I have an unbroken record when it comes to iPhone covers – I’ve managed to successfully scratch and maul every single one that has ever passed through my hands. This includes my most recent one, which lasted all of 3 months before it turned into one heck of a hot mess.
So last week, I went shopping on Qoo10 (an online marketplace) for a new iPhone cover. I figured I’d take like 10 minutes to browse, choose a cover, place my order, and be done with it. But they had such an unbelievable array of choices that I literally spent two hours just trying to pick one. I think I spent more time trying to pick my iPhone cover than I did picking my medical insurance policy.
We’re faced with a really strange problem today: the problem of having way too many CHOICES. And it’s affecting how we invest in ourselves.
Last week, I wrote a blogpost on why you should invest in yourself. That post generated a tremendous number of views, with plenty of great responses and feedback. But you know what? Most people will read it, feel pretty inspired for a couple of hours, and then never take any action whatsoever.
Why? Because, like how I took two hours to pick an iPhone cover, it’s easy to get paralyzed by choices. Think about the multitude of choices you’re faced with when it comes to personal capital: You could learn how to invest, design, code, paint, get fitter, become healthier, earn a side income, launch a business, improve your memory, be more productive, improve your social skills, speak more confidently, etc.
How will you know which ones to focus on, which ones will pay off, and which ones will be a waste of time and money? How will you know which ones will fit into the Great Grand Scheme of Life and the Universe?
At this point, most people will simply throw up their hands, and choose not do anything about it. They’ll mutter something about “not having enough time/passion/money”, and carry on coasting through their lives, never really improving.
But you’re not going to fall into that trap. If you really want to start investing in yourself, then try following these three steps:
Think about your awesome, ideal self that you’d like to become. He/she could be confident, richer, more capable, more skilled, more employable, whatever. Write out all the attributes of that perfect, ideal, self that you want to transform yourself into.
Now make a list of everything you need to improve on in order to get there.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about whether this somehow fits into some hypothetical, overarching, grand scheme. There isn’t one. If it sounds interesting, and if you see a possible benefit to yourself at this point in your life, and then go do it.
Resist the urge to pursue every single area at once. Instead, pick just ONE area to focus on at a time, and then test it by following the 3-2-1 method:
- Read three blogs and/or articles to get a quick overview
- Talk to two people about what you want to do
- Read one good book on the subject (check out my Reads section for some ideas)
The whole point of testing is to get some quick feedback on whether it’s good fit for you, and if you can see yourself spending more time on it.
Spend 2-3 weeks testing just one area. If it doesn’t work out, or if you find yourself losing interest, simply strike that off your list, and move on to the next one. For now, keep testing until you find something that can sustain your interest for the next couple of months.
For example, I decided that I really wanted to learn how to count cards after watching the movie 21. So I bought Beat the Dealer, talked to some friends who knew how to count cards, and tried it out myself. It was pretty interesting on an intellectual basis, but after spending a couple of days on it I realized that I simply didn’t have the discipline to keep on practicing it. So I crossed it off my list and moved on to my next area of interest.
3. Dive Deep
Once you’ve identified an area that you’re comfortable with focusing on for the next couple of months, it’s time to dive deep.
This is the time to start looking for courses, mentors, and teachers that could help you explore your personal capital a little more deeply.
Want to work in Finance but you don’t have any experience? Figure out how you can learn financial modeling or take part-time Finance classes. Want to learn how to code? Sign up for classes at Codeacademy. Want to learn how to start your own business? Start contacting start-ups to see if you can intern for them.
First, look for free, high-quality, material you can find on the web – sites like Coursera or Creative Live are good places to start. Once you’re ready for more premium, in-depth material, you can start evaluating the paid classes that are available. These could be pricey, but go for it if you think that they’ll add value (I’ll write another blogpost on how to fund these self-investments in the future).
You’re never gonna get anywhere by sitting in your room and “figuring it out”. I guarantee that you’ll learn a lot more by getting off your ass and actually DOING stuff. Try things out. There are plenty of free, easily available, resources out there that can help you to do so.
And no matter which areas you choose to pursue, I doubt that any of them will be a complete waste of time, even if you never get to the “dive deep” stage. You can still pick up lots of valuable skills and knowledge while you’re testing things out.
And while most of your friends will remain passively coasting through life, you’ll be constantly learning, developing, and becoming one heck of a kickass human being. Good luck.
Image credit: onecentatatime
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