Quick Bite Interview with Roberto González, Skillshare Instructor

NYC at night

By Michael Piggot

Roberto González teaches a class called Life Hack: How To Live Rent-Free in NYC. through Skillshare, where entrepreneurs can create their own local, in-person classes or apply to teach global, online classes. His mission is to help innovators, technologists, and artists pursue their passions without having to be slaves to rent.

He has a step-by-step system that he said “Flip the script on the New York real estate market.” He created this plan when he left real estate to pursue his dream of being an actor. He holds his larger classes at the Wix Lounge free co-sharing space. He was showcased on NBC’s Today Show, Business Insider, and Mashable.

Who is Roberto Gonzalez?

Just a guy teaching a Skillshare class to anyone that is interested. I considered myself a New Yorker because I remember when people used tokens to get on the subway. Born in Dallas, lived in DC, and did some growing up in Chicago.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or a teacher?

I feel like an entrepreneur because my last three “jobs” have been entrepreneurial by nature: a realtor, teacher and actor. These are 100% entrepreneurial — you are the product, but marketing and financing is entirely up to you.

What are your favorite television shows and movies?

Favorite show is Twin Peaks
Favorite movie is Pulp Fiction

Any favorite books?

Tao Te Ching – I used to carry a tiny physical copy, now I have it on my iPhone.

What are you working on?

As an artist, yesterday was one of the proudest days of my life, because I was with other artists creating a web series about Shakespeare. These artists were not in it for money; they were in it for passion. We just shot it, so we don’t know what it’s going to look like, but no matter what we will be the first to have done this. Now we have a little corner in history just for us. That’s an amazing feeling.

When I was doing real estate, it was just a means to an end. It didn’t mean anything to me. What we did yesterday means something to me. I want to have a legacy. I want that to outlast me. I have the freedom to do what I want to do, and I want others to have that freedom to. There was no way I could have spent 12 hours on a Thursday shooting a web series for no pay. So for me teaching the class is about enabling other people to follow their dreams.

Prior to your Skillshare class, did you teach any other classes?

I taught English to the children of Japanese fishermen in a tiny village in Japan. And I also taught yoga.

Outside of your class and acting, what else are you passionate about?

My fiancé, my garden and my cat.

Your inspirations?

  1. My father who was an educator before he recently retired. He came from a very poor town in rural Texas and was the first generation of his family to go to college. He won a wall full of awards. When he retired, he took all the awards and threw them away. Kind of like Jimi Hendrix’s guitar solo when he smashes the guitar at the end. I thought that was badass.
  2. My mother is an amazing fine art photographer and I have one of her pictures in hanging in my apartment.
  3. My friend, a Spanish actress who left her life in Spain and moved to the US even though she barely spoke the language and didn’t have a green card. She had a lot stacked against her. To see her persevere, despite all the obstacles, is really inspiring.

With your class, what are the problems that you are addressing?

The primary problem that I want to address is the paradox that people come to New York to pursue their dreams and to pursue excellence in something. That’s part of what makes New York so amazing. You have to spend so much time running in place just to stay in New York physically and to have a place to lay your head. It demands so much of our time, and we only have 24 hours in a day. I feel like it holds a lot of people back – we need to be able to free people’s time.

How did you come up with Rent Free NYC?

I ran into a friend of mine named Jeff who had seen my Video that I had used to help my real estate clients figure out how to get the best places at the lowest prices. Jeff had just come from a NY Tech Meetup and said I should look into this new startup called Skillshare. So I attended a class on how to teach Skillshare classes.

What led you to this right now instead of anything else?

Relentless persistent search to make it work.

What are currently your biggest challenges?

Feeling confident in my craft, both in the moments when I am acting and the moments where I am not. Another is looking at alternate ways to market my class. People keep asking to create a product that they can access directly instead of through me – like an eBook, a video, or an internet class — but I have not been able to find what that optimum product would be or how to go about creating it.

Where do you see yourself 12 months from now?

In New York City doing what I am doing now, but hopefully doing more acting and getting paid more for it! And I hope more students come through the class.

Now let’s reflect on who you were five years ago. What advice would you give the former you?

Five years ago I had just got an apartment and had given up my dreams of being an actor — but I believe I was on the path to where I am today. So if I could go back and talk to that version of me, I would say stick with it, keep your mind and eyes open, and everything will be ok.

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