The greatest investment of all time isn’t tech stocks, Bitcoin, or the S&P500.
It’s in yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard that mantra repeated all over the internet. It’s great advice but it’s hard to follow. The first question is “why invest in yourself?”
That’s an easy answer: if you don’t proactively invest in yourself, you’ll become an out of date dinosaur riding around in a horse and cart.
You’ll become irrelevant. You might even become a doomsday prepper and build a bomb shelter to hide in. That’s no fun. It’s no way to live.
Investing in yourself helps increase your value. That value increases your income and the money funds your personal freedom.
How does one invest in themselves? Let me show you how I did it.
Collect mental models
I never knew what these were.
Then I joined Twitter 18 months ago and saw them everywhere. I had to google what it meant. I like this explanation the best:
Mental models are a set of beliefs and ideas that we consciously or unconsciously form based on our experiences — Anne-Laure Le Cunff (Ness Labs)
I use mental models to understand the world.
They help take complex ideas and make them simple for me to process. They’re often matched with great analogies, too, which makes it easy for me to have an aha-moment.
After a while, mental models make you appear smarter. This is helpful for me because I don’t have high IQ.
Here are five of my favorite mental models to start with:
- 80/20 Principle
- Hofstadter’s law
- First principles thinking
The power of a second brain
My brain is exhausted.
My devices — phone, laptop, tablet — help to outsource some of the computing power needed to run an average day, but it’s not enough.
Tiago Forte introduced me to the idea of a second brain. It’s essentially a note-taking app that allows no note to get saved in isolation. Every note is connected to each other.
It creates this gorgeous web of learning.
Since I implemented a proper note-taking framework 2.5 years ago, my learning speed and retention have tripled. A few friends have even called me a polymath — which I’m definitely not!
The most basic feature of a useful note-taking system is to assign hashtag topics to every note. This helps you to sort ideas. Assigning more than one topic to an idea acts as a further layer of curation.
If an idea I saved has six topics attached, then that often tells me it was a better idea than a topic I only assigned one topic to. I add bold and orange highlights to notes as well.
This tells me what lines of a note had the initial source of inspiration or energy that made me save it in the first place.
Memorization is a dying art. Someone should tell universities and the traditional school system.
Nowadays we have second brains. AI will be able to take this personal database and add another layer of computing pretty soon. This will be your third brain.
Start building your second brain so your future personal AI has a data source to access and work on while you sleep.
Read books instead of tweets
Tweets are popular.
Zuckerberg’s “Threads” app is popular too. So are short posts on LinkedIn. There’s endless stuff to read on the internet, and a lot of it is garbage.
I’ve switched back to reading more books than I do internet content. Books are often written in a timeless way. And way more effort goes into some of the best-selling books of all time.
High-selling books often give the author an advance from the publisher. So they have to be good enough to earn it.
Many layers of editing happen too. A book can often be someone’s life work so it’s more likely to be good.
If you’re not reading books, you’re not investing in yourself.
Don’t finish books — throw them in the bin, even
Yep. Not all books need to be finished. Some books suck and you should stop reading them.
Pro tip: the best idea of a book is often in the first chapter. After that many books are all filler, no killer.
You don’t get a prize for finishing a book. And it’s fine to get one good idea from a $20 book and not read the whole thing.
Reading a book until the end because it costs $20 is the definition of a tight-arse. Time is more valuable than money.
Another strategy I’ve learned is to read multiple books at once. Cheat on one book with another. It keeps things interesting.
Build simple systems for everything
Most of life is repetitive.
That means you can systemize it. For example, every month I have to do accounting for my online business. It’s a pain in the ass. I’m officially the dumbest startup CFO in history.
I always forget how to do it.
So what I did was create Loom videos that record my screen and show me how to do it in case I forget. Instead of remembering I just watch the 60-second video for each step.
I recently hired a virtual assistant. My plan is to outsource this task to her in a few months.
I also realized that my hobbies have playbooks. These are habits I do and nuances in my process. Even my online business has a playbook. The other day someone said they’d buy my business playbook for 7 figures.
That idea took me by surprise, but after much thinking, it makes sense.
Playbooks and systems aren’t just shortcuts for ourselves. They’re shortcuts for other people.
The most important part about systems is they save you time. They reinforce a goal or a habit with action. They take fantasies and make them realities over a long enough time horizon.
Systems instead of visions.
Over the last 9 years I’ve acquired a lot of new skills.
Strangers on the internet think I’m a geek or I got lucky. That’s not true. My secret is that I buy a lot of online courses with one difference.
A lot of them are just full of information that takes 50+ hours to consume and doesn’t generate an ROI on your investment. Instead, I prioritized actionable courses.
Courses that had accountability, communities attached, live workshops with work I had to do, and that told me what daily actions to take.
Actionable education will destroy memorization education.
Self-educate to upgrade your life and become unrecognizable in a year or two. That’s what I wish I had done back in 2014. It’s not too late for you.