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Are You a Worthwhile Investment?


Steve Pavlina

If people aren't investing in your success, you probably haven't created a reliable record to help them see you as a worthwhile investment.

People are often willing to be helpful, but intuitively they don't want to waste their time and energy where it won't likely produce anything worthwhile for anyone.

You may get love-based investments such as a family member who will loan you money no matter what, or friends who will keep sharing basic referrals with you, but if you'd like to expand the network of people who will bring you ideas, opportunities, timely advice, etc., then it helps a great deal to demonstrate that you're worthy of such help. You can do this by respecting the time and energy it takes others to help you, by graciously accepting their help when offered (and when it makes sense to do so), and by reciprocating when you can.

Many people are poor receivers of help. They may request it, but when it's offered to them, they fumble and drop the ball. They borrow money but don't pay it back in a timely manner. They ask for advice but seldom apply it or test it. If you behave in this way, you condition other people to predict that they can expect more of the same. Soon they'll conclude that you're a bad investment, and you'll see such help and opportunities drying up.

Over time this will also reduce the quality of the help you receive. Smart people will invest their time and energy elsewhere. Only more emotional, less rational people will stick around and continue to help you, but their advice and referrals will be of lower quality in general than that which comes from more sensible people.

It's not that people need to receive a direct payback for their help, but they'd probably like to see some positive impact from it. It feels good to offer someone help and see them leverage it fully. Then you know you played a part in their success, even if it doesn't benefit you personally. Continuing to invest in someone who constantly drops the ball isn't rational, and so rational people will eventually abandon helping such people.

If you establish a pattern of squandering opportunities, especially by being lazy or bumbling in your affairs when help is offered, you can expect that help to be diverted elsewhere, away from you. You've unfortunately taught others to regard you as a bad bet and a waste of their time and energy. Many people make this unconscious mistake, and then they wonder why the only help they seem to get is of poor quality (or nonexistent). The reality is that the high-quality, rational advice, leads, referrals, and opportunities are being given to those who are worthy of them.

On the other hand, if you take the ball and run with it fully when help is offered, you teach people that you're a worthwhile investment. This will encourage them to invest even more in you down the road.

This dynamic can be seen in many teacher-student relationships. Poor students often condition their teachers to see them as bad investments, while good students train their teachers to invest extra time and energy in their development and education, such as by attracting internship offers and positive letters of recommendation.

A nice example of rational investments winning out over emotional ones can be found in the book/movie Moneyball, which is the story of how baseball was transformed by a drive for more rational investments in players who can contribute the most to winning games, as opposed to intuitive impressions, hunches, and other less rational analyses of players.

How to Become Investment Worthy

How do you become investment worthy? You do so by making a serious commitment to your education, skill-building, and habit development. It's basically the same approach you'd use to become a professional baseball player. You must practice a lot to become as skilled as you can. Your value to others (within the scope of the game) can be seen in your performance stats.

In Moneyball it was learned that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. That's what rational people bet on.

A common mistake people make in terms of predicting their investment-worthiness is overvaluing their intentions, motivation, and perceived level of commitment.

Lots of people have goals and intentions, but so many of them have lousy track records. Consider, for instance, the person who keeps sharing ambitious goals and intentions on their Facebook page, but the only consistency they demonstrate is posting pictures of their dog. Or consider someone who seems to change careers every six months. From the perspective of rationality, these people do not look like wise investments. Any help you give them will likely fizzle.

Now consider someone who takes the time to create a positive track record. Perhaps this person takes on fewer goals, but she makes a point of really committing to each one. Her friends and associates begin to see that she's an achiever and a doer. When she sets her mind to something, she gets it done without delay. This person will be perceived as a better bet, and intelligent people will begin flocking to her, knowing that helping her will produce some results, such as positive ripples for society as a whole.

If you occasionally wonder why your network only brings you shallow, stupid, or scammy ideas and referrals, take a good look at your established track record. You may very well have conditioned the smarter people to perceive you as a bad bet. Perhaps you've shown a consistent pattern of weak or erratic performance that turns intelligent people away.

There's no mandate that says you must increase your investment worthiness. But if you wish to stretch yourself and tackle bigger goals at some point, you'll surely need help. If you see yourself eventually moving in this direction, now is the time to begin building and demonstrating patterns of reliability, consistency, and persistence. 


Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site stevepavlina.com and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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