I owe a lot to just one man.
At one of our conferences the other day, someone asked me who my favourite investor was.
I guess they were expecting me to go with Warren Buffet or Richard Branson or something like that.
And as much as I love those guys, the truth is I model my investment philosophy on someone else – a man named Alan.
I don’t expect you to have ever heard of Alan. He was a friend of my fathers, and was around when I was a teenager – when my father would have ‘the boys’ over for a drinking session on the back patio.
He also never amassed the kind of fortune that makes you famous (or notorious). But that never bothered him. He was never in it for the fame. For him, it was the creative challenge of it all. To him, investing was more like a sport.
And I know we’re all unique, but Alan was truly unique. Like he had been installed with a different operating system or something. He would be entirely, full-power present with you one moment, and then in the blink of the eye, he would be lost to some creative horizon, almost like he was talking to you from a different room (or different dimension).
But as unique as he was, he was a great role-model to young investors like me. Here are three things I took form the gospel of Alan.
1. Walk your own path
I’m struggling to think of a rule that Alan followed to the letter. Maybe, ‘wear pants in public’. (I never saw him without pants, but then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a ‘pantless phase’ at some point.)
But Alan wasn’t a rebel for the sake of it. He wasn’t anti-authoritarian by nature. He just didn’t see any rules as fixed. Everything was up for negotiation. Everything could be looked at with fresh eyes. You could write your own rules.
Many of us just accept the limits that are placed on us without ever really testing them – without even asking ‘why?’ Many of these limits are inherited – from society or from our parents, or from something an elf said on Lord of the Rings once. They’re not really ours.
Limits are ok, but we need to do the work to make sure that we’re ok with the limits we accept – that they are actually in alignment with our values.
2. Push yourself…. Hard.
Another thing that inspired me about Alan was that he seemed to be addicted to pushing his own boundaries. He was constantly challenging himself. Constantly taking himself off in new directions.
It was like one week he was doing property development. The next it was a tourism business in Queensland. The next it was family-run vineyard in New Zealand.
You know how some weight-lifters get addicted to doing weights. Arnold Swartznegger once said it was better than sex. (Might depend on how you’re doing it, Arnie.) But even though lifting heavy weights is a difficult and challenging and exhausting thing, they get addicted to it. They can’t get enough of it.
Alan was like that when it came to challenges that pushed his boundaries – that expanded his comfort zone.
Ultimately I wonder if Alan might have been a more successful investor if he had stuck with just one thing. It’s like me. I know what I like. I like property in general, and right now, town-house developments in particular.
The more experience you have, the easier something becomes.
But while I’ve probably now made more money than Alan ever did, I can say for certain that Alan had more fun doing it.
Every new venture was an adventure and an opportunity to learn a little bit more about himself.
This is an inspiring way to live.
3. Back yourself… to the hilt.
The other thing that inspired me about Alan was that he had absolute faith in his own resources. He was relentless with self-education and self-improvement (which is another thing I took from him), so he did have a deep-well to draw on.
But many people have a lot of skills. Not everyone has an unshakeable belief in their capacities.
It’s kind of why Alan was able to drop into so many worlds, and take on such different projects.
It was like he knew that whatever happened, he’d make it work. If that delicatessen in Fitzroy turned out to be a dud, he’d turn it into something. He’d make it fly.
And if he couldn’t? Well, it was like he just had faith that everything works out for the best in the end.
He had faith in himself and faith in the world.
Put those two together, and the world just becomes your playground.
An ordinary / not-so ordinary hero
The last I heard of Alan he was off to WA to manage a cattle station or something, and I think he’s probably passed away now.
But of all the characters I’ve met in my life, Alan stands out as one of the most inspiring – perhaps not as an investor, but definitely as a being determined to live life to the fullest. And after all, isn’t that what we’re really talking about?