Thursday, March 13, 2014

Investing thoughts

"Giving should be entered into in just the same way as investing. Giving is investing."
-John D. Rockefeller

There is this commercial on television that comes on when I'm watching things I've missed during the week- it's a bunch of kids talking about why they want to college. The tagline at the end is "My names is (enter name here), and I am your investment."

It's got me thinking a lot lately about this concept of investing. Typically, when people ask about such things, they want to know about the stock market or companies that might give them a nice dividend. In a country where part of the shared dream has to do with not having to work forever, investing seems to hold an exclusively financial connotation. And even when it isn't monetary, it always seems to partner along with words like risk and gain. The idea of investing seems to be that we put money in exclusively for what we might get out of it.

However, this is a second definition of investment that I find much more applicable to my own life:

Investment- an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.

I think about the "particular undertaking"s in my own life with a specific fondness. I have spent a lot of time putting in a lot of effort into things that are important to me. This very blog, for example, is a big investment for me. The novel that I work on in my (limited) free time is an investment. The music that my friends and I prepare and lead in our congregation is an investment. Running the teen program for the same congregation is an investment. My time at the gym is investment. Lilo, my ukelele, is a big investment for me. At least, this is what I consider these things to be.

But the second part of the definition vexes me. Because I'm not sure how one measures a worthwhile result.

See, many of the things in my life don't really stem out of clear motivation. I often start projects with no idea how they will end or what use they will be to me. Sometimes it's just about feeling called to go and do, but often, it just seems like a good idea. And it's not until somewhere when I am halfway through and seeing what the implications of my project are that I start to realize what I want the outcome to look like. I might put in hours and hours, and sometimes even money and emotionally energy into something before I even begin to consider what it might bring.

So why do I invest? Well, the simple answer is this: it brings me joy.

I am a doer, I suppose- the kind of person who can take a walk just to see my surroundings with no end in mind. I like the idea of being part of something far more than I like the idea of any accolades it might present upon completion. I like to reevaluate and refocus things in my life when I am bored, if for no other reason than I can. I live in the moments of starting something.

Sometimes, I like anticipation better than I like comfort.

So it brings me something amazing to be part of a project. Those feelings alone are enough to get me to invest. If you ask some of my friends, this confuses them a bit. Sometimes my emotional investments make me crazy or leave me overly stressed and deprived of sleep. And spending a lot of time with people goes against my introverted nature and often leaves me with no energy (and maybe a little cranky).

But don't fool yourself. No one is forcing me into these things. I do them to myself.

I think in this life, God gives us a chance to do a lot of great things. Sometimes I think that it would be a waste if I miss any of those opportunities, because each one has made drastic and great changes in me, and has taught me a million wonderful things. I want to be the kind of person who experiences as much as possible in the limited timeline that I've been given. And even when things get really really challenging, I can remember that each opportunity is a blessing.

I think that when we ask ourselves about investments, we find the truth about what it is we really want in this life. In my life, When I think about it, I want my investments to benefit people, if not right now, then one day. I want to be part of the kind of things that change the world. And in all things, I want my actions to reflect the greatness of my Creator, the God who gives me all my abilities and chances.

What are you investing it? What is the outcome today of what you are doing? And what does the prize look like for you? I challenge you to consider these things today. You might learn something about yourself, and who or what it is your goals serve.

It may even help you  become more focused towards your own "worthwhile result."

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