If you were raised in the “projects,” “hood,” “ghetto,” “country,” or “sticks” then this blog is for you! If you were raised in a trailer, trailer park, or simply under “poor living conditions” then this blog is for you! If you were raised sans indoor plumbing or running water then this blog is for you! Perhaps you were born just plain ole’ poor. Then this blog is for you!
Many people look at the “James” they see today and often make up their own story about my past. “Did you grow up in D.C.?” “You sound like you are from up North.” “Were your parents professionals as well?” The list goes on. The bottom line is that I’m a simple country boy who was raised in Culpeper, Va. (sounds country, right?) by two loving parents who had to drop out of school in the 6th and 7th grades to take care of their families. I spent the majority of my formative years in a house with no running water, thus no indoor toilet. If you were to stop and look at these humble beginnings, you could easily conclude that any kid growing up in this environment was destined for failure or at least to continue the disadvantaged socio-economic cycle, generation after generation. Glory to God, despite our surroundings, my parents were able to raise three successful children who all learned the value of an honest day’s work and to not allow where you are to dictate where you can be.
I was incredibly ashamed of my living conditions, so never invited my friends from school to spend the night over my house. However, as I grew older and stronger I used this shame to propel me and not to keep me in bondage.
It’s easy to dream, but sometimes we get frustrated that we're working hard and not seeing results as quickly as we'd like. We're actually building a foundation and that elusive success simply will not happen overnight. We have to fully understand that it’s a slow process in which we are constantly building and learning. If it were easy, everyone would have achieved it and the success surely wouldn’t be as appreciated. That’s why it’s extremely important to create a foundation that will remain strong even in times of crisis, and that takes time. We must constantly remind ourselves that we only fail if we quit; otherwise, it is a learning opportunity.
Like many of you whom were raised in a less than ideal home environment, I knew that somehow or someway, I had to break this cycle of poverty—both financial and educational. However, since I was too small to go to the NFL…too short to go to the NBA…and a little too dark to go to the NHL, education alone was my passport to the future! I knew that I had to go to college and earn a degree.
After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Longwood College and a Master’s in Civil Engineering from the University of Virginia (UVA), I designed and built my first house just outside of Charlottesville, Va. in 1990. I often beamed with pride to have accomplished such a task and was eager to host family and friends on any occasion. Unfortunately, after a few years I had reached the height of civil service in Charlottesville (GS-13) and simply had to move to the Washington DC area if I wanted to take my career to the next level. Therefore, the house with over an acre of land that I had built and purchased for $109.000 in 1990 sold a few years later for $118,000 in 1996.
Now that I had moved to the “Big City”—like Jethro Bodine and the Clampetts—it was time for me to find a new crib, so I relied on the wisdom of my old office mates back in Charlottesville, and sought to get a great deal buying “pre-construction.” This was one of the smartest financial moves I’d ever made because as soon as my house was completed by Winchester Homes, in 1997, they were selling the same model in my neighborhood for $30K more!
I planned to stay in the townhouse until I one day moved into my “dream home” with my wife and family, so I always knew that this house was a means to an end—but certainly not the end. Therefore, during the height of the real-estate market when folks were taking equity out of their houses and cashing it in for trips, cars, SUVs, and God only knows what else; I simply let the equity in my house grow. Well, after 11-years in this townhouse and witnessing my sister get a fabulous deal on a bank-owned foreclosure single-family property in Haymarket Va., a still-small voice began to whisper in my ear that perhaps my 8,000 square foot dream home was closer than I thought if only I could find a bank-owned property. But there was one sizeable obstacle, I had to sell my existing townhouse in one of the worst real-estate markets the Nation had ever seen in early 2008. Glory be to God just five days after the house went on the market it sold for $335,000, and I had only paid $159,000 in 1997. After the 6% real-estate commissions (split between the listing and buyer’s agents) that still left me with more than $175,000 profit!
Angela and I used $150K of this money as a down payment on our nearly 8,000 square foot dream home that we purchased at a 30-40% discount from the bank for a total of $728,000. When Angela and I purchased our dream house in 2008 it had actually been built a few years earlier in 2004, but the original owners had never really lived in or taken care of it. This house had been built just for us four years prior to ever imagining that we would be able to afford it. God’s favor! Although it was a bank-owned foreclosure that had been sitting empty for nearly two years, we immediately recognized its potential and knew that all it needed was someone to appreciate and take care of it. The true owners were finally going to occupy it.
But it doesn’t end there!!!!
A few months ago, after church my daughter Landon and I were led to a gated community in Loudoun County, Va. called Creighton Farms where the Favor of God not only allowed us to get by the guards at the front gate but to also get inside—with the assistance of a real-estate agent who was having an open house at another property—the house that God alone had led us to. This 8-bedroom, 17,600 square foot, 5-car garage mansion is nestled on 3.3 acres (God’s number) and even has its own pond! Although it’s listed as a 2008 construction it’s NEVER been occupied, and seems to be waiting for its rightful owners to occupy it (sounds familiar?)
Oh, the price?
As it currently stands there’s no way in the world that Angela and I could possibly afford this $4.5M mansion, but then again, a little over five years ago we thought there was no way we could ever afford to live in the house I’m currently writing this blog from. But with God (three of the most important words you will ever know), all things are possible!
I pray that this blog encourages at least one person who grew up under similar circumstances to become inspired to pursue all that God has planned for you. There is a serious wealth transfer that’s now underway and most experts agree the key to building wealth is ownership. Dare to dream! Dare to break the shackles of financial, educational, and generational poverty! Dare to dare!
About the Author of "Body, Mind & Spirit: The Awakening": James Hackley is an author, inspirational speaker, and a philanthropist who earned a B.S. degree in Physics from Longwood College and an M.S. degree in Engineering from the University of Virginia. He's the founder of Omega Consulting Enterprises, chaplain of a local chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, and faithfully attends Holy & Whole Life Changing Ministries International in Lansdowne, Va. His latest book, Body, Mind & Spirit: The Awakening can be purchased by visiting him at http://www.jameshackley.com , http://www.Amazon.com, and http://www.barnesandnoble.com.