Answer by Cody Shirk, Surfer, Investor, Contrarian. Real Estate, PE, VC,, onQuora:

Oh man, this is the great catch-22, the “chicken before the egg” … the how do I make money if I have no money?

Everyone has something to offer. It’s called hustle.

It doesn’t matter what your skill is; everyone has one … it could be talking, walking, lifting, thinking, speaking, selling, whatever.

And if you don’t have a skill, then make one!

Use your skill to hustle your tail off.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, just hustle. Work hard, make money. I want something REAL. Tell me how to make some dang money!”

And I get that. You want a game plan. A step-by-step guide for how you build your wealth.

Well, there isn’t one. At least, there isn’t one for each individual. You have to be creative.

Let me tell you how I was creative in one of the first deals I did. A deal that helped me to build my wealth. Just imagine you are me (in this situation), but change the details so you can implement a similar strategy.

So about ten years ago, just after I had graduated high school, I traveled on my own to Central America.

I had originally planned on traveling with some of my friends, but they backed out at the last minute because they were afraid. There were some serious crime issues going on at the time in a variety of countries in the region.

Anyway, I went on my own and had a total blast. It was the first time I had traveled outside the US on my own and I was totally in charge of where I was going.

I could explore what I wanted, eat what I wanted, and think what I wanted.

Keep in mind that I literally only had a couple hundred dollars for this trip. I was staying in hostels and eating the cheapest food I could find.

I was hitching rides with trucks full of chickens and cows, just so I didn’t have to pay for taxis or buses. It was an absolute adventure.

In one of the major cities I visited, I was blown away. It was Panama City, Panama. At the time, there were cranes everywhere. High rises were going up left and right and the entire city seemed like a huge construction zone (It’s still a little like that today!).

There were apartments for sale for $70,000 USD. I remember thinking to myself, “Hmmm, this city is clearly on the uprise, but where the hell am I going to find $70,000?”

Remember, I only had a couple hundred dollars … so how was I going to get $70,000?

This is one of those times where something seems completely unobtainable. I mean, it wasn’t even in the realm of being a possibility.

But still, I couldn’t not think about buying one of those apartments. I just had this gut feeling that it’d be a great investment. Plus, I liked the city and country because I felt it had a bright future.

Fast-forward a couple years and I went back to Panama City, Panama. It was still booming and prices were much higher. Probably double what I had originally seen on my first trip. But, I still thought there was opportunity.

However, I still didn’t have enough money. I had a couple thousand dollars, but nothing close to enough to buy one of those apartments.

This time, I thought, I was NOT going to let this opportunity pass me by. I had already seen the transformation (and price appreciation) since the last time I was there. I was not going to let it happen again!

So, being a little more mature this second time around, I figured out that I needed to use other people’s money. (This is called OPM, other people’s money.)

I made an investment deck. At the time I had no idea what a “deck” was, so I just made a simple presentation about the investment opportunity. Afterwards, I learned that this was basically a deck.

I gave this presentation to a bunch of my friends … and they bit. They understood what I was showing them and decided it was a great investment.

I ended up purchasing a small piece of land (with mostly other people’s money) in a great area. A couple of years later, I sold the land and returned that money – plus some – to the investors. I also kept a healthy profit for myself, for the work I did.

Now, this was a relatively small deal, but it allowed me to launch into the next project that I wanted to pursue.

Since then, I have done this repeatedly, making more and more each time.

This all sounds simple … right?

Obviously, this is a lot of work. You have to put in a serious amount of time to not only discover a “deal,” but also market it, and then get the money to fund it. Then you have to watch the investment all the way through and ensure that investors get their money back.

And that is what it takes to build a lot of wealth starting from zero.

There are obviously a ton of tiny details in between. If you really want it bad enough, then you’ll figure it out.

You’ll need help along the way, but mostly you just need hard work and stubbornness.

You need to be extremely stubborn. Seriously.

Most people think building wealth is a lot about investing and buying the right stocks. While this can certainly help, the reality is that the big money is made through deals that you make yourself.

So here is the equation:


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