Author George Bernard Shaw famously declared that youth is wasted on the young. Shaw might have reconsidered his position if he’d lived long enough to meet 21-year-old Realtor and day trader Nikolai Miller.
At a tender age, Miller has fashioned a lifestyle that makes optimum use of every waking moment. He rises at 3 a.m., day trades for a few hours, pauses to work out, and then either returns to day trading or prospects for real estate listings.
Miller continues to work until bedtime, which is 8:30 p.m. One can imagine his parents urging him to stay up late and watch television when he was younger. He does occasionally turn on his TV in the evening, but it merely serves as background noise as he – no surprise here – works.
Many people work the all-day shift, some out of necessity, others out of ambition. Miller, who’s self-employed, falls into both categories. If he’s going to make a buck on any given day, he’s going to have to make it happen on his own. He also has hungry eyes.
“I have grand goals when it comes to assets,” says Miller, who’s seated at a round table placed at the back of a nearly full upper room at Oaks Coffee House on Silverdale Road. “I don’t talk about what those are because they’re very personal. If I did, most people would say, ‘Yeah, sure.’”
Miller’s two mechanisms for earning income certainly afford him with the potential to acquire significant assets. He began day trading after he spotted a social media post that contained a chart he thought looked like “someone hacking the internet,” he laughs. With help from the friend who posted the chart, Miller was soon connected to full-time day traders as far away as California and Dubai.
“Dots started to connect,” Miller says, “and I fell in love with networking.”
As opposed to Miller’s swift entry into the world of day trading, his interest in real estate crystallized over time. This process began as he spent his free time driving around the greater Chattanooga area looking at houses.
“I’d drive everywhere – North Shore, East Brainerd, Ooltewah, Apison, Hixson, Soddy Daisy – looking for cool houses. And everywhere I went, I’d think, ‘I want to have a house like that someday.’”
Miller later paired his interest in home sales with the gratification he felt while on missions trips to Haiti and Uganda and became a Realtor.
“I loved seeing a smile on someone’s face after I helped them. Real estate is essentially helping people find a home mixed with all the work no one else sees,” Miller says. “Of course, I love the work.”
Miller also enjoys networking, he adds, and has developed a method for turning every setting into an opportunity to connect with someone.
“I don’t like to lie, so I’ll glance at someone, find something I like and then say, ‘I like your shoes. Where’d you buy them?’ After they tell me, I’ll say, ‘Nice. Do you come here often?’ As we’re bouncing things back and forth, I’ll slowly shift the conversation to what they do.”
Miller, who demands complete honesty from himself, says he never has to feign interest in what another person reveals.
“I’ve met eight-figure entrepreneurs and workers for a tech company. No matter what someone is doing, I always find it intriguing.”
Miller ends these conversations by stating he’s a Realtor and handing his new acquaintance his business card. “It works every time,” he says. “It’s how I’ve built what I believe is a powerful network.”
Miller says this network equates to his net worth.
“I once heard someone say your network is your net worth. Maybe not monetarily, because knowing a millionaire isn’t going to make you a millionaire, but it will allow you to know what the millionaire knows. So, your network is your net worth of knowledge.”
As a demonstration of his superpower, Miller scans the room for a few seconds and then spots a man several tables away wearing a T-shirt that sports an outline of the state of Tennessee and the word “Home.”
“I might go over there and say, ‘I love your shirt. Have you lived here your whole life?’ No one wants someone to walk up to them and say, ‘I’m a Realtor; here’s my card.’ You want to be non-intrusive but also interested in them. And I genuinely like his shirt.”
Miller’s unabashed social bravery might be difficult for some Realtors, but he says it comes easy to him. “It’s who I am,” he says. “I like meeting people. Sometimes, I’ll come in here by myself with my AirPods in and start working and then I’ll tell myself, ‘Take out your AirPods and talk with that guy over there and that girl over there, and give each of them your card. I have a goal to never leave a place without giving someone my card.”
Miller has left at least one place without giving someone his card: Moscow. He was born in the Russian capital in 2002; an American couple – John and Lisa Miller – adopted him two years later and brought him to their home in Chattanooga. He jokes that his father – the proud parent of three biological daughters – wanted a son so badly that he crossed the Pacific Ocean to find one.
Given Miller’s age at the time of his adoption, he doesn’t have any memories of living in his native country, where he was named Nikolai Besonov Sergovich. However, in light of Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine, he states that he’s grateful to be a U.S. citizen.
“My life would be very different right now if I’d remained in Russia,” he adds grimly.
Miller’s father was an ophthalmologist and his mother a nurse, but he favored business as a teen. When he attended college locally to learn how to run a company, a business management professor disappointed him with an answer to a question and he dropped his classes.
“I told my business management professor, ‘I love your class,’ and then asked, ‘Which businesses have you managed?’ He said, ‘I just teach the course.’ I asked him how someone who had never managed a business could teach a business management course, and he gave me a weird look.’”
Hoping experience would be a better teacher for him, Miller contacted the mother of the best friend of one of his sisters: Diane Burke, managing broker of Real Estate Partners’ East Office. Burke guided Miller through the onboarding process and welcomed him as a licensed Realtor early this year.
Burke says by email that Miller impressed her from the moment they met. “It was evident Nikolai possesses an unparalleled tenacity and a remarkable ability to take initiative. His positive and proactive attitude and unwavering determination to succeed sets him apart in a highly competitive field.”
Burke says one of Miller’s most striking attributes is his insatiable thirst for knowledge.
“He seeks out opportunities to learn and grow, whether that involves staying up-to-date with the latest market trends, attending workshops and classes, or seeking mentorship from more experienced professionals,” she points out.
“His commitment to continuous learning reflects not only his dedication to personal and professional growth but also his commitment to providing clients with the best service and the most accurate information.”
In other words, Miller has potential. For the moment, however, he says he’s still in the seed planting phase of his real estate career. This is the stage beyond which many new agents never progress, according to a Fits Small Business article that says 85% of Realtors fail within five years of becoming licensed. However, Miller believes a harvest lies ahead.
“A lot of people are reluctant to enter the market because of the (high mortgage) rates. But I’m doing everything I can to generate business, and there’s an output for every input, so I’m bound to see results down the line.”
Day trading can be just as grueling to newcomers as real estate, with 80-99% of traders failing to make a significant amount of money, according to Quantified Strategies. That said, the odds are not daunting to Miller, whose first name means “people of victory.”
“I think people fail in this business because they don’t enjoy the work,” he muses. “They believe everything is going to be handed to them on a silver platter, and then they learn they’ll have to work hard to be able to buy a nice car. You can lose money and clients, but you haven’t failed until you say, ‘I’m done.’ And I’m far from done.”
Shaw once said, “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world. What a pity it has to be wasted on children.” If Miller’s work brings the harvest he’s expecting to fruition, then perhaps one day his life will instead reflect a quote by French entertainer Maurice Chevalier, who once said, “A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth.”