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If you are in business, chances are you are familiar with the term ROI — return on investment. However, here's a more important acronym: ROL, which means return on life.

My good friend Nido Qubein, president of High Point University, told me: "ROI is what we get back from investing money; ROL is what we get back from investing in ourselves."

Qubein advised: "Cultivate a love for learning and a capacity for earning. These qualities are important ingredients for success, significance and fulfillment. But the things people really get passionate about are the things that come directly from their sense of service."

Know where tasks are taking you. In other words, he said, think about the big picture.

A formula that I have followed throughout my career is:

  • Invest half of your work life in earning because you must have resources if you want to be able to give resources.
  • Invest a fourth of your work life in continuous learning. You are not in school temporarily; you are in school all your life.
  • Invest a fourth of your work life in giving and serving.

It wasn't difficult to put that formula into practice once I figured out how to allot my time. Like most people, my work schedule wasn't as flexible as the other parts of this plan, and I knew I had more control over when I would volunteer and advance my education.

The rewards have been worth every minute I invested.

I knew my career choice would be demanding, but it couldn't command all my time. So I started there. Launching a company had plenty of challenges and rewards. That part of the formula was in place.

Years ago, my father sat me down and gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. It had nothing to do with making money, but everything to do with getting ahead in the world.

He told me that 25% of my time should be devoted to volunteerism. Not exactly music to the ears of a broke, aspiring entrepreneur fresh out of college. It sounds like a lot, until you find a cause that you can get passionate about. Then, there will never be enough time.

Volunteering has made my life so much better, and I suspect that anyone who has become passionate about a cause will tell you the same thing. People who do volunteer work and help others on a regular basis have a healthier outlook on life. They are inclined to be go-getters and consistently report being happier and more contented.

Approach volunteer work as a chance to be useful, and be grateful that someone thinks you are up to the task.

I still take every opportunity I can to learn — and to teach. And the beginning of the school year is my reminder to get back to it. Though it has been years since I was sitting at a desk in a classroom, I get a little nostalgic when I see a school bus.

I have always preached the virtues of lifelong learning. If I want to learn something — be it a new language, new software or a way to improve my golf swing — I forge ahead with purpose.

Living in the information age makes lifelong learning easier than ever. Online classes, YouTube instructional videos — you name it, the opportunities to soak up knowledge are unlimited.

You can quite literally learn something new every day.

Mackay's Moral: Don't just make a living, make a life worth living.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or email