5 Life Lessons From the Book I’m Writing & Passing Along to My Children

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It has been a sad week around the office. A long-time contractor and friend died this week. It was totally unexpected. He left behind a wife and two daughters. It was a real shock to me and made me think about my own situation. What if something happened to me? My kids are too young for me to pass on life lessons, so I started writing a book for my kids — kind of a “daddy’s life lessons.”

I am not writing them with real estate in mind, but I wanted to pick out a few and share them with you. I think the ones that I chose lend themselves best to real estate investors and probably more specifically to aspiring real estate investors.

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5 Life Lessons I’m Passing Along to My Children

Lesson #1: It is OK to fail; just make sure you get something out of it.

I believe everyone gets into real estate to make money, but money shouldn’t be the only focus. So you lost money on that flip — what did you learn from it? What new connections did you make from it? What new skills did you learn?

You take all of that with you regardless of what the bottom line says. Maybe you didn’t make money on the first one. But you’ve got to take all those lessons, connections, and skills that you have learned in the process with you to the next one. Your ability to gain those will have a huge impact on you becoming profitable.

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Related: Teaching Kids to Be Entrepreneurs is Key to Addressing the Wealth Gap: Here’s Why

Lesson #2: Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Become “world class” at something you are good at. If you have a high aptitude for something, develop that skill further. Developing that skill will not be as painful or as time consuming as you trying to develop a skill you aren’t very good at. Sometimes in the beginning of a business, you will be forced to take on roles that you aren’t good at, but once you start making money, hire someone to do the work that you aren’t good at.

Lesson #3: Never give equity to someone you can hire.

In the beginning, if you have no money, that may not be an option. Assuming you have some capital, and it doesn’t need to be a lot, only give equity to people who are integral to the success of your business. To find out if they are integral, ask yourself, “Can they be replaced?” If they can’t be, then an equity stake will keep them there and vested.

Lesson #4: Live frugally.

Your lifestyle will steal your life if you are not careful. I’ve seen many people who started making a little money and decided that a small starter home was no longer good enough, and they needed to get into that 4,000 sq. ft. McMansion. Or that 10-year-old car was no longer good, and they need to upgrade to a brand new luxury car.

Every time you make one of those upgrades, especially if debt is involved, you pledge a piece of your life away to make those payments. Instead, live frugally — and then you won’t need that 70-hour-a-week corporate job to make ends meet, but rather, you can take a lesser job and have the freedom to work on your real estate business. Having low overhead gives you more freedom and opportunities.

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Lesson #5: Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Take action!

I never heard it put this way until I heard Jamie Foxx say it on an interview. After hearing it, I thought it couldn’t be said any better, so I stole it. I run a successful real estate company, I’ve done hundreds of deals, and fear still gets in my way.

Related: 5 Ways to Use Real Estate Investing to Teach Your Kids About Finance

To get what you want, you have to do things that may be uncomfortable. You have to push through it. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks — because they are too worried about what you think of them. Most people live their life in fear, afraid to make a mistake because of what someone else might think or say. So get out there and take some chances.

These are just 5 of the almost 50 life lessons that I have written down for my kids. It has been a great exercise. It is almost like writing out my own operating system. It really digs down deep into my beliefs and what I want to instill into my children.

What are some of the principles that you live by? What life lessons do you most want to pass on to your kids?

Leave your comments below.

About Author

Mark Ainley

Mark Ainley is founder of GC Realty and Development and GC Realty Investments. Mark has been an active real estate investor since 2003. He started slowly by flipping condos and acquiring a couple of investment properties. Since 2003, Mark and his team have successfully renovated and stabilized over 200 properties.

9 Comments

  1. Steve Vaughan

    Great article, Mark. I especially like the focus on your strengths (which is opposite of what we do in school!) and live frugally. You are trading tomorrow for gadgets today. If they lose value over time, what will your tomorrow look like? Passing strong lessons on to your kids will last for generations and can be your legacy. Well done!

  2. Rici Ryan

    Well put. I loved Randy Pausch’s book “The Last Lecture” with similar lessons for his own kids. I would add that while gifts are God-given, the ability to improve is within our own purview.

    I read that the basketball player Eldridge Recasner, when confronted with taller, stronger players in the NBA said, ‘I wasn’t going to let anyone out-work me.’

    Sometimes children see the success of others and think it comes easily. They give up because they think some one else is “just good at math” or “just lucky.” That others put many un-seen hours into learning, practicing, and improving is a great message for children. And adults.

  3. Jerry W.

    Mark, another very nice article. I often told my children that what sets us apart from animals is our mind. Think! Anyone can overcome very hard problems by sitting down and thinking through things or by researching for answers. Being pretty or being strong, or even being popular is nice, but your mind is always your greatest asset.

  4. Andy H.

    Great article! I especially like #1. Too many times when people fail, they just give up completely instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better the next time.
    Somerhing else we are trying to teach our kids is: whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. A lot of kids these days seem to have a horrible work ethic and think that everything should just be given to them.

  5. Deanna Opgenort

    Instead of learning from your own mistakes, why not learn from OTHER people’s mistakes instead? MUCH less painful!
    Also, try not to waste time by making the same mistake twice — there are so many new and interesting ones out there.
    (though honestly, I HATE making mistakes).

  6. It’s unsettling how many people don’t seem to be able to grasp #4. I was listening to an interview recently and this woman was talking about how she and her husband both have to work full time, and that not dumping their children into daycare every day just wasn’t an option. Then it turns out they have two brand new cars, a huge house, etc. that they just “need” so badly. Wouldn’t you rather live frugally and actually, you know, see your children? I bet your kids would be happier in a smaller house if it meant getting to see their parents more. But hey, what do I know? Gotta keep up with the Joneses and all that.

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