Adversity as Motivation

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house fire, a skiing accident, being turned down for a renovation, losing out on a promotion, and failing at business. All of these events setup a future success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of failure but I won’t let it stop me either.

Dealing with adversity comes down to a mindset. Sure, I let myself get mad and even feel sorry for myself when things don’t go the way I want them, but then I focus on the next step, the thing that will turn this bad event into a good outcome. I use the negative energy for a positive outcome.

The Fire

When my wife and I were just dating we decided to stay at my house one evening since I had to go into work the next day, Sunday, and the train station was on the way to her house. Upon arriving at the station, her pager (it was 1997) went off and the message said, “Your house is on fire.”

Thinking it was a joke, she went to check and nothing was ever the same again.

We got mad, we grieved the lost pets, we cried and asked why, but then got to the important work of making sure one tragedy didn’t turn into two. The insurance company tried to low ball us on a settlement but we were well informed (a colleague had been through this and told us what to expect).

When a settlement was finally reached, we had money but didn’t need it all at once as we still had to rebuild the house. The insurance money was divided into two parts, rebuilding and contents. We invested the contents money and, in just over two years, had a 50% return.

In September of 2000 we used the investment gains as a down payment on our first rental property. In no way were we happy to have gone through such an awful event but we were glad to have made the best of a bad situation.

The Skiing Accident

Compared to the house fire this is just a fun little anecdote but it has made a difference in our lives.

The year 2000 was a big one for my wife and I. We bought our first rental property as mentioned above, got married, and bought our first boat. While skiing in Canada we also made another big purchase.

I had wanted to ski a particular trail all day but the top of the mountain was fogged in and the trail was closed. Finally, as I’m about to call it a day, I get word that the trail is now open. It’s listed as a black diamond, advanced trail, but not a double black, expert trail. To get to it you have to ski down a small easy trail but that means there’s no going back. Once you commit, you must ski this trail.

Standing at the top I see that the trail was clearly mislabeled — it is certainly a double black diamond full of car sized moguls. I fell, got up, fell again, got up and continued this way down the entire trail. When I got to the bottom it was as if I had been in a fight and lost miserably.

Exhausted, I made my way to the lodge, and saw a table with some really nice fleece jackets. All I had to do was listen to a timeshare sales pitch and the jacket would be mine.

That’s how I ended up buying a timeshare in that very busy year. I know many people have negative views of timeshares but I’ve enjoyed the 18 years we’ve owned it and I’m enjoying it even more now that I’m retired.

Renovation Denied

Remember that rental property I bought in 2000 with the investment gains from the fire insurance money? Well after 8 years of rentals I felt it was time to convert the property from three apartments down to two creating a vacation home while maintaining one rental. The town had a different idea.

Since the property was built before the current zoning laws, it was grandfathered as a three unit property. If we were to do any renovations, we’d have to comply with current zoning laws, meaning we’d have to convert to a single family home, no more rentals.

No matter how we tried we could not convince the town to allow this renovation. After saving up for years we now had a large sum of money, originally for the renovation, that we needed to do something with.

We loved to visit the Coachella Valley area of California, so we bought another rental property there. This turned out to be a great decision that we never would have made had the renovation gone through.

The Lost Promotion

Career advancement is an important part of financial success and I have never been one to shy away from new opportunities. When a friend was leaving the company we both worked for he recommended me for his job.

I interviewed with the director of the department and made it to the next round which involved interviews with the heads of several different departments at the company.

At one point I learned that there were just two candidates being considered for the job, me and a far less qualified candidate. Guess who got the job? Yup, the less qualified candidate, much to the surprise of my friend who had recommended me.

This was the catalyst to find a way out of the company. I decided to start a business, one that, if successful, would allow me to leave the company for good. It worked, but only sort of. Which brings me to…

The Failed Business

In 2012 I convinced my wife to buy into a franchise. It was a big risk but we’re detailed planners and did all we could to manage the risk. Owning a business is really hard and trying to do it while also working a full time job is kind of crazy.

From construction to hiring the staff to opening the door, there’s so many things to do when starting a business. We did well but the demand on our time and energy took its toll.

The business did eventually allow me to leave the company I was working for but only after selling the business. While our success didn’t live up to our expectations, we were still able to sell for a profit.

Never Coast

With every obstacle that was thrown at me, I could have stopped, decided I’d done all I could and just coasted along. But that attitude is how people stagnate, how they become disillusioned.

No path to success is perfectly straight. We have to make many twists and turns to get to our destination. Just because you want to go left doesn’t mean that right isn’t the correct direction.

Be open to opportunity no matter which direction it takes you.


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