Real Estate Investors – Challenges, Naysayers, Uncertainty, and Doubt!

Being a real estate investor is full of challenges, naysayers, uncertainty, and doubt. You have to deal with contractor and tenants, both of whom are prone to temper-tantrums. You have to deal with local regulatory authorities, which can get redundant. You have to deal with failures, because things often don’t work as intended or planned. Real estate investing is challenging and frustrating, and though it may come as a surprise to you, I am not immune.

So – for those days when it’s hard to say which way is up, and which is down; when everything is sideways, and the very reason we are in this is not at all clear, here are some thoughts…

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

These are the last four lines in a poem entitled If, by Rudyard Kipling. I start with these four lines primarily because these are the best known lines, and deservingly so – the depth of meaning, the attitude, the moral barometer put forth in these lines is certainly relatable for many.

If is my favorite poem. It is the one that puts things in perspective for me. It’s the poem which, more so than any other piece of written word, focuses my thoughts.

My wife, Patrisha, knows my affinity for If. She specifically knows the tell-tail signs that the time has come to re-read Kipling, and she hands it to me. She did this morning.

I read it. And re-read it. And now, I have a few things to say, and since I am privileged to have your ear, and since I know you can relate, I am going to share a few thoughts which I think you’ll find helpful. Specifically, it hit me this morning that while the last 4 lines are the most recognized, this is because the mood and intent within them is easiest to perceive. But, there is so much more to this poem that we as investors can learn from. So, let’s see what’s there…

If you can keep your head when all about you   

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

The most difficult thing in investing is being true to yourself. Knowing who YOU are. Being able to separate yourself from the “noise”. Learning to zig when everyone is zagging, even in the face of laughter and doubt. That is exactly what it takes to survive in this game.

Understand – what’s right for them, is not necessarily right for you. YOU are an entity, and what’s right is pegged on who you are at this moment in time. A great deal for him, while possibly a truly great deal, is not right for me. And what is right for me, may be completely wrong for you. The investment opportunity itself has little to do with this. It’s about us, our strengths, our needs, our risk-tolerance, our financial circumstance, and how we see ourselves.

Know you. Understand you. Do not be ashamed of you. Understand you, and structure deals that are good for you. And if nothing is, then sit…this, at times, is the smartest thing to do. Live all of this inside your skin, and don’t let the outside infringe!

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;   

Wow! There is a difference between a dream and a goal – a dream is not meant to come true… And the problem with this is that because dreams don’t come true, if you should confuse a dream with a goal, you’ll be looking into the abyss; you’ll be marching toward an inevitable failure; you will drain yourself in pursuit of something that can never be – this is dangerous.

Therefore, as Kipling aptly points out, we have to be able to dream, because this is what makes our hearts sing, and yet not allow dreams to define us. Instead, goals define us. Goals are the quantifiable and qualifiable objectives which drive our actions – not dreams.

And when you are in the middle of a fight for the high ground that is your goal, understand that your successes and failures cannot be allowed to make a lasting emotional impact on you. Whether good or bad, these emotions occupy precious energy of which we can not spare. Both are impostors! This is a roller-coaster I often find myself on, and this is why I re-read Kipling!

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

People will say and do just about anything to cut you down to size. Most of the time it’s never about you. It’s just that while you are moving forward, they are not, and this necessarily makes people feel being left behind. That is a scary thing for people, and they will try as they can to hold you back. You are one of them, damn it. You are just like them. Where do you freaking get off…?!

I am, by the way, not immune to either side of this equation. Yes, indeed, I’ve been on both sides. This, my friends, is a daily project!

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

Well, this is easier said than done, isn’t it… And yet, this smells of a conversation around Focus Investing. If you don’t know what I mean by Focus Investing, research Warren Buffett’s investing methodology. You can also read about this on my blog. And of course, I make a big deal of it in the CFFU.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

This might be the most difficult and yet the most honest lesson here. Sometimes, hold on is all we can do. One of those iron-grit clinches when every fiber in your body is past the screaming in pain phase, and is just numb. You should let go, but you don’t. You don’t know why you haven’t let go, and yet there you are…

You are a winner!

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

Humble is a hard thing for me. On one hand, i know lots of stuff, and this can lead me to be dismissive. On the other hand, I love and respect knowledge and competency, and tend to put people whom I respect on a pedestal, which messes with my head… Have you experienced this?

Neither is good. Growth is about regaining balance once it’s lost. Life is a process of finding balance. And balance, of course, is an illusion, so I am hoping you are always living and searching!

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Well, we are here – the last four lines of this amazing statement of truths by Rudyard Kipling. Life’s an hourglass. There is movement, until there is not.

Make it count!

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