As I entered the bar I noticed the small banner reading “happy birthday”.
I was late and people were already tipsy it seemed.
I managed to track down the birthday boy. I didn’t know him well at the time but he would become an important friend in my life soon.
It was a small bar that we both frequented and to my surprise, it was absolutely packed.
As we said our initial “hello’s”, I commented on the large crowd.
“Yea, man I have no clue. I only arrived 3 months ago yet here are all these people to celebrate MY birthday” he said with a grin and a big fat smile on his face.
It is what many people dream of: a room full of friends having a good time together.
I later found a good time to ask him privately- “so, how’d you do it?”
He confessed that, like me, he felt shy as a kid but as he got the opportunity to study abroad, he decided to change it.
“I started by realizing that people’s names are the sweetest sound to their own ear. So I began trying to remember everyone’s name. And because most people are too lazy or bad with names, something as simple as repeating their name at the end of each conversation makes a good impression.”
This is a great example of investing in yourself and reaping the rewards for years to come.
The best investment you can ever make
The single best investment we can ever make is in ourselves. It doesn’t have to cost any money but it forces us to think about what we dream of for the future, and our likes and dislikes.
It sounds pretty neat to get more of what we enjoy and less of what we don’t. But in order to do that we first need to figure out what that is.
Personally, I’ve found that having the right people around me is one of the things that make me the happiest so I’ve chosen to invest in my network.
As I look back, even for just the past five years, there are so many things I wouldn’t have even known existed but because friends have introduced me to them, they have changed my life forever.
As this study has found, many of the things we want in life come down to some degree of self-control. Even if we don’t like to admit it, our friends have a huge impact on us and our self-control.
I’m not talking about peer pressure, although that is a thing too. Rather, the people you often hang out with automatically ‘nudges’ your worldview over time.
The more we see several people doing something (e.g. choosing the salad instead of the pizza) the more we think that’s normal whether that is a good or bad habit.
Looking back, it’s kinda funny.. At first, I thought ‘invest in yourself’ sounded like a sleazy sales tactic.. Until I actually did it and realized its power.
As I am writing this, I’ve reached out to my students to hear what else they have been investing in. Some examples are:
- Learning English
- Learning how to invest in the stock market
- Learning how to swim and doing it every morning to stay healthy
- Moving abroad to learn more about the world
- Learning how to freelance to earn more money to visit friends and family all over the world
- Giving yourself an hour every day to work on a life long dream
What is yours?
Jim Rohn once said, “Don’t wish things were easier, wish you were better […]”. I love that phrase because realistically, we can’t make things easier but we CAN practice so we become better.
Do you know how everyone is talking about ‘finding and discovering yourself’? As if you are supposed to wake up one day and only to realize you actually LOVE painting whereas in the past you have always hated it.
It doesn’t add up in my book, rather, when you do something and have fun with it you’ll typically like it more and more over time. Then you’ll do it more, get results and because you become good at it, you’ll like it even more.
Mark Manson argues that in his experience 25% of it is finding and discovering yourself and 75% of it is about building yourself into who you want to be.
I guess ‘the 25%’ comes from self-awareness and understanding who we’ve become through our environment growing up.
That means, 75% of us is like Lego or modeling clay that we can model and tweak however we prefer. Which sounds awesome because that means we have the opportunity to get exactly what we dream of!
Interestingly, Carol Dweck argues in her book “Mindset”, that there is no such thing as not being good as a person, even if parents like to say “you are so good…”. Rather, everything is a skill and you are good at certain skills because you spend time practicing them.
Which also means that if you are bad at something it is typically because you simply haven’t spent enough time practicing.
The freelancing education
Unfortunately, there seems to be a misconception in which studying something is being mistaken for training.
There is a huge difference. Studying something, as we do at school, means someone else teaches us some theories and we might have some practical cases to work on or internships.
I’ve done a bunch of different internships- some with random ad hoc-tasks, as many other interns are too familiar with, but also some with high degrees of responsibility.
Compare that to training where you go in the field, work on the actual tasks and have guidance from someone with that exact experience who gives you real-world feedback- you’ll improve FAST.
The difference is remarkable.
A good way of doing that is through online courses. It can feel uncomfortable to tell people that you are working on improving your skills- who knows what they might say?
Many don’t feel comfortable telling friends and family that they invested in something that wasn’t required by work- if you feel like that, just keep it to yourself and don’t tell ‘em!
Focusing on training rather than passively consuming material simply makes us much more effective – and every now and then we get great results that are worth showing – whether you are trying to land a freelance project, a new job or simply build your confidence.
Besides setting small goals for myself all the time, there are two sets of learning that I’ve found to work well: exploring vs practicing something for the sake of practicing.
I’ve always thought that introduction-classes were a ridiculous waste of time up until recently. I’ve come to realize that they are an excellent way to test-drive a topic without diving too much into it.
Josh Kaufmann argues in his book “20 hours” that you can learn something new to a pretty good level with just 20 hours of deliberate practice (deliberate practice in short means to set aside time for practicing something deliberately- not researching or figuring things out- but the specific practice of a skill).
It works remarkably well as a way to sample new topics. For me, the best thing about it is that it has helped avoid the trap of thinking that I like something new, set an ambitious goal only to realize that I don’t like the topic after a while and feel guilty for quitting.
Through sampling (whether through classes or training), you might avoid feeling like a failure for starting on a bunch of things only to quit it later.
Personally, I like to explore something new every month, so typically I’ll set aside a couple of hours during the week to research, take a class or learn about something new without the expectation of continuing to do it. And then occasionally I find something that I enjoy and want to continue doing.
Since these are skills, it is unlikely that we will be good at them when we start -how can we when we haven’t had the chance to practice?
When you learned how to walk or ride a bicycle, you probably fell many times at first. So how can we expect to be good right from the beginning when we learn other things?
Planning to fail in the beginning not only makes it more fun to practice, but it also takes the pressure away from having to look good at something you don’t know how to do.
What is one thing you’d love to learn more about?