Invest in Yourself

Have you ever heard the phrase “the best investment you can make is in yourself”?  I want to explore why you should invest in yourself in the context of our lives, business, and automation.

Invest in Yourself

Invest in Yourself Because Really Successful People Do It

Here’s some stories of really successful people that all agree that you should invest in yourself.

Warren Buffet had a lot of problems with public speaking.  He invested in a Dale Carnegie course and claims it changed his life.

Tony Robbins came from very humble beginnings –  he lived in a tiny apartment where he washed dishes in his bathtub.  He invested in a personal development seminar that took an entire week’s pay.

Ramit Sethi has a rule on buying books – if you have to take more than 5 seconds to consider buying a book, just go ahead and buy it.  Just one idea can change your life and is well worth the investment.

I like to think of myself as a smart guy.  That being said, I know there are others out there that are way more successful than I am.  Successful people are humble and wise enough to learn from others’ success.  You don’t know everything, and learning from others helps you achieve success much faster.

Examples from My Own Life

The biggest investment I ever made in my own life was my college degree in computer engineering from UAH.  I chose UAH as a result of their CoOp program (for those that are unfamiliar, this is a program where you intern with an employer over three separate semesters to get real-world experience in your field while getting paid).  That’s right – I chose the college because I knew it would help me get a job.

As a direct result of the CoOp program, I was able to find a job in 2009, when many companies weren’t hiring due to the difficult economic times from 2008.  One of the recruiters at a job fair at UAH recognized me as a CoOp from their company and offered me the opportunity to interview.  The rest is history.  I got a well-paying job right out of college.

Negotiate

Fast forward about 2 or 3 years.  I learned that this same company did not pay their employees very well (my starting salary was decent at the time, but the raises I got did not match what the market paid in my area).  Once again, I followed the advice to invest in yourself.  I purchased a negotiation course from Ramit Sethi.  Now, 7.5 years of working full-time (and 9 if you include my CoOp semesters), I make over double of what I started at.  I know that’s a lot more than what my peers make.  I found a company where I have a lot of leverage.  I play a large role in their success; in turn, they reward me well for it.

A final example is this blog.  Based on reading a blog from a well-known developer named John Sonmez, I decided to start this blog.  This has helped develop my writing skills.  It also paid big dividends in a job interview I had.  The employee interviewing me was very familiar with my blog (because I have it automatically posted to my LinkedIn profile).  By the time I got in the interview, I already had a big step up.  He also read John Sonmez.  He really enjoyed some of my blog posts.  The interview was almost a formality.  While things didn’t work out for that company for other reasons, I most certainly would have gotten an offer from that company if I had pursued it.

Blog

I have future aspirations of selling products from this blog – training products.  As of now, I currently don’t get enough traffic to justify creating a product.  So I invested in myself once again.  I bought a subscription to Pluralsight, because it has a course on SEO fundamentals.  Hopefully, I can use the concepts I learn in this class to help drive a lot more traffic to my blog (after only two days, I have already learned a lot of relevant information I’m going to be using).  Interestingly enough, it talks about a lot of tedious keyword-research steps that I plan to automate.  🙂

Side-note: I’m attempting to get my company to pay for some Pluralsight subscriptions for my team.  I know investing in employees really helps the business.  There are already at least 10 different courses I know our team would benefit from.  See if you can get your company to invest in yourself.  Smart companies will take you up on this offer, as they know this investment will pay lots of dividends for their bottom line.

In Business

Recently, some people on our team attended Ansible training.  For those that aren’t aware, Ansible is a tool that runs on a server to execute commands on several client nodes.  For example…

  • You may want to change the root password on 1,000 different machines in your organization.  This can take 5 minutes rather than several hours or days to change each machine.
  • You want to install a version of some tool on 1,000 different machines.  Again, this is much faster.

Before we went to the training, I talked to the team about ways we can use this in our organization.  Since the business invested in us, we now have a plan moving forward to save days/weeks or effort using Ansible.

University GraduateIn addition to this, one of my previous employers helped me to invest in myself by paying for my master’s degree from Auburn University.  One of the lessons I learned in a class for my Software Engineering degree was setting up code coverage tools to measure lines tested during unit testing.  As a result, I was able to help setup the infrastructure so about 100 or 200 software engineers in the company could see how well their C++ software packages are tested.  Now the company has a good way to measure code quality in different packages due to this investment that company made in me.

The stories can go on and on.  The best companies invest in their employees.  As employees learn new information, they can use that knowledge to make their companies better.  Those companies that don’t change to work with new technology die.  Those that learn to change survive and prosper.  Invest in your employees!

As an additional side-note, when you invest in your employees, be prepared to increase their compensation.  These employees are going to become a lot more valuable to the company as they learn more.  That means you need to pay them appropriately so they want to continue working for you.  You don’t want them to move to other companies that are willing to compensate them better for their new skills.  Trust me – even with the cost of investing in them and paying them more, you are still going to come out ahead.  I’ve seen it pay for itself over and over.

For Automation

I’m going to make the assumption that as a software professional, you already have the ability to write software to automate some task.  If you invest in yourself, you may be able to learn new methods for automation.  You may also learn more about an existing tool so you know how to use it properly in order to automate it.

I have already given the example of keyword research and Ansible.  Keyword research is learning more about a concept, while Ansible was learning more about automation itself.

I have already discussed how automation requires creativity.  When you invest in yourself, you are learning more.  Ansible and the code coverage information I learned were two concepts that applied directly to automation.  Learning other tools and how to automate those can make you even more productive.

It starts with the mindset that investing in yourself is worth the time and money cost.

Mindset

Overcoming Objections

I don’t have time!

watch

Usually this is not a matter of time, but just a matter of being able to prioritize tasks correctly.

For example, in my personal life, way too much time gets spent watching television.  This time can be better spent investing in a hobby or learning a new skill.  You might counter with ‘But I’m using that as my downtime!’  The honest truth is you will likely enjoy learning a new skill or doing a hobby a lot better than watching TV.  If you are watching too much television, it is usually the easiest task to start.  It is not the most enjoyable activity.  It is simply the easiest and most mindless to start.

If you do not have time to invest in learning in business, you need more people or more efficient processes.  I have been in several environments that are constantly in firefighting mode.  If you never take time to make things better, you are going to never escape that mode.  That leads to employee burnout.  Ultimately, it will lead to a business failing.

I don’t have money!

No Money

If you lack the financial resources, evaluate how you are spending your existing resources.  For myself, I actually end up saving too MUCH money.  I need to be spending more on myself, investing in my education.  More than likely, there are some areas you can cut back on spending in order to invest in yourself.

If you really aren’t making enough money, attempt to find free courses.  Spend time learning some skills that can directly affect your income-earning power.  As you earn more, invest more in yourself.  Eventually you won’t have a problem with not having enough money.  You will still need to prioritize your spending habits to invest in yourself.

Particularly for software developers, we are not the best at marketing or social interactions.  These are great courses to invest in.  I’m hoping to attend a Dale Carnegie course at some point in the future.  Notice your weak areas and invest money to improve those areas (or, if you are so inclined, hire someone to do something for you).

Just from personal experience, some of the courses/education I have invested in has paid for itself way more than the stock market ever will for me.  Investing in myself has been the best investment I have ever made.

I don’t want to!

Change isn’t always easy.  Accepting change and doing things differently takes a specific mindset.  You have to be comfortable accepting that there may be better ways to do things.  Learning is not easy.  However, the more you learn, the more you may realize you enjoy it.  Learning new things can be fun, especially when you see how much new processes can help you.

In the beginning, you must learn to do it even if you don’t want to.  Over time, it will be easier and more enjoyable.  However, if you are not willing to adopt a new mindset and simply start, it will not happen.  There’s not much I or anyone else can do to help that situation.

Conclusion

Investing in yourself costs time and money.  Just like investing in the stock market, some of these investments will pay off, while others will not.  You must do your due diligence to determine if your money and time is worth the investment cost.

That being said, if you are smart about it, investing in yourself is the best investment you can ever make.  At least that’s what people like Warren Buffett, Ramit Sethi, and Tony Robbins think.  These investments can never be taken away or taxed.  You can draw on the new information you have learned anytime you need it.  And being able to put these ideas into practice can radically alter yourself, your business, and your life.

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