One of my favorite songs right now is Counting Stars by One Republic.
What I love about it (and so many other songs), is that someone created it and I know I could never duplicate it.
I like art for the same reason. I can’t draw. I can’t paint. But I am amazed at the talent artists have of putting their thoughts, their imagination, on paper for others to enjoy.
Authors are similar to artists. They create characters, plots, and settings that capture our imagination and interest.
We benefit all the time from the value other people create. But do we create value that benefits others?
The problem today is there are more value consumers than there are value creators. The deeper problem is that this trend is continuing not just in an aggregate sense, but on an individual level. This is not just about the total number of value creators vs value consumers. This is about the quality of life we achieve and the quality of life we help others achieve.
For society to function well and to maximize the chance of success and happiness for all people, each of us needs to create more value than we consume.
The way I see it, our current creation to consumption rate is our present value. And, by value I don’t mean personal worth. As human beings, as friends and family members, as children of God, we have infinite worth. Even someone who takes more than they give is worth loving, serving, and helping. What I am talking about is value in terms of maximizing our own happiness and the happiness of those we interact with.
There are times in life when we need to consume more value than we create. For much of our early life, we consume more than we give. We learn from the example of our parents at home, teachers at school, coaches on the field, and friends at play. We certainly add value by the laughter we share, the good deeds we offer, and the example we set for others, but overall we consume more than we contribute while growing up. Most of our needs as children were taken care of by others. We learned by consuming what someone else created.
At some point, however, the scale of consumption and creation needs to tip so that we are creating more than we are consuming.
For many of us, that scale is tipping far too late in life. For others, it never tips at all. In either case, we need to realize that you and I are likely more valuable to our family, employer, and community now than we will ever be in the future if we don’t do something different.
The value we add today may be enough (though it is likely already underwhelming), but our job responsibilities will continue to grow, our communities’ needs will grow, and our families’ needs will grow. If we’re not growing with them, if we’re not creating value that matches or exceeds their needs, we will be taking more than we give. We will be leeches.
There is a nice little principle that can help us out of this hole, though. This principle has been the basis of financial theory for hundreds of years and is called the Time Value of Money. It turns out that this principle applies to much more than money.
I call this new application of the theory the Time Value of You.
What do you do to create value?
What value are you glad someone else created for you to enjoy?