How to Invest In Yourself
By Leo Gura - April 20, 2013 | 1 Comments
There’s a right way and a wrong way to invest in yourself. Maximize your results by learning how to think about your life, business, and career as a long-term skill investment.
Are You a Short or Long-Term Investor?
Stocks, career, relationships, health, business — it doesn’t really matter. If you’re investing short-term then you’re probably not doing as well as you’d like and you’re leaving a lot of potential untapped. How you think about investing your time, energy, and money back into yourself will make a huge impact on where you ultimately end up in life.
The fundamental problem with the short-term mindset is that it leads to dabbling. If you have a habit of thinking this way then you jump from one undertaking to another without seeing any of them through to the end. Yet the end is where the gold usually lies.
Investing in Your Career or Business
If you’re not actively building career capital every week, you are not investing enough in yourself.
Cal Newport has a great book about savvy career-building called So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The key idea I took from the book is called, Building Career Capital. See, being really successful in a career usually means putting in the time. Building knowledge and accumulating experience makes you a more valuable asset to your employer or to your clients because you are able to do things better than others in the marketplace. As you gather more specialized knowledge and experience, you become more sought-after, which gives you the leverage to negotiate for more goodies: money, vacation time, benefits, freedom, creative control, etc. This applies equally well if you have a business.
It’s hard to build career capital though, if you’re always jumping around. You need to think long-term and see yourself as an investor in yourself. Build up experience. Develop mastery in your field so you can reap all the rewards. If you think short-term you will fail to properly invest in yourself, life will pass you by, and you will find yourself standing on the brink of retirement without any coin in your pocket.
Saving Isn’t a Good Strategy for Getting Rich
You don’t get rich by being a frugal spender. Sure, keep your finances in check, but instead look for opportunities to invest in yourself. I’m talking about things you can do right now that will have a HUGE payoff years from now.
The best long-term investment isn’t stocks, gold, or real-estate, it’s developing your mind and inner game. I know, it’s doesn’t sound sexy and it’s not quick and effortless, but the payoff can be infinite. By developing your mind I mean developing experience, knowledge, and skills that are valuable to others. If you have a career right now, or you have a business, ask yourself, How could I allocate more time towards building relevant career experience?
Start Seeing Every Little Thing You Do as Super-Valuable
This is monster trick that will boost your motivation and make you an awesome long-term investor. Break down everything you do throughout your work day (or work week) and identify the actions that lead to the greatest value. If you’re a writer, it might be every word you type. If you’re a real estate agent, it might be calling clients. If you’re an artist, it might be schmoozing with patrons.
Once you’ve identified the top few things you do in your job or business that produce the bulk of the value, start seeing those actions for the FULL value they actually have. This sounds like a mental trick — like you’re deceiving yourself — but actually you’re being 100% realistic. Here’s an example:
You build motivation by actively convincing yourself of the true long-term value of whatever project your undertake.
If you’re a writer and you write a 150-page screenplay that sells for $300,000, each page is worth $2,000! That’s kinda obvious, but many folks would already fail here by failing to really recognize this and hold it in their mind.
Let’s take it further. If that screenplay gets made into a popular movie, you’ll have name recognition that will allow you to sell your next screenplay for $800,000. This screenplay would also be 150 pages, but now you’re getting paid $5,300 per page!
Let’s take it even further. Due to mounting popularity and name recognition, eventually you might be able to sell twice as many screenplays, start getting royalties, start doing paid speaking engagements, and get an easy chance to launch a book.
All in all, your career — which started off with a single 150-page screenplay — might end up netting you millions of dollars. So, how much is each page of that first screenplay really worth? Is it worth as much in your mind as it is in real life? Probably not! The lesson is to start seeing the long-term value of every little action you take now. How much more motivated will you be to sit down and start typing when you see yourself getting paid $10,000 per page?
Think Beyond Skills and Invest at the Level of Deep Inner Game
An even more long-term, more valuable approach is to think in terms of developing soft-skills and deep inner game. In other worlds, WHO do YOU have to become to occupy that top-level position in your industry or niche? What kind of mindsets, habits, and beliefs would you need to have to get there?
Example of the Artist
Let’s say you’re a professional artist. What does deep inner game development look like for you? Painting and mastering your craft is just basic mastery of your profession. Inner game development goes beyond that to look at what sort of things allow to be a great artist. Perhaps that’s creativity and confidence in your self-expression. Pretty abstract, yet it makes sense that an artistic core value to society and his clients ultimately hinges on that. If you can’t be creative and you can’t put out bold work to set yourself apart, no amount technical skill may be enough.
So how does an artist go about cultivating confidence in his self-expression? Actually, it’s not as hard as it seems. Abstract aspects of yourself can be developed just like concrete ones can, it’s just a matter of setting the goal and coming up with action steps. In this case it might involve painting 10% of your work to be more edgy and controversial and putting it out on display to patrons. Then getting their feedback, coping with it, and upping the quota to 20%. Then 40%, etc, until you build up the fortitude to put out edgy work. In the end, this kind of development can mean the difference between mediocrity and greatness. This involves thinking big and really long-term.
Example from Personal Development
How valuable is it for you to read a book that will teach how to control your emotions better? In a short-term investment framework it might not seem very valuable at all. It might even be labeled mental-masturbation. But let’s take a look at it from a long-term investment framework.
By learning to better control your emotions you start to get along better with co-workers at your company. Management eventually takes notice that you’re someone who can deal with people so they make leader of the next project at work. Eventually that leads to you becoming a manager yourself. That leads to a bigger paycheck, the company car, a better medical plan, and 2 weeks of extra vacation.
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.
But that was just one facet of your life — work. How about relationships? Because you have more emotional control you end up having fewer fights with your spouse and are better able to manage your kids. You also develop deep personal relationships with friends and acquaintances. One day, one of those acquaintances starts a new business and brings you in as a partner.
Once you’re a partner, because you have good emotional control, you have better focus on your purpose and goals, so fewer things can distract you. When one of your friends comes to you with an all-too-tempting “stock tip” — it’s the next Microsoft — you keep your eye on the ball and resist the urge to invest. A year later you see on the news that the stock is getting de-listed for insider-trading, which led to some investors losing their entire life savings. Good thing that wasn’t you.
Most people never look this far ahead to see the kind of value an action like reading a book might produce. Granted, it’s hard to think this way, but it’s a habit you want to develop if you’re looking for extraordinary results in your life. Start thinking at the level of how you can change WHO you are and make sure to trace the value all the way up the chain, far into the future. If you do that, you will be well on your way to an early retirement.
The Final Success Trick
The glue that holds this whole long-term strategy together is that you actually break through to the other end. If you don’t, your investment might be for naught and this tactic can become delusion.
Take our case of the screenwriter. If he makes it, every page he wrote will be backward-justified as having been worth thousands. But that’s a BIG if. If he doesn’t make it, those pages will be worthless.
That’s why being determined and having a life purpose is so important. Often times you need to see things through to the bitter end. If you’re always dabbling and jumping around you can’t use the long-term investment approach because everything you’re doing gets de-valued every time you jump. So invest big, but before you start, get determined that you are going to stick it out. The best way to do that is to have a clear life purpose.