Lately, I started to come across several profound quotes by Roy T Bennett, one of the most accomplished politicians and authors in US history. Here is one that struck me;

There is no more profitable investment than investing in yourself. It is the best investment you can make; you can never go wrong with it. It is the true way to improve yourself to be the best version of you and lets you be able to best serve those around you.”

Coincidentally, I also learned about Mia Gradelski from an interview she did recently on LinkedIn. The part that interested me the most in that conversation was her perspective on self-investment. Generally, many people within the Gen Z age bracket are notorious for “not taking themselves too seriously”. Mia’s voice speaks directly to that generation, through her financial advocacy and her content creation. Immediately after learning about her, I ran a quick search online, coming across even more of her conscious pieces on the subject of investing and self-development. Shortly afterward, I arranged an interview with Mia to share her best strategy for young people looking to invest in themselves.

Zulaikhah: Why is self-investment the best path to success?

Mia: There is no doubt that the best investment will always be in yourself. 

Education is one of the few things in life that cannot be taken away from someone. It pays dividends for a lifetime and compounds over time. Time can be your most valuable asset and the best tool to growing wealth, especially when you’re younger. even in the financial market, time matters more than timing.

Investing is really an umbrella term that means putting in the time, effort and patience to build your future. I am a sophomore at NYU and one thing I notice among a lot of students is that we don’t realize how valuable our time is. College literally flies by, and it gives you a unique opportunity. I find that most of my colleagues tend to squander this chance. They place all their focus on getting high grades in the classroom, and totally ignore the holistic experience. 

As a young person, you should be taking advantage of making mistakes, experimenting, becoming embarrassed about not knowing something, and especially failing because it’s a privilege to fail.The older you get, the more people you will have depending on you. There will be younger siblings, your parents as they grow older, and possibly you own family to take care of. It gets riskier to start something new. This is the best time to erase away regrets that you might get later on.

Zulaikhah: If there is a young person now that is trying to take advantage of this learning period, what are the best strategies he/she can use to self-invest?

Mia: There’s really no set formula on how to diligently plan for your future. Everyone does it a little differently.

Having said that, when you examine what has led the most successful people to where they are today, you will recognize that they all followed a simple but realistic regime of prioritizing themselves. The harsh reality is you have to be a little selfish in order to get what you want. 

There is a quote I really love and it goes; 

 “You must do what no one else does now to live like no one else later.” 

Personal finance is one of the best skills you can learn at a young age. Everybody needs to know about money. Regardless of what your college major is in or the industry you work in, money is a big part of all of our lives. Having a basic understanding of this concept of money allows us to stay financially free and achieve our goals. If you want to invest in yourself, you can start by learning debt. The world operates on a largely capitalist system so you need to understand the difference between good vs bad debt, living the minimalist stealth-wealth lifestyle, and setting up passive income sources by treating your time like money. I discuss all of these strategies in depth in my blog. If you’re able to learn about money at an early age, or at high school/college and you succeed in establishing a healthy relationship with it, that automatically puts you ahead of 80% of Americans. 

However, self-investment does not end with education.For you to perform at your best, you must feel the bets. We all should live like athletes, especially students. Things like prioritizing sleep, eating organic whole foods rather than processed junk and taking screen breaks are very important for a better mental state. If you don’t have your mind in order, nothing works. After all, health = wealth. Health cannot be replaced.

Zulaikhah: You mentioned earlier that many students overlook the opportunity to invest in themselves and gain holistic life experiences. As a student yourself, why do you think this happens?

Mia: We often focus our thoughts on working hard and getting the great job after school.

This kind of thinking causes us to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to work as many hours as possible, go into burnout and workaholism, compare ourselves, chase the titles and positions, and neglect our health. The quality of your mind is the quality of your life. Our health along with our family and mental sanity is the only thing that cannot be replaced. Far too many teenagers and graduates never pay attention to their health and believe since they have endless amounts of time, then becoming addicts, wasting money, and digging a deep hole for themselves are cool and trendy. The fact is all of those habits constitute absolutely the worst mistake you can make because you are not only shaving years off of your life.  Your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual states are depleted. 

I always emphasize that nothing functions without the mind. So it is very unreasonable to harm your brain, the only thing that you can rely on to pave your path forward. Everything we eat is either shaving or adding years to our lives. Less is always more. Focus on what you can control; what you expose yourself to online, what you consume, and who you are with.

Zulaikhah: Lately, the whole subject of personal branding and self-improvement has gotten very popular. What do you believe is the biggest myth in that industry right now?

Mia: Although my only social media platform is LinkedIn and I have solely established my brand through there, I would say there’s too much of an emphasis on, ‘faking it till you make it.’ 

Many if not all of my colleagues at college aren’t on LinkedIn because they believe they need a different persona on a professional network. You don’t need to carry two personalities on different platforms. I attempt to post daily relatable, personable, and vulnerable posts about my life on LinkedIn. I don’t try to be more ‘professional’. I’m just me because people can see if one is trying too hard. 

Take it easy on yourself, don’t be so serious and just be  you because everyone else is already taken. Teach lessons and discuss what you’re going through on a personal and professional side because I guarantee you someone else is going through it as well.

You’re never alone.

Follow Mia and more of her daily updates on LinkedIn and her Personal Finance Blog

You can also hang out with me on Twitter @cheerszully