Posted about 8 years ago

I Fail to Plan.

    You’ve seen it plastered all over facebook, probably with a picture of a grumpy cat:  If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail!  Ridiculous.  Most people who fail to plan absolutely believe they will succeed.  Some do, some don’t, but most who fail don’t plan to fail.

     There are many people who plan in fine detail, setting goals for the number of deals or their target income for the month, quarter, year, lustrum (a 5 year period, I know, but how often does one get to use a word like this?) and decade.  I know successful people who swear by constant planning and goal setting.  If they meet their goal they reset it higher.  If they don’t they evaluate why they missed their target and pledge to redouble their efforts or make the changes needed to get back on track.  This works very well for them.  I can’t conceive of planning for a decade.  I think it’s futile and, frankly, too much work.

     Look, if planning motivates you, is effective and you enjoy it I’m not encouraging you to change anything but there is another way.  A platitude often repeated by those who live by plans is that you can’t reach your destination if you don’t steer toward it.  I beg to differ.  I contend that you reach a destination whether you plot the course or not.  I prefer the platitude:  wherever you go, there you are.  Have you never jumped in your car and started out with no destination in mind?  I have.  Often.  It is one of my favorite activities when I head up to northern Michigan and unplug my electronics.  (Yes, I sometimes go several days without any form of electronic connectedness at all.)  In fact, in northern Michigan, I often end up at the lake shore, fairly quickly, whether I started out traveling west, north or east.  A fine destination.

     This is highly individual and much of it is tied to what one’s definition of success is. For some success is fame, fortune, a high annual income…for me it’s freedom.  I want to be free to pursue the activities I want to when I want to or to pursue nothing more than relaxing by the lake.  I considered it a major indication of success when I went a year without setting my alarm clock.  (I still do set it every once in a while and it is actually fairly difficult now because I don’t always remember the steps.)  Yes, I needed to build up enough assets and investments to throw off the income to allow me the financial wherewithal to do this but since my lifestyle is fairly simple this wasn’t all that difficult.

     I truly believe that if I had made meticulous plans I would not have enjoyed as much success as I have—I would not have seen the opportunities.  When I worked as an employee I thought about alternatives but I didn’t know enough about real estate to plan anything.  My first transaction was almost an accident.  My first flip was almost lucky.  I planned on leasing the home I just purchased.  I even thought about remodeling it to sell for a profit years down the road.  Had I known I would sell it 6 weeks later (before I made my first mortgage payment) I would never have paid for that 30 year mortgage loan.

     I purposely became a landlord but only added homes when good opportunities presented themselves and I either had or could easily obtain the funds.  I wanted to gain some economies of scale by growing the portfolio but made no detailed plans.  The apartment building seemed like a good idea when it presented (it’s tough to win them all).  I funded my first deal as a lender because I was open to it and the funds were available.  I still partner on deals when the “right” deals come along.  I am open to them, encourage them, but don’t plan for them.  Building the first spec home…please, I had no idea I would be doing that.  That home led to the second. 

     I have no idea what I will be doing next year and I love that.  I am not planning it.  I plan to succeed.