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My wife texted this photo to me of a traffic light in Washington DC. What are you supposed to do with a mixed signal like that?

It reminded me of a quote by Andy Stanley when he said that “direction, not intention, determines your destination.” How many times do we give ourselves mixed signals about what we want?

When I’m not clear about what I want, how can the universe respond when I give it hazy instructions?

Even if I do know what I want but I don’t commit ACTION towards my goals, the universe responds with, “You say you want this, but you’re not acting like you do, so I don’t think you REALLY want this.”

If you want something in life, you have to be clear about what you want and then you have to ACT as if you really want it. Otherwise you’re sending mixed signals into the universe, and the universe responds to those instructions for what they are: mixed signals.

Actually, I think it’s much simpler than that. Mixed signals don’t “fool” the universe. It cuts right through it all and knows that which you REALLY want and gives it to you. Mixed signals only fool you.

I’ve experienced the spectrum of mixed signals. I’ve been clear about what I wanted and took massive action with staggering success. Other times I wasn’t really sure what I wanted and nothing changed.

In the more recent past, I wanted something but didn’t act on it, and the universe responded to my most inner wishes, but not in the way I wanted.

My Story

When I quit my software job in 2005 to embark on the entrepreneurial journey full-time, I decided to follow Kiyosaki’s advice and do real estate and a cash flow business. The cash flow business was a pizza franchise, and the real estate was flipping houses.

I had made a goodly sum from the IPO of our software company and decided to bet big on the restaurants to achieve a lifetime of passive income. My thought was that I could afford to build or buy 3-5 restaurants, they would be managed by a manager (passive income, right?) and the profits would cover my living expenses and fuel expansion. My business plan called for 200 units in 10 years. A BIG yet achievable plan.

I was on track with my plan and had 4 restaurants when the recession hit. People stopped buying high-end, gourmet, good-for-you pizza in favor of cheaper alternatives. The chain never really recovered and languished in mediocrity. Same store sales declined by 25% and never rebounded.

We tightened our belt like everyone else in the country and limped along, but it was clear to me that the original business plan was no longer going to work. In 2013 profits had gotten so thin that I had to let my manager go because I couldn’t afford to pay him anymore. This meant that I now had HIS job and was managing the restaurants myself.

The problem was, I didn’t really want his job. People told me that sometimes you have to do what you have to do, and for me that meant getting my hands dirty a bit and doing something that I didn’t really want to do.

At that point I saw the writing on the wall and suspected that things wouldn’t get any better. I really longed to do more real estate (apartment buildings specifically; I owned one building at this point), but I had absolutely no time to make further progress towards my goal of 200 units. I knew apartment buildings were my future, but I felt I couldn’t do anything about it.

I put my desire to do apartment buildings into the universe, and that wish was sincere. But I didn’t take any action towards my desire. I wasn’t doing anything to get out of the pizza business. So how sincere was it really?

And then things got worse. I started losing money. Lots of it. Eventually, I put the restaurants up for sale. And they took a lot longer to sell than I had hoped. I had to drop the price dramatically to get them sold, and then I had to sell many of them with seller financing, further reducing the amount of much-needed cash I would get from the proceeds.

So the last couple of years have been very unpleasant for me financially and emotionally.

Lessons Learned

Looking back on this in hindsight, I think the universe responded to my desire to get out of the pizza business to pursue apartment buildings with, “OK, Michael, I hear you and I will help you achieve that which you want.” And if I wasn’t helping in the endeavor, the universe helped me despite myself by forcing me to sell the restaurants — which is something I should have done much sooner. Perhaps when I had to let my manager go. Or perhaps much sooner than that even, namely when I first uttered the wish to get out of restaurants and into the next phase of my life.

And that’s my point: If we send mixed signals into the universe, we might eventually get to where we want to go. But how long and painful is the process? Wouldn’t it be much more “efficient” if we took some time to reflect and then be more intentional with our actions?

What would have happened if I took massive action as soon as I became aware that I wanted to change my life? I would have been able to sell the restaurants for a lot more money (because the sales were higher), I would have been able to start with apartment building investing full-time a lot earlier (opportunity cost), and I would have avoided a massive loss of capital and emotional distress.

Now that I have the privilege of working with students who want to change their lives by investing in apartment buildings, I see the gamut of mixed and aligned signals.

On the one hand, there is the attorney who has a high-paying job he doesn’t like very much and is looking forward to being bought out of his partnership in 3-5 years and is looking for a transition strategy. He buys my course, but then doesn’t take any action. Why? Because the status quo isn’t really so bad, and deep down he really doesn’t want to change his life. The universe says, “Ok.”

On the other hand, there is the student who says he wants the same thing (change his future by investing in apartment buildings), but takes MASSIVE action by quitting his job (he has the savings for about 9 months) and focusing on investing full time.

Which one of these will actually change his life? The one who sends mixed signals or the one who aligns his wishes and actions?

What kind of signals are you sending into the universe? Do you know what you want? How clear are you about this? Can you see it? Do you believe it? What actions are you taking towards your goals?

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