I think I’m pregnant

14 04 2010

I feel like I am pregnant.  At least I think I do.  Not in the Oprah/Dr. Phil kinda way.  There won’t be an hour-long TV story based on my pregnancy anytime soon.  I may have been screwed over a few times lately but certainly nothing that would produce a child.  But I digress.  My wife described the process of pregnancy as delight at times and agony at others.  Particularly when she got to that point when she said she was “done.”  You may have heard of it before – pregnant woman so graciously carries her little bundle of joy and happily endures, I mean, enjoys her pregnancy until she wakes up one morning after a night of pseudo sleep because she can’t lay any particular way comfortably and says, “I’m done”.  Then she stands up and realises she no longer has feet…or ankles.  All of that to say that’s kind of how I feel. 

Many people have commented on how positive and inspirational this blog is.  To you I say thanks.  However, I feel discouraged.  Maybe just today or for the past few days but yeah – I’m off.  Not way off just a bit off.  I think any exploration or climbing of a mountain has some trepidation and doubt.  And it’s not really doubt as much as it is impatience.  Being almost at Base Camp 1 on my accent of Dream Mountain, I am equal parts thrilled at the progress and where we are and frustrated we are not further along.  This is why I love the pregnancy analogy.  When my wife was pregnant there came a time all she wanted was to deliver the baby.  I’m at a similar impasse.  Have you ever been there?  Waiting on something you know will eventually happen but agonizing over the time it will take to get there.  Maybe you were waiting to hear about acceptance to a certain school, for a boyfriend to ask you to marry him, for a baby to come, for a settlement to finalize, for a certain promotion, or maybe to finally be free of a very bad situation.  Regardless I think we’ve all been there from time to time.  My hope is to be completed the climb and living my dream by the fall.  I’m just terrible with waiting.  Patience is not a strong suit of mine.  Even after reading my own blog (the process of progress) and drinking my own Kool-Aid, I am having a hard time not being anxious.  Anxious to get going already, not anxious in an unsure kind of way.  Sometimes I pray God will give me the patience to see this through, the courage to endure, and the strength to believe in myself and the gifts He has given me.  God has a great sense of humour doesn’t He?  How is it exactly God grants us patience without also granting the situation in which patience must be practiced?  Or courage?  Or strength for that matter?  It’s been my experience God answers some prayers by giving us what we want and others by not giving us what we want.  In this case, He has answered by giving me opportunities to practice.  Uhhhh.  This climb is long.  The steps are relatively easily completed and each little bit sized success gets us closer to the goal.  But FRIG – let’s just rent a helicopter and get to the top of Dream Mountain already!  I mean really – isn’t that why helicopters were invented?  To fly quickly in areas planes, cars, and feet cannot get in the quickest fashion possible?  Like seriously, who ever says, “no thanks, I’d rather climb the mountain.”  I do I guess.  As much as I hate it – I do.  I need to.  This is a weakness I need to manage and walking through this process with the awareness of my impatience and not becoming the impatience is the next crevasse to be scaled.  Hey that sounds like a new challenge.  Cool.

My wife tried to figure out how to get unpregnant from 7 months on.  Whether it was castor oil, walking, aerobics, nesting, whatever she could to be finished her pregnancy as soon as possible she did it.  She just wanted to get on with it.  I’m feeling like that now.  Let’s just start living the dream.  Enough of the climb – let’s get to the summit.  You know it’s funny.  A few weeks after my baby was born my wife said to me, “sweetheart, I miss being pregnant, this Mommy thing is a bitch.”  On second thought, I’m enjoying the climb.


Where’s the game?

29 03 2010

“I want to be a firefighter, figure skater, singer, and a crane operator.”  My 3 year old son understands in the current age of career and work experience – diversity is the mother of prevention.  Prevention from a life of what if’s, when we were’s, and wish I would have’s.  At 3 he believes he can do all of these things and as parents we seem to encourage his ideas and dreams by saying things like, “you can do anything son” or “that sounds fun”.  When does this change?  At some point we start to encourage and guide our children and ourselves away from the I can do anything attitude of our childhood and more towards a make up your mind and be responsible type of positioning.  What happened to us?  Was it the disappointment of our first attempt and failure at following a dream?  Is too much riding on where we are now that to leave the comfort of the day-to-day rhythm is too daunting?  Are we embarrassed to start talking about our dreams and aspirations?  Have we no one in our lives who is willing to step up to our sides and walk with us as we finally start living happily and wholly rather than as a reasonable hand drawn facsimile of our best selves?  I don’t know when things change however I am convinced we can change it back.  We can take back the childhood wonder we gave up and build the life of our dreams.  In fact, I’m going back to my childhood for the wisdom to move forward.

Growing up my mother was the consummate list maker.  In fact you could walk into to her home today and find countless numbers of lists posted to the fridge, countertops, and side tables.  This seemed to keep the Lithium dosages to a minimum.  These lists seemed to keep everything under control and ensured all was well through the day.  My father was a budgeter.  He would have a budget, add to the budget, pour over the budget; maybe those budgets were his lists in disguise.  All of that to say – I have a reason to HATE lists.  Maybe you’re not like me but if my parents did it, for most of my life that was enough reason for me NOT to do it.  I mean really – how many of us wanted to be just like our parents?  Not me!  But funny enough I think we may share a name for a reason.  The older I get the smarter they get.  Weird.  So in the spirit of honouring our parents I look to my mother’s lists for inspiration.  The first step in living my dreams is to write them down.  In fact, if you walk into my house today my 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals are front and center on the fridge.  My daughter’s colouring and our real estate agents magnet have taken a side stage position for the goals I have set.  As a matter of fact, my wife and I have looked at that list for 2 weeks since it went up.  The list of goals has become almost like a mantra to realizing our successes and dreams.   We have been able to check off 4 different smaller stepping-stones in the ascension of Dream Mountain.  You see my mother taught me if I wrote down my goals and worked daily to stepping slowly and doggedly towards each smaller goal the big picture gets completed with each little check mark.  You are reading the second check mark now.

In 1986, Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze starred in a “blockbuster” of a movie called Youngblood.  It was a coming of age story of a hockey player (Lowe) and his team.  As an 11-year-old hockey goalie this movie was the best.  My father tolerated the film with me but a funny thing happened on the way to his kiddie movie slumber.  In a scene which would impact my life unlike any other, the coach of the Mustangs (Lowe’s team) screams at Lowe from the bench, “Dean, where’s the game?”  As Lowe looks over to his coach the coach puts his fingers to his temples.  The game clearly is in your head.  If I had a dollar for every time my father screamed at me from the stands in my hockey games, in the kitchen of my childhood home, or on the other end of a March 2000 phone call from my office, “where’s the game”, the realization of my dreams would be much easier.  But imagine the impact this one small scene had.  24 years later the movie starring Rob Lowe and featuring the guy from Dirty Dancing and a young Keanu Reeves with a really bad French accent is the engine that drives my dream realization.  The key to my father’s insight is visualization.  I have taken to seeing my dreams coming true in my mind.  The talent, determination, and drive needed to be successful in the new world I’m entering is already at my fingertips.  I have everything I need and as I visualize success in my mind and I walk closer and closer to the goal.  The goal for me is not the end but the beginning.  Not the achievement or completion of the goal but the active participation in the world of small business ownership.  What is your dream?  What goals do you have as the stepping-stones to realization?  Are you visualizing yourself winning?  Where’s the game?

For me, the combination of childlike belief and parental wisdom has been the key to living my dreams.  Whether it’s a firefighter, figure skater, crane operator, or real estate mogul I believe anything I set my mind to I can achieve.  Heck, if I’m going to tell my kids they can do anything they choose I’m going to start telling myself the same thing.  We deserve that don’t we?  I mean if we’re not going to believe in us – who will?  However, the words and ways of my parental experience ring loudly for me.  Write it down.  Read the lists and adjust them as needed.  Visualize the success and it becomes a reality.  I am so glad I moved out of my parent’s house when I did.  The longer I’m out of their house the smarter they become.  What can you do today to live your dreams?

Red wine or red wine vinegar?

26 03 2010

Ever had one of those experiences where you say to yourself, “if I knew then what I know now…”?  Man those piss me off sometimes.  Only pissed off at myself but still a little prickly.  There aren’t too many of those experiences I hang on to but the ones I do hang on to I choose to keep close because of the lesson learned.  Not that they’re huge life changing lessons necessarily but more just those learning experiences that, with proper fermentation, turn into the full bodied wisdom I can call on down the road.

Think back to summer of 2004.  The sub prime mortgage “situation” was beginning in the USA, the Canadian housing market was plugging along nicely with fixed rates as low as 6.5%, HGTV didn’t exist (what would we do without Property Virgins), and you could buy a 1 bedroom condo in the heart of downtown Toronto for $249000.  Yes that’s right – $249000.  I know because my wife and I almost bought one.  Not to live in but to rent out.  We have been dreaming about the real estate business collectively for about as long as we’ve been married.  It was always something we were both totally enamoured with but never had the guts to get into.  Being completely inexperienced in buying houses, being landlords, mortgages, resale, tenants, law, and pretty much everything else to do with real estate we felt as though we didn’t have what it took to even be involved in real estate as much more then simply owners of our own principal residence.  So, at that time, we walked away with our dreams in our back pockets reluctantly happy to dream smaller and more responsibly. 

Maybe we just do things the hard way but instead of following up on our dreams and desires we “responsibly” started buying and selling principal residences.  First it was a new construction where we were able to work with a builder friend of ours to minimize our costs.  His poor assistant had to take my daily construction questions, décor changes, pricing realignments, and daily drop bys.  I’m sure by the day we took possession I had driven her to drink but to me – I was learning and I loved it.  Next was a move to a run down estate sale home on a GREAT property with a GREAT location.  What a mess!  We took possession, renovated, and moved into the house in 31 days.  That was exciting, stressful, maddening, and wonderful all at the same time.  I think I learned more in that 31 days then I had in 31 years prior.  And you know what – I had a knack for it.  I made a lot of bad choices on that reno but I learned what to do and not do in the real estate market and I found a passion.  Next was another new construction that we general contracted with the help of family and friends that are in construction.  This was awesome.  It took 100 days to build from scratch but wow was it fun.  We did a good job and we used the lessons we learned from the first 2 in order to save ourselves time, aggravation, and money.  It was right around the completion of that residence when we decided to take out first step into our dream of real estate holdings and investment.

First we bought a condo in our hometown for a number of reasons.  It was a small initial investment.  It was managed by a very good management company.  We could get into the rental property market without the dreaded hassles of tenants calling all the time for small detail issues.  It seemed like a good compromise and foray into our dreams.  We bought and tenanted the place in 5 days.  Next was a triplex.  Then our residence became our next property.  Then we moved and bought another property.  In a matter of 3 short years we have developed a real estate holding company for our properties.  We have strong positive cash flow, good tenants, and enough diversity in properties to ride out any kind of real estate storm.  This was the first part of living my dream – owning a business in something I love.  

The condo my wife and I first looked at in Toronto is on the market today for $500000.  That’s a 100% increase in 6 years.  Hahaha – makes the skin on my forehead scrunch up just thinking about it.  However, the success of our initial real estate ventures gives me the confidence to know I can successfully achieve my dreams.  Learning the hard way is sometimes a good thing isn’t it?  Remember the last hard lesson you learned?  Aren’t’ you glad now to know what you didn’t know then?  You see, as I stare up the ascension of the next mountain in my life I look up with a different perspective.  It’s the perspective that can only come through the patina of experience.  Of knowing now what I know now.  We can all look back at something and say “if I knew then what I know now…man that pisses me off.”  But how much more potential is there in saying, “I’m so glad I know what I know now – this kernel of wisdom will help capture my dream.”  It’s like the full bodied complexity of a finely aged wine – and you know what?  Because of those small kernels of wisdom my dreams are coming true.  How about yours?