Why I Love Being Called an Idiot… (And Why You Should Also!)

by | BiggerPockets.com

It’s that time of the quarter again at my company where we’re preparing for our next investment round.  Once again, I have to endure the self-flagellation that is the “Kenny salesman.”  I’m decent at a small number of things, but putting myself out there and asking people to entrust me with their money isn’t one of them.  Which is why it’s surprising this is also my favorite time of the quarter.  


The melting pot of investors.

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Give Us Your Tired

Last weekend, my lovely British wife and I officially submitted her green card application (the wedding was great, thanks for asking, there’s a video of us swing dancing around the world on my personal blog).  When I first proposed I was under the naive belief that when we moved back to America, the USCIS would gladly welcome the love of my life.  Oh sure, I thought there might be an interview to make sure the the marriage was “the real deal,” but it wouldn’t be a significant inconvenience.

How naive was I?

The problem was I still viewed this country the way I was taught in elementary school.  Foremost was the idea immortalized by the words engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We were a a country of equal opportunity and acceptance.  People from every walk of life come together and combining their viewpoints.  The early Americans had any misconception it would be a smooth ride, but they believed the end result would be a stronger nation.

In my history book, we called this the melting pot (I remember because it was one of the bolded phrases).  We had enough faith in this idea that immigration was encouraged.

Today it’s a 300 page visa application followed by a 8-12 month wait for the wife of a US Citizen to come into the country.

But I digress.

It’s the melting pot idea I’m going to run with in this article.

The Investor Melting Pot

In my current gig, I get to experience this melting pot every time deal with investors…and it’s great.  Well, I say that now- ask me again when we have 1000 investors.

Why do I enjoy it so much?

They tell me I’m an idiot

OK, no one has called me an idiot…yet.  However, none of our investors are shy about disagreeing with me.

And I love it.

If you’re a regular consumer of my posts either on BiggerPockets or my personal blog, you’ll know that I don’t shy away from unpopular opinions.  (For example “Four reasons you shouldn’t invest in real estate”).  I’m a big believer that the only way someone can improve is if they’re challenged.

Sure, I could put together a business where I do anything and everything I want and rule as a dictator.  Trouble is, neither I, nor that business, will improve.  Everyone needs people questioning and keeping tabs on them.

Sometimes I can explain I’m not an idiot

I’m a strong believer that you don’t really understand something until you teach someone else.

I attended school for Computer Science (CS).  One of the things I had to do was tutor first year students, many of which weren’t pursuing a degree in CS.

I can honestly say that I learned more about coding by explaining the introductory material a thousand times than I did in any of my more “advanced” classes.  Forcing me to review the most basic material and talk about it in an a simple, easily understandable, way created a very strong fundamental understanding of CS.

And it’s all about fundamentals.

With few exceptions, the most advanced concepts in a given subject are nothing more than applying the basics in a unique way.

That’s why I like talking to our investors.  Every investor brings a unique view based on their background and acumen.  Having to explain what we do and how we do it (tailored to their interests of course) creates the same fundamental understanding I got from my computer science teaching.

There is still plenty about real estate investing that I’m learning, but I know for a fact being forced to think deeply about what I do know will yield a strong dividend in the future.

I have to know where we’re going

I’m gradually beginning to learn that investors won’t give you any money unless they’re excited about the future.  I need to paint a vivid, and detailed painting for them.

Fortunately for us, our ideal exit plan is aggressive: we want to get to a point where we are able to form a REIT and IPO.

However, you can’t simply state that and move on.   People want to know how we’re going to get from point A to point B.  I have to know the general steps and start laying the foundation today.

Now, for a number of reasons, I think long term plans aren’t particularly useful (check out my post on Antifragility for more on this topic.)  However, understanding the options is invaluable.

Wrap it Up: The Value of the Melting Pot

I am a bit old fashioned in my thinking.  I still think a country designed as a melting pot is perfectly viable (one day I’ll write a post on why I like Australia so much, but that’s for later).  I still think my wife, or pretty much anyone else, shouldn’t have an issue entering this country.

However, I don’t think this is going to change any time in the near future, at least in America.

In my little microcosm, I’m excited that this melting pot idea is still alive and well.  The melting pot that is our investors helps ensure we will wind up with a stronger investment business in the long run.

So I’m going to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our investors.  We would never have made it this far without you.

Photo: tim caynes

About Author

Kenneth Estes

During Kenny's decade in finance he bought many single family rentals in rural areas, as a hobby. Along the way, he talked some brave souls into joining him as investors and recently retired from finance to take his hobby to the next level. Find more by and about Kenny on his personal blog and his recently created twitter account!


      • Heh, we were both out of the country so it was easy for us at the time. The appointment was 6-8 weeks out, the day we had it they said call back if you haven’t heard from us in 6 weeks…they did it in 2 DAYS. Can’t complain.

        • They won’t do consular processing in Belize, unfortunately. We had to Fed Ex all of our application, substantiating documentation, fees, etc to the U.S., and now we wait to hear. Wish I could have done it your way.

  1. Totally agree, there should be no immigration policy except if you come in you will work for everything you get. Again I think this should apply to the rest of the citizenry, what a different country this would be.

    Citizenship as a legal status was created by government to assure each one of us would be on the hook for their poor spending habits.

    Like marriage exactly why is this a controversy, who gave the right to the government to require a license to get married? You need a license so the government can tax you both.

  2. Douglas Dowell on

    Congrats on the nuptials!!

    Being called an idiot by an idiot is in fact the ultimate compliment?
    My proposed corollary to the NNT if you see fraud and don’t call fraud then you are a fraud haha

  3. First off, congrats! What an exciting time. And thank you for a great reminder about getting better through teaching and/or explaining what you do. True, true, true. It’s pretty stinkin’ painful at first, but no doubt it’s a process that forces you (meaning me) to sift through the clutter of one’s mind and get to the point.

    And on the immigration note … argh! I have a good friend who attended an Ivy League school, is fluent in 3 languages, works full-time and has never been in trouble. And her application was rejected twice so far. Looks like the 3rd time will finally be the charm – cross your fingers! – but seriously?? Oh, and this has been close to an 8-year process. Our priorities are wacked!

    Anyway, thanks for a good read!

  4. Kenny

    First off congratulations!

    I too have felt the frustration of dealing with immigration. your ordeal is far from over. The first green card is only good a couple years. Then you start over for the ten year card. Every time we had to go to their office it was a $500 dollar (each) plane ticket, to fly to Anchorage. 3 trips. I hired an immigration attorney and that helped some. Then add to it the humiliation of going to a us embassy in a foreign country. (to change her last name on her native country pass port) I never felt so out of place as I did on U.S. soil in a foreign country. It was about a year for us to get the first green card. I could go on for Hours.

    I Must say you hit the nail on the head. Teaching (or mentoring) another person really helps bring your own perspectives in line. I too have often learned as much teaching somebody as I have by doing something myself. Some times I have learned there is another way to approach things. I was brought up under the old belief system. The “My way or the highway” system. I believe that by teaching others, allowing them to know everything you know, and learning from them you actually improve yourself, making it easier to achieve your goals. As the boss how can you get time off if nobody else knows what you know? How can you get a promotion if there is no body to take your job when you move up? How can your business succeed if you are the only one who can run it? The melting pot (of ideas) theory has the old system beat many times over. Hopefully the days of doing something the same way because we always did it that way, or because the boss thinks its the only way are long over. We built a nation based on a melting pot of people (and ideas), and its worked pretty good so far. shouldn’t a business reflect the same principals?


    • Kenneth Estes

      Thanks for the words Ralph. Your situation has got to be frustrating. I hope by the time we get to that point, they’ll have figured it out…but I’m not so sure.

      I agree about training redundancy. I read a book by some general once called “It’s your ship.” It was very much about bringing in a number of people, and giving them ownership of the organization right away.

  5. I don’t get the point of this article. From the title it sounded like you were involved in contrarian investing strategies, but instead it is mostly about immigration, and tutoring???

    Some concrete examples might help.

  6. I feel your pain, Kenny. I’m going through the same thing right now. My Belizean husband and I are stuck in Belize, waiting for US Homeland to approve an application we sent in months ago, and we’re told it will probably be months more, before being approved. It’s incredibly frustrating to have someone I’ve been with 3 years denied access to my home country, while we are made to suffer through this interminable bureaucratic process.

    Hopefully both of us will have our spouses with us in our homeland soon. Good luck!

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