The Simple Mentality That Sets Successful Investors Apart From the Rest

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Last week I was having coffee with a multimillionaire real estate investor and business man. We were talking about successful people and what sets them apart from everyone else we know. We came to the conclusion that successful people expect success to be hard. Because they expect it to be hard, they do things others won’t. They create what others can’t.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

When most people think about investing, or any type of success, the first thing they do is look for information on what others have done. Most of us, including me, are looking for shortcuts or secrets so we don’t have to spend the time and effort figuring things out for ourselves. There are entire industries created to distribute and sell false hopes to those in search of easy money. Real estate investing is a big one.

Related: The 80/20 Principle: How to Be More Efficient & Successful at Everything

Let me ask you this: Do you think it’s possible to read the exact same tips and tricks that millions of other investors are reading and get better results? If everyone has the same knowledge, how can you reduce competition so you can increase profits? Doing the same thing as everyone else and hoping to succeed makes as much sense as buying a Ferrari to get through rush hour traffic faster. Your competition defines your potential. You want to reduce the competition so your potential is limitless. You want to be the one in the helicopter during rush hour traffic.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” — Albert Einstein

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The Easy Path vs. the Hard One

Let’s look at a few easy paths a lot of us are on and don’t realize:

  • It’s easy to set up internet searches to look for good real estate deals like everyone else. It’s hard to learn real estate math, zoning and building codes so you can create good deals no else has thought of.
  • It’s easy to buy cheap properties as rentals because successful investors tend to leave these alone. Investors looking for long term success can’t have high turnover, high vacancy rates or high maintenance or management costs.
  • It’s easy to work 40 hours a week for the security of knowing you’ll spend the rest of your days watching TV and clipping coupons. It’s hard to take risks and start a new investing business.
  • It’s easy to work more if you want more money. It’s hard to obtain the skills to get paid more and work less.
  • It’s easy to buy a new car, live in the big house and spend half of your income on interest payments. It’s hard to live with less and invest in a better future.
  • It’s easy to be busy. It’s hard to set aside time every day to think about how you could be more efficient.

“If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” — Jim Rohn

To do better requires thinking in ways others don’t and doing things others can’t. The best way to accomplish this is to never stop learning because knowledge determines your actions, and your actions determine your success. The more you know, the less competition you’ll have.

Related: The Five Success Principles of Rental Property Investing

Conclusion

Warren Buffett, one of the greatest investor of all time, spends 80% of his day learning about investing and 20% investing. He has done this his entire career. How many people put that much effort into anything? How many people have had that level of success?

“If you want to have more, you have to become more. Success is not something your pursue. What you pursue will elude you; it will elude you; it can be like trying to chase butterflies. Success is something you attract by the person you become. For things to improve, you have to improve. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to change, you have to change. When you change, everything changes for you.” — Jim Rohn

Has going it the hard way been valuable to you in finding success?

Be sure to leave a comment below, and let’s talk.

About Author

Brett Lee

Brett Lee is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Portland Oregon where he helps people achieve a better future so they can do the things that truly make them happy. Brett is also a buy-and-hold investor, property manager and investment advisor.

27 Comments

  1. Julian Starks

    Great article and I absolutely love that Mark Twain quote. It was also a nice point that you made about it being hard to learn real estate math and zoning codes, most of the people that I listen to on the BP podcasts know that stuff off the top of their heads. Success is hard work!

  2. Scott Trench

    The funny thing is, I’m not sure that “hard” is even the right word to describe the actions that you list to demonstrate the easy path vs the hard path.

    Developing the new skills or taking the risks you suggest is not “hard”, it is “slightly less easy”. It is not “hard” for me to live in my duplex, collect rent from the other side and live for free.. it is “slightly less easy” – I have to make a few basically correct business decisions and call the plumber when the drain under the sink leaks..

    • Nicolas Vinot

      I feel the same way…But maybe it feels “slightly less easy” because we are still “slightly close” to the side of the majority…Going from living in a duplex to owning multi million $ residential buildings is a path with much more resistance. If only I knew how hard it is, maybe I would adjust my approach to RE so drastically that I could finally have access to much greater success. But could be discouraging for some.

  3. Hattie Dizmond

    Great article! Love the quotes, all of them. And, you are exactly right.

    The only thing I got from the “gurus” is excited about the idea of real estate investing. Systems & processes are one thing, but the idea that a cookie cutter approach to REI will make you a multi-millionaire is ridiculous. Learning, growing, building on the momentum you create is critical, as is continuing to add additional tools to your REI tool-belt. My approach to reading and learning about the competition is 2 fold… 1) Just like game planning for an opponent in football, I need to know what I’m up against and how to best counter it. 2) Someone once told me, “Learn from other people’s mistakes, because you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.”

    • Sonia Spangenberg

      Yes the “cookie cutter” systems do not prepare you to think outside of the box when unforeseen issues and opportunities come up. That comes only from experience. Networking and partners can help multiple the experience you draw from however.

  4. Sonia Spangenberg

    Great thought provoking blog. As a newbie, It was very affirming that I/we are on the right track. It’s so easy to be critical of yourself because your success is not as rapid and massive as seems to be portrayed by “gurus”. We have chosen to set realistic timeline goals. I am confident that the learning, hard work involved and the time it takes to be successful will pay off. I have a great business partner and supportive spouse to help when the issues seem difficult. I think that it is critical to put the right people around yourself so you can navigate and endure those difficult moments. Thanks for the encouraging blog.

  5. Tyler Weinrich

    Thanks for the inspiring post. Love the first tip there under easy vs hard. I think as a general rule, if you get into something and it feels or looks hard, you can bet 100 other competitors are thinking the same thing. Only a fraction of them move forward to the next step. If that next step looks hard as well, only a fraction of the first fraction get through. While not always the case, a difficult path can be a sign of gold in them thar hills.

  6. Gene Cook

    Interesting post. Pushing ourselves to do the hard things and growing are important parts in any success story. However we are all wired differently and I think it is important to seek out ways to be paid for our time that are not a grind. The old adage “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” rings true for me.
    Analyzing properties, looking at scenarios, juggling multiple tasks are all things that fit my personality type and aptitude and therefore seem “easy” to me. Now, follow through, paying attention to detail etc. do not and it is important for me to work at those skills and with people who bolster me in those areas.
    I guess my point is that real estate investing is not going to be for everyone. If it feels like you are constantly working really hard perhaps you should look for another occupation or at least a different part of the real estate related spectrum.

    • Sonia Spangenberg on

      There is a balance to everything. Working smarter not harder. But it is still working! Finding an employee or partner who enjoys doing the things you don’t enjoy is a smarter way to go for me because things get done more efficiently when done by someone who enjoys the task. That gives you more time to be productive in the areas your enjoy. But it is still working! In the real world productivity = profits. Enjoyment of the productivity process is a smaller factor in the equation but is still important. Some people find conquering hard things stimulating and this makes them more productive and others prefer to find ways to make things easier and that makes them more productive. Both types can still manage to make the process more profitable. You hit it on the nail when you said we are all wired differently.

  7. Jay Johnson

    I thinks all of us love the easy way if it’s gonna come easy but, to have something so hard to achieve and, no matter what you do, it seems impossible to achieve it and, one day you make a little chip on that block and actually see some progress, it’s nothing like it. Just that little bit of progress can keep you going.

  8. Shaun Clark

    Great article and wonderfully succinct. Perception is everything and because of it we all have a different initial approach to our business and lives. If we focus on difficulties that is what we attract.
    If we focus on our goals and bussiness plan with disipline and consistancy our average of success is much higher.
    Most of all our good business comes from quality personal and business relationships with the best of intentions. There in noting hard about that…there is noting competitive about that.
    Again perception is everything.
    Thank you Brett.

  9. Justin Ellis

    I 100% agree with this article except in 1 situation… I think DO IT THE WAY ITS BEEN DONE FOR YEARS when you first start anything, then once you have experience you look to take the path less traveled and make waves. I don’t think there is anything wrong with going at things the easy way when you’re first starting, in-fact I think it’s the only way that makes sense. People say, “don’t recreate the wheel”, I disagree, however how can one recreate the wheel if they don’t even know how a wheel works, how it’s made, what materials it’s made of, what laws of physics govern it? I say, learn the crap out of the wheel, study it, read about it, smell it, take it for a spin, make a BUNCH of wheels, THEN after you’ve got a firm grasp, shoot to not recreate it but make it obsolete! That’s when the magic happens. An example that comes to mind is cooking. When you first start PLEASE, for the sake of those you’re feeding, stick to the script. Sure, it’s easy, but it’s about the only way to produce a favorable result. Now, once you start to understand what spices go on which foods and what things taste good together, start getting creative and make your OWN recipes, after all no great chef made a name and got rich by serving a recipe from a Betty Crocker cook book!

    I do however think that during this learning process it’s important to not get stuck in the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset, which is very easy to do when you’re having marginal success at whatever you’re doing. As Robert Kiyosaki points out (and I’m paraphrasing here), “don’t take a job because you run the risk of getting comfortable in that job making enough money to pay for survival”. Same concept here, if you get comfortable on the easy road, then you may never get off.

    My 2 Cents, I’m out

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