Thought is integral to success.  The old adage “think before you act” isn’t a simplistic prescription for avoiding disaster, it’s a deliberate prescription for success.  Imagine success in advance by thinking through each detail and every milestone of your plan for achieving it.  Discipline your mind to foresee the obvious and hidden pitfalls before taking that first step.  Think of skiers Lindsey Vonn or Bode Miller visualizing their paths to victory in the 2010 Winter Olympics, seeing the turns; the ice; the ruts; the moguls and, hence, the victory.  Imagine Gary Kasparov anticipating his adversary’s moves, four of five moves from his current position.   You may even laugh at Chevy Chase’s credo to “be the ball” – but it speaks directly of the power of thought.

Thought matters.   Take two cases in point:

1. Perennial success story Starbucks Coffee.

Starbucks Coffee Cup
Perhaps this is the crash after so much (market) caffeine…

In an effort to increase its overall cap value, Starbucks management made some impressive growth predictions in 2004, announcing that it would double its pace of expansion, with a goal of reaching 15,000 stores in the United States.  When gas prices rose and the economy soured, Starbuck’s predicted growth failed to materialize.  In an effort to meet its prediction, management thought to saturate local markets – placing many new locations in the south.  They failed to consider that long, sun-baked lines for hot drinks in plastic cups might not be a great southern business model.  The plan began to founder.   Instead of stopping and analyzing the data, they continued to add new stores each year, even with obvious signs that the strategy wasn’t working.  In the end, Starbucks shuttered hundreds of stores.

2. Compare the fallen Starbucks to the rising fortunes of Sam Zell

Sam Zell, the billionaire investor, made what is universally acknowledged to be one of the best-timed real estate decisions in history.  In 2007, he sold his 573 property; 125 million square foot real estate empire – Equity Office Properties Trust – to Blackstone group and others for $39 billion at the peak of the real estate.  It was one of the largest leveraged buyouts in history.  Zell thought hard about what the market was telling him.  He recognized that real estate values were vastly inflated and that enterprises bought office space based on local differentiators such as price and management, not on national differentiators such as brand name ? EOPs original play.   Zell recognized that lenders were underwriting deals based on unrealistic expectations of increased tenancies.   He knew that the credit balloon had to burst, so he got out before it did.  Yet Sam Zell isn’t perfect.   All that success must have gone to his head.  With his billions he bought the Chicago Tribune – oops.

Thinking long and hard before acting plays well in real estate, and in life.  Starbucks’ actions were not entirely without thought.  It simply failed to stop, wake up and smell the coffee before it acted.

Must have been the caffeine.