“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder, but a man with unrealistic goals is a man headed for trouble.”
Another cause of my burnout was the fact that my goals were set unrealistically. I had set my goals high, aware that they had to make me stretch but unaware that we are all like elastic bands: if we stretch too far we eventually snap. When a goal appeared to be within reach, I would immediately revise my goal upward out of reach again, always within an unrealistic time frame. The horrendous amount of self-induced stress took its toll on me mentally and physically.
At the age of twenty-one, I set a goal of having a net worth of 1 million dollars by the time I was 50. I went right into business with the determination of a bulldog to achieve it. For starters, I would never work for anyone but myself.
My brother Dave said to me just before leaving the farm, “Ben, you can do anything you want to do, if you want to do it badly enough.” I believed him. I wanted to be a financial success more than anything in the world.
Within eighteen months of leaving home, I was not only married to the girl of my dreams, but also operating a successful plumbing and electrical business with my brother Dave. We were in the midst of the 1981/82 recession. Here I was, just new in business, the country in a deep recession, and I decided to buy land to build a home for my wife and me. This wasn’t just any lot. It was 50 acres of land with the Nith River running through it just 3 miles from the Community Farm where I was born and raised. The price tag was $96,000 dollars. After all, I did have $2,000 dollars in the bank. The vendor was willing to hold a mortgage for the entire purchase price, I was convinced that I was going to be a success in business and, on top of that, I had nothing to lose.
You can just imagine the looks I got from bankers when I approached them looking for a loan to build the house of my dreams on a piece of land I had already mortgaged to the hilt. Without a track record as a borrower, without experience as a businessman and without any collateral, I was deemed a bad risk. They tried to explain to me how my Gross Debt Servicing Ratio was way out of whack and that nobody could make $1,200 monthly mortgage payments plus taxes and utilities on an income of $2,000/month.
Every bank I visited turned me down. However, they all offered to finance me after I had proved myself in business and had acquired some assets that I could give them as collateral. When leaving their offices, I would say “It sounds like you’re prepared to loan me money when I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that I have no need for it.”
Not finding the money was not going to stop me from building a house. I just went ahead and started the foundation of our new home in December 1981, less than two years after I left the farm. People thought I was crazy. My Dad even tried to convince my lawyer at the time to talk me out of purchasing the land. This was a recession; however, trades-people were looking for work, prices were down and I wanted a house of my own. In sixty days, my wife and I moved into our new home without a mortgage. However, I did have some outstanding accounts with my sub-trades and suppliers.
Returning to my local bank, I informed the manager that I had just built the house he had refused to finance and asked him to reconsider giving me the mortgage. He agreed. I hadn’t even begun to start worrying whether I would be able…