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Why the lady sitting next to me should pay $2,000 for a computer class

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I’m sitting at my neighborhood coffee shop listening to two women talk about their careers. Yes, I eavesdrop.

One of them is complaining about her job, but says that she can’t get another one because she’s uncomfortable with her computer skills. Which led me to this post.

If you take a $2,000 computer class and it lets you get a job with a $10,000 salary bump, you should do it. No question.

If you buy one book per week, for $20 each, that’s $1,000 per year. If you get one good idea per week, my friend Paul told me, it’s worth it. If you apply that idea, I can’t even guess how much it would be worth.

If you buy a new car for $8,000 more than a used car, it can sometimes be worth it.

Put the numbers in context and look at value, not just cost. A $2,000 conference sure sounds like a lot. But if you make $80,000 off it, it sure looks like an investment. (Which is exactly what another friend, Erica, just did.)

Of course, the excuses will come. I don’t have that kind of money. (Answer: Save up.) How do I know if the class will get me that better job? I could probably take the same class for $100 somewhere else. All this stuff is free online, anyway.

You don’t know. That’s part of deciding what’s valuable and what’s simply a cost. But remember, buying something is not just about a number. If the value exceeds the cost, do it.

Investing in yourself: the best kept secret in living a rich life

We love pointing to real or imagined “advantages” that successful people have. Luck, family legacy, inheritance. Sometimes these things are true and sometimes they aren’t, but what’s telling is they all have one thing in common. They absolve us of responsibility for improving our own lives.

And they ignore the effort successful people put into bettering themselves: acquiring new skills, taking calculated risks and automating positive scripts.

Alibis vs. Achievements

American philosopher Eric Hoffer has an excellent quote about this:

“There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.”

Join my FREE Private List on investing in yourself and living a rich life

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  • Advanced psychological insights to dominate
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35 Comments

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  1. I agree. I get irritated once in a while when a woman’s magazine advises me to “invest” in a clothing item (although I guess you could argue that could land me a better job too). But education is most definitely an investment, and being uncomfortable with your computer skills will get you nowhere these days.

  2. My favorite example of this is buying a bigger or a second monitor for people who spend their days at the computer. The productivity boost you get helps the monitor pay for itself.

  3. Vered — great, great point. There are so many idiotic recommendations to “invest” in new clothes or a vacation to rejuvenate. Get real. You’ll know if it’s an investment because you’ll have a clear way to measure whether it provided ROI or not.

  4. This is a classic case of separating the “talkers” from the “doers” – it’s pretty clear these two women fall into the former category. I call the “talkers” the “woulda’, coulda’, shoulda'” crowd – don’t spend too much time with these people, they will suck the life out of you. Work on making yourself a “doer” and you’ll find that similar people will find their way into your circle of friends.

    A couple of things come to mind here:

    1. Complaining is for lazy people. If you want to succeed in life, just get started – today.
    2. Ramit’s absolutely right – once you can apply even one thing you’ve learned, you’ve immediately increased your value. Don’t underestimate the importance of this.
    3. A story (because I love stories):

    A few months ago, I ran into an old college buddy at a bar back in Virginia.
    After a few drinks, he started having a similar conversation with me – something along the lines of “I really should take that XXXXX training but [insert 873654 excuses here]…” I thought nothing of it until a few days later when he gave me a call:

    Old Buddy: “Paul, I realized that I could totally learn that stuff if I worked with you! Can you give me a job?”
    Me: “So I should pay for your training?”
    OB: “Well, I mean, I could be an intern or something.”
    Me: “You won’t even invest in yourself, why should I invest in you?”
    OB: “Oh. I guess you’re right. Bye.”

    Yes, I felt a little guilty for a few days until I overheard the same guy two weeks later pitching his “I want to learn” story on someone else at the same bar.

    For whatever reason, this guy wasn’t willing to put his own money/time/whatever on the line to obtain the training he wanted – if he didn’t believe in himself, why should I?

    If you want to get ahead in life, start today.

  5. […] on April 22nd, 2008 If you’re visiting from the latest I Will Teach You To Be Rich post on Why the lady sitting next to me should pay $2,000 for a computer class, […]

  6. This aversion to risk is just fear of failure. It’s human, not quantitative.The fearful part of the ego says, “What if I can’t be more competitive even after I take the expensive class? Better not to try.” So we opt to stay stuck and complain. Or just buy a nice suit and hope it compensates. Your point may be enough to get a few chickens to see past it. Just don’t call anyone stupid for it, because in one sphere of our lives or another, everyone is vulnerable to it.

  7. Great post. Although cars are rarely an investment, putting a few extra dollars towards a vehicle that is reliable and safe is well worth the extra effort and sacrifice you may have to experience to afford it.

    Sounds like a class in seeing the bigger picture is a good place to get started. I think in a lot of these cases there’s just no experience outside the comfort zone and so there’s huge amounts of doubt.

    Go back and wait in that coffee shop until she comes back in and you can encourage her!

  8. 1. Complaining is for lazy people. If you want to succeed in life, just get started – today.

    I just wanted to quickly point out to Paul that some people both complain and do…

    Working in the corporate world I’m bombarded by idiocy all day long. As such, I spend a fair amount of time complaining. Complaining about process, people, positions, you name it. At my young age, (fortunately or) unfortunately I’m fairly cynical. But it doesn’t stop there, I guess we’ll see years from now how long relative youth can give me the energy to combat the idiocy head on, because that has not stopped me from being extremely successful and being a valued resource for my peers and coworkers.

    I agree with you to an extent, I hear a lot of idle complaints, but I would specify that most of the time these seem to center around people, themselves, etc. “I can’t do this….” “They didn’t let me do this….” Which is obviously much different than other types of complaints which I would argue can inspire renewed motivation.

  9. Nathan – great point, thanks! I agree that “self-centered” complaints are useless – as long as folks are getting motivated to take action, I don’t care how they do it. 🙂

    I do find it interesting that your consciously making an effort to “battle idiocy” head on at your workplace. I’d love to hear more about why you’ve made the decision to stay at your current workplace rather than moving on to someplace that would require you to complain less – feel free to comment here or contact me at paul [at] paulsingh.org

  10. I agree, Ramit!

    There is a word missing from the column, however:

    I could probably [take / attend / enroll in] the same class for $100 somewhere else. All this stuff is free online, anyway.

    Thought you’d like to know.

*