I have the sleeping habits of a 65-year old. No, really. Stop laughing. My girlfriend makes fun of me endlessly for it. On weeknights, I totally need to be in bed by midnight, or I’d be so grumpy and unproductive the next morning that I’d make the Grinch look like a cute, fluffy, green bunny.
Last Wednesday, however, I violated my principle of getting to bed by midnight and stayed up till 1.30am. Why? Because two of my favorite bloggers – Cal Newport and Scott Young – were releasing a pilot programme on Deliberate Practice at 1pm EST, which is the equivalent of 1am in Singapore. They were opening it to just 50 people, and I wanted to be one of them.
So I waited, and tweaked my blog, and read some articles, and almost fell asleep at my desk. When the signup link finally arrived, I jumped up, whipped out my credit card, typed in my details in a frenzy, and got access to the programme. The next day was hell. I had so much trouble staying awake, but I perked up a little when I found out that the course sold out in 30 seconds. Whoohoo!
What if Bill Gates Was Broke?
So why would I sacrifice my sleep and pay over a hundred dollars for some random online course from people I’ve never even met?
Let’s sidetrack a little here and think about a fun hypothetical scenario. Suppose Bill Gates got fired from Microsoft tomorrow, Steve Jobs-style. Suppose we stripped him of all his wealth, his resources, his property, and access to his rich friends. Do you think that Bill Gates would be even remotely worried if that ever happened to him?
Of course not – somebody else would hire him for millions of dollars within minutes. Why? Because Bill Gates has a tremendous amount of personal capital: He’s smart, influential, knows how to code, and oh, he’s the co-founder and chairman of frickin’ Microsoft. So yeah, I don’t think he’d be worried about getting fired tomorrow.
The truth is, the most important asset in your financial portfolio is YOU. Not your stocks, your bonds, your house, or that car you bought to impress the chicks with. None of those hold a candle to your personal capital – your skills, knowledge, personality, experience, and overall awesomeness.
Why You Should Capitalize on Personal Capital
Increasing your personal capital is the single best investment you can make. Ever. It’s got the biggest risk-free payoff, since the benefits of learning something new will stay with you for the rest of your life. It’s essentially recession-proof, since an economic crisis could take away your job and destroy the value of your stock portfolio, but it can never take away your skills and your experiences. And to top it all off, the higher your personal capital, the lower your likelihood of losing your present job, and the higher your chances of getting promoted. Think about it. If you were a top performer with a truckload of personal capital, could your company afford to lose you?
(Side note: check out Neal Mohan’s story as an excellent example of how personal capital pays off – in this case, getting paid $100m just to remain at his job at Google)
Why Your “Regular Job” Just Isn’t Enough
Which brings us back to the question of why I’d sacrifice sleep and hard-earned money to invest in a course on deliberate practice – because it’s an investment that will ultimately pay off in the long run. I can never understand people who hear about an awesome course that could earn them thousand of dollars in the long run, but still reject it because they don’t want to pay a couple of hundred dollars for the signup fee.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars on stuff that could increase my personal capital. Here are a few things I’ve spent on in the past couple of years:
- A $600 course on negotiation
- A $150 course on idea generation and testing
- Over $200 a year on books (would have cost me a lot more, but there are ways to save money on this)
- Thousands of dollars testing out different trading and investing strategies
The point here isn’t to brag about all the stuff I’ve spent on. My point here is that there’s so much more to life besides working at your day job and spending your salary on stupid things like movies or shopping.
Your “regular job” could help you to acquire some personal capital, but that simply isn’t enough. Most knowledge workers today get so caught up in the day-to-day grind of emails and meetings that their progression towards acquiring personal capital is painfully slow. The only way to accelerate this, of course, is to do it yourself.
DIY Investing in Personal Capital
Here’s what you can do this week. This week, pick one thing that could increase your personal capital, and go do it. Spend a little more money if you have to. That’s right – I’m a personal finance blogger telling you to spend more money. Go figure.
It could be a course you’ve wanted to take, or a book you’ve been putting off reading because you “didn’t have time”. (Check out my Reads section if you don’t know where to start). Or, if you’re not a weirdo like me who needs 6.5 hours of sleep every day, sacrifice some sleep to attend some live webinars from sites like Creative Live. Whatever it is, think about how you can start to invest in yourself from this week onwards. Chances are, it could be the best decision you’ve ever made.
Image credit: Greenog