Why Do You Limit Your Own Potential?

by FI Fighter on March 5, 2014

in Thoughts

chicago-20

The mind is a powerful thing. To waste it would be an absolute shame. But this is something that I see happening every single day. When I’m at work, I look around me and see a bunch of gifted people who have resigned themselves to a life of dull monotony. This isn’t the case for everyone, as there are of course those in my office who genuinely want to be there and are putting their skills to good use. No, I’m talking about the people who have immense talents, but aren’t making use of any of it. Instead, these people are trapped in a routine, doing the same “useless” things, day after day. They are simply existing to make ends meet… And squandering their potential in the process.

Outside of work, I take a look at some of my friends from High School and observe the same thing. Many are much smarter than me, and a few even tutored me back in the day. These days, they are just drifting through life… They’ve given up on their goals, dreams, and ambition. Rather than putting their brains to good use, they’ve accepted the mediocre life of: partying, getting wasted, and worrying about tomorrow, tomorrow. Some have even conceded to me, “what’s the point, anyway? Life is just too damn hard so I’m not going to bother to try. I’m just going to have my fun instead.

When you limit your own potential, you close off your mind. You place artificial barriers that hinder you from going out and seeking more. Even worse, you let your sub-optimal thinking influence the decisions of others around you.

Speaking in specifics, when I first started looking at rental properties, I got a lot of comments such as the following:

  • “Aren’t you afraid of failing?”
  • “What if you go into foreclosure?”
  • “What if you lose not only your house, but all your savings?”
  • “I know this guy who bought a house and lost it all…”
  • “It seems risky, man.”

Had I listened to this advice (coming from those who had never done it themselves before), I would have missed out on the most opportune buying window of my lifetime… Who knows when the next opportunity will arise? And there may never be another one just like it…

Now that the ship has sailed, everything is hindsight and 20/20. Those same mediocre thinkers are now saying how obvious everything was. “Well, duh, you should have been buying stocks and houses in 2012. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know a bargain when there was one. Everything was half off! It was like going to an out-of-business sale where EVERYTHING must go!

When we don’t have the benefit of hindsight, a sub-optimal thinker will always look for reasons why something WON’T work. However, we’d all be so much better off if we used our energy to devise a plan that COULD work.

Don’t limit yourself and your potential! Stop operating with a poor person’s mentality! Why do most people not ask these questions, instead?

  • “What if I succeed brilliantly and never have to work again?”
  • “What will I do with all that cash flow coming in? I don’t think I could spend it all…”
  • “Why stop at ten properties, or forty stocks? Why not keep building up my wealth empire?”
  • “My kids are going to seriously have a good life. At what age would be a good time to fill them in?”
  • “When my empire grows, do I want to manage myself or outsource the work?”

All good “problems” to have! If you want success, you must first learn to envision it on a daily basis. Granted, I’m not saying anyone should dive in headfirst without first formulating a carefully thought out plan. I’m just pointing out how influential your own thoughts can be.

You should ALWAYS be adaptable — willing to take on fresh, new ideas.

When I first started dividend investing, I had no clue how much I should invest each month. When I looked around, I saw guys like JC over at Passive Income Pursuit, and Jason at Dividend Mantra regularly contributing $1000 to $2000+ like clockwork. And their portfolios were taking off! It was very inspiring stuff to see, and I very much wanted the same thing to happen for my own investments. Since I knew that my savings each month would also allow me the capability to do something similar, I re-worked my mentality and joined in on the fun. :)

When I first started real estate investing, I had no clue how high I should aim. Before I started, I thought that owning a SINGLE home in my lifetime would be a tremendous accomplishment.

And it was. Then I bought another one. Now I own five properties and seven units… When I converse with other real estate investors, though, I’m always opening my eyes and expanding my possibilities. I met a Bay Area investor who bought 15 homes during the last downturn. Eric, over at No Nonsense Landlord owns and manages 25 units. He’s financially free and kicking ass in life. When I browse the REI forums, it’s not uncommon to come across landlords who own 100 units… or even 1000 units. So, the sky’s the limit!

You can do it! You just have to believe in yourself and re-wire your brain to accept infinite possibilities. I’m not advising you to go out and invest in stocks, or real estate. Just always keep an open mind, and find the path that works for you. It’s your life and you deserve the absolute best.

I’m rooting for you! Let’s do this together. We’ll even go out to celebrate once we cross the early FI finish line. :)

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Financial SamuraiNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 11:03 am

I do think half the battle is having the right mindset.

Whatever you think you are, that is exactly what you’ll be.

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2 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Sam,

That’s a good quote — you just gotta believe!

Cheers!

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3 Retire Before DadNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 11:13 am

FIF,
For a lot of professional and talented people, I think family comes into play. Once you have kids, you start worrying about how affordable good healthcare will be, stability and saving for college. That impacts the decision to take big risks, like buying a rental. Smaller risks like buying stocks is easier. An even bigger risk would be to leave a job and start a new business. If you have a comfy job, steady income, and kids to feed, you might hesitate to make a big career move like that unless you have a large buffer. That’s not to say I or anyone else won’t take a big risk, its that having a family changes the equation. For buddies in their late 20’s still getting wasted, they’re probably in a position to take big risks, but are having too much fun to realize it.
-RBD

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4 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

RBD,

You bring up a great point. Taking risks is something much more complicated for anyone raising a family. You have more to consider, as your decisions greatly impact other people’s future.

I’m not suggesting rental properties, or stocks are for everyone… However, if someone is open minded and truly looking for a way to better their financial future, they do owe it themselves to study what investment opportunities are out there… So, when the time comes when the risks really do go out the window, you make your move and buy.

It’s ok to sit on the sidelines when risk is great… just make sure to strike when the iron is hot!

Take care!

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5 Income SurferNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 12:43 pm

JC and Jason are pretty motivating, aren’t they?! I think most people just sell themselves short. I know I used to. Once in a while, I still do and my wife has to snap me out of it. I also think A LOT of people are lazy. I have a couple friends that are brilliant. One is so brilliant he had college and medical school paid for…..he had his doctorate at the age of 22. He was my closest friend growing up and by far the brightest person i’ve ever met. We had our AAs before we graduated high school, but he just wanted to work retail….because it was easy. So they made him a drug store manager and he makes great money, but has lost all his passion.

I know other people, like we all do, that are dumb as a brick…..but they keep trying and failing. They keep pushing the envelope. They keep doing things they are passionate about……and they seem to succeed….eventually. I’d rather try and fail than settle, but I have to admit…..it’s tough to keep getting up and dusting myself off :o)
-Bryan

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6 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Bryan,

Yup, JC and Jason have motivated many out there, myself included.

Yeah, there are lots of brilliant people out there who don’t put their gifts to good use. I’m not just talking about making money b/c that isn’t the goal for everyone… But we all know someone extraordinarily talented who just bums around all day doing next to nothing… What a waste!

Good for the person who’s too dumb to know they should fail! Sometimes, all it takes is persistence. If you are gonna go out, go out swinging!

Take care!

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7 JC @ Passive-Income-PursuitNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thanks for the mention. It’s truly amazing to me to hear that someone is inspired by my own story. It just doesn’t seem like that should be the case because to me I’m just doing what everyone should be doing, even if they’re not. And what comes around goes around because you’re one of the big reasons I even got interested in REI and am pursuing some rental properties.

Getting into the right mindset is the biggest hurdle. If you don’t have some kind of overarching goal for your life chances are you’re going to end up like everyone else. Which I hate to say is not looking all that great. Sure you might have the shiniest and newest gadgets and cars, but I’d rather have my freedom. I had a friend in high school/college that was extremely smart but never applied himself towards anything. I remember him telling me about one time in college how he would go to the first day of class to get the syllabus and then show up on the test days. That’d be fine if he spent the time he should have been in class working, learning, or applying himself somewhere else but his time usually revolved around playing video games. Of course that didn’t work out so well for him as one of the tests got moved forward a class or two and he ended up missing that test. Ooops!

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8 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:18 pm

JC,

What you are doing is truly impressive — there are not many out there who are able, or willing to save 80%+ of their income each month. Keep up the blogging, it gives us all something to aspire to!

That’s funny, I knew a guy kind of like that in one of my classes… The crazy thing was this guy still got A’s on the tests… To this date, one of the smartest guys I have ever met in my life… but he just didn’t seem to care, or want to do anything in college. I hope he eventually made something of himself b/c he was so, so gifted.

Cheers!

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9 Dave @ The New York BudgetNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Absolutely true. And for people kicking themselves for not investing in real estate at the bottom (myself included), “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb.

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10 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Dave,

That’s a good quote, I like it!

Put in the work today and you can enjoy tomorrow all you want.

Take care!

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11 No Nonsense LandlordNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm

There are always people that will be pessimistic. I went to a seminar in Grad school with Jeno Paulucci was speaking. His advice was similar. He said something to the effect of “do you know how much negativity I received when I told people, as a son of Italian immigrants, that I was opening up a Chinese restaurant, in Northern Minnesota.”

He went on to sell Chun King for multi-millions.

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12 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Eric,

Interesting story. If you accept all the negativity around you, you’ll probably end up never doing anything.

Replace “can’t” with “how”.

Cheers!

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13 Dividend MantraNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 5:03 pm

FI Fighter,

I couldn’t agree more. The only one holding you back in this country is you. There’s so much abundance and opportunity out there. It’s not cliche to tell someone to go out there and take it.

I realize now that when I was younger and in debt I was my own worst enemy. It was me who was spending away an inheritance. It was me who dropped out of college. It was me who wasn’t thoughtful with money. Nobody forced this on me. Once I realized this and decided to take control of my own life is when the progress really began.

Thanks for the mention!

Best wishes.

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14 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:25 pm

DM,

Absolutely. I feel the same way. Anyone who is fortunate enough to be in this country has access to opportunities and wealth that most others can only ever dream about.

I’ve always found your background story to be fascinating. To see how you turned your life around, build wealth, and now run one of the premiere dividend sites on the web… Amazing stuff man!

You should be a guest speaker someday… That, and write a book. I’ll buy a copy! ;)

Take care!

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15 Charles@gettingarichlifeNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 8:25 pm

FI,
In my millionaire in debt post I had several naysayers who had asked if I wasn’t afraid of all that debt and the banks recalling my loans. They thought it was too risky, yet want early financial independence. You can’t do it without risk, otherwise you’ll work until the 60s.

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16 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Charles,

That’s very true. If you want to build substantial wealth in your lifetime, it will almost always involve some degree of risk. Just working 9-5 and saving money that way… that will take many, many, many, decades…

Funny about the debt… Big corporations borrow money all the time. Especially when debt is cheap. But when individual investors do it, we are playing with fire and asking for trouble.

Debt is always risky… but you can minimize it by buying right… that, and building up a ton of cash reserves, which is what I’m trying to do now.

Take care!

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17 JoshNo Gravatar March 6, 2014 at 10:15 pm

This is a subject I’ve been curious about myself. I started out in the personal finance world with Dave Ramsey to whom all debt is bad, and who owns a ton of rental property debt free. Should the economy take a dive, he’s in as good of a position you can be in.

However, I’m currently taking a class on commercial real estate investment and development, and there isn’t one major player in the market that doesn’t use debt. In Seattle, we are seeing about 35% equity, and 65% debt on multifamily apartment buildings.

How do you decide which way to go?

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18 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 6, 2014 at 10:25 pm

Josh,

That’s a great question and one that will always be debated… There are two sides and you’ll always have those are terrified of using leverage and others who swear by it.

Leverage is a double-edged sword. It cuts very sharply in either direction.

I can only speak for myself, but I’m obviously comfortable enough with risk to use leverage. In my own situation, I purchased my first rental property for $315,000. Had I not used leverage, I would still own ZERO properties today… Thanks to leverage, I was able to pick up two properties in about a six month span… Both properties have appreciated over $100,000/each since.

That’s a lot of return/equity on my very little downpayment. The bank is my best partner… They aren’t asking for a cut of any of the profits :)

Truth is, most people do need some leverage to get started in REI b/c how many people have the means to start off buying properties ALL CASH? Unless you make a killer salary at your day job, it’s very, very difficult to grow if you need to own outright…

As you get older, I definitely understand the reason to deleverage and pay down debt… To get started though, it’s much easier to ramp up production through the use of leverage, in my opinion.

Cheers!

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19 MartinNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I meet many of such people too, giving up before even trying. And I do not understand it. I have a family which needs to be supported and I am afraid of losing job which would ruing everything. that is what motivates me to build up a money making machine, so my job will no longer be a single source of income to support my family and our hobbies and fulfill our dreams. Life may be hard, but is also beautiful and I do not intent wasting it in never ending parties.

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20 FI FighterNo Gravatar March 5, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Martin,

You are a man with a plan! We all have our fears and doubts, but if we let ourselves get consumed by them, then we’ll never make any progress. There’s always a reason not to do something… You can talk yourself out of doing anything…

It takes effort to build that money making machine. At some point, you just have to take smart, calculated risks.

Cheers!

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21 FFdividendNo Gravatar March 6, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Great post. I really enjoy it.

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22 JoshNo Gravatar March 6, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Great post FI Fighter! I’m curious, what type of equity position do you like to maintain in your properties and how do you finance them? Do you do 15 or 30 year mortgages? Do you like to use as much other people’s money as possible, or do you like to maintain a certain equity position of say 30 or 40%? Or once you reach a certain equity position, or your property appraises for a higher value do you do a cash out refi to free up money for another purchase?

Thanks!

Josh

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23 Dividend GamerNo Gravatar March 30, 2014 at 6:09 am

This gets at the heart of life for many things. Life is about the pursuit, nothing has ever happened from us standing still.

Investing is the perfect example, with time and persistence you can do anything. You need to maintain the discipline though, have a plan and stick to it.

Challenge yourself to be better than you thought you could be, save 10% a paycheck, then go and save more!

Figure out what you are living for, why you want to do any of this, and what you need to have in the bank and within your portfolio to make it happen, then go out and start building.

Brick by brick you can lay your financial fortress. Dig a moat for future wealth that the stream of dividends you will receive will sustain you and your family for generations.

It is alright to be scared, but you should never be afraid to start. Do not let any form of failure or setback stop you. It will happen, the worst day in the world for you will still end at sunset, and the sun will rise.

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