Knowledge and Action

I’ve been starting businesses for 30 years. And after taking a look at those that failed right away, those that lingered and then failed, those that puttered along, and those that soared, I have come to the conclusion that to be successful, you need a “ready-fire-aim” approach.

Let me give you an example.

When I first got into the rental real estate business, I had no knowledge of how it works. But I did have a basic understanding of real estate, having bought and sold properties before.

So I did two things.

First, I bought some “how-to” books and spent, maybe, 40 hours studying them.

I zipped through them pretty quickly, because most of what they taught were fundamentals. And that’s not what I was looking for. I knew I would pick up the basics on my own, just by buying my first few properties.

I was looking for secrets — inside information that could get me into profitability faster. So, more important than studying the books, I talked to knowledgeable people — lots of them — who had made millions in real estate. (I spoke to one guy at a party who had reportedly made billions.)

That’s what I do whenever I am interested in a new business. I search out pros in the field and ask as many questions as they will tolerate. I am always probing for the same things:

  • What are the most common mistakes I’m likely to make?
  • What is the fastest and safest way to get started?

It took about three months of this sort of research before I felt “ready” to buy.

I bought three small houses in my town. All three seemed good on paper. In reality, they were a mixed bag. I made several big mistakes in assessing their value that I won’t make again. I also quickly learned things I’ll never forget about how to write a contract and how to screen rental applications.

What I gleaned from the books and conversations was enough to get me started. It helped me avoid the worst mistakes. It put me on the right path.

But what I learned from the experience of doing it was the good stuff — the true inside information that helped me eventually establish a decamillion-dollar portfolio.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: The most important knowledge about any business is invisible to outsiders. You can pick it up only when you are actively involved in the business on a day-to-day basis. You can’t know it any other way.

That kind of knowledge will determine your ultimate success — whether you keep going and become rich or stop at the starting gate and do no more.

Where are you with your great moneymaking idea? Are you “ready” to take action on it?

If not, take a few months to acquire the knowledge you need. Spend some money to educate yourself. But buy how-to books and programs only from people with proven success in the field, not from those who make money only by selling advice.

Then “fire”! The sooner you get going, the sooner you’ll succeed.

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[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]