What I Learned While Burning Ants With a Magnifying Glass


Those poor little ants. They were no match for the 8-year-old me and my magnifying glass. If they foolishly stood still for more than perhaps 2 seconds, they were incinerated.

How interesting that the very same sunlight which you may use to get a nice base bronze or to slowly and gently grow delicate flowers from seeds, can simultaneously be used to create a mini furnace of intense, life-smothering, simmering heat!

That’s the power of focus.

It’s the same sunlight. The same temperature outside, the same weather, the same distance from the sun. The only difference is how those rays are being focused, their power being compounded upon itself.

When I first began looking into real estate investing as a way to potential turn the financial tide for my family, I was overwhelmed by the options. The numerous viable approaches, each of them with their own niches, benefits, risks, hazards and responsibilities.

I could go into wholesaling and try to make a buck off of nothing but hustle. I could go into house-flipping and hunt for the worst houses in the best areas using private loans. I could buy and hold rental properties for short-term cash-flow or long-term grown, or both!

Where do you begin?!

The list above is the tip of the iceberg, and within each of those over-arching categories, there are countless more strategic decisions to made—do you focus on multi- or single-family homes? Do you borrow from hard-money lenders or use a HELOC or seek out a silent partner and establish an LLC? Do you manage the properties or hire property managers? Yellow letters? Corrugated plastic signs? Billboards? Door-knocking?

Whichever approach I were to choose, it would certainly be an undertaking to eventually master it.

Every investing book that I read, podcast I listened to or investor I queried over coffee said the same thing: choose a strategy that best fits you, and focus on becoming great at that.

I finally came to understand the value in that wisdom. What I needed was excellence, not mediocrity. Excellence was not available to me in every single facet of investing. But it was within reach if I were to pour myself into mastering one strategy, whichever was the best fit for me.

Think about those who have inspired you or influenced you: professional athletes, writers, entrepreneurs. Most of them have achieved influence not by being decent at a multitude of things—you most likely would never have noticed them—but by becoming undeniably excellent at one or two things.

I have no idea if Charles Bukowski was any good at woodworking or gardening or sailing, or even if he was any good at writing non-fiction or children’s stories or screenplays. And what’s more, I don’t care! Because he was incredible at his unique form of gritty, unapologetic prose, and that is the value that he eventually presented to me and so many others. (If you haven’t read his stuff, here’s your chance!)

His focus on perfecting that single craft made him inspiring. He found where his strength lay, and he focused intently on greatness in that single action.

You cannot be all things to all people. They don’t need that from you, and you don’t have the natural ability to be that. No one does.

To specify, first, you cannot be all things.

I’ve fallen into this trap numerous times. I want to be a stellar athlete, and a real estate investor, and brew beer and sail sailboats across the Atlantic and speak publicly and write a book and do some acting. That’s foolishness.

You can’t be all things. You can do all things. And you certainly can’t do them all at a high level.

However, there is something that you can become stellar at, an avenue through which you can make an impact on your circle of influence, and through which you can expand your influence.

It takes focus.

Secondly, you cannot bring value to all people.

I am not an online marketing guru. There are plenty of those. I am not a fitness guru. There are a lot of those too. I am not a comedian or a critic or a genius at day-trading.

Those folks are all out there, and most of them are better at those things than I am. If you’re looking for those things, I’m probably not your guy. That’s right, there are people out there who are not my people—they don’t need me, they don’t need the value that I offer.

But I know who I am and what I am good at. I’m great at communicating, I’m very good at distilling ideas and ambition down into immediately actionable steps, and I’m good at taking action and pushing myself and others forward.

And if that’s what you need, well, I’m your guy!

I (and you) can’t be all things to all people. But I can be great at what I’m great at to those who need what I have to offer.

The minute I focus in that way, I transform from a gentle, warm sunbeam kissing flower petals, to an inferno of scalding hot potential, incinerating challenges and expanding my influence.

So you can’t be all things to all people. That’s okay! You can be an excellent version of yourself, and offer your unique strength to the very people who need them.

It’s time to focus!



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