(Never)mind the gap - Everyone starts as a beginner
Updated: Feb 24
Today, I hope to provide a little bit of perspective to all those chasing their dreams.
Everyone starts as a beginner. It’s true in athletics, it’s true in academics, it’s true in business, and it’s especially true in apartment investing... I mean, if we go back to the beginning, we all start out crying at the top of our lungs in our birthday suit.
Why do I point this out?
And it’s a perspective that I didn’t have 15 years ago. I’ve said this many times before, I read "Rich Dad Poor Dad" for the first time in 2004, and in that book, Robert Kiyosaki talks a lot about commercial real estate as an investment vehicle. I thought about it briefly at the time, but buying apartments seemed too far out of reach for me. I could not imagine myself doing what Mr. Kiyosaki was doing - after all, he had his rich dad to guide him.
Fortunately, though, I took some action. It wasn’t nearly as big as I wish I had taken, but I took action, moved forward, and bought a few single family investments - and even that was a stretch for me.
When I finally realized that my strategy for single family investments wasn’t scaling fast enough, I started reading books and listening to podcasts, and the same story played itself out in my mind over and over. I’d listen to people who owned hundreds or thousands of units and I would often look at the gap… or the differences in levels of success between them and me. I would (figuratively) stare at the gap and wonder if I could ever bridge it.
I think a lot of time we focus too much on that gap. We see the difference between where others are at now and immediately tell ourselves that we could never get there.
But remember perspective. Just like everyone is born into this world a complete novice, everyone is a beginner in this business at some point. Even if some people have a leg up because of to whom they were born. The iconic Donald Trump, for example, made billions in real estate. Many could point to his father, who also amassed a significant fortune in real estate, and say “no wonder the Donald did so well.” I don’t deny that having a significant trust fund and parents who were very active in the NYC real estate market gave him a head start, but I will contend that, just like everyone else, he was born in his birthday suit with little knowledge of real estate.
There are other professions that make for an easier transition to a real estate investors. One such individual that I admire is Bruce Fraser from Elkhorn Capital… a former hedge fund manager that is doing extremely well in this business. Or recent guest on this show, Michael Becker, who worked for years brokering mortgages for multifamily operators. Did their previous professions help them with their transition? Absolutely. But at one point, they were brand new to those professions and had to learn those businesses step by step too.
So, let’s try to keep perspective. No matter where you are on your journey, you right now know more about real estate investing than the billionaire real estate investor Donald Trump did as a young child.
Instead of focusing on the gap, try to keep this perspective and focus more on the next few steps in your own journey. And something else that I truly believe is that wherever someone else is at now in terms of unit count, money raised, net worth, or whatever metric you choose, you can get there.
At one point, I looked at portfolios in the thousands as essentially unattainable, but instead of focusing on the huge gap between where I was, I focused on the next few steps.
I focused on three things: building a team, finding deals, and raising capital. And quite frankly, I wasn’t very good at any of the three when I started. I was a career Marine with a small number of single family properties… which, incidentally didn’t give me any credibility with brokers or potential investors.
Now, I look at a portfolio of thousands of doors as something that’s attainable this year.
Another piece of perspective, and also from a conversation I had with someone I deeply respect yesterday, is that everyone and every partnership makes mistakes. That’s true in every aspect of life. In this business, like any other, you have to recognize mistakes, take corrective action, and then learn and grow. Through time and experience, the mistakes tend to change, and there are some things that are still rookie mistakes, but everyone makes mistakes.
Tying this back in to the subject at hand - chances are that the rather intimidating person with a massive portfolio at one point in their career made a lot of the same mistakes that I’m making and that you are making right now. Not only did they start their life crying and naked, they made a ton of mistakes along the way.
I’m reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein- he once said if you haven’t made a mistake, you’ve never tried something now.
So when you’re looking across that gap at someone that’s miles ahead of you, try to keep some perspective. They were not born with their current level of knowledge. They had to learn the ins and outs of the apartment investing business. And they have made a lot of mistakes along the way.
And I’d hope that every time you look across at that gap you also realize that YOU can get to where they are.
You just gotta keep a healthy dose of perspective and keep on putting one foot in front of the other!!.