Real Estate Investing Success through Experiential Learning

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If you've ever listened to the BiggerPockets podcasts, then you know that every show ends with the hosts asking the interviewee what they believe separates those that are successful from the people that fail, give up, or never get started.

Getting started is not easy. It can feel downright impossible if you have no experience, no money, no credit, no connections, and no frame of reference for real estate, business, or entrepreneurship. But these things are overcome, and they should not hold you back.

When starting out, you will find that there are two most common types of real estate newbies. The Deer and the Bulls. You may find yourself squarely in one of these categories, or like myself, a little of both. Over time you'll meet many people that are the walking personas of these two types of newbies.

The Deer and The Bulls

The Deer

The Deer are cautious. They know they have a lot to learn. They will immerse themselves in real estate books, blogs, forums, podcasts, and maybe even attend their local REIA. Deep down the exhilaration of this new industry gives them a sense of unease. They feel as if they have to learn more in order to take action.  They tell themselves they will get started...just after they read that next book.

The Bulls

The Bulls are the complete opposite of the Deer. They are full of bravado and naiveté. They get their name because they are about reckless as a bull in a china shop. 

They see themselves as grinders and hustlers. They too will educate themselves and will put themselves on a steady diet of podcasts and motivational books, but unlike the Deer, they are ready for action before finishing the chapter.

There is no right way

There is merit in both approaches. Having a solid understanding of real estate is paramount to your success, especially because investing has an inherent amount of risk involved. But too much of one can be a bad thing. 

I know too many people that have never chosen to step onto the field. Seized with anxiety and doubt, they see their lack of resources, education, experience, "the market", or any other excuse as a reason not to take action.

On the other hand, I've also witnessed people come out strong with their egos leading the charge. Their proactivity gives them an initial advantage because they have at least started to turn the gears. However, there is a danger in running before you can crawl. The most damaging results being money that you cannot afford to loose gets lost, your reputation gets shot, or you end up liable for a transaction gone sideways.

How to Succeed with Experiential Learning

The path to success combines the strengths of the Deer and the Bull. The need for education will be ever-present in your real estate investing career. It is a lifelong endeavor and not something that you will achieve overnight, or as the result of reading a couple books. More than anything, though, education is useless if it is not applied to real life experiences.

That's why it is paramount to have the courage of the Bull to forge ahead in times of uncertainty. You will certainly get closer to winning a race if you actually start running, but you can quickly swerve off-course if you are running blind-folded.

This combination is called experiential learning. A fitting definition is "learning through the reflection of doing".

If you want to purchase real estate, you cannot do it without making offers. You cannot make offers if you don't put yourself in situations to talk with property owners or agents. This action is the experience required in order to see results.

I spent over a year making offers and putting myself in front of property owners before I actually found a deal. I sent out direct mail, left notecards on doors, made dozens of offers, but at the end of the day kept missing opportunities. 

That time was extremely frustrating. I was doing everything I thought I needed to be doing. I wasn't on the sidelines, I had jumped in and was ready to make sh*t happen! A year felt like an eternity.

Slowly, things started to change once I started to reflect on what was going well, and what wasn't.

My problem was two-fold: First was that I didn't know values as well as I needed to. I knew the formulas and the overall strategy, but I didn't have the boots on the ground level of knowledge needed to compete in the strategy I had chosen.

The second problem was that I was easily frustrated with lack of immediate results. When you are broke, you don't have time to wait to make something happen. But real estate investing is a marathon and it rewards those that have momentum only built up due to a solid foundation and track record.

To overcome these problems, I turned towards experiential learning. I continued to advance my theoretical knowledge, which then in turn informed and bolstered my actions and processes. Where I really started to see results was by forming a supportive network of like-minded individuals on similar pursuits that I could learn and share with. It wasn't just learning about the fundamentals of real estate, it was about learning how to get in the game and stay in the game.

If you want to take your new endeavor of becoming a real estate investor seriously, I highly recommend using the techniques of experiential learning and taking active steps followed by reflection and continued learning.