9 Avenues of Investments That Will Never Go Wrong: Invest in Yourself
In one of the sessions, I asked participants, “If you have all the energy, time and money of the world, what is the single most important thing you want to invest upon?” I have been getting varied kind of replies to this question which included things like investing in property, bank balance, kids’ education, stocks, travel and hobbies, family, gift for spouse etc. It is nothing unusual, right?The interesting fact that came out is that less than 20% participants actually indicated that they would invest on themselves!!!Why we do not consider investment on ourselves as the biggest investment? Tomorrow if you get fired from your job or you meet some unforeseen circumstances, who you think is going to stand next to you? When odds are more who you think you can depend upon blindfolded?
It is ONLY YOU AND YOURSELF.
Several people will stand to support you and care for you, but how long? Ultimately it is your journey and you need to depend on yourself big time.
Have you seen a business which will give your returns endlessly without having to need any investment? No. Then why do we consider our life differently? That’s the irony that without having a focused investment on ourselves, we still expect great results from ourselves.
If the participants (I was talking about in previous example) would have made the investment on themselves as the priority, they would probably have never needed to attend any motivational workshop or any self-improvement workshop.
Throughout my interactions with professionals and leaders, I came up with 9 key areas they prefer to invest upon if they have time, energy or money. As and when they get opportunity, they tend to invest on these key things. I will briefly describe here. Stay tuned for detailed post on each of these key areas:
- INVEST IN YOUR STRENGTHS
Yes, invest in your strengths. Sometimes back I met a colleague of mine who asked me same question- “Why should I invest in my strengths while I know I am already strong in those things? I would rather invest in my gaps or weaknesses and cover those up if I have time, money and energy at my discretion”. True if you want to stay average throughout your life. I have had increasing number of encounters with individuals who considered weaknesses were a dragging factor to their overall profile. Let me assert that your weaknesses have nothing to do with your strengths and your weaknesses are not 180 degree opposite to your strengths. Admittedly you would have small edge by getting rid of your persisting weaknesses but it would not ensure your radical success.
The research has shown that radical success comes to leaders not because of their winning over their weaknesses but because of their strategic use of their strengths. Read my earlier blog and you would know that rate of success using your already proven strengths are much more than risk of failing because of your known weaknesses. I go back to my charter- I will give you the tools without you having to ‘transform’ yourself.
The bottom line is that you need to work on strengths. Have you heard the story of axe man who chose to sharpen the axe every now and then as opposed to continuously keep using same axe throughout the day? You have already proved your strengths and people have noticed it that’s why you are performing certain job. Then why not continue enhancing these salary-earner traits in you?
You need to identify your strengths. Strengths come in tiers. You need to know which tier you are at and then plan ahead to move to next tier. I know of a friend of mine who considered his negative thinking as his strengths. Yes, you will see a post on this very soon. I agree that some of you may consider it as ‘weakness’ but he consider it as his strengths. He identified it and went on to sharpen it. He went through couple of risk assessment courses (which required him to exert his negative thinking to the limits). Eventually he became one of the successful risk assessment investigators to safeguard his insurance agency against insuring vulnerable risky ventures.
Point here is that it is not important what you consider as your strengths. The important is what you do to enhance it if you get the time, money and energy.
- INVEST IN YOUR SPECIALIZATION
This is one key thing which we observed in our research. In my earlier other blog, I have written quite a bit about how leaders invest in developing their specialization. During interviews with several leaders, they revealed that key to their success was specialization they gained slowly and steadily in their area of expertise. Specialists are naturally viewed as leaders.
How do they do it?
They invest in going for some supplement courses in the same line of specialization, attends forums and meet ups in same area, writes on their area of expertise, develop connections with people in similar general area of expertise (that enables them to command a status of being specialist sooner), read books on that area of specialization and continuously keep experimenting on the same topic. They are also known to involve in informal or formal research of some kind.
There used to be a time in the market when professionals believed in generalist skills. When you are passing through tough times, you will find it hard to rely on your generalist skills. Things have changed in the market place.
If you can do one thing and you can do it really well, you will stay a sought after person and keep your marketability intact. Yes, it is true that you need to be careful about your niche area. However, that’s not the point. Which area you should you invest in to become a specialist? That depends on several factors like your personal passions, your experience and your skills. However, point is that you become really good in that one thing.
If you ever get better with your time, money and energy, think of investing in your specialization that one skill or knowledge no one in your circle can do it better. Develop it further.
- INVEST IN YOUR EDUCATION
Research revealed that the taking up a higher or advanced course in same area of specialization in which an individual has experience pays off rather than going for a tangent course. Research revealed that more successful executives believe in value of education. Some of the executives with higher degrees did not mind retiring early and just join some universities as visiting faculty. Their experience and their education synched in so well.
Education is for life. Sooner or later you will find that it pays off. It is never late to invest in education. Anything new your learn goes into your profile. It goes into polishing your previously learned skills. There is another factor you should consider is that with age your ability to learn anything will decline. So better invest soon. If you are able to secure admission in the course you want, it will be half the battle won.
If you get better at time, energy and money, you should consider enhancing your education. Invest in your learning a new thing in the same line of specialization.
- INVEST IN YOUR DREAMS
In one of the research, there was a startling revelation to a question: “what you miss the most in spite of your success and accomplishment?” Several professionals admitted that they miss chasing the dreams. That’s strange. Isn’t it? These are moderately successful professionals at decent top management positions in leading companies and have been reasonably satisfied in their personal life.
But let me share with you result of another research in startups in last 1 decade. You will find that those who were actually chasing the dreams were insanely successful. Those who chase the dreams do take risks. They display strong convictions to their dreams.
How about an average job holding professional like you? You probably want to take controlled risk. Still, sooner or later you are likely to feel that you have been into your race and you lost track of your dreams. If your dream was to researching long-lost secrets of Ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, then you need to ask yourself what good you are doing to your life in a boring corporate job.
You need to ask these questions, if not now may be a couple of years later. Start recognizing your dreams today and start investing on it today. Start living these out those today before it is too late.
How can you invest in your dreams? Couple of things you need to consider is start reserving some time separately for your dreams. Draft your path how you can fulfill your dreams in next 5-10 years. Do you have a game plan? Do you need financial security to go that path? If yes, how do you ensure it?
- INVEST IN YOUR DESIRES
When you were university, you wanted to do a paragliding but something was always holding you. Ever since then you did not get time or opportunity to have fun of paragliding and live those moments. How many time it happened that the moment you see a program on paragliding on TV, it binds you to TV for next half an hour? At that moment, you feel like either living it yourself or feel like missing it.
This is what desire is. This is not dream.
Now why would I invest in desires? Desires are endless (that’s what you learned from reading lots of philosophical literature on how you should control your desires).
For some people desires and dreams are generally mixed up. That’s not a good sign. Desires are certain aspirations you may have. The unfulfilled desires do not necessarily make you change the course of your life or bring you to a point of quitting something you realize was not meant for you. Professionals and leaders quit to chase their dreams and not desires.
Research shows that professionals busy in fast paced life generally miss or regret not having invested their time on their desires. Sooner or later unfulfilled desires do deflect the focus you should be putting whole heartedly on your dreams.
Desires are the way you keep your life alive. This gives substance, experiences and moments in your life. This is basic emotional and philosophical need of a human being before we can expect him to excel his dreams.
Therefore, find time and live out your desires. Make a list of tiny moments of experience you always wanted to capture in your camera and in your scrap-book. In other words, what would you want your friends to see you doing in your Facebook photos?
- INVEST IN YOUR PASSIONS
I have seen the examples when renowned IT professionals and engineers left their job to pursue their passions in cooking and in volunteering. This was because either their passion or dream is same thing or they felt that they were not doing justice with their passions. Or could be that they did not feel passionate about what they were doing.
When I was a child, I used to be passionate about writing. As I grew older, my passion did not change although time available to me to live my passion decreased. In my job I excelled in the tasks which required good writing skills, involved organized documentation, tasks involving preparing business proposals, working on branding messages and working around developing and drafting new ideas. This was probably not because of my skill but because of my passion. This would have been a boring job otherwise. However, what was my dream? My dream is not writing -it is my passion. The blog you are reading is my investment in my passions.
Researched showed that professionals have different responses when asked to identify their dreams vs. their passions. Even for me, my dream is to develop ‘how-to’ lifepedia (on lines of Wikipedia) for people. Note that in several cases investing on passions will lead you to achieving or chasing the dreams. In my case that’s perfectly true. I think my passion is a ladder to my bigger cause.
So rethink your passions. Rethink and reconnect how those passions lead to your dreams. Identify the passions you still have but left long back in the fog of memory. Retrieve it back and start investing time, money and energy on it.
- INVEST IN WRITING
Research showed that 80% of the professional at C-level have written something in some form or shape. They have made a point to keep their presence in social media, writing papers, participating in conferences, writing articles.
If this never occurred to as the investment avenue, now it is time to think. In this content-savvy social media audience, this will take you long way. Whether or not you have inclination for writing, you still may be able to find several avenues matching your skill set.
Yes, it takes time, money and energy. This stays forever on internet or online pages or in publishing media and whether or not you are passing through good times, this develops you as ‘authority’ on the subject and helps you reestablish your strengths and specialization.
You already may have well-developed writing skills, but point here that you need to use your writing skills to build your portfolio.
Invest in participating in some discussion forums, blogs and other content driven websites. Eventually you may want to setup your blogs. Your writings will be reflection of your professional expertise. If you are good at writing, I suggest write few articles in the magazines or online blogs and even posting those on SlideShare kind of open repositories. If you have enough substance, then give a try on self-published book.
- INVEST IN YOUR HEALTH
Do I need to say anything about it? I don’t have to quote any research facts for this. As a general rule, as you may be aging, your ability to focus on something and your ability to sit for long hours may be declining. If you are in public speaking you may find it increasingly hard to stand all day long. If you need to stay in game, you need to stay healthy.
When it comes to health not only physical health matters, but mental health and emotional health also matters a lot. Invest in your health today. If you have not pampered yourself with a relaxing massage or a long desired neck massage or a face therapy to rejuvenate your skin, this is the time. Do not underestimate the power of maintain charisma, charm and glow in your looks and face. This all sync in to give you a competitive edge.
Take a break and invest in your mental peace. Keep monitoring your stress level and deterioration of your body or mental functions. Do not ignore the cues. Invest in relaxation, rejuvenation, healthy food, health exercises and even some mobile-free and laptop-free travel.
- INVEST IN YOUR FAMILY
Yes, this is key part of the thing. I was doing a study of work life patterns of highly active professionals (mostly department heads). The study showed that these professionals tend to spend roughly 17 hours on work or work related activities. The work hours are actual hours spent in the office while work-related hours included teleconference, phone calls, online chats, customer or client meetings and taking the team out for team bonding etc.
Further, they stated that their focused (distraction free when they are distracted by TV or office e-mails on cell phone) time for their family ranged from 1-2 hours a day which included playing with kids, having dinner with family and some shared time of watching TV. Even some professional indicated having sex once in two weeks especially when both of husband and wife were in faced paced career.
Most professionals were very much aware of that but they stated that they ‘thought’ “one” day they will have enough time to spend with their families. But that one day never comes. This is definitely not the right investment.
It is okay to invest in your career as I stated above. But remember in these 9 investments, I did not say you invest in your career. Rather I emphasized on investing different elements of your profession (like your strengths, specialization, education, etc.) which gives your ability to switch to your strengths as your salary-earning member and still be able to take care of family.
Did you ever desire that long holidays on a cruise? If yes, make it a family desire and invest in it. You need to set it right and start aligning dates for taking time off together at same time. You need to see your kid playing and learning new things.
INVEST IN YOURSELF.
Stay tuned for individual posts on each of these investments in details where I will share the tips and techniques to make these investments rewarding for you.
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Raman K. Attri is a Training Transformational Consultant, Learning Strategist and Researcher with rare experience in shortening time-to-proficiency of employees performing complex jobs at complex organizations. Strong believer in personal performance as the starting point of any world-class leadership, he developed a scientific model Personal Resonance© to achieve peal personal performance and self-leadership. Additionally he helps trainers, learning specialists, instructional designers and training professionals with articles on proven techniques to transition successfully into training and learning management role.