing odd jobs that included everything from handing out flyers to hand modeling in order to pay the rent on his 200-ft. square apartment in New York City’s Koreatown.

Out of desperation, the out-of-work actor studied for the state real estate licensing exam and hung out his shingle as a real estate broker on September 15, 2008—the same day that financial services giant Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Other people would have quit. After all, with the economy crashing worldwide, who had the money to buy a home?

But Serhant didn’t give up. It was time to go big or go home. Literally.

“I had nowhere to go but up—or go home to Colorado, which I didn’t want to do,” he shared during a panel session at the recent Rakuten Optimism Conference in San Francisco. The panel also included Rakuten OverDrive founder and CEO Steve Potash and Michelle Jeffers, chief of community programs and partnerships at the San Francisco Public Library (which circulates more than 2.3 million ebooks and other media yearly with the help of OverDrive.) The discussion focus was on the value of reading.

“It’s a book that doesn’t just teach you how to sell a banana once,” he emphasized, “but how to sell bananas over a consistent period of time, so you can grow your income, change your livelihood and be more optimistic about life in general,” said Ryan Serhant on the purpose of his debut book.

“It’s a book that doesn’t just teach you how to sell a banana once,” said Ryan Serhant about his nonfiction debut, “but how to sell bananas over a consistent period of time, so you can grow your income, change your livelihood and be more optimistic about life in general.”

“I wanted to make something of my life,” he continued. “I had to teach myself how to talk to people on the street, how to go up to pregnant women in Starbucks and asking if they needed more space, how to post ads on Craigslist with the right photos to get clients.”

A “Playbook” for Sales and Life

His perseverance paid off. Ten years later, he’s not only the star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York,” he also heads the 44-member Serhant Team, the largest group of real estate brokers in Manhattan. To top it off, Serhant published his first book, “Sell It Like Serhant” on September 18.

Ryan Serhant published his first book, “Sell It Like Serhant” on September 18.

“Sell It Like Serhant” is available on Rakuten OverDrive as an e-book and audio book.

Available on OverDrive as an e-book and audio book, “Sell It Like Serhant” aims to be an smart, humorous and optimistic “playbook” that teaches readers how to be an effective salesperson.

“It’s a book that doesn’t just teach you how to sell a banana once,” he emphasized, “but how to sell bananas over a consistent period of time, so you can grow your income, change your livelihood and be more optimistic about life in general.”

“You don’t have to sell real estate,” he added.  “You can sell shoes on eBay. You can go on the Facebook marketplace and sell the baseball cards that have been sitting under your bed at home since you were a little kid.”

Over the past decade, Serhant kept copious notes on his deals in order to continue learning and refining how he does business. He recounts some of the lessons he learned in his book, including one about taking risks and staying persistent.

Early in his real estate career, Serhant answered an email from a man who claimed he had $10 million to buy an apartment in New York City. Could Serhant help him? The newly minted real estate broker thought the email could be spam, but he decided to take a chance.

“Sure,” he replied.

That initial email led to many more messages and months of waiting to hear back from “Mr. X from Atlantis,” as Serhant calls him in his book, before culminating in a last-minute overnight flight to Paris in hopes of closing the deal on an $8.3 million Manhattan real estate purchase. Which Serhant did, by the way.

OverDrive for Lifelong Learning

During the session, Potash took the opportunity to emphasize the many benefits of reading, which include stress reduction, mental stimulation, stronger analytical thinking skills, memory improvement and, of course, knowledge.

“For all of us who want to improve our lives, careers, outcomes in our daily jobs, we have the tools right here on our phones,” he remarked.

OverDrive CEO Steve Potash (left) with and Ryan Serhant.

OverDrive CEO Steve Potash (left) with Michelle Jeffers of the San Francisco Public Library and Ryan Serhant.

Serhant agreed, adding, “I feel like people are reading now more than ever.”

With millions of ebooks, audio books and other digital media available on OverDrive’s growing network of 40,000 public libraries, corporate media centers and educational institutions in the U.S. and 69 other countries, there are no shortage of inspirational and accessible reads out there to empower the next Ryan Serhant.