2/28/10: In Pursuit of Excellence – What Real Estate Investors Can Learn From Olympic Athletes

Athletics are such a visceral metaphor for every form of human endeavor –  including investing.  During an athletic competition, years of dedication to a single pursuit are tested in a matter of moments.  Every decision, sacrifice and whim of fate are focused into one measurement of success: the scoreboard.  And so it is with an investor’s financial statement.

To celebrate this year’s Winter Olympics, we strapped on our skis for a cross country trip to Vancouver (via our TV remote) to consider the excellence that is Olympic athletic competition – and to glean practical lessons which can be applied to an investor’s daily life.

In The Real Estate Guys™ bobsled for today’s broadcast:

  • Your Pilot and Host, Robert Helms
  • Brakeman and frostbite strategist, Russell Gray
  • Sled owner and Godfather of Real Estate, Bob “that’s my sled” Helms

With a strong push from our engineer, we jumped into our seats behind the microphones and began our rapid descent into a lively discussion.  With so much to cover in so little time, the show took a lot of twists and turns.

Right out of the gate, we talked through the many parallels between the mindset of an athlete and that of an investor.  As each attempts greater achievement, each must deal with issues of distraction, fear, criticism, injuries, competition and all types of adversity.  How do gold medal athletes handle all this – and how does a real estate investor apply those same coping strategies to their efforts?

We also observed that desire, training and commitment aren’t enough.  To get to the highest levels, there are several other critical items top performers must have in place, including proper technique and strategy.  Pros make it looks easy, but they don’t win by hard work alone.   Bob shares a great real estate example of how quantity of effort is largely wasted if good technique isn’t employed.

We also noted that even those athletes competing in an individual sport still have a large number of people on their team – people who affect their physical, emotional, intellectual  and spiritual vitality and effectiveness.  The people and personalities an athlete surrounds himself with can be the difference between a trip to Disneyland with your face on a box of Wheaties – and just fading off to obscurity as an also ran.  The same is true with investing.  So who should an investor have on his team and how does he know they’re the right ones?

As the show progressed we picked up speed and delved into the role of external conditions.  An athlete can’t control the weather any more than an investor can control the economy.  When it’s our turn, we have to compete, no matter what the conditions.

We cross the finish line talking about the power of passion – and how it drives an athlete to push and sacrifice not just for glory and victory, but for the thrill of the sport.  The most successful real estate investors love the game. When you combine your passion with great technique, strategy, training and the right team – you may still not win – but you have a legitimate chance.  And the difference between a true competitor and a delusional dreamer is that a true competitor isn’t looking for a handout or an easy path, they are simply looking for a chance to compete and win.  As John F. Kennedy said when challenging the US to put a man on the moon, “We choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”  Overcoming the internal and external obstacles is what makes victory sweet.

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