Human Resources and Real Estate

Learning humility

December 31, 2014
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"The more you know, the more you know you don't know." -Aristotle

I started raising equity for my very first real estate deal at the age of 20. I was a baby. It was a duplex on the northwest side of Grand Rapids, and I felt like a young Donald Trump.

I sat down with a gentleman that a colleague had referred to me and pitched him on an elaborate 20-page document that I had created. I knew everything there was to know about buying, rehabbing and cash flowing this investment opportunity.

After my closing statement, "Who wouldn't want to make ten percent on their money?" — the investor said something I will never forget.

He said, "Derek, I am less concerned about the rate of return. I'm concerned about the return of my money at all. How do I get my principal back?"

I sat there embarrassed without a confident answer. I blew it.

He left that coffee shop and never contacted me again.

I sat there for two hours thinking. In all of the excitement of the deal, I had tricked myself into believing I knew every single need of this investor whom I'd never even met. Humbling.

Fast forward to today, no more two-unit duplexes.

Now I walk into meetings with potential fiduciary partners to discuss complicated 100+ unit redevelopment projects.

Instead of walking in with an elaborate 20-page document, I walk in with a blank slate ready to hear the needs of my potential partners before telling them their needs.

So, if the more we know, the more we don't know is true, then shouldn’t we begin to look to humility as an agent of change?

That's what it took for me.

The next time you find yourself walking into a meeting with a stranger from whom you need something, start with the humble question, “How can I be helpful to you?”

Inward. Onward. Upward!

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