In my book Think and Be Phenomenal, I shared the story about one of my biggest personal dreams. I’ve included the first part of the story that was in my previous book so that the rest of the story makes sense…
In 1997 I found my dream property – a gated community with only 14 home-sites right next to my favorite beach in the Destin area, 3 1/2 miles of unspoiled State Park beach. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people on that beach. The sand is sugar white with huge, magnificent sand dunes. The water is emerald green and crystal clear. It’s truly paradise.
That beach is where I go to dream. For some strange reason, there’s one specific spot on the beach where I seem to get the most “energy.” When I discovered it, a single lot was $300K. At that time, we were just building our dream home in Houston and I had just launched Phenomenal Products. It felt like it was too much of a stretch. Over the next few years, the lots began to disappear and the prices began to soar. Before long, there was only ONE lot left! The homes were $3.5M minimum, which was way out of our range at the time.
My goal was to acquire the very last lot and to hold it until I was ready to build our next dream home. Unfortunately, by this time, the lot itself had gone up to $1.4M. Over a million dollars for a pile of sand! Yet I still dreamed and planned how I could acquire it. My thoughts were recorded in my journal. I was THINKING of ideas that would help me raise enough money for that lot.
I thought about it EVERY DAY.
I asked myself if investing that much money in a lot was too much and wondered if it would be “ungodly” to spend that much on a piece of land. I had many mixed feelings. After a while, I determined that if I was willing to work hard, continued to tithe and support the work of ministry, and continued to make a difference in other’s lives it was okay. As long as it did not take from anyone else, I felt comfortable pursuing it.
But I still didn’t have ideas big enough to acquire it. Looking back, that’s not true. I just didn’t THINK big enough. One of the “blessings” of the economic conditions from 2008 to 2011 (for me) was that the property values plummeted. The lot dropped to $633K, then to $533K. We became very serious about grabbing the very last lot in Stallworth.
I put in an offer for $410K. They countered at $490K, which I accepted. However, I only had three days to secure a letter of credit. We could have paid cash, but all of our investments were in 401k plans, annuities, and other assets that would cost huge penalties in order to cash out. This wasn’t a problem, since our credit was really good and this property had been on the market for so long.
My Houston bankers didn’t do Florida property, especially land, so I went to a Destin bank. The very first bank I went to assured me that financing the lot for me was not a problem; however, they were being bought out by another bank and all loan officers were in Atlanta for a meeting. “Not to worry,” she assured me. Two weeks later, the real estate agent representing the property called to inform me that he had a cash buyer and that he had to take the other man’s offer.
My dream property was gone.
I was stunned.
To add insult to injury, the letter of credit came from the banker the very next morning. I quickly forwarded it to the agent and pleaded that he deny the cash buyer and to accept my offer since I was first.
“It’s too late,” he said.
I was pretty bummed out that day. Did I miss it? Was it against God’s permission? Was I totally off base? Over the years, I somehow thought I was “supposed” to have this property – I know that’s weird, but that’s how I felt.
After licking my wounds for a while, two amazing things happened. First, I’ve trained myself to be grateful for what I have. So, I began thanking God for the blessed life I have. I cannot complain and I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Zig Ziglar said, “Of all the attitudes one can acquire, the attitude of gratitude is by far the most important and life changing.” He also said, “Failure is an event, not a person.” And finally, he said, “It’s not what you GET by accomplishing your goals, it’s what you BECOME.”
IMPORTANT LESSON: Be content with what you have, but never be satisfied with your personal growth. Always be grateful for what you have, but always strive to BEcome a better person every day. Remember, it’s not about the house and it’s not about the stuff. It’s about stretching your faith and your imagination to give you the experiences you need to help others.
It’s about BEcoming.
When it comes to goals, sometimes you win by reaching the goal and other times you learn a valuable lesson. You reached a goal of BEcoming a better person.
In the midst of this gratitude session, something amazing happened. I had a thought… “Wait, it’s NOT OVER!”
Real estate deals go bad all the time. From the little experience owning a few properties and knowing many real estate investors, I knew the deal could go “south” even if it was cash.
Then, something even more amazing happened. I began to remember that I was “supposed” to have this property. It was mine! That was my dream. The other guy was a real estate developer. He wanted the property just for the money. I’m sure he has dreams like everyone else, but his goal was a lucrative real estate deal.
My dream is to LIVE there with my phenomenal wife, to walk and pray on that beach, to THINK about how I can impact more lives and to DREAM about how I can do as much good during my one-time stop on this planet!
I’m risking being a little arrogant here; please stay with me.
Although I am GRATEFUL for what I have today, I am NOT going to let my dream slip away because of circumstances. God hasn’t shut it down yet. A little circumstance called competition has gotten in the way. Am I just going to stand by and let someone take my dream away?
So, I contacted the real estate agent (who is certain that I’m crazy at this point – I’ve called him just about every year for the last decade prior to this encounter). “Listen. I know this other guy supposedly has cash. But real estate deals go south all the time,” I said, “I want to have my contract in play so that when this thing doesn’t work out with him, we can move forward with our deal.” At this point, I’ve gone from “if” the other deal doesn’t work out to “when” it doesn’t work out!
He responded, “Well, this guy has cash and buys a lot of properties… I’m sure there won’t be a problem…”I insisted, “I know you probably think I’m crazy, but I’ve got a feeling he isn’t going to come through… how many days does he have?” “Seven,” he responded. “Okay, will you let me know the minute this deal doesn’t work out with him? And please put my contract in play as the first back up so I don’t lose this opportunity again. You know I’ve been working on this a long time.” I pressed. “Okay, I can do that, but I think it’s a waste of time,” he replied.
Every day after that I checked in with him by e-mail, text or a phone call, and made sure that I dropped a seed of doubt (sounds bad doesn’t it?) each and every time. I would say something like, “Just let me know when it doesn’t work out. I’m ready!”
Now he knows I’m crazy!
Seven days come and go. “So what’s the verdict?” I texted. “ The owner gave him three more days,” he replied. “Hmmm… what’s the problem?” I asked. “He’s requesting the homeowners association move a boundary on the property.” That statement gave me more confidence than ever because I knew one thing… that AIN’T gonna happen! “Okay, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” (I’m sure that made his day.)
Three days later I left him a voice mail. “Are you ready to do my deal? The other guy is out, right?” A text comes back. “I’m working on putting you in first and him in second.” Two hours later, his assistant sent over the contract and we bought the property.
The lesson I learned was to be grateful, content and patient, but to never give up if it’s something you truly believe in and if you’re not 100% sure that God has shut the door. How would I have felt if I gave up and found out later that the deal with the “cash guy” went south and someone else got my dream property?
The Rest of The Stallworth Story…
Acquiring the lot was just the beginning. When will we build a home there? How long will I sit on this property? Denise was contemplating retirement, so we bought a cute little house in Destin so that we would have something more spacious than our small condo.
We put a substantial down payment on that house and I began to work with an architect on the plans for Stallworth. After paying for that mortgage and the monthly payment on the Stallworth lot, I realized that I could finally obtain my dream home.
Once the plans were done, I began to shop for builders. I met Shane Babin at one of his job sites. “How are you?” I said as I shook his hand. “Phenomenal!” he responded. Impressed that he knew the right “word”, I assumed he had done his research. “Oh, you must of read my book or been on my website.” I responded. “No, why?” he said. “Okay, you’re pulling my leg right?” I shot back. “Why did you choose to use the word phenomenal?” I pressed. “A friend of mine says that all the time,” he said.
Hmmm… Could this be a sign? I liked Shane from the beginning, and more importantly, so did Denise. Without a doubt, we contracted him to build our dream home.
After the funding was finalized and he had the “go-ahead” to start, nothing happened. For over two months! When I inquired, he said, “The county won’t give me a permit. I’ve been down there just about every day for weeks!” he said exasperated. “Why not?” I asked, taken aback. “There’s some kind of new ordinance for coastal dune lake properties.” Shane responded.
I got on the phone with my architect, Matt Savoie, who I had paid over $50K for plans at this point. Matt was easy to work with and had done several other homes in Stallworth. He’s a straight shooter and a really easy going guy. “Yeah, it’s a real problem Howard. The county just came up with these new ordinances and there are a lot of property owners in the same boat as you. In fact, they’ve formed a class-action lawsuit. I would recommend you get in on that.”
“Are you kidding me?” I’m thinking to myself. “What are my options?” I asked my architect. “Well, according to the county, they are rendering the property unbuildable, because you don’t have enough space to satisfy the small building footprint they are limiting you to.”
I’ve never felt more stupid and more aggravated in my entire life. I have over $500K into this thing, and I’ve just gotten funding for another $900K and I’m hearing the word unbuildable? Incredible! The only good news the architect had for me was that they would be required to buy my property back from me, but wasn’t certain how much they would pay or how long it would take.
I called the attorney that was handling the class-action suit. The only words I remember were that it would cost tens of thousands of dollars and would probably take several years. My neighbor pushed me to get on board.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is not to panic, but to pray. Especially when I sense that God is in something. Denise and I began to pray. I sensed that there was a way around the ruling. I pressed my architect and after a few days he sent me an e-mail and said, “I think I found something” “What is it?” I asked. “There’s a different rule that may apply on your property depending on how they measure it.” Matt said.
I happened to be in Destin and was planning a trip to the county offices with my builder the next day. “Can you draw it for me real quick?” “Sure, but remember, it depends on how they measure it.” Matt cautioned me.
Denise and I prayed again before I went to meet Shane. I sweet-talked the ladies in the office and they got me in to see the man who would decide the fate of my new dream home on “my” dream beach.
I showed him the new drawing of the building footprint that Matt did. He got his calculator out and began punching numbers, squinting, frowning, and hitting the keys over and over. Shane and I were frozen with anticipation. Finally, the guy says, “I think this will work.” “What did he just say?” I’m thinking to myself. “Is that a yes?” I finally had the guts to ask. “I think so. I’ll have a signed copy for you at 3:00 today.”
I walked out of that office into the parking lot with Shane. Both of us shaking our heads, bewildered by what had just happened. Why didn’t anyone see this before? I have to believe that God just wants us to go through the struggle sometimes.
There was one more little (big) thing God did for me, that shouldn’t be overlooked. The lot is in a special flood zone that does not qualify for regular flood insurance. My neighbor told me that his flood insurance was going to be $40K per year, so he decided to self-fund it. We designed the home with that in mind, but as I began to look at the line that represented the flood zone, it didn’t come near the house on the plans. I later learned that this was the boundary the “cash buyer” was trying to get changed – and the reason he backed out.
I asked my architect how to get an exception on this issue since the boundary didn’t come near the building envelope. He gave me numbers for the local fish and wildlife services. After multiple phone calls, I learned that the only office that could make the declaration for me was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services in Washington, D.C. and I was told that it would take years if I could ever get them to respond.
It took 21 days and I had a sealed document in my file.
Shane Babin has done a phenomenal job building our new dream home on the dream beach, and by the time you read this book, we will be living there. I don’t know why God has been so gracious to us, but I hope that He is even more so to you.
Several years ago my biggest impersonal dream came to life. I created my Dream, my Vision, my Purpose, and my Mission.
My Dream is for small business owners to experience community. My Vision is 200 cities that have 50 small business members in each location that are experiencing community together. My Mission is to create community in every enterprise I create. And My Purpose is to help people have more L.I.F.E.
In my first book, 7 Secrets of a Phenomenal L.I.F.E I share that L.I.F.E. stands for Living In Freedom Everyday. What I mean by that is you can be free in your mind and in your heart. You can know who you are and Whose you are. You can think and you can love. No matter what happens to you, you can choose how you’ll respond.
So, are you ready to discover your phenomenal dream life, so you can reach your phenomenal destiny?
Join me at the 2019 Destin Dream Retreat!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.