Opinion: The Four Investments


This is a guest post by Wajahat Ali, a playwrite, attorney, journalist and humorist. It was inspired after a trip to South and East Asia. They are recommendations for creating a successful, fulfilling career.


First, here’s an example of an awesome failure:

JK ROWLING: Yes, the mother of the beloved Harry Potterseries and currently the world’s richest author once considered herself a remarkable failure. At the age of 27, Rowling was depressed, divorced, poor and a single mother whose friends had all achieved “success.” A few years later she followed her dream of writing a story about a boy wizard who looks like Daniel Radcliffe and now she is a billionaire living in castle. Yes, a freaking castle!

View failure as a building block, a necessary foundation that will lead you to your desired destination. This is especially true if you “fail” while sincerely pursuing your passions with hard work, dedication and ethical values – those that perpetually inspire and challenge you to the become the best version of yourself in every social and professional environment.

Here’s another brilliant failure:

ANGRY BIRDS: Who would’ve thought a game about using chickens as lethal projectiles against flying pigs would be an international sensation and one of the most successful mobile phone apps? Not many. However, the Finnish creator, Rovio, believed in the crazy idea. They tried and failed 51 times to create a successful game, and almost went bankrupt before striking it with their 52nd attempt – Angry Birds.

You must love failure. There is no other option. You must become fast friends with this constant, familiar, and often humbling companion that will accompany you frequently on your unpredictable journey.


If you can choose “what you want to be in life,” then you are privileged – full stop. There is tremendous power and privilege in having the ability to choose your fate.

Tragically, many choose the delusion of “safety” by living a “checklist” lifestyle at the risk of abandoning their own passions and dreams.

They try to check off all the boxes they inherited as the only available measure of success and happiness: a professional degree (doctor, engineer, business or law preferably), a BMW, a suburban home, marriage and 2.3 kids by the age of 35.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem consists of a living community of entrepreneurs interacting with each other and their physical environment.

However, the yin to this glorious yang is the “Highlander Effect” that so often poisons the ecosystem and destroys these powerful social bonds. Due to insecurity, fear, and short sightedness, many professionals believe that “there can only be one!”

Instead, the motto should be: “There Can and Will Be Many.”

The result is a “safe” life, but one of utter mediocrity, both personally and professionally, devoid of contentment and fulfillment if not earned by following one’s passions. Furthermore, if these boxes are not checked by a certain age, the person feels they have “failed.”

Throw out other people’s checklist. Create your own measure of “success” by fulfilling goals inspired by your dreams.

This means perhaps embarking on a long, lonely, uphill journey where there is no template; there is no magic recipe; there is no checklist that tells us what we have to check off.

RODNEY DANGERFIELD is a great example. The late, respected standup comedian who “got no respect” initially left show business in his 20’s to support his family as an aluminum siding salesman. However, he never forgot his passion to perform comedy. In his mid 40’s, he returned to the stage despite mockery from his younger peers. The result? He emerged as one of the most wealthy and successful comedians of the 80’s, and he made his fortune doing what he loved.


Be the best, most authentic version of yourself, and the right people – professionally and personally – will find you.

Like-minded people find one another. It’s the rule of reciprocity – some strange cosmic force in the universe that responds proportionally to the energy you put out there. You will attract quality, sincere, responsive people who respect you for your authentic character and values.

However, this energy becomes that much more attractive and popular if it is decent, kind, gracious, and helpful.  People underestimate the power of simple decency. It goes a long way in this world.

Also, remember when to say “no.” It will help you avoid unnecessary detours and keep you on your true path. Furthermore, be nice but don’t be a pushover. Or, as my mother says, “Be accommodating, but never be a doormat, because then everyone walks over you.”

Here’s an example:

DAVE EGGERS is a Pulitzer nominated, award winning author, celebrated philanthropist and respected book publisher. After the debut of his best-selling memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, he was offered 7 figures from every major publisher. He said no to all. Industry folks thought he was crazy. Instead, he used royalties from the book to found 826 Valencia, a nonprofit tutoring and literacy center, in San Francisco with like-minded friends who shared and invested in his philanthropic vision. Now, 826 Valencia has grown to include 6 other national chapters.


By investing in your ecosystem and helping your friends, you are actually increasing the pie. You are not only helping others, but also yourself. Instead of enjoying one slice of pie, you can now choose 3 or 4 slices from a variety of pies as a result of your generous investment.

Don’t be a stereotype. Kill the “Highlander Mentality.”

First, investing in your community increases your chances of professional success. More than 60% of jobs are given based on a friend or acquaintance’s personal recommendation.

Second, this investment increases your emotional and spiritual health and well being.  Studies have repeatedly shown people with active, consistent ties to people in their community live longer, healthier, happier lives.

If you maintain these personal relationships, it will only help your career in the long run.

So, I leave you with these hopeful words and good vibes for your future:

–       May you fail and fail gloriously but learn from your failures so that it becomes a stepping stone to your eventual destination.

–       May you have the audacity to follow your passions and create your own checklist.

–       May you invest in becoming the best and most authentic version of yourself.

–       May you invest in your spiritual and emotional happiness.

–       May you invest in your ecosystem so that your massive return on this investment is personal fulfillment, joy, contentment and a wonderful life lived without regrets.

And I wish you this kind of success.