Successful real estate investing, like any business endevour, boils down to five simple steps: having a desire, setting a goal, building a team, identifying a plan, and working that plan. That is one of the main principles I teach all my protégé's.

Recently I survived open-heart surgery (a triple bypass, to be exact). One of the many valuable lessons I learned in the process is that the principles that aided in my speedy recovery are very similar to those that lead to being a successful real estate investor -- or a success in life. Until the moment I was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit, I had no idea I needed surgery. Other than a chest pain, or two, I had been feeling fine. I knew I my cholesterol level was high, and I was dealing with that head on. But my trip to the hospital for an angiogram and the resulting hookup in the Cardiac Care Unit, a prelude to surgery within a few hours, took me totally by surprise. On the bright side, I didn’t have to give surgery a lot of thought or planning. On the not so bright side, my life was literally in the balance. I either had immediate surgery or I died. Simple. I chose surgery.

My recovery has been astounding. Initially, I was told I would probably be in CCU for a couple of days after they sewed me up, if things went well, and then I would enjoy a hospital room vacation for an additional four or five days. However, my total stay was four days. Why the speedy turnaround? Why was I able to accomplish in four days what could have taken seven?

The answer, I think, is complex on one hand and very simple on the other. First, I was a relatively young man – a young 55, and in relatively good physical shape. Second, there were lots of people praying for me, and I believe in the power of prayer. Third, I had excellent medical/surgical care. And, fourth, I also possessed a healthy attitude. I was moved from CCU to a private room one day after the surgery. From that point on, my goal was to go home where I could rest, take a shower, enjoy normal food -- live my life.

I asked myself: “What do I have to do to get out of here?” I viewed my circumstance as a business objective. As soon as the fog of anesthesia wore off, I began to formulate a plan that would enable me to sleep in my own bed -- I possessed a burning desire. Just as I do in my real estate investing, I assembled a team, accumulated information, set a goal, made a plan, and worked the plan. I reduced the plan to daily activity and focused on the daily activity. As I’ve learned in my investing career, it isn’t enough to simply say in wild, general terms, “I want to be millionaire.” You want to know where you’re going (the goal), how you think you’re going to get there (the plan), and the daily activity in which you must engage (working your plan) to achieve that overall goal.

Stepping Stones to Wellness
While in the hospital, I had three main objectives to realize my goal of going home: 1) the oxygen supply had to be terminated, 2) I had to be able to get out of bed and walk, and 3) my bowels had to be operational. At this point I had to have some help -- there were things I didn’t know -- so I assembled my team (every successful real estate investor has a good team to support him or her and lend a hand when it’s needed the most. Included are knowledgeable real estate brokers, mortgage bankers and brokers, accountants, attorneys, and mentors.)

My recovery “team” became the nursing staff who poked, prodded, and gave me an all around bad time – just kidding. Actually, they loved me. To get off the external oxygen supply, I was given a breathing apparatus to use. It hurt a great deal, but for the next three days I forced myself to regularly exhale and inhale through this device to expand my lungs. I had a clearly defined goal and I was working the plan. Eventually, my lung capacity increased and I was breathing without the aid of hospital-supplied oxygen. Getting out of bed proved to be quite a chore, too. The first time the staff helped me sit up, a sharp, stabbing pain ripped through me like an out-of-control freight train heading downhill. Although I was medicated, a scream of pain filled the room. To say that I was out of my comfort zone is a gross understatement.

But to achieve my goal, I had to work my plan. That meant I had to get out of bed – to leave my comfort zone -- and walk! If getting up was out of my comfort zone, walking was out of the question. But that’s precisely what I forced myself to do. Initially, a nurse assisted me out of bed and supported me as I pushed a wheelchair carrying my oxygen supply down the hospital hallway. On day two I realized I could make the trek myself – so I did. Cautiously, I slid out of bed, stood on my wobbly legs, and took my first unassisted steps. Before long, I was making the trip down the hallway about every hour. Was I comfortable? No. Did it hurt? You bet! But I wanted to reach my goal, and the quickest way to do that was to get out of my comfort zone and be uncomfortable for a short period of time.

The next challenge was a little more demanding since it involved more than a matter of will. My surgeon explained how my internal system sort of shut down as a result of the trauma experienced during surgery. He said that before he would release me, my bowels would have to move. I “assembled” my success team. The doctor prescribed a stool softener. A nurse on my team shared her experience: five prunes from room service. Not four, not six. I ate five. Another nurse shared her belief in warm prune juice. I drank microwave warmed prune juice. I gathered information and included my own experience with relaxation and visualization, ordered another serving of prunes, and went to work with my goal in view. I’ll spare you the details and near misses, even though I think the lesson may be humorous and even enlightening, but success was achieved. As soon as the deed was done, the nurse finalized the paper work that allowed me to head for home.

Stepping Stones to Real Estate Success
Being a successful real estate investor may not always easy or comfortable. There are times we’re forced to get out of our comfort zones and learn new information or techniques. But the benefits far outweighs the difficult times.

Step One: If you want to succeed, you must possess a burning desire to improve your living or financial condition, assemble a team to help you, have a clearly defined goal, put together a plan, and then, work your plan. The result is success. For example, if you want to enjoy the freedom that comes from financial independence, embrace the desire to do so. It’s neither illegal nor immoral to aspire to better living conditions for you and your family.

Step Two:
Next, define what measure you will use so you’ll know when you get there. In other words, set a goal. Will you be “free” if you earn $2,500 per month in passive income? Or, is $25,000 per month, or more, “success?” There is no right or wrong answer for this question, but you must know were you want to go so you will know when you’ve arrived. You are limited only by your belief system. If you believe success is not achievable, you are right! If you believe that you can be moderately successful, you are right there, too. But guess what – if you believe you can be “wildly successful,” however you define it, that is also correct. What you believe about your ability to succeed is true and forms your reality. Setting and achieving goals are closely tied to what you believe about yourself, your reality, and your burning desire to improve your life.

Step Three:
After you have established your measure of success, assemble a team to help you achieve your goal. Why is a team important? The fact is, you don’t know everything – nobody does. As a result, you need people to help you fill in the blanks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. There are lots of things I don’t know. What separates me from some, however, is the fact that I know where to go to get the answers, and a quick phone call takes care of most questions. My success team fills in my weak areas. My team has specialized knowledge that would take me years to acquire. I have little interest in gaining the information required to be an accomplished attorney, CPA, mortgage broker, engineer, title officer, city planner, specialized mentor, etc., nor do I have the time. I gladly pay them for their time and expertise because I know the investment will make my success come that much more quickly. I can accomplish in six months what might take me ten years if I try to do it all on my own.

Step Four:
Assemble your team, gather the information you need, and write a plan to get where you want to go. The plan is like a road map, it gives you direction. Your plan might include how many real estate investments you are going to make in a year (or whatever measurement you want to use), and what you’re going to do to achieve that. Your plan might include positive cash flow, foreclosures, wrap mortgages, paper profits, options, lease options, sandwich leases, flipping, construction, development, rehab properties, section 1031 exchanges, or any other investment tool or vehicle.

Step Five:
Writing a plan gives you a strategy. Your strategy comes by breaking your plan into manageable daily activities. For my hospital visit, working the plan meant my strategy was to walk as often as possible, breath deeply regularly, and eat prunes. Working your plan might include looking at one property per day (or twenty), making one offer to purchase per day (or ten), networking with people who have specialized knowledge, researching real estate trends in specific areas, reading all you can about the various methods of investing, meeting with your mentor(s), or similar activities. Before I retired I owned a large real estate brokerage office. I encouraged my agents/brokers to write in their calendar one hour each day, five days a week, for nothing but prospecting for buyers and sellers. I advised them to let nothing hinder that one hour of prospecting -- not a sale, closing, phone call, or a walk-in customer. I wanted them to have a plan and work their plan because I knew by doing so they would achieve financial success.

You, too, can achieve financial success also by creating a plan and working it. The main reason real estate investors fail is because they don’t follow the steps. If you’ll determine to follow the steps laid out in this article, even though they move you out of your comfort zone, success will come. Your burning desire will become your reality. I promise.

Don Loyd, President
Oregon Association of Professional Real Estate Investors

Author's Bio: 

Don Loyd has been active in Central Oregon Real Estate for more than 35 years as a Real Estate Agent/Broker, Investor, Developer, General Contractor, and Corporate Marketing Vice President.

A gifted communicator, Don's resume includes teaching under-graduate and through post-graduate course work. He serves as President of the Oregon Association of Professional Real Estate Investors and Executive Director of Northwest Real Estate Institute.

Don is also an investment mentor and group leader of Central Oregon Real Estate Investment Club. Meeting weekly, the group learns the nuts and bolts of sound, safe real estate investing and receives encouragement in their investment career.

He’s authored four books, three on the subject of Real Estate Investing;

My New Reality Journal,

Marketing and Selling Your Home – A Practical Guide for FSBOs and

Earn Amazing Money – Think Your Way to Riches.

He is currently working on a two new books entitled Creating Wealth for Women and The Manual for Financial Freedom.

Don’s articles appear on several web sites and he is a contributing real estate investment writer for Cascade Business News.

Don owns and operates Aspen Tree Homes, LLC (, a general contracting and development company that will enjoy annual revenue of 37 million dollars for the current year and Certified Brokers, LLC ( He also owns the highly successful DEL Design and Drafting (, an architectural design service.

Don believes in giving back to the community. Over the last 35 plus years he has served in various roles for, and generously gives to, local non-profit organizations and churches. He is involved in his community and is listed in the ninth addition of Who’s Who in American Politics.

Believing some change needed to take place at the state level, he made a run for the Oregon State Senate in 2004. At this writing he serves as Vice President on the Board of Directors of High Desert Christian College.

He currently donates his Fridays to helping new real estate investors learn how to create wealth, enjoy positive cash flow and eliminate bad debt. He is currently writing a book on the subject of creating wealth through real estate investing, as well as putting on learning seminars to help other Realtors and Investors understand the unique Contractor and Developer laws in Oregon.