Real Estate Investors Association of Greater Cincinnati

Drop Your Rock



One of the profound things in the real estate business—so profound that it takes DECADES to learn—is that you’re always a beginner. And the way that you handle your successive begginerhoods has a huge effect on how successful you become, and how quickly. I’ve been a beginner—like a full-on, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing—at least 6 different times since I started in real estate. I was a beginner when I started buying properties.

I was a beginner again when I started wholesaling properties, and when I decided to buy apartment buildings, and when I decided to hire a staff and create systems for my business, and when I got serious about IRA investing. I’m, right this second, a beginner at AirBnB ownership.

My biggest mistake in 4 of the 6 beginnerhoods I just mentioned was the same: I let ego and overconfidence and introversion get in the way of my learning process. 

There’s a concept in Zen Buddhism called Shoshin, or “Beginner’s Mind”. It describes a state of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconception about the right way to approach a new idea or experience.  

I didn’t have that.

Instead, I was VERY interested—embarrassingly interested, in retrospect—in letting the people around me know that I knew a LOT. That I was SMART. That I was SUCCESSFUL. 

Yes, even before I’d done any deals on my own. And even during those stages where I was juggling bills waiting for the next deal to pop and put some money in the account. I wanted my colleagues’ and peers’ and teachers’ and friends’ (probably unearned) respect. I did NOT want anyone viewing me as a needy, lost, ignorant, noob.

That desire played out in a lot of ways that were antithetical to the process of learning: I talked more than I listened. I was quick to share my strong opinions about things I’d read about but never actually done. I spend endless hours figuring things out on my own, without asking for advice from anyone. I over-relied on my own limited knowledge and my ever-growing arsenal of past experience to figure out how the next, new thing worked. 

Looking back now, it feels like I picked up a metaphorical rock early on in my life, and that rock had a big sign on it that said, “I don’t need your help, I already know, I’m smart”, and I carried it around for decades in case I needed to beat people over the head with it or hold it up for protection against the slings and arrows of a world that, when it came right down to it, didn’t think I was all that important. 

But the problem with rocks is obvious: they’re a heavy burden. They weigh you down. They make it impossible to fly, even if you manage to grow wings. They’re good for building walls, but that’s because they’re impermeable. And God helps you if you’re already drowning, and you refuse to let the rock go. 

A few years back, I dropped the rock, and something amazing happened: new things got a lot easier. 

Instead of walking into a mastermind group full of successful real estate business owners and immediately trying to figure out what I wanted to TELL them, I walked in with a list of what I wanted to LEARN from them.

Instead of trying to work out the (multitudinous, complicated, and often counter-intuitive to an introvert) details of how to start and run an AirBnB by researching it and listening to lectures on it and then diving in headfirst and all on my own, I found someone who’d been doing it successfully and said, “I don’t know anything about this. Explain it to me and let me pay you money to take care of all the details.” 

Instead of always trying to be the smartest person in the room, I started intentionally seeking out rooms where I was the DUMBEST, even if I had to pay a lot of money to be in that room. 

We ALL, often unconsciously, carry these rocks around with us. 

Yours may be a rock made of ego, and desire for significance, like mine, was. Or it may be the opposite: a rock made of “I’m too dumb, I’ll never get this, everyone here is smarter than me” that you cling to so that you have a convenient defense when you’re pushed to get out there and try putting what you know into action. 

Or it may be some other rock you picked up so long ago that you don’t even remember why you did it, or even realize it’s weighing you down. “I’m a procrastinator.” “I have ADD.” “I’m too old to start doing new things.” “I don’t like talking to people.” 

They all serve the same function: they give you a weapon for people who “don’t understand your limitations” and push you to do new things, and they give you something to hide behind when you get uncomfortable. 

Drop your rock. It’s just an accretion of things that might have been true yesterday but don’t have to be true today, anyway. Let your beginner’s mind out to play. Be open and eager to absorb every new idea and let go of what you “know” about how they work. 

Drop your rock, and you’ll become permeable to ideas and successes that you can’t even see right now because that stupid rock is completely blocking your view. 

Drop. Your. Rock.

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