This I Believe

Paul - Vallejo, California
Entered on May 12, 2007

How to be a great investor

I am a great investor…but not in the way you might imagine.

Every morning when I wake up I think of ways to invest in things far more valuable than stocks and startups.

On some days I might make an investment by smiling at someone who looks like they can use a boost, sending a friend an unexpected gift, or buying a stranger a cup of coffee.

I have found that such small investments in kindness can completely alter the outcome of a day and lead to beneficial conversations and new friendships. I am amazed at how the “buzz dividend” from a smile that I turned from a frown can last all day long.

On other days I choose to make my investment in a close family member, keeping them steadily in my thoughts, being fully present for them and their needs, and telling them in no uncertain terms how much I love and appreciate them.

Last week I took the time to play with my four year old daughter before work, and I thought about her often during the day when we were apart. In the evening I cuddled with her and we read a bedtime story together. Afterward she told me “I was her best friend, ever”.

I don’t know how I could possibly beat that investment, ever!

But I am also a savvy business investor. When I have money to invest in businesses or organizations I give it quietly to people I believe in, or who need someone to believe in them, regardless of the potential for success of their project. My major criteria for investment is that the recipient is attempting to realize a personal dream, that they care deeply about that dream, and that they agree to invest a similar or greater amount in another dreamer down the road when they themselves are in a position to help.

Being an investor in people is a tremendous honor and a privilege…it is a chance to get in on the really good stuff of life…passion, drive, creativity, and even joy. Short or long term financial returns pale in comparison to the psychic returns that come from spreading hope and the realization of dreams. I cannot possibly measure the look of utter amazement and gratitude, often accompanied by tears, on the faces of people who I surprise with a no strings attached investment.

I feel so lucky to be a great investor, to be given the chance to seed and grow possibilities. I like the fact that I don’t have to search out my investments, that they find me in the form of opportunities for goodness and close connections with real people all around me.

Rather than worry about the success of my investments, I put my attention on more possibilities to invest, and on increasing my portfolio day by day, moment by moment. And I am confident that all my investments are paying off – not so much for me as the aspirations that I invest in.

So what do I personally hope to gain from all of these investments? Nothing…and everything. My theory of investing is that “good” investments take on a life of their own and create more goodness naturally. And a “good” investor is someone who doesn’t need to see a balance sheet or an annual report to know that their investment is a worthwhile one. It’s something that you simply know in your heart.

The ultimate payout comes in the form of a life that is well lived and meaning-filled.

No, I may not be Warren Buffet, but that’s OK. I am confident that if he puts his heart into it he can be a great investor too.