Are you stuck in a day job that you don’t enjoy? Have you realized that you’re working to build somebody else’s dream instead of your own dreams? You’re in the real-life matrix, and you’re just not sure how to escape. Don’t you wish you can spend most of your energy working on projects that fulfill your purpose? On today’s show, Paul David Thompson shares his personal story and how he figured out how to break free from the matrix and started investing to ultimately create more time. Don’t miss this episode so you can start your own soul searching and engineer your escape plan.
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122. Breaking Free From The Matrix: Creating More Time To Fulfill Your Purpose
We talked about the relationship between time and money. In this episode, I’m going to be talking more about my personal story. How I figured out how to break free from the matrix I’ve been talking about and how I started investing to ultimately create more time? I don’t have a day job anymore and I spend most of my energy working on projects that fulfill my purpose. If I had to do it all over again, I could avoid a few of those pitfalls that I stepped into and I could’ve done a little bit faster. That’s part of the process. I was learning, so I had to make some mistakes. If I had to do it all over again, I would have focused on quality over quantity.
I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. I will get to all the actionable steps of real estate investing. Allow me to rewind the clock a little and give you my backstory so you have some context. I’m a Computer Engineer by training and I worked at four Fortune 500 companies in my career. I followed the standard advice and that was to get an education and go to college. I was fortunate because I always liked school. I was able to go to school on a partial scholarship and earn an Engineering degree from The University of Arkansas. I had some student debt, but it wasn’t too bad. I was able to pay it off in less than five years out of school, but the problem was that’s all the plan I had.
My plan was to get a job. When I got a job, my plan had come to an end. I wasn’t sure what else to do. I had a plan up to the age I was about 22 and then what? I didn’t know but after a while, I worked into my job, I became a dedicated employee. I gave my all at work. I was proud of the work I was doing and I stayed very busy. I worked my way up to middle management. I spent my time thinking, “How could I make a better manager and become a better leader?” I went and got an MBA and read all sorts of articles and books that I could get my hands on. I was always pitching ideas to upper management on how to make the company better and one of them stuck after several years of persistence.
I was given the budget to build a new team and we had a special mission. The net result is the team I created was able to accomplish a very specific high-profile project that made a significant improvement on how the company ran. At the end of a year-long project, I got acrylic plaque along with 100 other people. Some of which barely even worked in the same project and it was a well-intended gesture by the company. I had a lot of personal satisfaction and accomplishment. In the end, the company hardly noticed and I couldn’t help but feel unfulfilled. Shortly afterward, my family went on a week vacation to the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. That’s the closest white sandy beach for us here in Arkansas and we had a wonderful time. On that ten-hour drive home from the beach, I was feeling down. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why.
[bctt tweet=”The only real thing holding you back is you.” via=”no”]
I’m usually even-keel guy. My wife and I talked it out and during that ten-hour drive home, I kept peeling away the layers. Was I bummed about the vacation being over? I didn’t think so. Something wasn’t right. I’d worked hard all year and I was able to take a nice vacation and I had a blast but I couldn’t stay any longer. The kids were still at a school. I had enough money to extend the trip another week if I wanted to, my wife and still, is a stay at home mom. Her schedule wasn’t keeping us from staying. We couldn’t stay any longer because I had to go back. My employer expected me back in the office. Taking a two-week vacation is rare in Corporate America. People will start looking at you funny if you start talking about extended vacations.
Work is like prison and vacations are like parole. You spend 50 weeks a year working to earn the right to take two weeks of vacation, but don’t you dare take two weeks in a row, especially if you don’t plan it out months in advance and get special permission. What irked me is I couldn’t stay and work remotely because it was against corporate policy, even though the company I worked for at that time was an internet service provider. They provided the very technology that makes working remotely possible. They wanted you in the office. The real core of the issue was I didn’t have control. I was becoming aware of the Matrix. When I first started working after graduating from college, I remember thinking, “Is this what I have to do for 40 years?”
At first, I was bummed out but then after a while, I started applying it to myself and learning the business and worked my way into working. Most of you have a similar story. Way back then, I put the blinders onto the Matrix. I found the good parts of working and I endured the bad parts. It’s okay if you’re working and enjoy your job. I enjoyed a lot of things about my job too. I don’t want to overly vilify every company, every job, and everyone who has a job. That’s not the point here. It’s your life and you do what you want to do with it. That’s the whole point of this show. I will challenge you. Are you living up to your potential? Are you really fulfilled?
Sooner or later, your life will change or circumstances in your job will change that is completely outside of your control. When that happens, will you have the freedom to be able to say, “I’m not going to take this anymore, this is not worth it?” Will you be stuck in a scenario where you have to endure that new change, new boss, new transfer of your job? Will the day that you get laid off be one of the best or most empowering days of your life? On the way back from the beach, I was reminded of this social contract I entered into. I’d built my entire lifestyle around earning a six-figure income but I wasn’t in control. I was trapped in the Matrix. It’s all around us. It isn’t that bad most of the time, but it sure isn’t freedom. When we returned home from the vacation, I started doing some serious soul searching. What else could I do so that I wasn’t in this trap any longer? I had to work my way out of it somehow. How could I engineer my escape plan?
I had this feeling that life could be better, but I at least needed to be able to cover our basic bills. I started digging. I considered doing something on my own and buying a franchise. I researched how I could roll over my 401(k) as a business startup and not pay taxes or fees or anything. I even interviewed with several franchises, but I couldn’t help but feel that I would be buying another job if I went out and started a new business or bought a franchise. After more research, I was reminded of the thought that I could go into real estate investing. I had researched that a little bit before. I’d always been a bit of an armchair investor. I dabbled in the stock market. I had some money in my IRA and 401(k), but those wouldn’t do me much good until I was older.
I wanted a better life now. I needed something that could bridge the gap between my work and retirement income in my late 50s or early 60s. Even with many of these clever strategies of backdoor Roth IRAs, 401(k) rollovers, Roth conversion ladders, I still needed a stream of income between now and when I could pull those techniques off. I read every book I could find on real estate investing. I listened to podcast and I attended seminars. It was time to strap in and get into the game. I followed the typical beginner advice of joining BiggerPockets.com and attending the local REIA or Real Estate Investors Association in the local area. I followed the piece of advice that I heard over and over and that advice was, “Find a mentor and build a team.”
I started searching. Among many other things, I emailed a nearby investor and I blindly asked if he offered any mentorship. I offered to exchange my time or split deals or whatever would be a worthwhile exchange of value. Here’s the actual email that I sent. “Hello, James. I’m a new real estate investor who’s looking to gain knowledge from an experienced investor. I’m an experienced corporate business person with an MBA but limited experience in real estate. I’m looking for an opportunity to learn and willing to spend my time working for free and/or splitting profits in order to acquire knowledge about real estate investing in Central Arkansas. If this is something you’d be willing to entertain, my cell phone is, thank you in advance for your consideration, Paul Thompson.” I wish I could remember the exact search criteria I used that led me to contact James, but a few weeks later he called me.
He asked me about my personal situation and he gave me a most unusual offer. He said, “Buy the book, The Richest Man In Babylon. Go through the book, mark it up, make notes in it and write a three-page handwritten essay. Mail that to me at my PO Box. Paul, this is a test to see if you’re dedicated and coachable.” He was very specific, it had to be handwritten. I thought this is the coolest thing ever. This sounds like something out of the movies. This is some real-world Mr. Miyagi stuff. I was elated because I knew I was dedicated and coachable. I read the book, I wrote the essay by hand, and was my hand ever sore up. I had never written so much since grade school. This is a true story, he had me doing some real estate investing, wax-on wax-off exercises. When I sent him an essay, he assigned me another book and then another. Over the span of 12 to 18 months, I wrote 7 or 8 essays for him. What’s ironic is most of them were not specifically about real estate.
[bctt tweet=”Life is the ultimate game and you are the player.” via=”no”]
What he did instead is suggest some of the best training seminars to attend. I spent a good amount of money and time traveling to these seminars. It would have taken me years to find these people on my own and these were world-class events. There was no pop and circumstance, no back of the room sales pitch. It’s a good old school advice from people that have been doing the business for years. I took all these materials, lessons learned, went out and I hit the pavement here in Little Rock. In the first two months, I went on to buy eighteen houses in eighteen months. I have a portfolio of 25 rental houses and I’ve been a part of several dozen other deals with flips and wholesales deals out of my IRA. In no way am I suggesting you have to or even should buy ten houses in two months or eighteen houses in eighteen months. I recommend for people getting started to focus on one deal at a time.
As time progresses, you can build upscale. You can build serious wealth by buying one good rental property a year. What’s interesting is most people overestimate what they can do in one year and significantly underestimate what they can do in five years. Before we delve much deeper into real estate investing itself, I like to walk you through the first exercise I have everyone do that I work with. It has absolutely nothing to do with real estate and only has a little bit to do with money. It’s more about what money can do for you versus money itself. I want you to think about your ideal life. What would your ideal life be? What is the life of your dreams? If money, location, the monthly bills, all of these things were no object, what would you spend your time doing? What projects would you work on? What places would you visit? Would you pick up any new hobbies?
The first thing people often say when I ask this question is travel. They would do a specific thing that they love every day such as golfing, shopping, riding your motorcycle, whatever it is that comes to mind for you. In my experience, that answer isn’t the real answer. It’s intended to be real when they say it, but they’re not self-aware enough to know that that isn’t what would make them happy because they’ve never gone through this exercise. They never seriously thought about what they would do if they had all the freedom in the world. It’s the first answer because you haven’t let yourself imagine what a life freedom is. If you travel, you would have a very good time. After about two, maybe three months, most people want to get back to a routine. They want to get back to home and what makes them happy. The wanderlust wears out.
What I want you to do is imagine a life that suits you for the rest of your life, not just some exotic trip, event or activity. What is your ideal life involve? What is your ideal day? I give people the week to stew on this and write in their journal about it. I assign them to create a life list akin to what you might think of as a bucket list, but I like to think of it instead as a life list. What I’m trying to do is inspire you by creating Big Hairy Audacious Goals, often referred to as BHAG, not the goals of your parents, family or the society has for you. This is your life, you’re in control and you get to design the life of yourself. Create your own path.
I’ve heard the objections before, “I don’t have enough money or I don’t know what I want. I can’t live this dream life. It’s not possible, I can’t afford it.” I suggest that these are self-imposed limiting beliefs. The only real thing holding you back is you. I can show you how to do it, but you have to decide the what and the why. The how of creating financial independence is a series of steps that I can guide you through, they aren’t necessarily easy, but they are simple. I’ve learned from experience, you won’t do them until you have a big hairy audacious goal that motivates and drives you. A goal that has deep-seated reasons behind why you want to do it. For a friend of mine, that goal was freedom of time so that she could spend time with her dad that had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Another friend wanted to have a business of her own. She’d been doing a business with her husband and they were very happy but she wanted something of her own. For me personally, it was I want to control who I spent my time with. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I have to ask permission to spend more time with my family. I want to surround myself with interesting and inspiring people instead of people that I happened to be coworkers with. What I want you to take from this is that you can do this too. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or you’ve already done a few deals, you have some under your belt, you can improve your situation by investing in yourself and investing in real estate. Next time, I’ll talk about the three primary categories of choices that investors have, what the pros and cons of each of those are and if real estate, which is one of them, makes sense for you or not.
If you haven’t read The Richest Man In Babylon, I encourage you to do so, it’s a very easy, quick book to read, it’s the foundation of good money management. I encourage you to create a life list. You can see mine on my website at PaulDavidThompson.com. I’d like to get your feedback on what you think of my life list, what I’ve checked off, and what I have yet to check off. I’d like to get your questions. If you have any questions on how to write goals or how to invest in real estate, go ahead and shoot me a line. I’m an open book. I’ll answer anything that you asked me.
I’d like to share with you an opportunity to work with me and an elite group of investors in a mastermind group. Are you stuck in a day job that you don’t enjoy? Have you realized like I did that you’re working to build somebody else’s dream instead of your own dreams? You’re in the real-life Matrix and you’re not sure how to escape. Join me in like-minded investors who are also striving for financial independence and will stop at nothing to help you break free from the bonds of corporate slavery. You can break free and live the life of your design.
Go to LevelUpMastermind.info to apply to the mastermind, so we can help you launch your freedom. Until then, I’ll end with the Ready Investor One credo. You’re invited to meet your future. You can prepare to meet your future, ready to play or be caught blindsided, unprepared to play the game. Investor one, the choice is yours. You are in control, you are the hero. Life is the ultimate game and you are the player. Do you have what it takes to accept the challenge and break free from the Matrix? Allow me to be your guide as you level up your life and lead a life of your design.
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