Madison Hildebrand is a rare reality TV star: he was a big deal before his appearance on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing.”

Raised in Connecticut, the ambitious, self-directed 27-year-old came out to California to attend college; he stayed, however, to take advantage of the connections he made.

“I came out to California to go to Pepperdine, graduated in 2003 with a degree in Advertising, looked at the different opportunities around me and thought about getting my real estate license. The license took 10 months to get, so I had a lot of time to brand myself.”

Hildebrand enlisted the aid of “a wonderful mentor who showed me the ropes.”

Another factor he considers crucial to his success is extensive customer service. Hildebrand’s actions during the Malibu fires best express this. He emerged not only as a real estate salesman, but as a community leader and dedicated professional friend.

“The first fires were really close to several of my clients’ houses. All of my listings had to evacuate. I took a bunch of valuables out of my clients’ homes that were out of the state.”

His self-made success (and the lessons he learned from it) inspired him to write a book, Activate Your Passion and Find Your Career. High-priced real estate aside, Hildebrand’s own greatest asset may be his passion for his work.

Where he cites a speech he gave at his alma mater. He asked a classroom full of seniors how many knew what they wanted to do in life. Only three raised their hands.

“So I told them: pick your passion and match it with your opportunities. The money and everything else will follow. You’ll become an authority, you’ll get referrals and you’ll really become what it is you love doing.” For more information, visit Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” season two is coming soon.