How to Spot 4 Commercial Real Estate Billionaires: Action (Part 3 of 4)

A personal favorite and a slight diversion from the series, the third installment of How to Spot 4 Commercial Real Estate Billionaires features Sam Zell, the 60th richest person in America, weighing in at $4.4B.

Rather than underwrite Sam myself, I’ll let him tell the story in the following interview transcript on Jan. 27 2011, Sam Zell’s “Advice to Entrepreneurs”:

“I’ll tell you a story that I think is probably the most significant advice that I give young entrepreneurs. It’s the story about a Jewish man who lived in New York who started an appliance store in Brooklyn. [He was] very successful, very observant. He went to the synagogue every week, and life went on.

And then one day he went to the synagogue and after he finished his regular praying, he reached out to God and said ‘God, I’ve never asked you for anything, I’ve always been traditional, I’ve always been observant, but I’ve really got a problem. And the problem is that the neighborhood is changing, the business is tanking, and God, I need to win the lottery.’

The next morning he gets up, checks the newspaper and he didn’t win. So the following Saturday he gets up, goes to the synagogue again and now business is worse. And he’s really getting worried again. He finishes regular prayers, reaches out to God again and says the whole bit: ‘Business is worse, the creditors are calling every hour instead of once a week … I need to win the lottery, please. I’ve never asked you for anything.’

The next morning he gets up, looks at the newspaper… he didn’t win. So now it’s the third Saturday and now as he finishes his regular prayers he’s on his knees and he’s crying and [his business is] entering Chapter 11 proceedings. And he says ‘God, I’ve got to win the lottery.’ And at that point, from up high, comes a voice — and it’s the voice of God — and He says ‘Moishe, you’ve got to buy a ticket!’

I literally had a young entrepreneur in here ten days ago and I told him this story. And I said: ‘You’ve got to find a direction, you’ve got to find where you can excel. […] What’s your skill set, how do you react to things, and how do you identify an opinion, a view?’

So I told him this story and he sent me a thank you note and stapled to that thank you note was a lottery ticket. We checked, but I didn’t win.”

So do something about it. Although the lottery might not be your best chance at success, there’s no chance if you forget the ticket.

If you’re halfway decent at something, there’s a good chance you’re better than someone else making a decent living off the same thing. They just went for it. Something about action stifles us. If you can keep Sam Zell’s voice in the back of your head, just go for it. You’ll find the talent pool for success is huge, but the competition is only those willing to go after it.

All it takes is a little action. Thank Sam Zell.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of How to Spot 4 Commercial Real Estate Billionaires.

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