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Insights from Denise Ilitch: Investing in You

Republished with the permission of SEEN Magazine. View the original article here.

In the fall of 2007, I decided to run for statewide public office. I wanted to seek the position of regent for my alma mater, the University of Michigan. Many say because the education seats are at the bottom of the ballot, much of the outcome is determined by the top of the ballot. Political experts advised me that there is a 2 percent sphere of control by the candidate. (As an aside, I often say the education boards should be at the top of the ballot.) With the help of professionals, we put together a campaign to advertise my candidacy. It was expensive, and I kept thinking, “How much control do I really have?”

So, I did what anyone would do. I asked my sister. I inquired about the significant expense and strategy. “What do you think about this, Lisa?” And her answer? “Well, yes it is expensive, but this is an investment in you. It is an investment in you, your candidacy and your future.”

Her insight resonated with me. I went on to win the election, and in November 2008, I became a regent for the University of Michigan. I was so grateful to the citizens of the state of Michigan.

Investing in yourself and your education, knowledge and experience is one of the best returns on investments you can have.

In a recent Forbes interview, billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the best investment you can make is one that “you can’t beat.”

“Ultimately, there’s one investment that supersedes all others: Invest in yourself. Nobody can take away what you’ve got in yourself, and everybody has potential they haven’t used yet,” Buffett said.

Denise Ilitch

Education is a wise investment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports people with a four-year degree dramatically out-earn people without one. There are many benefits to being educated: You learn the skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, effective writing, communications and computer literacy.

There are many ways to educate yourself. Here are a few to consider:

• Pursue a formal education such as college, graduate, professional or trade school. Consider apprenticeships as well.

• Take continuing education classes and online classes such as Skillshare and Udemy. For free online classes, consider Khan AcademyAcademic EarthAlisonUdacity or Coursera.

• Attend seminars and conferences, or seek a business coach.

• Listen to educational and inspiring talks. A few interesting ones are TED Talks99U and Talks at Google. Also search for podcasts like the School of Greatness.

• Learn a new skill such as speaking a language or playing a musical instrument. There are also a myriad of self-improvement classes offered in the community.

• Read! Reading is a key investment in yourself and takes you to places you’ve never been. Read frequently and widely. There are so many options today including books, e-books, blogs, audio books (audible.com has over 150,000 titles), trade publications and apps. TheSkimm is a terrific app to stay abreast of current events and offers information in quick, digestible bits. Studies have shown people who read current events and books have a lesser tendency to have memory gaps or forgetfulness. Scientists have discovered our brain produces new brain cells when our brains are engaged in thought-provoking activities like reading, solving puzzles and conversing with others.

• Think about ways to write whether it is in the form of a journal, poetry, short stories, articles, letters or a blog. Writing is vitally important to your intellect and expresses who you are as a person. If you have a question about a word or topic, look up information on dictionary.com, Wikipedia or Google.

• Listen to the news — and not the same news outlet all the time. Change it up. Listening to international news can broaden your perspective.

• Travel whenever and wherever you can. I have learned so much about culture, history and tradition through travel. Travel also gives me great inspiration and ideas for business projects and best practices. Spend money on experiences rather than objects. Cultural literacy and experience are potent investments toward your education and ultimately in you. As Walmart’s founder Sam Walton said, “You can learn from everybody.”

• Finding a mentor is a wonderful way to learn, grow and receive savvy advice.

Besides the absolute joy in learning, why is educating yourself important? An education broadens your mind to the new and unknown and opens all kinds of doors.

It leads to a more fulfilled life and allows us to contribute to a better world. Be an active learner, as learning never ends.

Invest in yourself. You are worth it.

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