7 Ways to Invest In Real Estate Like Rocky Balboa

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In 1976 a little known Italian American with a funny voice wrote and starred in a movie about a long shot fighter from the rough streets of South Philadelphia.

The film, shot in just 28 days and on a budget of just over $1 million was a sleeper hit – earning $225 million in global box office sales and was the highest grossing film in 1976.

It went on to win three Oscars including Best Picture and it turned the writer and star into an instant celebrity.

Of course, the movie was Rocky and the actor was Sylvester Stallone.

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The Italian Stallion and Growing Up

It’s been many years since I saw that movie I even remember when my dad took me to see it when I was nine.

But for some reason this morning, I had to watch it. Waking up at 5 AM on a Saturday morning to watch a movie from 1976 is not something that I do most weekends. But when I watched it today it really brought back some child hood memories of how I felt after the movie.

Although my wife was upset because I woke her up by turning on the TV and asked me to shut it off, I just couldn’t – as I was once again enjoying the movie and the lessons it brought.

As a kid growing up in Waltham,MA, I had two strikes against me: I both looked young for my age and was extremely small for my age – in fact, I am still waiting for that growth spurt my mom promised

At that time, it bothered me – as it does for many undersized kids – especially when people thought my brother and I were twins when I was 12 and he was 9!

But watching that movie in ’76 somehow made me feel like anything was possible despite my slight stature.

Balboa and The Emerging Giant

Watching the movie this morning, it brought back a rush of all those feelings I had when I was just a kid and it made be realize how much that movie has inspired me to be a fighter just like the Italian Stallion – not in the sense of a boxer (although that did seem pretty cool at the time) but as a fighter going through life.

It was also the idea that the underdog always has a chance that really got me. In my case, it gave me confidence and allowed my young mind to dream a little of what it feels like to be a winner. The fact that Balboa was Italian just like me didn’t hurt either…

Like many undersized kids, I worried about what others thought and being small and looking so young really bothered me. So much so that I just couldn’t wait to grow up.

I’m far from unique on this one. So many kids go through periods of doubt, with threats of peer pressure, popularity and all the stuff that goes along with growing up. We all have to deal with our insecurities right into our adult lives as well.

Funny because when I was going through all of these emotions as a kid, I don’t think I shared that with many people except maybe my mom and grandmother. But here I am sharing my intimate feelings with the world here on BiggerPockets – I guess it is cheaper than a therapy session!

The point is that regardless of who we are and what we may look like on the outside, we all have those feelings of insecurity at one point or another in our lives. The real differences is how we respond to those insecurities and feelings of self-doubt.

For some people, those insecurities crush them and provides them with a ready-made laundry list of excuses as to why they can’t get things done.

For others, they use those insecurities and feelings of self-doubt to power them and motivate them to even greater success.

I’d like to think I’m in the latter group. But regardless, it always fascinated me how some people respond to adversity and triumph over it – whereas others will cave in and just let it defeat them.

The Italian Stallion Inspires This House Flipper

At the risk of sounding cliché, there are many parallels to the story of Stallone and the movie Rocky that can be related to how to invest in real estate. But this movie so deeply affected me – who cares about being cliché – the fact is, this movie inspired me in my life and continues to do so in my real estate investing career.

1. Overcome Your Self-Doubts

For Stallone, “Rocky” brought him instant fame and unparalleled success. He went from a guy barely able to make his rent (and even briefly starring in a porno film so he didn’t get evicted) to Hollywood superstardom…seemingly overnight.

You’re probably reading posts here on BiggerPockets looking at all these people flipping houses, investing in big commercial real estate projects in buying income properties to create streams of income to provide for themselves and their families.

You may get the sense that all the successful people going out and doing what you want to do as overnight successes as well. Maybe you are just pulling from a long laundry list of excuses of why you haven’t done your first deal.

Every one of the writers here on Bigger Pockets has their own laundry list of excuses as to why they can’t be successful. The difference is that they rarely conjure up those excuses when moving forward in their real estate pursuits. You can do the same.

What self-doubts are holding you back from doing what you want to do in your real estate investing career be at your first deal for your hundredth?

2. Nothing Is Easy…So Don’t Expect It

Is real estate investing easy? No.

Is having the persistence and grit to not only write but star in a Hollywood feature film easy either? Never done it myself – but its doubtful that’s easy either.

The story of Stallone is fascinating. He had failed at many attempts to get his screenplays accepted by Hollywoood and I guess we will never know what would have happened to Stallone if that movie wasn’t a box office hit.   Rejection after rejection, insult after insult, he just kept going despite the inevitable feelings of self-doubt.

Even if he hadn’t had huge success with Rocky, something tells me he would have figured it out because failure was not on his mind. He just kept pushing and pushing until one Hollywood studio finally said “yes”.

Have you lost money on your first few deals or are you still struggling to do your first deal? Do you think that real estate investing should be easy because other people have done it and they succeeded?

It is never easy. Yes, it gets easier with time and experience but you will still make plenty of mistakes and no deal I’ve ever done has been a piece of cake. Don’t expect it for you either.

Do you think it should be easy or have you resigned yourself to the fact that it will never be easy and you’ll do whatever it takes to be successful?

3. Never Pass up Opportunity

If you look at the character Rocky Balboa in the movie he was obviously the major underdog against the powerful Apollo Creed. And as many scribes have written, in many ways his character related to Sylvester Stallone himself as the epitome of an underdog in real life.

In the movie, Rocky was a debt collector for a loan shark and had nearly accepted his fate while settling for a petty existence. In the movie you see this self-doubt and desperation – until he is magically plucked from obscurity and given the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.

Even when he was given the opportunity to fight, he said no at first – primarily because he had no confidence left. Fear started to get the better of him, and despite the amazing opportunity presented to him he thought he had zero chance against the great Apollo Creed.

To fight Creed, he had to be persuaded to accept – which he finally did. And this decision ended up changing his life.

What opportunities are you passing up right now in your real estate investing career?

4. Don’t Blame Anyone But Yourself

Before getting the opportunity to fight Creed, he wanted to blame others for his status in life. And that proved to be true when Mickey his soon to be trainer was lambasted by Balboa and thrown out of his apartment when he asked Rocky if he could train him.

At that point in the movie, Rocky wanted to blame everyone except himself for his fate in life. He quickly realized in that moment he was wrong and ran out to Mickey and accepted his offer. At that precise moment in the movie, his mind clicked to a whole new attitude. That pivotal moment was the start to his own renewal in his self-belief and confidence.

Are you blaming others for your life right now or are you taking responsibility for everything you’ve done up until this point?

5. Go the Distance

The mind is an amazingly powerful force and like Napoleon Hill says:

“Whatever the mind conceives and believes the mind can achieve”

However it’s not enough just to believe you can do something – you must have a plan and take action on that plan. In Rocky’s case he started to train, he quit drinking and smoking and even abstained from intimacy with his girlfriend Adrian.

He decided that was willing to do whatever it takes to go the distance and take advantage of the opportunity as best as he could.

It’s interesting that he actually had modest goals. All he wanted was to go the distance with Apollo Creed – not to necessarily win.

That was a profound moment for me because think about that. Going the distance is different than winning.

Do we ever really win? I don’t know if we ever “win” in the game of life. But going the distance sounds so much better. Winning is the opposite of losing and we all will have many winning moments and losing moments in life – but when you really think about it “going the distance” is what really counts. But going the distance is what really counts.

Are you “going the distance” or is it all about winning and losing?

7. Power Through Your Fears No Matter What

One other thing is for sure, even on the night of the fight, Rocky still had his fears. In the scene right before the fight when he was in the bathroom kneeling at the bathroom sink he was praying.

This reminded me of a quote I once read:

“Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and no one was there.”

Rocky still had his fears even on the brink of the greatest moment in his life. We all have our own internal fears just like he did. But he put his fears in God’s hands that night.

That quote I love because it reminds me when I face my fears to share them with my God through my faith. It doesn’t matter whether your religious, atheist or agnostic. There is some kind of higher power regardless of who you are and what you believe – and many people strengthen their lives by relying on that power.

What can you do to overcome your fears?

Rocky Balboa And Real Estate Investing

What does all of this have to do with house flipping and how to invest in real estate?

Nothing really as far as the actual profession and tactics go – but a whole lot when it comes to succeeding. If you think real estate investing is all about After Repair Value, the 70% formula and MAO, then you’re missing the most important part.

The most important part real estate investing is your mindset.

This is not to say that I don’t have my own feelings of self-doubt many times as well. I must say they don’t come as often as they use to because of my positive attitude and mind set. I certainly will complain a little when a problem arises and maybe have a couple rough nights of sleep. If you’ve read any of my previous posts here, you may know I’ve had my share of problems.

The differences is that I will figure it out and move on quickly. Dwelling on it will do you no good.

The thing is you have a choice to succeed or not. It is totally up to you and no one else.

In Rocky’s case – even though he had a great team with Mickey his trainer, Adrian his supporting girlfriend and even Polly – who came around to support him much later – none of that help would’ve mattered if he didn’t believe in himself.

Without the right mindset, perseverance, and don’t quit attitude none of the tactics of real estate investing will ever matter – and you will be destined to fail.

Just like Rocky, although he had his doubts, he believed he could go the distance and he did. And Apollo Creed vastly underestimated Rocky’s determination, which ended up backfiring on him.

Although Rocky is just a Hollywood movie, but in reality the story of the movie itself and Stallone was in fact the real world Cinderella story – bringing success to a man that refused to quit and had no excuses.  Like Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone embodied that real fighting spirit going the distance to achieve unprecedented professional success.

Now what are you going to do to achieve the success you want investing in real estate?

I would love to hear from the new investors who facing similar situations and are stuck and can’t get out of their own way to make a deal happen.  I would most definitely want to hear from the seasoned investors that have been through all of this and have gone the distance. Please share your stories and comments below!

Photo: Jase Lam

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".

6 Comments

  1. Michael Great Post! Rocky is an awesome movie! I recently learned that Stalone wrote Rocky based off a real fight he saw. I think it was someone against Ali, but I can’t remember. He wrote the script in three days and knew it was what he had been waiting for.

    You have many great points in this post that I really believe in. Conquering fear, perseverance, hard work, opportunity and going the distance! Many times when we are almost there we give up.

  2. Sharon Vornholt

    Mike –

    Another great article. I love that you say real estate isn’t easy. It’s simple, but it’s not always easy. So many folks just aren’t willing to go the distance. They “dabble a little bit” then throw in the towel and say “this doesn’t work”. It reminds me of the guy that sent out thousands of postcards – once. He didn’t buy any houses off of his non targeted, giant mailing. Imagine that. He then went on every forum to bash everyone promoting and doing direct mail. He called them all “frauds”.

    I agree with you completely on your major points. You have to step up to the plate every day, be accountable, take full responsibility for your actions (or lack of them), and be willing to feel the fear and walk through the fire anyway. Everyone has the same fear.

    You also have to be committed to learn every day, admit your mistakes and find a way to pull yourself out of those “funks” we all experience from time to time. As Darren Hardy says, “One thing that separates the winners from the losers, is that they are able to have a 15 minute nervous breakdown and get back to work”. Check your pity party at the door and move on.

    Sharon

    • So true Sharon. Sometimes mine last longer than 15 minutes for sure. But I do recognize it and getting better at it. More so on major issues but we always figure it out don’t we.
      Yes I am firm on that. The process in itself is simple but certainly not easy. Glad you understand that.

  3. Nice piece Mike.
    Great job making it fun to read and remember all the great scenes from the movie but make some really great hard hitting points too.

    Wake up every morning and make the commitment to “Piss lighting and crap thunder” and you can’t fail. 🙂

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