The Single Sentence That Wiped Out All Excuses — And Spurred My Investing Journey

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Before I started in real estate investing, I had a bad case of analysis paralysis. I knew there was money to be made for those with guts, but just couldn’t get myself to take that leap of faith. I’m willing to bet you’re probably like me. You’ve been listening to real estate podcasts and reading books for two years but haven’t taken action. You have all manner of excuses: no money, no time, don’t know where to start. I get it. That was me — until a flight to New Zealand spurred me to get off my rear end and face my fears.

On the ridiculously long fight around the world, I chatted up the slightly older couple next to me. My trip was to last a mere five days, while the couple planned to spend two months exploring everything the North and South islands had to offer.

Two months? Who the heck can take a trip to New Zealand for two months?

“We’re real estate investors.” The husband smiled.

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Learning About the Power of Cash Flow

Over the next two hours, I picked every corner of his brain. I learned that he and his partner buy low-cost single family houses in affordable towns and rent them out. The cash flow allowed him to travel the world and eat fancy meals in Queenstown, New Zealand, while his property management companies were depositing rent checks in his bank account. I was sold. I knew that I was put on this flight for a reason.

Related: Why You Should Take Investing Action — Even if it’s Small — Right NOW

I threw all manner of excuses at the guy. I’d gone through a foreclosure recently. My credit was bad. I didn’t know how to find properties. I didn’t know where to find a good contractor. He just smiled and said something that changed my life.

“The only way to learn it is to do it.”

Hadn’t I heard that before? Oh, right! Yoda told me that in Empire Strikes Back. “There is no try, only do.” Why hadn’t I listened?

I know you’re thinking that it’s easy for some guy on an international flight to just tell you to take action, that he probably has all the resources in the world. All the connections.

He didn’t.

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The Importance of Making Mistakes

The truth is that he’s made a boat load of mistakes. He explained that it took some trial and error to nail down his favorite markets, his favorite types of houses, his favorite contractors, his favorite tenants, his favorite property management companies.

I teach my three and five-year-old kids to push through failure as an expected part of the journey. Recently, we started them in ski lessons. My son was frustrated by his repeated falls down the mountain.

Related: Why the Small, Seemingly Insignificant Actions You Perform Daily Are VITAL to Your Success

“I hope you fall 100 times today,” I told him as I picked him back up.

“Why, daddy?” he asked with a puzzled look on his face.

“Because every time you fall, the better you get.”

It’s probably my high watermark of enlightened fatherhood. A close second is making sure my kids don’t know the Star Wars prequels exist. They don’t. The words “Jar Jar Binks” have never been spoken in my house.

Fatherhood bragging aside, we need to have reasonable expectations about taking on a new endeavor. Once I returned from New Zealand, I booked a flight to the same towns in which my flight companion was buying houses.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I bought two short sale houses through a real estate agent. Now I buy them off market with my own ninja methods. I found a good contractor but over-rehabbed the homes for the area. Now I spend what I need to spend to provide a great home to a tenant that’s consistent with the neighborhood. I also underestimated a sidewalk repair that the city planned to charge me for. Yep, I made a few mistakes.

Without a doubt, you are going to make mistakes. It’s part of every meaningful process in our lives from relationships to driving. You’re going to make mistakes in real estate investing. Get used to it, love it, embrace it, and ultimately learn from it.

Investors: What drove YOU to finally stop talking and start taking real action? Or if you haven’t taken the leap yet, what’s holding you back?

Be sure to leave a comment below!

About Author

Clayton Morris

Clayton is a news anchor on America's number one morning show "Fox and Friends" and a rental real estate investor. He's passionate about helping busy people get started in real estate investing with his turn-key rental company Morris Invest. He loves helping investors reach their financial freedom number with rental properties. You can download his free cheat sheet here. He's also the host of his very own real estate investing podcast called "Investing in Real Estate" where he interviews great buy-and-hold investors like BiggerPockets' Brandon Turner and case studies from newbie investors with one property under their belt.

18 Comments

  1. Amanda Cook

    Wow, Clayton, I think you wrote this article with people like me in mind! I’ve been reading and learning about Real Estate Investing for over a year now, and haven’t taken the leap yet. I’ve got lots of excuses- 3 kids, moving from Spain to North Carolina, a mortgage to pay in Spain, and jobs we’d rather not have here. However, we are going to flip one house this year and buy one to hold. OK, now I’ve said it out loud for thousands to hear. My husband and I have come up with our freedom number per your BP podcast 151, and we do have our 5 year “Elephant” plan to achieve freedom, and are going to do it! Thanks for your advice!

  2. Sonia Spangenberg

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing. I’m doing it now myself, and I concur. I think hanging around people already doing what you want to do always helps. I wonder if Yoda invests inter-galactic? That makes out of town and interstate investing sound simple doesn’t it?

  3. Kaleb Carsten

    I am definitely one that’s had been stuck in the analysis paralysis stress for a while. But I took the first few steps because my dreams are to important to me to allow fear to stop me.

    A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

  4. benjamin cowles

    That’s great that you’re imparting such important lessons to your kids at such a young age. No doubt they will have huge beneficial impacts. I can say that as an adult who as a young child had the opposite lessons, so many of them, imparted upon me lol. And oh how they ingrain themselves in you. Kudos.

  5. David Mincey

    Excellent article! I often say that you learn more from failure. I used to own about a dozen properties and I went through a bankruptcy. Looking back, I made a mistake on almost every one of my properties that I purchased (paying too much for a property, selecting the wrong tenants, putting too much money into a property, doing business with cashless people, and I don’t have the personality for a landlord…..I’m too nice). However, I gained a wealth of knowledge and now I’m birddogging but I’m creeping! I need to pick the pace up to get better results.

  6. Josh Bloomquist

    I’ve listened to every podcast BP has to offer, but something about yours really inspired me! We purchased our first rental property almost 1 year ago but I feel like I’ve been in analysis paralysis ever since. Part of my challenge is trying to work a full time job that I have to commute for while also trying to research viable deals. My wife has been supportive but reluctant to share my REI dreams. She stays home with our 3 kids and I think she, like many people, is frightened about the risks involved with REI versus knowing the security my “9-5 job” provides. The problem is that I don’t want the “9-5 job” life any longer than necessary. I’m going to try to use your podcast and this article to inspire her to push forward with me. We’re a team and I know we will be successful if we take on this journey together.

  7. Kory Thaut

    It’s a powerful shift when one can look at mistakes as opportunities. I think it was on Clayton’s Empower podcast, he had a guest that differentiated failure and failing. Failing/mistakes are good learning opportunities… but if you begin to identify yourself as a failure b/c of failing/mistakes, you’re doomed.

  8. Saj Rambob

    Clayton, great article! Reason i started the process of acquiring my first rental property was started by your wonderful wife! I heard her on the TWIT podcast and looked up her blog, and then she referenced a vlog you did and i took the first (and hardest) step of finding a rental property and securing financing. Thanks for all of the info you both have put out there, it has helped me a lot.

  9. Ana Perez

    Great article and that is me. Confusion because with so much information don’t know where to start, but it’s better to start by doing something other than reading and listening to webinars and podcasts. It’s time to take action, yes!!!

  10. Kent Clothier

    Great post, Clayton, thanks! Every investor started somewhere. And in my experience, VERY few investors started with the resources that beginners THINK they started with! True success in any endeavor (real estate investing or otherwise) comes from trying, failing, and persevering through those failures.

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