(This essay is part of a collaborative blogging experiment to answer the question, 'how do you invest in yourself?')
In the last year or two, I've learnt that the safest and best investment that I can make is the investment I make in myself; not by putting money into the bank or by backing a new startup during their angel round.
This investment into myself also hasn't necessarily been financial, but has instead taking a much more holistic approach to ensure that I'm best-equipped to deliver an appropriate ROI.
I believe that as an individual - and specifically as an entrepreneur - I'll always be in beta. I'm not perfect (never will be) and the only way I can stay ahead is to keep learning & improving every single day.
I love how this post describes that process as building "soft assets", which will some day materialize in actual, hard assets (of some kind).
In that context, I believe that any amount of money or energy I can put into my own growth will outrank any alternative investment that I can make. In my mind, I'd be contradicting myself if I didn't do that, because I'd be saying that I'd rather diversify my investments (into other entrepreneurs), instead of just swinging for the fences.
So investing in myself is literally putting the money where my mouth is. :)
I wanted to share a couple of things that I've done in the past and some things that I do on an ongoing basis to make sure that I nurture and grow this personal investment:
1) I Got Help.
I'm borderline arrogant and a tad egotistical, but I would never have achieved what I've achieved if it wasn't for the help that I've gotten along the way. This help has come from various sources for various reasons:
My wife, who is my biggest fan, critic and cheerleader. She doubles as being the co-founder in every decision that I make, which means I'm never in it alone.
I see a therapist on & off, to help me cope with the pressures of being an entrepreneur.
I've put a lot of effort into meeting & making friends with seasoned entrepreneurs, many of whom have played some kind of "mentorship" role in my life. Being able to avoid certain mistakes by listening to them sharing their experiences has been invaluable.
I joined EO, where I can connect with like-minded individuals and share (similar) trials & tribulations. This helps me to not go insane. :)
About two years ago, I hired an executive / CEO coach to work with me one-on-one for 6 months and help me figure out what kind of person and leader I wanted to be in WooThemes.
And so that list can continue to grow... The point here is that various people have helped me get better at different aspects of my life, which is something that directly translates to a growth in the investment.
2) I used WooThemes to build my own reputation.
WooThemes has been massive success and continues to grow 5 significantly 5 years after its inception.
From day one though, it was important for me to use my endeavours within WooThemes as a foundation to build my own reputation. I've always believed that most businesses will have run through its life cycle (however long that will be), but at the end of one cycle, I want to start up a new cycle using my reputation.
To do this, I've had to put myself out there and share my / our experiences related to WooThemes and just related to being an entrepreneur. I've written about it and I've spoken at conferences; all with the aim of sharing my knowledge and experience to build a reputation.
3) I run. Often.
I'm a different person when I exercise regularly and running as often as possible, has been the best way for me to maintain a stable mix of oxygen and endorphins flowing to my brain. :)
I'm not a great or natural runner, which is why I love running so much. It's something where I can be ambitious and a tad obsessed (to run further, faster and more often), so it aligns well with my characteristics and personality.
I've found that running is the one thing that is so far removed from my work and I actually manage to just be myself whilst running. After a long day, even a quick run seems like detoxing from everything that happened during the day.
You'll notice that the recurring theme in all of the above is an almost-selfish focus on myself.
I'm unashamed to say there's loads of things I'm implementing in my life where I have put my own wellbeing ahead of other considerations. In some cases, it's been such a priority and as such it has resulted in compromise or sacrifice elsewhere.
The best investment I can make, is the investment I make in myself.