When I was working in financial planning, the beginning was very insurance-heavy as I was studying like crazy and trying to become certified to sell securities as well. For many people, insurance is a taboo topic, even for personal finance bloggers. My experience taught me a lot about different kinds of insurance, but I spent most of my time with life and disability insurance.
One thing I learned about life insurance is that term isn’t always the right answer, as many financial “experts” would have you believe. I also learned that having life insurance isn’t actually a bad idea to have for kids and single people. It’s not always the right fit, but that doesn’t mean it’s an absolute.
Your greatest asset
But the thing that still sticks with me the most isn’t about life insurance at all. It’s regarding the question, “What is your greatest financial asset?” A lot of people look to their house, or their cars (lol), but it’s not either of those. Your greatest asset is your ability to earn income. Take, for example, someone who earns only $50,000 every year for 40 years. That’s 2 million bones right there, a hecka lot of money when you sum it all up. Of course, that was the segue into the discussion about disability insurance, which I firmly believe everyone should have (even now when I’m not the one selling it :)).
But the point of me sharing it here is that I’m tired of seeing articles and books about all the different personality traits and attributes you have to develop in order to be successful.
Fact: Dr. Seuss was afraid of kids. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the most popular children’s author of all time.
Fact: Emily Blunt had a stutter when she was a child. It wasn’t until a teacher talked her into acting that she overcame it.
Fact: Gillian Lynne struggled with what most people would now call ADHD when she was a child. She couldn’t sit still in class and couldn’t focus. After a doctor suggested she be enrolled in dance school, she thrived. She’s now a multi-millionaire and did the choreography for the Broadway productions of Cats and Phantom of the Opera.
Fact: A group of cats is called a clowder. (What? It’s the Internet. You guys eat this cat stuff up, right?)
I’m not who I’ve been
Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that you don’t need to fit a particular mold in order to be successful. I struggled a lot with that idea when I was in business school. It seemed that all they were trying to do was breed manically competitive networking sharks who will do just about anything to brown nose their way into a job where we would sit and stare at numbers 100 hours a week until we catch a break…or die of exhaustion.
I tend to be more introverted and avoid networking situations like the plague. I also don’t like to act like an adult in most situations of my life, so I’ve sort of learned that me and that kind of life don’t really mesh that well.
So as I’ve spent the last year and a half trying to figure out what the heck I should do with my life, I began to shed the desires I used to have in regards to my life and career. They just started peeling away naturally–not because I had changed what I wanted, but because I realized that I wanted those things because that’s what I was always told I should want. At first, I was scared to death. I went from having all of these ideas of the future to having no future. I was depressed and afraid to talk to anyone about it for fear that I would be ridiculed as being irresponsible or afraid of the reality of adulthood.
The thing is, I wanted to embrace responsibility and reality, just not that one.
The wrong picture
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to write more, and I love it. The more I write, the more I realize what my skills and passions are and how I can utilize them to succeed. They’ve always been there, I just never attempted to use them in that capacity. A lot of them fit with corporate finance, and I’m sure I’d have a great career in that if I wanted to. But I’d hate it. I hate having little or no control over my schedule. I hate feeling like a cog in a machine. And most of all, I hate that I don’t feel like I’m providing any real value. Earning a paycheck isn’t enough for me. Those are fundamental personality traits and attributes inside of me that I can’t just set aside. There needs to be more to it than that.
I don’t know if I’m really all that great of a writer, but I love doing it. I’m infinitely happier when I think about pointing my life in that direction rather than in the direction of the picture others have painted for me.
It’s all you
Of course, that sort of career or life wouldn’t suit some of you. Some of you enjoy the corporate lifestyle, and that’s cool. Maybe that fits who you are. But as Jim Carrey said recently in a graduation commencement speech (watch it, it’s inspiring), “so many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.” Remember, you are your most important asset and it would be a shame if you were underutilizing your most important asset merely for practicality’s sake.
Another quote from Jim Carrey’s speech is, “If you listen to the voice of ego, there will always be someone better than you. How tricky is the ego to tempt us with something we already possess?” You don’t need to be like Warren Buffet to make a lot of money. You don’t need to be Dale Carnegie to have rewarding relationships. And you don’t need to be Gandhi to feel like you can make a difference. If you were to ask any of the people I mentioned up above, “What’s your greatest asset?” I bet you I know exactly what they would answer.
You just need to be you, and you need to find out what makes you you. You are your greatest asset. Learn to leverage it and you’ll find success.