One investment supersedes all others: an investment in yourself. It adjusts for inflation. It helps you have a more interesting life. When we invest in ourselves, we are seeking to improve our value to others. The more valuable we make ourselves, the more an employer or customer will pay us.
The collection of attributes that create this value are called human capital. Many aspects of human capital are free. Years ago, I became acquainted with a senior officer of a large publicly traded company whose most obvious superpower is kindness. After they moved on to a leading role elsewhere, people familiar with them always remembered that trademark feature—and how they had helped them in the past, how they made them feel.
Kindness is free. So are dependability, punctuality, enthusiasm, diligence, and all the other traits we seek when we deal with others. (Others desire those same traits in us.)
Some aspects of human capital require time and money, sometimes lots of both. Think of the education and training required of surgeons, for example. Educational paths and career planning are beyond the scope of this essay, but the value and wisdom of all of your choices ultimately comes down to whether you figure out how to add value to the rest of society.
We have heard the idea of “follow your passion” debated back and forth. Understand the difference between doing what you are passionate about and being passionate about what you do. One of them has a wider range of opportunity than the other.
The source of our wealth is our earning power, which arises from our human capital. It all starts here.
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