Many moons ago I went on a trip to Cuba with my wife to "find my life's purpose."
I was in a bad place.
Waking up every morning wondering if my life was really reduced to the 9-5 grind.
I had gone to school, earned a University Degree and I had incorrectly believed that everything else was going to be pretty easy.
How wrong I was.
I got a job in the IT industry programming mainframe computers.
Now let me explain something.
After learning about the latest programming methods and the hottest Internet-based web development programs in a post-degree grad program ... programming mainframes every day was like hammering rock with a sledgehammer.
I felt like Fred Flintstone.
I began having nightmares about my life and my future. Waking up sweating in panic. Seriously.
I couldn't figure out if I was meant to program old mainframes in the basement of a building on Front Street in Toronto for the next 40 years.
Shortly afterwards I got a job do tech support at a software company and I was happy because I was learning and it paid better ... but that happiness ended quickly.
Answering call after call I began to feel like the high paid software consultants I was helping knew nothing and that I was doing their job for them.
It was a great environment and I learned a lot but I just couldn't see myself on a phone queue answering calls for the rest of my life ... or even for the rest of that year!
The money was good, but I didn't care. My sanity was more important.
So I go on this trip to Cuba with my wife and have a great time.
On the trip I bought this little leather journal at the local market that had the word "Cuba" carved on it and I as I was relaxing poolside I began brainstorming ideas for my own business.
I kept asking myself, "What do people want? What can I create that will serve an unmet need?"
And I came up with a glorious idea.
In the middle of bocce ball matches on the beach with my wife, we brainstormed further and it confirmed how great the idea was.
I would create a website where women (and men, but mostly women I assumed) would be able to get information on all the latest sales going on in and around the city.
After all, every proud woman in the world loves a good sale.
I had found it.
This was back in 1999 or so, maybe 2000.
When I got home I quickly registered www.SalesInTheCity.com.
Cool name I figured.
I got some graphics guys to put together a small website that collected email addresses and each week I would email out the "sales going on in the city".
Well, the thing kinda went viral and within about a month I had over 1,000 people registered.
At that time collecting 1,000 subscribers, even for a free service, in a month was a pretty big deal for yours truly.
My business plan was to offer the information for free but when I had enough subscribers I would charge retailers a fee for advertising their sales.
I was totally giving myself two pats on the back at this point.
But then disaster struck.
I realized that I didn't like researching all the sales going on in the city.
It seemed that almost every store had some sort of sale every week.
How do you figure out if it's a "real" sale or just an ongoing sale that some stores seem to run continuously?
Confused I turned to my wife....and although she enjoyed shopping at the sales I found she wasn't interested in researching all the sales every week.
I couldn't blame her. It wasn't her idea, it was mine.
And the research part of this process got old really fast.
People began emailing me about planning their whole weekend around the sales I sent out. And if a retailer didn't quite offer what they advertised I would get some nasty comments for it.
I quickly learned that I actually hated this business.
I hate shopping. I hate crowds. I hate stores.
I can barely handle going to the grocery store to pick up a single item on a weeknight when the place is deserted.
For years I've avoided shopping malls. My wife has heard me say many times that,
"I only have a certain amount of 'shopping mall' energy and if you tell me we're going to two stores and then surprise me when we're there with an unplanned visit to a third store I can't handle it because I've already used up my 'mall energy' on the first two. I need to know well in advance how many stores we're visiting so I can pace myself."
100% ridiculous I know. But it's true and she still loves me!
So basically I began to hate this little business I had started.
I hated the responsibility of having to send out this weekly email or face the wrath of email threats asking for it.
And I hated the stress of managing the daily tasks required to make it work.
Today, looking back ten years later on this it's pretty embarrassing to admit that I found it stressful. After all, it really wasn't that much of a responsibility at all.
But at the time, for the person that I was then, it was too much to handle.
Since that time I've moved into commission based sales, I began investing in real estate, I went to a start-up software company with insane monthly targets and together with Nick we've started three different companies.
We've handled more stress in the last three years than I ever imagined I would.
We take 100% ownership of everything we do.
We feel 100% responsible for all the investors we work within our brokerage.
We often feel like we spend more time worrying about other people's actions and properties more than we spend on our own.
And looking back recently over the last ten years I noticed something.
Handling stress and handling the responsibility of working with other investors and caring for them is a competitive advantage.
Let me repeat this...
Handling stress and responsibility is a competitive advantage.
Both personally and professionally.
Here's why most people don't get into real estate investing.
They don't want the stress of dealing with tenants.
They don't want the responsibility of dealing with mortgages, bankers, lawyers, contractors.
They don't want the responsibility of owning real estate.
They don't want the responsibility of managing real estate.
They don't want the responsibility of filling vacancies.
They don't want the stress of dealing with unexpected problems.
But here's the good news.
Because no one wants stress and responsibility ... if you are willing to take it on it's a huge competitive advantage!
Think back to the SalesInTheCity.com example.
I didn't want the stress, however embarrassingly small, of putting out that list of sales in the city every week.
I didn't want the responsibility of accurately reporting the sales.
So I gave up.
I began my search for the next "shiny money making object".
"Late night TV and Internet Marketing here I come!"
And now I've learned the cycle repeats until I'm willing to change myself.
Recently I had PVR'd a documentary about a Russian Billionaire. The interviewer asked him how he handled the huge amount of stress he had managing all the different companies he owned around the world.
His reply...in his words,
"Handling stress is my competitive advantage."
So until a person is willing to be disciplined and save up money for a down payment....and deal with the curve balls that owning real estate will throw at you....and to handle the stress that comes with it....until they're willing to accept the responsibility and stress they won't achieve doodly-squat.
You can't own real estate and not deal with problems. It's a real business.
The majority of society doesn't want stress and responsibility.
And if you've heard us explain how you want to "go in the opposite direction of the masses", then that should be your first clue as to why you want it.
Stress gets bad press from everyone.
And that's another good clue as to why you should want it.
It's the reason so much "get rich quick" stuff is sold ... the sales pitches for this stuff make it seem you can work 4-Hours A Week and play on the beach for the rest of the week.
So here's the deal.
You have two of the biggest competitive advantages right in front of you.
You don't need to go chasing the next shiny Internet Marketing, Foreign Exchange Trading, Real Estate Investing "easy money" object.
Pick something you like.
Something that you can stick with. Something you can leave a legacy about.
Accept the responsibility of having to do work at it.
Accept the responsibility of dealing with the stress of perfecting your craft.
And be happy about it, knowing that the majority of people around you right now are trying to avoid it. Buying books on how to decrease it.
And the best part?
They're free! Your biggest competitive advantages are yours for no cost.
Imagine if I had kept going with that SalesInTheCity.com website? Do you think that could have been a great little cash flowing business? I do.
Someone else even owns the domain name now - I let it expire. I don't even have that to show for it!
I will never make that mistake again.
It's amazing just how much responsibility it actually takes to take control of your finances, to make some great investments, to start your own business.
Much, much more than I ever thought.
The last 10 years have proved to me that handling stress and responsibility has big payoffs.
No one wants them and that's exactly why you should.
Until next time ... Your Life! Your Terms!
Fantastic article !! What a great way of looking at
" stress " when investing in real estate.
Amazing job guys !
Love it - awesome story. Can't wait to tell mine someday! Thanks for sharing guys.
Excellant analysis. I manage one property and my Dad manages two, all with positive cash flow.
I read your articles weekly and find the information very helpful. However, this article I found particularly insightful because it explained how I feel but didn't know it until I read it.
Friends and relatives always say why would you want to be botherered with tenants, mortgage compnies, etc. But after buying two houses and refinancing and getting equity loans several times, I enjoy the stress associated with it.
Unfortunately, my problem is fear and procrastination. I have all the information needed to make my next purchase but the numbers scare me. But if experence is a teacher, I know that a new motgage payment can be met in numerous ways.
Great article and I hope to make my next purchase very soon.
Alex, your thinking is bang on. And we all feel the same way you do at times! Thanks for sharing!
Ben, for you, anything!! 😉
Thanks Lindsay! Appreciate that.
Great article, thanks
I have a few units and stress is my middle name; I always thought I was doing something wrong.
I guess you are right! Thats my competitive advantage.
Keep up the great work!
It totally is! Thanks for sharing Grace!
Great article. I have one triplex but haven't yet made the leap to owning more. The delay has been due to the stresses that you are talking about but recently things are looking up as the property, cashflow (and tenants) improve. Experience helps to fight stress, but the only way to learn is to immerse yourself in it.
By the way, I program on mainframe too! Bedrock, here we come!
Well, when you live here in the United States and you read a post about a guy who "went to Cuba to find himself", it gets your attention!
Especially when it is a blog about real estate investing.
When I read along and found you were headed for "advice about handling stress" - I just had to read the entire thing.
Great post - lots of information and advice. I especially like the way you took us along your line of thinking to make your case.
You are correct - if you are willing to accept the tasks that others dislike, there will always be work for you. Just make certain you are compensated - that's MY advice!