3 Lessons Real Estate Investors Can Learn About Overcoming Fear From Rock Climber Alex Honnold

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Entrepreneurs, real estate investors, and business owners of all kinds have to face their emotions and move past one particular challenge more than most others: fear. The fear of failure. The fear of loss. The fear of fear.

We all have fears. My attempt here is to hone in on the mindset of someone who WANTS to accomplish the goal of being on their own, owning their own business. And then, from there, to dive in on what that looks like, to understand your goals, to have a clear set of objectives, and to be able to (with logic and confidence) move forward.

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How a Professional Rock Climber Overcomes Fear

In a recent Tim Ferriss podcast, Tim was interviewing professional rock climber Alex Honnold, and they were discussing the mental and physical preparation of climbing some of the hardest ascents in the world. Alex was asked about fear, and he responded by saying he processes it and puts fear it in its rightful place back in line with all the other emotions he is experiencing. He has already done the homework on the route he will take, and the years of experience guide his movements so he isn’t having to use brain processing for every move.

He is free to make the decisions, in a logical order, and proceed enjoying, working, and actively climbing — not overanalyzing.

That conversation is so similar to the conversation a first time investors has when they wonder whether they should get into a real estate deal. “I want to, but I’m scared.” Or, “I need to understand the deal better.” “The timing isn’t quite right.” “I don’t know exactly what is up ahead.” “Do I have the skills to complete this?” “Do I have the right team around me?”

In Seth Godin’s book Tribes, he says, “What’s interesting about the folks I meet who are engaged and are clearly heretics (in context meaning they are different, or participate actively in business or activities that most wouldn’t) is that they’ve actively talked themselves out of fear. I mean, the fear is still there, but it’s drowned out by a different story.” He continues, “It’s the story of success, of drive, of doing something that matters.”

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Think of other potential feelings: Fear, envy, joy, sadness, love, kindness, pity.

I love options; in the emotions you feel, you have a lot of them. As you approach your real estate investing, you have to first make the real decision: Are you going to pull the trigger or not? Are you going to buy and take action in real estate? Have you surrounded yourself with the right people who will encourage you, coach you, kick your tail, prop you up? You need people who have the confidence to tell you truths . You can figure it out. You will figure it out. You’ll learn not to go into a transaction with unnecessary fear, especially more fear than other more helpful emotions, like joy, confidence, and courage.

Related: How to Use a Fear of Failure to Empower Action (in 4 Simple Steps!)

Learn to take action on calculated risk.

This is not about blind faith or rogue carelessness. This is about calculated risk and homework. For instance, we put a new property under contract this past week. The upside was an opportunity to buy it for a great price, but the downside was that the sellers were only willing to take our offer with the earnest money going hard (or being immediately non-refundable). The EMD (earnest money) was $1,000. We had the opportunity in the deal risking $1,000 to make $35k-$40k.

You don’t have to wonder long if we took the deal. I’d already walked the property with my Director of Operations, I had already completed comps and rental analysis, and it was an awesome deal.

We took those terms in a heartbeat.

The rehab has not started yet, but we did have a few hiccups in the renovation budget and plan already, with some additional items needing to be addressed. But so what? We were prepared. A budget and plan were already in place, and we will make a little less money (and already have the house sold to the end buyer). The project is still making money, and it’s still a great deal for us and for the client.

In this instance, we were able to take away the fear of some unknowns and make a decision based on the numbers that came back from our contractor and combine that with our previous experience with other rehab projects.

Don’t give up despite challenges.

Last night was my third class ever in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Let me begin by saying although I would consider myself in really good shape from attending Crossfit 4-5 times a week, I have no experience in combat sports. I did have this obnoxious voice that sat inside my head for more than a year compelling me to get after it and try.

Not unlike Crossfit, the first days have been tough. Today, I am sore. I have some particularly uncomfortable joints and muscles, and I have multiple bruises. I solidly bit my tongue during some grappling, which has impeded my usual endless talking and even my usual solid dose of coffee.

I’ve just begun to learn how the movements work, some strategy, some basics of the game. A few things I know for sure: I’m long and lanky, I have some physical strength and stamina, I have very little to no offense, and likely most of the guys in the class are just wondering how long it will take for them to get some fancy chokehold on me or fly my long legs across the mat.

Still, I will not give up.

The leaders of the class have been training together for 2, 3, even 10 plus years. I’ve had 3 classes. And last night, I completed two ugly submissions on my opponent (mostly by accident) and was schooled for 5 minutes by a 15-year-old who I have almost 80 pounds on.

I go into class knowing it will take me years of training and hundreds of classes to get to any level of competence in BJJ. So I have a choice to make: Do I have the perseverance and determination to see through the years of training (and beatings) it will take to be any good at the sport?

Related: 6 Empowering Strategies to Conquer a Paralyzing Fear of Failure

Learning can be awesome. And it can kick your butt. Last night dosed up a heavy portion of both.

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Be ready for failure — but don’t let it stop you.

Your first deal will likely not go that well. It will be hard. It will be painful. It will be awesome. Rewarding. Smelly. Messy. Cumbersome. It might make you a bunch of money, or the deal could cost you. And I can guarantee it won’t go as you planned it. They never do.

But you will learn, you will grow, you will have better questions if you decide to do another real estate deal.

If you are on the edge of finally getting into the real estate game, what is stopping you? Stop letting fear drive your decision-making. Put it in its rightful place with all the other emotions, and go get on the mat and learn something.

Investors: Have you ever been paralyzed by fear? How did you overcome it?

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About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.

8 Comments

  1. Jerry W.

    Thanks for the article Nathan. It was very accurate and inspiring. Like everything else in life real estate is not magic. Time learning and hands on education will greatly improve your game.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Thank you Jerry … I really appreciate your kind words and taking the time to reply on here. You are so right, it just takes the time. Get the education, and keep after it with the right people around you and the right attitude, dedication, persistence … you will get it. Just maybe not as fast as you want it!

  2. Ryan Jenks

    This is a great article and funny too as I know Alex. I do some extreme highlining (see my profile pic) with his cousin often as well. I completely agree that calculated risk is a great way to describe real estate or climbing. You don’t wonder if you can do it as you have prepared each move, so when it comes time to perform (and you have calculated the risk), you just commit and rely on what you have succeeded on during the practice.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Ryan … this is so cool. I loved that interview with Tim Ferriss and Alex, interesting dude. And BTW, highlining like that is crazy man 🙂 But I’m sure it’s one heck of a fun thing if you know what your doing … thanks for reading and responding!

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