Pira was homeless. He slept on the beach using towels as a blanket and his clothes as a pillow. Alone in a foreign country, he didn’t speak the language and owed money to most of his friends. Starving and angry, Pira called one last friend back home in Sweden and begged for money. But to his chagrin, the friend sent a book instead — and it changed Pira’s life.
Today, the 37-year-old is a real estate tycoon who develops some of the most luxurious resorts in the world. As a teenager, he was a high school dropout who didn’t think he would see his 20s. However, anything is possible when you find your “secret.”
Waking up dead.
Pira is named after San Andrés, the Colombian island where he was born. His Swedish father and Colombian mother met there before moving to Stockholm, Sweden, when Pira was 3 years old.
Four years later, his parents divorced, and Pira drifted between their homes in one of Sweden’s worst suburbs. “Growing up in that environment made me believe the world was cruel,” Pira recalls. “Youth like me didn’t have a future. The idea that I had no control over my life consumed me. I was certain my parents would never be proud of me.”
Pira acted up as a teenager, pulling stunts like hiding fish in the air duct at his school — which was forced to close for several days because the smell was so bad. When he was 15, he started partying, dropped out of school and spent his days drinking in the streets of Stockholm with other dropouts. “I didn’t know who I wanted to be,” Pira says, “so I chose to be destructive.”
One day when he was 18, Pira woke up hungover on the steps of an abandoned building, lying in broken glass and with no idea where he was. “I thought I was dead,” Pira recalls.
Booking a one-way flight.
“When I got home, the look on my mother’s face was indescribable,” Pira says. “It hurt more than any punch ever did.”
Pira decided to turn things around, separated himself from his street friends and got a job at a telemarketing office. He was making hundreds of calls each day but hated it. He skipped work so much he was fired. With no degree, direction nor friends, he spiraled into depression.
Then, Pira’s grandfather suddenly passed away. They were close, and the shock made Pira realize he needed to do something before it was too late. With the $2,000 his grandfather had left him, Pira decided to leave Sweden and start over. A travel agent recommended Thailand, so Pira booked the flight.
“How do you tell your parents you’re leaving and might never come back?” Pira was sick with anxiety about telling his mother, but her reaction was just what he needed. “She told me to follow my heart and do what felt right,” Pira says. “With her blessing, I left.”
Finding ‘The Secret.’
Five days after buying the ticket, Pira boarded a one-way flight to Bangkok. With $100 and dreams of white sandy beaches, he arrived to discover a busy city full of skyscrapers with no beach in sight.
He spent $50 on a bus ticket to the holiday island of Phuket, where he got a trial job distributing hotel flyers to tourists. He made the equivalent of around $20 a week — just enough to pay for a tiny room and a daily serving of noodle soup, but he was happy.
Soon, old habits pulled Pira into Phuket’s party scene. He lost his job and was evicted from his room. With nowhere to go, he wandered to the nearest beach, which became his home. He woke up at 5 a.m. daily so no one could see that he was homeless.
Pira started drinking at age 15 and briefly quit. By 20, he fell into the Phuket party scene.Image Credit: Courtesy of Andres Pira
Pira was too embarrassed to ask his family for help, so he borrowed money from friends in Sweden. One day, he called the last person on his list. The friend refused to send money but instead offered to email him a book: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.
Pira was incredulous that someone offered him a book when homeless. However, the book distracted him from his empty stomach, so he read it. The book talked about the “Law of Attraction” — the idea you can attract whatever you want in life through visualization and affirmation techniques.
“I thought the concept was ridiculous but was out of ideas,” Pira says. “I started visualizing a cup of coffee. It felt stupid, but I persevered.”
Two days later, one of the beach employees approached Pira and said, “I thought you could use a coffee because you look tired.” Pira could not believe it.
Pira started visualizing getting a job. After asking around town, he landed a job handing out brochures for a real estate office. Soon, he could afford to rent a small house with a garden, and for the first time, he felt like he had control over his life.
Making sales on a scooter.
Pira incorporated affirmations, visualization, goal setting and other principles from “The Secret” into his daily routine. He plastered his walls and refrigerator with his goals and photos of what he wanted in life. He attended personal development seminars and voraciously consumed other books to develop his personal and professional skills.
One day, Pira gave a brochure to a businessman who was interested in seeing one of the properties. The businessman was flying home that afternoon, and all the sales agents were out giving tours. The man agreed to hop on the back of Pira’s scooter to view the property. Pira showed him around, and the businessman decided to buy it. “My manager couldn’t believe I closed a sale in an hour, on a motorbike, with no training. I felt proud of myself for the first time in my life.”
Pira was promoted to a sales agent and worked his way up to sales director. When he’d saved enough money, he launched his own real estate agency, but he had a lot to learn about running a business. Within months, the business started to struggle; sales were down, and debt was mounting. After several poor decisions — like renting a big office in a remote part of town instead of focusing on sales — Pira had to declare bankruptcy.
“I lost the habits that initially made me successful,” he says. “I stopped meditating, learning and doing affirmations. I started worrying about losing everything I built, focusing on scarcity instead of abundance.”
Once Pira restarted the healthy habits, there was a transformative outcome. He was closing deals again, and he built an investor network who urged him to become a property developer.
Finding success in the Land of Smiles.
Over the next few years Pira built several successful real estate companies in Phuket. Today, he owns 19 companies with more than 250 employees, and his net worth has catapulted into billions in local currency. In addition to real estate, his investments include a fitness club, law office, gas station and several coffee shops. Pira is now expanding his business globally, starting with New York City and Los Angeles.
Despite his successes, Pira does not want to be remembered as a serial entrepreneur but a force for good. He supports several global causes, including the Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation, which works to improve economic opportunities for local young people. He also drove a rickshaw across North India to raise money for Cool Earth, which protects endangered rainforests to halt climate change.
With his latest company, Success Events, Pira is on a mission to bring others self-belief, which he calls “the most beautiful gift in life.” Headliners at the inaugural two-day event in Bangkok included the heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson and best-selling authors and success coaches Dr. Joe Vitale and Jack Canfield.
Pira’s story came full circle when he met Dr. Vitale, who had appeared in “The Secret,” a documentary based on the book that changed Pira’s life. Vitale convinced Pira that his story could inspire others. Together, they co-authored “Homeless to Billionaire: The 18 Principles of Wealth Attraction and Creating Unlimited Opportunity.”
“I’m a high school dropout who’s been homeless, bankrupt and clinically depressed,” Pira says. “I came to a country broke, without speaking the language. If I can change my fortune, anyone can.”
When not traveling for business or visiting family in Sweden, Pira spends most of his time in Thailand. With its warm weather and hospitality, Thailand is precisely the paradise Pira had dreamed of as a troubled 20-year-old. Now, he speaks Thai fluently and lives every day like a vacation — enjoying the beautiful beaches he was once ashamed to call home.