It took a long time to realize that I should invest in myself, that I should put my own mask on first, etc. Too long. To that end, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.
When I was in my 20s, I flirted with college over and over again. My parents paid the first time around. Then, different employers would foot the bill and I’d march off to some other university or another. (There are over 20 in Boston). For any number of reasons, college didn’t do much for me. I found the learning to be too boring, too outdated, and rarely applicable to what I thought would happen next. So I didn’t bother.
I have only the smallest of regrets. I wish I had a degree in law and a degree in journalism, not because I want to practice either as a profession, but because what I’d have learned from those degrees would have been helpful to me. But that’s only a smallish regret. You know, if I had a chance to do it over, etc.
I spent the next bunch of years not really caring about much, not getting far, being an employee. It was a paycheck, and then a couch, and a TV, and whatever passed for excuses for why I wasn’t especially creative.
What Changed It All
I can tell you the exact moment I started caring. I was watching a PBS funds drive (you know, when the public television stations need your loot so they bring out all the good shows?), and Les Brown came on. He had a speech and a book called LIVE YOUR DREAMS, about how he went from being classified as “educable mentally retarded” to becoming a DJ, then a motivational speaker, and then to hold public office and then some. That was probably the first time I glimpsed the realization that I didn’t have to fit into the labels I’d let other people give me.
What followed was picking up books by Anthony Robbins ( and later meeting him), and books by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, and learning more and more. And then realizing that I could write my own story. What I learned, however, was that this meant choosing a pretty difficult path.
Put Your Own Mask On First
When you fly, the safety briefing points out that we must secure our own masks first. What they mean is simple: you can’t really help anyone else unless you get yourself squared away so that you won’t pass out in the middle of trying to be helpful. Covey would call this “sharpening the saw.” And sometimes we get this. Other times, we think of ourselves as selfish. But is an investment in ourselves really selfish?
Where Do You Invest Right Now?
Every time I say “invest” in this post, I’m talking about your time and your money and the investments I mean are in your day-to-day living, and not any abstract stock market. That’s important as a starting point. But now? Let’s get a little bit into this.
I invest in myself in the following areas:
- Fitness and health. Have switched to a mostly plant-powered diet. Lots of vegetables, very little (almost no) grain or sugar, almost no meat. I’m working out. I do yoga.
- Mindfulness. I’m meditating daily and practicing mindfulness and my head-setting mantras (thanks to Jacq).
- Education. I spend money on books and courses for my own development and the betterment of my ability to serve others.
- Time with my kids. I have chosen different paths lately so that I can have more time with my kids. This is most definitely an investment and one I’m glad to make.
- Longer term projects. By keeping myself focused on the larger plans of my business (and for me), I have to say no to some things now, but am investing in a better “soon.”
I’m curious where you invest. And more so, I’m curious where we both have the opportunity to trim some of our expenses so that we can invest even more.
Trim Out “Expenses”
In 2009, I prided myself on flying every couple of days for conferences, for sleeping four hours or less a night, for having a hectic lifestyle. That turns out to be quite a bunch of withdrawals from various “accounts.” My kids were seeing less of me. I was getting run down. The frantic pace “felt” like business, and there was some revenue being made, but I was also burning more and more money to try and keep this all flowing.
Where are our other expenses? Television. Do you really get something back for your investment in television? Rarely. That’s an expense. Surfing needlessly? Same. We spend time as if it’s not valuable. Now, that doesn’t mean that we have to be hard at work all the time. But instead, it means we have to be mindful of where we choose to invest. Are you spending far too much of your time volunteering? Yes, volunteer. It’s VITAL for doing good. But if you’re OVER-doing it, that’s not helping everyone. That’s not putting your own mask on first.
Ask yourself this question often: “Is this the best use of my time?” I have that conversation with myself all the time. I also ask Rob about it, too. He is really getting into InfusionSoft, our email service provider. But as COO, that’s not really where I need him to focus most of his attention. Me? I go off on tangents all the time. I have the question taped to my monitor.
Whose Celebration Is This?
I had the pleasure and honor of interviewing the Sakyong Mipham, head of the Shambhala lineage of Buddhism> One of my favorite parts of his new book, The Shambhala Principle: Discovering Humanity’s Hidden Treasure (affiliate link) was this concept of being a lot more mindful of where we invest our time and energy. “Whose celebration is this?” That was the question. It essentially was meant to point out that we tend to get caught up in other people’s rituals and moments. For instance, worrying about one’s Klout score, or worrying about what the other parents at the PTA say because you stopped coming to the meetings, or trying to keep up with the Joneses, or wanting to watch every episode of every TV show so that you know what to say at parties.
We invest so much energy and time and money into those areas of our lives.
But do we invest in ourselves?
Commit to Investing
I have some very simple commitments right now that help me invest in myself:
- In bed by 8:30pm
- Meditate daily (thanks, Jacq!) Pray for others.
- Eat healthy and delicious food
- Fitness daily
- Read and study courses daily
- Connect great people together
- Ask questions and learn
- Love myself as if my life depended on it, and then love others even more.
- Dare to explore
I want you to commit to investing in your development, in your growth, and your intentions to build a better community around you. How will you do it? Which paths will you take? And will you choose this over just snacking on whatever’s around?
Will you put your own mask on first?