Investing in myself…

Growing up in a upper middle class area of Queens,NY, my parents were always worried about money. They never had enough, and when they did have a few dollars, they would spend it on clothes or fancy furniture. They would however spend it on us to go to summer camp though, they would tell us about it ad nauseam. “I had to sell my wedding ring for you kids to go to camp!” This “self-sacrifice” taught us that you are your money. The obsession with money indoctrinated us with the idea that you need to grab money and hold onto as your security blanket.  It was tough as a kid looking around a seeing all the other kids have nice clothes, pulling up to school in the latest luxury car while you are taking the bus every day to school.  My parents did their very best to “keep up with the Jones’s” but I felt the feelings of lack that my parents felt. The messages I was receiving were that we were not enough, that I was not enough.  And my goal throughout my adolescence was to prove to everyone in the world that they were wrong.  What a mountain to climb as a boy who could barely get some food to eat, and his roll models were characters on television.  I ping ponged through life latching onto one concept to the next trying to make myself feel better about the emptiness in my pockets. There were times when I would shop lift at my local convenience store because my parents were broke. I would walk out with more than I came in with, Gatorades swaying, stuffed down the pant legs. Every time I felt feels of lack, the universe was telling me something, but I wasn’t on the correct frequency to hear it.  

Years later, not really knowing where to go with an extra $1,000 I had saved by stuffing extra cash in my sock drawer, I reached out to my brother who was savvy with money and asked for some advice.  “Evan,” I asked, “What’s the best way to turn a profit on a $1,000 investment.” He replied, “leave it alone in a savings account.” That didn’t sit well with me as I knew the money wasn’t really making a return for me at ~1%.  "Isn’t there something that will make me more money more quickly,” I asked.  Evan said, “Yes, go to the casino.”  I knew what he was getting at.  When you don’t have huge money, your investment will not show dividends on a scale that you will even notice.  And with the amount of money I had, there was nothing I could see investing in that would ever make a dent, financially at least.

I realized years later that I was making huge dividends on small investments of my time and money.  After all, I was investing in myself.  Today, almost every dollar I earn through my paycheck, after paying my bills, I spend on my growth as an athlete, coach, and person.  Books I have bought, seminars I have taken, food that I buy all are allowing me to create the best version of myself possible.  In turn, I am able to bring in a much more significant income had I blew the money on clothes, gold watches, or sporting events.  None of those things are inherently bad, but if they aren’t raising your value, they are in my view a wasted investment.

Let me give you an example.  Whenever I receive a gift card or money from a friend, I hear all the time, “Spend it on something you enjoy.”  In other words, splurge.  A 100% happiness for now decision.  This never sat well with me.  Why can’t I enjoy the thing that I buy, and have it also allow me to grow?  Recently, I received a gift card to Nordstroms.  Rather than buying an expensive belt or wallet, I decided to buy a Fitbit.  With that electronic watch, I created multiple content pieces for my social media.  It motivated me to start running in the morning.  It gave me insight about my sleep, and It provided the basic necessities of a watch.  $150 gift card.  Enormous return on investment.  

It’s really scary sending your money out into the world.  It feels so much better in our egoic minds to be staring at a nice number in the bank account.  The more zeros, the more safety, right?  Well that’s what everyone thought back in 2008 when the stock market crashed.  There bank savings and retirements were wiped out with a click of the mouse.  Because I am investing into my knowledge, growth, and life experiences, I am now independent of bank account.  My value is measured by who I am, not the money.  This is a new feeling, but it is also extremely freeing.  Believe it or not, for a millennial that is “burdened” with college loan debt, I see now that an investment is what you make out of it.  I could have taken my $50,000+ education and played it safe.  Started selling mortgages like my brothers.  Got a shop in medial sales.  But I chose a different path.  I chose to become a fitness and wellness coach.  I chose to use my time in a way that grows my mind, body and spirit.  And I know that this decision will put me on a path that will create more value than any of those other jobs would ever create.  So the next time I sit down at a party and I look around at the watches that people are wearing, or the labels that line the inside of their sport coats, and I will smile with contentment knowing that my value is always inside me, and no one can ever take that away.