I can clearly remember the first day I ever worked for someone else. I walked through the doors to my new office, got acquainted with my surroundings, grabbed a bottle water, looked out my office and decided right then and there that I would fulfill my one year contract and then I was out of here!
Where Our Fear of Success Hides
I had just made a life changing move halfway across the country to Denver, Colorado and left a wife and 8 month old son in Memphis, TN. I had all the skills and knowledge to start my first business but something was holding me back. It was my first brush with fear. It took me years to understand what that feeling was and to admit to myself that I was actually holding back. It took me years to realize it was not failure that I was afraid of. I was afraid of success. In hindsight, I can see all the decisions I was making at the time were designed to keep me comfortable and safe. I negotiated poorly and allowed my new employer to get my services for a steal in return for a few add-ons that seemed important at the time. I bargained away my strengths for a steady income, steady job, low expenses and low risk. All of these necessities were never on my mind when I was considering the move but were all being looked after by my subconscious.
My own mind was holding me back from going after my dream and starting my own company. I knew that I would not fail. But I had yet to be “The Man”. I had yet to hold down the spot where the buck stops! In my subconscious I guess that was more scary than failure and my decisions put me in position to delay that day by a year. Like I said, 15 minutes into Day 1 I knew I had made a mistake and that night I began working on my business plan. An action I should have taken months earlier was delayed by my own fear.
Holding Back In Real Estate
Just so we are clear that a fear of success is quite common and can happen to anyone anytime they take on a new challenge, I will share one of my early endeavors into real estate. I had been investing in real estate for over 2 years and was building a portfolio of long-term buy and hold properties in Memphis. I was still living in Denver at the time and like many Americans, I had become addicted with the reality shows on T.V. about flipping houses. I loved “Real Estate Pros” and “Flip That House” soon to be followed by “Flip This House” and on and on and on…
As I sat on my couch on a Saturday night watching flipping shows I decided (like a million other viewers!) that I was going to give flipping houses a shot. I had started a sales company and built it into an $18 million yearly operation. I was flying high with a successful company and had a great cash-flow portfolio. I figured I had the knowledge and expertise and fear of failure was something I had never suffered from. My next moves would prove again that it was a fear of success that would hold me back. I picked up the phone and called a close friend of mine there in Denver and asked if he wanted to partner with me on my first house.
There it was. My fear of success manifested itself in one quick emasculating phone call. I cut my legs off before I even started. Rather than shouldering the burden of success and taking the risks AND REWARD for myself, I invited another voice into the mix…just to make sure things went good. I did not need a money partner. I did not need a partner for research of MLS access or because of the extensive list of contracts he could bring to the partnership. I needed a partner because my subconscious told me I had never done a flip before and what if I had a huge 5 figure payday? How would I respond to that? My subconscious told me it might be better to split that payday with someone else and then I could split the cost too! My subconscious has a sarcastic side…
The partnership was both good and bad. We did good deals and we did bad deals. We made money and we lost money. I am not sure what my partner learned during our time flipping houses, but I would bet that he learned the same thing I did. We don’t need partners! Both of us partnered for the exact same wrong reason – to split the risk. Since our last flip, both of us have been successful individually because we’ve gotten rid of our fears. No more fear of success. Take the crutches away and get to work has pretty much been the motto since that day and I don;t think either of us has looked back…or partnered on any more deals.
What Does Fear of Success In Real Estate Look Like
Having a fear of success is very real. It can often manifests itself in ways that may make us wonder what in the world is going on. Forgetting important facts and becoming irritated when someone else corrects you. Stuttering in important presentations or forgetting your Bank Book when meeting with a new bank on opening an LOC. How about entering into a partnerships instead of striking out on our own or passing on deals over minor circumstances or even choosing to stay in one area – your area of expertise – instead of growing into new opportunities. It is natural for people to be scared of the unknown and for many that is what real estate success really is. It is an unknown. And success brings its own set of challenges like scrutiny and criticism as well as an adjustment to growing pressure and demand to follow-up with more success. It can be a vicious cycle that many subconsciously would rather stay away from.
Then there is the side of success that comes next. The nagging feeling of what to do next. The pressure to keep growing and doing bigger and better projects. And what about the critics that almost always follow successful people? You know the critics I am talking about. The ones who rush to point out any mistakes you made in a project. The critics who find it easier to point out your profit while ignoring the change you made to a neighborhood. At some point, as you come to grips with having success, you realize that you will never make everyone happy. Not even close. It is much easier to deal with success by paying attention to your close circle of advisors and lean on them to find your next project, your next direction for growth and even your best critique. They will always be more honest and open as you navigate success than someone who does not know what you have been through to get there.
Related: The [other] Four-Letter “F” Word…
The final fear that many people suffer from – especially in real estate – is the fear of becoming someone else…losing our identity. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what you really think of flashy cars, fancy watches and designer shirts and walking into your local REIA like you own the place. How many times have you watched that happen to others and then swore that you would never act that way? The reality is that success can have that effect on you. It can turn you into someone else…but, only if you let it. So don’t! Some of the wealthiest people I know have never changed their habits regardless of their success. Have they treated themselves to a nice car or a nice vacation? Absolutely. Have they changed the way they dress, act or even carry themselves around town? Mostly no. Being successful (however you define it) does not have to change who we are so don’t be fearful.
Push Fear Aside and ‘Just Do It’
I am quickly becoming a serial entrepreneur. I love new ideas and searching for ways to start and grow new projects. I fail to get projects off the drawing board more than I succeed, but that is ok with me. I need to get off start before I can know if it will work or not. The difference between today at 40 and 10 years ago at 30 is that I no longer need the anchor of a partner or a contract or a guaranteed paycheck to get started. Fear of success no longer follows me once I realized it was holding me back. I urge you to get off the start box and get going with your dream. Don’t let any fears hold you back – especially not a fear of actually growing into a successful real estate professional!
Photo: Mariano Kamp