Almost exactly 13 years ago this month, Al Gore released a documentary on climate change called “An Inconvenient Truth”. The film remains one of the most popular documentaries of all time. Costing just under $2m to make, it grossed more than 25x that amount at the box office alone, making it both hugely popular and a pretty good financial investment. He also went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for the subsequent work that the documentary provided. Aside from his political achievements, Gore amassed a large body of success from bringing an uncomfortable (and arguably much-needed) learning point to the masses.
Al Gore was US Vice President during President Bill Clinton’s time in office, and narrowly missed becoming President himself in 2000, losing to George Bush Junior in probably the closest presidential races in US history.
For those that haven’t seen Gore’s documentary or read his book, there is a pervasive central philosophy that transcends the core subject matter, which is encapsulate by his following quote: ”As for why so many people still resist what the facts clearly show, I think, in part, the reason is that the truth … is an inconvenient one that means we are going to have to change the way we live our lives.”
Although one can debate the authenticity of the motivations of a career politician, I like to believe that Gore was passionate about the message he was spreading as he campaigned about the dangers of climate change. My cause is not as noble as saving the planet, but I am passionate about property and how it can help people, and I feel it part of my duty to expose inconvenient truths. These truths ultimately allow people to become more aware and better equipped to participate in property investments.
So what are some of these inconvenient truths I’ve learnt through property? Here’s a selection:
1. It’s a test of your personality rather than your qualifications.
There is common misconception that you need to be very smart to make a lot of money. There are many throw-away adages that I generally shy away from using but the expression “attitude not aptitude determines your altitude” definitely rings true for property investing. One does need some basic grasp of numbers but in terms of formal schooling I don’t believe you need anything more than a high school education to prosper, provided you have the right attitude (most people, approx. 60%, aged between 21 to 64 in the UK do not hold a university degree so if this is not a barrier to progress then it makes property investing a more inclusive arena for many to get involved in). In my opinion, being able to be calm during a crisis and solve problems creatively are two of the most important skills to have.
2. Many of the best lessons are learnt through failure.
I think of failure as that wise straight-talking friend that visits you periodically and keeps you honest. He or she talks frankly about the things which you may be lacking so it’s always a somewhat uncomfortable and humbling conversation, but if you really listen you always feel better afterwards because you know it co. Too many people these days want their egos massaged or want hard messages softened, so the learning points seldom reach their destination with the necessary impact. People don’t often spend long enough reflecting on their failures and identifying what exactly went wrong and so the lessons to be learned are often missed.
3. The right training and education often seems expensive in terms of your time and money, but the impact of getting it wrong generally costs many times more (even if you learn from your mistakes).
Not all education is good education but if you find the right teacher for you then it’s invaluable, so what I always advise is that you should do your research on what you think works for you and don’t be put off just because there’s a price tag on it.
4. Property is great way to make you financially secure and potentially even rich, but there is an unhealthy focus on trying to get to the end point too quickly.
I come across a lot of people who read a couple of articles about property investment or speak with their friends and suddenly believe property is the magic bullet to quickly solve all of their financial woes. The irony is that they have probably found a good answer, but the obsession with generating a profit quickly means they start with the wrong attitude, get disillusioned or bored with the slow results, and then walk away. The slow beginning is all part of the standard process. This part of the process is critical, as it then allows for quicker acceleration as you grow.
5. Although you may have completed some property courses, this does not make you an expert!
I’ve come across too many people who have completed a course or two from some of the bigger property education companies who then feel that because they turned up and listened to a 3 day course, it now means they can raise hundreds of thousands of pounds and then go on to successfully develop property schemes around the UK. I’ve nothing against property training, in fact I think it can be incredibly helpful, but I encourage people to learn to walk before they try to run. Partnering with more experienced people and hands-on learning should complement classroom learning, not replace it.
This list is certainly not comprehensive. There are many more things I could mention, and I try to impact what I’ve learnt as best I can to the people that I meet along my own property journey. The future is uncertain, so we need a box of useful tools to cope with uncertainty as new situations present themselves. Embracing these truths, however inconvenient, makes us better equipped to sustainably overcome whatever we come up against, and that puts us in a position to maximise the prosperity we seek.