We were all sitting around the TV—the unofficial “watering hole” in most American households—when one of my aunts decided to bring up the topic of marriage. Apparently, she thought it was as good a time as any to remind my eldest cousin, who was currently is his mid-20s, how he has continued to put off the prospect of finding himself a “nice Indian” wife.
Normally, he’d shake off the interrogative stares—a trait incredibly common among middle-aged Indian mothers—but this time, he decided to defend himself, likely because he was in an analytical mindset, in the midst of his year-long exploration of the financial world, locked in a room for days at a time studying Warren’s Buffet’s third grade composition books.
He starred back at her and replied, “Mom, I am like a stock, and if we sell now, I will be severely undervalued. I’m not even close to reaching my full potential. Let me get a masters degree and maybe a few years of work experience, and then we can talk about marriage.”
This all happened just days before Duke’s early decision notification and all I kept thinking was that, to Duke Admissions, I was literally a stock.
I obviously wouldn’t be the only stock in their portfolio, though, and any decent finance professor would tell you on the first day just how essential a diversified portfolio is.
Thus, by being admitted to Duke, or any school for that matter, we had to not only fit their standard of excellence and scholarship, but also meet their expected potential for growth and have the ability to positively add to a well-diversified portfolio of athletes, artists, engineers, scientists and every other label of diversity. It quickly got me to thinking, though. What am I worth as a stock, and how can I increase my value?
Whether consciously or not, this kind of thinking goes into a lot of the major life choices we make, from what college we choose to attend, to what career choices we make and maybe even who we decide to marry. As humans, we seek to be valued. We make different investments into ourselves, sacrificing both time and money in the hopes of increasing our value.
Just by coming to Duke, our degrees—single sheets of paper—come at a price tag of nearly a quarter-million dollars. Was that really the best investment that we could have made? Ask me in 20 years…
Furthermore, we each have a skill set, character traits and an array of experiences that come together to determine the value of our personal stock. We go up in value with every new degree, noteworthy experience and dollar-earned, yet it doesn’t mean we aren’t susceptible to volatile periods when things just aren’t going our way. Every missed deadline, traffic ticket and sour relationship has the potential to diminish our value.
I’ve done a lot in an attempt to “raise my value” over the past couple years, positioning myself for a path in economics, nestled with extracurriculars to complement my academic aspirations, all in pursuit of a higher price peak. But the real question is: Why should I care? Why do we spend so much of our lives working for little pieces of paper? And finally, to whom are we trying to sell ourselves? The real question is: If you were a stock, would you be willing to bet on yourself? Do you believe in not only your background, but also your potential so deeply and whole-heatedly that you would bet on yourself over any other investment? Would you be willing to go all in?
To bet on a stock, you have to really believe that no matter how good it is now, it still has the potential and the willingness to grow beyond others’ expectations.
It’s one thing to demand a level of worth for yourself. It’s another to be willing to view and accept that level from another’s perspective. If you truly believe that you would bet on yourself, congratulations—but if you’re like the rest of us, what we should really be asking ourselves is, “Why not?”
What’s holding you back from making that wire transfer? What do you still need to do to add value? Good investors recognize the importance of potential, and, in this case, we have the power and the ability to determine our own potential. If there is something holding you back, then go out and fix it. Improve your skill set, widen your scope of experiences and maybe even invest more into your personal relationships to truly make yourself a worthwhile investment.
Every day, we are marketing our stock to the world. Whether in the social or professional realm, we are selling ourselves. We are selling our character, our experiences, our skill set and our outlook on the world. Wouldn’t it be nice to be selling a product that we believe in?
Are you ready to bet on yourself?
Dillon Patel is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Monday. Send Dillon message on Twitter @thecasualdevil.