I very recently wrote about my decision to hire a consultant to help me with product development. This was not an easy decision to make, for many reasons.
There's an ego aspect. I've never liked admitting I don't know something. Only in the past five years have I been aware enough of that flaw to begin addressing it, and life has only gotten better since then.
However, there is still an area that I tend to consider "my thing", and in that area I've convinced myself that I'm smart enough—that I either know it, or can figure it out on my own. And that kind of thinking is great for building confidence and honing your craft, but it can also create blind spots. There are certain aspects of my expertise that I care about less than others, and my ability to perform well—or indeed, even be aware of my ability to perform—is limited.
And then, quite separately, there's the financial aspect. This is the single biggest financial transaction I've ever committed to.
It's also the largest thing I've ever purchased where I don't immediately have something tangible to show for it in return.
I don't have keys to a new apartment or house.
I can't get in it and drive it around.
There's no sweet game I can install on it and play to get an on-demand dopamine hit.
I've purchased nothing but a promise, and in doing so, I've officially put skin in the game. The framing motivation of "Hey, it would be cool if I could do this" now has an added aspect of, "And if I don't focus and get something out of it, I will have wasted tens of thousands of dollars."
This is, of course, a double-edged sword. It's important to avoid the Sunk Cost Fallacy, which is the practice of making future decisions based on past costs that cannot be recovered.
However, it can serve as an amplifying motivator. Assuming the core motivations and execution process are correct and the market is willing, grit will determine success. Putting skin in the game—investing in the process—helps bolster grit.
The investment doesn't have to be ridiculous. I don't recommend that everyone pay a high-priced consultant to help them meet their goals, but I do recommend that the investment be meaningful, relative to your lifestyle.
And notice I say lifestyle, not income. The investment needn't be financial. There are two main levers—money and time. If you don't invest money, invest time. Of the 168 hours you have in a week, how many are your devoting to your goal?
Putting skin in the game can mean setting aside time to work on your goal.
It can mean saying no to going out drinking with friends on a Saturday night.
It can mean saying no to binge-watching that new Netflix series.
It means saying "no" to today's distractions and saying "yes" to your future self by aligning your actions with your goals.
Put skin in the game.