Little Known Ways to Beat the Australian Money & Property Market
Niro Thambipillay doubled his money on his first investment in the Australian property market within 18 months. He bought aggressively in Sydney in 2011, when nobody else predicted the boom. And he predicted the downturn in the Sydney and Melbourne property markets. Originally studying engineering, his passion for finance and investment developed quickly which led him to also help others with their own investment journey.
In this episode of Property Investory you will be able to learn how exactly Thambipillay bounced back after making some risky mistakes, how he was mentored and how he learnt to predict the changing market!
– Niro Thambipillay
After 18 years of investing in property, Niro Thambipillay is now also a father to two young boys. He shares with us why family is important in his life.
They’re obviously the love of my life and certainly keep me well and truly grounded and focused. I’m happily married and I spend my day really helping others to invest in property.
I’m lucky enough that I spend the mornings with my kids. So I will do the school drop-offs and everything else, even breakfast before that. The mornings are some really quality time with the family. Then I’ll sort of get into work, start my day shortly after nine maybe thirty minutes more. I’ll generally spend my morning doing some study or reading about some sort of self-development. I truly believe that you know, our financial development is directly related to our self-development. So I’m always focused on doing some study and then it’s getting on the phone, speaking to potential clients, maybe doing some of my YouTube videos or Facebook videos and just really trying to get the message out there about how I can help others invest in property. The evenings. If I’m not seeing clients, I’ll be home with my wife. And generally, you know, we’re watching some TV or a movie and just chilling out.
Prior to investing in property, Thambipillay talks about his upbringing in a small country town and how he gradually moved away from a career in engineering.
I am born in Sri Lanka. Came to Australia when I was about a month shy of my ninth birthday. We grew in a small country town called Griffith which is about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. for those who are unaware, and so I did all of my schooling there. That was a very friendly, close-knit community. So that’s what I was used to. And then after high school, I was fortunate enough to get into the university of my choice to do an engineering degree, which is what I thought I wanted to do at the time, and I started on the path of engineering. And then I decided I didn’t like that and went into finance and commerce, and started working in that field. You know for large corporations, before sort of finding out that property was a huge passion of mine and I moved into that direction.
Thambipillay goes on to further discuss how he moved from Sri Lanka to Griffith in Australia and the next part of his journey..
I actually moved out of Sri Lanka originally when I was about three months old. My family has lived in different parts of the world. We actually initially tried to live in Alice Springs. I believe as the story goes, for a year that didn’t quite work out, then we lived in the UK for a few years and in Papua New Guinea before resettling into Australia. It was Griffith that provided us with a home there, which was great. And I was there for all of my schooling, and really only left after I turned 18.
I have asked my parents, why did we end up in Griffith? And the story goes that, you know, we were in Sri Lanka at the time. My dad was sort of looking to migrate and legally leave the country. And Australia was obviously one of their number one destinations. And when Griffith was offered to us my dad initially turned it down and you know, I’m part of a small country town, but apparently Griffith is one of the biggest exporters of rice. Apparently my mum picked up a rice packet after my dad had turned the offer down and the rice packet that she was about to use was exported from Griffith. So that’s when the story became a bit of a story of ‘Oh well, Griffith may not be such a small town and you know, it’s the best offer we got. Let’s check it out’. And obviously the rest is history. So it all came down to the rice packet.
Thambipillay continues to talk about his life in Australia after the age of 18.
After finishing school at 18 you certainly move more towards, into sort of the Sydney County or not Sydney, but more into this city area. How did I actually determine from say, engineering, which is what I talked about, my study there, moving into sort of finance and all that kind of stuff? Like what kind of jobs did you take on during that period of time?
My job out of university was working for a large corporate. I was in the e-commerce field, which I didn’t know what that was when I first started. It was nearly 20 odd years ago. I guess the reason I got in that field is because I had an engineering degree and a commerce degree, so someone said, ‘you’ll be good at e-commerce’. So that’s where I started. But I always think I had a passion for property. And I remember very early on, you know, reading that the most of the world’s wealthiest people either stored their wealth in property or grew their wealth through property. So I figured if it was good enough for them, it would be good enough for me. So while I continued to sort of work and enjoyed what I did, I started investing on the side, trying a few different things to kind of, you know, build up my own portfolio.
Thambipillay’s work journey definitely did not initially start with investment, and how his job in a large corporate-led him to transition.
I worked for a large corporate for nearly six odd years. And because of my sort of success in property at the time on the side, people started asking me for help. And that was fun. I was good at helping people. I was working for someone else, so obviously totally independent, but I started to get a bit of a taste for enjoying helping people. So I thought, Hmm, maybe there is an industry here about, you know, in the property advisory space. And so I started looking around and I went to work for a couple of smaller companies. I was lucky enough that the first person I worked for was an actual mentor of mine and who took me under his wings. And having worked for probably two or three different companies and sort of learning a bit more about the industry that I was in was when I decided to sort of go out on my own.
His mentor really inspired him to go out and start doing his own thing.
He’s a serial entrepreneur, and probably still is to this day. But again, he was very big on property. And so I sort of found him before the days of Facebook and social media and that sort of thing. He was just someone who wanted to help people, was very successful, successful in what he did. And because I guess my passion for property, I knew that trying to work on my own, I could do it, but I knew it came with a lot of danger and risk. So I really wanted to work as someone who had at least I figured, had at least 10 years worth of experience, had invested across multiple markets and multiple different property cycles so that way, then I could really get a good sense of, I guess some of the things that could trip me up in the future and maybe try to stay clear of as many of them as I possibly could.
Thambipillay took his own interest in the property and was not entirely influenced by anyone in particular, including his parents.
I would say that my interest is very much self-driven. It’s probably come from just my study of, you know, of successful people, entrepreneurs, property developers. And so that’s really where the passion I think comes from. I guess as a kid I always sort of enjoyed playing the game of monopoly, and I always remember saying, ‘the guy who had the most houses won’. And so for me, that’s the game that I probably started playing as an adult and still enjoy to this day.
PROPERTY INVESTING JOURNEY
So when did Thambipillay first venture down the property path?
I was a young kid in my twenties wanting to get into property, as that first job out of university didn’t really pay a great deal. I was lucky enough though to still be living with my parents, so it didn’t have too many expenses. But even then, although I was living in Sydney, the Sydney market was unaffordable to me, and now we’re talking 20 odd years ago. So I thought, well, I’ve got two choices. I either don’t invest, try and find other markets that have a good capital growth potential. So I guess I was lucky enough to sort of, you know, do a lot of research and apply some of the financial principles that I’ve learned at university, like in supply and demand. And I understood that you know, one of the key risks about investing in property was the vacancy rate because if you couldn’t get your property rented, well everything else went a bit pear-shaped.
So I did a lot of research and then went and bought my first property despite living in Sydney all the way over in Western Australia. And at the time, I think a lot of people who knew me probably sniggered at that decision. They thought, why would you go invest all the way over there? But those same people were stunned to see that 18 months later I doubled my money. And to be honest, I was too. I couldn’t believe that my first property had worked out so well. So after that, I was well and truly bitten by the property bug and how it could certainly accelerate your ability to create wealth. And that’s really where my journey began, sort of, you know, looking at I guess investing almost counter-cyclical cyclically and finding opportunities before everybody else does.
Wow. That’s amazing. So how did you determine a Western Australia was the place to actually go and invest in?
I guess at the time what I was looking at was the state of the economy. I understood that if there’s a strong economy in a particular state if there is a good job growth that means there’s, you know, a stronger likelihood people can afford prices and prices to rise. So again, in a sort of a put on that sort of commerce finance hat that I learned from, from my university days, and looking at the different States and looking at, well, what could I afford? As I said, I wasn’t able to afford high prices. So we’re looking at, you know, well, what could I afford? Where am I going to get a good return from a cash flow perspective? So the property will get rented easily, so I’m not going to have to worry about that too much. And then what are the things that I believe would drive capital growth? I think I found that over the last 18 years, but back then I still understood that it came down to, there has to be more demand than supply and people have to be able to afford prices. So kind of using a bit of a mismatch at that time, I would still say that I got quite lucky with my first investment, but there was still a bit of science to it back then.
At a very early age, Thambipillay had quite a lot of knowledge.
I am a lifelong learner and I’m a prodigious student, so I constantly read. I constantly look for, you know, what is it that people who’ve achieved more than me in a particular field that I’d like to achieve more in, what is it they do differently? And from a lot of the books I read, I saw that really, you know, there are some commonalities here that we need to look at. Investing in property isn’t just buying an off the plan unit in a suburb nearby that you think you might know and expecting to make a lot of money. There is a bit more science to it. I said I didn’t really know everything that I do right now and I still think I’ve got a lot more to learn, but I just saw that there were a few commonalities as I said. And so that’s what I went for. But once I sort of made that money from my first investment property, I guess I didn’t really trust my judgment again. Why? Well, I knew I got lucky. It’s probably more accurate. And so that’s when I really started looking for a mentor to really give me a bit more of a guided process and a framework that I could use going forward.
Thambipillay explains the details about his first investment that eventually led him to be the successful investor he is today.
I think it was a four-bedroom house, certainly nothing to look at. One of the things I understood when I was looking at investing in properties was that I wasn’t going to live there, so it wasn’t as if, you know, it had to meet any kind of criteria for me about the way it looked or whatever else. It really was a case of you know, a numbers thing. I’m very much a numbers guy, so it really just has to make sense to me on paper. Analytically I did not want to get emotionally involved. So that’s really how it was, but it was just a standard vanilla house. I think it was four bedrooms if I remember correctly. Close to shops and schools and some of the key infrastructure that you want to look for and yeah, very easy to rent out.
Excellent. How much did you buy that one for?
That first property was if I remember, it was a 135,000 if I remember correctly. So I said, we’re talking some pretty low numbers back then.
That’s amazing to hear. And how much rent do you remember getting from that?
It was nearly $200. About 180. $209 a week when we first started.
17:08 If I remember it, it was, yeah, I guess neutral. I mean, probably slightly on the positive side. But, you know, I wasn’t gonna retire off the investment straight away, but it certainly meant that you know, it didn’t impact on my ability to keep saving, to keep doing what I need to do to sort of, you know, keep building that portfolio going forward.
So in that particular first property, did you go out to the bank to be able to borrow, say on an 80% loan or how did you manage to get that together?
I did try a banker at the time and then I think I stumbled on a particular broker who was able to sort of, you know, give me four different options by coming to my home, and I could sort of look at what was the best option for me. And I went down that path. I think back then it was easier to get 90% loans. Then probably than it is right now. So I just borrowed as much as I could, cause I didn’t have much in savings and I just wanted to get into the market. So, yeah, the broker was great and then I worked with him for a good few years afterwards until I think he then, you know, went on to other things.
Thambipillay’s property journey started almost 18 years ago, and we find out how many properties he has bought since then.
I wish I could tell you I owned all the properties that I’ve purchased, but one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is obviously well, I’ve sold more than I would’ve liked to but over the last 18 years, if we talk about what I bought and what I’ve sold, it’d be somewhere in the order of 10 to 15, I would think. I don’t own that many right now. I wish I still did. But I guess one of the mistakes I did make was, you know, getting a little greedy at the time and seeing the dollar signs and kind of cashing in more quickly than I even really needed to.
So how many properties do you currently hold?
Currently, at the moment, we’re looking at about a half a dozen, so about half of what I probably had in total.
After purchasing 10 to 15 properties in his lifetime, Thambipillay has evidently experienced some low moments throughout his property journey.
One of the lowest would have been the fact that I got greedy too quickly. So I’d already had a few investments that were working well or anything that I had sold I’d made money on. But I got impatient. I wanted to do it faster. I was inspired by a lot of talk at the time about you know, renovation and buying, renovating and selling and that sort of thing. So I thought that would be the way to go. So I bought a property that I thought I could, you know, renovate and flip for quick cash within a few months. But you know, anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t have a practical bone in my body. My wife won’t even let me hang up pictures on the walls because she’s scared.
I’ll probably crack the wall right. In doing so, I wouldn’t let myself do it. So here’s me a guy, totally not practical in one way, shape or form going in, doing a renovation, a deal. It was a recipe for disaster because it was the wrong strategy for me. It could have worked for others, for sure. But it was definitely the wrong strategy for me and it caused me a lot of heartache as I learned the renovation process quickly. I didn’t know what questions to ask to the tradies. So I certainly, I think I felt I let down the garden path a few times purely because I was so green. Such a novice. And then I thought that just because I had a few properties meant I was some kind of expert when really I was good at identifying markets with good scope for capital growth and good rental yields.
I was not a complete novice when it came to renovating and I was really lucky to escape with my pants on. I lost a little bit of money. Yes. But it was more the lesson that I went through. However, I didn’t learn that lesson at that time. I had decided, well if I fail the first time, I’m going to try again. Because that’s what you do when you’re making a mistake. You try again. So I wanted a bigger development deal. And that really is when, you know, things went very much pear-shaped for me. I lost a lot of money and that’s when I kind of went back with my tail between my tails, had to sell off some of my better properties just to fund the loss. And really kind of get clear on what the right strategies are for me.
Thambipillay thought it would be a great opportunity to renovate and then sell.
The criteria that I applied again was affordability and rental yields, right? Which is the same strategy I applied for, for the longer-term capital growth property? So it was a property in Newcastle. It was around about 150 odd thousand dollars at the time. And I thought, yeah, it was in a good location, close to a school and close to a lot of that, a lot of the shops. And there was a new shopping centre sort of being built close by. I thought, cool, this will be a really good location. I thought ‘I’ve got a good price for it’. So that’s where I started. But as I said, it was too far away. I was living in Sydney, so it’s new, you know, and I was about an hour and a half away from where I was living. Managing it remotely, not something that is easy to do as I found out later on. And really it should have been something that would have been closer to home, but to be honest, it was definitely the wrong strategy for me.
And so, and these are the things that I guess I did not think about. I just looked at the property, I didn’t think about the actual journey of, you know, what I was doing. How was I going to manage it all, how would I be involved? And sometimes the decisions couldn’t be made because I wasn’t there. And so, you know, maybe I could have had a good project manager, but still, ultimately it was my investment. I need to be the decision-maker and I had to be more hands-on, especially with my first one. And it just, yeah, it did not work at all.
Despite making these costly mistakes, he continued to invest leading him to his second property.
So that was a fairly big deal. It wasn’t quite a knockdown and renovation, but certainly, the property needed a fair bit of work. It was a property in Chatswood. I was able to even get some money partners on board and we kind of did this as a big joint venture project. But when was that? 2008 the GFC sat at the same time we had a number of interest rate increases as people just weren’t buying, buying property. And every month interest rates were rising. So my costs were blowing out. The job took much longer than I thought. And we ended up just having to sell it, probably not even with the renovation complete, just to ensure that you know, we could get out of it. And it hurt me certainly.
Thambipillay essentially had to think fast and pick himself back up after the mistakes he had made. What was the biggest learning lesson out of his whole experience?
I think the biggest learning lesson there was to be more self-aware and accept what my strengths are and accept what my weaknesses are. And I think when we’re young, many of us think that you know, we’re, I’m ten foot tall and bulletproof. And I think what I found is that, you know I’m not bulletproof. There are certain things that I am not good at and I need to accept that. So it was, I guess a real lesson for the ego more than anything else. I figured that if someone else could do it, I could too. But realizing that isn’t always true and that you need some help. So that would be one of the biggest lessons that I carry to this day, even with my own investing, but also when I’m advising clients. But then the other thing would be how did I even move forward from that? I really had to make a choice and the choice was you know, you can give up now and you’re not going to be able to achieve your goals. I mean, giving up, never helped anyone achieve their goals any faster or I can just, you know, lick my wounds and get myself back up and when I’m ready, move forward again. And that’s what I chose to do.
The Power of a Strong Mindset When Investing in Australian money & Property market
Thambipillay discusses his strategy when it comes to property investment.
I think the fundamental strategy I use is, you first need to get clear on what it is you want to achieve. I see so many people saying, look, Niro, is this a good area to buy in? And I’m like, I have no idea. I’ll tell you why you want to buy it. And I think that’s what the key thing is, ultimately a property is simply a vehicle to help you achieve your financial goals. And so you really need to be clear on what your goals are. You need to be clear on your personal circumstances, you know, and then it comes down to finding the right property accordingly. So, you know, for me, as I said, doing a renovation deal, really dumb idea. But that doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. At the same time, you know, buying a property that’s really a growth-focused property, and maybe compromising on some cash flow may be a good strategy for someone who’s got a high income, or stable in their jobs and happy to ride that wave. Whereas for others they need a bit more of a mix. They need some good capital growth, I think you always need that, but they do need a better rental return as well. And so really getting clear on someone’s starting point and endpoint makes it so much easier to map out the right strategy individually.
Thambipillay evidently had to start with a goal. We find out what was his dream that he wanted to achieve.
Really for me at the time I wanted to build a portfolio of properties so that I could come back and, you know, buy my home in Sydney where I lived. And I didn’t want to have a massive mortgage you know, so I wanted to invest. I wanted the properties to be what I thought were good growth locations, but also I understood at the time that if I kept buying properties that had a huge negative cash flow, I couldn’t afford to have a huge portfolio from month to month basis. And I figured that eventually, a bank wouldn’t say no to me. So I really focused on getting that mix right. Focusing on good cash flow plus capital growth. Sometimes I’d do a good growth property, but then I’d go and get a more positive cashflow property. Sometimes I looked at a property that had a bit both and sort of built that up. So, therefore, I was able to keep moving forward without kind of, you know, falling victim to banks changing criteria or anything of that nature.
He shares the type of properties he acquired in his portfolio and how he balanced having multiple at the one time.
I have a personal preference for houses. That’s something I look at, and I think especially with a lot of the stuff that we’ve had recently, that’s obviously been a much lower risk strategy. So I definitely focus on houses because I think that they’re always going to be in a bit of an undersupply and in the right areas. And then really I guess I look at, well, what’s the market like? What’s the rental return? Like, what’s the vacancy factor? Like you know, how is this property going to help me versus, you know, maybe some other properties, what am I comfortable buying? I’m going to just, for example, if I’ve got a borrowing capacity of $1 million doesn’t mean I want to go and buy something for $1 million. And you know, I’d probably look at something for six or $700,000 to keep more borrowing capacity in the tank for future investments. And sort of really just take a very low-risk approach. I’ve done high-risk stuff, you know, as I said the buy, renovate, sell and whatever else, and it really burned me. So I’m very low risk now in what I do. But I think ultimately if you can focus on minimizing risks and mitigating the risks, the upside takes care of itself.
He goes on to explain how his strategy consists of buy and hold, to ensure that he can ultimately let it pay itself off.
I mean, sometimes I will, you know, look at, okay, is this a bigger block of land? Could I maybe, you know, sub-divide and create a chunk of change to maybe pay down some debt faster or use as a deposit for another property. So it is the understanding where you’re at, what your borrowing capacity will mean after you buy a particular property. I think I see so many people not realize that they think, “Oh, I’ve got a borrowing capacity of $70 000, I’m going to buy something for $750 000. But then they don’t realize that means that they’ve done. You know, what is that going to mean for the next investments, especially to build a portfolio. And so I’m well aware of that and I’d always speak to my broking team about, well, if I buy this for me, what is that going to mean for the future?
Thambipillay talks about other types of investments he jumped into, such as property developments.
I guess in the last you know, sort of three to five years, it’s been very much a case of just buy and hold. That’s my preferred strategy because, you know, it does involve a lot of work. And I prefer analyzing markets. So that’s really what I’ve been looking forward to is good opportunities to get them at a good price, and then let the market do the work for me.
Whilst managing his property portfolio, Thambipillay also has his clients to attend to.
Someone will come through to me after maybe, you know, seeing a post on social media or a video on YouTube. And they’re really looking for guidance about how to achieve their goals. A lot of them are not really even clear on what they want to achieve because they don’t know what they can achieve. And then they’re looking for you know, well, can my team and I actually help them find the right properties for them, help them find the right property managers. And really it’s a hands-on service for them, a full end to end service. Because many people today I find they’re just too busy to do all the research themselves. They’re too busy to do all the negotiation and, whatnot. That, I mean is what property investing requires in this new decade.
Thambipillay delves into his success stories that he has experienced with his clients.
I think I’m lucky enough to have a few. So one of the kinds I guess I’d love to share is, you know when they came to me, they had both gotten married recently, but it was a second marriage for both of them. So they’d both been divorced previously. They’d both lost everything as a result of the divorces. Now married, they had a home, had a bit of equity in it, but in all sorts of significant mortgages and they were sort of in their mid to late forties and were like, you know, they want to invest, but they’ve lost everything before. So there was a lot of fear around it. They were busy in their jobs trying to get ahead and they just wanted assistance in how to build a portfolio. And I was able to, over the next six years, help them build a portfolio of five investment properties. They were able to pay off their personal mortgage, in fact, the entire mortgage on their home. And they just simply, you know, followed the process that we went through. And to this day, you know, I think the only tip to their wealth is I think they upgraded their cars. But other than that, they live in the same home. They still, you know, go to work. Most people would not even know that they have a portfolio that probably plays in the top one or 2% of all Australians.
He has ultimately allowed a property to grow as the market moves, which is incredible to achieve that kind of success in the investment world.
I think property investing is a game of patience and I know a lot of people say they want to do it quickly. You know, “I want to get rich quick”. I want to get rich by the end of this year. But in my experience and both in terms of clients or my own personal experience, if you try to rush it if you try to go too quickly, you’re going to end up, you know, coming to a crash. You’ve got to understand it’s a game of patience. That doesn’t mean you procrastinate. You know, you want to get into the market whenever you feel you’re ready and your cash flow allows it, but then you need to let time be your biggest asset in terms of holding the properties.
Throughout Thambipillay’s property investment journey his mindset has evidently changed over the years.
Mine right now is to be an example to my kids. And as cliché as that might sound, that for me drives me in everything I do. So it drives me from a level of, you know, at age 41 I’m probably in better physical shape than I was in my, in my twenties. Because I want to be an example in terms of my health. I want to be an example in terms of going to do something that I love and chasing my dreams. I want to be an example of how you can help others and still achieve your dreams as well. So for me, my wife, there is no doubt about anyone who knows me will tell you. It’s my two boys.
Thambipillay talks about his dreams for his two boys.
At the age that they’re at, being six and three. I think they’re still very early. And just, you know, learning. But one of the things I really want to give them is a good financial education. So you know how to manage money. You know, the power of saving, the power of investing, you know, having that money, compound interest, rental returns, leverage..those kinds of terms that, you know, many people who’ve gone to the workforce still are not comfortable with or don’t really understand. I’d love to be able to pass that knowledge on, onto my kids along with maybe some of the mistakes that I’ve made. Like you, I’m being impatient and taking unnecessary risks and saying that you know, you’ve got time, you know, there’s no need to, you know, make $1 million these days. Probably by the time you’re 18 you’ve got time on your side and then to just follow the principles that hopefully I can pass onto them so then they can really go on to achieve their dreams and then certainly achieve their financial goals.
He has also come across additional resources and mentors that have helped him throughout his property investment journey.
I have been someone who’s always understood that I can’t have all the answers and if I wait to make all the mistakes myself, I’ll be waiting for a very long time. And so I’m very big on having a mentor or whether it’s, you know, in the property investment space, or whether it’s in having a business mentor. And I think sometimes mentors can simply be, you know, books and courses that, you know, people you look up to offer. Because they’ve got experience, you know, that they’ve gone through for years, sometimes decades if compressed into a book, that you can digest in a few days. So I’m very big on reading and very big on studying. Some of them, you know, the books that still stay with me are the classics, like Think and Grow Rich or The Richest Man in Babylon, which I probably read 20 years ago that I still remember to this day. So I think it’s constantly educating yourself and also checking in to see what is recommended by someone. Is that right for you? Because everyone is different. You’ve got to remember that as well.
He divulges the best advice he has received from people he met.
Know yourself and be true to yourself? I think I’ve often heard “be yourself”, but then it was someone who said, “no, you can’t be yourself until you know yourself”. And when I look back at the mistakes that I’ve made and there’s some that I’ve shared, it’s all because I wasn’t willing to accept my true nature, both positive and negative. You know, none of us are perfect. We all have our flaws, but we also all have our strengths and I think we just need to double down on those strengths. I will say that when it comes to matters of character, yes. Focus on your weaknesses when it comes to matters of achieving your goals, focus and double down on your strengths.
In order to be successful in his property investment journey, Thambipillay has picked up some personal habits along the way to continue to thrive.
I mean a number one: I’m constantly watching the mark. And what I mean by that is this, you know ultimately property prices rising, as I said, is a function of supply. And demand and the economy. So I’m always reading about what’s going on in the economy. I’m constantly studying. I’m constantly trying to get it simplified for me so then I can understand it better. And also explaining to my clients, I think number one, is really getting an understanding of what’s going on from an economic perspective so that you don’t get caught up in the sentiment or the markets rushing. You got to buy now or the market’s falling, dump your properties, you know, those kinds of short term trends. I really want to stay one step above that and look at the longer-term: what I expect is going to happen and then manage it accordingly. So I think that number one is really looking at the economy. Number two, I do a lot of journaling. And although that may not have something directly to do with choosing the right properties, what it does is bring me back to myself. It centres me, it focuses me, it allows me to look at, you know my habits, my strengths, my weaknesses, what I’m learning. And it allows me just to keep a clear head when looking at investment decisions for myself or for clients.
Journaling has become a way of life for him, and he discusses how he does it: whether it be on the computer or writing it out on paper.
For me, do what works for you. I’ve tried both. And I find that you know, computers are fine. I’m also a really fast typer, so that’s another thing that helps. I would journal pretty much daily. And what I will journal is, is a couple of things, but number one: how I’m feeling. You know, so I really want to get in touch with what’s going on for me. I’m journaling about key learnings that I’ve had both as a person and also in the professional space. I’m definitely journaling what I’m grateful for as well. And also the small wins, you know, because I think so many of us today, we want to achieve great success. We want to achieve great wealth, yes, but that’s a journey.
And if you just keep focusing only on the destination, you can actually end up feeling like a failure. Because if you go looking, for example, maybe you want five properties and go, “look, I’ve only got one, I haven’t got five”. You end up reinforcing what you haven’t achieved, which can really kill your momentum. And I think I see so many people end up giving up or getting frustrated. But when you focus on the really small wins about whether you negotiated a deal or you tried something, whatever it is, and you focus on those small wins, your self-confidence rises or you feel better about yourself and you can just stay in it for the long game.
I love that. Where did you learn that from and how long ago did you actually start journaling?
Very early on, so probably about 15 odd years ago is when I first started journaling. At the time it was quite haphazard and I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I think whenever you start a new habit, expect to do it badly. So I would say I started journaling badly, but I wanted to do it because I immediately saw that if I could get stuff out of my head onto paper, I could look at it more objectively. I wasn’t so caught up in the drama of things. And then over time, I’ve really sort of fine-tuning it. I always think that you know, anything you do, you want to keep improving and wanting to be in what I call a ‘constant state of progress’. And so for me, journaling has become something that I really enjoy and I’ve kind of added structure to it based on, I guess things I’ve read, experiments that I’ve done. But really, ultimately, I guess the end goal of writing in a journal is that you want to feel better about yourself.
Thambipillay shares his thoughts by writing his own biography with his own journal entries.
I used to go back and look at past journal entries. Now I don’t only because I guess it reminds me of who I used to be and I really want to focus on the person I am. So yes, I’ve got a lot of journal entries. But I guess, you know, they’re your private thoughts that are just there for you really. And the whole thing is, I said ultimately it’s for having greater clarity of thought, being able to work through may be personal issues, you know, I mean I used to work it out, for example, to work out what my passion is. How do we get clear on my purpose? All these things have come from me and I’m always working on getting greater clarity, but they certainly come from me from journaling. I’d say journaling is one of the best that I’ve been able to implement, especially during the tougher times.
When do I journal? I will generally journal at the start of the day. So that’s how I’ll often start my day before I get to the reading and everything else, or sometimes even just after. But I really want to journal at the start of the day. I want to clear out any kind of stuff that I’ve got going on. For me, I want to be crystal clear on my goals. I do a journal about my goals, I journal about the reasons and why I’m doing them. And so for me, journaling at the start of the day really works very, very well. And at the end of the day, I don’t do this as often as I’d like to, but I will go back and write at the end of the day about what I did, what I accomplished in the day and what I am really proud of.
I’m proud of what I have achieved and what went my way today. You know, because that’s a big thing that I’ve recently started journaling on is that, so many of us focus on how ‘this went wrong’ or ‘this isn’t going my way’ or ‘this didn’t happen as fast as I wanted it to’. And we focus on that negativity and I actively ask myself a question to change my mental focus about what is it that went my way today that I’m grateful for. And it just completely changes your mental focus. And what I find is that by journaling I then find that because I know I’m going to be journaling, I start actively looking forward to what happened in my day. And it could be something simple as, you know, someone let me in through the traffic to maybe something bigger, but I’m looking for things that went my way and that just completely changes my mental focus.
Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean it wouldn’t take long, right?
It’s probably sometimes even 10 minutes if that, you know, I mean sometimes if I decide to if I’ve got some time, I’ll start journaling. But other things that I’m thinking about, that can take me up to a half an hour, sure. But that’s a rare thing. Normally, I think if you can allocate 10 minutes to journal, whether it’s writing or on a computer, whichever you’re more comfortable with, I think everyone will just get something about themselves. And it’s a great avenue for, I guess, self-realization, which I think is a big part of our journey.
If Thambipillay had some time to reflect on his past self 10 years ago, we find out what he would have said to himself.
I would say, slow down, kiddo. Be patient. You don’t have to be in a hurry. It’s not about the person who gets the goalpost first. You’re running your own race and you’ve got time.
I think, if you can and you know, be patient, get the right guidance and just keep moving forward at a slow and steady pace. It’s the whole thing of the tortoise and the hare. Too many of us, forget that old fabled tale, where the hare sprints ahead and then gets distracted and loses the race. Where the turtle ended up winning. I think more of us can certainly be turtles as we go through life.
He talks about the future, painting the picture of what is happening for him in the next five years.
What I’m most excited about on my property journey is I guess number one, being able to use the experience that I’ve gleaned now over 18 odd years to help more people avoid some of the mistakes that they’ve made. And also I think from my perspective, start my kids on looking at what property can do for them. I said, you know, playing games like monopoly and really passing that knowledge on. And I guess I’ve reached a stage where it’s not so much about, you know, how much more can I accumulate and all that sort of stuff.
No, it’s really about what can I share? What can I give, how can I serve? How can I use my experiences to help make other people’s lives better?
I love this last question I always ask this is how much of your success do you think is due to skill, intelligence and hard work? And how much of it is because of luck?
I would have to say it’s a 50/50 split. And I think that’s true for almost anybody because you can do all the work and I think you need to yes. But then, things need to align. I guess the stars need to align in certain ways. And I really believe that going forwards the only thing I can control is my effort. I can only control what I do, my effort, my attitude. I cannot control the circumstances. I cannot control what others are doing, who may be bidding for the same property for example, or what others are doing in general. I can only focus on me. So, I totally think success is a matter of both making it happen and letting it happen.