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442: Lane Kawaoka on Real Estate and Life

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What do you do when you’re not happy with the way things are? That’s a question I have been asking myself a lot lately.

In my case, I’m talking about life outside of business and real estate. You see, I’ve been divorced for a few years now and I have still not really rebuilt my life since then.

When I have my kids, it all makes sense. It’s about being with them. Last weekend we played four square, badminton and threw around a baseball. I’m pretty sure I had more fun than they did.

But when I’m not with them, I sometimes feel like I live in a 7500-square-foot luxury jail. You see, I work from home and really don’t have any reason to leave the house. Every morning I work out. Maybe I go on a hike or I lift weights secretly hoping that bigger muscles will solve my social problems.

Sure I have some friends but most of them are married and busy with their own families. The dating scene in Santa Barbara has been remarkably bad and so… I’m still single. The bottom line is that my social life needs a facelift.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I don’t know about you, but I spent so much of my life engineering a successful career and virtually no time working on my life outside of it. A lot of guys get away with that and let their wives handle the social stuff.

Well, I don’t have one of those so I have to fix the problem myself. Somehow. But how? It occurred to me the other day that I should start looking at my social life the same way I look at business. What did I do to become successful in my professional life?

Thinking back, I kept seeing a similar pattern. I would decide what I want to do and somehow make it happen by physical movement—even if it didn’t make sense. Somehow, that movement itself seemed to make it happen.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate. As you know, I was a neurosurgery resident for about a year and a half at the University of Michigan before I decided I was done with that kind of lifestyle and quit the program.

It was the dead of winter in Ann Arbor and I suddenly found myself without direction. I decided to do some rotations on some of the other surgical specialty teams at the hospital and ultimately decided to move from Neurosurgery to a specialty called Otolaryngology-Head and Neck surgery—basically head and neck surgery of everything except the brain and spinal cord.

To be clear, I wasn’t passionate about this new speciality. I decided to do it because the hours just seemed better and it seemed like most of the professors had pretty good lifestyles.

Now, I just had to figure out how I was going to get myself a residency position. This was a difficult task. I was looking for a second-year position in a program somewhere in the country where someone had, for whatever reason, left a vacancy for me. Most programs only had 2-3 residents per year to begin with. It’s a small specialty.

I didn’t have a clear place to start, so I decided just to put myself out there and see what would happen. I chose the top 10 programs in the country and wrote letters (not emails) to their chairmen. One of those programs was the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

In case you don’t know, UCSF is one of the top hospitals in the world. For me, getting a spot at UCSF would be like hitting the lottery. Beyond the reputation of the hospital, my sister lived in San Francisco and I really loved the idea of moving there. I had had enough of being in a small college town in the Midwest.

So I sent those letters out. A week later, I was sitting in the hospital library looking at programs on the internet when it occurred to me that I had no reason to be in Michigan anymore. I had an impulse to drop everything and fly to San Francisco.

So I turned my internet search over to orbitz.com and looked up the next flight to San Francisco. It was leaving in 3 hours from Columbus—just enough time for me to drive there. So I went home, grabbed my stuff and headed to the airport.

I landed in San Francisco just a few hours later. And, when the plane was taxiing, I turned on my phone and was shocked to see a text message from Dr.David Eisele, then Chairman of the Head and Neck Surgery Department at UCSF. In response to my letter, he was inviting me to interview for an unexpected vacancy in his program. I went to see him the next day and he offered me the job.

Now you can call that coincidence, but the chances of all this happening randomly seem ridiculously small to me. I felt like somehow, I had willed this to happen by putting those letters in the mail and by physically moving myself to San Francisco.

And if this story sounds crazy to you, I’ve got a lot more where that came from. Ask me about them next time you see me. I don’t know how to explain these stories, but I’ve got a lot of them.

So my challenge now is trying to use this same kind of energy to give myself a social life! It’s a lot harder than professional stuff but maybe it will work. I’ll let you know how it goes lol.

In the meantime, the reason I brought up this stuff is because the first time I met Lane Kawaoka was at a meeting that I went to that ultimately led me to podcast. That was almost a decade ago.

Since then, Lane launched his own successful podcast. I mentored him when he was younger and I’ve learned quite a bit from him as well.

On this week’s Wealth Formula Podcast, Lane and I reminisce on the old days and talk about the current state of the investment world. I hope you enjoy the discussion.

12:38 Lessons from the Years

23:15 Investing Outside of Multifamily

29:59 The Construction Space

35:31 The Wealth Elevator