I received an incredible email last week. I wanted to re-publish it today, as this is a perfect example of the #1 skill a human being needs to be incredibly successful:
The subject line read, “Coffee,” which I opened. Then the message read:
“My name is Bruce (fake name) and I am a Senior at ****** State University. I am messaging you today in regards to your podcast with Bigger Pockets (281) about being a new investor and what it’s like when it comes to getting that first deal. I am from the MSP metro area. I am currently sending you this message from my cubicle at my internship because I have realized that I don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle for the next 40-45 years of my life.”
“Everyday I go home and study real estate and sales for 3 hrs after work and I am educating myself as much as I can before I hit the real world because I believe real estate can be a vehicle for me to actually accomplish what I want to do with my life. I listened to your BP podcast today while at work (ironic) and it gave me some valuable insight on not only being a young investor and just starting out, but also just being young and what to do with money when being so young. At the moment, I don’t know the whole process about jumping into real estate and I am quiet scared to do it, but I know that being scared means I am on the right track and just figure it out as I go. As of right now, I am funding an account that I will use for my first real estate deal, whenever that is. I was wondering if I could possibly take you out for a cup of coffee and pick your brain a little bit? I am wondering if you would happen to have any advice for me on what my next move should be when trying to understand the entire process of doing a real estate deal, like acquiring a property for example. Also, would you happen to have some advice for someone in my shoes looking to get into the game, especially at a young age? Also, I wouldn’t mind getting to know you a little better and your life story more. Get back to me when you can. Thanks…”
I think this young person just illustrated the #1 skill you need to create incredible success. He probably doesn’t even know how powerful this skill will be to change his life yet. Personally, I believe the #1 skill to success is the ability to identify the help you need, and the courage to ask other experienced, successful people for help.
Of course I took him up on the opportunity. I live for moments like this. But rather than meet for coffee (which can be an impersonal, noisy place to discuss very personal experiences and ideas), I invited Bruce to meet me at my home where he could see my home office; my rental property next door; and the successful life I have created for myself far away from a boss, office, or cubicle. Since it was going to be dinner time when we met, I suggested we could walk to a Chipolte about a half mile away from my house after our meeting.
He replied in true college-kid fashion: “Absolutely. I’m interested anytime food is involved.”
We briefly spoke over the phone to make sure neither of us were sociopathic murderers (which we weren’t), and a week later we met in my driveway with a handshake. I sized him up. I am 37 years old with a very focused look in my eyes at most time. He was 21, and had a college-aged, easy-going curiosity about him.
He reminded me of myself when I was a college senior. I didn’t know what I was going to do next with my life. Heck, I didn’t know what I was going to do that night, but I knew I wanted something deeper out of life than just surviving. It was such an awesome feeling to look a young person in the eye who wanted to learn. I started our conversation with: “I’d love to tell you all the things I wish I would have known when I was your age.” It was such a deep and meaningful start, and we just let the conversation roll into all the failure, pain, and regret I had to survive to earn the wisdom I have today.
We walked inside. He sat at a chair across from me in my home office and he began to ask questions. I was impressed that he had the ability to lead, and carry a conversation. Leading a comfortable conversation with a stranger is an absolute necessity for a successful sales person. I complimented him on this skill, and he replied with: “I’ve been working at it. I used to be overly shy, and I struggled to look people in the eye. It’s a practiced skill, rather than a natural skill.”
Holy crap, I thought. This kid is wired a lot like I am. Once I decided to quit my partying/drugging lifestyle, I used to go on long runs, and practice conversations in my head. I was always preparing for what I’d say the day an awesome opportunity presented itself to me. I never chased perfection, because perfection is impossible. Instead, I chose to chase the goal of always being prepared for success no matter what opportunity came my way.
He continued to asked me questions, like:
#1: “I’m about to graduate with a large amount of student loan debt… What should I do?”
I said don’t panic about it. Life is long. But I’d start attacking the debt right away if I were you. Work your cubicle job for a few years, deposit some big checks, and use those checks to significantly dent that debt. For every $3K you make, try to spend $1K, invest $1K, and pay off $1K of debt. Or, if you really hate your debt, live at your parents house if you can, and go on a mission to destroy that debt all together. I’ve never met a successful person, who is debt free, regret the day they made their last debt payment.
I also told him don’t be house hungry. Be patient. Wait for the right deals, and right time, to find you. Markets change, and you don’t want to buy at the top of a falling market before you’re ready to weather that storm. As a great friend once told me, “You make money on real estate when you buy an awesome deal.” So be patient, and wait for the right, exciting deals to present themselves to you. That’s how you succeed with real-estate, not by being greedy and impatient when buying it.
#2 “When should I buy my first investment property?”
Buy real-estate when you run the numbers and notice three things will happen as a result: 1) You can make good money on it. 2) You’re prepared and can risk losing some short-term money due to a bad tenant or bad market. 3) You can accomplish a dream you’ve always wanted to try. If you feel like you can achieve these three things by buying a property, then go ahead and try it! Incredibly successful people know the best way to learn is by trying things, and learning from experience.
#3 “What type of house should I buy for my first rental?”
“The first house you should buy should be a primary residence that will make a perfect rental property eventually. This will give you first-hand experience of what owning real-estate is like. Things break. Broken things cost money to fix. Mortgages aren’t the wealth-creator they seem to be once you start paying one off. Mortgages are loaded with interest, tax, and insurance payments that steal wealth from you instead of building wealth from you!
Only a small fraction of a mortgage payment actually goes to paying off the loan, and you’ll learn that with your first house. And real-estate is about as il-liquid investment as you can get. Buying and selling it is extremely expensive and time-consuming. (Read this classic JL Collins post on why houses are a terrible investment.) But even then, after all the problems real-estate has, real-estate can be an awesome investment, and if you find you love real-estate in your financial investment portfolio (like I do), buy your first modest house or duplex to test the waters, and then once you know what you like, buy another one, and another one, and repeat the process until you get tired of the get-rich-by-real-estate-cycle-and-model.
But my biggest tip is: Whenever you buy a property, make sure it will cash-flow you enough money to hire a property manager if you find out you HATE being a landlord. Then if you hate being a landlord, just hire a property manager to manage all the things you hate, and then plot your course to get out of it and back to the life that makes you happy.
#4 “What skills did you work on that have helped you accomplish your goals?”
Ultimately, studying, practicing, and learning how to be a like-able person has been my biggest opportunity making skill. Why? Because when you’re an honest, genuine, positive, selfless person who is fun to be around, people are going to generally like you and want to help you succeed.
Incredible financial opportunities often come from successful people wanting to help you, and successful people like to help people they like. So study the traits that make you likable, and learn how to improve the likability traits you lack. Do your best to find ways to always be the most honest, genuine, hard-working, positive, and fun person you can be. Opportunities to become wealthy will be plentiful for you if you become this type of person. Surround yourself with other successful people who want to help you because they think you’re an awesome, honest, and fun human being to do life and business with.
As our current Minnesota Golden Gopher Football coach likes to say: “If you hang around elite people, you’re headed toward elite things. If you hang around turds, you’re headed to turdville.” Live by that. Haha.
I also said: “Always work at overcoming your fears. Fear is often the only thing that separates you from your dreams and purpose in life.”
There’s a reason why most people end up taking the well-traveled, average road in life, rather than blazing a new incredibly successful path through life. Why? Because taking a risk and pursuing an idea that’s never been done before is SCARY! It takes thousands of smart risks to become incredibly successful, and taking those risks can feel terrifying when you’re confronted with them. Everyone is afraid of failure. Fear is normal. But be the 1% of people, who are willing to do the 1% of things that everyone else is afraid to do, and you will create a life of success that only 1% of people will have the opportunity to live.
But in conclusion, this article is about the #1 skill to become incredibly successful, and I believe that skill is identifying the life you want, and then asking people people who have achieved that life to help you achieve it in yours. Let’s review the above email to examine the best way to do this:
#1: Identify who you are, why you’re interesting, and what you’re looking for.
In his email, Bruce, said he was a college senior, and looking for something more out of life than a life in a cubicle. He was only looking for advice on how he could achieve this dream. I could immediately identify with him, because I’ve been a young man in exactly those shoes before, and I wanted to be the mentor I wish I had at that age.
#2: Identify why you want to learn it, (and a little flattery doesn’t hurt).
Bruce said he needed advice to help him escape the corporate/cubicle life he felt trapped in. He said he was asking me for advice because I’ve done it. Of course I want to help a young person who looks up to me! Don’t be afraid to flatter the person you’re asking a little bit, it’s cool. But a little goes along way. Looking like a suck up, or butt kisser, is NOT cool!!!!
#3 Identify how grateful you’d be, and how it would change your life.
Bruce made me feel like he was in the verge of changing his life (I saw proof that he’s already changed his thinking by the subjects he wrote about in his email, so I didn’t feel like I’d be wasting my time trying to convince him of anything.) All he needed was a little life advice to get him on the right course, and that’s the most fun advice to give.
In the end, of course I was going to want to help him. I have my own list of mentors and role models who were instrumental in helping me change my life. Changed people, want to help people change. To build wealth, be a product of change, and inspire change in others.
We had a great time meeting each other, and who knows where this relationship will go. Maybe we never talk again. Or maybe he calls me in five years with an awesome business plan, or apartment building to invest in, and we make millions together all from our one afternoon eating Chipotle together and talking about life. No matter where I am in life, I will guarantee I will take his call and remember that incredible email he sent simply asking for help, because it’s exactly what I did when I turned my life around and started chasing my biggest, deepest, most awesome dreams.
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