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The Contrarians

con·trar·i·an - noun
1. opposing or rejecting popular opinion;
going against current practice.

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The Best Investment a Young Entrepreneur Can Make

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As a young person, how do you form a good investment strategy? Index funds, precious metals, bonds, day trading?

What should I do with my money? I just want to put it somewhere competitive where I feel like it’s working for me. Nothing greedy, just something I can feel good about.

Let’s look at a different strategy. All those aforementioned investment options have their places, and it’s outside the scope of this post to compare them, but let’s shift gears and look at an investing option you probably haven’t considered: PEOPLE.

Investing in people. What does that mean? I’m going to lay out a system in investing in people, how to do it, and why it’s going to change your life.

First of all, let’s talk about returns. What’s something that doesn’t demand a lot from your wallet, not a whole lot of your time, but will continue to kick off returns for years, maybe even your entire life? People. Or to be more precise, relationships.

Investing in people, in this tumultous time in the markets, is the safest investment you can make. It doesn’t depend on the strength of the US dollar, or how the latest job report looks. You can be in the midst of a recession and this investment will keep returning dividends that far outweigh any buy-in you’ve made.

THE SYSTEM

Ok! So enough of this flowery metaphor. Relationships are good. We all know that. What’s new here?

What if we didn’t treat our relationships like an after-hour, extra curricular activity but instead viewed them as a portfolio of potential investments? Things that are organized tend to have higher priority. If it’s in the calendar, it’s much more likely to happen than if it’s spontaneous and unplanned.

Let’s remove the emotional aspect for now and talk about this as if it was a cold, hard, calculated transaction to be made. Let’s say I have $100 to invest in ‘people.’ How does that look? First of all, most of this investment won’t come from money. It will come from your time.

Ok, so now let’s say you have $100 AND 10 hours of time per month to invest. This will get us somewhere!

Next we need to pick our stocks. We’ll start out with five investments. And just like the stock market we want to diversify our portfolio. So make a list of friends, aquaintances, bosses and teachers, relatives and old coworkers. Cull this list down to five people. Make it diverse. Ensure there are people younger and older than you, people you share a lot in common with, and a person or two that have entirely different interests. The one qualifying characteristic you’re looking for is PASSION. This person needs to be extremely—infectiously—passionate about something.

Now you have your list of five ‘stocks,’ it’s time to budget out your investing plan. Take $90 and designate it for three people this month. These people should rotate every month. Take these people out to lunch throughout the month. That’s three meals of $30, or $15 each. Take them somewhere worth their time, somewhere you can have a real conversation and you aren’t bombarded by Lynyrd Skynyrd or 15 big screen TVs.

Maybe some months you’ll do two lunches and three coffees. That works too. Just try to use 90% of this budget investing in being hospitable.

So what do you do at these lunches or coffee meetings? It’s time to build your listening skills. Send these people a handwritten note if possible saying something like, “Hey, I’ve been thinking of you lately. If you’re available anytime this month I’d love to catch up. Maybe we can catch lunch sometime. My treat.” A word of caution here. Some of these people might be wary that this is some sort of sales pitch. It’s important to set the tone that no manipulation or hard pitches will take place. You’re the giver at these meetings, the listener, the encourager.

Sit down with this person, make some small talk and then get to the meat of the conversation. “What are your working on these days that’s exciting?” This will inevitably lead to this person talking about something they’re passionate about. Listen. Try to soak in the information. This is what cultivating interest in someone feels like.

By the end of your hour and half lunch you should have learned a ton about this person and the field they specialize in. Make sure to toss in what you’re working on as well. Seeing someone passionate about something often opens people to reveal their own personal projects.

People love to feel valued, and LOVE to talk about their passions and dreams, so this meeting will stick in this person’s mind—that’s one succesful investment down!

As soon as this first lunch has concluded, set a reminder on your calendar to leave this person a follow up message saying how much you enjoyed your lunch and what they had to share. “Let’s do it again sometime!”

As you continue to cultivate your listening and meeting skills, you’ll be amazed by how much information you’re able to retain from these lunches or coffee get togethers.

With the remaining $10 you’re going to browse some used book stores and pick up a book that two of the people in your list would be interested in. $10 should be more than enough. Write a personal note on the first page and drop it off at the mailbox. “I thought you’d be interested in this book (magazine, trinket) I came across. I’d love to hear what you’re working on!”

The biggest dividend that results from this investment is improving yourself. Building an attitude of thoughtfulness and valuing others, as well as developing your listening skill will make you a better person. Quality people attract other quality people. People want to be around others that know where they want to go.

Soon you’ll find your ‘Investment Circle’ expanding and deepening. This doesn’t mean you should spend less time with each person. If you feel like you won’t have the time or you’re feeling rushed, it’s better not to have the meeting at all. Try to introduce people to each other. Build bridges around you.

These relationships you’re building may not seem substantially valuable, but that’s taking a short term viewpoint. Who knows what kind of ventures you’ll be undertaking in the next two years, five years, and who knows what position your friends—because that’s what they’ll become—will be in to help or advise. People can help each other grow, and investing your time into listening and caring about a person’s passion just might encourage them to take that next step forward.

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