Back in the day, farmers’ nearest neighbors were four miles away.
Now we’ve got instant everything, and we can see exactly who is making money on what right away. There’s a natural tendency to chase those same practices, especially when people tell you that you can make money off them.
In today’s episode, you’ll hear the story of Clayton Morris, news anchor on Fox & Friends on the Fox News channel. Clayton talks about why “shiny new objects” are so dangerous for entrepreneurs, and how to avoid the disaster they bring in your life.
Green Flag: Shiny Objects
Growing up, I was laser-focused on television. I would watch Carson followed by David Letterman. I wanted to work on that medium, breaking the fourth wall.
I would dream about it. I embodied the idea of focus and intention: “When you write it down and see it as something you know is going to come true, it absolutely happens.” That happened for me. I became a producer and then a news reporter covering politics in Montana.
I had to set up the camera myself and feed myself in Montana. I loved the work. Then I lived all over the country from there, eventually joining the network.
But there was always a negative association with money in the back of my head, based on how I grew up. I think that’s what led me down the path of shiny object syndrome.
What Is Shiny Object Syndrome?
The Internet was burgeoning. I was trying to figure out how to build a website late in the night to sell random crap, even though that wasn’t me. It was all fueled by fear.
You don’t chase shiny objects because it’s a hobby. When you want to play in a band with your friends at 40 and you do it, that’s not a shiny object. That’s a passion hobby.
A shiny object is fueled by fear. Ask yourself the underlying question: why am I doing this? For me it was taking a second job I didn’t want, selling things online for extra income.
What are people afraid of? With entrepreneurs, it’s a fear of missing out, and failure. For me, it was a fear of money, of lack, of not having enough. I grew up with my mom saying “We’re not the Rockefellers; we can’t do that.”
I saw my dad lose his job when I was 13. He became defensive about it, wanting to sue the company, and I thought my life was over. I thought, he’s so scared. That was the root of my own obsession with shiny objects: he did Amway and other similar things, and he read all these new entrepreneurial books halfway.
He’s 82 years old and he still works like crazy. I want to tell him, it’s OK. You’re taken care of, come play with your grandkids. But the fear’s still there.
Red Flag: The Golf Course
I learned at some point that I have a passion for real estate. At one point I lived in a one-bedroom condo in Orlando. An apartment next door became available, so I made an offer and bought it and fixed it up. I sold both and made a great profit.
But that investment went well because I understood the property. I wasn’t so sure about my next venture.
I was asked by a friend to invest in some kind of speculative land, what he called a Phil Mickelson golf course project. I’d never seen it, and it didn’t make much sense to me at all, but I bought it.
As you might have guessed, it was a disaster. Even more, this one investment begot several others that all failed.
Black Flag: Disappearing Act
I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to give me an answer…
The office I was paying to help me essentially vanished into the night…
People were clamoring because we heard about lawsuits against this company who had lied about the value of the property, and the appraisers were in cahoots, artificially inflating values…
That’s when I new everything was collapsing. Yet, I was still on the hook for a loan for a vacant piece of land. It was an empty piece of land with no house or Phil Mickelson golf course. Mickelson himself had backed out a while back.
White Flag: “It’s Just Business”
I was in the hallway at Fox News talking to lawyers, trying to figure out what to do. Then I saw Donald Trump and asked his advice.
He said, “Get rid of it.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
And he said, “It’s just business; walk away. You’ll be fine.”
For me, that meant, let it go into foreclosure and let this community take the land back. That’s basically what happened, although I had tried to work on a short sale that didn’t work out. Half the bank was on my side, half wasn’t: it was a nightmare.
I woke up one morning and found that they sold it, but I was still on the hook, I didn’t have a property anymore, and they wanted their money.
It basically led to a deficiency judgement against me. I went to buy coffee and couldn’t even do that: my card wouldn’t work. I looked at my bank account, and it was all red, negative, frozen.
That’s when I hit a wall.
Checkered Flag: Digging at the Roots
The total loss? All the profit I made off flipping those two properties, plus some. I had invested probably $70,000-80,000, but the loss was even more than that because of how much I was still on the hook for, above and beyond the loan amount.
In that moment, everything changed for me. I was shaking, but I took a deep breath and said to myself, it’s going to be OK. I had no choice.
Now I have terrible credit as a result. I can’t get a loan. I live in Manhattan, so I’m renting. Eventually I came up with an amount and wrote them a check in one fell swoop. I was on a high working for the network, but a low because my personal life was falling apart.
But it was a blessing in disguise. I learned to save money. Even more, I began to address the root of my inner problems: fear of money.
I’ve learned that giving has transformed my thinking. I’ve taken the idea of tithing and applied it to life in general. Whereas I used to agonize over money, I don’t even think about giving anymore. I just do it, and my worry dissipates.
Give unconditionally, and it just starts to come back to you in amazing ways.
- Looking back, why did this failure experience happen to you?
I feared not having enough. So when someone waved a carrot in front of me that looked like it could kickstart my journey, that was enough for me.
- What was the single most important lesson you learned from that experience?
- Don’t chase shiny objects that you don’t understand.
- It’s always going to be OK if you surround yourself with the right types of people who can help you get out of it and mentor you.
- How do you protect yourself from failing in this way again?
I like to let things percolate a bit. I take action on the things I know work, but when it’s something new that I don’t understand, I put it into the “someday/maybe” folder. Later, I might delete it or start to think, I really do want to do this.
- Who do you turn to when you need help?
On the tax/finance side, I turn to Tom Wheelwright. For spiritual/mental help, I turn to my wife. She always grounds me and helps me reconnect with what matters.
- What advice would you give to someone who finds themselves in a similar position?
Take a deep breath, and ask, “Does this align with who I truly am?” If you’re doing something for the wrong reasons, you’re never going to be able to sustain it.
My other advice is, you’re never going to be 100% sure of anything in your life. If you’re 80% sure, just take action.
This episode is based on an interview with Clayton Morris, Fox News anchor and host of the Investing in Real Estate podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to How to Lose Money.
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