Before I became friends with Georgia Makitalo, I had never heard of the Pre-Raphaelites or knew their intriguing story, although I was familiar with the name William Morris who founded this creative group. 

Frank Lloyd Wright was just the name of a famous architect to me until Jill McDermott and I became friends. 

Both Georgia and Jill were wildly passionate about their creative heroes and it was contagious. I wanted to know what they knew. Fortunately, they loved to share.

Georgia and I made several excursions hunting down William Morris and his tribe. We traveled to Toronto, Delaware and London looking at treasures these artists had left behind. Georgia also regaled me with stories of their romantic exploits and intrigues. 

I was especially fascinated by her stories about the weekends Morris organized at Red House, his country home, where he invited his artist friends to come spend the time together making things. 

Then there was the road trip Jill and I made from Minnesota to Washington, DC that included stops at Wright sites in the Chicago area and at the landmark Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.

We had made a shorter road trip previously to visit Wright’s Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  Today, Jill and her husband Mike live down the road from this beautiful place which served as an inspiration to Wright for many years.

As Jill and Georgia taught me, friends with passion can make a powerful impact—even if their passions seem to be quite different from our own.

The late philosopher Jim Rohn frequently urged his audiences to seek out and build relationships with people who could help them grow into their best selves. It’s an undertaking that lasts a lifetime, although it requires an investment of time. 

It also needs to be done consciously. 

One of the best descriptions of this process comes from Stewart Emery in his book Actualizations. He writes, 

As I look at my own life, I notice all my friends are people who support my learning the lessons I have to learn.

In other words, their reality is more centered and more together in some aspects of life than mine is, and my reality is more evolved than some aspect of theirs.

I choose to be with people who have a reality of abundance. I won’t hang out with people who have a reality of scarcity. I won’t hang out around people who have negative energy flows.

Everything I have learned how to do in life I learned by placing myself in the company of masters. Although I read a lot and learned technical things from books, the discovery of a way of being and acting that worked for me and others came as a result of spending time with men and women who act in the world with excellence, joy and service. 

Of course, what Emery’s talking about isn’t a one-way street. Bring your own passion to relationships and everybody profits. That’s my idea of a really great investment.

Every day we are inundated with advertising that urges us to buy things that may or may not improve the quality of our lives. Seldom are we encouraged to invest in experiences that will enlarge our inner selves.

If you’ve read Making a Living Without a Job you may recall my story about the call I received from a stockbroker who asked, “How would you like to get a higher yield on your investments?” When I told him that my primary investments were my businesses, he said, “Oh, isn’t that scary?”

“Not at all,” I said. “Giving my money to a stranger over the phone is scary.”

Like many things, investing is viewed differently by the Joyfully Jobless than it is by folks who think more conventionally. This month, we’re going to explore Good Investments that enhance our entrepreneurial journey.

Investment vs. Expense

Many new (and not-so-new) entrepreneurs do not understand the difference between expense and investment. While both may involve money (or other things), their purposes are not the same. An expense is money that is outlaid for running our businesses. It includes all those mundane supplies and equipment that we need in order to set up shop.

On the other hand, an investment is a way to spend money or time or effort on something that will bring a profit at a later date. To invest implies that you must first put something in in order to get something greater out.

When most people think about investing, it generally involves putting money into something rather cold or impersonal, then waiting in the hope that the investment will grow.

The Joyfully Jobless see investing as a necessary aspect of growing their business —and themselves.

What Investing Could Be About

Unlike conventional investing in stocks or bonds, there’s a far lower risk to be had when we invest our money, time and effort in ourselves and our dreams. Although it can be a far better investment to do so, many people have a hard time understanding its importance.

Writer Sondra Ray confronts this attitude. She writes, “Let’s take a look at the priorities on which people spend their money. What comes first? The rent; and this is the worst investment on the list. Compare rent with self-improvement. The fact is that self-improvement is the most valuable item on the list and most people don’t even have a category for it. Fear of running out causes you to spend only on things people told you to spend money on. When it comes to buying things that are really good for you and that make you happy, guilt comes. When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that self-improvement book,’ it is almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself and that is what self-improvement is all about.”

When you invest in yourself and your dreams you are making the most important financial decision of your life. You have also invested in the one thing that lasts a lifetime and cannot be taken away from you. The ups and downs of the economy have no effect on your investment in yourself.

In fact, if you do it wholeheartedly, you’ll acquire skills and tools for circumventing difficult economies. Can you think of a better return on investment?