Ever feel like you try and try and can never reach your goals? It’s not like you’re lazy or unwilling, but things just don’t seem to materialize as easy for you as they do for those around you. Success is hard to come by. Does it sometimes feel like you’re doomed to perpetual failure? Maybe you’re just going about things all wrong.
I’ve never been any good at making tough decisions on my own. I always need help, counsel from others. I try to run things by people who have experience with what I’m dealing with. Alone, I tend to get stuck in what is referred to as “analysis paralysis.” I try to figure things out, hedge my bets. I forecast, project. I overthink. I underdo.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to get good at one thing, then quit. How many times I started something I thought was a good idea, but then failed to make it a reality. College, home improvements, sports, instruments, relationships, food. You name it, I’ve bungled it. Hindsight can be tricky though. It’s not always as clear as they say. In large part, I think that many of our failures pave the way for valuable, even momentous learning, and can often lead to trails we never imagined when we started. In other ways however, if we can’t, won’t or don’t identify how and why our plans fail, we are bound to repeat the same heartbreaking patterns.
What I can tell you, is that most times I failed, I began undertakings without having the end in mind. Started down a path with no clear sense of where I was going or why. Many times, I just knew I wanted to change. More often, I wasn’t sure exactly why that change was needed or what I had to do to escape the pain of whatever the current situation was. I was dead in the water before I ever got going.
It’s taken a lot of failure and countless mistakes to appreciate this perspective, to see why this has never worked, and to believe that it will never work. If I am to achieve my goals, if I am to be successful, I need to also be deliberate, decisive and intentional. But how?
I’m not a complicated individual. In my business and other aspects of my life, I apply a very basic system. It’s not quite the scientific method, but it does work for me. My process begins with the belief that something can be done. Once I believe something, it becomes possible, to me. Without a real belief, nothing is possible. There must be a vision followed by a decision and actions. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck.
Once armed with an idea, a vision has a fertile ground from which to develop and grow. Imagination piques. Options to reach the destination start appearing. I ask myself questions, I check my ‘why’ to see if there’s a reason for what I’m thinking about. What are my goals? Is this idea in line with my larger ones? Will I be able to take action? If so, when? This process happens in a nanosecond, and while it may sound simple, even childish, consider how we limit ourselves to possibilities in our lives.
When we’re children, we believe we can do anything! People tell us, “You can be anything you want to be!” We believe them. As kids, we wanted to be police officers, doctors, astronauts, presidents! Of course, some people accomplish those goals, never losing sight of them and fulfilling their childhood dreams. For most of us though, as we grow, we start to see the barriers to all the things we thought we could do, as children. Somewhere along the line we start paying more attention to reasons things can’t be done, rather than remembering how intrigued we were with chasing facets of the world that we didn’t understand. We forget the exhilaration of wanting to be a fireman and we think more about the fear, the time, the commitment. We drift away. The dreams fade and before we know it, there we are again. Safely dead in our tracks having thoroughly sabotaged ourselves. But here’s the good news, we don’t have to keep doing this. We can harness the power required to break these patterns.
I used to tell everybody all the great things I was going to do, someday. All the adventures and accomplishments I was going to undertake, someday. Many times, I even imagined myself doing those things and being in those situations — but there was one giant missing piece. The decision. I never actually decided anything. At times, I would even pretend I was going to do things, just so you would like me, but deep down, I knew I was always going to be stuck. Sounds depressing right? It was.
The results of a life spent wishing for things instead of deciding to do things was a terrible feeling. Here’s the bottom line, just like Lynard Skynard says…someday…never comes. Actually, someday…sucks. If we sit around and wait for things to happen to us, things will happen. To us. Bad things. Plus, waiting sucks too, right? Wouldn’t you rather make decisions and get to the fun stuff that comes from taking the action? I mean, trying and failing is way better than never having made the attempt because at the end of the day, you know. You can go back to the drawing board and take another stab.
The point is not to waste time waiting, deciding, analyzing, just because you don’t already know how to do something. Nobody knows how to do anything before they start. We don’t really know anything until we decide to do it and then take action. Not really. The point is, we need to get our hands dirty as quickly as possible if we are to accomplish anything new. Now, read all the books you want about being a pilot but then go ahead and jump in the cockpit and give it a go alone. I’d ask you to let me know how that goes, but of course, you’d be dead, so you couldn’t. My advice is not to be overly hasty, just don’t give yourself a chance to quite too soon. Get into the pilot seat and allow someone else to share their experience as you fly through it together. Whatever it takes to begin taking action as soon as possible.
Here’s a business example of how this process has worked for me.
At one point in my life I happened to be looking for something to replace the insecurity I felt with my day job as manager in a large corporation. During a coincidental conversation with a co-worker, she mentioned she had several rental properties that she was able to buy, rehab and manage, all while keeping her day job. I had a rental and I was interested in what she was doing. She mentioned a website that provided her with some insight on how to get started. The website had a podcast that might also be helpful. I began listening to the podcasts and then buying the books the commentators and guests were discussing. Turns out, real estate was more than interesting. It was fascinating to me. I loved the strategies, the creativity, the options. What I really loved was the possibility that it might be a solution to my problem. I wanted to be financially independent, but it always just seemed so far away for me. As I listened to others sharing familiar, similar, the exact same fears and experiences as mine, I began to believe this could also work for me. If they could do it, maybe I could too.
While my impatience meant I didn’t love the time real estate transactions seemed to take, or the fact that there was no single, clear method to it all, there seemed to be so many ways to do it. It almost seemed unreal. There I was, presented with a possible solution to my problem. But was I really just on another precipice of failure? Another aborted idea that couldn’t leap the hurdles of fear, worry and anxiety? Was the pain I was experiencing going to block my way or would it actually be so bad that I made a change? Pain is good for that, you know. This time just seemed different. The gears were turning, and the goals and opportunities were shining brighter than the multitude of reasons not to do it. I spent what felt like months doing real estate deals…on paper, analyzing.
Simon Sinek wrote a book entitled, “Start with Why.” In a nutshell, he points out that while it’s easy to identify how we do things and what those things are, what we tend to either forget or fail to keep in focus is why we do things. His contention is that success is predicated on our understanding of the reasons we do things. Keeping this in mind through our day to day lives is paramount for whatever we do to be effective. “What does this mean to me?”, I asked myself. If the ‘why’ is noble, serves a purpose, and is well defined, it passes the test. For example, “I would like to become a real estate investor and rent houses,” does not pass the test by itself. “I would like to become financially independent so that I can provide for my family without relying on a job or a corporation for my security,” does. That is my ‘why.’ Once established, I could move on to determine the means to get there and the things that must be done. The strategy and the tactics.
Suffice it to say, I’ve taken the shotgun approach to finding my niche in this new business and while I’m not sure I’d change a thing, after a few years of doing this, I’ve gained a lot of experience with many types of investing. I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert in any of them. I will always have more to learn. In the hopes that my experience and my process may help others learn from my mistakes — or find a quicker path to finding their niche — I try to share my experience doing it.
I can’t even believe it’s true but, at the time of this writing, I’ve done over fifty real estate deals. I’ve flipped several houses, sold wholesale contracts, refinanced deals, originated mortgages for investors, bought properties at auctions, and even bought a property with a credit card. I’ve been involved in partnerships, managed contract rehabs, hired employees and started several businesses. I’ve leased to hundreds of tenants of all types: low/high/middle income, students, professionals, AirBnB, seasonal rentals, room rentals, travelling nurses…you name it. I’ve also evicted, sued, called cops and gotten into fights with tenants. I own and manage rentals of all types and flip houses for fun. Had I waited for ‘someday,’ even if it did arrive, it would have been a far cry from what my new reality is. This new reality, the result of a simple process, is ten times what I would have wanted before.
In hindsight, I have tried a lot of things and while my ego would like to tell you that this was some divine plan that this came to fruition as a result of my being such a good person, I have no idea about any of that. I do know what I did though. I believed I could do it, established my ‘why,’ decided to try and took actions toward reaching my goals. Simple, right?