If You Were a Stock, Would You Bet On Yourself?

Harvard Business Review

My husband, Eric, is an armchair entrepreneur. He has ideated, seeded, started, funded, built, grown, and sold dozens of companies — 10 times over — all in his head.

His best friend, Marc, is a finance guru. A whiz-kid investor who's in it for the love of the game, not for the love of money. They are an unlikely pair: one a dreamer, the other the ultimate pragmatist.

Last week, Marc posed a simple yet profound question: "If you were a stock, would you bet on yourself?"

Eric's response was swift and resounding. "Yes, I'd buy myself on margin," he grinned. Because one day — one day — he was going to be a successful founder of [insert company name here].

Marc's question gave Eric the ultimate litmus test of self-confidence. Up until that point, my husband hemmed and hawed incessantly: "Am I capable? Am I good? Can I launch a successful business?" Thinking about whether he'd buy stock in Eric Co., versus buying shares in Apple or GE or Zynga, gave him a whole new way of thinking about the world.

It doesn't matter if you're an entrepreneur, a general manager, a corporate lawyer, or a brand strategist. The question remains the same: Would you buy stock in yourself? Do you believe in your own potential so deeply and absolutely that you'd make that investment over any other?

If your immediate reaction is "yes," then you're in great shape. You know what you are worth. You see your future value and potential, and know that you are increasing in value every day. You believe that whoever employs, engages, partners with you is lucky to have you on their side.

If the question gives you pause, however, then you've got some work to do. If you wouldn't buy stock in yourself, why not? What's holding you back? Who or what could possibly be a better investment? Equally important, how can you improve your skill set, beef up your network, or make a lasting change to make your stock rise?

As the workplace continues to evolve, each and every one us is a free agent. There's no such thing as the 20-year gold watch for service; careers today are patchworks. Freelancers make up a third of U.S. workers and Millennials will have 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their lives. To stay competitive in this economy, you will need to continually disrupt and reinvent yourself. And if you don't believe in your own abilities, no one else will. You need to buy into your own story.

This, of course, makes us all in the business of sales. We are selling ourselves, our skill set, our vision, every day — when we're looking for a new job, angling for a promotion, meeting a new client, competing for new business. And as any spokesperson or salesman knows, you've got to use and love your product. No one wants to buy a Surface that Oprah endorses from her iPad.

Marc's question to Eric lit a fire under his derriere. It served as a call to action, a shot of adrenaline — an "aha" moment where Eric said, "yes, I'd bet on myself." And now he's doing it: starting a venture he didn't think he could.

It turns out that self-confidence isn't ambiguous or amorphous — it's actually quite simple. Recognize your gifts and talents, and own them. Hone them. Invest in yourself until you feel comfortable convincing others to do the same. Then go out and sell your value proposition to live up to your potential.

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