"Investment" is a good word. What are we invested in? And do we respect the investment of others?
When a man (or woman) has invested years of his life in an activity I care about, he earns my respect. What level of disrespect would be implied by my pretending to be at his level when he's paid dues I haven't?
If his evaluation of my art is harsh, but it's based on his investment in the integrity of the art itself, how can I not listen? Unless I'm less invested in the art than he is. Will that be my judgment on myself?
And what am I invested in? In my status? In my tradition? In my teacher? Or in my art itself? If the last, I can't afford to be invested in my ego at all--the art comes first or not at all. I consider myself blessed to have found teachers who themselves are invested in the art, not their own position or ego.
What does it mean to be invested in the art? For me, spiritually and practically, it means to be invested in reality. Accept no substitutes. It works, or it doesn't. You get hit, or you don't. Reality is a gift--it ensures you don't keep smoking your own exhaust. As a consultant, I help my clients or I don't. If I don't, I don't eat. No room for ego there. No room for ego in budo.
Investment means: Seek the best. Stick to them like burrs. If it's uncomfortable, stick harder. And surpass them if you can.
(I, also, have been pondering a response on this thread for a few days. I found Sam Adams Double Bock to be a good... investment.)