We all deny ourselves opportunities because of what we believe. Sometimes subtly. Sometimes more obviously. It has taken me years to discover and to refine my philosophy of living fairly well while deciding that cash is not the solution to every problem. And I'm still learning. As I look back on some of the opportunities I missed, I see an infinite line of events thumbing their noses at me. Here are a couple of my favorite masterful moves:
- I'll do it later. Not following through on a good idea: Buying an apartment to live in and another to rent for income. Instead, I bought too much house and got too much overhead, which resulted in too much stress. Fortunately, I did get out of that money trap with a sizable profit, but not enough to make up for the stupidity I put myself through.
- Father knows best. Following someone else's non-expert advice: In 1988, after much research, I bought $51,000 of stock in a safe utility company to get its 13% dividend. My goal was to get the passive income. Three weeks later, the stock price rose from $17 to $19.50, more in percentage terms than the 13% from the dividends I would get if I waited a year. I saw the opportunity to sell the stock and make $7,500, getting a year's worth of dividends now. The further benefit would be that profits from selling stock were taxed less than income from dividends, so I would be ahead after paying taxes. Having my cake and eating it, too. I mentioned this to my father, who knew nothing about stocks, dividends, or taxes. He suggested holding onto the stock for its income, and following his expert guidance, I let go of my $7,500 gain that day, deciding instead to patiently and wisely receive $6,630 over the next 12 months.
But wait, there's more. I'm not yet done trashing myself for my spectacular decisions of yesteryear. Here
is one of my best.
"But I really need it"
Among my delightful memories, one of my cherished favorites, one which I look back upon with tenderness and a glowing heart, was when I decided to upgrade my office space. I was in a poorly maintained, two-story walkup which cost me very little (I cut my cost by subleasing the office at night to a Subway sandwich restaurant owner who needed 4 hours of space every day for his staff to do their growing paperwork), I decided it was time to get out of the office ghetto.
At first, I did the practical thing and looked for space on terms equal or better to what I was paying. I quickly found some: an industry colleague had 400 extra square feet and would give me an excellent deal. It moved to the top of my list.
But then, I noticed this beautiful, new four-story building nearby. Architecturally interesting, expansive in its expression, it boldly made a new statement about business: that business was about working in expensive environments which reflected the potential within business owners and their employees and which tapped into that vast potential to realize creative business opportunities for the miraculous gain of both buyer and seller.
Dutifully realizing that I had neglected my ego for far too many years, I went ahead and made things right, renting three times too much space. It was my humble gesture to make restitution for my sinful past. My poor, little ego would now finally have enough breathing room.
Since it was a new building, I had to finish the interior space. That meant hiring an architect, construction company, and space planner. My ego would finally have the room to breathe that it justly deserved, even if it cost me another $100,000 to build its new business home.
I went ahead with the lease document for my ego's new home, smiling as I initialed and dated each of its 76 pages.
To complete the excess space, I bought a custom-designed, triangular desk made of one-inch thick glass and a custom-designed leather office chair. The custom furniture reflected the potential within me and would be tools for tapping into my vast creative business potential. My customers would one day thank me for that desk and chair.
Month after month, I paid the excessive rent with money and with glee, thousands of dollars that otherwise would have gone straight into my wallet. My ego was worth it. But after 18 months of paying for its space and starting to run out of money, I sublet its space. Dragging my ego behind me while I listened to its violent, screaming tantrum and its threats of certain death, disease, and destruction, in that order, I found a creative solution to my true office space "needs": three square feet of commercially-zoned "desk space" for $65 a month and a home office.
Had I stuck with what I truly needed, I could have taken that $150,000 I spent on rent and improvements, hopped on a plane to Las Vegas, bellied up to the roulette table, and bet it all on the number 36, and walked away with nothing one minute later. It would have made for a better story and it would have been a lot less pain to live through.
Yep, it's silly, but we all do it. We walk along our merry way, stumble across an opportunity, and kick it off the road because it's blocking us from reaching our goal.
Through these three actual examples, I hope you can see that most of the time, much of the reason behind our excuses is to nurture our
much-neglected ego, bringing it not just food but gourmet banquets prepared by the world's finest chefs.
We finish this section on Perception is Reality and accepting the possibility of other possibilities. I leave you with this paraphrased quote from the author of
20,000 Leagues under the
Sea, Jules Verne:
Anything one can imagine,
He or she can make real.