This post is a reprint of a post that first appeared on my blog, SilkPockets: Investing from Overseas. In this post, I deal with the issues of how I was able to get over my fear of networking by taking a tiny, first step.
People ask me about how I was able to invest in Florida while still living in Korea? How was I able to begin my journey to becoming an international real estate investor?
The short answer: Getting active on the real estate investor forums on BiggerPockets was a huge first step.
But sometimes we find ourselves having a hard time taking the first step and interacting with "strangers." It might be because of a language barrier. Or fear of looking foolish. Or just generally being a shy person.
That can definitely hold you back. Here's the story of how I overcame my fears and took the plunge. I'm glad I did because it's paid off in big ways! I'm now in two overseas partnerships with the strong potential for at least one or two more.
It's sometimes hard to take the first step and network when you're introverted. But taking very small actions can lead to big results!
Part I - About Me
(After reading a little about me, stay tuned for Part II below to read those 2 Steps promised in the title...)
How do you know you’re starting to get old?
- Your hair starts showing up in places it’s never had before.
- You start using phrases like, “You know... [ENTER CURRENT AGE] is the new 30!"
- You download a lifetime countdown clock app for your phone to see the number of days left (that might just be me)
- You start thinking more about time and how you want to spend it.
It’s early 2014 and I’m staring down at 42. It’s still 12 months away, but it’s sitting there. Waiting. Like a proctol exam at the next doctor’s visit. There’s no avoiding it.
I’m in good health. I’m lucky to have two beautiful kids and a strong marriage. I’ve been successfully running two businesses in Korea for the last fifteen years.
Things are good. I have no real complaints.
But I know things have to change.
The two beautiful children I mentioned earlier are growing older, and at some point, I know I want them to be schooled in the US.
Korea is not kind to kids, at least from an education standpoint. It’s a brutal factory of intense competition with more emphasis on developing willpower, endurance, and obedience than creativity and leadership. Failure is not a learning tool but a source of shame. I want to foster a different mindset in my kids.
My adventures in Korea began in 1997, fairly fresh out of college and wanting to travel and see the world. Korea also had special meaning for me because it’s the land of my ancestors, but I grew up very disconnected from this heritage (I didn’t speak Korean, I didn’t attend a Korean church, I didn’t drive a Acura growing up, and my math was only so-so. Sorry... had to do it!)
I basically only knew Korea through its foods.
I did what most travellers do when they’re looking to support their lifestyle while living abroad - I took a job as an English teacher.
Eventually the entrepreneurial bug overtook me, though, and I ended up helping to build two English institutes in “Gangnam" - long before it had a certain "Style" - which I continue to manage to this day.
Now many years later, as the kids get older, I know the time for a transition is coming. What to do next?
I decide I want to be a real estate investor.
This is a blog about the misadventures of how a world traveler / teacher / manager / family man / and entrepreneur with no experience, no networks, and no real knowledge of real estate became part of a Joint Venture and bought a property in Jacksonville, Florida, in less than one year. I did this:
- All while living in Korea.
- Having never stepped foot in Florida.
- With people I met online.
Yep... a recipe for a disaster that actually went almost flawlessly. Oh, except for the $20,000 bank transfer that was wired before a contract was signed. (More on that in a later post.)
This blog is about how I ended up co-organizing a meetup and how many doors that opened for me.
It's about how I now plan to make real estate investing a part of the rest of my life.
But most of all, it's for newbie investors experiencing obstacles like I did, and showing them tips on going around those obstacles, or when necessary, busting through the barriers. Hopefully I can give back some knowledge, help motivate, and do it all while maintaining a little humor to take the edge off what can be a very stressful experience.
Part II - Those two steps I mentioned
Okay... 600 words later, here are some tips that will actually help you!
Let's start with how BiggerPockets.com changed my life. And no... I’m not shamelessly trying to kiss up to Brandon and Joshua (note: Brandon Turner and Joshua Dorkin are the co-hosts of the BiggerPockets podcast) hoping to get them to read my first blog post! Really. I'm not.
But it is true. BiggerPockets has really been instrumental in my journey.
It’s where I gained confidence to try networking for the first time. Before BP, I was always a bit intimidated to meet strangers and ask for help. However, the BP Community has so many awesome people who are truly interested in helping that it hasn’t been as hard as one might think.
I’ve written to perfect strangers hoping to get the most general of information only to get back paragraphs of detailed help that go into detail on rental numbers, house prices, contacts, neighborhoods to avoid, tips, blood type, shoe size, etc.
You name it, and the BiggerPockets Community is ready to share it. They share til it hurts. It’s truly eye opening to be around such optimistic and giving people.
And it’s also infectious. I find myself being a lot more open with others who ask me for help, always trying to go that extra mile now.
So what advice do I have to offer newbies who are maybe a half step behind me and trying to gain some momentum toward kickstarting their real estate careers?
Go to BiggerPockets and do the following two things, preferably in order:
There are a ton of great resources and you might be tempted to foolishly try to read everything at once (like I did). This is great but will definitely give you a bad case of the “Shiny New Object” syndrome which is a medical condition whereby the afflicted reads something new, get so excited by it that they literally push away from their computer, stand up, and loudly declare, “This is it! This is how I’m going to make a ton of money in real estate!” only to have that eureka moment replaced by another eureka moment that happens a day later when you read about the next "great"thing that someone is doing in real estate.
For me, it went something like this:
“Flipping! Awesome... I’m in...Wait.. Wholesaling? You mean, I don’t have to rehab anything? Alright... sign me up... Uh... wait a second. Hold everything. No Money Down Buy and Holds?? Arrrrrggggggghhhhh! I can’t decide... I can’t decide..."
So, where do you start reading then? I'm going to advise you to try picking a niche, be it Buy and Holds, Flips, Wholesaling, etc. I know how hard it is when you're first learning to focus on one thing. As long as you make a habit of reading, you can't go too wrong. But more importantly, you must do the second thing below:
I was a window shopper for a while before I decided to actually participate in a conversation. I remember the long wait after my first comment, before I hit the submit button, as I stared at the blinking cursor after I had checked the “No... I’m not a spammer” box wondering:
“What if I say something stupid and expose myself to ridicule?"
I imagined the more experienced investors: The Ben L’s, the Josh Dorkins, the Brandon Turners of the BP world, at some secret meeting that they held regularly, going through all the stupid comments from the newbies like me, while they smoked cigars, sipped brandy, and laughed hysterically the whole time.
“So this guy Dan... apparently is asking what the 2% rule means? Ahahahahahahaha. He thinks it might have to do with... wait for it... the size of a house! Ahahahahahahaha"
Those are some of the crazy thoughts that run through your head when you’re faced with the fear of looking foolish.
But once you start commenting, a magical thing happens - you realize that it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. That people, by and large, are incredibly kind and want to help. And when they don’t respond or you don’t hear from them, 9 times out of 10, it’s because they’re busy and has nothing to do with who you are. (Unless you're a jerk in which case they’re avoiding you. But you’re not, so nothing to worry about, right?)
That will usually lead to you reaching out to become colleagues with a few people.
Introduce yourself at that point.
If you’re looking for a way to introduce yourself, here’s a quick tip that helped me. (Imagine Joshua and Brandon in harmony singing "Quick tip.")
After reading someone’s blog post or hearing them on the podcast, if there’s something that you connected with, try opening with that. It doesn’t even have to be about real estate. It could be something like,
Hey [SUPER COOL EXPERIENCED REAL ESTATE BLOGGER],
I like how you mentioned that you were a big believer in meditation to start the day. I just started meditating twice a day and it’s really helped me to organize my schedule and become a lot more productive. It’s a cool tip, and I wish you the best of luck!
There. You’re done. You’ve reached out. Congratulations!
Once you break the ice and hear back from a few people, you can try sending longer messages.
Later, as you gain more experience, you will ask more specific questions and usually get great responses.
By the way, in case you're frustrated that the first colleagues you make don't immediately offer to take you under their wing and teach you everything you need to know about real estate, keep in mind this number - 16. That's the number of colleague requests I sent out before I met my eventual JV (Joint Venture) partners in Jacksonville, Florida.
So to sum up those two steps again:
In true inexperienced first time blogger fashion, I’ve managed to un-condense two words into more than 1,000 words.
I know how trite this might sound, but moving from reading and absorbing to actually engaging with people through comments is what allowed me to add momentum to my first investment.
For newbies, I’m only a half-step ahead so I still have perspective on what it’s like when you’re first starting out.
Feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions for blog posts.
My own experiences are fairly unique because I’m:
- Investing from abroad
- Set up a JV with strangers I met on the internet
- Naturally an introvert so networking is all new territory for me
So how did I do? Let me know below.
And be sure to comment either on this blog post or in the forums. By letting people know who you are and what you're looking for, you start to leverage other people's knowledge and connections and start to make real progress toward your dreams.