6 Non Financial Investments Everyone Should Start Early In Life

Including suggestions on how you can start.

Piggy bank — 6 non financial investments everyone should start early in life
Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Let’s be honest here for a second — We all want our time to be worth something.

We do what we do hoping it will lead to something good that will come back to us whether now or in the future. We do it with our time, we do it with our money and we do it by putting in the effort.

Some of us of course make it big in the process — we become famous, win awards and get a cult following. But the majority of us hope we can live a comfortable life without a lot of regrets in life.

Here are 6 non financial investments everyone should make, which have nothing to do with money but with returns better than anything money could ever get.

Critical Thinking

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”

~ Edgar Allen Poe

Learn to take everything with a pinch of salt. Instead of judging someone on appearance, question everything about them. Critical thinking is the ability to decide what to believe or not believe based on the data you have at hand.

It helps you have reasonable arguments, see the bigger picture, get exposed to alternate perspectives and change your mind based on the facts available. It encourages curiosity, which leads you to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

Developing this habit makes you a great problem solver and innovator. Some of the biggest problems of our time have been solved by asking the right questions.

Why don’t we do [x] this way?

What if we tried to do it in a different way?

Why not…?

What does this mean?

Critical thinking will allow you to get rid of your cognitive biases, free you from your negative thinking, and help you overcome the limiting beliefs holding you back in any area of your life.

Most importantly. Critical thinking helps you sort through junk mail. More than 80% of the content on the internet is bad and incorrect. Fake news keeps getting bigger and bigger on a daily basis and for you to separate the wheat from the chaff, you need to put on your Sherlock hat.

Albert Einstein believed he wasn’t smarter than others. He just stayed with the problem longer. He thought the hell out of them.

A real example of how this investment paid back

Everybody advised me from moving back to India. My parents and friends in the US as well as my extended family and friends in India. I spent hours talking to everyone and listening to their reasons about why this was going to be a bad idea.

Then I thanked them and chose to do the exact opposite.

Not because I wanted to rebel and prove a point but because I gave it some thought, did my own research on the job market, how things have changed, what might the challenges be, what is the worst case scenario and what is the upside, before deciding that moving back at worst, will help me get back in touch with my roots and reconnect with a lot of my family and friends. At best, I will like it, be happy with it and learn a lot along with being able to re-establish some of the relationships from my school years.

5 years in, It has been the best decision of my life!

How you can invest in this

  • Ask questions as mentioned above.
  • Question assumptions
  • Think of the biases involved
  • Assess the evidence
  • Look for patterns

Learning Agility

You know what Elon Musk’s superpower is?

It’s not his ability to take risks. It is also not his super focus. Neither is it his charm.

He is very quick at learning and connecting things. Below is a screenshot from his Reddit response on how he learns so fast.

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Screenshot of Elon Musk Response On Reddit AMA

The world all around us is changing at a rapid pace. Innovation is happening quicker than you can bat an eyelid. Your iPhone today has more computing power than NASA’s supercomputer in 1960.

Which then makes learning agility a very critical skillset. To have learning agility, is to be able to connect dots and merge contexts. Like a snake who easily sheds its skin, learning agility allows you to unlearn and relearn faster, putting you ahead of the pack.

It allows you to be flexible and adaptable. You are more comfortable with the unknown because you know your learning agility will help you pivot as needed. While others run away from change, you embrace it because over time, your agility has helped you figure out how to navigate it.

Add actual how to’s for all of these. Or even better, add how it has helped me and how they can do this.

A real example of how this investment paid back

When I first moved to the US, I was this shy and introverted kid who had a problem conversing in English. I went to an English medium school but speaking English is completely different from writing and knowing english!

To overcome my shyness, I started doing odd jobs which would put me in front of people and force me to communicate. I signed up to be a research assistant in college, which forced me to interact with other students. I worked part time at Subway (yes, the sandwich shop), another job that put me front and center dealing with people. I had to do everything there from chopping vegetables to ordering inventory and dealing with angry customers!

Both these jobs together gave me learnings which I still use in my job today. My stakeholders today are not very different from Subway customers. Both of them have requirements that I need to gather and then build the best product out of!

How you can invest in this

  • Learn how to become comfortable with discomfort
  • Take time to get to know yourself. Your triggers, pet peeves, discomforts etc.
  • Be open to feedback
  • Look for new experiences or stressful situations you can get into.
  • Reflect on your learning.
  • Create your own advisory group — people who you can weigh your options with and bounce ideas off of.

Kindness

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Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Here is how kindness returns your investment.

First it improves your health. Kindness is known to stimulate the production of Serotonin, which helps heal your wounds, calm you down and make you happy. Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins, which is the brain’s natural pain killer. At the same time, if you are kind often, you reduce the amount of stress hormone )cortisol) in your body by 23% and age slower.

Second, it helps improve your life expectancy. According to Chris Carter, author of “Raising Happiness;In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”

“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.”

And lastly, and more importantly, kindness makes you happy. A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic — in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations — were happiest overall.

More recently, a study was conducted to measure happiness in people before and after doing a kind act and the researchers found that being kind to ourselves or to anyone else — yes, even a stranger — or actively observing kindness around us boosted happiness.

Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller, once said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

A real example of how this investment paid back

A lady once bumped into me while pulling out a parking lot and immediately apologized. She asked me not to report this as it was only a minor bump. I was feeling really good that day so I let it pass.

6 months later, when I rented a car for the weekend without insurance and ended up crashing it, my kindness to that stranger in the parking lot paid off when I was told I had bought insurance so I don’t need to worry about the car!

This was at a time when I had quit my job to move back to India and a $1000 deductible would have been a considerable amount.

How you can invest in this

  • Find volunteering opportunities locally
  • Feed the homeless around your area
  • Pay for someone’s coffee
  • Help a friend in need — pay their bills or buy them groceries for a month.

Self-Care

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Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

You cannot put food in someone else’s fridge if your own is empty. Investing in self care means investing in your mental and physical well being.

Mentally, are you in the right mindset? Do you get stressed and anxious easily or are you mostly in control of your emotions and can easily bounce back from setbacks? What the mind can perceive, it can achieve.

Investing in mental health means investing in improving your thought process. After all, your thoughts become your feelings which then translate into action leading to results. The clearer the thought process, the better the results.

On the other hand, physical exercise helps keep your body in shape for the demands of the world around you. The more time you spend exercising, the less time you spend going to the doctor. Consistent exercise is good for your muscles and bones, improves mood, boosts your energy and promotes better sleep. — all the components of a life well lived.

A real example of how this investment paid back

I come from a family which has a history of diabetes, Cholesterol and Cancer. In 2012, when I got my results back, I was told I am pre-diabetic and need to change my lifestyle if I don’t want to join the others in my family.

Fast forward, 8 years, my cholesterol and sugar levels are normal, my power of my glasses has declined and my body is in much better shape than it has ever been. I have more muscle and less fat, my metabolic age is 29 and all my vitals are normal.

Mentally, I am calmer, happier and brimming with optimism for my future. Reading self-help books have helped me improve some of my skills and become more confident in both personal and professional life.I still have bad days and weeks but the number of such days and weeks has gone down considerably.

How you can invest in this

  • Get a physical done once every year.
  • Eat right.
  • Only buy and keep healthy food to avoid munching on snacks
  • Sleep 7–8 hours daily.
  • Workout 3–5 times a week for 30 minutes to an hour.

Happiness

Research has shown that happiness leads to success and not the other way round. What this means is that money will not bring you happiness but happiness can sure lead you to more financial riches.

In her book ‘The How Of Happiness’ Author Sonja Lyubomirky makes a strong point about 50% of our happiness being in our control. According to her, 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% is determined by our circumstances and 40% (yes 40!) by our intentions. And we definitely control our intentions if not all of our circumstances.

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Picture from ‘The How Of Happiness’ by Sonja Lyubomirsky

I can guarantee you happiness is not complicated or difficult. I write a weekly newsletter where I highlight small steps anybody can take to keep them happy. I am not proposing that you go through your day smiling and jolly without shedding a tear. Instead, I am recommending that you do what makes you happy.

Invest time and effort in seeking out happiness rather than waiting for it to come to you. Don’t wait for some person or milestone to be happy. Find joy in what you are doing and how you are living your life today. Over a lifetime, all the todays will add up to a considerable amount of happiness!

How you can invest in this

  • Do what makes you happy
  • Play games
  • Try new things
  • Get out in the sun
  • Remove, from your life, anything or anybody who makes you unhappy or stresses you out.

Relationships

If there is one thing I am sure of, it is this: Relationships are the real currency in life.

Take everything away — money, skills, status — and whatever else you can think of but if you have great relationships, you can always always get back on your feet!

We are wired to connect. We are wired to belong. Moreover, good relationships are extremely gratifying and as this longest running Harvard University study found — over a lifetime, they are the one critical key to your happiness!

There is a significant connection between loneliness and both mental and physical health. Research has confirmed that lonely people, as opposed to their non-lonely counterparts — report symptoms of depression more often, are admitted to hospital more regularly, have twice the risk of obesity, a greater risk of heart attack, and higher blood pressure.

Can you imagine living a life where you have to constantly do the rounds of a hospital? Where fighting depression in itself tires you out — leading you to eat yourself to obesity which then increases your risk of a heart attack. Imagine taking multiple pills on a daily basis — one for your depression, one for blood pressure, and perhaps one for cholesterol.

I don’t know about you but I would rather lean on my relationships in my hard times than take support from doctors and medicines to keep me going.

“If you invest in the stock market, you may be able to get a 10–15% return. However, when you invest in yourself and in relationships, you can often get a 1,000% or 10X return.”

-Benjamin P. Hardy

A real example of how this investment paid back

After graduating, I had 90 days to find a job and I was getting desperate because nobody wanted to hire an international student right out of college. But my friend took a chance by introducing me to her dad, who gave me my first opportunity. 2.5 years later when I decided to move back to India, he referred me to LinkedIn, which is where I work now.

I made it a point to attend weddings of close friends and family, flying all the way to Mexico from India. I know very few people who have flown far for a wedding. Fewer still who have been to Mexico for one. It only helped me strengthen my relationship with them.

They lean in when I need help. I lean in when they need my help. We speak at least once a month and sometimes weekly.

How you can invest in this

  • Be present during milestone moments (birth of a kid, marriage etc.) and during sad ones (death in the family, job loss etc.
  • Keep in touch with people by checking in from time to time or sharing something relevant you came across or even sending them small gifts from time to time.
  • Add value wherever you can and however you can.
  • Apologize for your mistakes and forgive them for theirs.
  • Listen. Lean in. Support where and when needed.

To Conclude

Life is a treacherous climb. We live in a fast evolving world where one wrong step can undo years of good work. Which is why, you need to have a strong foundation which protects you from crippling damage and allows you to bounce back

  • Critical thinking will help you overcome the limiting beliefs holding you back in any area of your life.
  • Learning agility will allow you to learn quickly while connecting the dots and merging contexts.
  • Kindness will not only improve your life expectancy and health, it will also make the world around you a better place to live.
  • Self care will give you the energy and mental capacity you need to fight your battles and be resilient.
  • Relationships will open up doors and increase your luck quotient by bringing opportunities to your door.
  • And happiness will bring you more success and financial riches.

Written by

I write about Happiness, Productivity and Minimalism | https://tuseetjha.com. | I write a weekly newsletter on Happiness: https://bit.ly/32Y6qY7

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