By Dr. Ken. Druck
You’ve heard of getting your head in the game. But what about having skin in the game?
The great investor Warren Buffett, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting, coined the term. It originated in the context of an investment strategy—high-ranking executives are supposed to buy stock in the organization they lead. Executives can talk all they want, but the best vote of confidence is to put their own money on the line. In other words: if they really believe in it, the top dogs should have a stake in their own company.
Real Rule #14, from my book The Real Rules of Life, is “You’ve Gotta Have Skin in the Game.” I’m not just talking about Warren or Wall Street. I’m talking about every area of your life. It’s just as true at home as it is in the office. Because until you have skin in the game, until you have something of great personal value invested, you’re not really playing.
How many of us play it safe in our relationships? We put little or nothing on the line, never really opening ourselves up to the other person out of fear of getting hurt. How many of us play it safe at work? We do the bare minimum, just enough to collect the paycheck. And yet, the highest and best expression of who we are comes only when we learn to overcome our fears and allow ourselves to risk and to care.
It’s not about your investment portfolio. It’s about investing yourself.
Just as investors can’t buy stocks with a stranger’s money, you can’t expect anyone else to assume the risk for you. Unless you make your own sacrifices, you’re never going to harvest the rich, resonant rewards life has to offer. Or the pride of ownership that comes with hard work and putting something of consequence (i.e., time, money, passion, faith) on the line. Ask yourself: What have I really put into this? What is my commitment here? If you are sincerely committed, the answer should be, “Everything!”
If you have lost sight of what it is you really care about, or what would be worth such an investment, you may be overdue for a “passion check-up.” Finding out what genuinely motivates you, what you really care about and recharging your batteries can be as simple as asking yourself, “What would I do every day if money were no object?” “What would be the best thing that could happen to me? “What in my life is worth fighting for?” Or what would it kill me to lose?”
The sweetest pleasures and delights the universe has in store for you come from putting your whole heart into the things that are truly important. Your relationships, job, kids, and marriage; your community, faith, country, and/or vision (big or small) for making the world a better place.
Are you living purposefully and passionately, or are you just going through the motions? Are you taking risks? Are you dumbed down, or even paralyzed, by fear? Do you hide out in a job and/or marriage of convenience? Might you be insulating yourself from pain, failure, and disappointment by acting indifferent and aloof?
Or, are you living passionately and with conviction? To more deeply dedicate yourself to living your dream, to live your life and not some diluted version of winning everyone’s approval, you must begin to put more skin in the game.
This is your life, your ride. Make it count! Believe in it! Invest in it! Do the things that really matter! The rewards will be so much sweeter and longer-lasting than getting people’s approval or just going through the motions.
Here are 5 Ways to “Put More Skin in the Game”:
- Ask yourself, what fears might be holding you back from investing more of yourself in your job, marriage, parenting, friendships, career? Name them!
- Next to each fear describe an action that would help free you from that fear and solidify your decision to risk something to get something.
- There are big differences between “foolish” risks and “smart” risks. Looking at a situation in your current life, write down examples of each.
- List three things you care about so deeply, or are so passionate about, that you’d be willing to risk it all for them.
- If you are risk-aversive or risk-avoidant, describe three things you could do to build your courage and confidence.
It’s your life. Your world. Are you up for cultivating a new and wonderful vision of sustainability, compassion and peace? And for putting some skin in the game?
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Copyright Ken Druck, Ph.D., resilience expert, speaker, consultant, and author of The Real Rules of Life (Hay House). Permission to reprint granted with proper credit.