I keep learning new things each day. This will probably be an ongoing project, as I don’t think there is ever one way to be successful. A lot of people have “made it” using various tactics, but I think much of it can always be summarized by these things:
- Take risks. What’s worse — Failure or having never tried? I’ll take
failurelearning a new way that doesn’t work any time.
- Don’t be a victim. More on this later. But basically, just because something bad happens in life doesn’t mean that it’s the result of “the man” being racist, misogynist, or in some other way exploiting you. Sometimes shitty things happen to good people. How you handle it is the key.
- Get up early. Carpe Diem. I said this before, but it bears repeating.
- It’s all in the details. It’s the littlest things that make a difference. Spelling. Being on time. Returning calls. Pressing your shirt and keeping your tie tied. Polishing your shoes.
Here are some general things to keep in mind:
- It is what it is. And isn’t. The dumbest things I hear people say is something like, “It is what it is; there’s nothing you can do about it.” OK, that might apply to a few circumstances in life — you can’t dwell on the past. But for the most part, you can change what’s happened in the past. Lost love? You can get it back. Please don’t give me the “set if free…if it returns” BS. In 999 out of 1000 times, the other person is wishing for the same thing. Mostly it’s pride or a harsh word that is forever regretted that causes you to forever miss out on “lost” opportunities. The same with a new job or landing a new contract. A phone call or conversation often times changes misperceptions and misunderstandings. Tone and body language often times cause us to miss out on opportunities. Don’t just sit back! Get it back!
- Don’t be a victim. Life’s tough. Are you going to sit on the ground every time you get knocked down, or are you going to get up, brush yourself off, and keep going? Just because something bad happens to you isn’t because you’re a victim of some perceived grievance. Race. Gender. Religion. Yes, there are times when prejudice still contributes to your circumstance, but for the most part these accusations are watered down and lose their seriousness because everyone uses them as an excuse. Trust me, I’ve been all over the world and life isn’t as bad as it’s portrayed here in the U. S. I have a friend who doesn’t have a job. Why? He has no car. Why? He doesn’t have a driver’s license. Why? He doesn’t have insurance. Why? Because he thinks insurance is a scam to “make billionaires trillionaires.” So he refuses to work because he thinks the whole system is rigged against him, and he refuses to be a part of it. Pretty freaking stupid if you ask me (which he did ask, and I did tell him). Yes, he’s the 40 year old, long haired, pot smoking , forever-hippie, protest-attending, sign-waving loser from Seattle. Everything is because of fascism, although I doubt he could even spell “fascism” without autocorrect. He physically wears me down because of his incessant whining. And because I own two Mercedes and several rental properties, he’s one of those convinced that I’ve cheated every tenant I have to own such. He’ll never make it in life. And guess what? He sleeps in until 11 or noon every day.
- Leadership. Leadership is the ability to translate a vision into reality. Whether it’s personally or professionally, you have to have a clear idea of what you want and then persist through setbacks and failures.
- Take responsibility. If you’re wrong, admit it and take responsibility for it. I had to admit to a tenant recently that I was wrong about something. That admission went so far towards tenant relations, I can’t even tell you. They approached me about the mistake in a slightly hostile way because they were convinced that I would defend myself and ignore their point of view. I admitted the mistake, apologized, and did a little extra something for them. They recently renewed their lease for a two year term because, as they said, “I’ll never find a nicer landlord than you.”
- Show gratitude. Texting or emailing a “Thanks” really pisses me off when you do something big for someone. Not that I expect to be thanked, but still. I keep a stack of Thank You notes in my top desk drawer. I routinely send them out, even to my parents, still. I could write a book on the good karma that has come my way from taking the time to show gratitude in a more personal way. You wouldn’t believe the respect I have garnered from people because I take the time to do this. Another example: Two years ago, a friend of mine loaned me several tools over the course of the summer. He saved me thousands. Recently he asked me to change the brakes on his company vehicle. When I was finished, he handed me a check. I refused it, and he asked, “Why?” I reminded him about loaning me the tools. He had completely forgotten, but I told him that changing his brakes for free was my way of letting him know that I still appreciated his gesture.
- Success isn’t about avoiding failure. It’s about learning from failure. You have to learn to adapt. When you fail, you have to look at your plan and change what isn’t working. So many people double-down on their poor actions in order to prove their worthiness. Again, admit when you’re wrong, learn what you can, and perhaps even go after that which you think is lost.
- The game plan. Leaders are constantly pushing the boundaries and forging ahead. They never settle for how things are done. But you have to physically have a game plan for getting ahead in life. This means that you have to physically write down the what and how of getting what you want. Make notes. Adjust them. Here’s what I do: I write out notes in black ink. I make adjustments and afterthoughts in blue ink. I cross them off in red ink. Set specific and measurable metrics. There’s not an app for that! Just do it.
- Personal equals Professional. Your personal success will guarantee your professional success. Are you disciplined? Is your house and car clean? Are you well-groomed? Do you keep your word and show up on time, even for social functions? Do you show gratitude? Then chances are you are on your way to professional success. These traits DO carry over.
- Put your phone down. I guess I’m old fashioned, but I will call someone out at my table if they’re constantly on their phone. Don’t use it as a social crutch. Seriously, is it that important? Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Your followers couldn’t give a rat’s ass about you. They might “Like” something you posted, but they’re not fawning all over you. Deep down, they just don’t care. You’re a very insecure person if you’re constantly having to check to see who liked your picture. You should seek therapy! If you determine your self worth by what a bunch of hashtag-searching hippies think about you, you’re in for some serious turbulence ahead in life with regard to coping skills. Be your own person. Be in control of your own self worth. I think social media has produced a generations of wusses.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I think there’s even a book with this title. Above I said that you shouldn’t ignore the details, and that you should sometimes go after that which you think can’t be changed. But at the same time, you have to learn when to just not worry about stuff. There’s a saying that goes something like, “90% of the things we worry about will be derailed into the ditch long before they ever affect us.” That’s not the exact wording, but close enough. Stop worrying.
- Take risks. I love risk, whether it’s skydiving, the world’s largest roller coaster, or visiting “hot spots” around the world. I will never sit back and wonder “if only…” I love trying new foods. I am all about doing something I’ve never done, and if in the end I didn’t like it, then I at least know what the experience is like and I have the memory. When I got started in the real estate investment field, the goal was to secure my future financially. My “flagship” investments are a group of duplexes all on the same block. I plunged ahead and bought them. They were all empty and all needed work. I had my first mortgage payment due in 30 days. I had virtually no savings, at least not enough to rehab the properties. I was scared and very overwhelmed at all the work ahead. I called Lowe’s and Home Depot and a few other credit cards and explained what I was doing and asked for large credit increases. I was granted all of them. I jumped in with both feet. I lived on credit cards for a year. The area had some unsavory criminal elements, so I called the local Sheriff and spoke with him. I told him I was investing in the area and my investment would eventually stabilize the neighborhood, but in the meantime I requested support from his deputies. He thanked me for taking the risk in the area, and I got all the support I could ever need. The neighborhood was eventually cleaned up and I established good tenants. In that area, my rents are 30% higher than all the other comps. All of my tenants are on either their second, third, or fourth lease. When I have had to interview, I have so many applicants that I literally only advertise on Craigslist for two days. I can’t keep up. I do it better and charge more for it, but it’s a cash cow. I debated for weeks as to whether I should take the plunge and buy them. Now I have substantial equity and good cash flow. But what if I sat back and enumerated all the “what if’s” of what could go wrong. All those mortgage payments? Thousands in paint costs alone. Deadbeat tenants? But in the end I did it and did it right. It was the scariest yet best decision of my life.
Here are some habits of the “rich:”
- Live within your means. Pay your future self first. Save 20% and live on 80%.
- Don’t gamble. Did you know that 77% of all people who describe themselves as “poor” play the lottery?
- Read every day. Yep, that means picking up a book or magazine and reading. Internet browsing isn’t reading.
- Less time in front of the screen. Studies show that rich (successful) people watch very little TV and don’t spend hours in front of the computer screen browsing the internet for recreational purposes.
- Volunteer. 75% of “rich” people volunteer regularly for some cause, while only 10% of poor people volunteer their time.
- Goals vs. wishes. Almost every successful, rich person sets goals. Almost all people who perceive themselves as poor have a long “wish list” that they have convinced themselves can only be obtained through luck.
- Control your emotions. Bite your lip and don’t say something you’ll regret. Oh, how I’ve failed a time or two on this one! If you’re wondering if you should “say something,” give yourself 24 hours as a cooling off period, and if at the end you still feel strongly, then you will probably make your case with more facts and fewer emotions. I was at a wedding one time and some old guy gave the bride and groom some “marriage advice:” He said that it’s OK to fly off the handle, just not at the same time. I thought the guy was a complete idiot. It’s never OK to “fly off the handle.” I’ve regretted doing this far too many times.
- Don’t procrastinate. Enough said.
- Less talk, more listen. Wealthy, successful people spend more time listening and less time talking because they understand that you can learn something by listening. Most people only listen to respond, not to consider another point of view.
- Avoid toxic relationships. Do the people with whom you surround yourself challenge you and make you think and grow and become a better person? Or are they the type that wear you out physically? Are they a bad influence? Or do they bring out the best in you? In 2006 I had what I thought was one of my best friends. I haven’t talked to him since 2009. Looking back, he brought out the absolute worst in me, but I felt I “needed” him in my life. I knew at the time he was a bad influence, but it was like trying to force water and oil to mix. I’ve since learned I didn’t need anyone in my life that would bring me down.
Read these books (and others):
There’s a book called The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker. “Money is a result, wealth is a result, health is a result, illness is a result, your weight is a result. We live in a world of cause and effect,” writes Eker. “A lack of money is never, ever, ever a problem. A lack of money is merely a symptom of what is going on underneath.”
At the core of Millionaire Mind are Eker’s “wealth files:”
- Rich people believe: “I create my life.” Poor people believe: “Life happens to me.”
- Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose.
- Rich people are committed to being rich. Poor people want to be rich.
- Rich people think big. Poor people think small.
- Rich people focus on opportunities. Poor people focus on obstacles.
- Rich people admire other rich and successful people. Poor people resent rich and successful people.
- Rich people associate with positive, successful people. Poor people associate with negative or unsuccessful people.
- Rich people are willing to promote themselves and their value. Poor people think negatively about selling and promotion.
- Rich people are bigger than their problems. Poor people are smaller than their problems.
- Rich people are excellent receivers. Poor people are poor receivers.
- Rich people choose to get paid based on results. Poor people choose to get paid based on time.
- Rich people think “both”. Poor people think “either/or”.
- Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income.
- Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well.
- Rich people have their money work hard for them. Poor people work hard for their money.
- Rich people act in spite of fear. Poor people let fear stop them.
- Rich people constantly learn and grow. Poor people think they already know.
Next is a book called The Top 10 Distinctions Between Millionaires and the Middle Class by Keith Cameron Smith. He makes distinctions between rich and poor, including (some similarities from Millionaire Mind):
- Millionaires think long-term. The middle class thinks short-term.
- Millionaires talk about ideas. The middle class talks about things and people.
- Millionaires embrace change. The middle class is threatened by change.
- Millionaires take calculated risks. The middle class is afraid to take risks.
- Millionaires continually learn and grow. The middle class thinks learning ended with school.
- Millionaires work for profits. The middle class works for wages.
- Millionaires believe they must be generous. The middle class believes it can’t afford to give.
- Millionaires have multiple sources of income. The middle class has only one or two.
- Millionaires focus on increasing their wealth. The middle class focuses on increasing its paychecks.
- Millionaires ask themselves empowering questions. Middle-class people ask themselves disempowering questions.
Change happens from the inside when each individual believes in the power of their words and actions. Pillars are often used metaphorically as a way to represent standing for something of value and meaning. Here are six (of many) that I hold:
- Does it maximize benefit and minimize harm for everyone?
- Is it engendering, or is it destructive?
- Does it positively elevate a subject to a new level of consciouness?
- Is it a proactive representation towards greater truth, trust, and justice?
- Is it geared to raise awareness, to take action, or to become an advocate for others?
- Will my individual action contribute to a vicious cycle or a virtuous cycle?