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The Origin of 'Skin in the Game'

According to one story (which may be a legend), in the late 1960s, the now-iconic investor Warren Buffet pried seed money for his very first stock fund from eleven doctors who'd agreed to kick in $105,000. Then, in a symbolic act of his own commitment, Buffet added $100 of his own money to the kitty. No one knows exactly when the phrase "skin in the game" entered the American lingo, but many pinned it on Buffet's willingness to plunk down his own $100. The now common phrase captures the essence of an investment of heart and courage and risk, not the mere investment of money.

The idea is simple: You have no business asking others to trust you with their money if you're not willing to put your own resources at risk. If you have no "skin in the game," no stake of vulnerability, then your engagement is distant and rhetorical rather than personal and visceral. We might play fast and loose with others' resources but not with our own. Put another way, it's one thing to work for an entrepreneur; it's quite another to be the entrepreneur. The first involves little personal investment; the second demands our heart, our time, our sacrifice, our Commitment, some real "skin."

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