Investing in Yourself is THE BEST THING EVER

So you want to be awesome?  Maybe rich, famous, fit, smart, superhero-esque, an amazing cook, a musician, a master mountain climber, an old school blacksmith.  Whatever it is you want, there is only one way to really achieve it.  It all boils down to appropriately utilizing your time and resources to invest in yourself.

In my humble opinion, one of the greatest things a person can do in their life is invest in themselves.  Successfully doing this can pay dividends and advance life in a myriad of ways.  In what ways, you ask?  Well, here is my back-of-the-napkin analysis of what investing in yourself can improve:

Mental health
Physical health
Financial health
Familial health
Time management
Career opportunities
Chances of getting the F#$^ out of a job or life you hate (Which can also be tied to all of the above!)

A final and often ignored benefit to investing in yourself…tax breaks!  Yes, bear with me here.  The government cannot tax you on many self-investment returns.  If I earn $2,000 in the stock market from a $200 investment, I have to pay capital gains tax on that.

Now, if I pay $200 and spend a few hours learning a new skill that saves me $2,000, then I can’t be taxed.  I could take a nutrition / fitness / cooking class and save myself from future prescriptions or medical bills.  I could also buy a few handyman type books (carpentry, plumbing, electrical) and save myself from future repair bills.

If investing in myself allows me to improve several of those things in one shot, I would say that’s an amazing use of my time.  Unfortunately, rather than trying to make life better with internal changes, people spend thousands of dollars a year trying to make improvements by hiring someone or buying something to do the work for them.  Get rich quick schemes and magic pills / diets are great examples of folks looking for an easy way out.

i heart learning

Me too kid. Me too.

Sounds Great… But What does it mean to “invest in myself”??

Great question!  We hear this repeated ad nauseam, but with little guidance on how do to it, what it means, or why you should.  Ultimately, I have a certain vision of what I want my life to be like (see this post).  Using that vision as a base, I set goals to get myself where I want to be.  I used that to create a fairly concise working definition of what investing in myself means to me:

 “To utilize one’s resources in a manner that accomplishes goals, which are set to fulfill your life’s vision now or in the future”

I just made that up, but it sounds pretty good.  If you envision yourself being an awesome musician, then it makes sense for your goals to be, “learn to read music to a grade 5 level” and “take piano lessons for a minimum of 1 year”.

It’s important to define what I mean by resources.  When I think about what resources are needed, I primarily think about time, money, and energy. Learn to manage these resources wisely, and it can pay off big.  We’ll touch more on this in part II.

Examples of Awesome Things to Learn

What makes me think I know enough about self-investment to blog about it?  Well, actions speak louder than words.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I have worked on over the years that I would consider a self-investment in one form or another.

Personal Investment Time of Life
Woodworking / Handyman Skills Age 14, 1999.  Ongoing.  Amazing skills that continuously come in handy (no pun intended :))
Self-Taught Computer programs (Flash, Photoshop, Lightwave, etc.) Age 15, 2000.  Did throughout high school.  Still use some of these programs and skills today.
Self-Teaching Nutrition / Physiology Age 20, 2005.  Ongoing (part of BS and MS curriculum as well)
Cooking / Baking (Books, time, equipment) Age 21, 2006.  Ongoing.  I can cook better than 99% of people.  Saves $$$ and vastly improves health.
Bachelors Degree Age 23, 2008.  Science based degree, and it’s my career.  Has paid for itself many times over already.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Age 25, 2010.  Did for 1 year then stopped due to injury.
Gardening Age 25, 2010.  Had a crappy garden for 2 seasons.  Don’t currently have one due to time constraints.  Will do it eventually though.
Weightlifting / Exercise Age 26, 2011. Ongoing. 435 deadlift, 350 squat, 250 bench.  Not bad for a ‘casual’.
Learning Piano Age 26, 2011. Ongoing.  4 years of lessons.  Now self-guided.
Master’s Degree Age 27, 2011.  4.0 baby! Same degree as B.S.  Helped get me much higher paying job and further my career.
Self-Teaching Engineering Principles for Career Purposes Age 28, 2013.  Off and on as needed/desired for my career.  Has helped get me bonuses, recognition, advancement, and generally kick ass at my job.
Learning about Investing Age 28, 2013.  Ongoing.  Manage my own investments.
Learning Real Estate Age 29, 2014.  Ongoing.  Currently own 3 duplexes that provide ~17k / year in cash flow.
Online Businesses Age 29, 2015. One failed online store (but learned lots of great skills, many of which help me blog)
Blogging Age 30, 2015. Ongoing.  See…this blog!
Yoga Age 31, 2017. Ongoing.   Yoga is way under-appreciated.
Learn to hunt Age 31, 2017. Ongoing.  Great practical skills to have.  Ideally I provide all of my family’s meat eventually.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Age 32, 2017.  Started back up!  Love it as long as my old man body can stay healthy.

I could spend a lot of time talking to each item on the list.  For example – I started taking a real interest in woodworking and general building skills at a young age.  I took 4 years of woods in high school and worked construction during my summers.  Over the years I have routinely pushed my limits from a home improvement stand point to learn new skills.  I am now pretty proficient with concrete work, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, painting, sheetrocking etc.  These skills have literally saved me thousands over the years.  Plus, when you do the job yourself, you know it was done right.  The best part is, you don’t have to work around someone else’s schedule, which is nothing short of a pain in the ass.

Some of the items on the list I started then stopped, and picked up again at a later date (or am planning to) when I had / have more time or energy.  That’s OKAY to do folks.  Sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned, so if you need to put things on the backburner for a while, then do that.

The key is to not stick everything back there until it all becomes a burnt pile of carbon that makes your kitchen stink because your exhaust fan stopped working and now there’s smoke everywhere and the smoke detector is going off and oh shit that woke up the baby and now my wife is mad and …uh… sorry.  Ahem, back to the post…

Anyway, I won’t go into details about all of these since each item could be a separate post in their own right.  This just goes to show what a difference investing in yourself can make over time.  This stuff adds up in a big way.  It’s like compounding interest, only with life skills.  Given enough time, you truly start to become the person you envisioned yourself being.  A little acorn can become a mighty oak.

Let’s compare my list to a list that represents a friend of mine.  I’ve known this person since childhood.  We went to the same schools, lived in the same neighborhood, etc.  I know exactly what they’ve done with their time over the years.

Took metals class (welding, metal work, etc.) Age 16, 2001.  Did 1 year and did not continue to pursue these skills.
Playing guitar Age 16, 2001.  Started to sort of learn for ~1 year then quit.
Bachelors Degree Age 23, 2008.  Sociology.  Current job has nothing to do with this person’s education.
General Exercise (jogging, eleptical, weights etc.) Age 27, 2011.  Ongoing.  Started working out more, trying to get healthier and stay in shape.
Home improvement skills Age 25, 2010. Ongoing (sort of).  Started working on handyman type skills.  Never even used a hammer before this period.

Hmmm… not quite as much time spent investing in themselves or their future.

This is not to say that this person isn’t happy, and leading a good life.  Such things are truly in the eye of the beholder.  My philosophy is just different than theirs.  This person plays a lot of video games and drinks a lot of beer.  That’s what they like to do with their time, and that’s cool too.

However, you don’t develop a lot of useful skills by playing games or boozing it up, and rarely do video games lead to extra income.  To be fair, I used to be a video game nut myself (plus I’ve had a few beers).  However, the older I get, the more I try to manage my time more efficiently.  I work on investing in my future-self.

Also, to my friend’s credit, his handyman skills have gone from absolute zero to reasonably proficient over the last 6-7 years, and he set himself up a little home gym and workouts regularly.  That’s already doing more than a lot of people, so it’s not like he’s done nothing.  He could sure do a lot more though, if he were so inclined.

I have heard him talk about getting a master’s for ~7 years now.  He’s talked about starting a small business ~5 years now.  Talked about changing jobs (he hates his current) for ~8 years now.  Yet, no action has been taken to actually invest in himself in order to attain these goals.

This isn’t a contest, so don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not better than him, and I love the dude.  It’s just an interesting comparison between how people invest (or don’t) in themselves, and how that impacts a person’s life and skill sets over time.  A lot of this has to do with personal goals, and my goals are different than his.

I have a burning desire to be financially independent by 40.  I don’t think he has that same desire. He’s probably more content to relax, whereas I always have the ‘pedal to the metal’.  Either way is fine.  My friend probably does not have a burning desire to get a master’s or start a business, so he hasn’t taken any action towards those goals.  He probably likes the idea of all of those things, but that’s where it stops.

I actually encounter this with a lot of people.  Everyone loves the idea of being rich, famous, fit, smart, good at (insert skill here) but nobody wants to put the work into it.  Hmm…does this sound familiar, bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman?

I’m willing to bet that if you’re the type of person to read through a blog post like this, then you’re probably a person that wants to do some serious investing of their resources in order to attain their goals!  If that’s the case, then read part two for my take on how to get started.


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