Three years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to have a rural property with a really cool house. With the cost of homes in Ottawa, we figured the best thing to do was to find a land parcel, save up, and then build a funky home. A few acres, a fence, and a funky private home away from people. A simple quest, right?
Eventually—2 years into our search—we found a plot of land, a whopping 51 acres and just on the outskirts of town. We made an offer on the spot and the land was ours.
It was an exciting time for us. But it wasn’t long before the problems started. We learned that the land had a drainage problem and was flooding; we learned that rare frogs had taken up residence in the new wetland; we then had to survey for 3 kinds of animal and in the end, the city would require us to build up at the roadside to avoid all the troubles.
We kept trying to improvise around these setbacks. We did surveys, petitioned drainage inspectors, and wrote letters; but in the end, we were never going to get the house we dreamed of.
After about a year of this, I had a moment of clarity. I realized that everything had gotten so consuming, we’d forgotten what the original goal was: a funky home on some private acreage with a fence and dogs. I asked my husband if it was still the ultimate goal, and he said yes. So then, the obvious next step was to stop trying to make this confounded piece of land work for us and find a different way forward.
Focusing on the actual goal got us back on track—and fast.
We officially decided to sell the land, and before we could even get it listed, an investor friend reached out with an offer that would cover the original purchase plus all our expenses. We started looking for existing houses to see what would fit our budget. Within a week, we put an offer on an incredible modern-country home on a 2-acre forested parcel in the exact neighborhood I had first wanted 3 years prior. We made an offer, they accepted, and now I’m busily preparing to turn the spare room into my personal dressing room while Carson plans a home theatre in the basement.
What’s the business lesson here?
Looking at our businesses, it’s important to notice when we feel like we’re bailing a boat that cannot be saved. We’re frequently told that business is blood-sweat-and-tears, but sometimes it becomes that way because we’ve lost track of the actual goal and now we’re just executing tactics—not adapting to change. Our own stubborn determination to see something through means we’re dumping resources into a plan that seems to be fighting us every step of the way.
It’s an unpopular opinion these days, but I’ll say it: you need to let go of what doesn’t grow.
Naturally, there is hard work and sacrifice when we grow a career or business—and I’m not telling you that you should quit your job or leave your business.
The lesson from our adventures in rural purchasing is this: when we get down a path that doesn’t seem to be paying off, it’s important to look up at where we were actually aiming, and see if there might just be another path to get there.