After Essential Habits, I am working on another book. One thing that interested me as I was doing research reading and going through online courses is the idea of investing in yourself, specifically on the things that you or anyone can do to help them down the road.

I sincerely believe that there are not enough long term thinkers in the world. In fact, I wish I was more of a long term thinker myself, because it would have subtly changed what I learned or did ten years ago. In a way, this is my way of looking back at ten things I could have done ten years ago that would have drastically improved my life. But in another way, this is a great start for those looking to see what they can do NOW to get better LATER.

Investing

A few years ago, I had dabbled in investing, mostly mutual funds and using an investment broker. I thought it was a good investment of my money. Little did I know that index funds existed, which basically purchase a diverse set of stocks across the market and hold them. As I later learned in Unshakeable by Tony Robbins, index funds are one of the best ways to invest with minimal risk, management fees and good returns.

While some individuals are successful with investing in individual stocks and can beat the market, the majority of people who do not want to worry about individual stocks would do well with index funds.

With that said, there are a number of stock recommendation services that would be useful to those interested in purchasing individual stocks. Index funds are great, however, you can generate incredible returns by purchasing individual stocks.

Networking

When I first started ‘networking’, I found it really difficult to put myself out there and connect with others. When I was starting out networking, I was also just starting out in my career and I had no idea what to offer others. I didn’t want to network with others to get things out of them, I wanted to network to exchange value. Without any clear guidance or advice on how to network better, I avoided networking events until I could build up my career and have something to offer to others.

A big lesson I learned from networking is that it pays to have a good network. Even outside of work, having contacts for the various things in your life can be extremely valuable. Purchasing a house? Do you have a mortgage broker or financer in your network you can contact? A realtor? Purchasing a car? Maybe you have someone that sells used cars from car rental agencies?

I’m still learning the nuances of networking, but given covid, it is easy to connect and stay in touch from time to time online.

Flexibility

I knew about the benefits of exercise a long time ago. Of course, it’s not a matter of knowing the benefits but putting in the work of exercise that gives you the benefits. One thing that I did not do as much was stretching.

This changed during covid. I started getting into Yoga (particularly Yoga with Adriene on Youtube) and realized that while I felt fit, my body was not as flexible and mobile as it could be. I also noticed, when I was at the gym, that when I was doing squats, I was not fully ‘sitting’ down (squatters will know what I am talking about). I have heard lots of different views on stretching, and I think all of the different views scared me off from making it a habit.

The interesting thing about stretching is that you can stretch all the time, but the benefits of stretching do not hit you until you have been doing it for a while. It basically all of a sudden happens. I hope to get there some day.

Selling

One thing I learned from being a management consultant is that sales are king. If you are selling and bringing in work, you are extremely valuable to the company, any company, because the skill is rare and in such high demand. As Jeffrey Gitomer, the king of sales says, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. Figuring out how and why people buy is not an art as you might think, but rather a combination of art and science (though mostly science).

My very first job was working at an amusement park. They said that in my home city, your first job is either at the amusement park or at McDonalds. At the amusement park, I learned a lot about customer service. I guess in hindsight, the customer service skills have served me very well, but I wonder if I would have been better off working in retail somewhere learning about customer service and how to sell products or services.

Creativity

Derek Sivers says that if you are faced with two alternatives, choose the alternative that gives you more options. For example, say you just graduated from college and you are trying to decide between two equivalent jobs in two different cities. Obviously the cities would be different, but looking at the city, which one will give you more options. Perhaps you like to go outdoors and hike every weekend or so. Or you love playing board games. Or you are considering a job in advertising. Which of the two cities will give you the option to go outdoors, play board games, or have more opportunities to get an advertising job?

What do you do when you feel like you have no options though? That’s where the skill of creativity comes in. Any time you feel like there might not be any options, that’s when you use your creativity to generate new options. Creativity is about generating more and different options, and having more and different options means that you may be more likely to stumble on a better option.

Languages

Languages is one of those multiplier skills. Everybody wants to learn a new language and there are ways to accelerate your learning, but it is one of the skills I wish I had learned earlier. I might not have gotten any better at the language, but one key characteristic in learning a new language is being constantly exposed to it.

And in addition to learning a language, choosing specific languages to learn is also valuable. Looking at the most spoken languages, Mandarin, English and Spanish would be my top candidates, though I am also interested in Japanese because I’m fascinated with the culture and country.

Decision making

Decision making seems to be a skill that we learn from experience, not from school. At the very least, I never took a course on ‘decision making’ though I did take courses in artificial intelligence, algorithms and problem solving in computer science. These are related, but not quite decision making as it applies to life.

Some of the best books that I found on the subject include The Great Mental Models by Shane ParrishThinking in Bets by Annie Duke and Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann.


What are some things that you wished you had learned earlier in life, knowing where you are now? What are some things you want to start now so that you will have in the future?

wyip

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