Dream with your hands

I wrote a post yesterday about how I would invest $1m into multifamily real estate. The post got a big reaction from Hacker News, and it’s been fascinating to see the way people think. A lot of the comments raised really good points, but what I saw most of all from those who disagreed was a generally unwillingness to take risk. I bought my first piece of real estate when I was 22. I screwed it all up. I’ve bought more since then, and made more mistakes. But I don’t regret doing it for a second. I regret making bad choices, sure. But I’ve learned something, and more importantly, I’ve done something.

Dreaming with your mind alone gets you nowhere. Today is my 28th birthday, and for too many of those years, I’ve lived in a fantasy-land, dreaming of what I’ll do Someday. I make a lot of plans. I consider myself a person of great passion and vision. But after 28 years, that hasn’t taken me nearly as far as I thought it would. If you had asked me at 18 where I would be at 28, I would have probably been outwardly modest, but I thought I’d be running the world by now. So what happened? Somewhere along the way, I got really caught up in the idea of accomplishment. It become more about the end goal, the destination. I lost sight of the importance of the journey, of living well, of being a good man, a good husband. I thought those were byproducts of the destination, just more accomplishments along the way. But I’m starting to realize that they’re really the whole point. That life is more about the inputs, the journey, and who you are than it is about what you accomplish. And it’s really difficult to change who you are from inside your comfort zone.

Birthdays are usually full of angst for me. But this birthday has been different, somehow. It’s been a really good year so far. There have been disappointments and setbacks, but something is different. If I had to put my finger on just one thing, I’d say that I feel better about who I am than I ever have. I’m proud of my dreams for the future. But mostly, I’m proud of the fact that my dreams have escaped the prison of my mind, that I’m risking something, that I’m working harder than ever on building a foundation of character and discipline.

Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I’d put the emphasis in that quote on the word “do”. You can’t reach for the stars with your mind. You can’t play it safe and hope that someday things will magically change. Ultimately, you have to step out, take risks, do the work, do something.

So don’t stop dreaming. Dream, and dream big, but dream with your hands.

Note: the title of this post comes from a similar phrase in this recent Corvette ad . I was surprised when I googled it and found absolutely no results, as I think it’s a perfect and succinct way of expressing a complex thought.