“Look at what the masses are doing—and then do the opposite.”
When I first heard this comment, many years ago, at World Wide Group (WWDB) conferences like Free Enterprise Days, I thought about how this principle of success could apply to many areas of my life, not just building a business powered by Amway.
How we raised and educated our children, how we approached our health, how we handled our finances.
After our children were born 11 years ago, family and friends persistently questioned when we were going to move out of our small condo and into a bigger place. During that time, the “look at the masses/do the opposite” principle was something that my husband and I leaned on heavily.
We would run the financial numbers and for a long time it never came close to making sense to move into a house in our rather expensive community—it would simply cause far too much financial stress. Meanwhile, people with about the same (or even less) financial wherewithal were buying homes with price tags and monthly mortgage obligations that were well beyond anything we would feel comfortable purchasing.
“How are they doing it?” we would ask one another, shaking our head.
As it turns out, for more than a few it was with smoke and mirrors. Theirs was wishful or simply foolish financial thinking that they are paying a steep price for today. Foreclosures, homes “under water,” financial outlooks that are gloomy for many years to come—on a regular basis, there are so many people I run into who are still recovering from housing decisions they made, typically between 2005 and 2008.
We waited until a year ago to “move up.” The numbers added up, and we didn’t need to sell our condo to be able to buy a much bigger place within our means.
The delayed-gratification approach contrasts with the stories of people trying to bounce back from decisions made just before the real-estate bubble burst. Their stories come with individual wrinkles, but all express a certain level of shock that the housing market tanked the way it did.
That is because they were listening to people—some with a vested interest in getting people to buy—who had the mantra down cold: “You need to own, you need to own, you need to own.”
We already owned, so the issue isn’t about owning so much as the ridiculous amount of money that people are allowed to borrow, in relation to their earning ability, for a mortgage.
When I hear these stories, I don’t really say much of anything in response, since what’s the point in making people feel bad about their past decisions? But I do think about how foreign this mindset was to me during those years—and it’s because I was listening to the counsel of World Wide Group leaders. They were consistently saying how the real estate market could not sustain the rapid growth.
I particularly recall an impassioned talk by Amway Diamond David Shores one Free Enterprise Days conference, urging Independent Business Owners not to get seduced by mortgage brokers who had no interest in us, but were only interested in making a deal.
Amway Executive Diamonds Dan and Sandy Yuen and Founders Crowns Brad and Julie Duncan would talk about renting their homes for years while they built up huge cash reserves. As a result, when they did make the move to home ownership, they were so financially strong that they could buy without being strapped for cash afterwards.
With the passage of time, and having gotten a glimpse at the financial devastation so many people have suffered, I have a deeper appreciation for the wisdom of World Wide’s counter-cultural teaching and training.