OK, that’s kind of an odd title to give this blog post, especially because I’m a positive-thinking kind of guy. What I’ve learned in my almost quarter-century of investing in real estate—and 20 years of helping others to invest—is that sometimes the best way to think positively is to confront the negative thoughts that wash over you from time to time. There’s no use in pretending that those thoughts are not there, so we might as well deal with them.
I’m guessing that you agree that guilt is one of the most-powerful emotions we encounter. When it comes to real estate investing, I can think of at least three varieties of guilt that have happened to me or to people I know, and that can prevent you from succeeding. Let’s tackle each one.
The First Guilt: “I’m late to the party.”
Especially in today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to read about people who seem like they were born to be rich. You know the kind of people I’m talking about: they had a prosperous lemonade stand as a kid, then started a company while in college and the company generated more than the monthly salary of their professors. These kids went on to found one or two companies before they could legally drink, and now are on the cover of some “30 Under 30” story in a magazine.
When you compare your career velocity to those fairy-tale folks, it’s pretty easy to feel bad: What have I been doing with my life, while these people were collecting fame and fortune? Compared to them, I’m a loser.
That’s the irrational part of us talking. The rational part knows that people show off their wins in public and lick their wounds in private. Those “success stories” may be people who have highly dysfunctional relationships (if any), or who use substances to excess. Even if they don’t, they could be saddled with their own feelings of inadequacy because they’re not quite as rich or gorgeous as someone else on the cover of another magazine.
When these feelings of inadequacy well up, it’s best to recognize and label them as the old “I’m not good enough” emotion and choose to refuse that feeling. Only you are in a position to choose to feel a particular way. You can wallow in it, or you can see it coming and refuse to take part. I am here to tell you that it’s easier to wallow in it. But if you can first recognize and label that emotion, you can head it off and let it wash over you. Today, you can choose not to engage with it.
The Second Guilt: “I’m taking time away from my family.”
Let’s say you’ve worked hard to break free from Cubicle Hell, or some other form of trading hours of your life for a few dollars. Let’s say you’ve found apartment investing as a way out of that hamster wheel, and you’re excited to get that first deal under your belt. It will finally prove to you and to people around you that at long last, some good times may be on the way.
You recognize that any substantial change in your situation will require work. Apartment investing does require work. Not sitting on the couch and thinking about investing, but actual work. But there’s one tiny little problem: you already have a job! You already are working full time, and it already is a challenge to juggle your work life with your private life that may involve a Significant Other, not to mention one or more Significant Kids.
Because you don’t shy away from a challenge, you decide to work harder. You put in a full day at work and then listen to real estate investing tapes on your commute, or at lunch. Because you’re so driven to succeed, you may even do some research and analysis after dinner. This is when a voice in your head says: Hey, what about your spouse and kids? Don’t they come first? Why are you doing this real estate stuff when in fact it means you’re ignoring your family? Where are your priorities?
There is only one good response: Yes, I could be playing with my kids, instead of looking at some computer monitor and scratching out notes. But I’ve made a conscious decision to invest my time now, in exchange for an even-greater return later, in the form of financial freedom. It’s painful now for me and for my family, but that’s how the world works: you put in the time and effort to build something, which will pay dividends later.
Fortunately, there is no rule that says you need to devote zero time to your life and family while you build your future. Instead of spending two hours each night hanging out with your most-important people, maybe you can cut that in half, and put the other half toward your (and their) future. They’ll thank you later.
The Third Guilt: “I don’t deserve to be wealthy.”
Man oh man this is common. I’ve come to realize that there is a negative voice in our heads that looks for the worst interpretation of things. It’s the same voice that may stop you from trying something in the first place, by saying: Why bother? You’ve not succeeded before! So what makes you think this time will be any different? It’s the voice that tries to derail you by saying that you should not be “wasting time” on real estate investing when you should be relaxing, or hanging out.
Let’s say that you somehow power through all those negative thoughts and work to make apartment investing a reality. You’re actually on the verge of doing a deal, and potentially changing the direction of your life. The Negative One has one last trick up his sleeve. He inserts thoughts into your head along the lines of: You don’t deserve to be wealthy. Remember who you are! Nobody in your family has become wealthy, so why do you think you’re any different? Besides, it will change you. You’ll lose your friends. Don’t do it!
You have a choice: you can believe the inner, irrational voice that will always put the worst-possible spin on any circumstance; or you can follow your rational brain that knows how the easy way is not the best way to design your future.
It’s all about the choices we make. We can choose to take actions that move us in the right direction—or not. And we can choose to feel guilty—or not. I’ve found that the fastest and straightest route to real estate investing success is to take the simple, step-by-step actions necessary to get that first deal under your belt. Don’t get derailed by voices along the way, telling you how something’s wrong, or you’re wrong, for trying to make that deal happen.
Once you have one single deal under your belt, all those negative voices will vanish. They can’t exist for long in the bright light of success. At that point, you’ll be well on your way to the kind of financial freedom that you’ve been seeking, and in fact deserve.