Spiritual Life

Intero Real Estate founder overcomes struggles to find faith

In 2002, Tom Tognoli cofounded the successful Silicon Valley-based Intero Real Estate Services. But his road to success was paved with challenges.

“I was just a mediocre student,” he said of his Sunnyvale school days. “I had trouble concentrating. The letters and words got all mixed up in my head.”

Tognoli suffered from dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but he noted that there was no diagnosis back then – you were considered “hyper and not too smart.”

He attended De Anza College and Chico State University but never earned enough credits to graduate.

“I had a hard time reading and putting two sentences together,” Tognoli said.

He went into real estate and purchased his first house in 1989, and then the Loma Prieta earthquake hit. The real estate market collapsed.

Tognoli persevered, married in 1991 and had two children by 1999.

“My wife was working and we were under pressure,” he said. “I was starting to drink more – I had become obese and developed other health issues.”

His life was a mess, but the turning point came in 1999.

“I remember the time and place,” he recalled. “I was with my partner and close friend John Thompson. It was very emotional. I was crying, he was crying. I said I wanted to be there for my kids, and I wanted to be a good example. I realized that I had to stop drinking, get healthy and take hold of my life.”

Tognoli stopped drinking and has not had a drink in more than 12 years.

Finding God

Tognoli began a fitness regimen, spent more time with his family, renewed his focus on business and found God.

When his oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, they enrolled him in a Christian school equipped to handle the difficulties.

“We were exposed to a new group of people and started going to church – God was at work,” he said.

After attending Menlo Park Presbyterian Church’s affiliate in Mountain View, Open Door, Tognoli connected with a church and with God.

When his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, his faith deepened.

“For a guy who didn’t read much, I was reading the Bible as fast as I could, looking for answers and comfort,” he said.

His wife survived.

“Those challenges and struggles … made me stronger,” Tognoli said.

He attributes the turnaround to divine intervention: “There is no way someone could do what I did – and what I am doing today – by himself.”

Finding purpose

Tognoli developed a focus for life he calls F5: faith, family, friends, fitness and finances.

“My purpose is to help people … get through the things I went through and be the best they can be,” he said. “F5 builds from the foundation of faith. Life is so much better like this. I just want everyone to get it.”

Tognoli began a weekly blog 10 years ago, “Monday Morning Mojo,” which includes advice encouraging readers to practice F5. It has more than 20,000 subscribers.

Andy Wong, a realtor in the Intero office, credits Tognoli’s commitment for prompting him to join.

“I wanted to follow an authentic leader who was working every day to be a better himself in all aspects of life – not just real estate,” Wong said.

Today, Tognoli leads by example.

“God gave me this ability to challenge people and get them jacked up,” he said.

He’s a living example of someone who puts what Jesus says into practice on a daily basis and encourages others to do the same.

To read Tognoli’s blog, visit interomojo.com.

Skip Vaccarello is a longtime Los Altos resident. For more information, visit findinggodinsiliconvalley.com.

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