“Your life is your startup, treat it with seriousness. It is the best enterprise you’re ever going to be a part of”
These words from a conversation between Oprah Winfrey and Arthur Brooks stuck in my head like my favourite fridge magnets the first time I heard them. For a few days, I ruminated on what it means for my life to be a startup. To paraphrase Investopedia: startups are companies born out of a founder’s need to add some value to the world. Initially, startups may not have a well developed business plan and are funded by the founders, but eventually they require seed capital, aka an investment, to develop and bring structure to their business plan in order to move to the next level. The seed capital goes to the parts of the startup that are crucial towards its progress, and if things go well, it attracts further investment from others.
If your life is a startup and you are to treat it as such, then you should embrace these facts: that you have something of value to add to the world, and you need to put your seed capital in the most important places. I cannot tell you specifically what value you can add to the world, this is unique to your purpose in life and yours to discover. I can however speak more on the seed capital side of things. Your seed capital includes the tangible and intangible resources at your disposal, the most important of these being your time and your money. These two resources when combined are the greatest investment you can ever make towards a better life, but they will only produce maximum result when invested in the most important parts of your life. In this article, I will highlight 5 crucial parts of your life that you must invest your seed capital in, and these are:
This one is pretty self explanatory: your seed capital should first and foremost go into the maintenance and betterment of all components of your health and well-being, i.e., your spirit, soul, and body. Invest in a healthy and balanced diet. Invest time in exercise, even if it is a daily 30 minute walk. Do the necessary medical checkups periodically. Put some of your seed capital into your mental health. Invest in sitting with your emotions and figuring out why you feel the way you feel. Often neglected but equally as important: invest in your spiritual health. For me, this looks like quiet time, praying, meditating, and reading my Bible, but it may be different for you. All of these components are intertwined in the totality of your health and well being.
This area of your life is so crucial and it is no coincidence that the saying goes “health is wealth”. I’ll paraphrase by saying: good health is wealth, and poor health is poverty. I know that sounds extreme, but the reality is that sometimes when you fail to look after your health, you end up spending money and time in fixing it. So you get to choose how you want to spend your seed capital on your health – improving it or fixing it?
Your dreams and aspirations are desires that your heart gravitates towards, they are passionate itches waiting to be scratched and you must invest some of that seed capital into scratching that itch. In order to pursue your dreams to the highest level, you must dedicate “thinking time” towards figuring out what it takes to actualize them. And sometimes this also involves putting money towards the dream. This investment is oftentimes uncomfortable and may cost you a lot, but if things work out, you will be better because of it.
Personally, a dream of mine is to become a medical doctor, and the pursuit of this dream has cost me so much time and money but recently, I had to make an even greater commitment and investment into this dream. Since this is a desire of my heart that cannot be ignored, I had to put more seed capital into this venture than I have done in previous years. The truth is that I am still waiting to see the result of this investment, but the process has opened me up to a whole new world of people and experiences that are invaluable to my life’s story.
If you have dreams and aspirations, consider taking a leap of faith and investing your time and money into pursuing them. Regardless of the outcome, there will surely be something to gain out of this pursuit. So bet on yourself, figure out what it takes to achieve your dreams, and do it afraid.
In real life, startup founders usually turn to their friends and family for the initial investment they need. What would happen if they had no one to turn to? Maybe they would eventually find a stranger or a bank who believes so much in their vision, but let’s face reality, this is often harder to achieve. Therefore, it is safe to say that the quality investment in relationships with friends and family pays off for any founder. In the startup that is your life, take some of your seed capital and invest it into building and maintaining relationships. Spend time with your loved ones, call people to check on them, send a text when someone crosses your mind, take someone out on a date, celebrate milestones, send a thank you card/email, and give gifts to people. In turn, some of these people will invest back into you and help you when you need it the most. Invest some of your time and money into finding out what it means when they say that your network is your net worth.
Your skills are like the kitchen utensils you need to prepare a meal. A well sharpened knife helps you cut things up well, so you need to periodically sharpen your knives. Mixing up your baking ingredients is so much easier and faster with an electric mixer, so you should consider upgrading if you bake very often. In applying these principles to your skills and capabilities, you must always look to keep your skills in top condition, and even upskill where necessary. If you know how to paint, invest time in practicing your skills and if you desire to take this up the notch, you may also need to invest in better art supplies and maybe classes to improve your skills. Investing in your skills is not only for financial gain, which is a fantastic thing, it can also provide an outlet for relaxation and stress relief, and can be an asset in another phase of your life. If you fail to invest in your skills, you may lose them.
When I was much younger, I loved the French language so much that I made my parents get me a French tutor so that I could understand and speak the language. I became fairly fluent in French and my grandfather would always call me to his living room to speak and count one to hundred in French whenever I was at his house and he had friends over. After my lessons ended with my tutor and with no one to practice with, I slowly lost understanding and the ability to speak. When I moved to Canada in 2014, I realized how valuable a skill this would have been for me because Canada is a bilingual (English and French speaking) country. I tried to pick up the language several times but honestly it is so much harder to learn a language in adulthood without focus and dedication. Nevertheless, at the end of 2022, I decided that it was time to commit to learning French again and for the past year, I have committed to investing some time everyday into practicing my written and oral French. Slowly and surely, I am getting to the point of being Canadian bilingual (I already speak 2 other languages aside from English). If there is a skill that you once had and you have lost, consider investing into regaining that skill if you see value in it.
To rest means to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh yourself, or recover strength. This means that resting requires intentionally pausing some activity, pressing a reset button on your routine, and regaining your strength. Rest is not something that is “helpful”, it is essential. We already know that one of the main benefits of proper rest is burnout prevention, and we also know how bad burnouts can be. But another equally important benefit of rest is that it boosts creativity. This is because during intentional times of rest, your mind is not consumed and occupied, so it is free to wander and imagine things. This is why a lot of lightbulb moments come when your mind is not intensely focused on a task. When you rest and reset, there is more room for creative ideas to come flooding in.
To invest in rest, you have to first figure out what this means for you. For some, it may mean more naps or longer hours of sleep. This requires an investment of time, establishing a good sleep routine, and in some cases, getting a better mattress or pillows. For some, rest and relaxation may involve exercise or engaging in a hobby that puts you in a zen state. Rest can also be enjoyable! Some restful and enjoyable activities include taking vacations, travelling, spending time with loved ones, going to the spa, or no-phone weekends. Whatever the case, you were not designed to function for really long periods of time with no reset, so invest in rest and relaxation and observe the returns in productivity and creativity that you receive.
I’ll end off this article by reminding you that you are the greatest startup you have ever experienced, and so you must invest in yourself and build yourself up first before anything else. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
So repeat after me: I AM THE GREATEST STARTUP, AND THE BEST INVESTMENT IS TOWARDS MYSELF!