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How Much is it Worth to You?

Time Versus Money

Today as I was going through my RSS feeds I came across a very interesting post on I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi, which coincidently is one of the bloggers I interviewed for my upcoming book Interview the Pros: What does it take to create a successful blog?.

Although the title of his post drew me in (Why the lady sitting next to me should pay $2,000 for a computer class), what really caught my attention was:

If you take a $2,000 computer class and it lets you get a job with a $10,000 salary bump, you should do it. No question.

If you buy one book per week, for $20 each, that’s $1,000 per year. If you get one good idea per week, my friend Paul told me, it’s worth it. If you apply that idea, I can’t even guess how much it would be worth.

I especially like the second paragraph. I’m a very strong believer in reading books (and GOOD blogs for that matter – where good means it has value to you). As a personal goal I try to read one book a week, but I suspect it’s closer to one book every 1-3 weeks. In any case, I’ve found that I can average out at least one great idea per book, generally much more. Not all books are equal of course, some books offer incredible value whereas others are pretty much useless. However as an average I find the ROI for books to be very high which is why I continue to buy them. For example today I just bought a new book, albeit a technical one, called GWT in Action: Easy Ajax with the Google Web Toolkit.

Anyways getting back to the topic at hand, as Ramit says:

Of course, the excuses will come. I don’t have that kind of money. (Answer: Save up.) How do I know if the class will get me that better job? I could probably take the same class for $100 somewhere else. All this stuff is free online, anyway.

I couldn’t have said it better. And I especially like Ramit’s last example excuse: “All this stuff is free online”. I absolutely unequivocally agree, you can get information for just about anything online for free, assuming your time is worth nothing. Not only that, the net is full of misinformation, which can cost you much more than free!

But let’s get back to this free thing. How long do you think it will take you to find all the information you want? It definitely will take you a lot longer than reading a book. Above this, will it all be fluid and coherent. That is, will the material flow and make sense or will you be struggling and fighting with the material to make sense of it all because it will come in pieces that you have to combine together, all fragmented from different online sources.

How much is your time worth? $20? $30? I honestly would rather spend the few bucks it takes to get all the material combined and nicely packaged into a book than spend days and weeks just trying to bring it all together, piece out what’s what, what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s obsolete, what’s duplicated, etc. The ROI of a book is generally worth it!

If I compare the amount of effort I spent to get my ebook on how to generate traffic to your website, well I can guarantee you that even if you make minimum wage the ROI will be positive. It took me weeks to months to put it all together, and that’s not counting the time it took for me to become knowledgeable on this topic. I can’t imagine someone starting from scratch.

Or what about my upcoming book on how to blog? I’ve spent over 500 hours just interviewing 40 bloggers and putting it all together in a book. And above that it’s being professionally edited right now. Sure you could probably dig through these bloggers blogs to find most (most, but not all) of the information they gave in their interviews, but how long would it take you?

And that’s the key to success; look for opportunities that will bring you more value than what you paid for them. This includes everything and anything: books, courses, conferences, etc. As Ramit put it himself, they key to success is “if the value exceeds the cost, do it.” It’s as plain and simple as that!

**Update: It recently came to my attention that the original idea for this post came from a lunch time conversation between Paul Singh and Ramit Sethi. If you also want to see Paul’s take on this idea you can find his post titled The Best Way to Spend $20, Today at Results Junkies.

Like this article?


  •     Paul Singh
    · June 5th, 2008  · 12:39 am  · Permalink

    I agree with you completely – it’s almost impossible not to come away with more than a few new ideas from most books you read. Out of those, you’re almost guaranteed of atleast one *great* idea.

    When you’re paying $10-$15 (or even a little more) per book, that’s the best ROI you can get!

    PS – I’m the Paul that Ramit quoted. 🙂

  •     Eric
    · June 5th, 2008  · 8:28 am  · Permalink

    Hey Steph,

    Other great “common sense” insight.

    I go to many seminars and always get nuggets out of each one, even repeating the seminar.

    I don’t have the same reading pace as you, but my library card is well used. I know that you prefer to have the book so you can mark it up and refer to it later. I do have a few bookcases full of books as well but the 3 weeks return schedule imposed by the library is an incentive for me to finish the book.
    I also reserve/waiting list for books, this acts as my must read list. It is sometimes a treat to go pick up my book on hold(they send me a voice mail saying I have a book on hold, not the title)and to discover what it is, as I often have over 10 books on the list.

    On the investment and ROI: I will make sure to check the fall continuing education catalogues for a speed reading course. I am a slow reader and have often played with the idea of taking a course, the ROI would be multiplied as I would increase my books/month and increased comprehension/retention.

    Great post!

  •     FollowSteph.com - Why You Should Never Publish Anything Late at Night When You’re Tired
    · June 5th, 2008  · 8:27 pm  · Permalink

    […] see I published my latest blog entry How Much is it Worth to You? after midnight last night. Although I often stay up much later than midnight, I’ve been going […]

  •     Steph
    · June 8th, 2008  · 2:40 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Paul,

    It’s a small world after all! Thanks for commenting, especially since it’s originally from you.

  •     Steph
    · June 8th, 2008  · 2:42 pm  · Permalink

    Hi Eric,

    That’s a great idea Eric, I’ve never thought of it that way. Almost like mini-presents since weeks to months can pass by before the book is available.

    As for speed reading, I’m still hesitant on that. I don’t know what the comprehension and retention rate is. Sometimes the best nuggets are just one line. Or the appropriate reading of a single word can completely change the context of a sentence, even paragraph!

    Plus with speed reading you don’t have time to ponder or to mark up the book 😉

  •     Karen
    · August 17th, 2008  · 9:02 am  · Permalink

    Corollary: The $1 not spent on a lottery ticket can better be used to buy a book at the thrift shop that has a much better, and more certain, ROI.

    (One of the frequent excuses for lottery tickets is, “What else can you do to change your life for $1? Didn’t have a very good answer until I came home from Borders with a discount-table $2 book on self-employment today. Obviously, if it’s on the discount table, it’s not the best book on self-employment. But has more information in it than yesterday’s powerball ticket.)

  •     Powerball or a book
    · February 19th, 2011  · 11:26 am  · Permalink

    […] It’s not just the idea. If you get one good idea per week, my friend Paul told me, it’s worth it. If you apply that idea, I can’t even guess how much it […]

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