Read an Excerpt
Risk & Grow Rich
How to Make Millions in Real Estate
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I. . .
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"
Have you ever heard of Lewis Morris? You should have. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was one in a long, proud line of risk takers in the history of what became the United States, going back to the Pilgrims of 1620 and the early settlers of the North American wilderness.
Morris was a landholder from New York who put his name at the bottom of that world-changing piece of parchment on August 2, 1776 (that's right; the Declaration was dated July 4 but not signed until a month later). He and the other signers (there were fifty-six in all, though John Hancock tends to be the only one we recall) must have known the risk they were taking. They were affixing their names to a document that was a direct challenge to British rule over the American colonies. They were marking themselves as targets for the rage and retribution of the Crown. In some cases, they were signing their death warrants.
Why did they do it? Most were comfortable landowners, which in colonial America was the main measure of wealth. British rule had been kind to these men, yet they were willing to put their fortunes and futures on the line for the cause. I think the answer is the same as the answer we give today when someone asks us why we take a risk: because the promise of reward outweighs the potential dangers. Either that, or what we want to achieve is so precious that we have no choice but to risk everything to go for it.
That was the motivation for Morris and the other signers. They saw independence as a possibility, so they put themselves on the firing line to achieve it. And some of them did pay dearly. Nine died in battle. Many had their homes destroyed or lost their businesses. Morris saw his estate burned by British soldiers, his livestock killed, and his family forced into exile. He worked for years trying to rebuild his farm and served on the first Board of Regents for the University of New York, and died in 1798 at 72.
Lewis Morris paid a high price for his risk but, of course, the goal was realized. Whenever I think a risk is too great for me, I look at the example of people like Morris and others and think what they were risking to achieve their ends.
Do You See the Opportunity or the Hazard?
This book is about the power that taking wise, calculated, and mitigated risks has to transform lives. But before we can even begin to talk about the power of risk, we've got to take a long, hard look at the fear of risk. I'm a natural risk taker. Most people aren't. I was fortunate enough to have parents who not only encouraged me to try new things, but pushed me into unfamiliar territory, always with the mantra, "You can do it." I grew up playing soccer, basketball, field hockey, you name it. When I was in the eighth grade, my dad entered my team into a basketball tournament against teams that had great training, and we were playing against a team on which the girls were seven inches taller than we were. We played with heart and we won, even though no one thought we could. However, the vast majority of people in our culture have been taught to look on risk as something to fear, something to avoid. That's exactly the wrong approach to take if you want to have a rewarding, fulfilling life.
Fear of risk is programmed into our brains. It's a survival mechanism that makes sense if you think about evolution. When they were scattered throughout the savannas of East Africa in pre-agrarian hunter-gatherer tribes, our distant ancestors did everything in groups. The men hunted together. The women and children gathered roots and plants together. There was safety in numbers; alone, you were much more vulnerable to predators and accidents. Those who played it safe were rewarded with survival and the opportunity to pass on their genes to the next generation. We're hard-wired to avoid risk.
Fast forward to today. We no longer fight for pure survival. Most of us have jobs, families, and responsibilities, but we live in a world where technology, economics, and freedom combine to make risk taking more worthwhile and less life-threatening than ever. If you're a smart graduate student, there's nothing stopping you from dropping out halfway to your Ph.D., running up your credit cards to start an Internet company with your buddies, and turning it into a billion-dollar juggernaut. Ever hear of Google? That's how that company came to be. And if your company crashes and burns? You don't get eaten. You regroup, go back to school, and spend a few years paying off debt.
Unfortunately, we still look at risk from the perspective of the early hominid whose sole priority each day was to survive. Present your average working Joe with a business proposition that has some risk to it but also has a big potential payoff and his eyes are going to zoom right to the risk. The first thought in his head is going to be about all the ways things could backfire and end in disaster. He might not even see past the hazard to the potential payoff. He'll never discover that if things don't fall apart, he stands to make a ton of money and be better able to support his family. His knee-jerk reaction to the idea of risk is negative: "This is how this could hurt me." That's the reaction of 90 percent of the population.Risk & Grow Rich
How to Make Millions in Real Estate. Copyright © by Kendra Todd. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.