Invest Versus Consume

In my various readings of econoblogs, I ran into a quote on one of the problems with the American economic downturn was people who consumed, but didn't invest.  This idea wasn't explored enough (and as I can't even remember where I read it, I suppose it could have done with more detail), but it got me thinking about investing versus consuming.

I want to explore the difference – and it's relevance to your career as a progeek and profan.

To me consumption is an activity or purchase whose goal is maintenance (as in consuming food), a temporary benefit (something that entertains us), and in worse cases due to habit or keeping up with the joneses (getting that new suit to show off)

Investment, on the other hand, is activity, purchase, etc. that results in a definite gain, improvement, or transition.  It can be a college education, going to a convention to meet new friends, or a netbook so you can finish that novel.

You probably see where I'm going with this, but to say it simply: it's important to think about what you're investing in in your life so you don't waste time or money, but instead make your activities pay off.

The problem is that we're often taught that investment is boring while consuming is fun – I beg to differ.  In fact, I think being geeks, fans, etc. gives us a great chance to invest in ourselves.

To me investment IS fun – figuring out what activities will produce greater results.  I enjoy it, I get into it.  I've also been amazed at how things that seem useless actually have great benefits – if you think about them and take advantage of them.

So when it comes to my hobbies and my geekery, I ask where I can invest instead of consume (or only consume).

A trip to a convention can seem a waste to those who aren't fans – but to us they're chances to network, make friends, get news – and of course blow off steam and relax.

Your video collection may seem a waste of money – but it provides entertainment when you and your friends get together, and it's used to make a lot of AMVs – that of course hone your skills.

Are you spending too much time online – or is that time an investment as you work on your new novel and have friends help edit it?

You get the idea.  Your fandom CAN be an investment – and may be in some cases, but you just didn't realize it.

It's too easy to treat what we love and geke over as epehemral – but when you take the "investment view", you may be surprised at just how much of an investment you have or can make in your life.  Take a month or two to ask just how your fandom can be an investment, and you'll probably start seeing opportunities everywhere – to make friends, network for jobs, build skills, and do great things.

As a closing example, let me give you a personal experience – recently I purchased the fighting game BlazBlue.  It sounded intriguing and had great reviews, but there was another reason – its a social type of game in a genre I'd long avoided, and I realized getting back into the fighting game genre was a great way to not only re-learn it (good for here and my job), but also to be more social when I go to conventions and events.  It was not only fun and entertaining, but I realized it was also a great way for me to broaden myself as both a geek to be more social (since about every convention I speak at has a game tournament or game room), and also get further into a popular genre for my career in video games.  Now thanks to the game I've been made aware of fighting game tournaments and conventions, and may have a new place to do my seminars . . .

Keep looking for investments in fandom.  You'll be amazed what's out there.

– Steven Savage