When the Market Poops its Pants…
Given recent economic events, I’m contemplating what could be seen as a good (let alone a “safe”) investment anymore.
Quick definition: by “investment,” I mean the choice to lock up your money in some kind of asset, betting that it will accrue value over time (and taking on the risk that it might not), so that your money can potentially grow.
The conventional financial wisdom that many of us absorbed is that we should figure out how to acquire the assets that we think will accrue the most value in the least amount of time: things like companies or stocks, homes or other real estate, goods and commodities, or even pensions, 401K’s, savings accounts… even social security is a kind of accrual.
The thing is, all these assets are outside of you, and therefore they will always be subject to forces well outside of your control.
But there’s another asset class, one that is *profoundly* under your control, and that is your very SELF.
Conventional wisdom *does* tell us to invest in ourselves, usually in the form of education, but it tends to be limited to a rationale like this, “Get yourself educated so you can earn a higher salary so you can invest that money into assets outside yourself.”
So it’s still ultimately about the external assets.
I believe that the internal asset of YOU, your SELF, is the asset that can provide the greatest returns with the least amount of risk, even possibly in the least amount of time if you do it right.
But only if you’re willing to fundamentally rethink what investment means, what assets are, and how value accrues.
The way that value accrues in SELF is so different from how it accrues in companies, stocks, real estate, futures, currencies, or whatever — and it has nothing to do with income or salary. Furthermore, the methods by which we accrue value in SELF can sometimes look like the exact OPPOSITE of the methods we’d use to accrue value in conventional asset classes.
Traditional education is one way to accrue value in SELF, sure, but it’s pretty limited. For the most part, and I’m sorry to say it, but graduate schools mostly pump out innumerable copies of the same thing. Even letters like MBA or JD, by themselves, don’t mean all that much anymore.
The thing about the asset class of SELF is that it doesn’t hold much value when it looks just like thousands of other SELF assets; it has to be as unique and anomalous as possible. It accrues value through its scarcity or rarity, combined with its usefulness or power.
You can accrue that kind of value by gathering unconventional, uncommon experiences, knowledge, and skills, by cultivating your inner powers of wisdom and compassion or communication and creativity, and (especially) by building all kinds of strong relationships with all kinds of people.
You also have to discover, cultivate, and capitalize on what is *already* unique about you: your personality, interests, curiosities, creativity, your (literal) dreams, sense of humor, your unique way of seeing the world, your gifts and talents -> the assets you came into the world already possessing.
An especially powerful way to accrue value in the SELF asset is to do cool, splashy shit that you’re super into, not necessarily to make a profit, but to bring something amazing into the world that didn’t exist before. Because then you will always and forever be the person who created *that* thing, which increases the value of your SELF asset.
For example, about five years ago, I started teaching T-Group out of my Oakland living room for free every Sunday night. I had never been more devoted to something, and the momentum it picked up felt like grabbing onto the tail of a comet. We don’t have enough time left in the day today for me to describe all the unexpected, unpredictable people, opportunities, and sheer magic that created -> and that’s value that will be part of my SELF asset forever.
What makes all of this particularly hard is that it requires a lot of expansive, out-of-the-box thinking; the very kind of thinking that we are NOT taught to cultivate in school. It’s hard to pop your mind off the conventional, traditional rails if you’ve lived much of your life running on them.
Accruing value in the SELF asset will most likely require you to eschew that known, paved, and safe path for a while, and that takes a lot of bravery and guts. And further, the choice to do that will often *look* like a terrible investment to anyone who does not properly understand the SELF asset class.
There is almost always a tradeoff between security and freedom. I don’t mean freedom for its own sake, being able to fuck off whenever you want or something like that; it’s what you can DO with freedom, how it frees up your limited resources of time, energy, and attention. And what you can DO with freedom is usually the cost or price of security.
And you don’t have to be an entrepreneur or solopreneur to do this — not at all. Investing in a highly differentiated and unique SELF asset will serve you in the smallest startup and the largest conglomerate as well. It will serve you in public and private sectors, and in any industry you might choose.
Because a unique, highly differentiated, one-of-a-kind, useful, and powerful SELF asset is the one that can command a sky-high hourly rate, negotiate for the highest possible salary, win powerful and influential clients and contracts, rise up the ranks quickly to secure powerful positions or titles, or simply create such extraordinary and unprecedented results that their work speaks for itself.
This anomalous and more powerful SELF asset can also find unconventional pathways and nontraditional methods for getting where they want to go and doing what they want to do. They can connect point A to point B in completely novel ways, precisely because they are so practiced at popping themselves off the rails of ordinary thought.
When you have this cultivated and unique SELF asset, it doesn’t matter if one opportunity falls apart or if one door slams in your face. It doesn’t matter if ten thousand doors slam in your face. Because the world is vast, vaster than any of us truly know; if you don’t give up, it’s only a matter of time until you find the right place for your SELF asset to thrive.