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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Life Value

© Staci Stallings

Everyone understands that if you sell something, you get a cash return. This return may be large or small depending on the quality of the product or service. The cash value of any particular item may be expressed in dollars and cents. A widget may cost $5.00 or a super-widget may cost $5,000.

What most people don't understand, however, is the concept of "life value." In other words the value in enhanced life-terms that the purchaser gains in return for trading their cash for a product or service. Recently when I read about this concept, I went, "Wow! I'd never thought of it like that." What I was particularly impressed with was how different this makes life itself feel as it is expressed through me and as I look at others.

A simple example (and the one I am most familiar with) is brought to expression in my books. My first collection of short stories "Reflections On Life" was recently published. The cash value of this book is $12.95. In order to purchase the book, that is what a reader would have to pay for it. However, the life value can vary widely depending on the purchaser.

Let's say I talked someone who never reads into purchasing "Reflections." This person would turn over $12.95, take the book home, put it on their shelf, and the life value of that book would be zero-unless by some miraculous intervention it fell into the hands of another person who was a reader.

Now, let's take that same book. The cash value is still $12.95; however, this time the purchaser is not only an avid reader but fully engaged in learning about life and putting that knowledge into action. In this instance, the life value may well be immeasurable because that person will take the concepts in the book, apply them to their lives and the lives of those around them, and life increases for everyone involved-whether they directly read the book or not.

As I thought about this concept, I realized how transferable to other circumstances it is. My brother-in-law for instance is a banker. He deals mostly in granting loans to farmers and individuals for homes and cars. If he were to talk someone into taking out a loan that they did not need, the life value of that loan could well be negative because it would drain the borrower's spirit as well as their pocketbook. However, if he lends money to a farmer for instance, and that farmer uses the loan to purchase seed and equipment to grow and harvest the crop that results, the life value of that loan is surely immeasurable. Not only does the farmer make a profit and thereby enhance his life by being able to provide for his own family, but the fruits of his labor enhance the life value of every person who then purchases and consumes or uses the products that results from this crop.

Isn't that an awesome way to think about what you do for a living?

And there are other prime examples in my own family. My mother and my sister both baby sit. The cash value of what they do pales so far in comparison to the life value of that endeavor that it's ridiculous! And another example, my brother sells tools to fix cars. Each tool he sells has the capacity to enhance the life of the mechanic who buys it because he can now do in 2 minutes what would've taken 2 hours to do with the wrong tool. Not only that, but that one tool has enhanced the life of every person whose car it is used to fix. It also enhances the lives of all those other drivers on the road who are now safer because that car is working properly. It also conceivably enhances the lives of those who drive and ride in that car-to work, to school, to Grandma's for Christmas. Think of the life value of that one, simple sale!

My brother's wife has recently begun cleaning houses. Think of the time these families now have to be together enjoying life rather than picking up and vacuuming because of her contribution to their lives. She also gives her time (not paid) to help at her children's schools and their various teams and clubs. There is literally no telling how much life value she is adding to the existence not only of her children but of all of the children who benefit from her efforts. Life value abounds from her efforts!

My husband builds things. He builds houses. He fixes doors. He builds cabinets. Each and every fix-it job and new construction that he lends his hands to increases the life value of someone and sometimes that of many someones. Innumerable people have walked through doors that work because of him. They have stored important information in cabinets he built. They have lived and raised their children in houses that he built. Life. Life. Life in the extreme-not because of cash value but because of life value.

And it gets better, my father is the janitor and the baseball coach for my hometown high school. He spends his days making sure the teachers have what they need to be able to impart knowledge to a whole passel of children. The cash value of this may not be huge, but the life value is astronomical to the point that you cannot even count it!

So the question is: When you think about the value of what you are doing, do you assess your success only in terms of cash value-thereby trying to sell whether the product will enhance or diminish the purchaser's life, or do you make a serious effort to greatly multiply the purchaser's life experience through your product or service? It's a great question, and life looks very different depending on which "value" you are focused on.

The examples are everywhere! Walk down an aisle at the grocery store. Look at a box of cereal or a bottle of medicine. You pay cash value of $3 to $10 for this purchase, but it makes you full or makes you well. Life value.

Once you understand this concept, take a moment to visualize those who have traded hours of their lives to enhance YOUR life value. There's the life value of the person who came up with the grocery cart you are pushing. Think of the time-savings and therefore the life value that represents. There is the person who built the shelves so that the products can be displayed in an orderly fashion.

There is the person who put those shelves together. There is the person who stocked those shelves so you can just walk in and buy what you need without hours of searching. There is the person who created the item that you are buying-the person who came up with the type of cereal, the person who figured out that "this combination of molecules" will cause your body to do this and thus get well.

The reality is that life value is everywhere you look. When you take life value for granted or discount it because you are focused on cash value, you're missing the point completely. Try it. I challenge you. Begin to look at life value for one day, and if it doesn't completely change how you look at life, you can always go back to measuring everything in dollars and cents.

Looking for more awesome inspiration? Come on over to Staci's blog... You'll feel better for the experience!

1 comment:

Mary said...

I really enjoyed this...especially coming after a conversation I just had with my hubby. He'd bent an ear to a co-worker who was venting. They pay over a $1,000 a month in daycare expenses...their two youngest are in daycare 10 hrs a day.

I know that this is probably a third of this man's monthly paycheck...and his wife doesn't have that great of a job. Ten hours a day, five days a week...all that time lost not to mention the money out the window.

Life value indeed. And lest I catch flack, I know not everyone can be a sahm. I know I'm blessed.

Thanks for your post!