Investing vs. getting in debt

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to invest lately.  I’m not just talking about investing money, in savings or stocks or whatever; I mean investing in a broader sense, in yourself and in everything you do.

I am without question an urgency addict – as a general rule, I procrastinate, let things build up, and then power through with a burst of adrenaline when it gets down to the wire.  This also means, generally, that I’m bad at medium-term planning.  I often rely on my ability to “just figure things out” when I need to, and most of the time it works out.  Lucky for me, I haven’t yet had a total blow up disaster, but I definitely flirt with it.

More and more, I’ve been thinking about this approach as a kind of personal debt.  Every time I do something at the last minute, whether it’s a presentation, a document, or plans for a trip, I’m burning reserves (cash, time, sleep, social capital) and often going into the red.  While it may work most or all of the time, it’s not sustainable and it’s not a good way of using resources.

Credit cards bail you out when you’re over extended and need to get by at the last minute.  Personal and planning debt is the same way.

Conversely, investing in yourself, your plans, your friends & relationships, and your health is a longer-term proposition. It takes planning and discipline, and it doesn’t pay off right away.  But investing is about building a strong base.  And it’s about dedicating resources (time, thought, money) in things that are important, matter in the long run, and will grow into something even more valuable — to yourself, to your friends, business associates and family.

There are all kinds of good reasons for going into debt — financial or personal — whether its borrowing against a house or an education, using loans & credit cards to get through a tough time, or getting way backlogged on your work, your email, your exercise, or your family time.

What I’m talking about is a general mindset of: “what am I spending my time doing — am I making an investment right now, or am I burning capital right now — and if I’m burning capital, am I beyond my reserves?”

With that in mind, my new mantra is  “Always Be Investing” (imagining Alec Baldwin coaching me at it).

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