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Winter is Here: Managing Fear and Investing During a Downturn

managing fear

Summary: The coronavirus pandemic has changed our world in ways we could have never imagined. For medical professionals, it’s all-out war. For the rest, it’s economic turmoil and a new way of living. But one thing is constant. We are all fearful. We are fearful of change. Fearful of the unknown. Fearful for our financial health. In this article, we talk about the importance of managing fear, not just in your daily life but also when it comes to investing.


For most of us in the medical profession, it’s a scary time. 

It almost feels surreal. Like our world has suddenly totally changed. 

The coronavirus pandemic has altered the face of medicine in a way that many of us have certainly never seen and could never even predict in our wildest dreams. Those of us who have never experienced wartime are shocked to be facing critical shortages in supplies and manpower. 

How could we, arguably the most well-funded health system in the world, be in such a situation?

It’s early on in the crisis, but physicians and other medical professionals are already making tough personal choices, like whether to sacrifice their own and their family’s safety by providing medical care without adequate personal protective equipment. Our profession, which has been much maligned in the public eye over the last several years, has been called to put ourselves at risk in service to others. 

Meanwhile, we watch people continue to gather in large crowds and to shrug off the risk of the virus. We see people calling the healthcare response over-reactive. We see young people reasoning that since they will likely have minimal symptoms, so there’s no reason to change their behavior. 

Yet we will continue to put ourselves at risk to serve our patients. Because it is part of the oath we have taken. Because it is why we went into medicine in the first place: to help people. 

So it’s no surprise that physicians who have provided care to patients with coronavirus are already in critical condition and dying. 

We all know the worst is yet to come. There is talk of rationing ventilators and supplies. There are flowcharts designed to help physicians decide who gets care and who is left to die. Many of us on the front line of healthcare will give our lives up before the war is over.

This is our new reality. It is like wartime. And stress is palpable.

Then there is an economic downturn on top of everything else. 

Over the last several weeks, we have watched our retirement accounts in free fall. Some physicians have lost more than a third of their savings in less than a month. Some in private practice have had their clinics close, so they no longer have any income. Many are under serious financial stress. 

Our readers, who are actively investing in real estate deals, are also worried. Should they pull out? Protect their funds? Will their properties lose value? Will their tenants be able to pay their rents? Have they over-extended themselves too much?


So what can be done?

I don’t pretend to have the solutions. The reality is what it is. 

But, what I do know is having the right mindset is vital. Managing fear is never more important than in times of emotional and financial stress, like right now. This is why I felt it necessary to write this post this week. 

Please understand, this article is not meant to diminish the reality of the current medical and financial situation here in the United States. These are trying times. 

But in the darkest of times, there is opportunity. And that opportunity is the chance to grow, to grow as individuals and as a society… if we choose to do so. 

The worst periods of suffering can also be the most beautiful parts of our lives. If you look for them, there are already glimpses of the beauty among the destruction. 

Maybe you’ve seen the videos of the Italians singing out of their windows from quarantine? Or the way that physicians are banding together across specialties supporting each other? Maybe you’ve seen how China is sending physicians and donated ventilators to areas in need? 

Our humanity and connectedness are sometimes most obvious in times of tragedy. And this period in history is no different. You just have to look for it. 


You choose where you focus

Tony Robbins likes to say, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” 

Often he’ll give an example of two veterans who experience the same tragedy: a best friend dies on the battlefield. 

One veteran will see it as the worst day of his life. He will say that it showed him that life could be destroyed in an instant. That it was all meaningless. And he will become self-destructive and never recover emotionally. This is a consequence of the focus and meaning he has given to the experience.

The other will say it was one of the turning points in his life because it showed him what a treasure life is. That there is so much love between people. That every day is important and should be treated as sacred. And he will go on to contribute to people and lead an even more fulfilled personal and public life after the experience. 

Two people with the same experience. Two people with totally different experiences due to the differences in their focus and meaning. 

Here’s the thing: while you can’t control much of what is going on in the world right now, you can control your focus. You can choose what you want to pay attention to and the meaning you want to give to it.

One the one hand, you can choose to focus on everything that is going wrong and let that consume you. You can feel helpless, defeated, and overwhelmed. You can cause yourself to suffer.

Suffering is a choice. It’s a choice you make each time you decide to focus on only the bad.

On the other hand, by managing fear, you can see all that is not going well and balance it with seeing what is going well. You can focus on what you can do to make the situation better, even if it is just a little thing. You can focus on finding solutions, not just seeing the problems. 

To some of you, that might seem like I’m encouraging you to ignore reality, but that’s not the case. I’m encouraging you to see all reality, not just the bad. Because there is beauty there.  

Maybe it’s the fact that you get to spend more time with your family while on quarantine, or the way neighbors are supporting each other. Maybe it’s the way that the medical profession is banding together from all over the world and following our oath. Or maybe it’s seeing the incredible creativity and medical advances made by talented healthcare workers right in front of our eyes. 

Whatever it is, it is there. Just open yourself to seeing and experiencing it. Because there is so much good happening right now!


“Life doesn’t happen to you. It happens for you.” – Tony Robbins


Don’t let fear control your decisions

Fear is a natural emotion. It is part of the human experience. But it does not need to rule your life and drive all your decision-making. 

Our brains developed thousands of years ago when we were at risk of dying constantly. Walking out of our caves was dangerous. We had to keep on edge constantly. Fear kept us alive.

This is no longer the case. We don’t face the same dangers that our ancestors faced thousands of years ago. But our brains are still fearful and it’s easy to succumb to it. 

However, there is a huge cost to not managing fear. 


1. When you let your life be ruled by fear, you don’t live the life you want. You live a life by default. 

Several years ago, I decided not to stop making decisions based on my fears. Why? Because I realized I was letting fear hold me back from what I really wanted. I was living my life in a certain way because I was afraid of change and not knowing what would happen. I was living my life trying to avoid what I was afraid of rather than living it the way I wanted. 

Now, I don’t pretend to have my mind completely managed even today. I still have fears creep in. But I am constantly working on managing fear, on watching my mind and my thoughts because I know there is a better way. Living in fear is no way to live. This is how people end up reflecting on their lives on their deathbed with regrets. I don’t intend to do that.


2. Decisions made in fear are not good decisions. 

When you make decisions from a place of fear and stress, you make poorly-informed, emotionally charged decisions. You’re showing up as a poor version of yourself. Just think through how you interact with a loved one when you’re stressed and fearful. Do you read their behavior in a neutral, reflective way or do you react with anger at the slightest provocation?

When you compare this to showing up in a great mood and creating the time to think through all the options of a choice clearly, you can see how fear can color your ability to make good decisions. 

In the context of real estate investing, we see fear expressed as “I think I’m going to pull out of this deal” or “I’m going to sit on the sidelines.” Fear is literally taking them out of the game.

But how do you stop fear from taking over? 


You have to manage your mind 

One way to start managing your mind is by recognizing that your thoughts lead to your feelings, which then cause you to act a certain way, giving you your results (life coach Brooke Castillo’s model). 

So the first place to start is by working on your thoughts, and what a great opportunity we have right now to get better at managing fear! 

As Tony Robbins would say, coronavirus and the current financial markets are a “worthy opponent.” It’s an opportunity to grow.


Make yourself proud

This crisis is a chance for us as a medical profession to step up. To gain some of the respect back that we have lost in the public eye (rightly or wrongly) in the last several years. To find our strength as physicians by banding together in service to our patients. This is an opportunity for us to come out of this tragedy stronger, able to better advocate for ourselves, our patients and the medical system as a whole. 

It’s also an opportunity for you to step up for yourself. 

Self-esteem is something you gain from doing something difficult. It’s earned from within, not from someone else. This is the time to prove your strength to yourself. 

Through this experience, you have the opportunity to grow as an individual and to show yourself how courageous and strong you really are. Naturally, this will also serve as an example to the people around you, including your kids. 

These are a few methods I’ve applied to my life and found helpful:

  • I ask myself “How can I do it?” instead of accepting something is impossible. 
  • Any time I say “I can’t do it” or “It can’t be done,” I change it to “I must do it.” Then I start looking for solutions.
  • When facing a challenge, I ask myself hypothetical questions starting with “Is it possible…” to make myself start to see that the outcome is not as fixed as I initially may believe. 

Healthcare as a whole is filled with some of the most innovative and hardworking professionals. Together we can accomplish much more than we might initially believe possible. So what seems impossible today may not seem so tomorrow.


So how does this all relate to investing in real estate?

Successful investing during a downturn depends on you successfully managing fear. 

All of us have the natural inclination to run. To give in to our fears, to focus on all the potential negatives. To hunker down and hoard our money.

This is just the natural response of our brains. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is completely normal.

But what would happen if we stayed open? 

What if we see the upsides of investing (and not just focus on the downsides)? What if we take measured risks? If we make non-emotional, well-thought-out decisions instead of fear-based decisions? What if we continue to think creatively?

Then we begin to see the opportunities in this time of financial upheaval. 

Because believe me, there will be lots of opportunities. People have over-leveraged themselves in the last several years. They have been compromising on their buying criteria and over-paying for deals. And soon there will be a lot of good deals coming to market because people cannot stay afloat with cashflow negative properties long-term. 

All of you who have been taking our course and educating yourselves about real estate investing have been preparing for this! 

We all knew the downturn (i.e., winter) was coming. 

And here we are in winter… YOU ARE READY! 

It’s time to apply what you’ve learned. It’s time to leverage the teams you’ve built, to pull out those negotiating skills, and to secure for yourselves the killer cashflowing properties that are going to help you reach your long term goals. 


WINTER is when fortunes are made

But if you are hunkered down, scared, hiding, you will miss all of this.

Remember, just because fear is our natural default does not mean that we have to accept it as the only way. We all have a choice. 

We can all choose to focus on the good, to not let fear run our lives, and to control our thoughts. And by managing fear, we can choose to act in a way to make ourselves proud. 


All of this is in our control

And if we do that… isn’t it possible that this downturn is actually an opportunity for all of us to grow our wealth? 

And isn’t it possible that the coronavirus pandemic is a chance to grow and strengthen our minds, by managing our fear, one thought at a time?



  • Brooke Castillo’s Podcast, all episodes are excellent
  • Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
  • The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins


And just for fun, here’s an incantation… Winter is MY SEASON! 


Do you want to learn how to creatively fund your real estate portfolio and achieve financial freedom? Join the conversation! Follow our Semi-Retired MD  Facebook page and join our Doctors or Professionals  group!

Semi-Retired M.D. and its owners, presenters, and employees are not in the business of providing personal, financial, tax, legal or investment advice and specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk, which is incurred as a consequence, either directly or indirectly, by the use of any of the information contained in this blog. Semi-Retired M.D., its website, this blog and any online tools, if any, do NOT provide ANY legal, accounting, securities, investment, tax or other professional services advice and are not intended to be a substitute for meeting with professional advisors. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of competent, licensed and certified professionals should be sought. In addition, Semi-Retired M.D. does not endorse ANY specific investments, investment strategies, advisors, or financial service firms.


Hi, we’re Kenji and Leti

we provide coaching and mentorship for doctors and high-income earners

Several years ago, we were newlyweds working as full-time hospitalists. On paper, it looked like we had everything: the prestigious careers, the happy marriage, the luxurious rental home, the cars, etc.

But in reality? Despite having worked for several years, we had very little savings. Despite our high income, we had very little freedom in terms of time or money.

One thing was clear: we had to do something.

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