I was lying on a massage table one day, having a delightful conversation with my therapist as she dug her elbow into my quad and commented on the tattoo that her boney joint graced, “I love your eagle tattoo. It is so vibrant.” “Thank you,” I said, “I like it too,” and I think my mind must’ve been trying to transcend the pain that comes with an intense massage as the next words I spoke sent my brain spinning for a few weeks, “If I like to spend my money on anything it’s these three things: tattoos, training, and travel.”
I have always seen value in experience and things that shape us into who we are and make us reconsider the way we see the world over the material things we can invest in. Looking around me, I noticed that many people in my life seem to share these values, and have made significant financial contribution toward their development and enjoyment in one or more of these three areas. I decided to interview two people who are passionate about each one of these areas to gain further insight to share with you. So here I am to persuade you, through my story and the tales of others, to spend your money on ink, learning/self development, and seeing the world, and if you need advice on how to go about it we have a few pointers to share as well.
First, let’s meet our advisers (pictured from top to bottom, left to right):
Covered in tatts (to the point that officials at lifting meets say they make it “difficult to judge his elbows”) David Spurr is a competitive weightlifter, CrossFit coach, and co-owner of the apparel company These Fists Fly. His dedication to excellence is evident in both his emphasis on perfect lifting technique and his insistence on selling only the finest merchandise. Although outstanding in the sales department, his sharp honesty is uniquely refreshing.
Carson Brady is a 28-year-old farmer, CrossFitter, and gym owner, who also happens to be covered in tattoos. He was once stopped on the street in his work clothes, tattooed arms sticking out of the sides of his grubby t-shirt, and asked by a photographer, “Would you let me take your photo sometime? You have a look about you.”
On the topic of training (but from the fitness perspective of the word), we have Alex Maclin – self-proclaimed Barbell Shrugged “workhorse.” He is a competitive weightlifter and weightlifting coach, and manages many of the fitness company’s programs. Alex knows as well as anyone else what it is like to be a poor University student (he attended university for ten years, getting a Masters in, and working towards his PhD in Biomedical Engineering, before he left to pursue a career in the fitness industry); he has long believed in finding a way to pay for the things that matter to you – like his own training program.
Ida Iron is the perfect balance of astute and laid-back that you need in order to be a successful school administrator. She has worked for various Tribal Councils and is now the Principal of a First Nations school in Canoe Lake, Saskatchewan. She can command a room filled with men and women of any age, and she has a laugh that will melt your heart. She knows the important role personal and professional development plays in the life of a leader, and speaks on training from this view.
Although Jennifer Jiricka grew up on a farm near small-town Saskatchewan, she spent most of her twenties in any country but Canada (37 other countries, to be precise), and because of this, she has grown a heart for the world. After backpacking through the Himilayan mountains without a guide and taking her yoga training in the Nilgiri Tea Hills in India, she is now back in the province raising a handsome 1-year-old son.
Robyn Silvernagle has owned her own salon business for five-and-a-half years and this has allowed her to create a schedule that permits time for travel. She fell in love with trekking when she flew across Canada as a competitive curler at the age of 13 to Canada Games. That was the first time she was ever on a plane, and if you asked her now, she would tell you she cannot count how many times her feet have left the earth and stepped onto a jet. Seeing the world has totally altered her sense of what matters and her sense of self.
Now that you know our panel, let’s talk. How can tattoos, training, and travel make you a better person?
If you’ve ever seen people covered in tattoos, surely you wonder about the story behind them. Sometimes they have a story, and sometimes they are there just because they look cool. Ink is not only, in the words of our tattoed-farmer, “a great conversation starter,” but it turn you into a sort of “portable art gallery.” Each tattoo comes with its own experience. Experiences, stories, and the things we find beautiful are some of the key attributes that make us who we are, so it only makes sense that investing in a tattoo (or tattoos) can have a profound impact on your life.
I can tell you quite a bit about each tattoo artist that has worked on me. I have five tattoos done by three artists, but for the last two (and largest two) I visited the same man and I am so glad I found him. He takes pride in his art like I have never before witnessed; as I sat there with him and his Swedish apprentice for five hours while he worked on the beautiful bird on my leg and she shared about the differences between Swedish and Canadian Christmas (among other things – five hours is plenty enough time to cover a few topics), he told me about the importance of choosing a good artist, “I think what is most important is that you find someone whose work you like, and who you can get along with. If you are going to spend several hours with that person, you might as well enjoy their company!”
Carson echoes this sentiment, “How many times have you heard from a friend or acquaintance, ‘I want a tattoo I just don’t know what I want!’ I am a firm believer that researching your next artist is much more important than researching your design, and this is a way to get out of that rut and into a tattoo chair.”
He says, “After my first couple tattoos…I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted next. I started looking online at the portfolios of artists nearby and stopped by various tattoo shops whenever I made a trip into the city. I ended up stumbling across a woman nearby whose style was exactly what I had been looking for…I decided that I was going to get her to do my first sleeve and I gave her quite a bit of artistic freedom with the designs – I would throw an idea at her and, the next time I stopped by, I would leave with yet again another beautiful piece of art.”
He emphasizes the importance of giving the artist freedom: “For most people who have tattoos it won’t come as a surprise that, if you let an artist actually be an artist and create something that they can be proud of, the canvas will end up being much more beautiful than if you demand a cookie-cutter tattoo.
So to the person looking to get your first tattoo, as long as you do your research on the artist and find someone you are confident in and do not stifle his or her creativity, you will walk out with no regrets (but please, don’t get ‘no regrets’ tattooed on you – that shits lame.).”
Both Carson and Dave would tell you not to get hung up on the meaning behind your tattoo. The farmer/gym owner says, “I hear people say all the time, ‘I want a tattoo, but if I were to get one it would have to mean something to me.’…Artists will spot you a mile away and would probably rather get kicked in the nuts than be responsible for yet another tattoo that says, ‘Live, Laugh, Love.’ around your ankle. So my advice is, don’t limit yourself that way. Don’t be scared to get a design that has no meaning, as long as you think its beautiful then that should be all the meaning you need. I myself have several tattoos that have meaning but I also have just as many that just look badass and cool. In the long run you will end up appreciating them all the same.”
Dave, our candid coach says, “I’m not the person who thinks every tattoo needs a phony story to go with it (‘This lily represents trust.’ – bullshit.) Sometimes I just get tattoos to get tattoos – It’s fun. I got some of the tattoos in the places I have (face and neck) solely to ensure that I can’t end up with some job I don’t want. That makes sense in my head – not sure if it will to anyone else.”
Is it too much to say that getting tattoos can shape your destiny and your character? Dave won’t be getting a job he doesn’t want, and I probably won’t be getting a boyfriend who doesn’t like tattoos. Carson looks much further than skin-deep into the way his ink has played a role in him becoming the person that he is today: “I know how to commit to something and how to place trust in others…Having tattoos has made me appreciate other art much more as well. On vacations I find myself visiting art galleries and cathedrals and taking time to listen to more live music of varying genres. I’m not sure if its directly related to tattoos or the fact that I am a maturing adult but I find that sort of vacation activity much more fascinating than spending an afternoon in Señor Frogs drinking the worlds shittiest liquor. I didn’t know it when I was young getting my first few tatts that tattoos would teach me how be my own person and trust in myself as well.”
So if you are thinking about a tattoo, consider that it is much more than something that will sit on your skin, and it can actually have a profound impact on your life. If you are very uncertain, though, Dave advises, “Don’t get tattooed. If you’re that concerned about it they probably aren’t for you.” However, if you love the artwork you see on other people and just don’t know where to start, find an artist you like and let them do your thing; you will leave with a story, an experience, and perhaps a little more developed character.
Carson leaves us with two last points: “Be prepared because tattoos hurt and anyone who says they don’t is either paralyzed or a liar!” and “You get what you pay for so…tip your artist well!”
I am who I am because of my upbringing and my surroundings, but a much more significant determinant of my character and ideologies has been the education I have invested in as well as the time and money I have spent on my physical fitness.
Attending university for five years taught me, above all else, a passion for social justice issues related to racism, equity, and the environment. I have also spent a great deal of money in personal development books, and even spent thousands of dollars to attend a Robin Sharma conference called, “The 48 Hour Transformation” – this conference was a pivotal point for me as it was where I decided it was time I start writing.
Physically, I have been paying for coaching and training programs for over two years as a CrossFit, powerlifting, and weightlifting athlete, and I can tell you for certain that I would not have placed in the top ten at so many CrossFit competitions, placed 4th at Nationals in powerlifting, or achieved a national qualifying total in weighlifting if it wasn’t for spending money on these programs. More important than these statistics and standings? These sports have taught me discipline, forced me to make my health my number one priority, and revealed to me that the only limits I have are the ones I place on myself. I have learnt mental toughness.
Training has made me who I am today.
Ida and Alex place similar value on the subject.
Ida, First Nations administrator in the school system states, “I have always considered investing and improving oneself as a mark of character. You are your best source in knowing what you need, on a personal level, to improve. You can’t ever go wrong investing in yourself.”
She states that personal development is essential for leaders: “I always knew that in order to be a good leader I had to look on the outside for ways to improve…I was new to the world of administration; it was a big learning curve…The first step was to research who and what was out there to help me in my growth as a person. I’m always looking at programs that will benefit me personally, more so on inner self-development.”
Alex, Barbell Shrugged program manager shares his story on training in the physical sense: “When I first walked into CrossFit Memphis I was a broke grad student who could barely afford his rent. I couldn’t even think about paying the $120 a month for a gym membership when I had FREE access to my school gym. As soon as I stepped into the door I knew it was worth the value and would have long-term benefits and return. So I went to the bar and went out to eat one less time per week and that was how I paid for it.
Making that commitment to pay for my membership was the starting point that changed my life…If I hadn’t, I never would have found weightlifting, I probably would have never gotten as fit and healthy as I am today and I never would have been able to work at my DREAM JOB.
Sometimes you just have to take that leap. If the future return can be 10 times or even 100 times the value that you paid, then there’s no question that it was totally worth every penny.”
Ida found the training program that would work for her: “Personally what I chose was to look for something that would speak to me as a First Nations administrator, and as a woman and a leader for other woman in my area. I did a lot of reading especially when I was studying for my Masters degree in Education. I concentrated on other leaders especially First Nations leaders such as Sitting Bull, and Poundmaker, but I also looked at Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, and the messages they gave to others just by what they did. Their messages weren’t complicated but still made huge changes to humanity. They gained such insight basically through ‘meditation,’ and made comments that made a lot of sense and were very wise.”
Once the personal work was done, she looked at the needs of her staff and community: “When I became the principal on my home reserve, I knew that I needed something that would resonate with the staff and students. Fortunately, I had a great resource; a youth worker by the name of Judy Ryan at Meadow Lake Tribal Council who helped me find the program that would help my staff and me. I was introduced to the Reclaiming Youth Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, which stresses the Circle of Courage philosophy. This philosophy is applicable to all nationalities and High Risk children and youth.
Attending this conference and taking in the workshops opened my eyes to the possibilities of how we can change our school environment by investing in bringing speakers in to help the staff better understand where students were coming from and how to work with them. It was the best training I could have ever invested in for the staff. This training is still very much in effect along with the Circle of Courage philosophy.”
Ida recommends researching to find out the types of programs that will help you grow in the areas you know you need to, and then doing them! Alex’s advice is similar when speaking about fitness and nutrition: “Personally, I would do as much research into the service or product as you can. Find out everything about it, ask questions, and weigh the pros and cons – compare it to other services. I know everyone doesn’t approach buying this way but it can help reduce the anxiety of spending your hard-earned money on something.”
This Barbell Shrugged coach stresses that there are no excuses when it comes to something you say you value: “People like to say that they don’t have the money to pay for something but what that tells me is that ‘something’ just isn’t a priority for them. If you care enough about something you WILL find the money. If you care about your health, fitness and longevity you will make the sacrifices. Don’t tell me you don’t have enough money for a $150 gym membership or online training/nutrition program that will get you results but you just went out and financed a new car for a $300/month payment.
Figure out what you can cut back or eliminate in your life so you can afford the value. Maybe for you, it’s cutting back on your mobile data plan or cable bill or not getting that $4 dollar cup of Starbucks every day.
If you care enough, you will find a way.”
Our principal has these words for those hesitant to invest in learning, “In order to be productive on a personal basis, to stay motivated and interested in your own personal growth, there has to be some sort of investment: if that is physically, mentally, socially, there is always room for investment. People need to invest in themselves if they are to grow as better people. We can always improve – there is room to grow, and yes it may take some sort of investment, but the end result is that we become better people who are more interested in what is taking place in our environment and we want to improve always. This is the only way we can be more productive and give back to ourselves, our families and to our communities.”
Spending money on training – that is on learning, on fitness, on self-betterment is an investment in your character. Investments always offer a return. At the conference I attended, Robin Sharma shared his 2x3x Principle – “To double your income and impact, triple your investment in professional and personal development.” Attending that conference alone cost me thousands of dollars, but, as I said, it launched me into my writing career, and I know eventually I will pay off that convention hundreds of times over. By spending money on health, wellness, and nutrition, I have achieved the pinnacle of fitness (in look, feel, and performance) in my life thus far; I have also moved into this field for work, thus making back all I have invested.
Spend your money on yourself; what you give to the universe as a result will pay you back 100x over.
Although I have not travelled as much as Jennifer and Robyn, I have been blessed to see as much of the world as I have. Three of the most memorable countries I have visited are Malawi, Tanzania, and Argentina. I found the locals in these countries were remarkably people-oriented rather than task-oriented like we are in Western society (this is also one of the reasons I love First Nations culture so much). Instead of wanting to rush off to get the next thing done they would drop whatever was on their plate (or, literally share what was on their plate) to spend time with you, or any friend, family member, or stranger.
The most thrilling aspect of travelling is experiencing different cultures and getting to know the locals. In Tanzania I got to spend an evening with a Maasai Tribe and learn about the way they live remotely raising cattle (this experience is a story in itself! Maybe that will be next week’s blog.); at the end of the evening I stood in front of the men and a blazing fire as they sang traditional songs; they had their ears stretched out and wore toga-like attire, and hand-crafted footwear. In Malawi I stayed up until four a.m. in a dorm room getting my hair braided with extensions by four college girls as they chattered in their own language. My most memorable experience in Argentina was when I went salsa dancing with my friends and some local security guards we met by the pier. I did my best to yell over the music in broken Spanish at my dance partner to communicate. All of these are experiences I’ve never found on a resort vacation! The kind of trip you need to go on to really experience a place takes an investment of time and money, but it is something that will forever change who you are and the way you see the world.
This is one of Robyn’s most memorable adventures: “We booked a random jungle tour with a couple of Peruvian men…They didn’t speak English very well, so we always felt like we knew nothing about what was happening or where we were going. We took a tiny little boat in a black river to get to the tree house that we stayed in. We also spent a night in the heart of the jungle sleeping in hammocks. While in the jungle, we fished for piranhas and barracudas, saw lots of monkeys, caught a caiman, saw pink dolphins and giant lily pads, and got to hold a sloth. We didn’t see any people for four days and didn’t have any luxuries of our real life but got to see more of how the jungle people live and how lucky we are.”
Jennifer visited over 37 countries before the age of 30, and shares how travelling has altered her outlook on life, “First of all, a lot of my trips were actually working holiday visas where I got to…have a life there. I still went on trips in between all of that, but these were merely a glimpse into what other places and lifestyles are like. Having a glimpse into other lifestyles and cultures really makes a person think about they way they would like to live their own life, and gives you this crazy realization that literally anything is possible because you see other people living it! Not only that but it gives you the confidence to do it, getting out of a mindset of wondering what other people might think of you. There is so much more out there than making a bunch of money and living a materialistic existence – find a passion and follow it! You can always go back to the material stuff.”
What else does this woman say you can learn via travelling? “You gain the knowledge that you are really in control of your life and have a million options available to you – how lucky and privileged we are to have that available! There will be constant learning everywhere you go whether it be the language, food or other cultural differences.”
Seeing the world has also made Jennifer very grateful for her home-life, “Travelling to certain places and being away from your family for long periods of time also makes you more appreciative of what you DO have back home – it’s amazing to have such a great support system around me and to be able to spend my time with all my family and close friends.”
Although many people choose to live their twenties a different way than Jennifer has (all over the map!) she declares, “I don’t have any regrets with the way I lived my life so far and I am so glad I chose to travel.”
Robyn has similar beliefs about how excursions should be seen as much more valuable than material goods: “Spending money on trips has added so much value to my life and has totally changed the way I look at life. I am now saving my money to go on trips instead of spending it on things that used to be such a big deal to me such as clothes, shoes, jewelry – all materialistic things. It has changed my mind set instead of thinking, ‘Oh, I need those clothes!’ or, ‘I want a new vehicle,’ I think how many trips can I take with that money, what new adventures and experiences I can have to cherish forever instead of having something that in the long run has no impact on my life.”
This young entrepreneur has also learned gratitude in her adventures: “…I realize how fortunate I am to be able to experience the world and how fortunate we are to live in this free, beautiful, amazing country. When travelling it makes you appreciate the little things and the not so little things. Little things such as taking a hot shower, a comfy bed, a roof over my head, food on the table, clean clothes, a toilet and toilet paper. There are also the bigger things such as having an amazing job, the freedom to do what I love, free health care, no war, and the peace of our country…I also appreciate all the wide open space we have here and that we are not limited to our small apartment in a big city where it can feel so big and lonely… Travelling also makes me appreciate home, routine, family and friends… It has taught me that you can live on very little and still be very satisfied and happy. All the extras are just bonuses in life that we have made into necessities; they are not essential… I overall have a greater appreciation for life and for this beautiful world we live on! …It’s not about all the things we have but all the things we do to make us happy.”
Robyn states that she also loves meeting other “adventure-seekers” on her trips, and that travelling has allowed her to step out of her comfort zone in a totally different way: “You get put into stressful situations where people don’t speak the same language or you’re trying to get to places on time without knowing the way and trying to read maps in a foreign language. It is a different kind of excitement and adrenaline rush when everything is so unknown. It has also allowed me to be much more open-minded and easy going with knowing that things don’t always go according to plan but with patience and being smart about your surroundings it will all work out.”
It is clear that seeing the world will leave you with a renewed perspective on what really matters in life, experiences and memories you can cherish, and each place will leave its mark on your character. Spend your money on adventures and you won’t regret it.
Know you want to get out and see things, but don’t know when or how? Here is Jennifer’s advice, “To someone who is hesitant to spend money on a trip I would say: It’s amazing – go NOW! Go live somewhere new! Home will always be there for you to come back to one day if you decide to.
I am more for longer trips, especially working holiday visas, than the short all-inclusive stuff (though that does have its benefits if you only have so much money or time to vacation per year).
You are spending money on an experience – not merely a ‘trip.’ It takes no time at all to come home, take out a loan, and start building your material life – travel while you still can! I have met so many people who wish they would of travelled a bit before they’ve settled down… I have not met anyone to date who has any regrets about travelling.
Whether it is around the world or around your own country: ‘The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.’ – St. Augustine of Hippo”
Our curler and businesswoman offers just as enthusiastic of advice, “I tell people all the time that this world is ours to explore, so let’s go explore it! The world is made up of so many diverse people with very unique cultures. I find it absolutely fascinating to see how people used to live to how they live today. We are only on this earth so long and I think it’s about not having any regrets. If you want to travel do it. It may mean making other sacrifices in your life financially, with friends and family and even jobs. More than likely those things will still be there when you return but you will find yourself a much more diverse open person. I think you grow so much and become a more knowledgeable, accepting, and overall a happier person. It gives you something to look forward to, you take fewer things for granted, and it makes you appreciate everything that you worked for or were ever given.
Looking back as an old woman I don’t want to have any regrets of things that I didn’t do. I want to remember all the good times had, all the crazy adventurous things I have done, all the amazing people I have met and I want to remember this wonderful earth that we get to live on. When all is said and done all we have are our memories and nothing materialistic will matter anymore. It’s about fulfilling your dreams and living the life that you want not the way someone else wants or the way society tells us we have to. Why not make it a little more exciting with travelling and adventuring to add a bit more to this puzzle we call life?”
Still I know money is a sensitive subject, and so before I conclude, I would like to share some words from Alex, emphasizing the importance of paying for things rather than taking advantage of free services:
“I have a quote from one of my favorite movies Starship Troopers that resonates with me about this issue. It’s where Rico’s high school teacher Rasczak responds to a individual by saying, ‘Something given has no value.’
To me, this is a very real truth observed in my personal life and in others. The value or worth of something will be meaningless if you didn’t have to sacrifice or invest your own time, money, effort, or maybe even your own life to acquire it. It’s one reason why we hear stories about people who win the lottery and become millionaires overnight also become bankrupt later. They don’t recognize the value represented by that money with any personal sacrifices. So they blow it all.
For me, paying for something has been the only way that I actually seek to redeem or preserve the value of something.
When I was 19, I was given a new car to drive. Today, it’s messy and desperately in need of maintenance that I’ve been putting off for years. I never really tried to preserve the value of the car because it was just freely given to me.
With other high-value things that I have paid for with my own money, I treat as treasures because I know how much time and work went into acquiring them.
Paying for a service has also provided accountability
I recently started working with a nutrition coach for $100/month. I know enough about nutrition to be able to help myself but I was lacking external motivation and accountability and wouldn’t stick to my plan and get the results I wanted.
Because I pay $100 a month, that external motivation and accountability is a side effect of my monthly draft of my bank account, so I follow the coach’s advice and program to the letter.
Maybe it’s a little spoiled in thought but I think a lot of people would agree that you have to give value to receive value in return.”
So get out, get a tattoo, get after some training, or go get on a plane! Or heck, book a flight to somewhere in Europe where they are hosting a seminar you would like to attend, and get a tattoo at a local shop while you are there (research the shop and make sure it is clean, please). You only live once – spend your money on the things you will remember when you are old and that will become beautiful additions to your already brilliant character.
“To double your income and impact, triple your investment in professional and personal development.” – Robin Sharma’s 2x3x Principle
Develop yourself through tattoos, training, and travelling. The material stuff will still be there to be acquired after you’ve invested in these things, but chances are you won’t want much to do with it anymore. You will have grown into a character like Carson, Dave, Ida, Alex, Jennifer, Robyn, or Isabel and will see life, at least in some of its aspects, through new, idealistic eyes.
Follow our panel on Instagram:
Dave: @_thesefistsfly and check out his site: thesefistsfly.com.
Alex: @alexqmaclin, also follow Barbell Shrugged @barbellshruggedpodcast and visit barbellshrugged.com regularly for posts like this one by Alex: http://daily.barbellshrugged.com/part-1-the-keys-to-becoming-a-successful-weightlifter-flight-olympic-weightlifting-training/
Be sure to follow @idealisticisabel on Instagram and “Like” Idealistic Isabel on Facebook to stay up to date with posts like, and unlike this one, but always sure to pick you up, or talk about picking heavy things up. 🙂