The modern information age is incredible. Compared to any other time in history, we have tons of information available at the click of a computer mouse or the tap of a smartphone screen. Any question you have can be answered in seconds, or any curiosity can be satisfied by a video or podcast. And the best part is that it's all pretty much free, outside of the costs of your Internet connectivity.
The ability to access anything you want for no cost has been great for our capacity to expand as human beings. However, at the same time, it's easy to get completely overwhelmed. If you go to any search engine and type in a phrase, it will return a page saying that it found millions - or even billions - of web pages, articles, and videos containing your phrase.
Worse than that, not only do we receive too much information, we receive too much * incomplete* information. The bar for publishing anything online is non-existent these days. Anyone with an Internet connection and free time can create any content and have it available to anyone in the world within minutes. Unfortunately, while many have the best intentions in their heart for helping others, they aren't necessarily the most qualified to do so.
Combat low-quality free information by paying for it instead
One of the best ways to ensure that you're getting high-quality information for your needs is to pay for it. Yes, you can find information about any topic without spending a single cent. But paying for something has its benefits that can't be found on most freely-available content out there.
Usually, paid content is vastly superior to whatever you can find for free. The quality of the content will be higher since often it's produced by people who have plenty of experience in that particular area. You can generally be assured that the material will have been reviewed by other experts before being available. If the content is online, it will be kept up to date more frequently than most free sites where the content is posted and never touched again. In most cases, paid content will be kept to a higher standard by their authors.
Paid content is also great because you'll have just about everything you need neatly organized in one single place. It's incredibly time-consuming and irritating to have to go through hundreds of sites, picking up bits and pieces and try to fit everything together. When everything you need is in one place and set in a specific order, it's effortless to remain focused since you don't have to expend energy sifting through junk to get some good stuff.
There is one unexpected advantage of paying money for something: it provides a psychological benefit of making you follow through on the things you want to accomplish because you now have some skin in the game. Nowadays, people want everything for free. But getting something for free will make you abandon it at the first opportunity you get simply because you value it far less than paying hard-earned money for it. Your chances of accomplishing your specific goals disappear when you don't pay anything for it. No one wants to spend money on something - sometimes thousands of dollars - and not see it through to completion.
What you can invest in
There are plenty of ways you can pay for learning a new skill or moving you forward to the place where you want to be. The following are good places to invest your money in and get the most out of what you need:
Many people forego books nowadays because of what's been explained in this article already - they can just go online and find what they need. However, books are still an invaluable tool in anyone's toolset. They're usually published by knowledgeable experts, thoroughly reviewed before printing, and have tons of information about a single topic while being relatively inexpensive. And while this article is about investing money in these things, the best thing about books is that you can still access them for free by going to your local library.
It's not all rosy, as there are some downsides to books. Some books - especially technology books - can quickly become out of date and can't be updated as a website can. Also, the rise of self-publishing is great for authors who can't or don't want to deal with traditional publishers, but often these authors are not experts, so you need to be aware who you're getting your information from. Thankfully, you can offset some of these issues by glancing at book reviews before making a purchase.
Sites and teachers providing online courses have been increasing exponentially in size in the last couple of years. As technology has advanced, more tools have been made available to produce and consume online courses easily. Sites like Udemy and SkillShare have thousands of courses that cover just about any topic you're interested in for a low cost. There are also more specialized courses by individuals or corporations that go broader and more profound than anything those websites can provide.
There are a few disadvantages with online courses that you should keep an eye out for. Just like self-published books, the quality of these courses can vary, whether it be the quality of the content or the quality of the audio and video which are essential in these types of classes. Also, some instructors might not mesh well with your style of learning or can be hard to understand if they're from a foreign country. Again, you can also offset some of these issues by checking out course reviews. Finally, the more specialized courses can be prohibitively expensive - many being sold for thousands of dollars. It might be inaccessible to you from a financial standpoint.
If you're more serious about improving specific areas of your life, a personal coach can boost you forward like nothing else. Having someone who's an expert with what you want to accomplish and guide you one-on-one is possibly the absolute best way to reach your goals. Not only will they teach you what to do when everything's going well, but they will also be there to help you navigate through the inevitable tough times. Having someone who has your back is invaluable, and that's what a coach can do for you.
Personal coaching can provide the best chance at achieving what you want, but there are a couple of issues you will need to be aware of. The main problem is that coaching is not cheap at all - a good coach will cost you hundreds of dollars for just an hour of their time. Also, coaching is not something that is regulated - literally, anyone can be a coach if they desire. You might pay thousands of dollars for a coach who does not understand your issues, or you don't mesh with, leaving you with a significantly lighter wallet and in the same spot or even worse, a few steps back from where you began with. So do your research thoroughly before jumping in.
Be careful not to go overboard
Hopefully, the article so far has given you a good idea on how investing money in yourself is a great thing. But there is a caveat to be careful with. It's actually pretty easy to invest too much in yourself.
You might be thinking that if you invest more in yourself, the more you will be able to learn and advance. In a sense, that can be true. But the problem is that when you have too much in your hands, you run into the same issue as when you can access anything for free. You will only end up being overwhelmed. And it's possibly worse - you'll incredibly upset and frustrated when you notice how much money you have spent and didn't get the results you thought.
Make sure that you're taking the time to see your investment through. If you have a stack of books waiting to be read, don't buy any more until you go read them. If you have a long list of courses to take, decide which ones are the most important and dedicate the time to those first without jumping into something new. It will build discipline, and you won't have any wasted assets. You'll be ready to tackle whatever's next by the time you clear your queue.
It's not loss, it's pure gain
If you currently don't have the means to invest in yourself, then it's perfectly fine to continue seeking whatever you can to maintain your growth. But even if you can't buy books or hire a coach right now, I strongly suggest that you keep it in mind and look for ways to do if you are genuinely seeking to have a better tomorrow.
Don't always search for the free resources or the cheapest ones. A common mistake is thinking that if there's something available for a little cost, then paying above that means that you are losing money for it. This thinking is detrimental to your growth because you're looking at it from the perspective of loss. Looking at your time and money investments as gains will lead you down the best path for your future.
Just like a well-balanced stock portfolio, investing money in yourself will eventually pay huge dividends. You will benefit by continued education, learning new skills, and being mentored by experts. You can do things by yourself, collecting bits and pieces here and there, and you might still end up in a good spot. But being able to achieve and exceed your goals and dreams quicker is worth every single penny you invest in yourself.
Small steps for your Practical Good
If you're ready to kick your growth to a whole different level by investing in yourself, here are a few tips to make your journey the best it can be.
- Search for the highest quality resources that you can afford for what you want to accomplish. You'll find hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of free resources for the things you want to achieve. Instead of using those, you should seek to pay for better tools to have in your toolbox. You'll have everything you need, they'll be of high quality, and your investment will eventually be paid back if you stick to it.
- Don't stack on your investments until you complete them. It's easy to think that you'll accelerate your growth by having as many things as you can afford. However, most likely the opposite will be correct. There are only so many hours in the day you can dedicate to improving yourself and getting to where you want to be, and possessing too much material will slow you down. Just choose a few things that will move you closer to your goals and get to the rest when your list is clear, and you have the time and space to continue with something different.
- Be aware of sunk costs. Sometimes, despite doing research, you might learn that the thing you invested money on isn't going to help as much as you thought. Since no one wants to lose money, the first instinct is often to stick with it since you already have an investment made. But it's usually better to deal with the money that was spent (also known as a sunk cost), so you can move onto something better now. If something isn't working, try to move along as quickly as you can.