The One Piece of Advice That Changed the Course of My Real Estate Career

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It’s the holidays again — don’t they seem to keep coming around fast? I hope everyone has had a chance to connect with their family members and friends this past week, and most importantly, I hope everyone has had a chance to relax! I know I have. I’d barely be able to do any work right now if I tried — it seems that no one is available for anything. Yay! So, I’m forced to relax.

While I relax, I’ve been thinking — I wish I could get everyone reading this a gift personally. Since that obviously isn’t feasible, then I thought, what if I can just give a piece of advice as a gift? I know some of the advice I’ve been given in my life has served as a much bigger gift than any pair of shoes I’ve ever received, so maybe offering you some words of wisdom can serve as one of your best presents yet! In thinking of all the helpful hints I can offer you, and thinking of which ones could have the greatest impact (because of course I want my present to you to be the best I can make it!), one keeps running through my head and I’ve decided it is definitely the one I want to share.

Are you ready? This could be a game-changer! It could change your life!

Sure you’re ready?

Ok, here goes. As you enter into the New Year, a time to start fresh (or start at all), make life how you want it to be, and create your future as a real estate investor, my advice to you is:

Follow what comes naturally for you.

Hmmm… are you kind of let down since that’s all I gave you? Well, humor me. It’s more exciting than it sounds. Following this advice is literally, in my opinion, the best holiday present you can give yourself with regard to real estate investing.

Have you ever heard the phrase “strengthen your strengths, not your weaknesses”? This was a profound learning I read, and later experienced, that went completely against anything I had ever been taught. Instead of trying to get better at things you aren’t good at, work on getting better at the things you are good at. The results can be astounding.

The idea of following what comes naturally to you is related to this idea of strengthening your strengths rather than your weaknesses. It is a bit different, but a similar concept. The similar point that both of them suggest, as far as I can tell, is that you aren’t going to achieve near the level of results if you are working on or with your weaknesses. If you focus on building your strengths rather than your weaknesses, you will achieve far greater things. Similarly, if you work in real estate investing with your strengths rather than your weaknesses, you will achieve far greater things. Meaning, for real estate investing — if you follow what more naturally comes to you, rather than choosing a facet that just sounds good, you are bound to achieve far greater things.


Related: How I Used $5 (& Some Sage Advice) to Catapult My Real Estate Business: An Interview

A Real Life Example

Let me give you an example that I’ve shared several times in the past, but it’s worth telling you again because it illustrates exactly what I’m trying to get at.

I work with rental properties. I have only bought rental properties for myself, my level of expertise is with rental properties, and when I look at deals, I mostly only look at rental property types of deals. I never rule out other deals, but rental properties are my niche and I know the most about them.

Am I excited this is the case? NO!

What?! True. If I could pick any facet of real estate investing to be naturally good at, it wouldn’t be rental properties. Why? They are an amazing asset class, they offer benefits that no other investments offer, and you definitely can’t beat having passive income — but I seriously think flipping would be so fun! My background is engineering, so I am great at creative problem solving and putting pieces together (mentally, not necessarily physically), and based on my skill set, I just think I would have an absolute blast as a house flipper. But then there is reality. I have absolutely no skill set for construction, rehabbing, swinging hammers, you name it. I’m notorious for losing big chunks of money to contractors because I am so easily duped since I know so little about what should be happening in that kind of field. The skills needed for successfully flipping just aren’t in my grain.

Could I learn flipping skills? Ab-so-freaking-lutely. I’m smart and can really do anything I want to do. But regardless of whether I could learn flipping skills or not, learning them and pursuing flipping would be going against my grain. Or another way of putting it: swimming upstream. I could do it, yes. And I could probably be successful at it even. But I will tell you this: To be successful at it would require so much more work, effort, and headache on my part than if I were to stick with following what is in my grain.

Rental properties come so easily and naturally for me that to ignore that would really be doing myself a disservice. They came so naturally for me when I started with them that I was able to accelerate in my learning and success so much faster than I ever would have had I been focused on something that was causing me to swim upstream! I was able to not only invest in rental properties, but then I was able to start a business focused on rental properties for other buyers, and consequently I now sleep in every morning and report to absolutely no one. I have 100% time freedom. Now, to me, that is a huge success! It’s huge beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And what do I attribute that level of success to?

Following what I am naturally good at!


Related: 8 Pieces of Advice Newbies Can’t Afford to Ignore


So here are the takeaways I want you to have from this.

  • Take enough time as you get started to explore all facets of real estate investing, so you have more opportunity to find what may be a very natural thing for you. Trust me, what comes naturally to you will find you.
  • Trust in what you are naturally good at. Maybe it seems like it won’t turn out to be that lucrative (like me with rental properties versus flipping), but you really don’t know. Trust it, and who knows what will happen.
  • Don’t rule out other facets that maybe aren’t as natural, but think of doing those more for fun later or as a way to build your skill set — for fun. For starting out and building biz, start with your strengths.
  • People will give you advice all day long on what you should or shouldn’t do in real estate investing (and with your life, actually). Listen to everything, but remember that every single person is different when it comes to what they are good at. I am amazing at turnkey rental properties, but I don’t think they are for everybody. If I think flipping is more up your alley, I’ll tell you. If you want to do a real estate deal that may get you a lot less money than a turnkey rental property but you feel it’s more comfortable and more up your alley, you won’t hear me try to dissuade you. In my experience, most people are very fast to judge or tell you what you should do or shouldn’t do. Stick to your guns. Only you know you, and you have to stand strong when you figure out your calling. People thought I had lost my mind when I quit my job as a Senior Aeronautical Engineer working in a top secret location on a top secret project with job security for miles, all for these peon little rental property things that cash-flowed a few hundred bucks a month. But after years of studying and exploring real estate, these peon little rental properties presented themselves to me, I followed them, and now I live the dream life (well, some would consider it; others maybe not). That all happened because I didn’t listen to a single person who told me I had lost my mind to quit that job. Listen to everyone, pick and choose what advice they give that will be best for you. And in return realize what’s best for you isn’t best for everyone so go gentle on other people too. I don’t know what it is about real estate investing, but people just LOVE to judge and tell you you’re wrong. Be nice.
  • I have a lot of beef about wholesaling being constantly pitched to new investors as the easiest and cheapest (free) way to start, but in relation to the advice I’m giving here, don’t fall into the trap of thinking everyone should start as a wholesaler. Trust me, wholesaling is a simple straightforward process, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And if wholesaling isn’t naturally in your grain (it isn’t mine), you either aren’t going to make it at all or you are going to have a really hard time getting to your success. Why not just skip that step if it’s not your thing and get right into what is? Yes, maybe wholesaling will help lead you to what that thing is, but don’t just assume you will be a rockstar wholesaler because it’s “so easy.”
  • If you follow what comes most naturally to you, the resources required for that will present themselves to you. You don’t have to worry about not having the resources. They’ll show up.


That’s it. That’s my holiday present to you: the advice to follow what comes naturally for you. Do that and you will see success in ways you never thought possible.

Happy holidays, everyone! No matter what holiday you do or don’t celebrate, at a minimum we can all celebrate our successes, our engagement, our drive to succeed in this crazy industry of real estate investing, and just the fact that we are alive! There’s no wrong time of the year for that.

Any big goals for 2016 you are planning?

I want to hear them!

About Author

Ali Boone

Ali Boone is a lifestyle entrepreneur, business consultant, and real estate investor. Ali left her corporate job as an Aerospace Engineer to follow her passion for being her own boss and creating true lifestyle design. She did this through real estate investing, using primarily creative financing to purchase five properties in her first 18 months of investing. Ali’s real estate portfolio started with pre-construction investments in Nicaragua and then moved towards turnkey rental properties in various markets throughout the U.S. With this success, she went on to create her company Hipster Investments, which focuses on turnkey rental properties and offers hands-on support for new investors and those going through the investing process. She’s written nearly 200 articles for BiggerPockets and has been featured in Fox Business, The Motley Fool, and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. She still owns her first turnkey rental properties and is a co-owner and the landlord of property local to her in Venice Beach.


  1. Aaron B.

    Ali, very nice article. I think for new investors, me included, get so excited and hours seem like days; like a kid waiting for your parents to get up on Christmas morning. I think your advice really speaks volumes. Your “TAKEAWAY” section pretty much sums up my experience. There is great advice on BP but not everyone is in the same place in life, savings, and real estate knowledge. Again great article. Best to you in the New Year.

  2. Sonia Spangenberg on

    Ali, I have spent most of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t good at what other people were good at. When I hit my 30’s I started to recognize that there were things I was better at than others. At 40 I finally started to care less about what others thought (developed a little self-confidence) and now in my mid to late 50’s I have the guts to say this is not my thing and I can’t and don’t want to do it. I really regret and resent that it has taken me so long to figure this stuff out. I admire young people who seem to have all kinds of self confidence know and go for what they want. Your post is a great affirmation and encouragement that all new investors should take to heart. I figured out pretty quickly that wholesaling was not my bag. The resources came forward and I met an investing partner in a class whose strengths fill in for my weaknesses and vice versa. In the last 8 months we have acquired 3 properties, one of them a four door. We are having so much fun even with the hard stuff. As Ali mentions, what you like to do is easier to figure out if you quit struggling in the area’s you’re not good at. It doesn’t happen overnight but you need to develop persistence if you want to be an investor.

    • Ali Boone

      Sonia, I love this!! Everything you say–your history, your change of thoughts, and now your successes. Congrats! Where are your properties? I’m so pumped you are having fun. Ultimately, none of this REI stuff is worth it if you aren’t having some fun. Life is way too short.

      So excited for you!!

  3. Douglas Skipworth

    Awesome article, Ali!

    Doing what you’re naturally good is the same concept that Warren Buffett calls “circle of competence” (i.e., doing what you know and avoiding things you don’t know). Clearly, it’s made him very successful.

    I’ve also heard it described as “growing where you’re planted.”

    Your post is great reminder of that idea as we move into the new year.

    • Ali Boone

      Thanks Douglas! And man, Warren definitely fits into my bill of “take advice from the people I’d trade shoes with.” I totally value his mindset and his ideas, and of course his success, so I’m most definitely open to any piece of advice he offers. I love the “growing where you’re planted” line too.

      Happy New Year to you!

  4. Andrew Nissen

    Loved your article Ali.
    Wholesaling never felt right for me either. Glad others like it though. Flipping is a bit forced for me though profitable.

    Now I’m also back to just focusing on growing my rental portfolio more efficiently through multifamily, (What I’m probably best at.) I appreciate the confirmation of similar experience.

    Thanks again,

    • Ali Boone

      That’s great Andy! And I’m sure with your flipping experience, that makes your rental options that much greater. I’m not handy a bit so I can’t really buy fixer uppers, and oftentimes that’s where they big bucks are. So it sounds like you are in a position to make it work for you really well!

  5. Kevin Izquierdo

    Pretty solid points and article! My friends always called me jack of all trades, master of none. But now that I’ve focused myself on one niche (real Estate MFR), I’m convinced that It’s going to go well for me. Thanks for the motivation 🙂 I will further Strengthen my strengths

    • Ali Boone

      Haha Kevin…I know the feeling! I’m much more of the type to have my hand in a lot of things but nothing to great depth. I’m not even positive I meant for it to happen with rental properties, but I guess it was bound to happen at some point! And awesome in the MFRs. Where are you buying them?

  6. Ronald Perich

    Very good reminder, and one that applies to other facets of life as well. I’m good at getting things going. I’m not so good at sustaining. That’s why I make sure I get the right people in the right place and that they enjoy doing what I either don’t or am not suited for. I find this in my volunteer activities, my personal life, and my business. So take her advice and build on what you like. It’s never a Just Over Broke activity if you enjoy it.

    • Ali Boone

      Great input and advice Ronald. I’m much like you–I love getting things started but I get antsy fast. I’ve definitely learned to put people in the right places so I can stick to what I’m good at and what I enjoy. Glad it works for you too!

  7. Page Huyette

    Nice way to start thinking about next years goals! I am opportunistic by nature and don’t like to rule anything out, but you are spot on in this post about taking the time not just to think about what you’d love to do but what really comes naturally.

    This could likely be the difference between success and failure for many of us.

    Thanks for reflecting and sharing to help others and best wishes for a great year of real estate investing Ali.

  8. Rollan Dizon

    Thank you for this article. Being borderline ADD, I like to explore multiple facets and approaches to everything. This is a great reminder to really focus on your core strengths, and dont’t fall in love too quickly on the next new shiny object….

  9. Mindy Jensen

    Wow, Ali. This is a really powerful article. Trying to force your square-peg self into a round-hole really doesn’t make sense, but you hear over and over to improve yourself, which translates into work on your weaknesses. This is such great advice!
    BTW, I am always working on a house, so if you ever want to learn some flipping skills, come for a visit!

    • Ali Boone

      Oooooohh Mindy, I do, I do! Where are you located again, I forget. I really think it would be fun.

      Ah! I love the square-peg into a round hole line. I forgot about that one…it would’ve been perfect for the article! 🙂 Yep, exactly the same as swimming upstream….all unnecessarily difficult.

  10. Dena Wesley

    Good article and perfect timing. I was going back and forth about a month ago trying to decide what direction I wanted to go in with real estate and ironically, I asked the question you presented in your post, “What am I naturally good at?” Once I did that, I then knew where I wanted to start. Thank you!

    @SONIA SPANGENBERG – Don’t regret or be resentful that it took you a long time to figure this stuff out…Some people never do but at least you DID figure it out. Sounds like you having success and a blast in the process.

  11. Damond Stewart

    “Ab-so-freaking-lutely” one of the best articles I’ve read on BP! Well done Ali and although you intended this for real estate investors, it definitely resonates with life period. Thank you for this gift. It definitely beats an ugly sweater or fruit cake any year!

  12. Great article, great insight. I feel like it was a shot of adrenaline to keep me moving forward towards my goal of investing in turn key rental properties. I’m still educating myself, and very much appreciaed the honesty and insight. Happy New Year !

  13. thao le

    Thanks for a great post and a confidence booster Ali! I am new at REI, currently have a 4 plex that I own with my partner and a townhouse in GA. I can’t wait to go out there and get a couple more, eventually I want to have enough passive income to travel the world.

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