At first it may seem counterintuitive but building relational wealth is not the same as building financial wealth. The financial world has its rules and maxims. I propose to you this one for the relational world: Continually invest in yourself and paradoxically, you will also build greater relational wealth with others.
As a musician, I can tell you that there are few things more fun and exciting than jamming with some excellent musicians. Every good musician knows that there are really no shortcuts to being a good player. You have to practice on your own, perfecting the fundamentals of scales, chords, and rhythm. Only those who have done the hard work and preparation are enjoyable to play with. Rather than thinking about the basics or just trying to keep up when they play in a group, these excellent musicians can also be listening intently to what others are contributing and playing what is appropriate. They can fit into the groove. They can add their voice to the music without taking over.
Novice musicians, by contrast, have not yet spent the time investing in their own craft, and therefore not very enjoyable to play with in a group. Their timing is off, their pitch accuracy isn’t great. But the excellent musicians have first done the work of investing in themselves so that they can play well with others, making a much more enjoyable experience for all. So it is in the world of relationships. You must invest in your own self development in order to play well with others.
Taking off from this musician analogy, what if we thought of ourselves as relationship artists? Heck, Subway calls it’s workers “sandwich artists” so why not? Relating well is an art. So let me ask you. Have you done the practice? Have you invested in yourself first before rushing out to play in the garage band of life?
What does it mean to invest in yourself? Well music may give us another clue. Music is a passion of mine. Why? Because it is something intrinsically human and it makes me feel alive and connected to the world around me. It also brings me more fully into the present moment (see a previous post on this here).
What things make you feel more alive? Take a look at your hobbies. What are the kinds of activities that you gravitate to? What topics of conversations get you fired up? What is the thing you do that seems like there is nothing else going on in that moment except you and _______?
Investing in yourself can take on many forms and I will share more posts on this topic, but the root of them are all the same: active engagement in the life you have been given. It is a very attractive quality in all spheres of life. It’s downright inspiring. We all naturally want to be around people who are passionate about life. It doesn’t matter so much what it is that they are passionate about, but t passion itself is like a light in a dark place and our souls move towards it when we see it.
What are some payoffs, besides simply enjoying your own life more? Well for starters, you will become a more interesting person. Passion for something creates knowledge and experience as you learn about it. You can’t help but share and talk about it with others (we can see your eyes light up when you do), which naturally builds emotional connection with people around you. All this, and any form of investment in yourself breeds confidence, known widely to be a very desirable quality in dating, friendship, business, and more. So let’s go!
“Get busy living or get busy dying” - from The Shawshank Redemption
Here are a few ideas for investing in oneself:
-Learning in any form, acquiring new skills (learning relationship skills like you are now counts!)
-Deepening your faith experience
-Getting active: exercise, sports, physically engaging hobbies of every kind
-The arts: paint and other visual arts, enjoying live music, theater, playing an instrument
-Making and enjoying fine food and beverages
-Making things better: home improvement, getting involved with a charity or social cause.
There are hundreds of ways to invest in yourself and engage with your life more fully (leave some comments below and share more ideas!). Many of them naturally flow into building relationships. You will meet new people who share your passion for these things. You will attract and connect with people more when you are doing things that make you feel alive. It’s natural and an easy way to build your relational wealth.
One last thing. This practice of investing in yourself also helps you discover the joy and beauty of just being you, by yourself, without any external or social crutches. Take out the ear buds, set the phone aside for a while, and go live life directly and to the full. Not only does this build more confidence as mentioned earlier, but if you haven’t spent a little time alone getting to know and enjoy you, why would anyone else?
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.