Quick Takes:

  • Every year should have an over-arching theme
  • The theme should sum up your specific goals for the year
  • No matter the goals or initiatives, we should all focus on personal investment
  • Focus on allocating scarce resources towards your current and future happiness

I heard Andy Drish once say that each year has a theme, of which you decide. For that entire year, no matter what you do, it has to fall in line with the overarching direction you give it. The theme, if you want to think of it this way, is a sentence, phrase, or keyword that encapsulates all the goals you have planned for that year.

If your goal is to earn $100,000, for example, the theme may be “the year of the compound effect.” If your goal is to start a nonprofit, the theme might be “the year of selflessness.” Whatever your actions are for that year, whatever your thoughts, they have to support the theme.

In this way, your theme becomes your guiding compass, pushing you towards December 31st and the ultimate achievement of your yearly goals. Last year, my theme was a simple one, “the year of routine.” I identified that in order to attain the level of success I wanted, I needed to be diligent and focused, day in and day out. I was never one to stick to a strict schedule, and I knew that without a premeditated regiment, I wouldn’t be as successful as I wanted.

Every time I wanted to sleep in, or take a day off, or skip the gym, or procrastinate, I would tell myself, no, this is the year of routine. And throughout last year, although it wasn’t perfect, I was able to create a habit based on an efficient and continuous schedule. I still have that habit today.

So this year, I thought to myself, what would the theme be? What one phrase would make this year a success? Well, with all the projects going on, and the time and money needed to see them through to the end, I need to focus on investments, both financial and otherwise. Each project has the potential to earn income, sure, that’s half the point, but they also may not. I needed a rational theme that will help me invest the proper resources so even if I never hit the black, I wouldn’t view it as a failure.

Which brings me to this years theme: the year of personal investments. You see, no matter how much time and money you invest in a project, passion, or idea, it’s only a failure if you don’t learn. It’s the long game, really. So, even if you invest $10,000 to bootstrap a company, and that business folds, the $10k should be seen as an investment in your education that will yield returns over the longterm.

The Year of Personal Investment

With that logic, then, shouldn’t every year be the year of personal investment? Wasn’t the year of routine an investment in my diligence? Wouldn’t the year of the compound effect, in the example above, be an investment in your future? In reality, our ultimate goal, year in and year out, should be one of personal investing. A long-term investment that yields long-term gains.

And it doesn’t really matter exactly what you invest in, as long as you’re investing in yourself. Sure, monetary investments make the most sense, but that’s not the only way to invest in yourself. A personal investment is the expenditure of scare resources on the future value of your happiness. 

Let’s say it together: personal investing is the act of allocating scare resources towards your current, and future, happiness. It’s the most important investment we can make, because it encapsulates every form of investing, monetary or otherwise. And in this way, there’s no amount of time or money that can be lost or wasted, as long as you’re spending it on things that you enjoy, or things that will increase the potential of your future.

Let’s look at another example. I’m writing a fiction novel. It’s happening, no stopping now, and it’s going to be published, publisher or not. I’ve invested countless hours writing the manuscript, and I’ll invest an unknown quantity of time and money to market and promote it. Do I know if it will be successful? Do I even know if it’s good? No. But am I wasting my time and money? No. It’s something I want to do. It’s part of the vision of my ideal future.

I’m investing in something I love. Could it be a public failure? You bet. But as long as I enjoy the process and sharpen my writing skills, the time and money I put into the project will have already yielded incredible returns (my current happiness), and will continue to return well into the future (increased skills, knowledge of book publishing, better writing ability). And that’s not to mention the potential for actual income, which would make the investment “traditionally successful.”

“Investing” Doesn’t Mean “Money”

The bottom line is that any investment is a good investment if it increases the value of your time. In fact, when you think about it that way, investing in yourself is a no-brainer. If your “capital gains” are a qualitative love of the moment, than it makes sense that the proper investments consistently increase the future value of the moment.

We all know stocks and equities, right? Think Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), or Apple (AAPL). You can tell I’m a techie. When you invest in a publicly traded company, you purchase shares of stock, with the belief that it will be worth more tomorrow than it will today. However, as we know, even the best companies can take years to yield positive returns. When we invest or money traditionally, we understand this, and have a time horizon for which we feel comfortable keeping our money illiquid and tied up in public equities.

This is the exact mentality we need to cultivate with our investments in ourselves. So what if you have to invest $1k and 20 hours in a class that sharpens your public speaking skills? The knowledge and practice gained, you have to assume, will yield greater than $1k in future income and more than 20 hours of increased happiness. The class could give you the confidence to seek a public speaking opportunity, for example, where you connect with a new mentor, who helps you start your next company.

So, whenever you need to spend money, or allocate time, think to yourself: will this either make me happy or generate future returns in excess of the initial investment? It doesn’t matter if the returns are qualitative or quantitative, think about it. Rationalize it. If the answer is yes, then invest in yourself, 100x over.

Because let’s be honest, your happiness is the most important investment you can make.