We had the good fortune of connecting with Renee Cottrell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Renee, what’s your definition for success?
To be frank, I never really thought much about defining success, because to me it was never quite that tangible. I always thought success was something just out of my reach, and I would just know what it was when I got “there.” Until one day, when I was driving two of my younger friends to buy snacks before we headed out to a picnic at the river. These girls were not much younger than me; by two, maybe three years. I had met them while working at a ranch during my second year of college as a side gig, and we had bonded over our love of animals and the long, hot days in the Texas sun. Both were in high school, and had amazing personalities, as well as passion for their respective hobbies of horseback riding and dance. We were laughing and joking as usual when one of them suddenly turned to me and asked, “Renee, how did you get so successful so young? I want to be like that.” I nearly slammed on the brakes, I was so shocked. Not at the question itself, but at what it implied. I was filled with a strange, squirmy feeling. In my eyes, I was a waitress, a college student who worked two jobs to be able to save up to buy the things she needed to get by and then some. I was someone who procrastinates, and panics, and rarely had my ducks in a row- or any ducks to be accounted for! Some days, I looked in the mirror and cried because all I saw was looming deadlines, and things I had let slip or did not accomplish that week. Was this a joke? But one glance in her eyes told me she was serious. My friends had looked at me and seen not my failures or shortcomings like I did- but all of the great things I had done. How I bought my first car, managed to live in a strange new city a country away from my home, how I was poised and gentle with everyone I met, and how I had interesting hobbies such as writing for independent publications. I always tried to act with grace wherever I went, despite the tears I had wiped off my face earlier that morning, and lived a comfortable life surrounded by a loving circle of individuals I had met over the years. They genuinely wanted advice on how they could have something similar. Then, it dawned on me. This is success. This is it! Being a role model, being the one that others go to when they are stuck, or sad, or simply need advice on life. Why? Because they have seen your effort, your work, and how it has paid off. It is not money, or fame, or a big break. Those come with time, but my success in the here and now was defined by that simple question, and the fact that when I thought about it…I could giver her an answer! I had all the tools for success RIGHT within me. That day, I realized that I could be my own definition, and answer her question, all at the same time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The thing that I love most about my career is how I am just getting started. Being young brings with it the exciting opportunity to really dig in and search for that perfect fit, to shop for careers and transition out of that “just a job” phase every young adult goes through. I was always a standalone in my belief that there is no better time to start, than early! While most of my peers are honed in on finishing degrees, wayward relationships, or chasing the next high of being a twenty-something with little responsibility, I have chosen a more difficult route. That route, is the route of rejection, revision, and rebuilding while focusing on clarifying a career pathway. I currently work in Real Estate support, experiencing a taste of what it is like to help run a massive portfolio of homes for sale, market our brokerage, and put out any fires that pop up. It is a fairly straightforward employment, and I am not a massive key player yet, so I mainly just absorb everything I am given. But, to get this job, I literally had to pack my bags, leave my country, and move back in with my parents in Canada after COVID furloughed any chance of gainful employment in the US for me. I still spent weeks applying for other positions, all with zero response. So, I waved my white flag, and left. I felt like an utter failure! Talk about massive rejection. Now, this is where the revision and rebuilding came in. It took me eight weeks to get in the door to Brokerage, and another eight weeks just to learn the job itself. The quick, unseen life transition still had me reeling, and it still is settling in that this is my life for the time being, and a potential opening to a career. I left my friends, boyfriend, and known life behind to pursue this, so some days do get emotional, and difficult, and force me to take a deep breath. However, in all this I learned that the hard choice is often times the one that will take you to the next level in your career or financial goals. Because of this job, I have gained some serious insight into what my next steps will be, bought a brand new car, and will never have to waitress again (fingers crossed!). I am incredibly fortunate that I was recognized for my skills and invited to be on this team, and know that if the time ever does come to move on, I will be able to look back satisfied that I overcame challenges to make the right decision for my personal advancement. What I will carry to others from this is that it is okay to beat yourself up, to feel like you failed, and to make some seemingly selfish decisions when it comes to what is best for you. So many students or young professionals my age are terrified of emotional pain, of risk, and of (gasp!) rejection. This fear is often what keeps others in defeat; that, and the status quo of being too young to know better. I wish I could shout from the rooftop how life is so much more exciting when you break away from the pack and find you can run at your own pace, that those who love you will ALWAYS be there for you, and how each chapter in your life that closes with failure just gives you a chance to pick up something new. My mantra is this: It is never too late to start something too early.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Houston was, and always will be, my first city. My first Texas heartthrob, from Jersey Village to Pasadena, the city has so much to offer. For spending our week exploring the city, I would aim to prove to them how Houston is not just high rises and hotels by escaping on a sunny Monday afternoon to Buffalo Bayou Park to admire the skyline from one of the cities biggest green spaces. The dog park there is a must see, and a must visit for us and our furry friends when we go. Tuesday morning screams coffee break, and I happened to stumble upon the quaintest coffee shop a few years back, Luce Ave Coffee Roasters! They recently just expanded their space, but still have an extremely yummy selection available at their original location by West University and the Galleria. Wednesday nights in Houston are for celebrating that blessed mid way point in the work week, so Texas De Brazil is an obvious choice for indulgence, as well as a walk around the luxury shopping in the Town & Country Center. You would be surprised at how many people from outside the state are absolutely floored by the food at Brazilian Steak Houses- a true testimony that “Everything is Bigger in Texas!” Thursday would have to be a Galleria day to get some serious shopping done, and then a stroll through Discovery Green with some lunch. That area is such a staple in Houston, and so glamourous to me still! The waterfall park is also an awesome photo op to take advantage of. Friday would have to wind down with a good Mexican Lunch at Cuchara in Montrose, a favorite of mine with excellent margaritas and a chic, artsy vibe. A sunset at the James Turell skyspace would be the perfect finish, as the views there are unbeatable! Saturday I would take them out towards Brazos Bend State Park to hike with the Houston areas resident alligators, and then to Fulshear for dinner at Anthonie’s Market Grill, which is a true countryside escape while still serving upscale dining. Not to mention the cutest cows wandering by in the field over! To see them off on Sunday, brunch would of course be necessary. Backstreet Cafe would be my go-to, as the patio is lovely, and has an impeccable reputation for great French Toast. Some notable side trips would include planetarium show, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the butterfly conservatory.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate this article to my family first and foremost. Without your collective efforts, and extreme patience, I would have never been able to take the journey that I have thus far. Thank you for raising me the way you did, and know how great of a job you all continue to do. To Cassandra, for always talking me through my crazy ideas, and being a true big sister to me for over a decade now. Cheers to many more, I have loved watching us grow! To the man who I have the privilege of calling my best friend, and my partner. Your encouragement and love has gone above and beyond this year despite the miles between us. I am so grateful, and I miss you more every day. P.s, I love you! Finally, to all of my friends and the “micro-mentors” who have crossed my path over the years, and left something special behind; a piece of your own successes, so that I may continually learn how to find and define my own.