Truth You Cant Predict What You Can or Cant Do Until You

I really struggle with this way of thinking. I just don't understand why people seem to want to place judgment ahead of effort and unproven opinions before a willingness to try. There's no way for you, or anyone else for that matter, to know your true financial potential. And because your true financial potential is unknown, it makes no sense to place limits on it. "I can't do it" becomes another rationale for not trying, for not stretching, for not exploring your potential. Some people have told me they don't want to set themselves up for disappointment. The unfortunate irony is that the people who would rather not set themselves up for disappointment by going for it are the very ones destined for disappointment. The moment you buy into the idea that you can't achieve financial wealth, you put yourself on the path to complacency, compromise, and, ultimately, regret.

Years ago the online job search company ran a provocative Super Bowl ad showing a series of children describing their "financial dreams and aspirations." The award-winning commercial combined humor with poignancy to make a powerful point about settling for what you thought you could do instead of pursuing what might be possible. The litany in the commercial went something like this:

CHILD ONE: When I grow up, I want to file—all day. CHILD TWO: When I grow up, I want to claw my way up to middle management. CHILD THREE: I want to be replaced on a whim. CHILD FOUR: I want to be a yes man. Yes woman. Yes, sir; coming, sir; anything for a raise, sir.

Three or four other children continued this refrain until the commercial closed with a surprisingly touching question: What did you want to be?

With that question, the contrast between the modest aspirations and resigned attitudes of the children in the commercial and the shoot-for-the-stars hopes real children have went from humorous to sobering. That was when you realized that you may have made more compromises along the way than you would have imagined, that somewhere along the journey of your life you stopped wondering what was possible for you and started thinking in terms of what was probable.

In my experience there are basically two ways people view their financial potential. There are those who think in terms of what's financially probable and those who think in terms of what's financially possible. Probability thinkers base their view of their future financial selves on their past history and current capabilities. They say to themselves, "Based on who I've been and who I am, this is probably what I can financially accomplish in the future." They use words such as realistic and likely when they discuss their financial potential. As a result, when they are presented with a new opportunity that doesn't fit their preconceived notions of their financial potential, they often conclude that they simply "can't do it." For them, their financial future is determined, predictable, and ultimately static.

Two Ways of Seeing Your Potential




What's "likely" for Me What's "realistic" for Me


What's "conceivable" for Me What's "imaginable" for Me

Figure 4

Figure 4

Possibilities thinkers, in contrast, rarely utter the words "I can't do it." They set aside any limiting notions they might have about their financial potential and base their view of their future financial selves on what they imagine themselves to be capable of accomplishing. And they use an altogether different vocabulary Their potential is described in terms of what's "conceivable," what's "imaginable," and what's "possible." They say to themselves: "I have dreams for a reason. Based on who I can become, this is what I can financially accomplish." They take into account that they might have to learn new things, acquire new skills, or change their habits to reach their full financial potential. For them, their financial future is flexible, active, and, ultimately, alive.

A great example of this is Trammel Crow, who rose from humble beginnings to amass one of the largest real estate empires of all time. A child of the Depression, Crow and his seven brothers and sisters grew up in a Dallas home with no bath or hot water. But Trammel didn't let his modest beginnings dictate the size of his future. In 1948 he went into real estate and saw a world of unlimited possibilities. He quickly realized that through loans and private investors he could achieve his goals long before he could on his own. Crow's big idea was the commercial shopping mall. We take them for granted now, but in 1955 Crow's idea was revolutionary. By the 1960s

"I bought one house for $5,000, sold it , , , , , he was the leading develop-

er of shopping malls in the

I was 25 at the time, so that was pretty good money when you're just going United States and by the to school and waiting tables, and just 1980s he was the largest real having fun." estate developer and proper

Carlos Rivero ty manager in the country.

Millionaire Real Estate Investor

Austm, tx Today, because he saw no limits to his potential, the Trammel Crow Company is one of the largest diversified commercial real estate services companies in the world.

Many of the real estate investors we interviewed told similar stories about how before becoming investors they would have been voted least likely to become financially wealthy by the world. A good example is Barbara Mattson, whom I mentioned briefly in the Introduction.

Barbara worked as a home health nurse, and her husband, Tom, was in construction. They were a typical family living in a modest home with two cars and a pair of young daughters. Then, in 1997, Tom came home not feeling well. The next morning he couldn't move. Suddenly Barbara was left to care for her children and an ailing husband while also having to earn enough income to cover two car notes, a mortgage, and a mountain of medical bills.

Month after month the Mattsons battled unsuccessfully to get worker's compensation. "I'm living on macaroni and cheese here," she complained to her labor attorney. "I can't do this. You have to help me." But his only response was, "Ms. Mattson, this is a long process." In her efforts to keep the bills paid and the creditors at bay, Barbara was often just circulating her debt, "robbing Peter to pay Paul." In the end she was encouraged to declare bankruptcy and start over, but she was determined not to give up.

In one of those positive coincidences, Barbara bought some tapes on investing in real estate. They originally were intended for Tom, to fill his time and possibly eventually provide a way for him to earn income for the family. After all, he worked in construction and understood real estate. But he didn't show much interest, so Barbara listened to the tapes at night while caring for her youngest daughter. She also listened to them on the way to her home-care appointments.

Then, in July 1998, almost nine months after he became ill, a simple sneeze caused Tom's legs to go numb. He emerged from surgery cocooned in a body cast. Coincidentally, just when things were darkest, his worker's compensation was approved, and they received a $20,000 check covering nine months of back payments.

Here is one of those defining moments when the difference between probability thinking and possibility thinking is revealed. Barbara had very little knowledge of investing; in fact, she'd just listened to that single set of tapes. Between work and looking after her husband and family, she had almost no time. Even though she had temporary possession of a large sum of money, her bills and debts added up to a lot more; in essence, she didn't have much money at all. Faced with the same situation, what do you think most people would do with the money? Would they pay off their bills and get their accounts back in order? Would they use the money to supplement their income and get some relief? Or would they do what Barbara did when, in an inspired moment of clarity, she invested the money in real estate?

"My philosophy was survival," Barbara recalled. "If I could start buying real estate and build up enough to replace Tom's income, it wouldn't be so bad if he couldn't ever work again." Over the next six months she started buying rental properties. Eventually the rents began to add up until finally she could see light at the end of the tunnel. Today, because she placed no artificial limits on her potential, Barbara owns a real estate company and over $9 million in real estate. Because Barbara could imagine better possibilities and a bigger life, she was able to have them.

Be warned. Once people

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