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Thursday
Nov172011

No Gurus Here

 No Gurus Here

I can't think of any self-respecting real estate investor (or any other kind of investor) who would welcome the title of "guru".

And I would have to seriously question the motives of those people who do.

Let's be clear: Whether or not you become successful is entirely up to you; and it always has been. No matter how much you or I may wish that wasn't true, that's how it is.

To paraphrase Joss Whedon's Buffy, "Life isn't about wishes. It's about choices."

That pretty much lays it out for you. Problem is, there has never been a time with so many choices. Mistakes are inevitable.

Here's the deal: I make money by using what I have between my ears and not what's in my wallet. I am reasonably successful at it. Doesn't matter. I still make mistakes; and all too often they are whoppers.

Think you have trouble getting accurate estimates for your rehab project? Maybe you haven't found a plumber you like? Someone didn't like you and made a call to the local BBB or investigative TV reporter?

Try taking on a medieval castle. Ever deal with the plumbing problems in a 500 year old ruin, I mean fortress? And let's not even talk about bugs, or HVAC (I mean those things are drafty), or RATS. And yes, the repair people want to be paid in pounds, francs, dollars, lira, ... you fill in the blank. Guarantee their work? Don't make me laugh.

Afraid of the media?

Imagine spotting Entertainment Tonight, The Inquirer, and other assorted "media" assembled at the gala event where you are escorting one of Hollywood's hottest (for the moment) actresses. Ever try fading into the woodwork where there isn't any to be found?

Are you famous? Are you somebody? Should we know you? Why don't we? What do you do? If you're mysterious, there must be a reason. There might be a story in that. Mysterious, mafia, whatever. We'll see what we can dig up - or make up.

Don't like red tape?

Try explaining (in very poor French and with the aid of an interpreter) to a European customs bureaucrat why you shouldn't really be charged yet another fee for the new heavy equipment you are trying to deliver to your job site.

Him - But monsieur, it would be best if we weighed your bulldozer. That way the government can be satisfied that you are being taxed appropriately.

Me - Do you have any idea what a Cat D9 bulldozer weighs? Haven't I been charged enough already? I have the proper paperwork signed by everyone from the French president on down.

Him - Yes, it would seem that your paperwork is in order, but the fact remains that the equipment was not properly weighed (by a French scale). If you wish to contest this, it is, of course, your right to do so, but I cannot guarantee that your appeal will be successful before your paperwork expires. You see my problem, do you not?

Me - unprintable, but my response was in English.

Think enough money will solve your problems?

I learned the hard way that the Air Force takes a very dim view of lending (well, I did offer to reimburse them) their aircraft to civilians. No matter what the circumstances may be AND no matter how much money you offer.

All I needed was the temporary use of a cargo plane, a C130 would do nicely.

It wasn't like they didn't have extras. And it was for a natural disaster. A humanitarian mission. Hey, I'll even pay for the gas, I mean fuel.

Enough with all this: What's my point here?

As I said earlier, I get paid to think and I'm paid very well to share my versions of reality with others so that they can (hopefully) make better plans to deal with that future reality.

Even so, I missed (or trivialized) these little speed bumps. Every one of these problems was entirely foreseeable (well, most of them anyway) and I did little or nothing to prevent those problems from occurring. And by ignoring them, they ended up taking more of my time, effort and money to solve.

Don't we all do this?

Of course we do. We fail to see far enough down the highway to avoid problems in the first place. Instead, we're all too busy adjusting the knobs on our "business" speed machine, tweaking it for even more performance when many of us can't handle a double nickel speed limit yet.

Sooner or later, we all hit something at the crossroad.

I can tell you this -- for each of us, the definition and the feeling of success is unique. But for all of us, disaster feels the same. Fear accompanied by her twin sister, despair.

It doesn't have to be that way.

We can begin to realize that traveling full speed in the wrong direction won't get us to our destination any faster. But it certainly increases the odds that our "meeting at the crossroad" will be highly significant.

Don't let it be fatal. Slow down. Life isn't a race; there's more to being a successful person than becoming wealthy. Riches without purpose are all but useless.

You can also implement the investment equivalents of seat-belts and airbags if you try. Understand the techniques you are learning, get a grasp of your marketplace whatever and wherever that might be, and read up on human behavior and psychology.

Most important, learn more about yourself and your personal reality. What skills and talents can you bring to bear? What weaknesses must you overcome (or at least acknowledge) for you to become more successful? What strategies appeal to you the most? Why?

We can also protect ourselves by asking other travelers about road conditions ahead. In doing so, we need to be sure that they are really talking about the same road and that we fully understand what they're trying to tell us. Don't waste too much time looking for shortcuts (or gurus) that don't exist.

While it would be nice to find a mentor (chauffeur) to actually navigate the road for us, they're not often available. After all, good help is always hard to find. And becoming some one's mentor is truly hard work.

But we can reasonably expect to find other travelers who are willing to share their experiences of the road. Just a glimpse of what lies ahead and around the bend. That's certainly more than most people ever get. And it's all we really need. One thing never changes. Your road begins with you.

Where are you now? Where are you going? When are you going to begin?

For those who cannot stand suspense: I gave up castles and actresses for the same reason: The cost of maintenance is entirely too high. I can also vouch for the fact that emotional maintenance often is more costly than the physical kind.

Let me put this another way: the risk/reward ratio was seriously skewed -- and not in my favor.

As for the media, I learned to be really, really boring. Would you like a story about the dimensional stability of synthetic lumber versus yellow pine? Perhaps you could air a show on the inequities of the permitting process, shouldn't something be done?

Trust me, nothing beats boring as a great defense against the media. It even works pretty well against the charms of actresses - if you don't let them get too close. My latest defense technique is to close my eyes, put my fingers in my ears and chant. Learned it in the 2nd grade.

My bulldozers entered France (at last). This represented some of my very best negotiating, although I have to say that the bureaucrat did OK too. I think he now owns a castle and dates a French actress (HA! I hear his castle has rats the size of small children. As for the actress... ).

I did get my C130; and I didn't even have to pay for the fuel. I did have to furnish enough pizzas to feed an army ( or Air Force). It was a great experience.

Life takes us by surprise. Enjoy it. So much for speed bumps.

 

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