18 months ago, if you could have bought “HITMAN616 stock,” you would have purchased it at an extremely cheap price. And over the course of the next year and a half, you would have seen that stock rise by 10%, then 50%, then double, then triple. Here are the ways I have invested in myself in that time, and how my personal stock rose.
First, here's where I was in April of 2011 (As a caveat, I know much of this is trivial compared to someone who might be struggling by from paycheck-to-paycheck, or someone who is a single mom, or homeless, etc. But regardless, I suspect this will resonate with many people.):
- I was a 22 year old male, recently graduated from a decent university, but:
- My girlfriend had just broken up with me
- I later found out she had been cheating on me with one of my “friends”
- Many of my “friends” took my ex-girlfriend's side, and I lost contact with them. This left me with 3 close friends, where before my network of friends was 10-20 throughout my life.
- (Hilariously, my ex-girlfriend started ignoring them all a couple months later.)
- I had a bachelor's degree in Economics (from May '10), but no direction in my career. I spent many nights wondering what the hell I was doing in this life and whether it was worth it to continue on if all I was going to do was work forever.
- I was working two jobs with no real prospect of rising up in either company.
- I had a chronic cough because of seasonal allergies. Some days were worse than others, but most months I couldn't sing (I'm a singer) without coughing every few seconds, and even talking was a problem. On particularly bad mornings, I would get out of the shower and have a coughing fit, which occasionally resulted in me vomiting in the toilet because of the gag reflex activated by coughing.
- I was a skinny kid growing up, but I had gained 35 pounds in the last 2 years, going from 6'1 155 to 6'1 190. While that doesn't sound too bad, I had zero muscle to offset that– I was “skinny fat.”
I knew something had to change. So here's what I've done since then, and some general tips on how to improve your own life:
I cut ties with those friends who clearly weren't my friends. The difficult thing about this is that it often takes a significant, hurtful event to bring out the truth. But the best thing about it is you don't have to worry about being disappointed by them or being hurt by them in the future. If you have any friends who continue to belittle you or aren't there for you when times go South, you don't need to keep them around.
I got a graduate degree. Obviously this isn't the best course of action for everyone, but for me it's allowing a wonderful opportunity to start a residency as a mid-level manager in January 2013. I interviewed a few of my parents' friends about their jobs, and one of them recommended going into the health care field, which I had never thought about. I researched some schools, and this one essentially guaranteed a job upon graduation. I knew I would be working for a hospital and would have a graduate degree, with 18 months of schooling to get there. I now had direction in my life again!
I learned how to talk to women. (Note: this usually took place at bars.) This is probably the most controversial point on here. And hear me when I say don't use this to find a girlfriend. In fact, the only reason I “picked up women” was to boost my self-confidence and learn how better to talk to people I had never met– think business meetings/cocktail hours/employee orientation/etc. It is extremely intimidating to talk to a random pretty girl at a bar, but it feels great when you make a connection. Even getting shot down helps your confidence in the future. I never used this to fuck random chicks and never call them again; in fact, I never hooked up with any of them beyond first base. It was just an exercise in improving self-confidence and having some fun at a bar other than having some drinks.
Some resources: The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, by Neil Strauss, or Reddit sub /r/seduction. As a caution, /r/seduction can be really creepy, and I unsubscribed from it for that reason. Also, it's really just the first half of The Game that was interesting to me. The rest gets pretty misogynistic and sad.
- I quit videogames. Another controversial point, but I decided it wasn't making me a better person. Don't get me wrong, I think everyone needs a way to vent and relax, and videogames can do that for you, but for me, I wanted to do something better with my free time. I wanted to learn more. Playing videogames only left me feeling empty or even angrier than I was when I started (Halo online, anyone?).
In this /r/bestof post, /u/rtheone denotes a multitude of ways to better spend your free time: http://www.reddit.com/r/IWantToLearn/comments/11pqem/iwtl_a_new_talent_with_reallife_application_that/c6omy29. For a couple of examples, I've started using www.duolingo.com to re-learn Spanish and this website to learn speed-reading. Reddit is also an outstanding resource. Create an account and use it to subscribe to sub-reddits you want to learn more about. I love /r/askhistorians, /r/askscience, /r/iwanttolearn, /r/learnuselesstalents, and others. Use Reddit to its fullest advantage.
I started working out. It hasn't been an easy journey. I recommend starting small, and subscribing to /r/fitness and /r/loseit. I committed to working out for 30 days, doing things like push-ups and running around my neighborhood. Then that evolved into lifting weights, though I had no idea what I was doing and was basically just doing one set of weights for each muscle group every day (for a full-body workout). I found /r/Fitness, bought some Optimum Nutrition protein powder and creatine, set a 4-day split schedule for myself (chest/triceps, legs/back, biceps/shoulders, cardio) in July, and have seen significant gains in the last 4 months.
I started allergy shots. This involves going to an allergist to get tested for what you're allergic to, and then coming back for injections of essentially a synthesized liquid form of all of your allergies. You start twice a week, then as your tolerance builds you get shots once a week, once every two weeks, once a month, etc. Right now I'm getting them once every two weeks. My chronic cough has gone away entirely (I can sing and talk again!). My nose doesn't run as much, my eyes don't itch, and my throat isn't scratchy. It really has been nothing short of an amazing change.
If you have bad allergies like I did, find out if there is an allergist in your area and make an appointment. You won't regret it.
I whitened my teeth. I used Crest white strips, which come in a variety of “intensities”. The difference is mainly price and how sensitive your teeth get after you're done, though I think the higher intensities are supposed to work faster/better as well. I'm not sure how much truth there is to one working better than another. I used the “Professional Effects” strips.
I improved my skin. I'd been going to a dermatologist for a long time, but I still had a lot of skin problems with nasty pimple attacks every few weeks. I finally just looked online and discovered the main problem was I wasn't using enough of the Benzoyl Peroxide I was prescribed. You have to lather it on with a full pump so there's a full layer on top of your skin. Also, be sure to wash your hands with soap before touching your face, and avoid subconsciously touching your face throughout the day. My skin problems haven't gone away completely, but they have improved dramatically.
I got more tan. I'm not recommending going to a tanning salon, using bronzer, or any of that shit. Just lay outside for an hour and get ride of those pale legs/arms/face. Tan skin just looks better than pasty whiteness– it connotes a more active lifestyle (perhaps unfairly) and improves your complexion.
I did more laundry. Just kidding.
And finally, I got a beautiful girlfriend! Here we are a couple weeks ago on our way to a pub crawl. (Sorry about the flash/brightness.) I met her in the graduate program, which sort of brings everything full circle.
I understand not all of this will be generalizable to everyone. I am extremely privileged in many aspects of my life, but a lot of these tips can be taken up by anyone. If you want to improve your own life, it's up to you to take steps forward– no one else is going to do it for you. Some of your challenges may seem incredibly daunting, but remember the proverb “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.” Thanks for reading, and good luck!