Forbes article by Garrett Gunderson
Entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for opportunity. So when a “hot investment” opportunity comes along, it’s hard to resist. Believe me, I’ve been there. But I’ve found that these investment opportunities, no matter how tempting, are merely expensive distractions. They’re expensive for two reasons: One, you’re more likely to lose money when you’re investing outside of your expertise. And two, your time, money and energy are spent on the investment rather than your best wealth creator, your business.
So here’s another idea to consider: when you feel the itch to invest in a stock market you don’t understand, a real estate market you don’t know, a company you don’t control or any other investment outside of your expertise — invest in yourself instead. Invest in your personal and business growth. In fact, I’d argue the only way to invest is to invest in yourself; because when you invest outside of yourself and your knowledge, it’s not investing at all, it’s gambling.
Most people think of gambling as lottery tickets or slot machines. But it’s also gambling to follow a hot stock tip, or to invest in a family member or friend’s untested business venture, or even to build a real estate property if that’s not your area of expertise. Unless you know how the investment creates value for others, how to manage its growth and how to mitigate the risks, you’re not investing, you’re gambling. Knowledge is what makes the difference.
The entire financial industry will tell you to gamble in the stock market regardless of your knowledge. They’ll tell you to take money out of your own business, and invest it in other businesses you don’t know, understand or control. And if you’re acting out of scarcity, you may join the crowd and invest with everyone else. But this is a second-rate strategy because you are your best wealth creator. As an entrepreneur, your best returns will come from investing in yourself. So how do you go from the gambling mindset, which the media pundits and financial industry push, to the “invest in yourself” mindset?
Two General Ways to Invest In Yourself
Investing in yourself means legitimately improving your ability to produce greater value for others within your area of expertise, and decreasing your risk of financial loss. There are many ways to invest in yourself, but they can be narrowed down into two categories:
1. Personal Growth: Gaining clarity and focus on your values and purpose; increasing your personal knowledge and skills; and improving your personal habits. This means spending time, money, and effort on any type of self-improvement content or activity that supports your ability to create value for others.
2. Business Growth: Building your business to increase your cash flow, reach, and impact while decreasing effort, stress, and waste; and building a sellable asset that does not depend on your personal presence to function.
In other words, when I counsel to “invest in yourself,” I mean to stop throwing money at stocks, mutual funds, real estate and other investments that you don’t understand and over which you have little control. Instead, spend that money on building yourself and your own business. This takes more work and a higher level of thinking than just handing money off to advisors and fund managers. You have to really dig deep to get clarity on who you are, what you want to accomplish, the legacy you want to leave and your overall vision.
It takes personal responsibility — you can’t blame the “market” when you try something new in your business and it doesn’t work. And that’s a good thing, because you also get a chance to learn from your mistakes, make course corrections and make an impact in the world. More responsibility also gives you more control over your results, and when you stay in charge you can reduce your risk. When you invest in growing your business, rather than the market, you get real-time feedback so you can learn and respond more quickly.
Unfortunately, when you put money in funds and retirement plans, your money is drained by fees that are automatically withdrawn. And it doesn’t matter if you make money or not — they still siphon the money out. But when you’re investing in things you understand and that you’re passionate about, you are gaining knowledge and have full disclosure of the expenses as you personally write checks to cover them.
If you’re worried that investing in yourself will leave “all your eggs in one basket,” first realize that you’ll be in good company. Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest Americans to ever live, said this about his wealth strategy: “I put all my eggs in one basket and watch it like a hawk.” But beyond that, there are ways to diversify investments in yourself and stay liquid. Make sure that you have a rainy-day savings account. Consider a properly designed, low-commission Whole Life insurance policy where your cash value grows year after year guaranteed — and can never go down in value, no matter what the markets do. You can then use these accounts to support you in hard times and empower you when opportunity knocks. Not to mention that investing in personal growth can never be taken away from you.
Here’s What Investing In Yourself Looks Like
A great example of investing in yourself is Wealth Factory member Dr. Chris Zaino. After making the decision to invest in himself, Dr. Zaino immediately liquidated all of his “investments” that weren’t aligned with his business and expertise. He funneled all that cash towards protection components and building his business. Plus he created a new educational membership site to teach other chiropractors how to grow a business that sees thousands of patients per week.
These projects take time, effort, and money. But Dr. Zaino understands that building his personal practice and increasing his reach and influence as a thought leader will yield far greater returns than he’d ever get in a qualified plan or mutual fund. And he is doing something that matters to his legacy, personal satisfaction and fulfillment today — not to mention improving his cash flow. It truly is a way to invest in himself while serving others and solving problems, thus earning more money.