Everything we do in life is an investment in money, time and/or effort. And the vast majority of those investments are not worth what we put into them. Bigger than money, the biggest investment we make on a daily basis is time. How we spend our time is the biggest factor in the type of future we will have.
An unspeakable amount of that time is spent on pursuits considerably less than trivial. We tend to invest our time in such things as if our time were infinite. But the fact is we have a relatively small amount of time to prepare ourselves for success at the highest level.
If one is going to be a virtuoso at the piano, violin, or guitar, they have to start as children. The rare talent may be able to start in their teens or early 20s. But for most of us, it is much too late by then.
Living a life of financial independence and luxury without debt is a little like becoming a virtuoso. You need focus and planning. And while it can be done later in life, mostly what you need is to start young.
You have to make the investments in yourself that really matter. And that means knowing the investments that really matter. No investment is a sure thing. And even the very best ones carry a certain amount of risk.
Sometimes the best investments and the most meticulous plans just don’t pan out. But even if you crash and burn, you have to make lifelong investments in yourself. Rather than binge-watching another series on Netflix, here are some investments in yourself that are definitely worth the risk:
The Stock Market
It would be nice if each of us had someone like Shailesh Dash to personally mentor us on what companies or market sectors to invest in. But if we are going to channel the success of the founder of Masah Capital Limited (“AMCL”), we are going to have to learn to make smart investments in the right stocks and market sectors.
It is possible to virtually sit at the feet of people like that who can impart guidance in investing. But at some point, we actually have to dive into the pool and swim. It goes without saying that swimming comes with risk. But the bigger risk is never learning how to swim.
Until you invest, and start cultivating that investment over the course of a lifetime, the stock market will always be an abstraction for someone else’s financial freedom. Whether it is for your children’s college education or your own retirement fund, you can expect nothing in your future account if you don’t seed it today.
A University Education
It goes without saying that unless you are one of the elite few this world produces from time to time, you need a quality university education to reach your full potential. But what you might not know is there a substantial risks associated with student loans, especially sizable ones.
Student loans can affect your marriage and future finances. They can affect your taxes, your future debt burden, and more. A student loan is one of the few things that does not go away even after a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Drop out of an Ivy League university, and you had better be the founder of the next Apple Inc. (AAPL). If you are a mere mortal, you are going to need an MBA from a major university just for starters. You are going to need years of practical experience and corporate ladder-climbing.
You can’t even complete the necessary job applications or write a coherent resumé without a quality education. So whether you hit the center of the target or miss it by a country mile, investing in your education is a shot you are going to have to take.
Honing Your Skills
This is not just about getting educated on a subject. This is about three things: practice, practice, practice. It is not enough to land a great job in your late 20s. It is about you transitioning from competent to expert. The path to lifelong success goes through expertise. And if you never cultivate it, you will never gain the measure of success you are after.
Achieving this first level of expertise requires hours upon hours of practice and repetition. It also requires sacrifice. While others are out having the time of their lives, you are honing your skills. While others are answering text messages and practicing Call of Duty, you are answering the call of duty and practicing your trade.
The second level of expertise is becoming recognized as an expert by others. You are not done becoming an expert until you have achieved recognition from your peers and clients. Ultimately, achieving true expertise requires a sacrificial investment of time over the first half of a lifetime.
A Better Tomorrow
One of the biggest and most personal investments you will make is purchasing a house. This is not merely an investment in concrete and wood. This is an investment in family, community, and society at large. Buying a house is a declaration of permanence and involvement. A homeowner cares about what goes on in the community in ways that a renter may not.
But you don’t have to buy a home to invest in a better tomorrow for you and your children. You can become a regular donor to charity, community causes, and political campaigns. No one is an island. And we cannot escape our social responsibility to future generations.
The future you hope for want just make itself. Our every action paves the way for the future. What we do, how we prepare ourselves, and how we influence others is what determines the shape of that future. Tomorrow is coming for us, and for the people we leave behind. It is the most worthwhile investment of them all.
Investing in oneself is not a selfish pursuit. The stock market, a university education, and expertise are just the foundation for the ultimate investment we can make in tomorrow. If we do not invest in ourselves, we will not be in a position to do the great thing that changes the world for generations to come. And that is a gamble worth taking.