9 Personal Philosophies to Live and Die By as a Real Estate Investor

by | BiggerPockets.com

As a real estate investor, whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to find your own unique way of doing things. And this includes both for your work and for your personal life as well.

In fact, it took me years to learn what I now know about house flipping, building teams, managing multiple projects and networking – all while learning how to balance this with family and all the other myriad job-related details. It took me years to learn what I know now. And I’m nowhere near done yet!

But believe it or not, the best business and entrepreneur lessons are the ones that are the simplest and easiest to remember. It’s amazing that the more I get involved in what I do, the more I come back to the simplest lessons and the simplest philosophies.

Here are 9 simple philosophies that have really impacted my business life:

Download Your FREE Tenant Screening Guide!

Hey there! Screening tenants can be a tricky business, and this critical step can be the difference between profits and disaster. To help you with your real estate investing journey, feel free to download BiggerPockets’ complimentary Tenant Screening Guide and get the information you need to find great tenants.

Click Here For Your Free Tenant Screening Guide

1. No Excuses, Just Solutions

(Tweet This!)

In any line of work, things don’t work out the way you always want them to.  From falling victim to the 7 deadly sins to making an epic fail house flip, it’s not always a smooth road to success.

Because of that, it’s completely natural to make excuses on why things didn’t work out how you wanted them to. It’s just that it won’t do you any good if you do this, because it simply wont solve your problems.

Instead of making excuses – focus on solving problems. We have a big sign in the  House Flipping School offices that says:

“No Excuses, Just  Solutions”

Your problems probably won’t get fixed right away, but as long as you are making improvements and looking for solutions, you’ll eventually get there.

2. Don’t Stop When You’re Exhausted, Stop When You’re Done

(Tweet This!)

You’re going to get tired at times. Being an entrepreneur and a real estate investor takes hard work and long hours.

Sometimes, you’ll even get completely burned out. You’ll probably feel this way more frequently when things aren’t going so well for you. But the biggest thing that helped me to succeed over the years was persistence.

It doesn’t matter whether I’m bone tired or its late at night and I just want to go to bed, I long ago decided that I just wouldn’t stop until I get all things on my to do list that day done.

The very moment you stop – is the precise moment that you start to fail. As long as you keep on chugging along, eventually you will accomplish your goals.

3. Honesty Is An Expensive Gift, Don’t Expect It From Cheap People

(Tweet This!)

As a real estate investor, you’re going to need others to succeed. You’ll also need other people advice and counsel. Over the years, I’ve realized that the advice you get is not all measured equally.

The best advice is truthful advice – although it may sting, it will make you see things in different ways. and if you don’t take it personally, it can drive you to succeed and improve more than ever.

Just don’t expect to get the truth from people who are worried about hurting your feelings. Although that kind of advice is easier to swallow, it won’t help you accomplish your goals, instead it’ll just set you back.

4. Work Hard in Silence and Be Humble

(Tweet This!)

When I started to make money flipping houses, I really wanted to show it off. I really wanted to tell people how successful I was. I wanted to buy a flashy new car and show everybody that now I had really “made it”.

In the long run, buying materialistic objects doesn’t make you happy. And telling people about my success just caused people to think I was arrogant. Thankfully, I only did this for a very brief period of time.

Don’t worry about telling people about your success, as it won’t do you any good. Just focus on your work and keep your mouth shut because the last thing you need is people thinking your arrogant.

5. Don’t Get Sidetracked – By Negative People or Shiny Objects

(Tweet This!)

It’s easy to get sidetracked and follow the latest shiny object in real estate investing – especially by other people. If you don’t focus on your core business model, you’ll just spin your wheels and get nowhere.

One the best ways to avoid this is to focus on one thing and not let people who don’t have their lives together get you sidetracked. If you want to succeed hang with people who are in tune with your goals and objectives. Networking groups and mastermind groups are great for this. The more you hang out with people who are goal oriented and successful, you are less likely to get sidetracked.

6. Behind Every Successful Person are Many Unsuccessful Years

(Tweet This!)

When people ask me about my success, they usually think it happened just recently. Not true. What they don’t realize is that it been done over nearly five years – which isn’t super long, it’s just that it’s hardly “overnight success”.

During that five-year period, I’ve lost thousands of dollars, made hundreds of mistakes and worked more than the requisite 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell says is essential for success.

Most real estate investors don’t hit it big on their first deal. Most fail miserably before they even catch the first taste of success. If you keep pushing forward, your odds of success dramatically improve.

7. Live So That If Someone Spoke Ill of You, Nobody Would Believe It

(Tweet This!)

In business, great businesses coma and go, but reputations last forever.

Even if you fail on your first house flip or rental property, if you didn’t cheat or deceive and did your best to always behave in the most honest manner possible, it will come back to you later on. Your reputation doesn’t live and die by one deal – but how you deal with others and with failure speaks volumes about who you are.

Your reputation is the one thing that takes time to build but can be destroyed in an instant. Its your mot valuable asset. In so doing, always help other people, don’t speak badly of others and treat everyone with respect. Because if you always behave this way, if someone ever spoke ill of you, nobody would ever believe it.

8. Bring Others Along For The Ride to Success

(Tweet This!)

As I’ve said many times before, house flipping is not a solo venture. You need others to succeed and better yet – you’ll succeed even more when you can help others realize their dreams as well.

As you climb the ladder of success, don’t forget to occasionally reach down and give a hand to others who are a few rungs below you.

It doesn’t cost you anything to help them except your time. Better yet, if you can find out what their dreams are and help them to get there with just a little bit of your help, all the better.

9. Never Confuse Struggling With Failing

(Tweet This!)

Every big successful person has experienced times of struggle and hardship. However, never confuse a singular defeat with final defeat. Struggle and hardship are all a part of success because nothing truly worthwhile attaining doesnt have some element of struggle in its attainment. So don’t expect your real estate investing career to be easy – because it wont be.

You’ll have to fight, work harder than you ever thought you were capable of working, and keep pushing forward despite the temporary setbacks. After all, if it were easy and didnt require pain and hardship to be successful, then everyone would be successful.


These are just a few philosophies I live by – but what are yours? Better yet, what do you think about them? Are there any other philosophies you have that we should all follow?

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Photo: Hartwig HKD

About Author

Mike LaCava

Michael LaCava is a full time real estate investor, house flipping coach and the President of Hold Em Realty located in Wareham, MA. He runs the website House Flipping School to teach new real estate investors how to flip houses and is the author of "How to Flip a House in 5 Simple Steps".


  1. Mike,
    Excellent advice! It’s not about just RE Investing, your nine philosophies can be carried over to other career/life choices as well & if followed will help you climb the success ladder. I especially like # 7.
    Awesome article!

    • So true Anthony. I lived through that #7 where some people did speak ill of me because they didn’t know all the facts and although I didn’t realize it at the time there were so many more people that supported me and new the real me. I learned later not to take it personally because it is never about me but all about the other person when attacked personally.
      Great book I read called the 5 Agreements and one of those agreements is don’t take things personally. I am not perfect at this but feel I am much better now.

      Thanks for your comments. How is your real estate investing going?

  2. As a rather stingy individual myself, I take offense at being called dishonest. I suppose there is more than one way to define a “cheap person” but since you didn’t mention that part of your advice in the descriptive paragraph, I can’t be sure what you meant.

    Other than that, excellent advice.

    • I think Mike was referring to taking the sometimes hard to hear advice and being tough enough to take it and then turn it into something positive. It’s easy to hear compliments, but much tougher to hear what you really don’t want to hear but may actually help you.

    • I prefer “Frugal” when it comes to money – it sounds more like a virtue that way!
      If you think back to your childhood and remember some kid who’s parents were never there for them you can picture what “stingy” looks like in relationships.

  3. Hi Mike, thanks so much for this article. I’ve been in REI full-time for 5 years, and never imagined 5 years ago that I would still have some of the struggles and roadblocks that I have. As I work through them new ones come up, but my skill set grows continually and so does my trust that I can resolve whatever comes along.

    Most important – this is the part that the trainers, coaches, and gurus don’t ever seem to emphasize-that it is hard work, and there are tough times. Thanks for pointing it out and clarifying that it comes with the territory, and not to quit because of it.

    • Yes Alison your are correct and i am tired of seeing all those get rich quick schemes out there and not just in real estate. Its rampant in a lot of industries. As I expand my business I face new challenges as it is part of the natural process in growing.
      Thanks for your comments and feel free to ask any question in regard to any of the challenges you may come across and I will be happy to try and answer for you or just put in the forum and you can get may to contribute to your question.

  4. Great article. I recently read the art of war and it was great motivation for every aspect of life. The basic idea is resistance is present in our lives all the time and most present when we are about to finish something or accompkish something big. The hardest part f a project is pushing through that resistance at the end to get it done.

    With flips it can be frustrating making sure all the little things are done right at the end. It can mean the difference in thousands of dollars.

    • For sure Mark. Pushing through to closing seems to be what we face all the time because it is the business we are in. This is one area sometimes we have no control in the sense we can’t control if the mortgage, banker, real estate, buyer…….don’t do their part or do it wrong.
      I recently had to take $6000 reduction because the mortgage person messed up and I had a choice to kill the deal and re list and start over or take the reduction and close it with the buyers. It wasn’t the buyer fault and they were a nice young couple and meant waiting a few more weeks to close or maybe months again with a new buyer.

  5. Mike – this is one of my all time favorite posts. I just love it!

    If folks would just realize there is no shortcut to success, they would already be so far ahead of most people.

    For all those folks just getting started; there aren’t two paragraphs of information we can send you to save you from doing the work. There aren’t just two or three blog posts you can read that will turn you into a successful wholesaler. And for the guy that emailed me yesterday just wanting me to send him the exact steps to create a successful direct mail campaign; the one that didn’t have time to read the blog posts I pointed him to, its just not that simple.

    We all had to do it; the hard work; now you will have to do it too. We will be there to help; to give you a hand when you need it. But you will have to do the heavy lifting yourself.


    • Thanks Sharon. Ain’t that the truth. Just send me the steps to make a million dollars! I will look for it in my email. LOL. There is no easy button here but as you get through the hard years it sure is worth it and I am so grateful for making the move I did.

  6. I love this post. I love all these phylosophies. Some really speak to me. I will learn to keep quiet. I think I am at the talking stage. Thank you for this post. I am not successful yet, but it does not mean I am a failure right?

    This is so inspiring.

    • Thanks Victorine.
      Absolutely does not mean your a failure. part of the journey to success is to fail and make mistakes and not give up. The only failure is if you never try why you want to do and always being wondering what if?
      Keep moving forward everyday!

  7. I think you summed it up pretty well. Operate with integrity, maintain humility, preserve, and give back. I think my latest gem has been on folks view of failure. Someone complained that they were a failure at this or that. I explained that one must attempt and try to have the opportunity for failure. In order to succeed one needs to attempt and try thus failure is mearly one step closer to success.

    I have always strove towards perseverance. Right now I am in the final days of a rehab to sell on a house. It has been 24 days of working 16-18 hours a day between my day job amd on the house. With each step closer I get more energized. No one except maybe my folks and wife believed I could have this entire house done in a month but we are once schedule for friday. I have always believed in the path where I set goals just at the edge of realistic. This way if I do fail it is still a success by many other standards. If I said I could get this house done in 2 months that would have left me quite a bit of time and I could easily be a success by my defined parameters. However if I say a month and I go over a week, I may have missed my mark under my set parameters but I still finished 3 some weeks earlier. This makes failure much mlre benficial when looked at in the righr light and used as a tool.

    • Great attitude Kyle. I love the fact you recognize goal setting and the importance of it.
      If you meet your goals 100% if the time then you may be setting them to low and if never meet them then too high. I think you understand that perfectly.
      Tell me about your flip. Where are you doing it?

      • It actually brings a lot of this article into play. I bought a duplex off the MLS in 2010 and as I closed on it I met with the seller. We gor to talking and I found that the reason she was selling was that she had a partner in this duplex as well as another and her partner passed away. She needed to sell the other duplex as well but didn’t list it yet and it needed a decent amount of work. I asked my father if he wanted to go in on it and he did and that was the start to his real estate investing career and has acquired more since then. To purchase this property we did an 18 month land contract. During those 18 months we fixed up the property and was able to secure financing. Also during those 18 months I had a working relationship with the executor of the deceased partner’s estate who was his brother. Towards the end of the 18 months he told me about his sister-in-law who was looking to sell in the near future and the house needed a lot of work. I gave him my information and said I was interested. Over our meetings I was able to upxate them on the property and explain a little bit what I did.

        This spring the sister-in-law called me up and she had very realistic expectations on asking price. I started with a land contract idea but through our discussion I found that that would not meet her needs. I then had another first where I was able to secure an investor for the ourchase price and use my funds to rehab. In my conversations with the seller there was a couple new paperwork issues that came up so I learned more again. I also was able to structure the sale that she did not have to bring any money to the table for prorated taxes or anything else as the home had no mortgage. She appreciated this very much.

        I did have about a month to prepare as the seller had to get some things lined up prior to sale. I developed the budget and timeline where I took on quite a bit but did outsource plumbing, electrical, and plaster work. I am on the final stages now and I should be completed this friday which will be 30 days from close. I am surprised a bit how smoothly everything has gone and hope the rest of the process goes the same way. For my first flip it has been a great experience but it was definately assisted by doing a lot of work on my otherproperties in the past that I kept as rentals.

        • Thanks for sharing your story Kyle -Where abouts are your buying and what is your cost to rent ratio. I like to hear what others are doing. I have purchased single family from $25k all in with about $600 a month for rent to 3 family at around $50k with $1800 a month rent but in my area singles all in for around $125-130 and getting around $1800 month rent which is real good for my area in south eastern mass.

        • Mike. This one is purchase around 30k with $10k in remodel costs and sale between $65k – $70k hopefully. Even $60k I will not complain on. My primary holdings are duplexes which average cost all in around $85k with monthly rents around $1250/m. My sole single family was all in at $60k with $815/m rent. I’m not nailing the 2% rule but I amsatisfied with the returns.

          Another interesting detail on my current flip is that an RV pulled up one weekend day while I was working and a 70’s couple got out and started taking pictures. They came to to door and asked if I was the owner and I said for about 10 days. Turns out her mother was born here and her grandfather built the house in 1885. She had a short history on the home with some details on when the house was remodeled and expanded. I am in the Fox Cities in Wisconsin (just south of Green Bay) and they were on a road trip from North Carolina. Her mother wrote her memoirs in the late 1980’s detailing the home and she is sending me that. It is amazing seeing the history of the home and how appreciative she was for me letting them walk through and sending them pictures of the process upon completion this friday. It really adds some depth to process and is a great feeling to know that she appreciates the house being redone to give another generation of families more memories.

        • Thats a great story. I have had some similar and it just makes you love even more what you do. Don’t sweat the 2% as I think you are in the sweet spot for prices. You will probably have better appreciations and be able to sell more retail when the time comes.
          The houses under $30K are usual just cash flow plays because bank won’t even lend to people to buy at that price in most cases that I know of. If you keep hitting those numbers you will do fine.

  8. I love #5 — Don’t Get Sidetracked – By Negative People or Shiny Objects — it is so easy to let yourself fall prey to that but then it should lead to #1 — No Excuses, Just Solutions!!

  9. Glenn Schworm

    Great article. I had this one saved to review. Looks like mine today was similar, great minds think alike? Wait, that wasn’t so humble was it? lol. Love a lot of the points you made. Keep up the great articles.


  10. Great article Michael. i really like the “shiny objects” example. i spent a few years going from one thing to another to figure out the “secret” to finding deals. i totally agree that once one starts to focus on the basics, things start to happen.

    • Exactly Gary. It can be overwhelming at times. I get all those emails as well and have to admit they are crafted well to get your attention. There are so many ways to make money in real estate you just need pick one and stay focused on the plan. I suggest picking one that you will love to do whether that is rehabbing, buy and hold, mobile homes…….
      Just do it!
      Thanks for your comments

  11. Mike,
    Great article especially after just listening to your recent Podcast with Josh and Brandon. I am a newbie from upstate NY and am looking to make my first offer within the next two weeks on a SFH here in Rome, NY. Love all the philosophies and would like to add one more that I try to live by and that is the 212 principle which I’m sure you’ve probably heard of. If not, it simply states that normally at 211 degrees, water is simply just hot. However, if you turn the temp up just one simple degree to 212, that water begins to boil and with that, it produces steam which has been used to power ships over the waters of our oceans and trains across our country and it all happened with one degree of difference. As an investor to be, my goal is to be the one who’s one degree of difference in the way I act as a landlord or the quality of my rentals makes all the difference in the quality of tenants and the amount of rent that I can collect from my properties, and ultimately how I live as a real estate investor and mentor to those who come behind me.

    Thanks again for a great article


    • thanks Paul. I have heard that before but not in a long time. Thats a great attitude you have and it will get you far. Best of luck with your offer. Feel free to ask me any questions if you need some help.

  12. “When people ask me about my success, they usually think it happened just recently. Not true. What they don’t realize is that it been done over nearly five years – which isn’t super long, it’s just that it’s hardly “overnight success”.”

    I like to say that the key to overnight success is years of hard work.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here