The hierarchy of investing in yourself

Stocks, shares, property, what to invest in? Choices, choices.

My answer, forget about them.

For now.

They need to be low down the priority order because their returns are quite passive (which is not a bad thing) but the best investments are the ones that will help you grow as a professional and individual and those will result in 10,000s a year and 100,000s, possibly even 1,000,000s+ over the course of your career.

With that said there are two important steps you can take for yourself for career success:

  1. Invest in yourself
  2. Follow Through i.e. commit action

Let me break down what I mean by investing in yourself. Investing in yourself broadly means undergoing some form of development which will have a transformative effect on you. I.e. do something and something will happen.

Here’s the ‘hierarchy’ of investing in yourself in reverse order:

4. Books, books, books

Reading is amazing, I do it every day, but you need to understand, it’s the lowest form of learning.  Why? It takes a lot of effort or time to actually put what you have learned in to practice, unless you conscientiously take notes and interpret as you go along, then convert in to some implementation plan, reading takes a very long term approach to manifest in your activities, sometimes months and years, because our brain gets lost in the information overload no matter how compelling the subject. Books are also very topical, by that I mean, the more a book resonates with you when you read it, the more of it you will put in to practice soon after. This is why I revisit books as I often don’t feel the relevance to me in the moment.

3. Go on a course to acquire useful skills

Skills and communication are the vehicle to realise strategy, whether that’s business, career or personal strategy. Now I used to like actual in person courses but I have realised they are ineffective for two reasons, the first being that if there are multiple people on the course, everyone learns at a different pace and this will ultimately hold everyone back from a deep learning experience and secondly, you best learning comes after learning a little and reflecting, by perhaps utilising everything you have learned. Crash courses are very short term and you will never retain all the learning as your brain will be friend in the latter part of the course. Now, the internet has made skills acquisition much easier and better, don’t take it for granted. Word of warning, with the vastness of information comes equally vast volumes of noise. As much as I love Youtube, Udemy etc, there is no barrier to be a teacher so make sure the people you are learning from are SUITABLY QUALIFIED otherwise you could be doing more damage by going too generic or under/over learning, this can be damaging to your development. Damage which then has to be undone.

2. Get a mentor

A good mentor is the second best teacher you will have in your life. You are instantly getting all the years of experience of someone who has ideally achieved what you want or near enough. But. How do you learn from a mentor? Asking questions is okay but the greatest way to learn from a mentor is to shadow them and quietly observe them. The key to their success lies in what they will never ever be able to articulate to you. They have a certain idea of what makes them successful but your mind will crave but years of doing the fundamentals may mean the things you can benefit from most are on autopilot and they will have forgotten. So ask them useful questions but observe and see how others react and how they react to others. And don’t just ask questions about work, career and business. Ask them personal stuff, ask them how they spend the first 60 mins of their day and the last 60 mins, ask them what they eat and if they like to move, this will give you a better understanding of the habits that are at the foundation of their good decision making and action taking.

1. Commit to doing something that puts you in the deep end

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You will do it and understand how to do it or you will fail and will understand how to never ever do it again. Both are very rich learning experiences. I am a product of lots of failure in my early career. Going from someone who used to say ‘I’m not doing that! I would never do that!’ to saying ‘screw it! bring it on’ drastically changed me. And to this day, I get nervous about taking a risk but that’s how I know I’m on the right path, it’s become my decision making cue. If it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, then I will get nothing from it. But ultimately the reason this is the highest form of learning comes down to this: We curious human being are always looking for answers, so we search high and low and the internet has made that process very excruciating and distracting. Distracting because there truly is one way to work if you should do X. Do it for yourself. No one has written the book of ‘You’, you have to go and write it and unfortunately you can’t plagiarise. You can get an idea of how others reacted from it but you are an entirely different being from other people with your own DNA structure, Neuroses, Childhood and experiences, so the outcome for one person may not be the outcome for you.

Okay so what about 2nd step you have to do after investing in yourself?

Follow through.

Let me share with you one of my biggest struggles as a career mentor.

Analysing vs Mobilising

Huh?

Most professionals or those looking to be professionals are of course highly intelligent folks, I used to aspire to be as intelligent as I could but now I wince at it. Intelligence brings with it a curse.

The curse of ‘Analysis’.

People analyse their situation so much so that they fail to do the most important thing, that is to mobilise i.e. take some action.

Worse still, people analyse and ponder over the wrong things! Classic example is, thinking about whether you should apply for a new job. That’s ridiculous! Just apply for a new job, work to get an offer. Then ponder and analyse over whether you should move. The decision to take the new job and leave your current one is worthy of analysing, NOT whether you should apply! This is stupid, non-essential mentally draining activity, don’t burden your poor brain with it! Your brain is already struggling with tens of thousands of subtle and unsubtle messages on a daily basis (mostly advertising) all of which drains our brain.

Take that from someone who spent many years professionally working as an Analyst in some of the biggest Global Banks working on some complex projects. Analysis is deeply overrated. Mobilising or committing action gets results. Poorly executed action is 100000000x better than the most precisely analysed plan which does not get implemented.

The purpose of everything I teach my students is to bring them in to the real world. Something that degrees, MBAs, certifications and most teachers fail to do because its not their priority or they simply don’t get it because they haven’t been in the real world recently.

 

About the Author Earn & Excel

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9 comments
Samuel says December 11, 2015

Sohail you have really inspired me by this write-up. Thanks.

Reply
Ahmed says December 12, 2015

Sohail,
I am learning so much from you!

Reply
Daisy says December 17, 2015

This article has spoken right to my heart….. Now its up to me to roll and move ahead. Thank you Sohail

Reply
Eric says December 30, 2015

You’re right Sohail. Your words are wise. Something with the color of The Prophet’s garden from Khalil Gibran…
Thank you

Reply
    Earn & Excel says December 31, 2015

    Thank you Eric. That’s a great compliment, I love the works of Khalil Gibran 🙂

    Reply
Prashant says February 2, 2016

Sohail, your blog inspires trust me. Even i’m good at analyses ,my perceptions are also almost right till date. Yes but till date i didn’t knew or felt Mobilizing is equally important.

Thank you

Reply
Kristoffer Day says February 8, 2016

Very good article, no nonsense. I tend to fall into the analysis trap, something I continually work on and after reading this, I am inspired to mobilize and take chances. Another caveat to the learn by jumping in the deep end is that when put into heightened situations, causes you to focus more on the moment, being more involved in the situation allowing you to retain more of the lesson.

Reply
Jared Otieno says March 14, 2016

You are just amazing i am inspired I need to take action now and go deeper

Reply
Lola says October 31, 2017

Thanks Sohail for this, I particularly the way you explained Analysing and Mobilising with real examples.

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