From the title of this post, was your first thought that this article would be about failure, or did you think it would be about adventure? My guess would be the former.
We live in a negative society. People tend to hate success it seems, unless they are the successful ones. Let’s tax the rich more, to support the poor (note: no one ever says let’s teach the poor to take care of themselves, it’s we need to take care of them).
I’ve been in the scenario of being poor, and in the even rarer situation of not being able to take advantage of the myriad of safety nets our society has in place, so I was really poor, not just poor on paper, while my bills are being paid kind of poor. To compound the problem, I was also injured, so I do know what life is like at that end of the spectrum.
I’ve never lived a standard life. When I got out of school, there were no jobs. Instead of waiting for the jobs to appear, I made my own. My family thought I was nuts, and wouldn’t make it. People are supposed to get a job, work, save and retire.
When I sold my first house, I took the buyer’s old place in trade for the downpayment and start off my real estate investing. My family thought I was nuts, and would lose my shirt, or at least suffer from bad tenants. Rentals are nothing but a bad investment, full of nightmare tenants, way to risky.
When I bought stocks, I invested in companies I liked, understood, and that were out of favour with the “experts”. My family thought I was nuts, and could kiss that money goodbye. If you had to invest in the market, the only way to do it was to buy a well diversified portfolio of mutual funds.
Being male, I already suffered from being insecure when I was growing up. The fact that I never found support for my life decisions was very hurtful, and still is. The good thing is, I didn’t listen to people.
I’m always amazed at the number of “experts” out there, especially those “family experts”, who’ve never deviated from the path of “go to school, get a job, save money in a well diversified portfolio of mutual funds, and retire”. These same people complain constantly about their crapy job, their lousy returns, and their fears that they’ll never be able to retire because they can’t afford it. Yet they still preach the sae mantra…and attack those who deviate from the chosen path.
The “standard path to success” doesn’t work, yet millions follow it each day, like lemmings, or lambs to the slaughter. Feverishly attacking those who even think of straying… Fear of the unknown empowers them.
It’s tough to strike out on your own. I think it’s a human need to have approval of others, especially family, but you’ll rarely get it. If you do succeed, it will be discounted as luck, maybe something nefarious, or at least exploitive. Society will want you to give more back to them, even if it means killing your company (and destroying the jobs you created in the process).
It’s a lonely path.
There were many times I questioned myself, was I doing the right thing? When I hit the bottom (though I didn’t know it was the bottom at the time), I worried I’d screwed up not just my life, but that of my family as well. Should I give up on my plan, which math said would work, sell everything, try to find a real job or stay the course I’d set. I knew what family thought, they were never shy to share their opinions…but they also never understood my lifestyle choice, it was alien.
I’ve never been one to heed opinion, I value experience. When I was starting out, I didn’t know many real real estate investors, but I had many people with opinions on it. If they’d never done it though, their opinions were about as valid as my own. I was fortunate to stumble across one investor shortly after I got started. He confirmed that, with proper choices, real estate investing was profitable and that most people were wrong about it.
When I first started investing in the markets, I turned to my mother-in-law, for she had been investing for years, so I thought she was knowledgable. Unfortunately she wasn’t really an investor, she followed the advice of an advisor and bought mutual funds. My first investments followed her advice. Now, decades later, that original investment is basically at the same level as where I bought it. My mother-in-law is also concerned over their retirement as the funds have been stagnant at best over the years, but then they had quite a cushion anyway. My individual stock purchases however, the ultimate taboo in investing if you read anything, have gone through the roof in most cases. Warren Buffet doesn’t buy mutual funds, in fact picks individual stocks, but no one seems to mention that.
Finally, as to my job, I still run my own company. Most of the critics I had when I started have changed jobs several times over the years (so much for stability) and still complain about how lousy work is. My company has changed focus over the years, it’s evolved as my tastes change. I’m at the point where I can choose my clients, and my projects, and I’ve been at it for decades.
Lesson: Striking out doesn’t mean striking out. Society will try to convince you it does, but then most of society is too afraid to even try.