The Personal Equity Investment

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: What is the most important investment you’ll ever make? It’s not in real estate, the stock market, or any other material matter. Rather, as most of us intuitively know but sometimes need to be reminded, the most important investment is in our personal selves. I call this “Personal Equity.” By focusing on Personal Equity we want to consciously live with meaning, and part of the desired outcome is to minimize an unnecessary accumulation of regrets related to action or inaction. That is the essence of the “self accountability” value I write about and regular readers know it is one of the three key components of The Character Triangle.

After reading a Business Insider article by Rachel Gillette, where she refers to  a national survey about the regrets of a typical American, I was intrigued what people had to say about this issue. The survey found 13 common sources for regret: romance, family, education, career, finance, parenting, health, “other,” friends, spirituality, community, leisure, and self.  I thought I’d share some regret comments from the article just to stimulate your thinking.

The key to personal equity investing is that while we want to fully live with love and meaning, the integrity of our investment must come from ourselves first. This is very different from being “selfish.”  If we do not sufficiently invest in ourselves first, I believe it is very difficult to authentically and generously give to others.  

Self: Nobody is more worthy of love in the entire universe than you. I wish I had reminded myself of that more… I could’ve saved all of that time where I was trying to please someone else… Money you lose you can always make back. But even five minutes of time lost is gone forever.

Romance: I regret that I never fell in love with someone who was in love with me, when that would have been easy for me to do.

 Children: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to have kids. But in my younger years, I foolishly assumed that unlike certain accomplishments like a career, the marriage and kids thing would just happen.

 Family/Parents: Sometimes, after a setback, I feel the impulse to call her, and in the second or so that it takes for me to realize she isn’t alive to speak to any longer, I realize how much I still need her.

Education: Post-secondary education is a major investment, like buying a house. It shouldn’t be rushed into, but pursued when you are ready and know what you want to do and what you want to get from it. Yes, if I could go back to my youth I would’ve listened to my soul and began writing screenplays. Who knows what kind of treasures I could’ve given the world if only I had listened to my heart instead of everyone else.

Career: I regret not having had the courage to follow my calling. In my early 20s, I was too nervous to give performing arts a try as a profession, although I was very good at it. I love my current job, but if there is anything above it, it would the career I chose not to try.

Finance: Don’t listen to that voice that says: If you quit this job or lose this income you’ll never find another. You will.

Parenting: Since I am very fortunate to have a kind, caring, and forgiving wife for the past 38+ years, our children turned out OK. But, when we look through pictures of those years, there is something noticeably absent… Me.

Mental Health: Much of the regrets that people accumulate are rooted in poor mental health. There are literally millions of people who live with undiagnosed low-level depression that emerges through their 20s and becomes increasingly severe and debilitating in their 30s. For me, this manifested itself in the form of self-medication with drugs and alcohol initially, followed by ill-fitting career choices. Over time, negativity comes to dominate the internal monologue and you begin to despise and short-change yourself. This can lead to many of the inactions that we later regret. Self-doubt is a spiral of inertia and paralysis.

Physical Health: Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

Friendship: Often (the dying) would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

Charity: The time when I chose not to stop and help a stranger who clearly needed it, justifying my decision with the fact that I was already running late and did not want to take the chance that I would be drawn into something time consuming and filled with drama. The brief look that passed between us has stayed with me.

Loneliness: When I was young, I was both very cocky and very insecure. I thought I knew everything and was terrified that I might actually know nothing. So with too many things in my life, I tended to hack away at them in isolation, instead of asking for help from older, more experienced folks.

Travel: My only regret is not traveling before I was 24. Since then I’ve seen an enormous piece of this earth, but 24 was the most formative year of my life specifically because I travelled, and specifically it set the tone for the rest of my life as a traveller. Had I shifted that up I’d be 5 years ahead of where I am now in matters like confidence, experience, and wisdom, really.

Worry: Over and over, as the 1,200 elders in our Cornell Legacy Project reflected on their lives, I heard versions of ‘I would have spent less time worrying’ and ‘I regret that I worried so much about everything.’ Indeed, from the vantage point of late life, many people felt that if given a single ‘do-over’ in life, they would like to have all the time back they spent fretting anxiously about the future.”

Character Moves:

  1. Do you see yourself in any of these regrets? How many regrets related to INACTION would you like to pile up for your old age summary?
  1. Do more, do it now, WORRY LESS. You’re worth itf. Invest in your personal equity makes you richer in every way.

Fewer inaction regrets in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Goodness! If that wasn’t sobering, you didn’t read it. As Millennials, the last thing we probably think about is giving a synopsis about something we’ve experienced and likely won’t experience again, but as you read above note: What we do matters, and maybe strive for a more uplifting story when Business Insider surveys you one day. Sheesh. 

– Garrett