In today’s episode, we’re talking with a long-time member of the Land Investing Masterclass, JT Olmstead.
JT is an IT Engineer-turned-land-investor who has been pursuing real estate for more than ten years. During the time JT has been involved with the REtispter Community, I’ve heard him offer a lot of good input and helpful feedback for others in the business. I always thought he had a good head on his shoulders, so I figured it was time to get him on a call so we could talk shop and see what kind of fascinating lessons come out.
One unique thing about JT is that he’s not afraid to go after the big stuff. In this conversation, we’ll talk about some of the BIG deals he’s gone after, some of the unexpected problems that have come up along the way, and what it’s like to move earth around and get your hands dirty.
Not surprisingly, he had a lot of sage advice to offer, and I think you’ll enjoy it!
Links and Resources
- 052: How to Be a Selling Machine in the Land Business w/ Peter Toth
- Simple Real Estate Postcards That Work
- A Closer Look at My Blind Offer Template
- Everything You Need to Know About Getting Your County’s Delinquent Tax List
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- How Land Specialized Agent Can Change the Game for Land Investors
- 030: A Decade of Land Investing Experience in 60 Minutes w/ Renee Riker
- 072: Is It Heroic or Idiotic to “Burn the Ships”?
Episode 91 Transcription
Seth: Hey, everybody. How’s it going? This is Seth Williams and Jaren Barnes, and you're listening to the REtipster podcast. In today's episode we're talking with a long-time member of the REtipster community and the Land Investing Masterclass, JT Olmstead.
JT is an IT engineer turned real estate investor, and he's been investing for over a decade now. And the reason I thought JT would be a great guy for us to talk to is because I've had the occasional interaction with him over the years, as he's been involved with our community and I actually got to meet up with him in person at the BiggerPockets conference last year in Nashville. And every time I've talked with him or just seen his comments and posts on social media and at our forum and things like that, he always has just kind of a unique perspective on things. And he always adds a lot of value in the things that he says. He's one of those guys that's worth paying attention to because he just has a lot of valuable contributions to give.
And I know he's done some notable things in his land investing business, which he's now doing full time, which is another notable thing about where he's at in his journey. So, I thought we should just get on a call and just start talking and hopefully something great will come out of this. So, JT, how are you doing? Welcome to the show.
JT Olmstead: I’m going great. Thanks for having me on.
Seth: Yeah. I know a little bit about your story, but maybe we can start from the very beginning. What is your backstory? How did you first get into real estate and how did you get into land investing specifically?
JT Olmstead: It was definitely over time. So, I've probably been obsessed with investing for about a decade or so. Obviously, you don't get involved in investing in general without running into real estate. So, on and off, I would come across various real estate opportunities or real estate education pieces, and then kind of learn bits and pieces, but never really caught the bug, until about three years ago or so. Where after running through some models and deciding where I should start allocating some of my capital that I've been saving up over the years, I determined that real estate was going to be an awesome opportunity, risk adjusted for those returns.
So, I looked at single family and said, “Nah, it's not really going to be my jam. I don't think that's what I want to do." And then I jumped feet-first into commercial, which was quite a way to stumble into real estate.
Seth: Wow. That is a big jump. Yeah.
JT Olmstead: Yeah. So that's a whole story in and of itself. But ultimately after getting into commercial, I continued to keep my ears open as I often do and looked for other opportunities to invest. And that's when I came across land investing in one of the financial podcasts that I followed at the time. It was amazing. It sounded just too good to be true. And so being the person I am, I started investigating. I said, “Well, this sounds ridiculously good, but how good is it really?” I jumped on all the places I could find information like BiggerPockets and other forums and looking around. And I found a couple of major players in the space, in the education space for land at the time.
After looking at all of the other individuals, I settled on the REtipster Masterclass. Because it was just amazing to me what kind of opportunity you guys presented in the Masterclass. Because of all the pieces out there, I was really enthralled by the way that Seth approached education. I was really impressed with the way that you were willing to put out all the information, to share it with everybody and really wanted to legitimately help people be better at investing and be better at investing in real estate. And that really spoke to me as an individual. And so, I said, “You know what? He's the guy I want to align myself with." So, I jumped into the course. The course is obviously fantastic, super detailed. I love it. But now, that's kind of how I stumbled into real estate in general and then ultimately into land.
Jaren: Yeah. It's funny that you say that JT, because we've been talking recently about coming out with different products and just different things to bring to our audience here at REtipster. And with the Land Masterclass, it's kind of a funny thing because we really don't have any way to up-sell or come up with a Land 2.0 version of the Land Masterclass or whatever, because we've literally given everything and the kitchen sink in the Land Masterclass.
It's always awkward when people come to me and they say, “Why should we buy the Land Masterclass over this person's course or that person's course?” And I'm like, well, obviously I don’t want to be super biased. So, you probably shouldn't ask me that question because I'm going to be like, it's the greatest thing since sliced cheese. But what I hear consistently from other people is that it's just much more thorough than anything else that's out there. Seth really just lays the foundation from start to finish. We just got an email this week, wasn't it, Seth?
Jaren: Where somebody said, “I literally just did everything you said in the course and I just did my first deal. I am so thankful for you guys. This is incredible.” Because we really don't hold anything back. I don’t know, you just hit a passion button for me, man. There's a reason why I work here and that I'm so passionate about REtipster because Seth has created this community where there's no strings attached. There's no, like, “I give you this little course, but if you pay $10,000 more, $100,000 more than you're going to get the real stuff." It's like, “No, no, no, here's everything." And majority of it is for free on the blog. So, it's pretty amazing.
JT Olmstead: Yeah. That's actually I think the key thing that tipped in your favor at the beginning was exactly that. I looked at it and said, “Most of the stuff you can find scattered around our YouTube channel and blogs and all these other things. But if you want a streamlined, really beefed-up version of this, this is it." And I said, if he's willing to take all this stuff and really try to help you by giving it away effectively, and then you can buy in and really supercharge that, then that's exactly what I want to do. And I've been continually impressed by how detailed everything is in the course. And then again, continually impressed by the value that's continued to be added over the years. It wasn't like I started with one and that's what I've got X years later. It's just gotten better and more stuff has been and clarified as things continue to progress. So yeah, I've been pretty, pretty happy with it.
Seth: Yeah. Thanks a lot. That's great to hear.
Jaren: Well, I wanted to ask you JT a little bit more about your land business specifically, because I'm curious when you went full time, how much did terms deals versus cash deals factor into the ability to be fully sustained on your land business? Do you do a lot of term deals? Do you do mostly cash? What's your whole situation going on?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. I would say in the beginning I was kind of open to both. Initially I was thinking, “Oh, yes, I'm just going to build up a huge note portfolio and this can be awesome. All these random streams of income.” And over time, I kind of determined that I didn't want a massive note portfolio as far as the volume of notes, but I would rather have higher quality notes and fewer of them to manage.
And so, right now that's kind of what I do. I do a mix of owner financing and cash, kind of a more expensive owner financing. Let's say my average note is around $700 right now. And so, I kind of shoot for that higher price point that allows people to come in in such a way that I don't have to have seven $100 notes. I just have one $700 note. And I kind of prefer that model.
Seth: You mean you're getting paid $700 per month. Is that what you mean by that?
JT Olmstead: Correct. Yeah. So, the monthly note payment is around $700.
Seth: Now, I'm actually curious because I know a lot of people who go full-time sort of dovetailing on that seller financing question from Jaren. A lot of full-timers will do like a high volume of deals. You're not necessarily focused on doing a few big ones. What's your approach? Are you trying to just focus on the few huge deals or are you just willing to take anything and everything, as long as it makes money for you?
JT Olmstead: Actually, my first purchase was a $50,000 property, but I've since then tried smaller stuff as well. And I've found that for me, it just doesn't tend to make sense with the way that I've built my model to work with anything that's going to sell for less than, let's say $15,000.
Jaren: You can tell that you are a full-time land investment, man. Your phone's getting hit up even as we are doing the podcast.
JT Olmstead: Yeah. Sorry, let me remove that. That's my attorney from one of my closings.
Jaren: We should probably keep it in man. It's like proof of concept right there.
JT Olmstead: Yeah. That's true.
Jaren: To know you're the real deal.
JT Olmstead: You definitely hit me up right now. But I love the fact that with owner financing, you can kind of take it either way, right? People who basically set up a whole team, like really a machine to crank out deals. And when I thought about, do I want to run a small team of employees, VAs, whatever, and then have this massive machine machinery insurance for deals, or would I rather run like a solar operation as far as volume goes, but just kind of a higher price point.
And for me, luckily, I didn't have to have the cash flow right out the gate to quit my job. I had been building up this nest egg that I was sitting on, and that was my capital I was going to use to invest in land. Over the years I've been saving and saving and saving. And so, I had enough money to set aside and say, “I'm going to live off this money while I figure it all out. And then I have this money set over here to really invest with."
And so that, let me kind of try some things and kind of venture into different areas until I figured out what I really liked. And for me, that's kind of five acres and up-ish and usually around $15,000 on the sales side. And that's kind of my low end. And then from then on up is where I'll take anything up to a quarter million dollars in sales.
Seth: So, this first deal you just mentioned, the one for $50,000. So that was your purchase price. Is that right?
JT Olmstead: Correct. Yes.
Seth: Because that's a lot of money. How did you get comfortable with that? And how much did you end up selling it for? Maybe you can dissect that one for us.
JT Olmstead: Yeah, absolutely. So, again, luckily for me, where strategically really, I had gotten myself to the point where I had a fair amount of capital to invest. And so, $50,000 wasn't all of the capital I had in the bank. And so, I was willing to take a risk on it. Combine that with (we'll call it) “youthful optimism” about how things were going to go, resulted in me doing a pseudo self-closed $50,000 deal buying from a tax sale, like a lead investor for my first move. In hindsight, not the best option ever, but luckily for me it worked out okay. I ended up buying a couple properties from him, in one shot, which I landed off of my first postcard mailer actually at the time. Basically, with two properties is what it breaks down to.
One of them I got for $20,000. And then I sold for about $80,000, owner-financed about maybe five, six months later. And the other one I bought for the other $30,000 of the $50,000. That one, I ended up really trying some stuff with. So, I ended up doing some subdivision on it and I ended up bringing in power. I kind of did a whole lot of things. I would just want to try at the beginning. And ultimately, I think I was all into maybe $50,000 or $55,000 and I sold it at $85,000. So, I made a decent profit, but not killing it.
Seth: Was that a cash sale or was that seller financing?
JT Olmstead: That was seller financing, but with $40,000 down. So, they put $40,000 down on the property and then I financed the remainder.
Seth: Okay. So, you ended up making most of your initial investment back pretty quick then, right?
JT Olmstead: Yeah, I did. I broke even in roughly 12 months. So that's kind of my rule of thumb for most of my owner financing. I don't really care what the terms are for the most part, as long as I'm cash out in 12 months or less.
Jaren: JT, I want to circle back a little bit on a couple of things that you mentioned there, because it was really interesting. I'm really curious from a practical standpoint. And again, I don't want to get too personal into your own, like how much money you take as a salary and all that stuff. We don't have to go into all that.
But just at a high level, one of the things that I know beginning land investors really struggle with is understanding cash flow management in their business and then in their lifestyle. Especially when it comes to their personal income. Like how much do I take home versus how much do I keep in reserves versus how much do I have in inventory?
And the fact that you got started and you're like, “Okay, I have X amount to live off of while I figure this out. And then I have X amount to buy property." Could you explore that a little bit with us? Can you explain what your practical process looks like? Do you say, “Okay, I have this much, so I'm going to live on?” Like where you have money this month and then you use the money from this month to pay for the following month or past months revenue to cover this month's expenses. How do you handle all of that?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. Suffice to say that can be a very messy process, right? So, I've been a huge proponent of the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) movement for a long time. And so, because of that, I've always worked hard to keep my expenses reasonably low, especially in relation to my income. And I've worked to build up those savings investing portfolios.
And so, when I stepped out of my full-time job, I had quite a bit of money set aside. I took that money, carved out maybe 12 months of living expenses and said, “Okay, this is what I need to live for the next 12 months. I'm going to put that to the side. I'm going to take the rest of this and then try and buy land." And by then I had been investing for a while in land. And so, I kind of knew generally what I wanted to do because I started off with my job and then ultimately decided to leave my job. Setting aside the money enabled me to feel comfortable. Because I'm not the kind of person who's like, “I got $10 in my pocket, let's make this work."
So, I needed that side money to feel it was going to be okay and that the world wasn’t going to collapse around me when I make some mistakes because inevitably you are right. So, I took that as, “Okay, I'm going to be good here. Let's go ahead and figure out what to do with land." And then I took that chunk and started dabbling.
To be honest, I still haven't taken any money out of my land business yet because I have other investments in pockets I've been liquidating or tapping out of and shuffling because I've decided at this point to effectively go almost “all in” on land. I have some cash reserves set aside besides my living expenses, just for a minor diversification. But I'm taking out a lot of risk to just push everything into land at this point, because I think that now is the time to double down in my life. So, I'm putting everything off, pulling everything else off the table and putting all my chips into that side. So, it's like, “Okay, this is going to have to work. It's good. I'm going to make it work." So far, it's been great, but it's just a matter of deciding to do that strategically. So, as I liquidated different things and I moved, I kept that bucket up to the 12 months floating amount and then kind of kept pushing everything else as I kept getting into land.
Jaren: So, you mentioned 12 months reserves. Is that roughly how much you suggest people have before they go “all in” on their land business? I guess really what I'm looking for is if somebody who is like, “Okay, I'm listening to this podcast right now and I want to be full-time in my land business and I don't want to do a bunch of term stuff. Like some term stuff for cash flow is cool, but just like you, I want to model my land business based off of JT’s model." What would you suggest in terms of reserves? And then what would you suggest in terms of cash flow management?
There's this whole concept of running your business, where you have revenue from last month and then you use that for this month's expenses. That's an option. There are other financial management systems out there like Profit First. There’s a whole bunch of stuff. So, I'm just curious because you're actually doing it, you're in it. What would be your advice to the person that wants to do what you're doing from a management standpoint?
JT Olmstead: Frankly, my advice would be to get some terms deals. But assuming you don't want to get some terms deals, I would say, and I can only speak for me and what I'm comfortable with, but I would only be comfortable if I had that 12 months. So, I would say, look, you have to be able to consistently make enough money to cover your expenses for your business. And then have enough excess to kind of siphon off the top.
So, if you know that you need $15,000 a quarter, you need to pull off the top, then maybe you do at $5,000 a month. Maybe it's $15,000 at month three. But whatever it is, you need to be comfortable with that, that the money you're going to be rolling is there. And for me, I'm just not the kind of person. It's not a paycheck anymore. So I don't know when my land's going to sell. I hope it sells one month, three months, six months, but it could be 12 months.
And I can't put my financial circumstances on the line and hope that this pays off in 12 months. So, I need to make sure I have enough there to say, “Okay, I've got this many irons in the fire. One of them will pay off in the next six months or will pay off in the next three months." And once I get to that point where you have a consistent deal flow, you consistently have stuff on the market, varying price points at varying times, then you can really keep that rolling. And I find that sweet spot for me and for most people was like maybe 10 deals. So, if you've got that 7 to 10 deals, something's going to hit in a certain time period. And so, it's just a matter of which one will sell when, and not a matter of if something's going to sell. Because it's unlikely that it implodes, assuming you're not like “all in” one county or whatever, it's not going to implode and it's all going to dry out.
Jaren: Yeah, I love that, man.
Seth: Yeah. And actually, what you just said there, not being “all in” in one county. How many different markets have you worked in historically? Are there certain ones that you find and you go back to again and again because they produce?
JT Olmstead: I would say for me, it's states more than counties that I go back to again and again. But I've kind of dabbled in probably more than a dozen different states. A lot of one-off deals and different things that have come my way that I've kind of tried out. Right now, I'm really focused in two different states. One in the South and one in the West. So, I can kind of figure out, “All right, these are the two states that work well for me."
And the thing I love about it is that once you get everything in place, it's really just a matter of finding the lead and pushing it into the machine. When I started a new state and I'm like, “Okay, I've got to find somebody to close this. I got to find somebody for due diligence." I got to find all these different pieces that come together and you don't know how good they're going to be. You don't know how expensive they are, how fast things are going to get done. You don't get priority at all because you're just some random person off the street.
It's much more difficult to do that again and again and again, in different places than it is to really put everything in place for one state or one area. And then it's so simple to just push it as, “Yep, my attorney doesn't need extra docs because they have all my docs already." I just say “Here's the contract and here's the contact information. Let me know when you're done." And that's it, and then I'm finished.
Seth: Yeah. Gotcha. And within those states, are you focused at a certain quadrant of the state or is it just like anything in that state is fair game?
JT Olmstead: I would say for me pretty much anything in the state’s fair game. So, there are certainly preferred areas in various states that will make sense and you'll be more likely to get certain deals. But for me, I'm kind of willing to go anywhere in the given state. Honestly, I'm not the kind of person that manages buyers lists and those kinds of items historically, because I've been all over the map. Different types of properties, different sizes of properties, different areas of the country. So, really, it’s just kind of pointless because I was going to be in another state in two months. So, until I worked through exactly what I wanted and very recently in the last 6 to 12 months, I've settled on where I'm going to really be focusing. It didn't make any sense for me to manage that way.
Seth: Yeah. When we were in Nashville, and I know you sort of mentioned this a little bit earlier, but you were telling me about this property that you did some subdividing out. I think you said it was one of your first ones where you were actually like getting in. What did you get, like a bulldozer and push dirt around or something like that? When I heard that, I was like, “Whoa, I don't really know anybody who's done that themselves." Like they're actually the ones shaping the earth. Can you tell us, what was it like to subdivide property and to do it to that extent where you're actually getting your hands dirty?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. So luckily for me this piece was a few hours away from my house. So, it's like maybe an hour and a half, two hours from where I live. So, it wasn't an impossibly far drive. I could get kind of hands-on. Certainly not something you have to do but honestly at the time I was still in experimentation mode. I wanted to try different things. I was like, “What's it like to get out there?” And so, I got that property and I was talking to another land investor here in Arizona and they mentioned that I might consider subdividing it. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. So, they put me in contact with the surveyor. The surveyor gave me a quote and here where I was at, it was like maybe $1,500 I think, $2,000 total to get it subdivided. And in Arizona you don't have to have road frontage or whatever. You can just add easements and add some things there.
So, it wasn't as difficult as some other parts of the country. And also, you don't have to pull up stumps or things like that. So, it's just kind of pushing dirt around and dozing over some bushes. So, I was like, “Yeah, this is doable. I can try this." I carved it up five ways. I contacted the local electricity and they put power in. And before that, everything got staked out and I went out there with a family member and we rented equipment and went out there and started like scraping the dirt and using excavators, which isn’t as challenging as it might sound. It's actually kind of fun. So, I don't know, I'm not going to be doing it on every property, but I definitely enjoyed the process as an experiment to kind of see what it was like.
Jaren: That sounds like an incredible YouTube video, Seth. We should totally do that.
Seth: Yeah, man. Did you document that experience at all? Like take pictures?
JT Olmstead: Not too much. A handful of pictures, unfortunately, but not too much segmentation there.
Seth: What was it like just to have that kind of power and destruction at your fingertips?
JT Olmstead: I had dipped my toe in it when I rented a backyard excavator. The smallest type micro basically to tear some stuff in the backyard that I had here in Phoenix, in the Phoenix area. And so, it was like, these are nearly as scary as they sound. So, I'm going to rent a bigger one and pull out stumps on this property. It'll be great. And I will say that the bushes are surprisingly tough, but it was a lot of fun being able to just kind of tear stuff up. I kind of want to go to the next level up. I'm like, “How do I get myself one of those dump trucks with the wheels of the size of my house?” I want one of those. But I'm going to work more for that first, I think.
Seth: Yeah. If you ever employed dynamite or explosives, let me know and I can fly out there and we'll get a really good YouTube video for that because that'd be a lot of fun. I don't know the legality of that, but it's Arizona, right? Anything goes there.
JT Olmstead: Practically so. Yeah. Maybe I'll have to start sending some mailers with mountain side property in mines. Yeah, that could be good.
Seth: Yeah, cool.
Jaren: Hey, JT, I wanted to ask you, you were saying that you buy property kind of everywhere, now you've kind of narrowed down to specific states. But I know some land guys will buy anything, literally any kind of property because they want to maximize their direct mail costs. And they're okay sitting on property for two years, if it takes to sell and they'll buy it landlocked, they'll buy whatever, because they say eventually somebody will buy it for the right price or the right terms. It doesn't sound like that's your model, but I'm just curious, do you mess around with landlocked properties at all? Do you explore those kinds of properties that are less desirable? Or are you just always going after something that's premium?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. I would say in the beginning, I probably took on one too many headaches thinking I could make this work, convincing myself that it would be okay. Since then I've decided to really narrow it down to stuff that really hits it. Because ultimately if I had $10 million to deploy, I would buy practically everything that I could get at a screaming deal and I don't care how long I sat on it because the ROI would be fine. It's just a matter of waiting. But I don't.
So, I have to focus on what I can turn reasonably quickly to a good buyer. And that means it's got to be quality property for the most part. It's more difficult unless I'm getting some extremely streaming deal to sell property that's hard to get to and has really like off-putting attributes. And I've definitely passed on several properties that were poor access or the neighbors were just going to be a nightmare or whatever the circumstances were. I wanted something that you could put up for the buyer to drive up to and say, “Wow, this is a great piece. I want to buy it today.” I got it narrowed down where I know that that's kind of what I need, because that tends to flip the fastest and the easiest.
I honestly tend to pay higher, like a higher percentage, I think, than most investors do because of that. But I'm cool with that because I tend to flip them faster and a little bit easier.
Jaren: You and I have a similar business model. You were saying that you don't do buyers list and you don't really service that. Are you exclusively using agents or do you still do like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, that kind of thing? What is your strategy there?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. So, I try to stay abreast of the general trends as far as sales go. To be honest earlier this year, I made a decision to put myself out of the sales part of the process. So, I've removed myself from that whole wing of it. I only sell through two avenues at this point. One, I'll list it with a land-specific agent in the area. If it's above a certain price point, for me, that's usually $75,000 or $100,000. If the sale is going to be around there or higher, I will put it to an agent. Because I find that at that point, they often want someone set up, meet them onsite, and hold their hands and kiss their babies or whatever they want. So just to make sure things go smooth. And so otherwise I put everything else, I've partnered with Peter Toth. And so, he and I work together and he handles most of my sales across the country.
Seth: Cool. Interesting. We had him on the podcast a while back. He's doing that for a number of land investors, right? Sort of being their sales guy?
JT Olmstead: I am definitely not the only investor who he does it for. And so, yeah, but we've been partnered together for almost a year now and it's been going great.
Jaren: That's awesome.
Seth: Yeah. When we talk about this idea of sticking to the more valuable properties that just take more capital to acquire that kind of thing. In your experience, or in your opinion, if that's what somebody's trying to focus on. I know once when a person is trying to do that, they're generally going to get a lower acceptance rate, lower response rate. Like it's just going to take more mail because those are not quite as plentiful. And when you do find them, it's just going to take more to get them done.
And some people kind of go into this thinking like, “I'm just going to do that and be done." And then they are like, “Well, that kind of changes things." In terms of the difficulty in finding the deals and you're possibly going to be sitting on them longer and you're probably going to have to offer terms. So, you better be ready for that. From your experience, what are the biggest catches to doing that? What makes that hard and what should a person be aware of first if they decided to go that route?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. I mean, people love the idea of doing like five deals a year and making $400,000. But the reality is that in order to get those kinds of deals, you're going to send a lot more mail, you're going to offer a lot higher price, and you're going to wait longer to sell it. So that's going to be difficult for some people. It can take 12 months, 18 months to sell something. And it's not that you're having trouble. It's just that that's how long it takes to sell something that big. Because finding someone who wants to buy something at $150,000, there just aren't that many people wandering around who either have $150,000 cash or have the capability to go get a loan. Because I find that at around $100,000 and up, you're not going to be finding as many people who want owner financing, who could put enough down to make it worth it.
Because if they've got $50,000 in their pocket or $75,000 in their pocket, they probably already have $100,000 in their pocket, or they're just going to go get a bank loan because their rates are going to be way better than what I'm going to offer them. And that's usually what I encourage them to do. Like go talk to your bank because that's a price point at which they'll probably put something together for you. We know it's difficult often to find a bank to finance a $20,000 purchase, but it's not as hard when you're talking $100,000 or more so.
Seth: Yeah. When somebody is going to pay you that much for a property, I know that when you're dealing with cheaper deals, a lot of times, they're not really that serious about it. It's almost just like, “Yeah, it'd be fun to own land somewhere." But when somebody is paying a lot more, it's like they have a much more serious intent behind it. Do you find that when people buy, they literally start moving dirt and building on it like the next week? Is that the type of buyer who goes for that kind of thing? Or is there still a lot of speculation and people who just have a lot more money to throw around and spend on land they're not going to use?
JT Olmstead: Right. Yeah. Obviously, there's some of that. I would say in my experience that those tend to be people who have a vision, typically building a second house, a cabin or something. And so, this is kind of a step in their plan. I think, “Okay, first step, I need to buy these 25 acres with a river or a stream. And so, once I get that, that's step one. And then in three or four years, when I'm ready, I'm going to go to step two where I'm going to build." So that's what I find these people who are kind of moving whatever vision they have forward, and they're not flippant about it. And they're not kind of just off-the-cuff making decisions. They've usually been thinking about it for years and they keep an eye on things and now's the time they're ready to pull the trigger.
Seth: Gotcha. So, when we talk about these bigger deals, and if you're sending out direct mail, presumably your acceptance rate is going to be lower than if you're willing to take anything and everything and all the cheap stuff that is a lot more plentiful. So, in your experience, how many blind offers does it take to get one acceptance on a deal that's worth say, I don't know, $50,000 or more? Should you be sending out 5,000 if you want one acceptance or 1,000? What do the steps look like in your experience?
JT Olmstead: I will be honest. I'm not sure that I'm confident in saying what that ratio is, especially given that I've changed. It wasn't until very recently that I've kind of settled on specific areas where I really thought I could start tracking that stuff. But I would say that 3,000 to 5,000 or more range, it sounds about right to me. Just a rule of thumb.
For me, honestly, when I look at an opportunity or I look at a mailer and I say, “Okay, well, how did this go?” In hindsight, there's a lot of long tail on these things. So, you're waiting months and months later. But really, I look at kind of dollars in dollars out.
So, I would say over the summer I sent about 25,000 units and I scored… well, it still remains to be seen. But a handful of deals. And I would say I purchased about $200,000 in property from over the summer. So, what's the exact number on that, that's hard to say because one deal is like $100,000 and the other deal is like $10,000.
Seth: Do you mean that you spent $200,000 or that's what the cumulative value of those properties are?
JT Olmstead: No, no. That's what I'm buying for $200,000. Yeah.
Seth: I gotcha.
JT Olmstead: So, if I'm spending, let's call that $15,000 with cost and other things, right? $15,000 in mail to get $200,000 in property? I will do that all day long. So, I don't really care what the acceptance rate is as long as I keep scoring a nice fat margin like that. And that's really what it boils down to me. I kind of shoot a wide range where I'm getting that lower five acres and up piece and I'm buying for 5, 10, 12, 15, whatever, and then selling for that 15 to 25 to 30 range. Those are great. And those are easy to owner-finance and even sell in cash. Those are all just fantastic pieces.
So, I pick those up on the low end to kind of keep things turning and cover all my costs. And then I pick up these more middle “buy for 30, sell for 60” or “buy for 75, sell for 120 to 150," whatever. Those pieces I really like. You get a nice lump sum cash from those down the road, but that's a long tail, right? That's a 12-month sale. That's going to pay the bills tomorrow, it's not going to pay for the mail costs I just put out. But that's what the smaller deals help fill in those gaps for you.
Seth: Would you say you typically double your money on average with these deals? What do you think is the typical ROI?
JT Olmstead: For me, I would say with my selection criteria, I shoot to about double my money. Sometimes I do better and sometimes I do a little bit worse, but on average I'm shooting for about double.
Jaren: Yeah. It's really interesting. People ask me about deal rate all the time.
Seth: Yeah. It's a very common question.
Jaren: And it's really hard to answer because what I'm getting in my business is probably one in about 1,500 blind offers, roughly. I'm in a much smaller, cheaper property class in than what you're targeting, JT. But I was talking to a friend of mine who is probably just doing a little bit, slightly more expensive property, not by much, maybe by like $5,000 or so then than I am. And he hits the exact same counties over and over and over again. And he's getting one in 3,500, roughly. I don't know if maybe like back in the day, things used to be different or maybe people associate what you get from a delinquent tax list to what you're going to get from blind offers.
But I have people that come in and are like, “I sent out 300 blind offers. I didn't get a deal. Oh, this doesn't work." And I'm like, well, if we compare this to houses, like when I was a household seller when I worked for a large wholesale operation in Indianapolis, we were getting like one in 8,500 to 10,000 pieces of mail. It's way better still, in general than land, but it's all relative depending on what you're going after and really the kind of list you're going after. Because on a delinquent tax list, yeah, you should have a high response rate and a higher deal rate because they're more motivated. But it's a lot harder to get that kind of a list. So, there are all these variables that go into it. And it's a little frustrating.
JT Olmstead: I say it would be nice to be able to just offer up that suite. Okay. You're for sure going to get one in 750, every time, no matter the size or price. But obviously, the world is a little too complicated for that.
Seth: Yeah. It is a hard question because obviously it comes up from time to time where somebody will say, “Hey, my mailer bombed. I sent out 600 or whatever and nothing came back." And I was trying to help them think through it and diagnose what could have gone wrong there. But there's so much information that needs to be accounted for to even begin to understand what might've happened. It's like, “What did it say? And where'd you get the list? And how old was the list?” And this and that and that, and it goes on and on. And it's a hard thing to track down.
But I think at the end of the day, it sort of comes down to somebody who is relentlessly going to keep at it until they figure it out. If you need to see success on that first time and it doesn't work, I just don't know many businesses like that where “I expect the guarantee or this doesn't work” kind of thing.
Jaren: And on that, people don't understand that when it comes to direct mail, it's the consistency over time that builds up to momentum. So, you might have a month where it completely bombs. I remember in December of 2019, I sent out a direct mail campaign and I thought it completely failed. And I don't know why I don't have any real reasons why it happened this way, but in December I didn't get any responses.
Come the first week of January, I got more deals from that one campaign than I did all of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020. And that first quarter I did actually more deals in that first quarter than I did all of 2019. And probably if I were to guess—shooting from the hip here—probably 60% of it came from that direct mail campaign in December. So, I don't know why there was a delay. I mean, I don't have a crystal ball. I don't have answers, but you can't just come to this quantifiable conclusion that direct mail works on one go or it doesn't work on one go. You have to at least give it three months, six months of consistency.
JT Olmstead: Yeah. I found this concept illustrated to me very importantly, at the very beginning of my land investing career. I sent my first mailer of 400 and it was all postcards. And that's where I scored that $50,000 in deals. And I was like, “This is the greatest thing ever. I'm going to make all the money. Stand back people." But obviously it didn't work like that because the next mailer I sent 5,000 postcards out, okay? 5,000 postcards to a different county. And I got 13 calls total. No deals, just 13 calls. And I was like, “What happened?”
The reality is if you don't have any understanding of statistical theory, it gets really easy for it to feel unjust. You're like, “I spent so much money on this mail, how in the world that I get nothing back for it." But the reality is it just happens sometimes and stuff bombs and that's okay. Just keep mailing. It'll be alright.
Seth: Yeah. I knew somebody who was actually Renee, who we interviewed on episode 30 of the podcast. I don't remember the exact numbers, but I think it was like her first mailer ever. And she sent out like 53 postcards or letters that didn't have offers on them or anything. And she got a deal that made over $50,000.
Jaren: What? That's so awesome.
Seth: I mean, it sort of was a luck thing honestly. But if you hear that and nothing else, that becomes the expectation. Like, “Oh, well I'm going to do the same thing." And if it doesn't happen just like that, I'm going to be upset about it. It's like you said, JT, it's a weird thing and it's hard to nail down what is going on and when it does and doesn't work, but it's sort of that “get up and try again” kind of thing.
So, with some of these bigger deals you've done with a much larger cash outlay than a lot of the cheaper stuff out there. It begs the question in my mind, have you ever miscalculated this stuff and lost money on a deal? And if so, what happened there? And what did you learn from that? How can we all avoid a mistake like that?
JT Olmstead: Yes, I have. I've definitely lost money and broken even on a more than one deal. I'm the kind of investor who would rather take the loss and move on, then hold it just so I could claim that I've never taken a loss. “Oh, I've never taken a loss, but I have this property I've owned for six years because I just refused to sell it so I wouldn’t take a loss."
Jaren: Yeah, I'm the same way.
JT Olmstead: So, I'd rather just be, it's a business conversation, right? I'm like, “Okay, the ROI on this says, sell now, put my money to work somewhere else. Not hold forever and hope that I do okay way down the road." So, one deal in particular is particularly painful where I bought, I was kind of dabbling in infill lots at the time. And I bought an infill lot on the west side of Portland. It looked great. I called the county, things seemed to be okay. It was kind of a weird lot, but the market is super, super hot and still is. And I was like, “Okay, if you can’t build anything on this, someone will." So, I thought, “Okay, we can make this work." And I paid someone else as well to kind of look and do some additional looking at the property and they found the same thing I did. It looked fine. And it was like, okay, cool. This is good. Everything is lining up.
The church I bought it from was a little skittish because they had previously kind of tried to sell it and ran into some buildability issues. And I knew what those issues were, but I thought they were surmountable. So, I went ahead, purchased the property for, let's say $40,000 roughly, and put it on the market.
Two days later I was under contract at $120,000. And I was like, “Yes, best day ever. There’s going to be a ton of money on this deal." And then like a week later, they back out. And I'm like, “Oh, that's not good." And they're like, “Yeah, the builder says they can't handle it." I'm like, “Ah, that builder probably just hasn't got few selections to choose from. Won't be an issue. I’ll find somebody else who would do a custom build, not like an out of the box." Okay, fine, fine. So, then I get under contract again, a couple of weeks later. That person backs out. This is starting to be a pattern. Then that continues.
I literally get to the point and I'm continually getting questions about this property because it's such an interesting piece and there's not really any available lots around. And so, I've literally over time, over the next few months of me answering questions and like turning down contracts, I developed like this five-paragraph email that I send out every time someone wants to buy this property. And it's five paragraphs of me telling them all of the things I've discovered wrong about this property and why they shouldn't buy it. And if they're still interested, talk to me. And that became pretty effective to kind of weed out people who were interested.
But I eventually went through a couple of different professional builders who literally just buy stuff like this and solve the problem and build. And I couldn't come to terms with one or two of them. I got another one under contract who was like, “I'm not going to build on it. I'm just going to park my trucks on it and throw up a fence and it's still worth the money."
Cool. That guy was the one who kind of broke the straw that broke the camel's back for me on this property because, and this is all hearsay, right? But he comes back to me and says, “I can’t do this deal." I sent him an email, “Hey no worries. It's all good. I know it's a complicated piece. Can you tell me why exactly you don't want to do it?” An hour later, I get a call from him. And he says, “My wife says, I have to call you and tell you what I learned." I'm like, “Oh, this is not good." He then proceeds to explain to me how his conversation went with the county or the city in this case. And the city effectively said to him, he had contacts. So, he was able to kind of climb the ladder. He didn't get like the front person who says, “Ah, it's fine." He keeps climbing and climbing and climbing until he gets to the decision maker. And the decision maker says, “This property? Oh yes. I know that property. I take my lunch there every day. I will never approve building on that property."
Jaren: That sucks.
JT Olmstead: And I was like, okay, that's number one, illegal. Right? That's not going to work. But two, I can't solve this. I'm not going to litigate. I'm not going to do all this stuff. It's not worth it. And so, I don't know if that's true or not, but it was enough at the time for me to say, “I'm out, this is not going to work. I'm going to sell it to somebody super cheap and tell them, this is a mess. The county is going to be difficult to work with. Good luck." And so, I just found a buyer and I ended up losing maybe $12,000 on that property. But I was like, I don't care. I just want my money back at this point. I'm done.
Seth: Wait. So, am I following this right? The only real problem, well, I guess it sounds like there were a lot of problems, but the big issue was this county worker wasn't going to approve it because they could eat their lunch there?
JT Olmstead: That I would say is the crux of the issue.
Seth: Oh, crazy.
JT Olmstead: There was a lot of easements and some cost to move utilities, things like that. But I think those were all surmountable because again, it’s so difficult to find a buildable lot in this area. People were willing to pay it to live in the area and build a custom home. But none of that mattered if they would never approve a bill permit for this property. So, can I figure that out ahead of time? I don't know that I could have, but for me, it's part of the statistics. Like I'm going to lose occasionally, I'm going to break even, I'm going to do these things and that's okay. That's fine. Because as long as you're doing enough deals and you continue to push forward, in the end, it's just going to be like this blip on the radar where it's like, “Oh yeah, the one time I lost $10,000 and the next month I made $30,000. Who cares?”
Jaren: Yeah. On that note, I really think that the way a lot of people approach the land business isn't right. They need to approach it as an investment portfolio. When you talk to people who invest in the stock market, or even large apartment complexes and stuff, when they own a lot of property, when they look at it from a portfolio, people make money and lose money all the time. But as long as the overall portfolio is making money, that's what matters at the end of the day, because that's what's really going to move the needle forward with you, generating wealth for your family and legacy and so on and so forth.
So, I really want to encourage the listeners today. When you approach your land business, I really like what JT said here. If you have a property and you could take the money that you have in that and invest it in a different property and make a whole lot more, just get rid of the thing and move on. Count your losses and just move on.
JT Olmstead: Yeah, 100%.
Seth: So, JT, if you can go back in time and give yourself some advice, as you are getting started with land, what would you say to yourself? I'm sure you've probably learned a ton and there's a lot of things you'd do differently now. But what do you think?
JT Olmstead: It's difficult to say, but I guess if I was one piece of advice I could give myself, it would be that I need to be cautiously optimistic. Because I think a lot of times when I made mistakes through the beginning of my land process, and I'm sure I'll make mistakes going forward, it really boils down to me, kind of convincing myself that something's going to be okay. I'll be like, “Oh yeah, this will be fine. I will work out these issues. It's not really a problem." But the reality is I'm not really being unbiased enough to recognize that I'm being a little too optimistic and that's kind of a fault of mine. But as far as the advice I’d give myself would be “Okay, look, I know you want this to work, but don't try and force it when it doesn't need to happen. Just send more mail and find a better deal."
Seth: Yeah. That's a tricky thing between optimism and cynicism. I heard Jordan Peterson one time talking about this. And he was saying that you don't want to be just totally optimistic in life because it's not reality. Like things are always going to go wrong. There are always problems. But at the same time, you don't want to be totally cynical either because it's not useful. It just holds everything back. And he sort of drew the analogy of cynicism is sort of like the salt in the recipe. You want to have just a pinch of it, but you don't want to dump a bunch of salt into what you're doing. Because if you've ever had a great chocolate chip cookie with just that little bit of salt on it, it's like, perfect. But if you overdo it or underdo it, it's just not the same. If you overdo it, it can really screw it up. So, I thought that was kind of a smart analogy.
Jaren: Yeah. I really liked that. I think that it's pretty essential to be realistic, but optimism can be a superpower too. Because if you are too cynical, you're never going to take risks. You're never going to actually go after pursuing anything worth pursuing. So, you gotta do it with a realistic, I like how JT calls it, “cautious optimism." I think that's really a healthy approach.
Seth: Definitely. So, JT, at the end of most of these episodes when we are going to have time, we ask three final questions of our guests. The first question here is what is your biggest fear?
JT Olmstead: I would have to say that my biggest fear is that through either my own selfishness or kind of my general failings, that I failed to… failed like fulfilling some purpose that the Lord has for me. Some divine purpose in my life. That's kind of my biggest fear is that I'll look back at some point in my life, at the end of my life, and think my mistakes caused someone else harm or my mistakes resulted in this outcome that could have been so much better.
I think that's the one thing that I'm really most concerned about. And that extends to lots of aspects of my life, whether it's professional or I miss out on an opportunity to help someone who needed the help or personally was like, “Did I spend enough time with my kids?” So, I want to make sure that I'm kind of doing my best in those, recognizing that we're all human and I make a lot of mistakes and I'm okay with mistakes as long as I feel like I did my best.
Jaren: That's awesome, man. Thanks for sharing that. What's something that you're most proud of?
JT Olmstead: I would say it's probably the other side of that coin, right? I think I'm most proud when someone comes to me, maybe years down the line and says, “Do you remember that conversation we had? Or do you remember that time that you helped me do this?” And how that ends up being something important to them in some way that I got to play a piece in helping them grow or helping them overcome a trial they were facing or what other circumstances they were in. Because I kind of relish those opportunities to help people develop themselves. Because I'm the kind of person who is really sort of obsessed with self-development and introspection. And so, I love when I get to help other people think on that plane and kind of change their lives in small ways.
Seth: Gotcha. That's awesome, man. What is the most important lesson you have ever learned?
JT Olmstead: I would say professionally, the biggest thing that's been illustrated to me over and over and over again is the critical nature of communication. Because if you can properly communicate with someone, if you can really understand where they're coming from and help them address whatever circumstance they're facing, fill whatever needs those are, that is where the needle really starts to move.
When you see this illustrated in different points, if we're talking like, Carnegie's “How to Win Friends and Influence People," he talks about finding what people like and what's important to them and communicating to them on that level. That breaks down barriers fast. Or if you can figure out how you can align what you want with what your kids want and communicate that, then you can move the needle there. So, I find that communication in a lot of rooms in our life is the most important piece. You can overcome all kinds of issues and disagreements and whatever, if you can just communicate.
Seth: Yeah. That's a great book and tons of lessons from that. Would you say you're like a natural people person? Is that kind of how you classify yourself or what do you think?
JT Olmstead: I kind of classify myself as a small group person. I love the one-on-one the two-on-one conversations. Those are where I thrive. If you throw me into a big group, I'm just going to hang out on the corner and find somebody to talk to.
Seth: It sounds like me.
JT Olmstead: Because I'm not really interested in kind of floating through the room as a butterfly.
Seth: Yeah. Cool, man. I can totally relate to that. So, you don't have to do this, but if people want to learn more about you or reach out to you and connect for anything, is there any place they should go to do that? A website or social media or anything?
JT Olmstead: Yeah. The best place to reach out to me is probably the REtipster forums. I'm on there, send me a message there or hit me up there in some way. Frankly, I'm kind of all over the internet where land is at and you probably can find me there, but the easiest way is going to be the REtipster forums.
Seth: Sweet. I'm going to include a link to JT’s profile in the show notes for this episode. And this is episode 91. So, you can find those at retipster.com/91. JT, I just want to say, thanks again man for coming on the show. It's been awesome to talk to you again and just hear about where you've been at for the past year. And hopefully the listeners out there got a lot of us as well. Because I know you had a lot of good insights to share in this realm.
JT Olmstead: Thanks again.
Seth: So, there you have it. That was our interview with JT. I think what I got out of that is just kind of a cautionary reminder of sort of the complexities in land that other property types don't necessarily have. I think, overall, land is still a much simpler type of property than anything else that's out there, but still there can be little “gotchas” and things like that example with the county worker who wouldn't approve. I have no idea how anybody would have known that before the fact. Like who was going to call the county and ask how they feel about him developing a lot? And I guess that can happen with any type of real estate, but it's one of those things where we live in a very imperfect world where things are unpredictable. And I don't know, it doesn't always fit into a neat little cookie cutter shape with every deal we do.
Jaren: I would give a little bit of a pushback there with land because when you compare it to pretty much every other type of real estate, there's a whole lot less of that going on than anything else. And when it comes to houses and even when JT was like, “Yeah I bought a property for $50,000." You're like, that's a lot of money. It is a lot of money in land. But when it comes to houses, people buy and sell. I mean, that's considered cheap to be honest. That's like Indianapolis prices. And people out in like California or more expensive areas, they're buying property for $150,000 - $200,000 and making 10, 20, $30,000 on it.
I definitely hear what you're saying and I think it's a good warning that there's literally no push button, easy type of investing out there. There's always something that can go wrong and land is no exception. So, you have to be aware of that. But compared to everything else that's out there, man, the land business, I think it's just the best. It's just absolutely the best thing.
Seth: Oh yeah, it totally is. I think what I'm speaking to are the folks out there who expect this to be a turnkey predictable neat little package where if I click these buttons and do these things, this will happen. Money will show up in my bank account. Like there's really people who think that way. And I don't know where they get that idea. Because I don't really know of… Well, actually I did know a couple people who do portray it that simple, but I know I've never done that. Kind of like what I just did there. Like I try to give enough airtime to the fact that there are complications sometimes. This is not like an easy thing.
Jaren: Yeah. I mean, if it was easy, I was thinking about this the other day. It's kind of a cliché now, people say, “Well, if it's easy, everybody would do it." But if you really think about that cliché response, it's very true. If the land business was easy, everybody would make their money through land and everybody would be super successful. But things worth having in life come through hardship. Like it's just difficult. There is struggle.
There's a lot less of that in certain things than there is in others, but land is an amazing path towards financial freedom and through generating wealth. But it definitely comes with its set of challenges that you have to overcome and be aware of. And stuff that if you can just be blindsided like JT was in that deal and just make mistakes. But if you have the right perspective, like, “Okay, I'm going to be committed to this in the long run and stick through with it," then it'll lead to a good end.
Seth: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That's a lot of good insights from that. Just to see the reality of sometimes how you think through it and process it when it doesn't end up the way that you wanted it to and how you keep that from derailing you and just killing your business because of future uncertainty. I think I remember this, when we interviewed Armaan. I forgot what episode that was, but just how you deal with problems and how you think through those and do you let it sabotage what you're doing or do you just take it and stride and keep moving? There are different ways to react to that.
Jaren: I think my biggest takeaway was I loved how he went into having a year's worth of savings.
Seth: That’s a lot of pressure off, for sure.
Jaren: Yeah. I mean, that's so practical. Like everybody glorifies this whole concept of “My back was against the wall and I had like $2 in my bank account and this was the only way for me to make money and so I did it and it worked and now I'm a success." That's that whole premise of “burn the boats." We've talked a lot about that in past episodes. It's inspiration on sales from a stage but for most people it's way more practical just to have a bunch of savings. Like if you just literally have a bunch of savings or keep your day job and build your thing on the side, until it can grow to the point where it replaces your day job.
I think that there is a lot of power there that people don't talk about. That's exactly what JT did. He saved a lot of money for a lot of years and he had that in reserves to play with when it comes to land. If you have 6 to 12 months of savings, if you have a string of three months that are bad, like in your land business, it's okay. You can come back from that. Whereas if you only have like a month's worth of savings or two months’ worth of savings or whatever, you don't have as much leeway. Your land business has to be consistently performing otherwise you're going to be in a world of hurt. So, having that nest egg is actually extremely powerful when wanting to go full time into your land business.
Seth: Yeah. I wonder what that perfect ratio is. If you've got, I don't know, half a million bucks or something in your bank account, you obviously don't want to just keep that all cash because cash is constantly losing its value. You want to divert that into something else, whether it be active investing or “buy and hold” kind of stuff. But I wonder what is the perfect ratio of how much of your liquidity should be tied up in say “buy and hold” income-producing real estate versus just maintaining a cash balance in your bank account. Obviously, it depends on how risky what you're doing is, and lots of other stuff, but I like that year of living operating expenses in your bank account. That seems like a good number.
Jaren: Yeah. I know that the Dave Ramsey world says at least six months’ worth of emergency fund.
Seth: I think that's obviously better than nothing. And for most people it's something that the average person could get to in a reasonable amount of time, I think. But I don't know if that's enough for me. If your situation changes, maybe you do need to go do this or that. And it doesn't always happen in six months. I know a guy who's been unemployed for the past 11 months now. I have no idea what he's doing. I don't know, but that stuff happens. Things don't always fix themselves within a six-month timeframe.
Jaren: Yeah, it's true. I've been talking to my wife a lot about that and our savings goals. I like having a year's worth of cushion between you in life because man, there's so many things that can happen. And if you're realistic, you got to weigh the pessimism versus the optimism. But if you have $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 between you and life, that's really solid. You're going to be in a good place.
Now I think for me, and again, maybe this is all subjective, but I think if you get into the $100,000 territory, I think you run into what you're talking about, Seth. Where it's like, okay, at some point the law of diminishing returns is in effect and you're losing money in keeping that much in savings. I guess technically you're always losing money in savings, but you have to weigh that balance of like, “Okay, how much do I have in security versus how much do I have in growth?” You really have to figure out how to navigate the ship, I guess, of your financial future. I mean, you got to navigate the waters.
Seth: Yeah. Well, should we move on to our final conversation starter question for this episode?
Jaren: Yeah, let's do it.
Seth: Okay. What about this question? If you could have any book instantly memorized from cover to cover, which book would you choose?
Jaren: For me, it'd probably be the Bible. That's just because I think it'd be really cool. I've heard, I don't know if this is true or not, but I heard that back in the time of Jesus, the way that the Jewish culture would work is they would actually as a part of elementary school, you would memorize the Torah. And every Jew, no matter what, when they graduated high school, a part of their education was actually being able to recite the Torah from start to finish. I think that would be awesome. That would be really, really, really cool, but I'm definitely not there.
Seth: Yeah. I'm with you, man. I would choose that too. The whole Bible. I mean, if it was really that easy to just snap my fingers and have it memorized. I feel like a huge majority of life's problems are answered in that book in some way, shape, or form. And sometimes the answer is sort of up to your interpretation. Because I know every time I read certain parts of the Bible, new things will jump out to me that I didn't even see before. It's like, “Oh, that's been there this whole time. I didn't even see it." So, I feel like that would be incredible to have that just like locked away in your head and you could pull up any part of that at a moment's notice. That would be pretty huge.
Jaren: I mean, you could do a lot of mulling over and a lot of meditating on the Lord and on the word and stuff, man, that would be really cool.
Seth: Yeah. What if we can't say the Bible, what would it be then?
Jaren: Yeah, that was exactly what I was about to say. I don't know, man.
Seth: Calvin and Hobbes? Garfield comic books or something like that?
Jaren: I had to go back and be like, wait, what is that? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Comic strips. That's right. I don’t know, man. I would probably pick some similar book, like maybe a book of philosophy, maybe like Aristotle or something. I would probably pick something that was more philosophical in nature because I feel like that's where the 80/20 is in terms of knowledge. At least for me, because for me, I would rather have knowledge that speaks to purpose and the cry of our soul as human humans more so than the Tesla manual of engineering or whatever. I would probably be doing something like that. There is a whole suite of books in the Early Church called “The Desert Fathers” and I would probably…
Seth: I thought you were going to say “The Chronicles of Narnia” or something like that.
Jaren: No, no, no. I like “The Chronicles of Narnia," but there's like a whole suite of works from “The Desert Fathers." And that would probably be really helpful information to retain in your mind, if you can snap your fingers and memorize it all. What about you?
Seth: Yeah, for me it would probably be a book that is an authoritative work on human relations in some way. And when I say that I'm thinking of books like “Crucial Conversations," “How to Win Friends and Influence People." What else? Like “The Likeability Factor." Things that help a person to communicate better and say things that lead to a better outcome. Thing is though, I don't know that I would necessarily need to memorize them as much as just retaining key concepts from the books. Which I can sort of do if I just read it a couple of times, but I just know that's such a huge deal and I think I'm okay at it, but like I can always get better. And there's so many things you can accomplish in life, like restore relationships and build new relationships and deal with really, really difficult issues. And you can do that if you understand this stuff. How to deal and communicate with people.
And I've been listening to this book by Brené Brown called the “Dare to Lead." Man, it's a great book. She's got so many good things to say. But one of the things that she pointed out is this idea, whenever you're having a hard conversation or there's like tension between two people asking the question, “What isn't being said right now? What is it that everybody knows it's the elephant in the room and it just needs to be called out and dealt with?” And dealt with in the right way. Not in an accusatory way, but just acknowledging a difficult truth and working through that.
Because there are relationships that can get sidelined for years because of this stuff. Because of just things that everybody knows, but everybody's too afraid to talk about. And just things like that. That's what I get out of those kinds of books. So, I'd probably pick one of those types of books I think to memorize.
Jaren: Awesome. That's cool. That was a very insightful question into the way we take and what we value. That's really cool.
Seth: Definitely. Cool. Well, again, if anybody wants to check out the show notes for this episode, retipster.com/91. That's where you can find links to all the stuff we talked about and the transcript from this episode. And if you guys are listening to this on your phone, take out your phone and text the word “FREE." F-R-E-E to the number 33777. And you can stay up to speed on all the stuff we got going on at REtipster. So, thanks again for listening and we'll talk to you guys next time.
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