Build the valuable you in 2018

I love things that aren’t obvious initially, that everyone misses, but once uncovered, are blindingly clear.

Love him or hate him, Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and Facebook investor, is the master of seeing the unseen. In his book, Zero to One, he explains why the only way to truly break the mould in business and in life, is to uncover a secret no one else knows. This, he argues, is what allows you to build ‘the valuable company no one else is building’. It is his blueprint on how to escape your competition, find your greenfield opportunity and capture value for decades to come.

As the old year draws to a close, and the new year emerges, I can’t help but wonder, could this type of thinking be used to transform an individual’s life in a similar way? What obvious secret, that if uncovered, could set us on the path to prosperity?

It helps by starting with how we conventionally imagine prosperity and wealth are created.

It’s time to break with tradition

Saving and investing our money in order to gain wealth is a pretty well-trodden path. Despite it not being a secret, most of us don’t do it consistently or well. In fact, the vast majority of us fail to do it at all.

But because this is an accepted, commonplace approach to getting ahead, when we daydream about how we’ll build our nest egg in the coming year, we tend to land here as a default. “This year I’ll save more,” we promise ourselves.

But come February (and the inevitable Christmas credit-card-hangover) most of us are back to square one. Feb fast might see us on the no alcohol bandwagon, but we’re well and truly off the savings one.

However there is a less obvious, but possibly more powerful way to get ahead. And while it’s not technically a secret, in a perfect Thiel sense of the word, it is certainly less known and less actioned by most of us.

The secret is that one of the best ways to get ahead is to invest in yourself and your labour potential. Before you retire, you are your best investment.

Your career is the engine of your wealth

If you’re still in the prime of your career, the largest source of your wealth isn’t what’s sitting in your bank account or your superannuation - it’s your labour. Every day you sell your skills, energy, and time to someone or something, whether that’s your boss, or your own business. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the sooner you can sell it for more, the better off you’ll be in the long term.

Here are two things I think you should consider doing, to increase the value of you in 2018.

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you

In his latest book, The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson highlights the role of networks in the distribution of power and influence through the course of history. One thing is evident from Ferguson’s work (and other network theory greats, like Mark Granovetter) is that the more connected you are, and the more central you are to any given network, then the more likely you are to prosper.

Granovetter’s work is especially interesting, because his studies show those with a greater number of acquaintances – what he calls ‘weak ties’ – have greater social power and are more likely to land better jobs.

So while many of us espouse “quality over quantity,” instead take a contrarian attitude to your personal relationships in 2018 and you might get ahead faster.

Earn more rather than live less

It’s great to be frugal and cut out that afternoon coffee, but you can only go so far. Soon all that penny-pinching becomes a bore – a self-inflicted punishment you soon find easy to let go of, just like the gym.

Instead, the real thing you should focus on in 2018 is how you can get more money for your time. After all, time is the most valuable thing you can exchange, and you should be commanding the best price possible.

But to do that, you need have skills most don’t. Forbes recently listed the 13 top tech skills that will be in high demand in 2018. If you don’t see any of your current skills on the list, you need to think seriously about how you can get some. These days, it’s not that hard or expensive to recondition yourself, it just takes a little bit of evening and weekend effort.

I’ve listed a few of the areas below, alongside courses you can take for free, or for a small fee. Putting these on your resume in 2018 could land you a raise or a new job. The sooner you do it, the sooner the compounding effect of your income kicks in over the rest of your working career.

Experience with AI Udemy offer a course for $205, as do Coursera, who offer a free course on Machine Learning via Stanford University

Data science General Assembly will launch a part time Data Science course in February, which will set you back $5000, far less than a Master’s Degree or a new car. Or, if you’d like a formal certification, the University of Adelaide is running a ‘micromasters’ program in Big Data via edX. You can take the course for free or pay US$1350 to get the official qualification.

__Skills To Envision, Design And Develop AR Apps __ User experience is everything these days – just think how often you get ‘click-rage’ on a poorly designed app or website. The next frontier of design is Augmented Reality. And guess what, in February 2018, Academy Xi start their Augmented Reality Design course for those of you lucky enough to be living in Sydney. It’s $4000, but you can use zipMoney to spread out the payments.

For those of you still at the first principles stage, this free Interaction Design Specialisation course from UC San Diego available on Coursera is a good place to start.

Cross-Team Functionality & Communication The pen is mightier than the sword, and if Forbes are right, it will continue to grow in dominance in 2018. Managers are quick to spot the great communicators in their teams, earmarking them for future people leader roles in fast moving environments. If your communication skills could do with a brush up, at $180 Switch L+D’s Communication Course is well worth considering.

Do different things, get different results

So on the 31st of December, when the sparklers are being handed around, and the champagne glasses are clinking, make one small promise to yourself - that this will be the year you think differently about your personal wealth creation habits. That this will be the year you invest in yourself as a priority and build the valuable you – the one no one else is building. Something tells me you’ll like the results for years to come.

Zuper is launching in early 2018. Stay tuned for our official launch date (and party).

Jess Ellerm

CEO and Co-Founder at Zuper Superannuation. Loves fintech, writing, pilates, Campari and soda's and, as of 2018, marathon running.

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