Monday, December 11, 2006

Do Over's

Have you ever wanted a chance to re-live your life and make different decisions? I certainly have. I always seem to be just behind the curve in determining profitable course of action. In college, during one of my co-op assignments I spent 2 work periods doing computer programming. I enjoyed it but was studying Chemical Engineering at the time. I did not recognize the tremendous opportunity about to unfold in computers and computer science. As a Chemical Engineer I have had to work in economically depressed areas and missed the two major real estate booms. I talked previously about how I got on-board the 1980's real estate boom just 2 years before the market collapsed and didn't recognize the negative population shift in my community.

I switched all my 401k from a fixed income to stocks in late 1999 only to see the account lose 40% of its value 2 years later. I bought a lot of my company stock at its peak and it dropped and stayed at 50% of its former value for the past 6 years. I've missed the real estate boom of the last 7 years as well. There was no boom in the Buffalo area and I was too late (and maybe too timid) to invest in some area of the country that was booming.

In a war there is something called a OODA Loop. OODA stands for Observation, Orientation, Decision & Action. The idea is that you have to cycle through that loop faster than your enemies (or in business, the competition) in order to win.

Now many people are procrastinators and have difficult time either deciding or acting. Throughout my life I have never had a problem with either of these. I make decisions quickly and act decisively.

The first two parts of the cycle have to do with observing what is happening. I am thinking of major shifts in demographics or technology. The second part, orientation, has to do I think with getting inside the mind of the competition - what are other people doing, thinking, what's hot, what's not.

I think that I have been deficient in both these areas. To some extent I have been aware of the broad shift in population demographics, technology, interest rates, etc. but clueless about trends in consumer activity.

I remember seeing The Graduate. I took the career advice in 1971 from movie made in 1967 and got into "plastics" when now I wish I had gotten involved in computers. Looking back at the many decisions I have made, I don't think that they were wrong, just too late.
So many people may want "do overs" of decisions made in their life. I don't. I feel I am just too late to the party. I think that this is a correct analysis. My personality is quite introverted and though I read a lot, I don't interact with people much.

I'm just starting to invest in real estate as the market is cooling. Is this another example of bad timing? I have no illusions that any of my properties will appreciate because of market trends. My strategy is to hold no more than one year, so I don't get caught like I did in WV. I'm trying to make my money when I buy.

Blogging seems like one perfect venue for a person like me. But I'm not sure if I am too late for the OODA loop, although I don't think blogging has really gone mainstream yet. I've been reading blogs for at least 2 years but until just recently didn't see the income potential. The key part of this challenge is being oriented to what the marketplace wants. There remains the crux of the matter.

Will this be a decision I want to "do over", bad timing or can I take advantage of a new trend early enough? Can I find a need and fill it?

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