Every year I review what went right, what surprises occurred, and how we can improve next time. That’s a key strategy in living a life worth imitating. This year provided more than usual number of regrets and opportunities for humility. Scars are the memory of deep pain. Some of mine are still tender.

I made far more than my share of bone-headed errors in 2018. Here are three of the most painful. Please learn from my mistakes.

Wanting my say more than my way

One of our biggest clients fired us this year. That hurt. It hurt even more because it was at least partially my fault. I didn’t display the emotional intelligence I aspire to.

I’m a trained mediator and we like to say, “You can have your way, or you can have your say but you can’t have both.” I forgot that important truth. I could tell you that my client was aggressive and difficult to deal with and that would be true. It’s also true, and more important, that we might still have that client if I acted differently.

He pointed out a non-material clerical error in one of our documents. I admitted that we had made the error and apologized. So far, so good. But he kept on about it. He not only got my goat, he tortured it. I had my say and we lost a client.

Emotional intelligence, keeping your eye on the prize, and controlling your own behavior are critical in apartment investing and negotiation of all kinds. Remember, you can have your say or you can have your way, but you can’t have both.

Hiring the wrong person and keeping her too long

There are things I haven’t mastered yet. Hiring and keeping good people for our team is one. One way I’ve learned to get better is to involve other people on the team in the hiring process. That’s good, but it’s not a guarantee of success.

We hired a charming young woman to be the administrative hub of the office. We all agreed that we should hire her. She was intelligent and charming, a fine person. We all liked her.

There turned out to be a problem, though. She couldn’t manage time, organize work, or complete projects and those are essential skills and habits for her position. It was like hiring someone colorblind to be a painter or someone who is tone deaf to be a musician.

But she was charming and so we kept trying to make it work. That was the second mistake. I didn’t want to fire her because I liked her. When I looked back over my journal for the last year, an astounding percentage of the entries dealt with the young woman and her performance.

She quit when it was obvious to both of us that it was not a satisfactory fit. I should have brought it to head much sooner. It would have been better for her and for everyone in the office. That is the third time I committed that blunder.

I learned three lessons from this mistake. Having the team take part in the process is good, but we need to make sure we hire people who can do the work we need done. I should ALWAYS make judgements about performance based on performance, not personality. And third, when I know it’s time to act, I should act.

That’s ironic, because I remind clients that the best apartment investors seize opportunities and close. As I put it in the chapter in Building Legacy Wealth on “Successful Buying,” “The best investors pounce.” That wasn’t the only bit of my own advice I did not take last year.

Forgetting what I knew

I have three great friends. The four of us take mini-vacations together, but this year it almost didn’t happen because we became so frustrated with each other. Here’s the story and how I forgot something important.

When one of us had an idea for how to spend our vacation, he shared it with the rest of us. Another person would nix it. Then someone else would have an idea and the same thing would happen and the process would begin again. The longer this went on, the more frustrated we all became, so much so we almost cancelled our vacation.

I was getting as frustrated as anyone. Then I realized that I know how we could do better. Heck, I designed a process of evaluating multiple alternatives based on sound psychological principles.

In his excellent book, Originals, psychologist Adam Grant says this:

“Evidence shows that when groups consider options one at a time, a majority preference can emerge too early. It’s better to rank order the options, because comparing your third and fourth choice might surface information that shifts the entire decision.”

I use a simple process with clients to help us rank and compare several alternatives. I suggested to my friends that we use a similar process to consider vacation alternatives. We compared the alternatives with each other and ranked them. Result: we took our vacation.

My mistake was not recognizing that I could use a process I use with my clients in another context.

Bottom Line

I always learn from identifying and analyzing my mistakes, even though I repeat far more of them than I care to admit. Perhaps you do the same thing. Do me a favor and warn me about what snagged you in the last year. Maybe we can help each other make new and better mistakes in the year ahead.


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.