Marcus on the best investment in the world
I have four kids. Three of them are now driving, which means that in the last five years we have gone from a ratio of two taxi drivers being taken for granted by four passengers to five taxi drivers and one passenger.
While that has been a huge burden off our taxi driving duties, it is also very sad because I have lost this very precious time in the “Cone of the Car” with my three oldest.
Taxi driving your kids a couple of nights a week, picking them up from sports, or dropping them off at parties was never a burden for me; I saw it as a priceless opportunity to talk to them about life and a golden moment to pass on values and experiences and deliver some small parental legacy, to bond one on one.
It’s a subtle art talking to kids; it’s not about telling them what to do, it’s about telling them stories about my life, my regrets, my mistakes, my glories, my history and how their dad reacted and felt about all sorts of events and life issues. It wasn’t about passing out instructions; it was about passing on some modest wisdom and values they could choose to accept, reject, adopt or improve on.
It’s the best any parent can do, talk, and the taxi is a great place to do it. We have covered a lot of subjects over the years, from leadership to investment, and I only once had to lock the doors to stop the girls jumping out. I can’t tell you about that one, but you might be interested in the answer to the question, “Dad, should I be investing in anything yet?”
This is my version of investment for kids.
There are a lot of investments you can make in your life, darling, and you have some choices to make even now, so let’s start at the beginning.
The best long-term investment you will ever make, and possibly the lowest risk investment, is in yourself. While everyone in the sharemarket talks about return on equity, the return on equity of time invested in yourself, your education, your thinking processes, is light years ahead of anything else.
You should also know that the most limiting factor on your brain’s development is that its input devices, the eyes and ears, are terribly slow. So while you can download a terabyte of information to a hard drive in seconds, to transfer the same amount of information into the brain via the eyes and ears would take years.
You don’t have a USB port in your skull. You need to think about that. With such a slow transfer mechanism, you have to train your eyes and ears to download as efficiently as possible and be selective about what you bother downloading.
On that basis, the best investment is almost certainly in other people’s wisdom. Sure, you can probably muddle through life relying on friends, family and Facebook for your values and ideas, but you will learn the most from the most skilled thinkers, and one of the most incredible gifts in the world is that literature, and now the internet and high-class video content, allows you to do that, to converse with ‘the finest minds of past centuries’. TED talks are a start.
What a choice, to spend your time accessing the ideas and thoughts of Darwin, Einstein, Aristotle, Newton through the written word, or the wisdom of some of the best brains in the World through TED talks or watching The Voice, Love Island or Bachelor in Paradice. It’s your call, but understand that it is a very slow process and there is more information than there is time, so everything you do take in is absorbing the time you could have spent downloading something else.
So choose well.
The other tremendous investment is in the people in front of you. Every person that crosses your path could end up being your best friend for life, the maid of honour at your wedding; sharing your highest highs, helping you in your lowest lows, sobbing at your funeral or you at theirs.
So take the chance, stick your hand out and say ‘hello’, catch their name, remember it and keep using it. Invest in people. There is no luggage rack on a hearse.
Everyone you meet could change your life, that person you don’t know might be standing next to you one day at your Wedding, you never know, so take the lead, seize the moment, because it may never come again and after it’s gone, you’ll never know.
On that front, I once met my second wife of 25 years in an Austrian ski resort two years before I married my first wife. She served me at a bar. I remember telling my mates that there was a cute Australian behind the bar and I remember her smiling at us as we talked about her.
If only I had stuck my hand out and said ‘hello’. It would have saved me five years and £500,000!
But what about shares and property and all that stuff?” ask my kids. “Funny,” I said, “My best investments have had nothing to do with money and the best is sitting right next to me”.