Self-limiting beliefs – Not for Cathy Hughes!

One of the biggest obstacles to success is having self-limiting beliefs. I’m definitely a victim to self-limiting thinking. Often I’m caught myself in doubt due to my age, lack of education, my mental health issues, financial situation or whatever else I can find in the dark recesses of my mind.

I came across a wonderful podcast today on How I Built This. This episode featured Cathy Hughes . Cathy is the founder of Radio One. She is now 70 years old and has a net worth of over $500 million.

I won’t go into every detail of Cathy’s story and recommend you listen to the podcast and read Wikipedia. The major points that I took from Cathy’s story is that she had no self-limiting beliefs. She had a goal and had no doubt that she would achieve it.

However, Cathy had several potential obstacles that many would consider insurmountable to achieve even minor success:

  • Lived in housing projects as a child
  • Was a single mother at 17
  • Is an African American woman
  • Lived in middle America
  • She started her career in the 60’s and 70’s, which I understand was a less enlightened time in the US for African Americans (I’m from Australia, so I wasn’t there to experience it)

Cathy apparently faced discrimination in her early days but again, she maintained focus on her goal and never doubted she would succeed.

Again, I won’t go into her whole story but one story she recounted was approaching financial institutions for a $1 million loan with only $10,000 in the bank. She went to 32 banks before getting the loan. 90% of people would give up after 2 or 3 banks but not Cathy. She said that she believed in the law of averages that every ‘No’ is one step closer to a YES. It is not hard to believe that she would have gone to 100 banks if she had to.

What if we all had the same confidence as Cathy that we would succeed despite self-imposed limits? Very few will achieve the success that Cathy has. Without question though, the person that follows a passionate goal without thought of failure will be far more successful then the one that finds reasons they can’t.

Buying property – Lazy agents

As I posted a few weeks ago with Buying property – Thank you messy tenants! I have been on the look-out for an investment property.

After some research, I decided on an area that provides a generous rental income and has plenty of room for capital growth. It was then down to finding a suitable property.

In this day and age, particularly at the lower cost end, the primary avenue for locating property is on the internet. After entering the parameters I required, I generated about half a dozen quite promising properties and set about making a time to see them.

What I found interesting was that some real estate agents today are so lazy in advertising the properties. Their written profile of the property can be down right pathetic. They make very little effort to sell the benefits of the property and location. The basics are not enough, the agent should be selling the dream of owning the property, whether it be for investment or to live in.

Property photos can also be appalling. Only 18 months ago, I was in a position of locating an agent to sell my home in Sydney. One agent had a high-profile in the area and she impressed me with her pitch but the photos she used were obviously taken from her mobile phone. I enlisted her services on the proviso that a professional photographer was used. I had to pay the $500 for the photos and it was very well spent. The traffic through the first open home was fantastic, which created urgency and resulted in a very impressive offer the same day.

From a purchasing point of view, I use agents poor ads as an opportunity for me to save money. An unattractive ad in terms of wording and photos can result in less buyers to opens and therefore more chance for me to negotiate down.

The day came to view some properties. Two identical properties were open and hour apart in the same complex. One agent had listed very nice pictures and had sold the property strongly in the word content. The other property had dark grainy pictures that made the place looked very tired and the wording in the ad was generic. You can imagine that I was more interested in seeing the property with the nice pictures and descriptive wording.

Well, I was disappointed. The first property was quite run down and needed some cosmetic work. In saying that, I still thought it represented pretty good value if I could negotiate it down around $10K. The point is though that I did attend the property and I may have had the property had a less appealing ad.

An hour later, I attended the second property with less enthusiasm. It was great! The existing tenant was obviously very house proud and the presentation was perfect. She even had subtle incense burning that provided a pleasant fragrance to the home.

Other than possibly adding some paint, there was basically nothing to do. Another interesting aspect was that the agent had not even used current photos. New blinds had been installed in several rooms to replace some very dated curtains. A small thing perhaps but an ad is a first impression and should feature the benefits of the property in its best light.

When it came to price, the agent suggested a price that was in the range of $20K less than equivalent (but less impressive) property that I had seen an hour early. I countered with a number expecting some effort to negotiate. I was called back less than an hour later to advise that the offer had been accepted. Not the slightest effort to press me for even a few thousand. The thing is, I was more than prepared to offer more!

From my perspective as a buyer, the agent was great. He posted poor ads with uninspired wording and out-of-date photos and he failed to negotiate. If I was the vendor though, I would feel that I lost out on money and was paying a commission for nothing. They should actually be paying the tenant as they had really presented the property to sell.

Once the property sale settles, the agent will obtain his commission from the vendor. I might even use him again if I am looking for somewhere to buy in the area. But would I use him to sell for me? No chance!

Unpleasant financial surprises

For over a year, I have been waiting on a procedure to remove significant trunk varicose veins from my right leg. I’m generally not that vain (excuse the pun) but I found the veins so disgusting to look at that I wouldn’t wear shorts.

Given that I now live in a location where it is warm almost year around, having to wear long pants continuously outside the house is not particularly practical and is often unpleasant. Anyway, a year ago I committed to a procedure to have the veins rectified.

I had to wait a year as I had joined a health fund and as the veins were a pre-existing issue, I had to wait 12 months before I could claim costs. I was aware that even though I had the health care fund, I was still be obligated to $500.00 for my hospital stay. I thought that, in addition to the health fund costs for the year was more than reasonable to have my veins repaired.

Imagine my surprise when I week prior to the operation, I receive a letter from my vascular surgeon informing me that I would have to pay an additional $1500.00 excess prior to the operation.

Mentally, I was fully committed to the operation and had already organised leave from work to recover from the operation. I thought lumping me with a $1500 bill only days before the operation was quite unreasonable but I went ahead and paid it rather than put off my operation further.

Surprise again though the very next day when I receive an email from an anesthesiologist advising I would have to pay an excess of $900 prior to the operation. Again, as I was all but packing my overnight bag, I paid the bill without complaint though the cost of the procedure was really starting to add up and started to wonder who else might put a hand out for money.

Later that day, I was riding my motorbike to work while contemplating how the unexpected operation costs would affect my savings strategy. Well, the 3rd surprise of the week occurred when the bike all of a sudden just stopped. By good fortune (the only good fortune of the week), I broke down within rolling distance of a motorcycle mechanic.

$300 later, the problem was found to be a relatively easy electrical fix but still took a long time to investigate and therefore was quite costly. Add that to über costs to get me to and from work and I was out another $100.00.

Ok, so I took a few steps back towards my early retirement plan last week. I could sit down and sulk or just keep moving forward, which I will.

On a positive note, the operation was a success. The hospital stay was pleasant and the nurses were lovely. Even the breakfast was yummy and I was discharged very quickly.

When fully healed, I will post some photos of varicose vein operation outcome.

Buying property – Thank you messy tenants!

I’ve been off-line for a few days as I have been spending the majority of my spare time looking at investment properties.

I’m currently looking at the lower-end of the market with positive returns on investment. Associated with the areas I’m looking, the demographic of renters are not high income earners. Though I’m stereotyping, this can often mean that the tenants can be untidy and have poor quality furnishings.

I’ve bought and sold a fair bit of property during my life. Both personally and during my time as a real estate agent. A common factor has been that the clean and nicely presented property will sell more quickly and for more money. The unkempt property will stay on the market for ages and generally will get weak offers. Vendors start to get desperate and a bad return.

To me, I love it when I walk in and see that the tenant is a grub. I look past the mess and work out the potential of the place and what money I need to put into it.

  • Dirty carpets. Do they need a clean or full replacement. Steam clean doesn’t cost much but replacement does. Adjust your offer accordingly but always double the value of your investment.
  • Messy kitchen. Look past the stale pizza and masses of plates. Are the cabinets in good order. Are the bench tops stained or chipped. The worse it looks without actual damage, the better. Even if damaged, have an idea of what the repairs will cost and calculate into your offer.
  • Bathroom. Dirty grout, filthy toilet. Awesome! My offer continues to drop $1000’s but in reality, it might only be a couple of hundred bucks to clean it up.
  • Horrible gardens. Depends on the property. A large block and it might be cost prohibitive to clean up. A townhouse, a mow and a weekend gardening will make a big difference.
  • Internal walls with dints, chips, murals or whatever. Unless there is structural damage, no big deal. Some areas might just need filling and paint. Other areas might need some plastering. A tradie might be required, which will be costly but a lot can be done with DIY. Double your estimate and deduct from your offer.
  • Cigarette smell. One of my favourites. The smell can be very off-putting to some buyers, which only makes it better for me to buy low. It may take a while to air out but it could save me thousands!

There are a heap of opportunities for discounting. In reality, getting rid of the tenants and investing $1000 in a professional clean and some garden clean up and the property will look massively better. Not everyone sees that though and are put off immediately by the appearance. I just see dollars I can save.

Once I clean up the property, I have it re-valued. I have always added value. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Use the extra equity to look into reinvesting to more property. I know zero about the stock market but have been fortunate with property. I prefer to stick with something I know then opportunities that I’m unsure about.

Anyway, I have a savagely low-ball offer in at the moment. If it doesn’t play out, I will move onto the next place that looks terrible and try again.

Buy second-hand clothing to reduce carbon pollution

In principle, this is ideal. Saves money, saves the environment, helps the needy.

If only everyone wasn’t so damn short!! (seriously though, it’s a good it!)


A drop in the home loan ocean – eBay wins

I posted a while back that I had listed a few items on eBay to create more dollars to contribute to my dream of early retirement.

I would be reluctant to call this a ‘side hustle’ as I’m not listing enough volume to make a continual or substantial amount. Regardless, I have had a few successes that have added a few dollars to the coffers.

Trestle Leg desk

I picked this up for free from someone that just had too much stuff. Other than being dusty, it was in good, solid condition. The person lived minutes from my gym, so I wasn’t out of pocket for petrol to pick it up.

I didn’t do a whole lot to the desk. I sanded the legs for no other purpose then making it a bit different (and it was the only surface that was real wood) and cleaned up all the dusty areas.

I ended up selling for $31.51. Not a terrific amount but as it was free and I had put little time into it, I consider it a success.

Dining chairs

The chairs had obviously seen better days. The wood was faded and had some black ‘muck’ on them. However, they were solid and the vinyl was in dusty but good condition. I liked the mid-century style of the chairs, so paid up the huge sum of $6.00 for both of them.

I dismantled the chairs and scrubbed the black substance off. I sanded the lacquer back and found a really lovely grain underneath. After applying some Scandanavian oil to them, they looked great. I was very pleased with the finished product.

Overall, with the purchase of the chairs and products used to clean them up, I wasn’t out considerably financially. I did put in many hours into the restoration though. I decided to list at $20.00 with the hope of making $50 or $60.

Well, I got lucky. Two bidders went crazy against each other and after one day, the amount was over $100.00. At the end of bidding (with a single bid from another person), the chairs went for $162.50! I was actually a bit embarrassed at the winning price but I reminded myself of how much time I had put into the chairs.

A bonus also is that I found two more of the chairs that I am fixing now. The winning bidder has already expressed their interest, so I have a ready sale when I get them completed.

Vintage recliner

I bought two of these chairs for $60.00 a few months back, with the intention of keeping one for myself.

Both chairs were tired and the vinyl seating was weathered and cracked in parts. I managed to salvage enough of the vinyl from both chairs to make one decent chair. I disassembled one of the recliners and sanded back all the old lacquer. There was also some sticky gunk under all the vinyl, which took some elbow grease to get off. After oiling, the chair looked very impressive (in my opinion).

I had spent quite some time restoring the chair but little in the way of actual cost. I listed again at $20.00, with the hope of making around $100.00.

Bidding started off fairly strong and the price was over $60.00 in one day. This impressive start, with the fact that I had a ‘watch list’ of over 50 people after 2 days, made me start to see dollar signs in my eyes. Maybe $200-$300 was possible!

Well, bidding ended with $82.00. Still a win but I still felt somewhat disappointed as I had set myself up for something in the hundreds. Really though, I had only paid $30.00 dollars for the chair, so more than doubling my money was a good outcome. And I still have another chair to keep!

Overall results

  • Desk                     $0.00
  • Chairs                  $6.00
  • Recliner               $30.00
  • Product used       $15.00 (approx)
  • Sold                       $276.01
  • Profit                   $225.01

I’m not including the significant labour costs involved as I really enjoy the process I would be doing it in my spare time anyway. I also haven’t considered the eBay fees either, which will reduce my in-pocket. Still, I have additional money that I can pay off against my home loan that I didn’t have before. Only a drop in the ocean really but every bit counts.


Never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey

As indicated in my post Obstacles to the dream – Options and opportunities, I recently encountered a challenge to my goal for early retirement.

Without recounting the whole story, I had been assigned to a particular work location for an indefinite period. The issue being that the location provided very little in the way of night or weekend work. This means reduced shift penalties, which means less money.

I’m not talking a few dollars but potentially hundreds each fortnight. For me, this is significant. The other problem was that the location has a low customer volume. I thrive on high-volume work and the difficulties this presents. It is definitely not uncommon during night shifts to have to deal with inebriated customers and those on illicit substances. For some, that sounds horrible. For me, it’s a learning experience and challenges and improves my customer service skills.

For the purpose of my early retirement though, the financial aspect was the key issue. I had been advised by management that I was obliged by my employment agreement to be assigned where there was a business requirement. From a business perspective, I appreciate the necessity to fill a space with staff but I didn’t want that space filled with me!

I asked if there was a further avenue to request reconsideration. I was told that I could contact the head of HR but my chances would be slim. Well, a slim chance was better than no chance, so I went about drafting an email that detailed my claims. I was wary of indicating my financial issues as a primary concern and focussed on points that would benefit the business and others within the business. I made it clear that I could contribute significantly more to a busy station environment and customer satisfaction. I pointed out also there were several other employees that were seeking to obtain a position within the work location that I had been assigned and they would more likely be more motivated and enthusiastic.

Well, I was called by the head of HR today. I was expecting a long-winded explanation of the employee agreement and I had to accept my work location and suck it up. To my surprise, the HR head was very understanding. She agreed that it was much better for the business to have people where they want to be. I suggested at this time the name of a colleague that had expressed an interest in Monday to Friday work. The HR head said she would organise for shifts to be changed for next week and would contact my colleague.

True to her word, the HR head has organised for my shifts to be changed as of next week. I’m back to a busy station and I have a week of night shifts ahead. My mood has been immediately elevated, not just because I have achieved my goal of returning to the work I want but also by the understanding the business has shown to an employee. After being told by a manager at a former company, ‘You don’t get to pick and choose the parts of the job you do’, this was very refreshing. It is positive acts like this that create loyalty and happiness with staff.

I add also that my colleague is very thankful that I had been put her name forward to HR and she has secured a role that will work better with her family commitments and her career goals within the business. A win-win for all I reckon!


The point of the story I suppose is to not let go of your dream lightly. If the HR head had responded negatively, I would have taken the matter to the next level until I either ran out of levels or received the response I wanted.

Another point to consider is how you win someone over to your way of thinking. Whinging and complaining about how much I didn’t want a lighter wallet would most likely get a negative response. Think of what appeals to the person or the business. If they see the proposal as something that will benefit them, they will more likely look at the matter the way you want them to. In this case anyway, it worked!