VALUING SELF-INVESTMENT “ASSETS” AND “COLLATERALS”

“When you invest in yourself, your energy is your collateral. It is both the asset you invest and the motivation for not defaulting on your promise to yourself.” — Michael D. Lewis

Extract from BANK ON SELF-INVESTMENT | Chapter 3

What do you think your most significant asset is? This might feel more like the start of a job interview than a legitimate question, but try to consider your answer for a moment. What quality allows you to accomplish more than anything else? In the field of banking, the term asset typically refers to money. More specifically, it refers to a resource that provides value for a person or business, but it is commonly used to talk about value in the form of financial gains. The greater a company’s assets, the more the company is worth. This is one way to look at the term, but it is a more narrow view compared to what most people use. An asset has become a term that describes anything useful or valuable. This could mean it helps you make money, or it could mean it enables you to achieve a particular non-financial goal.

If you broaden your view of the term asset this way, how does this change your answer?

Maybe your gut reaction was to say that your money is your greatest asset. But is that really true? After all, you can generate more money, but you can lose money too if you’re not careful. It helps with many issues, yet it can’t help with all of them. People with all the money in the world can still start businesses that fail as quickly as they open their doors. The wealthiest people cannot throw money at a guitar and suddenly learn how to play it. Neither can they pay for a tutor and immediately increase their grades without putting in any effort on their part. They cannot buy their way into success without acquiring it through their efforts. Money is useful, but at a certain point, all the money in the world won’t help you achieve your goals on its own.

You better work!

If money isn’t your greatest asset, then what is?

The one thing that will help you accomplish your goals and get you further in life than anything else is not money, but energy. Energy exertion is a valuable and powerful resource; however, you can only use it effectively in moderation. Hence, the importance of implementing self-regulation in your daily routine.

“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.” — Elbert Hubbard

Self-regulation, in and of itself, denotes control of oneself. This practice is essential in executing personal energy management. In this regard, you must regulate your energy with intentions to benefit your pursuit of a better future. The amount of energy you exert when you think, speak, or act ought to be regulated. As individuals who deliberately desire to achieve more as we continue to exist, we need to monitor the volume of energy we employ on specific behaviors. So, once actions are projected to positively affect your future self, it becomes necessary to increase your energy exertion to take full advantage of the value of this action. Don’t imprudently employ too much energy in every situation; there are times when little energy is needed to accomplish a task. If you consciously practice self-regulation, you will experience a decrease in impulsiveness and regain control over the amount of energy you apply to each of your behaviors. Consider this practice as a personal value with the willpower to piece your future together in your best interest.

The challenge with this practice lies in one’s ability to discover their energy. Some people are not able to tap into their powers to regulate it. These people end up lacking energy, and they rarely start to go after their goals. When they do decide to pursue their goals, they often find it hard to see this mission through to the end, especially if positive results are not immediately apparent. As their limited amount of energy runs out, their progress slows to a crawl and finally comes to a stop. If obstacles appear in their path, they only give up sooner. Without energy, there is no driving force behind your push for success; therefore, there will be no success. You need to discover and refresh yourself daily with a high energy reserve to meet and conquer the challenges that may come your way. Shift your mindset from having a lack of energy to do, to one that envisages an influx of energy.

The energy I’ve discovered within, and continue to regulate, has enabled me to accomplish so many amazing things. It has transported me above and beyond my expectations, and it ensures that I don’t give up when things get tough. It has been the drive that has kept me moving even when everyone else has labeled a task as too difficult. Best of all, energy is a renewable resource. When I find myself running low, I usually rest up and rejuvenate so that later on, I can feel more energetic than ever. Even so, I distance myself from energy drainers—those people and tasks that have left me feeling exhausted in the past. I encourage you to do the same. Though you can expend your energy, you can always get more relatively quickly as long as you don’t completely exhaust yourself, as this can compromise your wellness.

If energy is your greatest asset, then it is also your greatest collateral. A collateral is “an asset that a lender accepts as security for a loan” (Kagan, 2020a, para. 1). If someone fails to repay their loan, also known as defaulting on the loan, the collateral is taken in exchange. If you take out a loan to pay for a new car, you might put the car itself up as your collateral. If you make your loan payments on time, you get to keep your vehicle. If not, it gets repossessed, accounting for the remainder of the debt you failed to pay. Similarly, when you invest in yourself, your energy is your collateral.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to a knotty academic affair with my university—The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona—the year 2020 portrayed behaviors of a delinquent child in need of rehabilitation. The issue I had with the university was vis-à-vis billing logistics. To have been granted permission to submit my Master of Arts (MA) research paper for examination, I had to have paid all outstanding fees. My tuition, accommodation, miscellaneous, and other service fees were paid. In full. I submitted my research on December 20, 2018. On March 23, 2020, my paper had completed its rounds of examination; yet, I could not view my grade due to a financial hold on my student portal.

How can there be a financial hold on my account when I paid all outstanding balances before submitting my research?

I did not quite comprehend why any student who awaits a final research paper grade from an institution—one who has paid the necessary monies to ensure there are no late penalties incurred—would be charged additional fees. This predicament puzzled me.

The UWI, Mona, withheld the award of my MA degree. I contacted several leaders and administrative personnel at the institution, and no one seemed to care very much about my distress. The university’s admin informed me that all graduate students must register annually until their examination has been officially declared, and pay appropriate fees. Essentially, if my research underwent examination for three years, I would be required to pay for each of those years.

Rubbish!

I was furious.

I had a lawyer intervene in the matter, which prolonged my case for four months. In August, I thought to myself: “My brain, body muscles, and heart sacrificed a significant amount of energy to complete the MA degree. Why not pay the money and move on to accomplish the string of goals I have laid out for myself?” This moment of introspection led me to pay the outstanding balance that the university arbitrarily placed on my account. It was no small change.

I do not count this as a battle lost. I won! I made a promise to myself that I would complete my master’s degree, no matter what. This dilemma was the “no matter what” in the way of me accomplishing this goal. I interrogated the situation and realized that my energy was both the asset I invested and the motivation for not defaulting on such a promise to myself. I regulated and placed a significant portion of energy on the line, spending it in service of my goal to be awarded an MA degree.

You may encounter similar situations. If you give up on your goals, you lose the energy you invested in yourself without any reward. No way was I going to let my energy go to waste. Seeing your self-investment through will allow you to enjoy the rewards at no additional cost. You might even increase your overall energy level, as the thrill of success is very motivating. You may end up with less energy overall, as you feel like your efforts have been wasted. This can leave you feeling unmotivated. When you invest in yourself, you don’t want to lose your collateral and let your efforts go to waste, so you are encouraged to keep pushing until you succeed. By wagering your energy, you simultaneously take advantage of your greatest asset and hold yourself accountable for your success.