Kick-Starting Impossible Success


How do you become successful without any money?


Many people see life as little more than an endless struggle—an ongoing series of trials and tribulations that make it hard to imagine ever achieving real success. Though some of us see limitless opportunity even when life is hard, many others feel so beaten down by one hit after another that they never expect to escape a “pre-destined fate”. It’s not that they lack nerve, or don’t hope for a brighter day. They simply see no clear path whatsoever to get there—none that would fit their own abilities and small pocketbooks. When they hear of others who rise up to achieve quick success in life, such stories have no relationship to their own situation, so they attribute them to luck—something they have precious little of themselves.


My hope for this article is to show that this far too common viewpoint is an illusion. Worse yet, by failing to address it head on, it becomes a self-perpetuating negative force. For too many of us, it is the overriding reason we remain stuck in life. How in the world can we get to the point where we know in our heart that great success is possible? Here are some thoughts, along with a real life example that I think proves that success is much closer than we imagine.


The “Catch 22” of Modest Means


Suppose you are a taxi driver, and it has always been an idle dream of yours to build a large apartment complex on a piece of empty land across from your home. You see the property every day. The location seems perfect, and you feel sure that if you could somehow do it, you would be set for life.


When you have little or nothing, it is easy to assume that you have no power to start, much less complete a project of such “impossible” size and importance. Perhaps you often tell yourself, “Why even bother dreaming this? I’m only a taxi driver, and that’s all I’ll ever be. How could I ever hope to build a large apartment complex?” In other words, you see yourself in a “Catch 22” situation—you can’t get ahead without money, and you can’t have money until you get ahead.


The Solution: Stop Limiting Yourself to Your Own Resources


It turns out that this “Catch 22” is an illusion. It ignores the fact that if a project has merit, it is always possible to interest other people in it. In other words:


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When a project offers strong enough potential to make money, money can always be found to finance it. The key is in creating a powerful enough vision—one you can effectively translate into a shared vision with people of resources.

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This means you don’t need magic or impossible luck to get ahead. All you need to do is (1) envision a project that has a strong enough money making potential, and (2) figure out how to transmit your vision to people who have money to invest in it.


The same principle holds true for projects that are ultimately not about money. For example, suppose it is your dream to form a new nonprofit organization—one designed to help people on a global scale. How can you do it? (1) Start by making sure your concept is strong enough to do the good work you imagine, and that there is a true need for it, and (2) share your vision with enough talented people who will join with you to make the organization a reality.



A Real Life Example


My father was a highly successful land developer. He faced challenges from all sides that made it hard for him to hold onto his money once he earned it, but he was talented enough to achieve and repeat great success several times in his life.


As a teenager, I was completely mystified by what he did. For example, how could an ordinary person develop a large housing project without having huge amounts of money to begin with? One day as we were taking a drive, I asked him. As we drove through the countryside, he began a little monologue that seemed extraordinary to me.


He said, “First go find a piece of land that looks really good to you—one with something nice about it that will make it attractive to people when it is developed. Then go to the county and get a map of the property, to make sure it is zoned for the purpose you have in mind, and so on.”


After giving me one of his patented looks to make sure I was paying attention, he went on with his spiel:


“Next, find a friend who has a little money, and take him out to see the property. Help him imagine what it will look like. Get him as excited by the idea as you are, and offer him a piece of the project.  Explain how he will place a small amount of money in your care to get it off the ground.”


“With a commitment in hand from your friend, it’s time to go and talk to with the owner of the property. Before you jump into talking business, it never hurts to try and get to know him first.  Ask a few questions and figure out if there’s anything you have in common.  When he’s more comfortable, you will be, too.  Once you decide the time is right, offer him a token amount of money if he’ll give you a written ‘option1’ on the property.  Explain how this will tie up the land for a period of time—such as six months or a year, or whatever you feel is needed.  Unless they are actively trying to sell, most people will jump at the chance to earn some money for doing nothing, especially when there is a good chance they might also sell their property for a fair price. Once you control the property with an option, you are on your way to success.”


At this point, I’m sure my eyes must have been gleaming with interest as I was imagining all the money I’d be making by following in Dad’s footsteps.


A proposed sub-division.

My father would look at a piece of land and imagine all the things he might build.

“Next, find a local civil engineer and have him help you work out a basic layout for the streets, sewers and other utilities.  He should be able to give you a rough estimate of what the costs will be, and so on. Once you have a little experience at this, you can save money by doing some of the drawing and estimating yourself, but a good engineer will look at the site and alert you to things you need to know, including what the city or county will require to get it approved.”


“After you’ve got a handle on the basic requirements, it’s time to go see an architect, and have him draw up some concept sketches.  You’ll want him to do some basic layouts for a few model homes. These will be used to help get the financing, so make sure he does a nice job. After all, if the deal works out, he can expect a lot more business later. If you or he knows of someone who can build scale models, a nice mock-up that shows the land and streets can help people to see what you have in mind.”


As an aside, my father then said, “A good architect is an artist, and he can really make a project by helping people visualize how beautiful it’s going to be.”


Find a bank that invests in your particular type of project.

Banks are different so don't give up if the first one doesn't come through.

“Now its time to put some hard numbers on paper and transform your vision into a language your bank will understand. You’ve been working on your figures from the start, but now you need to put them in final form. The idea is to estimate what the whole thing is going to cost, including putting in the roads, sewers, and so on, as well as what prices you will charge and the profits you expect. Make sure the lots are affordable enough so people will buy them, but also make it a quality project so you can charge enough to make good money.”


Then he concluded, “All these preliminaries cost some money, but nothing compared to the whole project. That’s why you only need a little money to get this far. After crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s, you’ll now have a complete package you can take to any bank or big investment company. It will be easy to do a nice presentation, and you’ll get your financing for the project.”


Notice that my father transmitted his vision to others in two steps. First, to one or two people who had enough money available to get him started. This allowed him to pay for the initial design and planning. And second, to banks or large investors.  With all of the facts, figures, drawings, and models in hand, he was ready to wow them.


How did he learn these methods of “bootstrapping” a large real estate project from little or no money? I noticed that he learned the mechanics by networking with similar minded friends—every day he enjoyed spending hours on the phone and meeting with people. I also believe the process of transforming his original vision into a form others could share and understand was intuitive for him—it came naturally. That doesn’t mean it can’t be repeated by others. When you believe strongly enough in turning a dream into a reality, there is a natural fire in your eyes, a spring in your step, and an excitement that’s hard to contain. It’s real, and contagious.


More Methods to Kick Start Impossible Success


The Small Business Administration offers SBA loans to small, new businesses to help ordinary people go into business. To be sure, there are hoops to jump through, but with proper help and guidance from other experienced people, this process works. It has enabled many thousands of people to start with little or nothing and is a model for success.


Here is a search tool the government provides to help you identify sources of business loans and grants that are right for you.


SCORE is the Service Corps Of Retired Entrepreneurs. It’s hard to find a better resource for starting or growing a business than talking with one of their members. These are highly successful people who are often retired and have nothing left to prove. They are willing to generously donate their time to advise you free of charge, offering you the advantage of their decades of real world experience in achieving success. You can either ask for advice online or meet a member in your area.


There are many different possibilities.

Find a need and then forge your own road on your way to success.

Am I suggesting that everyone searching for success should become a land developer? Not at all. That was my father’s chosen path.  It would not be appropriate for others, unless they also had a passion for building and real estate, as he did.  What’s important to take away isn’t so much what he did, but how he identified and then pursued his heart’s desire.  I recommend looking to your own dreams as you envision success. Once you know what turns you on, go ahead and find a need to fill. When you lock in on a powerful vision you can begin sharing it others. If nothing else, my Father’s example proves how it is possible to start with little or nothing and kick-start impossible success.


What’s your own vision for “impossible” success? Isn’t it time to make it a reality?


1) A note on options:  My father discovered land development is notorious for long delays in financing or in getting approval from local governments. In later years, he strongly recommended getting good legal advice whenever committing any oral agreement to paper.   In addition, Dad preferred to make options renewable, or to have the final sale subject to approval of the project by the city or county involved.


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