On a brisk autumn day in October 2016, I woke up in Espoo—a neighboring city to Helsinki. I had moved across the world from sunny California with our 8-month-old son Lucas, pregnant with baby number two, and our two adopted cats. Our new home was Finland, the land of a thousand lakes, the world’s shyest people, and sauna (shy people, but they don’t mind sweating cheek to cheek in their birthday suits).
So there I was, in the Finnish ‘burbs with a constantly traveling husband, a wild baby (he started climbing stairs when he was four months old and was pretty much parkour-ing before he could walk—I guess that’s what I get for marrying a guy who loves extreme sports), in a market I knew nothing about. I had zero network, no job, and was four months pregnant—and scared I had made a huge mistake quitting my awesome job in Silicon Valley.
So I put on the TV, pulled out a gallon of ice cream, and started binge-watching “Dancing With the Stars.” Or rather, I totally could have, because I sure had a lot of excuses to. But instead I answered these three questions—and have since bought seven rental apartments ($100K-$160K each). And if I could, you can, too!
Related: 6 Major Reasons to Invest in Real Estate (& How to Invest With Purpose!)
Question #1: Why?
There was a reason I had left my awesome job to come to Finland. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t the butt-to-butt sauna-sweating.) We loved our life in California, but our whole world turned upside down and inside out (ahem, my body certainly did) after having our first baby with no family around. A life of working high-stress, 60-hour weeks only to pay a big chunk of the salary to strangers to take care of our newborn baby didn’t feel right. We thought long and hard about our life.
What did success looks like to us?
What did we want more and less of?
How did we want to feel?
What important ways did we want to use our time?
How did we want to be remembered?
The answers to these questions led us to Finland—and more importantly, to real estate investing and the freedom and flexibility it provides.
So before doing anything else, I recommend finding your why—and going beyond financial freedom in your reason. What does financial freedom enable you to do that brings you joy and purpose in life? How does it amplify who you truly are and who you want to be?
I want my kids to see me do things I’m scared of, make mistakes, and learn from them. I want them to see me be true to myself and be a person they can be proud of. That’s my why.
Question #2: How?
Once I was clear about my why, I began thinking about how to do it. So I paid $2,500 for a guru class called “The Secret to Getting Rich Quick Through Real Estate.” NOT. There is no such thing!
I didn’t have money, I didn’t have knowledge, I didn’t have a lot of things (like my 20-something body, lol). But instead of focusing on all the things I didn’t have (like a job), I thought of what I did have. I had time, and I had mind share. I no longer had 7,000 emails burning in my inbox or client fires needing to be put out left and right. And I had a burning desire to learn.
I started studying. But remember, I had an 8-month-old paper-eating monster at home—not a great partner for book reading. So I quit and went right back to “Dancing With the Stars.” Nah, gotcha again.
I had heard an awesome interview with Tim Ferris, where he talked about the need to ask ourselves better questions. For instance, “What would this look like if it were easy?”
And for me, the answer was audiobooks. My little parkour baby and I went for long walks every day (the only way he would sleep for longer than 15 minutes at a time), and that’s how I started gulping a book a week. After three months, I had knowledge. And with that knowledge, I was able to secure the first things I needed: partners with money and skills.
Question #3: What?
One of my favorite things about real estate investing is the fact that there are almost as many strategies as there are investors. Since we are driven by different “why”s, that results in a handful of different “what”s. One of the books I gulped that helped me be purposeful and focused when developing our strategy was The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: It’s Not About the Money…It’s About Being the Best You Can Be! by Gary Keller with Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan. I warmly recommend it.
Related: 7 Absolute Must-Read Real Estate Books for Beginning Investors
They divide the strategy into three core areas:
- Criteria: What we buy (what kind of real estate are you buying: single family homes, multifamily, condos, etc.)
- Terms: How we buy it (establishing your parameters for buying, for example, XX% below market price)
- Network: Who helps us (banks, partners, other investors, wholesalers, etc.)
That’s it. Those are the three questions. So now you’re all done and can finally go back to the binge-watching—except that you can’t. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t even want to. You’re too fired up. There’s just one thing missing.
So many investors get caught up in analysis paralysis and never pull the trigger, even after having done all the homework and due diligence. And I get it. It’s scary.
I remember the first time I went to Los Angeles. I was going to drive down there with one of my best childhood friends from Stockholm, Malin, who was visiting us in San Jose, Calif. I was nervous about the drive, especially driving downtown (eeeeek!). But Malin said something that really helped.
She said, “You just do it one red light at a time.”
It was so simple and obvious once she had said it. One step at a time. Turn the engine on, put it into gear, push the gas, steer, stop. I can do all those things. I’ll be OK. And all of a sudden, I was cruising down Hollywood Boulevard (I was stopped by the police on the way there, but survived that, too).
I tell this story because it has helped me in real estate investing, and I hope it can help you, too. You don’t have to know everything. Start by learning one new thing. You don’t have to have everything. Focus on what you do have, and what you can do with that.
What’s one action you can do today to get you closer to your why?
Leave a comment below!