When To Invest In Your Right Livelihood

Women in permaculture often tell me they feel like they have to know EVERYTHING related to permaculture, and they struggle with knowing which skills they need to have, and which courses to take. Today, I’ll share with you some “business savvy” approaches to making that important decision. 

At the beginning of my permaculture path, I took all kinds of courses, and loved them all, but ended up spending a lot of money without increasing my earning ability. Now, I use the questions below whenever I am considering whether to invest in a training program. (Note the word “invest.” You want to discern if the training will yield both short-term and long-term benefits!)

First of all, it’s great to do some strategic thinking about your current state, by brainstorming answers to these questions:

What is not happening now that needs to happen to thrive in my right livelihood? 

What is happening now that I don’t want to happen? 

Next, look at the lists you just made. Are there points that need to be prioritized? Star those, they are your strategic priorities.

Now, consider your answers to the following questions:

  1. Does this training address one of my strategic priorities? If the answer is no, should you be investing in another training instead?
  2. Does the training really address at least one item on my brainstormed lists? How will it shift these?
  3. Will this training save me time, money, and/or struggle now?
  4. Will the training improve my ability to earn?
  5. Do I trust the leaders of the training? Do they have something to teach me?

What insights do you glean from this reflection?

For geeks like me, you will want to put some concrete dollar figures to all this, so here’s a an even more “businessy” approach adapted from Vicki Faulkner, Head of Training and Development at the University of Brighton in the UK:

The term “return on investment” or ROI, measures the business benefit derived from the money you invest in your business.

Here’s a simple calculation of ROI:
Net Gains ÷ Investment costs = Return on Investment

Let’s use this example:
Ana wants to buy a highly recommended book on time management and a book on backyard chickens, but she doesn’t have the $20 for either one. Ten days ago, she decided to make coffee at home and not spend $2.00 daily at the local coffee shop.  She’s saved up the $20, and today–using her best entrepreneurial thinking–she invests in the time management book, and devours it. Tomorrow, she finds that she has liberated an extra hour of billable work time in her day. She bills her work at $45/hr…

Here’s how I calculate the short-term ROI:

First of all, she has to figure out my “Net Gains”, which is what she gains as a return, minus the investment (in this case, in the book), so $45 – $20 = $25

She then plugs that into the ROI equation, so $25 ÷ $20 = 1.25.
This means that for every dollar spent on the book, she got $1.25 worth of benefit. Not bad.

But what about over the longer term?

If Ana maintains her good time management habits for the month (so that she has that extra billable hour every working day), and she works 5 days per week, she now has 20 more billable hours in the month, which means she now has $900 more earning power because of her investment in the book. Nice!

The ROI calculation then looks like this:
$900 – $20 = $880 and then $880 ÷ 20 = 44, which means that for every dollar she spent on the book, she got $44 worth of benefit. Wowzers! That is a great investment! After a month, she can not only buy the backyard chicken book, but also buy the materials to build a coop and chicken tractor! Right on!

The ROI for the year would, of course, be even better. If she only works 11 months of the year, she has $9,880 more than if she hadn’t bought the time management book.  Holy smokes!

Here’s the “kicker,” though:

  • What if she didn’t buy the book because she bought coffee instead?
  • What if she bought the book about backyard chickens? How do you think the ROI of that choice compares? 
  • Or if she bought the time management book, and never implemented what she learned?

In all cases, she would have effectively lost out on $880 worth of abundance this month, and $9,880 this year.


Three takeaways:

  1. When you invest in your livelihood strategically, you can leverage your money. She bought the time management book, which turned out to be a potent leverage point, because it enabled her to accomplish other goals—including being able to use some of her liberated time and money to design and build an awesome chicken setup. If she had bought the backyard chicken book, (depending on the scenario) the return on her investment would have taken a lot longer, or could have even been a net loss financially.
  2. When you invest in a training, don’t let your “scarcity gremlins” make your decision. Some trainings cost thousand of dollars. Put on your “entrepreneur hat,” and crunch the numbers to make an objective decision. Does the investment make sense in the long term?**
    • If the answer is no, you can feel really confident about not doing the training—even if a friend is teaching it and you really want to hang out with her. 🙂
    • If the answer is a resounding “yes”, then see the money you spend on the training as an investment in your future—and commit to yourself by kicking out the gremlins, and getting creative in finding ways to manifest the investment in YOU.**Consider not only the skills gained that add to your professional competence, but also the time and money liberated when you get out of a “stuck” place. Being “stuck” sucks energy and thus earning potential, and we lose “runway” necessary to launch our thing.  Not mention your good work in the world isn’t getting done!
  3. When you invest in a training, be “all in.” Don’t just make time to learn the content, but to implement and refine it! Often, the act of investing money in a training will kick you into “Let’s DO this!” mode, but also make sure to set up the time and space to really take what you learn and practice it in your work life, to increase the value you provide to the folks you serve, because that’s how you will reap the rewards of your investment.

One final, but crucial point: Some benefits can’t be quantified.
How does one quantify feeling more confident, or supported, or reaching new levels of personal and professional mastery? I don’t have an answer to that. But I do know that often, especially for women, those benefits are ones that change their lives. So, when considering to invest in a professional training, also consider this question:

  • Will it help me overcome my fears and confusion to thrive in my right livelihood?

Which trainings have you invested in beyond your PDC that have yielded a great ROI? Please share your insights!

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