Investing in Yourself - How do you do it?

I've been told from several people I respect over the years to "invest in myself", especially while I'm in my 20's. As I'm about to start my 2 years as an IBD analyst, I'm thinking of ways to invest in myself and wanted to hear what types of investments you make in yourselves and the impact they have had.

I have even considering going to a "life coach" in order to:
1) Have an objective valuation of myself from a different perspective
2) Find the few areas in my life to focus on that will make the biggest difference (80/20 principle)

The other obvious things that come to mind are books and travel. I just ordered some non-finance books finally and spent my singing bonus in Europe and SE Asia and had an awesome time.

How do you invest in yourselves? Does anybody have any experience with a life coach? If books are your primary method for investing in yourself, what book made the biggest impact?

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Comments (60)

Jun 18, 2019 - 4:51pm

Don't waste money on a life coach. Do you really want to pay for obvious advice from a Costco branded Gary Vee.

To me, the 'invest in yourself' call is a flowery way of saying that you shouldn't make your whole life about work. Going into IB to start your career is a great choice but it does buck against that line of thinking. However, many people subscribe to the idea that if you work hard in your 20's, you won't have to work as hard later on in life. It all depends on how you see it.

Don't let anybody else tell you that their way is the right way. I don't care how many lambos are on their YouTube channel.

Jun 18, 2019 - 5:39pm

I don't think this is necessarily true. There are certain specialty life coaches that focus on individuals with extremely high aspirations (e.g. some only work with CEOs). While I am not advising OP to obtain one, just a thought. If you want a life coach for career related goals, I would say find good mentors. If you seek out a career coach for personal reasons, I think what you need is more self reflection.

Regardless, I think investing in yourself is three-pronged: career, health, happiness. The career component is pretty straightforward, but often its demands overtake those of the other two prongs. Health should be divided up into both mental and physical, and the former is usually much more difficult and demanding than the later. Meditation, exercise, limiting screen time (tough in IB obviously) all help for mental health. Happiness is the toughest one and I still haven't figured it out, but on a basic level it is all about balancing goals, relationships, and hobbies.

Jun 18, 2019 - 6:37pm

I agree - I can't stand the Gary Vee style. The only reason I would be interested in a life coach is to have someone observe my psychology, goals, etc. from an unbiased and objective point of view. I feel like a weakness of mine is the inability to look at myself from almost a 3rd person point of view and evaluate where I need to change.

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Most Helpful
Jun 19, 2019 - 8:56am

To build on this I also think "invest in yourself" is a flowery way of saying "don't buy THINGS".

Buy experiences. Go on trips, become closer with family and friends, engage in activities that yield in lifelong memories, spend money on things like good, clean, healthy food, maybe think twice about those new loafers, but don't think twice about a good gym membership, a chance to skydive, or a class-pass membership with friends.

It can be so easy to get sucked up into a "look what other people have" mentality. We're young, fresh grads, earning in the top 1% of our age brackets. You don't need "clout" and you don't need a $200 white champs t-shirt with a supreme logo on it.

This isn't what I'm trying to tell you to do, just my take on what "Invest in yourself" embodies.

Jun 27, 2019 - 10:59am
John Pierpont:

To me, the 'invest in yourself' call is a flowery way of saying that you shouldn't make your whole life about work.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Jun 18, 2019 - 5:38pm

I think what they are trying to tell you is that you would benefit from not being so focused on work and find something else to talk to them about other than working capital adjustments or how fast you can align pictures in powerpoint using a script you wrote.

A self help book or life coach isn't gonna get you there. Go get a hobby and meet some people outside of finance that can give you cool stories.

I don't know... Yeah. Almost definitely yes.

  • 2
Jun 19, 2019 - 3:18am

Try out new shit whenever you can and build a diverse rapport of experiences. Instead of eating pizza and chopped cheese everyday, maybe go try out that Egyptian restaurant and have a conversation with the owner of the store. Maybe he will tell you about how beautiful the view is in Sinai. Then the thought might come to your mind to motorbike across north Africa and you might have the experience of a lifetime. True story.

When life gives you kefir and flour, make some blins.
  • 3
Jun 19, 2019 - 11:38am

drug addiction, great highs while your value sinks and the ultimate payoff is very similar to bankruptcy

Gun rights activist
Jun 26, 2019 - 7:00pm

Spend your twenties indulging in whatever extravagance you want by billing it to a credit card. Drive an exciting sports car that attracts the ladies and have great sex. Take out a big mortgage and live in a nice upscale house for a few years, networking with your wealthy neighbors. Declare bankruptcy. Then, do it all over again.

Jun 27, 2019 - 10:59am
Leon Dragonov:

How can I short myself?


"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Jun 19, 2019 - 11:28am

I have invested tremendously in myself by learning how to cook. This has a huge positive impact on personal health and budget. Maintaining a strong network of real friends that won't scatter when times get hard and constantly working towards better physical fitness all pay out solid dividends that overlap into your career.

For exercise, try all kinds of different classes and lessons until you find something that is addictively fun/interesting then commit to doing this x# of hours per week. If you hate running, then don't run. Try yoga, or spin class, or cross-fit, or swimming, or boxing, or BJJ, or anything else that excites you and makes you want to go.

Also, see a talk therapist if you are struggling with depression or social anxiety. Anyone that pokes fun at this is a cancerous individual you should consider cutting out of your life. SSRI medication should be avoided at all costs.

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:29pm

That's a great hobby. I need to find a hobby other than sports that I can do inside my apartment. As far as exercise goes I enjoy going to the gym but it's hard to be consistent when things get busy. I definitely don't struggle with any type of social anxiety or depression-related illnesses. If anything, I spend too much time going out and not enough time self-reflecting. Thanks for your input!

Jun 22, 2019 - 12:20pm

Did you take cooking classes or read cooking books and just try to make the dishes that you read about? How did you get started?

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Jun 23, 2019 - 11:41am

For me, the best way to learn was through watching Gordon Ramsay's instructional videos (he is a great teacher the whole screaming nonsense was for ratings) along with Alton Brown's Good Eats series (Amazon has it) where you learn about the history of foods, how they react to heat and preparation, and how to mix different ingredients together.

I think you will find the below videos helpful.

Jun 19, 2019 - 11:46am

Only engage in activities that lead to substancial learning even if high risk. That's the fastest way to grow personally.

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Jun 20, 2019 - 10:18pm

Everything. I don't invest capital in deals without clear ancillary learning benefit.

Jun 21, 2019 - 11:00am

Only engage in activities that lead to substancial learning even if high risk. That's the fastest way to grow personally.

Absolutely. Sell drugs in Columbia- you'll learn tons about business, accounting, negotiations, and deal making. High risk- but you'll learn a ton. You'll probably be pretty good at Spanish as a resume booster, especially if you want to do LatAm coverage

Jun 21, 2019 - 11:31am

Haha I've done arms deals (transport) before!

Jun 19, 2019 - 1:10pm

Do some journaling to find out what the 3 most important things are that you value. Then, incorporate those 3 things into your everyday life and you will be much more fulfilled.

Mine are exercising, reading, and traveling. Thus, I make an effort to read and exercise every single day. With traveling, I try to take trips that are focused around exercise (i.e. just traveled to Europe to train martial arts).

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:35pm

Did you learn this from a book or is this something you developed yourself? I like the simplicity of it. I need to figure out what the 3 most important things are for me as most of what I've been doing since graduation is just partying and traveling a bit.

Jun 19, 2019 - 3:01pm

LEARN PYTHON. Big data analysis and web scraping are the new value-added due diligence tools.

And read the autobiographies of Andrew Carnegie and Benjamin Franklin. Incredible constant learners...

"If you want to succeed in this life, you need to understand that duty comes before rights and that responsibility precedes opportunity."
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Jun 19, 2019 - 5:36pm


I wouldn't learn Python (or programming) just for the sake of it. If you really want to learn, at least have a project in mind, something you really want to build. If you're serious, I'd consider taking Harvard's CS50 online course, it's free and world class. Just check out some of the lectures on YouTube to see if it's for you.

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:36pm

I've given learning Python a thought multiple times. My goal is to recruit for an LBO shop once I start banking. Would this be a useful skill in an UMM LBO fund?

I actually just ordered the Ben Franklin autobiography the other week. I'll give it a read.

Jun 21, 2019 - 9:26am

You will get different answers but I 100% believe yes! it likely won't help a ton in interviews. However, depending on the IB / PE firm you work at, datasets are getting much much larger and excel is becoming less useful for processing them. I've done generalist private equity and now public equity for ~6 years now and I realized the value of python when I had to hire a data scientist guy to help me analyze an e-commerce business. It did 70% of sales through its own website (Shopify backend) and 30% of sales through Amazon. The company gave us 5 years of transaction level data (think >20M lines of excel and >25 columns wide). I built an expansive unit economics tab in excel that synthisized all this data but it could take hours to run / refresh with each new month or any changes I wanted to make. The guy using python could do what my excel did in 1 minute... Then when we wanted to compare product pricing of different competitors the python guy built a web scraping tool by SKU to compare pricing across the industry...

That is just an example. In short, a core job of an analyst/associate is to synthesize data quickly and accurately. Python will help you do this, regardless if the place you work realizes it.

"If you want to succeed in this life, you need to understand that duty comes before rights and that responsibility precedes opportunity."
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Jun 24, 2019 - 4:24pm

I've found that the blanket Learn Python (interchange any programming language) is super boring. Reading/watching about classes, objects, and strings will quickly lead to me playing candy crush on my phone.

I started Automate the Boring Stuff, a course about learning Python specifically geared towards office workers. I certainly don't want to be a programmer or developer and this class cuts straight to what I need to know to pull reports down, automate formatting, and other meaningless things that I spend a solid portion of my day on. The pdf of the book is free off and the course is on Udemy. The author gave away the course on Reddit a few weeks ago too. It's a great course, can't recommend it enough.

Jun 19, 2019 - 11:03pm

Invest in yourself by becoming self-aware.

Learning Python, traveling, cooking etc won't even come close to the dividends of self-awareness. It defines your relationships, career and well being.

When I used to trade macro, the most important question you'll be asked in interviews/ by investors etc is "Whats your edge? Why do you think you can manage money?" If you can't answer that with precision, you have no business trading. I've also realized that if you're not acutely aware of your values, if you don't know what makes you tick, your strengths, and your weaknesses, you might as well just short yourself in this game of life... no amount of python programming will help -- I can say that with conviction being someone who is fairly proficient (advanced) with python, works with "big data" (that term is so 2012), but paid the price for not being self-aware.

As for how to develop that self awareness - experiences and introspection. You can't really force yourself into experiences, one has to go with the flow. But one can take time out to reflect deeply, alone. There are a few books that I also found useful in building a mental-map of understanding oneself -- a lot of it comes down to psychology:

1/ Who Am I?: 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities byβ€ŠSteven Reiss
2/ Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
3/ The Psychology of Risk: Mastering Market Uncertainty by Ari Kiev
4/ Thinking, Fast and Slowβ€Š by β€ŠDaniel Kahneman
5/ Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life by Sandra Aamodt
6/ Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
7/ The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:43pm

Awesome post - thank you for this. I feel like you explained what I have been having a hard time articulating - the value of self-awareness. I'll definitely give these books a look. If you had to pick 1 book to start, which one would you recommend? I ordered Thinking Fast and Slow as well as Ben Franklin's autobiography last week. I read the first 70 pages of Thinking Fast and Slow but stopped...maybe I need to pick it back up.

Jun 20, 2019 - 1:06am

1 Drink water everyday

2 Exercise and eat healthy

3 Get a personal little note book and divide into sections

-short term daily goals
-long term yearly goals

4 Read something different everyday or even watch someone different that you usually would not.

5 There is a reason why the most successful people are the most readers, find something you like or have never readed before and start from there.

6 Contradiction to what I have said, there is a reason why there are no expensive car ads on TV or Ads on youtube, no one with one is actually watching TV or Ads.

-Time is way too important

"It's okay, I'll see you on the other side"
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Jun 20, 2019 - 8:44pm

Just listened to a podcast with Tim Urban and he spoke about macro and micro happiness and how it is correlated to short and long term goals. Great advice!

Jun 26, 2019 - 11:48am

I have attempted to build up a kind of "self discipline agenda" over the years. Right now it looks like this:
- Sleep: Aim at having good sleep every day and at the minimum 4 days a week. Good sleep = minimum 6/7 hours of sleep, no alcohol/coffee up to 3 hours before going to bed, get up every day at the same time (WE and holidays included), shut down blue light at least 2 hours before going to bed.
- Food: cut down junk food and sugar as much as possible. Maximize fruits/veggies. Go organic on food reputed to require lots of pesticides (red fruits, etc.) + other usual nutritional tips (brain food, etc.)
- Sport: cardio 2x a week. Complement with some home fitness like pushups & situps, yoga/stretching.
- Relationships: invest regularly in relationships that matter: wife, kids, close friends, family I care about (not much actually!).
- Reading: I am always (every single day) reading a few pages of: a good novel and a non-fiction book (essay, history, self development, management, business…)
- Skills: I define ONE or maximum two (to maximize focus) skills I want to work on. Might be a language, a communication skill, coding, a finance skill, an online course, degree, certificate. I commit to work on it every day.
- News: reading The Economist and/or FT and/or local press every day.
- hobbies: try to have one "enhancing" hobby I feel passionate enough and that is not a pure waste of time.
- Productivity: cut worthless activities (TV, video games), cut idle time, minimize transportation time, get rid of useless objects in my house, digitalize life as much as possible, adopt productivity apps (note taking, to do lists, PMO...)
- Surprise: always good to splash some surprise in your life. Every once in awhile I try to plan sth I don't typically do. Might be going out with someone I don't go out with usually, attend a concert of a band I am not so much into, visit a museum, etc.
- Shopping: keep it minimal. Buy what I really need or what breaks down (don't even try to get repaired), shop as much as possible during discount seasons to diminish the "consumption assessment time": the more it's discounted the less I take the risk of buying sth overpriced/do a bad deal and the more I can go for quality rather than price, hence I spend less time shopping.
- Money: have a budget planning that covers time until pension, covering expenses and asset allocation. Keep it simple, minimize fees, get advisors in the game only when they add value
- Reassess: every once in a while sit down and have a conversation with myself and wonder what I can improve or do different. I read/listen to some psychology/philosophy stuff quite often so this helps as well.

Jun 26, 2019 - 11:55am

I was going to add: if i don't have time to do "all this" in a given period because of work, trim the list in the order of importance.
For me it would be for example (from least to most important): Surprise, hobbies, reading, news, skills, relationship (difficult one), food, sport and sleep. The rest does not really count as "time consuming activities"

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:53am

I couldn't find a prior thread I've written on the subject so I'll just give you a novela here. There's tons of tactics people will spout out: do pushups in the morning, read one book a month, travel, meditate, but these are all tactics. the overarching principle I think most people are trying to achieve but don't know how to articulate it is what I've heard called "becoming a total person." it was a concept that I learned from a colleague of a colleague ( and before you say "yeah but that's just another self help guru," I can vouche for it as it's helped my career, marriage, personal wellbeing, and a colleague who has since retired and aged but is in great health, great marriage, and has a multiple of what he needs financially, so the shit works (even if those are just anecdotes)

the main point is this: your life is like a bicycle wheel with the requisite spokes. if one spoke is warped, the entire wheel suffers, so in order to be at optimal productivity, you cannot neglect ANY one of the spokes. by the way, these are physical/health, social/cultural, spiritual/ethical, family/home, financial/career, mental/educational. if you're crushing it at work, have a great body, but a terrible relationship with your family, that will wear on you (it did for me until I repaired it), even if it's not in your conscious mind. if you're a hermit and never have social interaction, that's taking a toll. if you cut corners ethically because you think it's necessary to get ahead, that may not take its toll today, but it will in the future.

what this does not mean is that you need to spend equal amounts of time on each. being an effective advisor takes many hours a day, having a good physical condition doesn't take more than an hour a day plus being smart about what I consume, so don't think I'm telling you that out of your 16.5 waking hours, you need to spend equal time on each area to become a total person. if you notice a spoke is wobbly, dedicate a little more attention to it. revisit it every so often.

so yes, I invest in myself, I try to be a total person, and it has made all of the difference. I hope it does for you too.

Jun 20, 2019 - 8:49pm

Excellent advice. I need to step back and look at all of the "spokes" in my life and see what needs work. I've been spending so much energy and time on finishing my senior year and partying that I haven't taken any time to self reflect until now. I will definitely check out the total person concept. Is the website the best place to read up? Thank you for the awesome response as always brofessor!

Jun 21, 2019 - 7:23am

Paul j Meyers stuff should be accessible on amazon, his website, or maybe on YouTube. I did not purchase his system because for me, the idea was the groundbreaking part and then I started exploring what worked for me (by the way this has evolved over time). So I would recommend you just sketch out where you think you are in each area and do it yourself. Don't buy a book, don't hire a coach, do it yourself. It will mean more, it will be cheaper, and it will be more lasting. Best of luck

Jun 21, 2019 - 1:10am

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